The third and final chapter, as promised, before Christmas ended. I'm aware it's almost three in the morning, and I had every intention of posting this a bit earlier, but I was going crazy with last minute stuff. Anywho, here goes.
It was a quarter to eleven by the time my father and I were getting ready to head home. The Hendersons all gathered in the foyer as we prepared to leave.
"Jill, once again, thank you so much. Everything was wonderful, and it was so nice of your family to think of inviting us."
She waved my father's words away. "Oh, please, Kevin. It was great having you." Jill quickly hugged him and then turned to me. "Morgan, it was wonderful to see you again. Come back and see us soon, alright, Dear? Don't let it be another eleven years before you decide to visit again," she said, smiling warmly. Then she hugged me.
As my father shook hands with Tom, I said goodbye to the three Henderson boys. Caleb said it was cool seeing me again, and Pete told me to say hello to my brother for him. When I got to Eric, though, he didn't say anything. However, he seemed to be trying exceptionally hard.
After the boy stuttered over his words for quite some time, he settled with a sigh and a, "Merry Christmas, Morgan." He gave me a small hug that I was sure would be awkward, but even though it was quick and unsure, something about it was comforting.
My father and I waved once more and stepped out into the snow.
The temperature had dropped roughly 15 degrees as it got closer to midnight. The two of us walked quickly through the yards to get home as quickly as possible. I was shivering by the time we reached the front door.
He put his keys in the door and pushed it open. We both hurried inside. Compared to the Henderson's, the house was dark and lacking something. My father, however, didn't seem to notice.
"So only an hour until it's officially Christmas. What do you say, Kiddo? Want to make some tea and wait for midnight?"
I shrugged, shaking my head. "No thanks, Dad. I'm really exhausted… I think I'll take a quick shower and get some sleep."
"Okay," he replied. "We'll exchange gifts in the morning, alright, Kiddo? G'night. Sleep well."
I was halfway up the stairs when he told me that I had made his Christmas by coming here today. Despite my aspiration to be home that night, it made me feel slightly better about the situation.
I was out of the shower and in my pajamas within fifteen minutes. I turned off the lights and collapsed on my bed, expecting to be asleep the minute my head hit the pillow; the drive up that afternoon had taken all the energy out of me.
Nonetheless, I found myself staring at the darkened-purple walls, just as I used to when I was seven years old. Despite my tiredness, I couldn't sleep.
I tried not to think of anything, hoping that a blank mind would allow me to drift off to sleep, but Eric kept coming back into my head. I kept thinking about how much he had grown up, which made me think of what he had said on the roof earlier that night.
It forced me to remember that, although my ultimate recollection of Eric was an annoying, irritating brat, there had been details that I'd forgotten over the years. Even though he used to steal my jump rope, I used to look for him whenever I went to the park. Even though he used to push me in the mud, I'd run after him, tackle him, and get the mud all over his clothes; then we'd both laugh hysterically over it. Even though I had punched him, I felt terrible about the bruise on his face when it was all over. I had felt even more terrible about it when he stopped talking to me altogether.
There were a million things that I should've said to him. But as luck would have it, I thought of them now, as I was lying alone in my bedroom.
Finally, I forced the image of the boy out of my head. I rolled over, tried extremely hard to focus on nothing, and began to drift off to sleep.
Through the thin floors and walls, the sound of someone knocking on the front door jolted me awake. I heard my father's footsteps on the hardwood floor, and then I heard voices. The conversation lasted about a minute, and then the footsteps traveled up the stairs, stopping at my bedroom door.
"Morgan? Kiddo?" My father spoke in a whisper incase I was already asleep.
"Eric's downstairs… He asked to talk to you. Should I tell him you're sleeping?"
My initial response was going to be yes, but I paused and thought over it for a moment. "No," I decided. "I'll be right down. Tell him I'll be there in a minute."
I allowed my eyes to adjust to the light as I headed down the steps. From the railing of the staircase, I saw my father sitting in the kitchen with a mug in front of him. I also saw Eric standing by the doorway, his hands in his pockets and his eyes on his feet.
He looked up as he heard me jump the last step.
"Hey, Morgan," he said.
"Hi," I responded. There was question in my voice. When Eric didn't say anything else, I peered around. "So… What's up?"
He cleared his throat. "You think I can talk to you for a few minutes?" He kept glancing over toward my dad, who, even though he had a newspaper in front of his nose, we both got the impression that his ears were concentrated on something else.
"Dad," I said, raising my voice slightly as if he wouldn't hear it otherwise. "We're going to go out on the porch for a couple minutes… I'll be right back in."
