I let out a bored sigh as I glanced around the room not knowing what I should do. My parents always held an annual Christmas bash a few days before Christmas Eve, and this year, they'd gone all out. Every bit of wall in our house was covered in red, white and green decorations. They'd even hired giant Santas to hand out candy canes to the little kids.
With my dad's most recent promotion, he'd invited his whole new staff to the party in hopes to acquaint himself better with them. Although our house was a rather decent size, the extra guests this year filled out the rooms easily, leaving me with limited places to hide or take a breather.
"Rachel, there you are!" I jumped as my mother suddenly materialised next to me. "Come on, your father and I want to introduce you to someone."
I eyed the suspicious glint in her eyes warily but followed behind her as she weaved her way through the crowd, greeting her guests every now and then. I smiled in amusement as my Uncle Ralph came out of the kitchen and pulled my mother into a warm bear hug. Clearly, he was already drunk, most likely from the free wine flowing around the house.
"Not now Ralph," my mum told him as she pushed him off her lightly. "I'll let you hug me all you want tomorrow."
My uncle pouted slightly but cheered up immediately as a waiter holding the wine glided passed us. He winked at me and waved his fingers at my mother before rushing off after the waiter with the alcohol.
"Come on Rachel, we've made them wait long enough."
I followed after her again as she made her way to where my father was standing with a couple by the chocolate fondue fountain. The lady was admiring it with a smile on her face as her husband dipped a strawberry into the chocolate and offered it to her.
Cute, but sickening.
My father spotted us then and brightened.
"Terry, Kym, this is my daughter Rachel. Rachel, this is my boss Terry Landon and his wife Kym."
I greeted them politely, but inside my head, I was trying to figure out what the heck was going on. My father had never found it necessary to introduce me to his boss. He usually liked to keep his work and family separate – especially when it came to me. I don't ever see his workmates unless it's during our Christmas bash, and they're usually drunk by the time I come out of hiding in my room.
This year, however, my parents had given me specific instructions to be at the party. They'd even gone as far as locking my room, isolating me from the one safe haven within the house. I had thought it was amusing at the time, but now I just found the whole situation stupid.
"Your daughter is beautiful," Kym Landon commented with a soft smile, "Looks a lot like you Colleen."
My mother laughed and waved off her compliment as I rose an inquisitive eyebrow. Terry Landon seemed to have caught my look because he chuckled and winked at me.
"Rachel seems like she wants to be informed on what's going on."
I raised my glass of apple cider in salute. "Couldn't have put that better myself."
The adults laughed and I stood there feeling awkward.
"Um…" I finally ventured, "What's going on?"
Kym's eyes twinkled as she turned to me. "We had been discussing about going on a joint family picnic next weekend before you arrived. How does that sound?"
"Err, sounds great. But why do you need my permission?"
"Well, it'd be a shame if you couldn't make it," Terry cut in and my parents nodded along. "And we wanted you to meet our son, but he's disappeared off somewhere and no one seems to have seen him."
"Gotcha!" I narrowed my eyes playfully at the four adults and pointed my finger accusingly. "You just wanted to set us up."
My mum giggled, a habit she seems to take on whenever she's trapped in a situation she doesn't want to be in.
"Oh sweetie, what are you talking about? Not everything is a Nancy Drew novel." She turned back to the adults. "Rachel used to love those books. They were all she'd read back in primary school."
"Okay guys. I'm gonna leave now, before you try and hook me up with the waiter or something." I smiled sweetly at the Landon's. "Nice meeting you."
I legged it out of the room as fast as I could. Downing the rest of the apple cider, I left the glass with one of the waiters and made my way to the first floor bathroom which was already occupied. The girl waiting outside the door grumbled under her breath as she watched me approach and turned her frown to me when I stopped beside her.
"I've been waiting outside for fifteen minutes," she told me in a huff. "How can the inconsiderate bastard stay in the bathroom for so long?" The girl eyed me up and down before turning on her heels. "I suggest you go and find another bathroom like me. Who knows what they're doing in there." And with that, she stomped off down the hallway in her heels.
I watched her leave with a raised eyebrow. Who knew someone could get this cranky so close to Christmas.
I decided to wait another few minutes before trying the door. To my surprise, the handle turned and I wondered if there was even anyone in there in the first place. However, I stopped dead in my tracks when my eyes met the warm brown ones of a boy sitting on the closed toilet seat. He looked just as startled to see me, and I even heard him mumble under his breath, "Damn, I knew I should have locked the door."
"What are you doing?!" I asked incredulously.
Sure, the party wasn't that great to teenagers like us, but he didn't have to hide in the bathroom.
He looked up from his hands sheepishly and smiled in embarrassment.
"I'm trying to hide from the girl my parents are trying to hook me up with," warm brown eyes replied.
"Oh…" I answered. Could he be anymore truthful? "How's that going for you?"
He shrugged slightly. "Pretty good until you walked in."
I laughed as he smiled brightly.
"Hey, you know what?" He watched me in fascination as I continued. "Let's get out of here for a little while. God knows I need a littler breather."
The corner of his mouth quirked up, showing off his dimple. "That is the best idea I've heard all night."
