“There! All done!” my little brother - Adryan - screamed, his arms above his head in a jumping jack position. In front of him, the lights of my mother’s Christmas tree twinkled red and green.
A loud, shrill beep came from the kitchen, and the mouthwatering smell of candy-cane cookies filled the air. My mom rushed into the kitchen, a grin on her face. We all followed her, ready to help her whenever she asked.
“Lyra, when did Marcia say she was coming?” Mom said. She took the cookies out of the oven and put them on a separate platter.
I glanced at my phone and looked out the window. “She’s coming soon, okay? Nobody’s arrived yet, so it’s fine.”
I ran to the window and pressed my hands to the glass because I wanted to see the snow float in the air. The snowflakes caressed the window and accumulated on the bushes like dust.
Headlights blinded me as they came closer to our home. I looked away for a second and skipped to the door, a smile on my face.
I threw the door open but stopped it before it slammed into the wall. The taxi Marcia had taken was stopped in the driveway, which Adryan and I had cleared beforehand. Marcia stepped out and paid the driver. They backed out of the driveway and left.
Marcia, her neck covered by a coat and the most beautiful gold scarf I’ve ever seen, ran up the pathway, her mouth curved into a grin. White smoke emitted from her mouth as she jumped up the stairs. I opened the door and hugged her tightly. The sounds of our laughs mixed.
“Hi, how are you?” she asked and pulled away.
I held onto her, my candy cane pajamas tickled my skin, and exclaimed, “Check out the tree! It looks so good!”
Marcia looked behind me, and I backed out of the doorway, letting her come inside. She took off her boots and shook off the snow, and we walked arm-in-arm to the Christmas tree. As she marveled over the star and the pretty colors, I stared at the present with her name on it.
“Hey, anyone home?” a voice came from the door, and it creaked open.
I turned and saw John standing in the doorway, a huge grin on his face. “Merry Christmas!”
We avoided each other’s eyes, and I crossed my arms as Marcia ran up to him and hugged him. He turned red and his eyes widened. He hugged her back, a huge grin on his face.
I knew he liked Marcia, and he was so obvious about it too! It’s a bit surprising that Marcia didn’t know about his crush.
Once John let go of Marcia, he said, “I-I meant besides these two gremlins!”
We both laughed, and just to make Marcia happy, I copied her actions and smacked John’s arm. As I did, John glared at me.
“Hey, Marcia, u-um… can I talk to you about something?” John asked and scratched his chin.
Marcia stared at me, her eyebrows raised, and I glanced away, my eyes wide. They burned with tears that threatened to spill from my eyelids if I didn’t run away. I backed up away from them and ran into the kitchen.
Paper towels on the marble counter caught my attention. I grabbed them and blotted my eyes with the rough towels.
Adryan gave me a curious look, his eyebrows furrowed at me, but I avoided his eyes, as I didn’t want to have to explain myself.
I envied John. He had the confidence to confess his feelings to Marcia, but I could never do that. If Marcia said she didn’t feel the same… I don’t know what I’d do. I wouldn’t be able to face her anymore.
I grabbed three cups of eggnog - two for me, one for Marcia - “C’mon, Marcy! Have some eggnog! I spiked it with extra scotch!”
“Woah, there, take it easy! What’s that, your fifteenth cup? You gotta calm down, Ly!” Tom exclaimed.
“Excuse me,” - I took a sip and let the foam bubble up against my top lip - “This is actually my first! I’m not an alcoholic, you know.”
Tom laughed his throaty laugh and took off his coat. “Seems pretty close though.”
I rolled my eyes and drank more as Marcia ran up to Tom and yelled, “Tommy! Come here and give me a hug!”
Their hug lasted about a minute and 50 seconds, as I counted in my head. I could see Marcia get uncomfortable in his grasp, but I said nothing. I wish I could.
“How’s lawyer stuff?” she asked.
“Ugh, hard,” Tom said. He let go of her and smacked John’s arm. Marcia turned to me and grabbed her cup of eggnog, just as I finished my second cup.
Tom tapped Marcia’s shoulder. “Hey, Marcia, can I talk to you?”
I sighed and shook my head. Why did Tom have to be so formal about his confession? It wasn’t like it would affect their lives that much. They would still be friends. But… if Marcia said yes…
She’d always spoken about how good-looking Tom was.
I reached for another cup of eggnog, and with nobody there to stop me, finished the third glass.
Marcia didn’t understand that Tom and John would never really be my friends. They didn’t care about me at all, and it wasn’t like I cared. The only thing they cared about was Marcia.
My mom beckoned me over and I walked over to where she sat on the couch. An enormous platter of cookies was on the table, and I took one. Mom smiled at me. The wrinkles and dips around her nose and mouth deepened. She still looked prettier than ever, even though her old age had caught up to her.
Mom pointed behind me, and I looked back to see Marcia standing with Adryan. He puckered his lips dramatically at her, and I snorted. Cookie crumbs and pieces of candy cane almost burst out of my mouth.
I set my cookie down. “Defend my cookie, Mom. Make sure none of these germs,” - I looked around the boys - “touch it, ‘kay?”
She bobbed her head up and down, her eyebrows furrowed. “Roger that.”
I laughed at her and ran to where Adryan stood. I lunged for his shoulders and dug my nails deep into them.
“Stop bothering her, boy!” I kicked his back, and he laughed.
Marcia smiled at me. That smile suddenly turned to a frown. “Ly, did you know that the boys were… in love with me?”
I avoided her eyes and bit my lip. “Y-yeah…”
“Well,” - she grinned and took a huge sip of eggnog - “I just gotta say thank you for not telling me ‘cause this night was horrible. Like, REALLY horrible.”
I smiled at her and slithered my arm around her shoulder. I could feel the dirty looks that John and Tom gave me, but I ignored them.
“I’m so happy that you’re not proposing. That’d be too much.”
I could feel the tears again. They burned the corners of my eyes, and I rushed up to my room before Marcia could say anything more.
She ran up the stairs behind me, and I jumped into my bed, grabbed the seam of my blanket, and pulled it over my head.
“Ly? You okay?”
I peeked through a hole in my blanket. Marcia stood awkwardly in the doorway, her hand wrapped around the frame.
“You could sit here,” I said and patted my bed.
She nodded and sat next to me.
“Marcy… I- I dunno how to tell you this....” I hesitated and took the blanket off my head.
“Let me guess, you wanna marry me, you’ve been madly in love with me, blah blah blah,” she said, her arms behind her on my bed.
My eyes narrowed at her and icy tears dripped from my chin onto my bed, opposing the burning temperature of my face.
The door to my room creaked open, and I raised my head to see Mom. “Girls, I propose we listen to something other than Mariah Carey? She gets enough money every Christmas anyway- oh, I’m sorry!”
She left the room and closed the door behind her.
“I- I’m really sorry, Ly.”
That was all she could say. Tears dripped faster onto my sheets and I tried to keep my cool because it wasn’t her fault. I knew that. But I also knew I could never compare to Tom or John.
“Lyra, I think I know what you were going to say,” Marcia said again.
I shook my head, wiping my eyes with my sheets. But I couldn’t contain the sobs that tumbled from my lips. Marcia held up a hand to stop me, her arms around my shoulders.
“I’m free on Thursday… wanna do it then??”
I gasped and looked up at her. “Do what?”
“Uh… go on a date with me!” Marcia exclaimed. “Duh, silly!”
I laughed too, hiccups from my shaking body mixed with them.
Dedicated to Luke/Litlover, who I collabbed with on this story! :D