I tuck a strand of straightened hair behind my ear. Sandy’s idea. I pace back and forth on our old porch.
Just another Christmas dinner, right?
Too many new faces.
Jacob’s always come, but now he’s coming as my boyfriend, not my bestfriend.
Sandy’s new boyfriend Harry. A random cousin or two who I for some reason never met.
And Mom’s new….Mom’s new husband Rick.
I mean, really, the name says it all. Who’s name is Rick? Rick and his stupid fishing gear and jokes and flannels. I could complain about Rick and his Rickiness all day.
I would be biting my nails like crazy, except I have white nail polish neatly adorning them.
Also Sandy’s idea, though I didn’t let her pull me into getting acrylics. Those things destroy your nails.
The only makeup-y thing I have on that’s my decision is my bright red lipstick. And, of course, a teeny tiny bit of mascara.
My family is wearing ugly Christmas sweaters, but to be honest they’re actually kinda cute.
Except Rick’s. Rick’s is ugly. Rick’s has a stupid fish with a Christmas hat on it.
I clench and unclench my fists, taking shaky deep breaths.
The doorbell rings, distracting me from my thoughts.
“I’ll get it!” I blurt, practically running to the door, glad for the distraction. I open the door to see Jacob standing, wearing a dark green sweater that compliments his eyes as well as dark blue jeans. As always, he’s done nothing with his hair, and it’s swept messily in all directions.
“Jacob, you’re here! Thank god, come in come in, it’s freezing the air is going everywhere, come on.”
He walks in and shakes the light snow from his boots.
It was a half white Christmas.
We stand awkwardly for about two seconds before he pulls me in for a hug. I hug back, closing my eyes and being calm for the first time today.
We let go.
I hold my breath, ready to lie, but I can’t, not while staring at those deep green eyes, that half-smile, his perfect eyebrows twisting into a concerned expression the longer I don’t answer. I shake my head slightly, finally breathing. The half-smile is gone, replaced with a complete worrying expression.
“You wanna talk about it?” I don’t answer, and start fidgeting with my bracelet.
“Can you come to my room?” I ask in a small voice.
“Of course.” I lead him upstairs and into my neat little bedroom.
I plop onto the bed and Jacob walks in, closing the door behind him.
He sits down beside me and puts his hands on top of both of mine, my left one moving a mile a minute adjusting every single bracelet I’m wearing.
“What’s wrong Elly? Is it-Ooooooh, is it Rick?” I hesitate, before nodding, not moving my hands anymore. He sighs.
“It’s just-Ugh it’s just so different now, and he’s just supposedly ‘filling in’ for Dad, and that-that was dad’s chair, you know? No way in a million trillion kajillion whatever’s bigger than that years will I ever call him Dad. It just makes him seem like he’s dead or something, just cause, what, he’s in Arizona and Mom moves on really really fast apparently. And now my whole world is changing Jacob! Christmas? Without my Dad and his actually funny jokes, unlike Rick and his weird ones, and ugh I can’t take it!” I say, finding it hard to talk at first, but having my hands in the air and my face probably red by the end of it. I run to face Jacob.
“No. I’m sick and tired of everyone telling me ‘Hey, it’s alright’ or ‘You’ll get used to it’, cause like no, no I won’t, every day waking up to the smell of the old coffee Rick loves is another terrible day-” But I don’t get to finish insulting Rick because in a moment, Jacob’s lips are on mine and his hand is caressing my cheek.
It feels like magic, the spark between us igniting into a flame that leaves me short of breath and my face hot. He pulls away, keeping his face near me.
“Sorry,” he whispers, ”I had to shut you up.”
“I….’ my eyes wander to his lips and I shake my head, looking down.
“That was not how I imagined our first kiss would be,” I say, wanting to crawl under my covers and scream into my pillow, but Jacob is right here and he’s still holding my cheek, making my skin tingle all over, and my heart practically beat right out of my chest.
“No?” I’m not looking at him, but I can feel him smiling.
“Mm, not really. I imagined it more romantic, you know? Like a sunset or Ferris wheel or something of the sort.”
“Oh, but you imagined it, huh?” I push him away, my face feeling tingly and probably as red as my lipstick.
“Shut up…” He laughs, putting his hands up in defense. He lays back on the bed, his feet still dangling from the bottom.
“That’s sorta how I imagined it,” he says.
“Oh really, in the middle of me talking about my weird stepdad?”
“No. But it was just me and you and it was perfect.”
“Aw, you cheesy little romantic.”
“Wait.” He sits up.
“What is it?” I frown.
“You called him stepdad.” I shrug, playing with a loose thread on my blanket. I guess I did.
“Well, when you pair talking about him to your first kiss, he doesn’t sound so bad, ya know?” I lay down next to him.
“Elaine!? Where are you!” Sandy’s worried voice echoes through the house. I sit up and attempt to smooth down my hair as much as possible before quickly walking out of the room.
“What’s wrong Sandy?”
“There you are! Where have you been girl! I’ve been calling you for the past fifteen minutes!” I blink, remembering Jacob's perfect lips on mine. I blink again.
“Uh, nowhere, just what is it?”
“Mhm, nowhere, says the girl who looks like she ended up putting blush on after all, but I know you didn’t.” I groan and hold my face in my hands.
“What do you want Sandy?”
“Where’s the wrapping paper?”
“Shoot! I forgot to wrap the gifts! It’s in the closet, there’s a bunch of different patterns, ugh, I gotta do that!”I turn away to get the rolls from the closet.
“Why don’t you just get Jacob to help you?” I freeze in my tracks.
“How’d you know he was here?”
“Dude, you plus blushing almost always equals Jacob. Even before you got together. You’re such a perfect couple.”
“I don’t know whether to thank you or to strangle you.”