I took Bryce down to the little park around the corner. We'd exchanged names on the way there and complained continuously to each other about the weather. The snow that littered the little playground made trekking to the swing set a little hard. Having fallen over a few times each, we each brushed the snow off our respective swings and dropped down on the seat to catch our breaths.
"I haven't laughed this much all day," he commented as he kicked off the ground, sending snow flying in all directions. I ducked as some flew my way before kicking off myself to join him in the air.
The creaking of the chains worried me a little, but I pushed it to the back of my mind as I breathed in the fresh night air deeply, loving the way the cold engulfed me during this moment of complete freedom.
I turned to Bryce and found him watching me as his swing fell backwards just as mine swung up.
"What?" I called out to him and heard the echo of my voice in the empty night air.
"Nothing!" he replied as our swings passed each other a few more times. "I just wanted to thank you for tonight. If you hadn't found me, I'd still be hiding in that bathroom!"
I laughed joyfully.
"No worries. I was trying to hide from my parents too, so I know how you feel."
Bryce dragged his feet along the snow covered floor, bringing himself to a stop and sat there watching me as I passed him a few more times before stopping as well.
"Why were you hiding from your parents?"
I rolled my eyes as I adjusted the beanie on my head and brushed snow off my coat. "They were trying to introduce me to their boss's son. Can you believe that?" I groaned aloud. "Yay to holiday spirit," I managed to add sarcastically while pumping a hand into the air.
He sighed. "I know what you mean."
Sitting up in my swing, I leaned towards him as my eyes twinkled. "So, tell me about this girl you're trying to avoid! I don't think I've come across her at the party yet."
His eyes widened and he bit his lip nervously. "Well to be honest, I haven't met her yet."
"Huh?" I asked, confused. "How can you avoid someone when you don't even know who you're hiding from?"
"Good question," he laughed, showing off his dimple again. "I never really thought of it like that. My instincts just told me to flee before I could get roped in to my parent's little scheme."
"While I was stupid enough to follow my mum into the abyss of doom. It's located next to the fondue fountain you know," I added in as an afterthought.
"Doesn't sound too bad."
"Yeah, I guess." I wriggled my nose and rubbed it to warm it up before kicking off from the ground again, and soaring into the sky. "The Landon's were pretty nice."
"Yeah!" I replied, hearing my voice echo in the night air again, "Terry Landon is my dad's new boss."
Bryce remained silent and I craned my beck to look down at him from where my swing was high in the air. He looked shocked as he turned his brown eyes towards me just as I swung passed him again before scraping my feet along the ground to bring the swing to a stop.
"Let's get back to the party Rachel. It's getting colder out here, and I don't want you to get a cold."
"Huh?" I watched in confusion as Bryce jumped off his swing and began making his way through the snow again, back to my house. I jumped off the swing and had to run to catch up.
We walked the rest of the way back to the house in silence and I entertained myself by watching the mist that formed every time I breathed out. Needless to say, I was quite baffled by his abrupt change in attitude.
The wide double doors stood open as Bryce and I approached. I spotted my parents standing a little down the hallway as we re-entered the party again, and groaned aloud when my mum spotted me.
"Rachel!" she called out as she hurried over to me, my dad and the Landons following her. "Where have you been?!"
Before I could reply, Kym Landon had already cut in. "Bryce?"
I turned around to find him trying to hide himself behind me. Bemused by his actions, I stepped aside with a smirk.
"Heh, hi mum." I watched him with wide eyes as he scratched behind his neck nervously, like a young boy caught doing the wrong thing by his mother.
"Um, what?" I spun on him as the pieces started falling together. "Are you meaning to tell me, that I am the girl you've been trying to avoid all this time?"
Bryce shrugged and blushed lightly. "Weird how this all turned out isn't it?"
"Oh, this is so exciting," Kym cut in again, clapping her hands together excitedly. "I take it you two have met already?" She turned back to my parents with a wide grin. "Thank you so much for inviting us to this party. We'll see you next weekend then?"
My dad shook Terry's hand as my mum hugged Kym warmly. Bryce and I just stood beside each other in shock, watching as our parent's exchanged goodbyes.
"So…" he began as he stuck a hand into his pocket. "I'll see you next weekend then?"
"Sure, you sneaky little bastard." I punched him lightly on the arm. "As if not tell me as soon as you realised!"
Bryce laughed, his warm brown eyes twinkling as he showed off his dimple. "Hug to make up for it?" He opened up his arm and I stepped into them, letting him engulf me as our parents headed to the door. Before I could pull away, he planted a quick kiss on my cheek.
"What was that for?" I asked, turning my head to look up at him as a blush spread along his cheeks.
Bryce smiled as he pointed above us. "Mistletoe."
A/N: Hi guys, so for those who don't know, I'm leaving for America on the 7th of Dec! So stoked, but it also means that I'm not going to be able to update for a month, until I come home in January. Due to that, I've written a little Christmas one-shot as a sorry and an early Christmas & NYE gift to everyone. Thank you for all the support, reviews and subscriptions to my stories this year, dear readers! I love each and every one of you! THANK YOU, and I hope everyone has a great Christmas and New Year! See you in 2011!!