Christmas Eve shopping is the best.
For the past four years, it was a tradition for my best friend and I to shop from opening to closing time at the mall. For that day, everything was basically eighty percent off. If that was the case, why not take advantage of it?
But that wasn't it.
Santa Claus was one of the most interesting people in the mall. There was no age limit for sitting on Santa's lap, so Emily Minor and I never gave up that opportunity. Every year, we'd take turns getting in line, so the first year was me and the second Emily. Now in our fifth year, I found myself in the highly embarrassing position in line.
Emily was sitting in one of the benches next to the fountain as she gave me a thumbs up. I returned the gesture and ran a hand through my hair. This year, my Christmas wish was something mushy about love. Last time, Emily had gone on for minutes about world peace and famines.
I shuffled along with the line, slowly inching closer to the Grand Master himself. Looking around the mall, I saw a bunch of guys I was quite close with from the same university I attended. One of my former high school friends had brought two other friends for the holidays as I waved at them.
The guy in the lead, Anthony Emerson, returned my greeting as he literally sprinted in my direction. After taking three courses with him the past semester, I found myself extremely close to him. "What's up, bitchette?" he grinned, holding out his hand for a handshake.
I laughed, accepting the gesture. "Nothing really. Just in line to sit on Santa's lap."
"Are you fucking serious?" Matt Marshall cried out, peering over Anthony's shoulder. "I want to sit on his lap! Is there a picture too?"
By now, other parents were giving us the dirtiest looks possible. But that didn't really matter, they've never liked me very much considering how my soliloquies take up ten minutes.
"Move it, Marshall." Jeff Sheldon yelled, elbowing his way through to engulf me in a gigantic hug. Jeff had been a close friend of mine ever since the seventh grade. But now with the size of the university, I barely saw him on campus. He just as quickly released me and walked over to sit next to Emily who was smiling at him.
Anthony, Matt and I stood in the line as other parents began to protest their arrival. I spun around to face them, disgust on my face. College students never complained about being cut in the dining hall lines. What gave them the right?
The three of us talked quietly amongst ourselves until I was suddenly at the head of the line. The people in charge were still the same as the previous years as they sent a smile over. Most of them being around my age, they found what I did absolutely hilarious. All except for Santa, he was the only one working who was married and in his late fifties. Obviously, he found us university students plain annoying, not funny.
One of the familiar employees nodded at me, a big grin on his face, as he let me through the rope. I stuck my tongue out at him and approached the waiting Santa Claus.
Something was different this year. This Santa was definitely not as fat as the previous years, and being older, I could easily tell that there was something phony about his facial hair.
I cocked an eyebrow as I heard the guys and employees laughing behind me. I turned around and saw Anthony dying of laughter from what they had just told him seconds ago.
The Santa patted his legs with black gloved hands. I faltered slightly, squinting at the guy. But nonetheless, I sat on his lap. I couldn't break tradition no matter how odd the situation became.
With my smaller five foot five build, I was capable of just barely fitting with my legs thrown over his own thighs. I shuffled uncomfortably, staring into Santa's light gray eyes. "Hello." He said, his voice low and crisp as his eyes shone with amusement.
I nearly died. This wasn't an old man. His voice sounded miraculously young and even somewhat familiar to a certain extent. But the biggest give away was the fact that there were absolutely no wrinkles, not even the slightest crow's feet next to the eyes.
"You're not old." I blurted out.
He let out a laugh, which sounded full and actually quite Santa-like. He grinned at me, nodding. "You're new. But let's move along. What do you want for Christmas?"
Ah, so he wasn't going to answer. Disregarding his age, I slipped an arm around his shoulder. "All I want for Christmas… is love." I replied dramatically, earning myself a grin from Santa. "I want to find a guy. Someone who truly cares for me, and understands what I truly want. I want a guy who kisses me not just because he feels like it's an obligation, but because he wants to and likes it. I want a guy who can make me laugh, cry, smile, rant, everything. It's that simple." I stopped, looking at him expectantly.
Shockingly, I felt his hand graze the bottom of my thigh, out of sight from the rest of the line. "Is that it?" he whispered, allowing his fingers to dance across my jean-clad legs.
I sucked in my breath, my thigh burning from his touch. Shaking my head, I stared into his now dark charcoal gray eyes. The sudden change surprised me and hit me with uncertain recognition, but I managed not to show it. "This guy has to be someone I trust. I want him to be able to love me without being afraid his friends will find out. I dated someone like that before. I thought he loved me as much as I did him. But, it turns out he didn't care after three years… I just want another relationship like that. Well, or maybe I'd just want to get him back seeing how I'm still completely and utterly in love with him." I let out an exaggerated sigh and finished my speech. "Is that too much for me to ask?"
