======= ======= ====== ====== ====== ===== ==== ====== ====== ===== ==== ======= ======= ====== ====== ====== ===== ==== ====== ====== ===== ====
Todd rolled over in his childhood bed. He looked over and saw her facing him; her eyes still closed and a small snore emerging from her slightly open mouth.
There are certain comforts you intrinsically get from waking up on Christmas morning. The memories that flood you of opening gifts as a child. The comfort of knowing your entire day is dedicated to relaxing and spending it with family. The simple fact that for the first time since Thanksgiving, an alarm clock isn’t a requirement.
His normal morning routine was fairly straightforward — get out of bed, brew a pot of coffee, shower, shave, and go about his day. But today, he did something different. He sat there and simply shifted his eyes between looking at her and looking at the ceiling. As a kid, Todd didn’t normally spend his morning hours watching cartoons as much as his friends did. Rather, he would wake up and sit in bed for up to 45 minutes just thinking about things.
Finally, he reached over and pushed her hair out of her face. The few strands were blowing forward in her breath. He didn’t necessarily want to wake her, but he also didn’t want to miss out on the enjoyments of Christmas morning. He could even smell the cinnamon buns baking in the oven.
When she finally opened her eyes, he looked toward her and away from the ceiling. “Merry Christmas, babe.”
She let out a slight groan — the groan we all give out when we wake up but are still too tired to register. “Mmmm, morning, baby.”
“It’s almost 9:45,” he told her softly. “Do you want to go downstairs?”
There had been some tension leading up to Christmas regarding what they were going to do. She, of course, wanted to spend it with her family with Todd feeling the same way toward his family. It was the second Christmas they had spent together engaged, but really, it felt like the first one. When you first get engaged, there’s a romance period before you actually realize that you’re about to get married. They had yet to emerge from that last Christmas, so this one just felt… different.
With some sleep in her eye, she sat up. “Yeah,” she told him with an understandable sense of grogginess, “but can we just sit here for a few more minutes?”
As antsy as he was, he didn’t really mind. His family had agreed not to do gifts this year, but he also opened up a closet upon arriving at his parents’ house only to see a new Odyssey putter fall out that he’d have to re-hide from himself. He’d give themselves fifteen minutes before forcing her out of bed.
“Can I just wear this downstairs?” she asked while Todd surveyed her outfit. She was wearing monogrammed pajamas that probably cost as much as the suits Todd wore to work.
“Of course, everyone will be in their pajamas,” he promised her.
“Kind of like how everyone dressed casual for your office holiday party?” she jabbed back.
“Ha ha ha,” he mocked while rolling over to playfully cuddle her, “Very funny.”
“I know we said no gifts this year,” he continued, “but I got you something.” Leaning over toward his bedside table, he reached into the drawer where he used to keep his dirty magazines as a kid. In years gone by, she would’ve thought it was an engagement ring but this year was truly a surprise. “Close your eyes.”
She closed them and put her hand out. Placing the small box in her hands, she sat up a little and opened it revealing a pair of earrings she had recently tried on before going to lunch at Nordstrom Bistro.
“Todd!” she smiled, “Thank you so much! You really didn’t have to.”
Frankly, Todd did have to. Everyone — including him — knew that “no gifts” means “just one gift.”
“I love them, babe,” she told him before leaning over and giving him a kiss. “I got you something, but it’s downstairs. I had to have your mom wrap it last night after we went to bed because we didn’t have any wrapping paper at our apartment.”
After she gave him another kiss, Sperry’s head perked up from the end of the bed. “Get up here, Sperry,” she demanded.
Sperry lethargically loafed up to them and plopped down again. Ignorant to it being Christmas morning, ignorant to going downstairs, ignorant to pretty much everything in the world except where to lie down.
“I love this,” she told Todd while they stared forward into the nothingness together.
“What’re you most looking forward to today?” he asked her.
They had a full slate ahead of them. Breakfast with Todd’s family, a wintry snowshoe hike through some woods near his parents’ house, naps on the couch while watching Home Alone, dinner with Todd’s extended family, and the trademark cocktail hour once the house returned to just them and Todd’s family.
She thought for a moment before chiming in. “I…” she hesitated, “I think just spending it with you. I’m sorry I put up such a stink about spending Christmas away from my family.”
“The best Christmas gift you could’ve gotten me was this,” he told her. “This right here.”
She leaned over yet again and gave him a kiss. Not the same sort of kiss that he received after she opened the earrings, but one that lingered for a few moments. The kind that almost always felt like the start to something more.
“Think they’d hear us?” she asked him coyly.
Surveying his bedroom and thinking back to how old the house was, he knew that they would, in fact, be heard.
“Babe, we don’t have time!” he playfully responded.
“Oh come on, Todd,” she pleaded. “We can be quiet.”
“We’re already late going downstairs,” he explained with a hint of sadness.
“Ugh, fine,” she sarcastically complained before getting out of bed. She adjusted her bedhead in the mirror before looking at him still sitting in bed. “Ready?”
Todd smiled. “Ready, let’s go downstairs and have some coffee and Baileys.”
“Ohhhhhh,” she grinned, “Starting early — I like it.”
As he approached the door, she stopped in front of it and turned around before he could reach his hand forward and open it. Leaning into him, she gave him another one of those lingering kisses. “To be continued,” she told him before turning around and walking toward the stairs.
Todd smiled. “Yep, to be continued.” .