The mall was a warzone for Luna. She hated how terrifying human beings became during the holidays. Her mind often got stuck on the news story from four years ago about the woman that was stabbed over a coupon for ten dollars off of a popular gaming station. Luna also worked retail for many years. The horrors she experienced would haunt her forever.
As much as Luna hated the mall before Christmas, she loved Erik more. Erik was the kindest, gentilest man she had ever met. They had been dating since January and they had just moved in together in November. This was going to be their first Christmas together and Luna wanted to make it special. This, of course, meant braving the masses to get one final perfect gift for Erik.
Lines stretched across stories, shelves and displays were in disarray, and the noise of the crowd was like television static. Luna would have loved to walk in, grab what she needed, and walked out. However, she had no idea what she was searching for.
She tried to go window shopping as she dodged passers by with little success. This meant diving deeper into no man’s land. Luna had to go into the stores. She pulled her long black hair into a messy ponytail and rolled up her sleeves. It was time to go to work. She slid through the crowd with cat-like agility and made it into a pop-culture shop.
Scanning the shelves and racks there were plenty of shirts and figurines. Plush toys hung from hooks on the walls. Movie memorabilia sat behind a glass case. All of it would be nice of course, but none of it was perfect.
Luna popped in and out of three more shops without finding anything that spoke to her. She reached the opening to one of the larger department stores and stopped. The sight of the human swarm reminded Luna of when she went to the zoo with Erik. They fed the fish. With every little drop of the food pellets the fish would flop over each other, mouths open ready to eat. Then the ducks swam closer to partake in the feast that was upon the fish. The ducks began to fight. Luna did not want to be a fish or a duck.
Luna decided not to go into the larger store.
She had only been in the mall for an hour or so, but Luna could feel herself getting tired. She found a coffee bar and decided to wait in the hellish line for some caffeine. After ten minutes she made it to the front and hope began to return to her.
“What can I get you?” the barista asked.
“I would like a venti black coffee with two shots of espresso please.” Luna said. The smell of the coffee was much stronger than when she entered.
“Are you okay? That’s not really a drink that gets ordered at four in the evening,” the barista laughed.
“I’m fine, just tired and drained,” Luna sighed. “You know, Christmas and such. Looking for the perfect gift, blah blah blah.”
“I know exactly what you’re feeling.”
Luna paid for her drink and got it much quicker than she expected. The coffee was scorching, but Luna drank half of it in one go. She could feel the caffeine slowly enter her system. She was ready to face another store then another and another and so on.
Nothing was good enough for Erik.
Luna almost gave up hope until she came across a store she hadn’t seen before. It was a new music store. Not only did they sell instruments and equipment, they also sold vinyls, tapes, and CDs both brand new and pre-owned. It was perfect. Erik was a musician and while he already had all the equipment he needed, Luna knew she would find just what she needed while she was in there. She downed the last drops of her coffee and went into the store.
Luna sorted through every single album in the store. She was there for hours. Store employees asked thirteen times if she needed help finding anything. Each time she said she was just looking. Eventually, they stopped asking, but Luna didn’t stop searching. Something in her told her there was a light at the end of the tunnel, there was the exact kind of gift she was looking for. So she searched every rack and every row. She didn’t want to give up. She refused to give up.
It was thirteen minutes before closing when Luna found exactly what she was looking for. The perfect gift for Erik. A gift that would show him how much she cared about it. How much she thought about him. How well she knew him. Luna paid and left. She wrapped the gift in her car to make sure the surprise wouldn’t be spoiled.
For the first time in years Luna looked forward to opening gifts. She wanted to see Erik open his gift. The days began to crawl by as Christmas inched closer. Luna and Erik decided to exchange gifts Christmas Eve so Christmas day they could drive to their parents’ places. Luna was absolutely grateful for this decision. She thought that if she had to wait all the way to Christmas morning she might explode.
The day before Christmas Eve Luna was dying to just give Erik his gift already. She wanted to see his face when he opened it. She loved seeing his smile. She loved him. Soon, he would see just how much she loved him.
Christmas Eve Erik and Luna had a small dinner. Luna often drank wine with dinner, but she wanted to be sober when Erik opened his gift. Eventually they adjourned to the living room. Erik turned on the television to a recording of a fireplace with holiday music playing softly. Their tiny tree was illuminated with dozens of tiny colorful lights. Luna’s heart was warm.
The couple took turns ripping open the colorful paper around their gifts to each other. Luna gave Erik a collector's set of pins from a show he loved. Erik gave Luna the small painting she adored at a local art event. Luna gave Erik a director’s cut edition of an obscure movie he obsessed over. Erik gave Luna a hand made key pendant from one of her favorite artists.
Then Lune pulled out the perfect gift. It was wrapped in gold paper with a gold bow. It was square and thin. Erik knew what it probably was, but he had no idea what he was about to see. Luna held her breath.
Erik ripped open the paper.
“Oh my god,” Erik said. He rushed to tear every little bit of paper off the gift. It was a record. Not just any record. It was a first edition record of “Please Tell Me,” the premier album of the band Dark Hearts. It was the first band Erik had ever seen perform live. It was the band that got him into music. The album sleeve was signed by all four members of the band, and the whole thing was in mint condition. It was one of only fifteen in the world.
“I found it second hand at a music shop,” Luna smiled. “I wanted to get you something special. Something you’d love. Because I love you.”
“I love you too,” Erik smiled. He brought a small box with a bow on it. He handed it to Luna. She opened it.
Inside the box was a black Tahitian pearl on a black ring. Luna had mentioned this exact ring once during a discussion of marriage.
“Before you say anything, this is not a proposal,” Erik said. “It’s a promise for proposal. I love you and I know I want to be with you, but I also know you don’t want to rush into anything right now. This is my promise to you. I promise we will grow together and communicate and work together until the day I am worthy enough to be your husband.”
Tears fell from Luna’s eyes. She slipped the ring on her finger and it fit perfectly. She tried to speak but was genuinely speechless.
“That was the best thing you could have ever said to me,” Luna was finally able to spit out. “This is the best Christmas I have ever had.” Luna pulled Erik into a passionate kiss. It was all she could think to do. That Christmas would be the first of many for Luna and Erik’s budding relationship. That night was the night they both knew they’d be together forever.