I awoke to the sound of someone knocking on my door on an early Sunday afternoon. River groaned beside me, pulling my comforter up over his head. I sighed, reaching over the edge of the bed for my discarded pajamas. I threw on the shorts and grabbed a hoodie before heading to my door. I pulled the door open, more than surprised to find Callie and Alex waiting with a Christmas tree between them, still in its Target brand box.
Alex also had a couple bags in his arms that appeared to be filled with lights and ornaments. It took me longer than I would like to admit to realize what they were up to.
"No," I said, but they had already pushed past me.
"There's no use in arguing," Alex said, nodding at Callie who was already pushing furniture around. He handed me a cup of coffee that he and Callie had also brought for me. I took it, fully aware that it was a bribe.
River appeared in the doorway of my bedroom, looking more than disheveled in only his pajama pants. It had been a long night. "What's going on?"
"She's turning my apartment into a pagan sacrificial site," I gestured at Callie.
She ignored this. "Put a shirt on," Callie told her brother, never actually looking at him.
"No," I told him. "Please don't."
Callie rolled her eyes, but didn't say anything else. She had already tugged my desk from one corner of my apartment to the other. She was unstringing a rather tangled mess of brightly colored lights. Alex was fighting with the box for the tree, and so far the box was winning.
I shared a private smile with River, crossing the room to lean against the wall next to him. I slipped my fingers through his; he smiled faintly, unconsciously. Butterflies danced happily in my stomach.
"Do you think you could maybe help?" Callie asked, her tone flustered. It looked like she only managed to make the strand of lights worse.
"Oh no," I countered, straightening up. "I want nothing to do with this and you know it. I hate Christmas."
"No one hates Christmas," Callie retorted. We had this argument at least twice every winter. It was never a serious argument, but she had never tried infiltrating my space before.
"I hate Christmas," I repeated. "And it's not like I'm the only one here who doesn't have a Christmas tree."
"What?" Callie glared at her brother. "What did you do to the tree I gave you?"
"It's… uh—up. I put it up a couple days ago. Charlie hasn't been over since then," River said, sending me a withering glance.
"You are such a terrible liar, River James. I can't believe you didn't put the tree up! There are two weeks until Christmas! Where is your cheer?"
Callie was starting to sound hysterical, something not altogether uncommon for her when it came to the holidays. "What about you, Alex? Do you have a tree?" I wanted to shift the attention to someone else.
"Of course he does," Callie snapped. "It's a little fiber optic tree in his living room." Her eyes widened and color quickly flooded her cheeks. "Uh… he—I mean. That's what he told me."
"You are such a terrible liar, Callie Marie," River teased, but didn't say anything more. This was very indicative of how terrible he felt about what he'd said about me and Alex. River was extremely protective of Callie, but I thought he liked to scare the guys she was interested in just for kicks. He was leaving Alex alone though and I really appreciated it. He had apologized to Alex about six or seven times regarding his terrible attitude on Thanksgiving. Alex had accepted gracefully, something I was grateful for. River and Alex had the potential to be good friends.
"Can you at least pop some popcorn?" Callie finally recovered.
"Sure," I said, crossing the room and grabbing her hand. "You're coming with me." I tugged her in the kitchen with me before she could argue, sending Alex an apologetic glance.
She sighed, taking out a bag of popcorn and putting it in the microwave.
"Spill, Cal," I ordered.
She sighed again. "It's nothing," she said. "We're friends. I'm glad you introduced us. He's a great guy. But I knew if you found out you would make it into something it's not. We're just friends."
I looked at her. She seemed to be telling the truth, but her eyes wouldn't quite meet mine. "Is that what you want?" I asked her.
She met my eyes. "I—"
"Sorry," River interrupted. He'd thrown a shirt on, much to my dismay. "Knocked over your coffee." He grabbed a bunch of paper towels, giving Callie just enough time to escape with the popcorn.
I glared at him half-heartedly. "I know you think you're helping," he said. "But you need to let her do what she needs. You know that Jeff really fucked her up."
"I know," I mumbled.
River grinned, pulling me close. "I love you, you know."
"I know," I said again. "I love you too."
He kissed me lightly on the lips, then once on the forehead. "How'd I get so lucky?"
"I don't know," I teased. I kissed him again before heading back into the living room.
Callie had apparently given up on the lights, starting to string popcorn instead. Alex had gotten the tree out of the box and was starting to separate the branches. I popped pieces of popcorn when I thought Callie wasn't looking, my civil disobedience to her takeover of my apartment. But secretly, I was thankful that we were all together, no matter what the reason.
It didn't take long for the tree to become fully assembled and decorated. We were admiring it when my phone rang.
"…I'm finally getting better.
And now I'm picking up the pieces…"
"Huh," Callie said as I fished my phone out of my purse. "That's fitting."
"It's the day I thought I'd never get through,
I got over you."
I smiled at River, my eyes not leaving his. "I know," I said, flipping my phone open.
AN: So that's it. And you know, I think it's a little cheesy, but considering the usage of the song, well whatever. We can all use a little cheese in our lives, right? Anyway, as always, tell me what you think.
And if you're bored, check out my other penname Kayli, featuring quite a few of my older (and admittedly worse) works.
Future Projects? Before you ask, NO THERE WILL NOT BE A SEQUEL. I hate sequels. They are rarely better than the original and I don't want to carry this on. This is the end of River and Charlie's story. But I do have two ideas for upcoming projects. (1) A standalone involving Callie and Alex. I'm not sure how it would work or what it would really be about, but it's an idea I've been flirting with. (2) A story about forgiveness. About being hurt and broken and what, if anything, it would take to get back to good. This one is definitely more likely to be up sooner. Keep an eye out.
Thanks to starzdestiny, pinkfluffyoranges, TreeCreature, 77-LiLiAnA-77, MISS xfidelity, devilish delish, DuckyJem, violet-eyez, mia5081, Suneri, lilswtmai, SuperCUTEJensen, outsidersgirl, auir, justdance & Siana for reviewing.
lyrics to "Over You" owned by Daughtry.