"Not at all." His voice had reached a low, husky tone, causing me to squirm uncomfortably. I was feeling… slightly turned on… from just hearing his voice. Hell, I wasn't exactly positive if he was a forty year old man who used Botox. All I knew was – "What's your name?"
I looked up, surprised to see him diverting the question at me. "Oh. Um. Katie. Katie McClellan."
"Katie McClellan." He whispered, now starting to play with the fringe of my shirt. The fabric of his glove skimmed my waist as my breath hitched. Either this was one very horny old guy or a guy my age using the opportunity to feel up a girl. Either way, I didn't care, not even if it was the former. (I know, sick).
I stared at him before remembering that there were other people in line. I quickly jumped off, smoothing down my clothes. "Merry Christmas." I whispered before walking out of the roped off area.
Still dazed from the encounter, I walked back to where Emily was sitting. Surprisingly, Anthony and Matt were there as they waved at me. Each of them had a huge grin on their faces. "Let's go." Matt laughed. "Let's get something to eat."
I silently picked up my bags and followed behind them. I sent one last look at the Santa Claus, only to see him staring at me while blatantly ignoring the child on his lap. When our eyes met, a slow smirk slipped on his face. Winking, he jerked his head upwards to acknowledge my presence.
I scurried away, standing in between Anthony and Matt. Anthony slung his arm across my shoulders and guided me towards the food court. I sent Santa one more look, but he was no longer paying attention to me.
"Katie?" Jeff questioned as I spun around to face him. "Are you seriously getting turned on by Santa Claus?"
I blushed profusely as the others laughed. The scariest part was that I actually kind of was attracted to him in that sense. There was something about him that was completely unforgettable. Plus there was some sort of connection I felt with him after revealing my Christmas wish. Deep inside, I couldn't deny that it was actually my wish for the past three years ever since my junior year. On that fateful day, my three year relationship with Drew Sparks ultimately died when he had used the hackneyed reason of 'We should see other people because we're still young' as our break up. I had truly thought something would develop in the future, but obviously that wasn't going to happen anymore.
We barely managed to remain friends (with obvious tensions) up until his graduation. He was to go off for Northwestern while I stayed behind to complete my senior year of high school. When the summer ended, our already destroyed friendship instantly crumbled. Honestly because of the outcome, I felt obligated to give up on love.
But I couldn't. Though he had broken up with me, I was still deeply in love with him. He was the only one I felt a true connection with every time when he had touched or kissed me. I trusted him with all my secrets and for the sake of the cliché, he was the only one who truly understood who I was. Even now after not speaking with him since the summer before college, I was madly in love with Drew Sparks.
Yet when I was sitting on Santa's lap, my intended foolish nonsensical wish actually transformed into my true desires. It was something about those eyes… something about his voice. It pulled me towards this unknown man behind the guise of Santa Claus.
Whoever this was, I could only pray to see him again.
I opened my eyes, the whiteness of my surroundings nearly blinding my still sensitive pupils. Sitting up, I saw my brother, EJ, situated at the foot of my bed. A freshman in high school, he still had a bit of his innocence left unlike myself at the time.
"White Christmas." He smiled and ran out the door before I could give him my annual Christmas hug. I glanced out the window, feeling giddy as I saw the snowflakes fall from the sky. A perfect Christmas…
Still in my pajamas, I ran into the bathroom and did all morning routines before running into the living room fifteen minutes later. "Merry Christmas!" I yelled to my family sitting around the sparkling Christmas tree.
They returned my enthusiasm as I sat Indian-style next to EJ, as he briefly gave me a hug… the only hug I ever got from him every year. Oh, how I love my dear little brother.
Over the course of the next hour or so, we sat around opening presents, being a complete family and laughing over everything. I loved this feeling; it was the day when all our faults were forgotten. For today, it was about family and love.
I sighed, leaning back on my hands. Love… I suppose I got my wish. I may not have won back the guy I loved, but I found it within my family. I just never looked hard enough to see it.
With my arms full of gifts, wrapping, cards and bows, I trudged up the stairs and into my room. I dumped everything on my bed, organizing it into piles to make it simpler to write 'Thank You' cards.
Just when I was about to sit down, Sleigh Ride rang through the room. After sitting idly for the next few seconds, it dawned upon me that it was my cell phone. I quickly reached onto my bedside table and stared at the caller.
My breath hitched when I read the name. After our initial break-up, I never took the time to erase his name from my phone book. I found it slightly immature to ostracize people from my life after a slight fall out. Though we never called each other, it was nice to still see him there in my life.
