It’s finally here! Christmas Eve! Are you excited yet????
“Do you see her yet?”
Not yet, but I’m not surprised, Schrodinger said. Lai said they were going to go out for a Christmas Eve drink after work. The CrossCat jumped down from the window and looked at Drew. How much more time do you need?
Drew taped down the last flap on the box he was wrapping. “Done!” he said, and slid the box under the tree. “Now all we have to do is wrap the stuff for her family, because I’m sure she’s done with mine.”
Really? Schrodinger winked at him. I don’t know, she mentioned something about a coal deposit she had to hit… Then he ducked out of the way as Drew threw a bow at him.
“Must be for you, Cat!” Drew said, chuckling. “I haven’t done anything to deserve coal!”
Schrodinger batted the bow back at him, and he ducked, then threw another one at him, and the fight was on. By the time Molly opened the door, there were shreds of ribbon and paper balls made of tissue paper and wrapping paper all over the kitchen and living room, and tinsel hung in the air like confetti.
“What is going on?” she asked, her hands on her hips and a stern expression on her face. Drew and Schrodinger froze in mid-tussle, staring up at her in guilty horror.
Drew had pieces of tinsel and ribbon hanging from his hair; he had a death grip on an empty tube of wrapping paper and there was tape stuck to his sweater. Schrodinger’s teeth were sunk into the other end of the tube, a huge bow was stuck to his back and one of his paws had a box around it.
Molly looked at them, and at the room, which was awash with glitter, pieces of paper and tape, and then looked back at them. Both Drew and Schrodinger waited for the explosion. At least we didn’t hit the tree, Drew thought, as she continued to look at them.
“Hi,” he said finally, when the silence had stretched too long. “Um, we were just…cleaning up.” He dropped his end of the wrapping tube. “Right, Schrodinger?”
Uh, right! The CrossCat dropped the tube as well, and hurriedly kicked off the box on his foot.
“Of course.” Molly looked around the room again. “I’ll just go put this stuff away.”
Drew and Schrodinger exchanged looks as she retreated to the kitchen. They heard the refrigerator door open, then close, and then the giggling started. They both breathed a sight of relief.
“Let’s get this cleaned up,” Drew said, grabbing the trash can beside the couch. Schrodinger put the much-damaged cardboard tube into the trash and then helped him pick up the various debris. By the time Molly came back in with a couple of filled wine glasses, the living room had been restored to some semblance of normality.
“At least you didn’t hit the tree,” she noted, handing the glass to Drew.
“No, we were trying to be careful.” Drew showed the glass to Schrodinger, who sniffed then wrinkled his nose.
Ick, the CrossCat said. How can you drink that stuff?
“Same way you drink out of the horse troughs when we visit the stable,” Molly said, settling down on the floor in front of the Christmas tree. “Did you guys at least get everything wrapped before you decided to fight?”
“We just have the stuff for Lily and Jack,” Drew said, joining her. “That’s it.”
It was a quiet way to spend an evening – he was an only child, and his cousins had all been older, so he’d never really shopped for a little girl before. Molly had gotten plenty of things for both Lily and her dog, and the pile of wrapped presents grew steadily.
“Just one question,” Drew said, when they were finally finished.
“Mmm?” Molly asked, settling back against him.
“How are we getting all this stuff to your parents’ house?”
She giggled. “Nathan’s coming by in a bit to pick them all up, while Lily’s helping Mom decorate cookies. We just have to get ourselves over there tomorrow, and I figured we could take the snowmobile tomorrow.”
“Works for me.”
They sat there in the glow of the Christmas tree, sipping wine and listening to WCOV replay the King’s College choral from earlier in the day. Schrodinger was sleeping in his catbed near the tree.
Nathan showed up about 10 o’clock to get the presents, and Molly and Drew helped him carry them down to the car. “Be careful driving home,” Molly told him. “This snow is pretty thick.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll go slow,” her younger brother promised. “I’ll text you when I get home.”
They watched him drive off, and then went back upstairs. Molly was yawning, but insisted on staying up until Nathan texted.
“Well, here,” Drew said, handing her a small wrapped box. “You might as well open this while we’re waiting.”
She smiled at him. “The last ornament?”
“I couldn’t miss Christmas Eve, could I?” he replied, as she opened it. Today’s was a wine-dark crimson, with gold beads at the intersections. It was nearly the opposite of the one he’d given her the day before.
“This was amazing,” Molly said, after she’d hung it on the little tree on the dining room table. The tree glowed with all the colors of the beads. “Thank you.”
“No, thank you,” Drew said. “I couldn’t have gotten through this year without you.”
“That’s supposed to be my line, isn’t it?” Molly teased him, and he kissed the tip of her nose.
“It’s true, though,” Drew said, and then gave her a real kiss.
The buzzing of her phone broke them apart. “Nathan must have made it home,” Molly said, picking up the phone from the table and looking at it. “That was fast.”
“Too fast,” Drew said, craning his head to look at the screen. “That’s not from Nathan.”
The message was from a number he didn’t recognize, and from the furrow in her brow, Molly didn’t recognize it either. She clicked on the message and it popped up.
“Get Schrodinger and Drew, dress warm and come outside.”
They exchanged looks. “Who could it be?” Molly asked.
“I don’t know,” Drew said, reaching for his coat. “Let’s go find out.”
Molly roused Schrodinger and together the three of them went down to the street. Nothing but white snowflakes greeted them. The entire street was empty – between the snow and the fact that it was late on Christmas Eve, everyone else had retired to their warm houses.
Drew was about to tell them to go back in, that it must have been a prank, when Schrodinger stiffened. “What do you hear?” he asked the CrossCat.
Bells! I hear bells! Like before!
And then, out through the snow came the massive reindeer, bells ringing as they pulled Old Man Winter and his giant sledge along. They came right up beside the trio and Old Man Winter, wrapped in his furs, looked down at them.
“Don’t just stand there,” he grumbled. “Get in. We have unfinished business.”
- (advent) December 23 – The day after the Ball
- LJ hates me.