"Don't stay there too long… You're going to freeze," came his voice from the next room.
I grabbed my hoodie off of the dining room chair and pulled it over my loose t-shirt. Then I slipped on my shoes, led Eric outside, and closed the door behind us.
In complete silence, we wandered over to the porch railing and leaned our elbows on it, looking over at the road. The snow was marked with a few tire tracks, but fresh flakes were beginning to cover them up again.
Finally, Eric broke the silence. "Nice pajamas."
"Shut up," I spat, looking down at my green and blue plaid pajama pants.
Eric smiled, but he didn't do anything further the conversation. I tried to think of something to say to him, like all the topics I had thought of in my bedroom, but now that I was in his presence, my mind seemed void.
He pulled back his sleeve and looked at his watch. "Twelve oh-two," he murmured. "Merry Christmas. Officially."
I sighed. "Is that what you came to tell me? Because, believe it or not, we've got our own clocks here."
"No, that's not what I came here to tell you." There was a little bit of frustration in his voice, but I could tell that it wasn't aimed at me. He couldn't seem to form the words.
"Look," he began, scratching his head. The snowflakes were beginning to collect in his brown hair. "Seeing you again was just... I mean, I obviously tried to get your attention when we were kids, because I liked you, but clearly it didn't work because all I got out of it was a punch to the face."
"Would you stop mentioning the punch to the face?" I protested.
Eric wasn't listening, though. He was talking a mile a minute. I was doing my best to understand what he was getting at, but it seemed that he didn't even know what he was trying to say. He was spitting out any thought that came into his mind.
"And then you come back. And you would've thought I'd grow out of this… Well, I didn't. I mean, I'm more mature with the situation and I've grown up, but I never grew out of it. And what made it even worse was the fact that you show up after eleven years, you yell at me for almost hitting your car, and then you nearly punch me again, but your temper is so adorable, and you're even more beautiful than I remember, and…" Eric paused and rubbed his forehead in aggravation. "And…Holy shit, where's the mistletoe when you need it?" he murmured to no one in particular.
I turned to stare at him with my eyes wide. His words had been nearly impossible to comprehend since he had been talking so quickly. I had gotten bits and pieces, though, and I was pretty sure I heard that last part, but I couldn't be positive.
Eric turned toward me and read the look of puzzlement on my face. He sighed heavily, his breath forming a cloud of mist in the cold air as he exhaled.
"Alright. I'll make this really simple and straightforward," he told me. "I like you. I have liked you since we were seven. I'm going to kiss you now, but I'd like to give you a heads-up first, because if you don't want me to kiss you and your temper rears up, I really don't want to be within a five foot radius when you--"
"Goddammit, Eric! My temper is not that bad!"
However, the sentence was barely out of my mouth when Eric put his hand underneath my chin, tilted my head up, and, true to his word, kissed me. My stomach did a sudden jolt, and although my initial reaction was to hit him for the wise-ass comment he'd just made, I melted instead.
My arms found their way around his shoulders and he put his hands on the small of my back. For about a minute, we were oblivious to the freezing air and the seemingly endless snow and the fact that we'd supposedly hated each other as kids. Eric was oblivious to my temper, and I was oblivious to the fact that it was four minutes into Christmas and I was about five and a half hours from home.
When the kiss broke, Eric wrapped his arms around me and pulled me closer to him. With my forehead against his shoulder, I could smell the sweet boyish scent of his clothing. He lightly rocked me back and forth. "You'd better get inside. Your dad told you not to stay out here so long."
I nodded and he let go, causing the cold to seep again where his arms had just been.
"Can I see you again before you leave for Long Island?" he asked me.
I shrugged. "Long as you don't force me back up on your roof."
He grinned. Eric jumped the three stairs downs my porch and started heading in the direction of his house. "Merry Christmas, Morgan," he called over his shoulder.
When Eric's silhouette had gone too far to be seen through the snowfall and the darkness, I turned around and opened my front door. This time, the warmth of the house was welcoming. It didn't feel as if it lacked anything.
My father had abandoned his newspaper and mug at the table; I assumed he did so to give Eric and I some privacy incase we decided to come back inside.
I shut the door behind me and headed upstairs, being much more at ease then I had been an hour ago. At the same time, though, a thousand thoughts were rushing through my mind every second, the most prominent of those thoughts being that maybe I'd come back here next Christmas.
Wooo! Finishing a not-so-one-shot-one-shot within a deadline always makes me pretty damn happy.
To everyone who read and reviewed, thanks so much. I'm aware this story was basically all fluff and pretty poorly thrown together, but I appreciate everyone's input and I love you guys an insane amount.
Merry Christmas, you guys :D