But why the hell was he calling me? We had barely held a single one minute long conversations for about three years, and now he had the audacity to call me on Christmas morning?
I flipped open my phone and brought the speaker to my lips. "Hello?" I said, playing with the new iPod my dad had bought me.
"Katie." He replied, his deep voice flowing into my ears. He sounded so different now. I barely had the opportunity to talk to him and every time he sounded more mature and deeper. I hated being able to hear that distinction since it indicated that we were no longer an important part of each other's lives. "Are you busy right now?"
My heart crashed. He hadn't even called to wish me a merry Christmas. He merely needed a favor. I wanted to scream at him, saying how I had time over the past three years but you spent that time ignoring me… but I couldn't bring myself to yell. Against my own volition, I said I wasn't. I even asked if he was alright. Oh, how I hated my love sick soul.
"I'm fine… but can you meet me at Sunset Park? Please?" I heard him say softly. "I need to talk to you. Just hear me out when I see you. That's all I ask of you."
The disparity in his voice nearly wanted to make me cry. I hated how this one guy could do this to me. What originally was the most festive day of my life suddenly became the most depressing. It was all because of him… Drew Sparks… the man who still held my heart in his hands after three years and didn't even know it.
"I-I … I don't know if-"
The way he whispered my name was all it took. I hadn't seen this side of Drew in so long, it was starting to kill me to experience it again. I reluctantly agreed and hung up the phone before he could say another word.
I changed into everyday clothes, pulling on a black trench coat and scarf, fully knowing the outdoor temperature. Shouting a quick excuse to my parents, I stepped out the front door.
Sunset Park was a mere hundred feet away, at the end of my street. There was no reason to take the time to warm up the car for a two second drive. Plus snow and front wheel drive did not mesh well.
I pulled the scarf to cover my mouth as the snow fell gracefully upon my face. There wasn't much of a wind as all remained quiet as I walked up the street. Within the minute, I had trudged through two inches of unplowed snow and stood by myself at Sunset Park.
Glancing around the area, I didn't see a single soul. I huffed, a cloud forming in front of my face. Way to show up, Sparks. But then again, he lived on the other side of town… I had to cut him some slack.
"Katie." I spun around to the parking lot behind me. In the silence, every whisper seemed to be magnified about ten times. There standing next to a black Audi was Drew Spark himself in all his glory. He walked towards me, his arms crossed in front of his chest to keep warm. When he was standing directly in front of me, his light steel-colored eyes flashed. "You're actually here." He whispered, sending chills down my spine.
I rolled my eyes at him, attempting to cover up the fact that I couldn't believe he was here in person. Yet, I wanted to hate him with all my heart. Part of me couldn't believe he was trying to pull the mushy act. But the other three quarters that loved him saw it as genuine care.
"Believe me, Sparks." I suddenly spat, despite my inner desire to get closer to him. I couldn't let him know how much I actually missed him. It'd be my ultimate downfall. "You haven't exactly been on my good side since December of my junior year. Now is not the time to beat around the bush. It's not exactly how I want to spend Christmas… you know, with you and not my family."
I regretted those words the instant they slipped. The pain that seemed to strike his face was unbearable but he just as quickly covered it up. "How was your Christmas?"
What the hell? Confusion was evident in my expression but he paid no heed. In a time like this, he dared to ask me how my Christmas was? I thought I knew him, but apparently I didn't. "It was pretty good." I shrugged. "I basically got everything I wished for." Except for that one wish…
"Basically?" Drew cocked an eyebrow at me. "What do you mean by that?"
"People never get everything they ask for, it's reality. I've already accepted it."
"And if you don't mind…" Drew's low voice trailed off to a whisper as he took a step forward towards me. His gloved hands grasped my elbow when that familiar shock ran through my body. I tried to tear myself away, but he refused to let go until I stood still. "If you don't mind," he repeated, "what was missing from your list?"
Wow, that was fucking lame.
"You're allergic to dogs, McClellan." Drew rolled his eyes. "Stop lying and just tell me already."
That was when I completely snapped from everything built up over the past three years. "Why do you want to know?" I cried, stepping out of his arms. "When did you become so interested in my life again? Last time I checked, you were the one who refused to come to your sister's graduation because you couldn't face me again. Do you want to know? You really want to know? I wanted to be able to find someone who I could fall in love with. I wanted a guy who would have accepted that love, and not push it away. My god, I want him to know that I love him so much he doesn't need me to tell him. I want him to figure it out himself, much unlike yourself."
Crap, I had said far too much. For starters, Drew never knew I loved him. I never actually said it out loud, so I doubt he ever noticed. But when I managed to look into his eyes for one second, he hadn't even faltered at my confession. Now I was the one who couldn't bear to look at him anymore. There was only one more month and he would be back at Northwestern.
