"I am so glad you are my friend," Cindy finally said.

"Don't evade what you were going to tell-" I replied, but Cindy silenced me with a hand gesture.

"You've always been there when I needed you. In my off days, after Eric raped me, you were the sweetest girl in the world. You took care of me, and knew how to deal with my mood swings and my feeling of guilt. You have been such an amazing friend. I mean… you took my truth over Eric's. At the time, I didn't realize it, but many girls would've let me down in that bathroom, believing their boyfriend instead. Though you doubted, you decided to stick with my truth, and I'm so glad for that."


"You remember, that day, after you broke up with Eric, that you came home and I was there?"

Tears were still in my eyes from all the anger when I found myself opening the door. I thought to myself that I should be happy – I was finally rid of that bastard who raped my best friend. I was still angry at him, and at myself for falling for him.

I put out my shoes and put them under the coat rack when I heard the door open. A blonde girl stood in the door-opening – I recognized her as Cindy.

"Gaby let me in," Cindy said.

"I broke up with Eric today," I replied, putting out my coat. "He told me the truth, with some prompting."

"Good, good…" she said, and only then I bothered to look at Cindy's face. It was red from the tears she had recently cried.

"Oh…" I said, and I felt sorry for her immediately. She could invoke such a reaction in me whenever I saw her cry – I wanted to hug and cuddle her, and tell her everything was going to be all right. And I just couldn't resist the temptation there. I went to her, hugged her, and told her everything was going to be all right.

"I called 911," I said. "Eric will be in prison very soon. And when he is, he won't ever bother you again." Cindy didn't respond: on my shoulder, she simply cried her eyes out.

I looked over her shoulder and found Gabriëlla standing there: I nodded to her that it was all right, and she seemed to understand. Jake, who was probably busy drawing something at the table, was now looking too and I felt a bit as if I was in a zoo, with all the people looking at me.

"Come on," I heard Yuri, my oldest brother, say. "Give those two some time alone," someone closed the door of the living room: it was probably Yuri himself. I was relieved.

"It's okay," I said once we were alone, again. "I'm here. I'll always be here. We'll always be friends, and I'll support you no matter what. You've got me, and I won't go."

"Thank you…" Cindy finally said, sobbing. "Thank you so much for your support."

We didn't stop hugging for the next ten minutes. I still think we deserve a world record for that.

"Yeah, I remember that incredibly long hug," Cindy said. "We were even interrupted by Yuri and Ellen opening the door, about to go up, when they saw we were still hugging. They didn't expect it to be that long."

"You're still evading," I persisted.

"At the time, I was so glad I had a friend. You made it all so much easier, with all your goodness and good intentions. I loved you and the way you helped. I had a shoulder to cry on."

"…But?" I continued.

"I practically said it already," Cindy said: I, again, imagined her reddening: she turned around, not facing me anymore, as if she was making her confession to the wall. "After Eric raped me, you were there, and you were my very best friend. I could count on you. And I could count on you so much… I started to love you."

"…What?" I asked: I felt my mouth become dry.

"That's why I brought Eric up so often. Because, apart from being my rapist, he's also the only one you've ever had. I wanted to know what I could do… what would make a relationship with you work. And because I wanted to get to know him a little, I wanted to know why he…" Cindy shook her head. "I'm sorry. You now know, and I wanted to tell you today. I love you, and I don't know why I swing this way, but fact is that I do. I'm so sorry."

"I wanted to tell you something today too," I confessed. "Gaby made me, because she already knew – I had to tell someone. I love you too. It grew, it grew with me over time, because of the close friendship we shared." I swallowed: I felt tears come back up. But they weren't sad tears this time. "I hesitated to tell you, because I didn't want you to think that I was abusing you too…"

"You're in love with me too?" Cindy asked: we looked each other in the eyes and my heart skipped a beat.

It was only then that I realized what Cindy had said. I mean, I had heard it, but the penny only dropped when we had eye-contact. "Yes…" I said: my mouth was now as dry as the Sahara. "Yes, dammit, I love you too." I whispered more and more as my sentence ended, and we looked each other in the eyes – and then, our mouths came closer…
Until finally, they touched and we kissed.

When we pulled away for breath, I looked at the clock and smiled.

"It's one past twelve. It's that special day today."

"The day we all love, the day where all of us stay at home with the ones we normally miss the most," Cindy added. I gave her a quick kiss on the lips.

"Merry Christmas," I told Cindy. She pulled me closer for a hug.

"Merry Christmas, love." She replied. The hug was brief.

"I just can't wait for tomorrow," I grinned. "The special performance…"

"…Me neither," Cindy said. "And now, we'll both be able to sing that Mariah Carrey-song much more convincingly." She grinned as I started to sing the first lines.

"I don't want a lot for Christmas, there is just one thing I need… I don't care about the presents, underneath the Christmas tree…" I smiled at her as she joined in for the next lines.

"…I just want you for my own, more than you could ever know… make my wish come true… all I want for Christmas, is… you…" As giddy as we were, we hugged again, happy and enjoying the joy of love.

"Merry Christmas, my love," I repeated, and I would repeat it many times over before we would finally fall asleep.

Cindy wouldn't return to her own bed that night. No, get your mind out of the gutter – we didn't get that far yet, we probably wouldn't for a while. I wanted to make sure she was into it first, and I'd leave the initiative to her.

But we talked a little more, this time in each other's arms, still giddy and happy until we finally fell asleep in each other's arms.

Well, all right, we didn't both fall asleep at the same time. I stuck around for a while before departing to the dream world too.

I looked at the sight of the blonde girl in my arms, and I stroked her blonde hair with my free arm as I sang the special song to her, the song we'd all be singing at the special performance.

"Silent night… holy light… son of God, love's pure light… radiant beams from thy Holy face… with the dawn of redeeming grace…" I kissed her forehead as I finally departed to my dreams as well.

There was no Eric in them, not anymore.

And, judging by Cindy's happiness when we both woke up, neither did she dream about him.

We felt happy, and we felt complete – and together, that day, we had the merriest of Christmases.

And so, I hope, will yours be.

Author's Note: I think this final twist is the cleverest I've written so far: raise your hand if this completely astonished you. Then tell me in a review if you raised your hand – I think many people have. Who of you saw this coming, the special day being nothing less than Christmas itself? Yet I've given you many, many hints. I've already explained many of them in-story (The Mariah Carrey-song, the 'special performance'…) or they are so obvious they don't need explaining(Marisa's garden being snowy). But there's one hint, one red flag, that had to be explained out of the story, a hint you all managed to miss. The one that would enable you to know about the 'special day' in chapter five already. As a result, I'm extremely proud of myself =)

You want to know? Okay. Look at the chapters. See it already? No? Okay, look at the chapter titles. Examine them very closely.

Still not seeing it? One last shot, then. Look at the first letters of the chapter titles.

Uh-huh. Yeah. I went there. And you missed it completely. I haven't heard anything from you about the chapter titles, and I'm so glad that you didn't because I feared one of you would catch on… better luck next time :)

Will there be a next time? Oh yeah, there will be one. I will be back in 2012, and it's going to be awesome. There's a NaNoWriMo-story, completely edited and well-written, just begging to be posted. And it will be posted soon. But that might not even be all, maybe you'll read even more than that in 2012… oh, if you'd only know what I'm planning to post next year…

Which just leaves you with another question. 'How soon?' To that, I can only answer, with a grin: very.

Merry Christmas and a very happy 2012 with loads, loads and loads of inspiration and, most importantly, time!