“I don’t know how you switch from being a hopeless romantic to a shy person in like two seconds flat.” She walks with me towards the closet and we take out two large rolls of wrapping paper. She takes on with snowmen all over it, and I take one is green and red plaid.
“For the record, you and Harry are like my favorite ship now.” She smiles.
“Mm, thanks. C’mon, better not leave Jacob waiting.” She pushes me towards my room. I scoff and roll my eyes but she’s already skipping downstairs, probably to wait for Harry.
I walk back into my room, closing the door behind me. Jacob is right where I left him on my bed, laying down, eyes closed, he may as well be sleeping.
I set the wrapping paper leaning against my door and walk over to the bed. I cross my arms.
“Are you actually sleeping right now?” his eyes remain closed but his mouth twitches into a smile. “You can’t fool me, Jacob, just forget it.” He fully surrenders and grins, opening his eyes and sitting up.
“Oooh, wrapping paper, nice. Need some help I’m guessing?”
“Weeell, yes and no.” He cocks an eyebrow.
“Care to explain or…?” I sigh.
“See, I do need your help, but I can’t risk you seeing your gift, you know?”
“Ahhh, understood. I promise not to peek and to leave the room when mine comes up.”
“Are you sure I can trust you?”
“Oh, come on, I just want to spend a little more time with you, pretty pleaseee?” I blush and turn away.
“Alright fine, but if you peek I’m just not going to give you the gift okay?”
“Oooh, harsh, but okay.”
“So what’re you waiting for! Come help me already! You know where my scissors are and stuff, start by cutting the wrapping paper into normal-sized pieces, ok?”
“Mhm.” He gets up and hugs me from behind, setting his chin on my head. (sometimes, I hate our height difference). My eyes widen and I feel my face heat up even more.
“What’re you-” He lets go abruptly and walks quickly to my desk and opens my drawers to get my scissors to start cutting I guess.
“Sorry!” he blurts when he’s facing me again, “someone told me girls like hugs from behind and I just-ugh sorry sorry sorry…” He plops down on the floor and starts cutting the paper, not looking up or meeting my eyes. I set my hands on my hips.
“Wow. It’s usually me doing the rambling, I’m confused.”
“I know, I know so-”
“If you say sorry one more time I’m going to slap you. That was kinda cute actually, the hug.” I sit next to him and bump his shoulder. “Not used to such affection from you Jacob, did someone put a ‘romantic’ potion on you or something?”
“Haha, very funny. Maybe I’m just trying to be a better boyfriend, ever thought of that?” he says, sounding slightly offended. I bite my lip.
“Jacob, I’m nervous.”
“Abou-Oh. I was hoping you forgot, but hey, it’s ok.” He sets the scissors down and puts his full attention on me. “Elly, you are the strongest, bravest, most, um, smart-est person I know- if anyone can get through something like this, it’s you, trust me, I’ve watched you throw your gum at the teacher when she told you to spit it out you are scary sometimes.” I turn away and bite my lip to try and stop my tears from flowing because I’m scared of what’s going to happen when Rick completely moves in and practically takes Dad’s place and everything is just going to change. I don’t think I can handle that. “Elaine, you know I know by now that when you look away it’s because you're about to cry. C’mere.” Why do you have to know me so well Jacob? Why?
I look over to see Jacob’s arms open and he envelops me in a comforting hug. I hug him back, tightly clutching him because I know at least through all this, he won’t change.
“Come on, I actually have to finish the presents,” I say after a couple minutes, and we both laugh, hesitating before finally letting go of each other.
“Are you going to be alright?” I look straight into his eyes.
“Just as long as you’ll be there to help me?”
“Hey, forever and always Elaine.”
“Okay, aaaaand...The last one is yours, just like I thought. I’m afraid I’m going to have to usher you out now sir...” I cross my arms and wait for him to get up.
“Aw, alright. Don’t miss me too much!” He walks over to me and presses a small kiss on my cheek. I uncross my arms and feel my face rise to about 150 degrees, my heart rate following suit.
“Will you stop doing stuff like that?! My heart literally can’t handle it.”
“Aw, you like me that much-”
“Just forget I said anything. Out-out out out.” I shoo him out and slam the door.
I pause for two seconds before taking his gift out of the closet. It’s a chained bracelet with half a heart on it. I have the other half. I don’t know if he’ll like it, but I’m hoping…
“Open it, open it!”
“Naw, wait, in my family, we do something where we have to shake the gift over our heads and guess what it is before we open it, now isn’t that right Charlie?'' Rick says, his voice dripping with that weird southern accent. I force myself to keep smiling. It’s almost over Elaine. Almost.
“Yup!” My now stepbrother Charlie pipes up.
“Well, I don’t see why we can’t follow that! Go ahead now Jacob, shake it!” my mom says, smiling at Rick.
Jacob takes the small box I wrapped to perfection and shakes it delicately over his head. I’m seated right next to him, so I can see his reaction right away.
“I’m guessing….some sorta jewelry.” I bite my lip and keep my eyes glued down. He brings the gift into his lap and unwraps it slowly. Then, he gets ready to open the box. I look up at his face as he lifts the top and takes out the bracelet gently, his mouth opening slightly in what I’m hoping is awe.
“But where’s the-”
“Here…” I pull the other half out of my pocket, slipping it on my wrist. Jacob does the same and picks up my hand in his, connecting the hearts.
“It’s beautiful Ell, thank you, truly.”
“You’re welcome.” Everyone moves on with presents, but my eyes stay deep in Jacob’s, my inside’s melting.
“Thanks for everything, Jacob,” I whisper. He smiles.
And even though my whole family-plus a few others- are right there, he leans in and kisses me. I close my eyes.
Now this is how imagined our kiss.