And that was far too long from now.
"You didn't hear any of that." I croaked, walking away from him. But before I could fully walk past him, he grabbed me by the arm and gently pushed me against a nearby tree trunk. With his face centimeters from mine, I couldn't run… I couldn't move.
"That would be lying." He replied softly, his hand gently stroking my cheek. "Because you've confessed to loving me twice, and I heard you loud and clear both times."
Suddenly, I made the connection. Drew's eyes had somehow transformed to a dark cloudy gray as I stood helpless under his touch. The deep, husky voice filled my mind as the same scent invaded my senses.
He was Santa Claus… it was really him. That was why the employees and my friends were laughing. That's why Anthony and Matt wouldn't stay in line. It all made sense. That's why he wasn't shocked by my most recent accidental love confession. He'd already heard it yesterday. He knew what I wanted, he knew how I still felt about him.
Drew smiled and lowered his head closer to mine. "That took you a while. Did you think some random old guy would try to feel you up like that?" At that, I couldn't help but smile as that same thought had run through my mind yesterday.
Suddenly, the cold contact of his hands against my back caused myself to flinch deeper into his hold. At some point in time, he had taken off his gloves as I was pressed flush against his body, my hands against his sweatshirt clad chest.
This was far too close.
"Drew, what are you doing? You said that we were over…"
"But not in our hearts. Fuck, Katie. Do you have any idea what you did to me when you made me out to be your perfect guy yesterday?" His face was so unbearably close to my own as I desperately tried to control my hormones. His breath beat down relentlessly on my lips as my eyes began to slide shut on its own accord. "But what hurt the most was when you said I didn't love you."
We had become so painstakingly close, our noses were touching. I continuously tried looking or moving away, but he made it physically impossible. I gave up after a while and looked over his shoulder. "So if it hurt that much to hear it, why didn't you ever show it, or even tell me?"
Drew let out a long sigh, and shook his head. "I was scared you didn't feel the same. That was when you first started pulling away, I wasn't sure what to expect. So to save myself a heartbreak or two, I made the suggestion. Had I known earlier…"
"You should have said something."
He shook his head, his hair tickling my cheek. "You don't understand. I loved you so much at the time, it scared me. Sometimes, I'd wondered why you were still with me." He sighed, his hot breath a relief against my chilling skin. "When you were with other guys, jealously was always there. You always looked so happy with them though, I didn't want to take that freedom away from you, especially when I'd be in college. Don't you understand Katie?"
There was something about his words that made me want to either punch him in the face or kiss him. And for some reason, I chose the latter.
My cold lips were instantly warmed by his as I wrapped my hands around his neck. The words he said had hit a point in my system which made me want to touch him, feel him, kiss him again like I had before. I knew I still loved him, but now that I knew he had… I wasn't going to pass up this opportunity. He probably had some girl back at Northwestern, so it wouldn't hurt if I passed it off as closure for myself.
But just as I was about to pull away from him and apologize after his lack of response, he pulled my hips against his and kissed me with even greater fervor. His lips moved smoothly over mine, his hands roaming over the lower part of my back. He gently bit down on my bottom lip, pulling it slightly as I let out a satisfied sigh. I had forgotten what it was like to kiss a guy, nonetheless, the one I loved.
He suddenly pulled away from me, his gray eyes shining brightly. "I still love you, you know?" he whispered, placing a soft kiss on my lips. When I nodded, he grinned at bent his head for another mind-blowing kiss.
Gently I pushed him back and played with the hair at the nape of his neck. "You know what?" I whispered into his ear. "For the first time ever, I think Santa Claus managed to get me everything I wanted."
"Oh really?" he responded softly, placing kisses on my ear lobe as he spoke. "And what was the only gift you actually liked this year?"
"You." I smiled as he kissed me again. The feelings rushing through my blood felt like ecstasy. There were no words to describe how it felt to have Drew back in my life. Without him, I now realized that there had been a gaping hole in my heart when he left. But today, he managed to fill that missing part with a small and simple gift I had asked for at the mall.
All I wanted for Christmas was Drew Sparks… and that was all I ever needed for the rest of my life.
So here's the mushy, clichéd, fluffy Christmas one shot I promised for you guys. Hopefully you all liked it, considering how this is just how romantic fluff pulled out from the back of my brain used to make the general population happy and giddy. Anyway, this one-shot seemed a little better in my mind and through a bit of tweaking, it's somewhat... up to par of what I imagined. I hope you like it as much as I do.
New Revised Chapter One for MasterCard Theory
Chapter Nine of Like Father, Like Son