The First Date of Christmas
On the first day of Christmas, my true love came to me. I just didn’t realize it at the time.
I spent the morning having breakfast with my family via video chat. I staged a decorated tree and purchased red plaid flannel pajamas. As planned, I made the same breakfast in my little apartment in the big city as mom had over 2,000 miles away. It didn’t matter that I had to get up crazy early, and I had the AC running to keep me from sweating while wearing full flannel pajamas in 60-degree weather. I smiled sweetly and let everyone believe I was having a wonderful time.
Video conferencing was as good as being there. Actually, it was better. I didn’t have to listen to my sister and her future ex-husband arguing for hours at a time. (I secretly held a betting pool with myself on how much longer the two of them would last. Every year the arguments grew louder and longer.) I did not miss my mom fussing at my dad. I did not miss being asked if I had a boyfriend or if I was seeing anyone. I did not miss making up a boyfriend to have Christmas dinner with every few years, just to run away and get people off my back. There was so much I was not missing.
But, also, there was so much I was missing. I missed the Christmas lights in the snow, and the way hot cocoa and marshmallows warmed my toes and my soul. I missed watching the look on my nephew’s faces when they opened their gifts from Santa. Or the way my mom looked as she watched all of us sitting on the floor around the tree, surrounded by shredded wrapping paper. Video conferencing was not as good as being there.
“I love you too. Merry Christmas!” I waved.
“Bye sweetie, call me again tonight.” My mom blew kisses, my dad waved.
I tapped the screen and the video feed winked off. I was faced with a reflection of myself as my camera showed me what it saw. I lay the screen face down on the table. I let me face relax. My cheeks felt like they wanted to explode from my false enthusiasm.
I ripped off the flannel and slipped into jeans and a t-shirt. It was at least a festive shirt and had fake knitting stitches and a reindeer printed on the front.
I opened the front window and switched the AC off. Winter in Southern California was comfortable. All I needed was a light hoodie if it wasn’t raining (which it hadn’t for entirely too long). So drought aside, the weather was perfect. Which is exactly why I planned on spending the day sitting alone in the dark, watching movies.
I shoved another handful of popcorn into my mouth. My lips were beginning to feel shriveled from too much salt and soda. It made complete sense that I got up and refilled the popcorn bucket and my drink.
I crept from the theater, careful not to step on toes in the packed theater. Previews for my second movie of the day were still running, so I figured I had time to refill my goodies and get back to the theater on time. Blake the Beautiful walked past me. I almost dropped my bucket on the way to the concessions stand when he nodded and smiled in recognition at me.
Blake. Now that was a Christmas present I could handle, instead of the Amazon gift cards from mom. Blake was hot, and I not too secretly had a crush on him at work. Of course, there was no one to confide this secret to. No one actually knew that anytime Blake emailed me requesting documents I would pet the side of my monitor as if he had sent me a love note instead of some generic department request, and me being the generic department recipient.
Blake was everything I thought I wanted in a man, slender and yummy, bearded, tattooed and stylish. Not the only problem in our way, but pretty much the only major problem was that I had nothing Blake the Beautiful was interested in. I had boobs and I didn’t have a dick. Blake the Beautiful was gay, so very very gay. And then there was that little issue of never actually talking to each other. He still took my breath away with his beauty.
I returned to my movie and sank deeper into a depression. Alone in a theater, surrounded by strangers on Christmas day, and the closest thing I had to any interest in the opposite sex was a fabulously gay man.
I followed the throngs of moviegoers from my last matinee out into the parking lot. Like a caravan, cars made their way from the theater into the parking lot of the closest Chinese Buffet. Maybe we should have figured out a ride-share plan? Maybe if we all talked to each other we would find out each other’s stories? Maybe pigs will fly.
I waited my turn anxiously. Alone, away from my family, in a strange place (trust me LA is strange when you are from middle America), my Christmas was sucking hard.
“How many?” The hostess asked me.
“One.” Her eyes rolled so far back in her head, I almost expected them to start spinning like a slot machine. She moved on to the next group. They had three. They were seated.
I guess the restaurant had too many singles, and not enough tables, so they were seating groups first. I turned to leave, having had enough humiliation just by being alone today.
I literally ran into the second best-looking man at work. Chris. Running into Chris was like running into a side of beef. He was tall and muscular. And really hot.
“Watch it. Oh hi, Natasha.” He said as he recognized me. Not my name, but close.
I stuttered. “Ha, ha, hey Chris. It’s Natalie actually.” He smiled. I withered inside, he’s so cute. While Blake is beautiful, Chris is handsome with a square jaw, cute with a little nose, good looking with sparkling blue eyes, gorgeous perfect body, and straight. “Sorry.” I frequently dorked out around him. I dorked out on him every freaking time I had to run anything upstairs to his office. My brain stopped all proper functionality when I was anywhere near Chris.
“You leaving?” He asked.
“Yeah, I don’t have it in me to wait. I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea. Everyone and their missing half-cousin are here.” In self-defense, I relied on heavy sarcasm.
He scoffed. “You wanna get out of here? I know a little Thai place that’s open.”
“Aren’t you here with people?” I asked, looking around expecting to see a girlfriend, or a parent or two.
“Flying solo. How bout you?”
“My folks are back in Indiana, I’m on my own too.”
“Great,” he smiled.
Chris’s smile was the best thing to have happened to me in days. I grasped on to that and knew I would cherish this moment forever. The moment Chris smiled at me. At me, and not just in my direction. I had thought it was enough he actually almost knew my name, but to also get a smile, that was great.
