The rainbow lights from the tree were reflected on the silver surface of the ring. I turned my hand this way and that, watching the lights play off the shiny metal. She was right, it was a perfect fight. I tore my eyes away from the ring to see her bustling about in the kitchen.
She was putting leftovers in tupperware containers and rinsing dishes in the sink. It didn't take her long to clean up and she took a seat next to me.
"I'm glad you like it," she said. Her smile was beautiful and I felt my heart leap into my throat. It was my turn to present her with the gift I'd purchased.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out the package. Wordlessly, I handed it to her and watched as she slowly open the small plastic bag.
"Oh wow," she breathed, pulling the strand of pearls out. "These are amazing."
"Try them on," I suggested. She grinned and slipped the pearls around her neck. One they were fastened, she righted them and sat back.
"How's it look?"
Gorgeous. Beautiful. Breath-taking. And not just the necklace either. I gave her a soft smile in response and she beamed. Leaning over, she planted a kiss on my cheek.
I wanted to reach for her. I wanted to pull her back and press my lips to hers. I wanted to embrace her. But she was sitting back on the couch and taking a deep breath and suddenly I remembered how she promised to tell me what was going on with her.
"So," she started, nervously tucking a strand of hair behind her ears. "I guess I should come clean and tell you what the deal is. I haven't really told anyone yet. Only my aunt knows about this."
I curled up against her side and took one of her hands. "If you're keeping it a secret from everyone, it must be pretty bad."
She laughed ruefully. "I admit it could be a lot worse, and I should be thankful it's not. Cin, I have cancer."
I felt my eyes widen and my breath left me. She watched my reaction silently for a moment and then burst out laughing.
"I'm sorry," she gasped. "It's just...your face."
I didn't think it was funny at all. I told her so. She stopped giggling and wiped her eyes.
"You're right," she agreed. "But it's not one of the big bad cancers that'll kill me. I have ovarian cancer and I'm on chemotherapy. I started that last month."
Ovarian? Oh, cancer of the ovaries. "It's not deadly?"
She shook her head. "At this stage, no. If the chemo doesn't work then I'll just have them removed. Problem solved."
But that would create another problem. She would be unable to have children, but I didn't exactly know her stance on that so I didn't say anything about it.
"I want to know why you never said anything about this to me." I said quietly. Kaylie grimaced and pulled her knees up to her chest. This position made her look vulnerable and it pulled at my heart a bit.
"Well, I didn't want you to worry about me," she muttered. "And it's kind of embarrassing."
"How it this embarrassing?" I asked.
"It just....is," she sighed. "It's like my very identity as a woman is being threatened or something."
I stayed silent. What could I possibly say to her?
She broke the silence for me and grinned. "Well, now you know. And I don't want you to act weird now because of it or anything. I might feel awful most of the time, but I just want to carry on like usual. And in the spirit of carrying on, it's still Christmas Eve and I feel up for a movie."
And just like that, the morbid spell was broken and the tension cut. We settled in for a night of what she called classic holiday films and numerous slices of pie.
The next day Kaylie treated me to waffles, which she claimed were her favorite thing in the whole world to eat.
"And it's also a Christmas tradition of mine," she informed, while dropping a steaming waffle onto my plate. On the table she'd placed maple syrup, chocolate sauce, some chopped up fruits and whipped cream. That was a lot of toppings for a few waffles.
And somehow she managed to use them all. Of course, lets not discard the fact that she ate three waffles while I barely managed to choke down too.
"I guess you're feeling better today," I grinned. She paused with her fork halfway to her mouth and nodded.
"I do feel a lot better today," she confirmed after chewing the last bite. "Which is perfect because we're going out today."
"Where? Won't everything be closed since this is a holiday?" I asked her.
She smiled and pulled her hair to one side. "True. Most things are closed. But downtown there's a really cool event going on today. They have ice sculptures and lights displayed everywhere, there's a skating rink and an ice castle. And once it gets dark, they have a parade march down Main Street."
A Christmas parade? Why did that sound so familiar to me? I could almost recall seeing something similar when I lived in Japan as a child. I closed my eyes....perhaps this memory would come back to me tonight.
"It sounds fun," I told her.
Kaylie beamed. "Great! Make sure you dress warm."