Last week, you and Lana kissed under the mistletoe and thereafter walked, hand in hand, under the rain as it beat both your skins into a delicate pattern of faded brown. While walking, she looked up at you and admitted words she'd normally not say: I'm sorry for the way I overreacted. And you heard her voice and concerned yourself with her sudden apology, refusing to admit your own fault.
It was December in a year one might fail to remember that you first kissed her. You met her in a bar across town where you both had too much to drink and ended the night the way most drunken nights ended: her dress pulled up to her chest, pants discarded, pale back pressed against the darkened walls of the bar's restroom and a curious sigh.
Nothing much happened after that night. But in March, the following year, you met again. Not at a bar as one might expect but, of all places, a church where you had both knelt in front of Christ as he stared back at you with the knowledge of what you'd done and still, forgiveness in his eyes.
She gave you her number and you called her the next day to say, "Hi Lana. It's Jason..."
To which she said, "I know who you are Jace...I can call you that, right?
"Well of course."
So the next time you both met she called you Jace so often you began to forget you were once Jason. And that is how your new identity came to be.
You did not notice and neither did she, that you followed her around town just to make sure she was alright. It would be later you would realize that you had loved her too deeply and had followed her around for the most part.
Three unusual months later you were married and she had moved into your little apartment to start a life. And then came her new identity. In the next years that followed, both of you changed and your love went on.
Two years later, after your marriage, Lana did not come back home from work. You called her cell a dozen times, waited for an answer, got none and ran to a police station to file a missing person's report. The police waited for two days and then began wildly searching for Lana. In those two days of silence, you cried alone in bed. You refused to eat anything, you drank too much and fell over your own vomit.
That was all.
A week later Lana was back home and the report canceled. They never found her, she just came back home. She opened the door and walked in. You saw her red hair sparkle under the sunlight but she looked different. Her long hair that used to rustle and cascade down her back was now too short to even notice.
You hugged her and stole a kiss. You asked her where she'd been and she said nothing. In the night you asked her again and she said to you, " I just needed space from all of this. We have been going through a lot lately. I needed time."
In the morning you prepared breakfast of half-burnt pancake and apologized severely for the mistake. But she ate it and kissed you.
You said, " Lana, what happens to us?"
She said, "I don't understand Jace... We are still us, right?"
"You left home without telling me and you come back to say you needed time? We are married for goodness sake, Lana. We do things together and..."
You would have said more and maybe take the blame later for all the things said, had Lana not stop you at mid-sentence with a scream that tore you open in ways no bullet could.
She screamed, " I had no choice. I was confused. The doctor said I wouldn't be able to get pregnant because of my womb."
And so you remembered the months after your marriage when she got pregnant and you both spent an entire evening arguing on the sex of the child only to wake up in the morning to her soft sobs filling out the silence of your shared room. She hadn't said a word but the blood that you saw, spread out before you told you she had lost the child.
Two months later she was pregnant. Three months later, the blood reappeared, staining her. It went on that it suddenly lost its meaning to her. Today there was a little baby growing inside her. Tomorrow there was a large space of nothingness where once a child had sat, growing.
"But I had a right to know too. We are married, Lana. This is wrong!"
She ran to the room and locked herself up. You heard her faint sobs coming back at you and you cried too.
It was after that day, you kissed her under the mistletoe and she apologized for overreacting.
Tomorrow is her birthday and you need to get her the perfect gift, one she'd take with her as a calming reminder of your love for her.
You call your sister, her best friend, and tell her what you needed. Tory says to you, " I need you to get her something that would stand out as something worthwhile. Look, I'm not a specialist in matters such as this so I wouldn't know what."
"Shopping isn't really my thing." You say.
"You are definitely telling the wrong person."
"Then I guess the DNA test doesn't really matter now."
Tory laughs. She understands your silly joke. Then she says, "we are not perfect shoppers but Lana is your wife. You'd do anything for her right?"
You stand in the gift shop and stare at the array of gifts, suddenly feeling lost. You walk to a shelf and stare at the collection of gifts, trying to find the perfect gift for your wife.
Suddenly, your eyes catch a glimpse of a simple, little red box with a heart-shaped cover. You pick it up with shaky hands and pull it open to find your little birthday gift.
She kisses you. You kiss her back. She blows out all the tiny candles in her birthday cake and you wrap your hands around her slender back.
She drinks red wine and laughs at your weird jokes. Then you present her with your little red box.
"You went shopping?"
You hesitate before you say yes.
"But you never go shopping." She laughs as she says this, slowly opening your little gift. She opens it finally and gasps as she sees your gift.
"It represents us, Lana. The gold means open heart; the bronze means an open mind, and the silver means open door."
"I love it, Jace." She begins to sob.
"Don't cry, please." She lets you hold her hands.
"It's beautiful, I love it!"
The lights spilling into the living room illuminates the red box and it shows a three key necklace that glistens as it touches her neck.