Oh, I was in serious high-derp mode.
“Let’s ditch the traditional Chinese Christmas dinner, and try for something a bit different.”
“Sounds good to me.” Squee!
I knew better than to think this was an actual date, but it was still nice to go be a warm body so that Chris wasn’t alone today also.
Maybe it was a date, an impromptu, unexpected date.
“So Nat, why are you here and your folks in Indiana?” Chris asked as he blew on the hot soup, before wrapping his perfect lips around the spoon. This was a friendly dinner, yet every hormone in my body shot off like fireworks.
I sat across from him in a small cozy booth, in a slightly seedy little Thai restaurant, that frankly, had some of the best food I had ever eaten.
I smiled between bites of grilled satay sticks. “My first year out here. Figured I would attempt to save some money. You know, be the responsible adult I have fooled people into believing I am, and not fly home this year.”
“And you moved here for the job?” His lips wrapped around another bite of food. I dearly wished to be a bite of Thai food at the moment.
“Yeah. I stumbled across a job fair at my alma matter, and these guys hired me on the spot. The relocation package was decent, and I’m here living the dream in Southern California.”
“So you’re using Zephyr Tech as your gateway to what? Getting into the movies and making it big?”
“Yeah, no. No dreams of Hollywood. I’m using Zephyr as my gateway to a 401K, and job experience. And the chance to live in California.” I explained.
“I never really quite understood that. Why up and move thousands of miles from everyone and everything you know?”
“Seriously Chris? Where did you grow up?”
“Where did you go to college.”
Again he replied “Santa Barbara.”
“And you don’t see why people want to live here?” He shook his head.
“It’s what I grew up with, so I guess I take it for granted.”
“Ok, lets put it this way. Would you up and move to, say Oklahoma City for a good job opportunity, if an equal opportunity was available here?”
Chris scoffed, “no, why would I leave here?”
“Exactly. You’re already here, so you can’t see the point of wanting to be anywhere else. Well, when you live with anywhere else, in the landlocked midwest, you dream. I dreamed of living somewhere near the ocean.”
“Somewhere with traffic congestion and water rationing, and raging wildfires?” The sarcasm was strong with this one.
“Somewhere with ocean, a job that paid enough to cover rent and pay off my student loans, in a location where I didn’t have to spend the rest of my paycheck on seasonal clothes. Honestly, I was actually looking at Chicago before being able to come out here. It was the logical big-city. But moving here was a happy opportunity.” I explained.
“What do you at Zephyr exactly?”
“I’m in Enterprise Acquisitions.” Chris nodded in understanding. This typically meant that the listener had no clue, but didn’t want to appear to not understand corporate buzz terms. It meant the team I worked with was responsible for helping the company get the things it needed to run as a company.
“You?” I asked, knowing he would throw some more buzz words back at me.
“Asset Projection.” I nodded as if I knew what he meant. He meant the group he works with figured out what the company was going to need to purchase in order to run as a company. Basically, his group told my group what to buy.
“Do you think anyone in upper management actually knows what any of us actually do? I mean why am I in Enterprise Acquisitions, and not Purchasing?” I asked.
“With fancier names we can charge the clients more, and you and I can expect bigger paychecks.” Chris winked.
I couldn’t help myself, I giggled.
“There is a neighborhood up in the hills, they do up everything crazy over the top with Christmas lights. You want to go for a ride and look at the lights?” Chris asked. This was turning into an almost real date.
“That sounds like fun.”
On the ride into the hills, I found out that Chris’s folks and brother did the travel thing, and this year they were spending Christmas in Australia. His sister was with her family in Oregon. He wasn’t with them because of year-end issues with work.
When he dropped me off at my car, I more than hoped he would say something that would indicate that this was a date-date. As a modern woman, I wasn’t going to sit on my laurels and wait.
“Chris that was unexpected and pleasant. What are…”
He started talking at the same time. “Would you like to go out again tomorrow?”
“I’d love to go out again tomorrow. I was just going to ask if you had any plans.”
He smiled at me. My toes curled. Damn if my body reacted that way to a grin, I really wanted to know how I’d react to a kiss.
“My sister got me tickets to a production called ‘When Doves Cry,’ it’s some type of Prince review. You wouldn’t be interested would you?”
“I love Prince. That sounds much more interesting than what I had in mind.”
“And what was that?” Chris’s eyebrow shot up. Ooh, he could lift one eyebrow. I’ve tried for years, and never managed to master that expression.
“Hang out and watch movies,” I said shrugging.
“Isn’t that what you did today?”
“Yeah, but there are more movies that just came out that I haven’t seen, and we could share popcorn.”
Chris chuckled. “I’ll pick you around four? We can eat first.”
“Four? Isn’t that early?”
Chris shook his head. “Not at all. This thing is up in Santa Barbara. That should give us time to have dinner before it starts.”
I bit my lip. Chris was asking me to be stuck in a car with him for at least 4 hours of driving time, and to see a live show. Now that sounded like a date.
“It sounds great. I’ll text you my address in the morning.”
“I look forward to it Nat.” He nodded, then gave me a little wave and pulled off.
I had a date and less than twenty-four hours to get ready, lose twenty pounds, look like I had four days of sleep, grow my hair to my butt, and bleach my teeth. I looked down at what I was wearing, jeans, a ratty hoodie, and a food stain right in the middle of my boobs. I groaned. Food on the boobs and he still asked me out. This Christmas day had not sucked.
I needed to go home and call my mom.
©2016 Lulu M Sylvian. The Twelve Dates of Christmas.