"Grandma got run over by a reindeer!" Edward sang, the radio resounding along the room. "Walking home from our house, Christmas Eve—"
Jet shot a frantic look at the door, as if Edward's grandmother would materialize from thin air. Frankly, he was more afraid of her than Edward and his brother were. He could still remember, very clearly, the time the twins destroyed the wooden sculpture she had kept... He shuddered, then reached over to snatch his sister's remaining bit of cheesecake while her back was turned. Food. Teenagers love food. Especially free food. Especially food stolen from their siblings.
"You can say there's no such thing as Santa!" Brandon added, for once not perverting anything with sexual innuendos. "But as for me and grandpa—"
"It's 'grandma,' bro," Edward said, throwing a stocking at him, then turning to rewind the radio. He had woken up in quite the mood this day...with a mindset of fuck yeah, I am a nineties kid, and I shall honor that by screwing the damn iPod today. Surprisingly—or unsurprisingly, whichever—the atmosphere had a very pronounced tinge of nostalgia, all due to the choice of music and device. Brandon had agreed with his idea of inviting everyone to their house. Their friends, the tennis team...Alexis, Jean, Abigail, and Mia were even invited. Even Erin and Summer, Alexis's own friends, whom the twins had spoken to only on occasion. But then, the occasion was very open; Edward had woken up in an exceptionally amicable mood, and Brandon as the twin felt the same. Simple as that.
"It's 'grandpa,'" said Jet, who could give the song credit for being part of his childhood.
"No, I'm sure it's the reverse," said Edward, rolling his eyes and throwing another stocking, this time at Jet.
"You're deaf, it's obviously 'grandpa.'" Brandon threw the stocking back.
Jet was about to add to it, when he was knocked over the head; doubling over at the impact, he turned, eyes wide, to see the fork lying dead behind him, bits of cheesecake still clinging to it. And then Alexis's feet...and he looked up at Alexis herself, holding the plate of cheesecake crumbs. Swallowing innocently—making sure that she could tell that he was licking the last bits of stolen cheesecake from his teeth—he picked up the fork, held it up like an offering. "I'm not paying for that.
"...Bitch," he added, trying to add a little more sting. Another whack over the head; he never saw her swipe the fork from his hand. "Owww!"
"Fatass!" Alexis huffed, and with another whack—the twins giggled, and Jet twitched at their lack of usefulness—she stomped into the kitchen, presumably to get more cheesecake.
"I could've just gotten you more cheesecake from the teashop, bro," said Jean, who was seated at the foot of a sofa, playing Connect Four with Erin. She winced as Erin slid in another red, effectively cutting off her own trail of black. "You know I still owe you for that club sandwich."
"A whole cake costs, like, five times the amount of a club sandwich," said Jet before he smirked. "It's all right...Alexis gets hilarious when I steal her food." He rubbed his stomach to emphasize it, the throbbing in his head immediately softening.
"—it's fucking 'GRANDPA'!" said Brandon triumphantly; Jet turned, slowly, to see his friend pointing triumphantly at the lyrics on his computer screen. Slowly, he shook his head.
"Really, Sausage? Really?" He threw the fork at Brandon, only for the latter to catch it, grinning.
"FUCK YEAH," he said, while Edward scowled. "TAKE THAT, BITCH."
"You're still going on about that?" howled Seth, a tennis team member, from where he was playing a video game. "Let it go, already!"
Jet rolled his eyes then, suppressing a smile. Really? He stood, suddenly with an increased craving for cheesecake. Maybe he should take up his sister's offer after all...but Jean had just beaten Erin at Connect Four, and he suddenly felt a twinge of guilt for taking advantage of her... Nah, he decided. I don't care, she owes me.
With a huff, he walked into the kitchen, away from the loud, loud living room where Seth was raging at Edward for beating him at another game. And over it all, even when he had closed the door for the peace of the kitchen, the muffled sounds pronounced, most of all—"GRANDMA GOT RUN OVER BY A REINDEER. WALKING HOME FROM OUR HOUSE, CHRISTMAS EEEEEVE..."
"Son of a—" He looked around, still expecting the twins' grandmother to materialize from thin air. He did jump, however, when he caught sight of large green eyes. "I didn't do it—!
"Oh." Mia was blinking at him, sitting silently at the table. Jet let out another "Oh" as he realized that her eyes were, surprisingly, over bright. Was she...was she? He blinked for a moment, watching her as she blinked in turn, a rarely-seen move. "...Mia?" he said, deciding to take a step forward. "Are you upset?" When she shook her head, hastily, he took another step. This was horribly unreal... "What's wrong?"
She shook her head again, closed her eyes. Jet, though he wanted to run—and where was Abigail through all this?—all he did was take another step. Another. And another...he strode up to the table, where Mia had pressed her hands over her face in a vain attempt to stopper her tears. He couldn't leave her like this...still, he cast a wary eye at the door, then the window, as if the pale face of Abigail would appear to tear his off. And it would be just as bad if Edward walked in at that moment...seeing Jet so close to his obsessive crush...
Mia shook her head again, and Jet took a seat next to her, marveling at the quiet emotion welling up in the stoic girl. "What's up, Mia?"
Another shake of the head. Jet bit his lip. He couldn't just leave her in this state, better to press on. "Uh...Mia...you can say it." Awkwardly, he put a hand on her shoulder, and paranoia almost got the better of him as he imagined Abigail's scorching glare prick the back of his neck. "I mean...we're not...y'know, but...ah..."
She went quiet for a second, allowing only the music in the background to play—"...found her Christmas morning...at the scene of the attack. She had hoof prints on her forehead!"
"...And incriminating Claus marks on her back."
Jet twitched, remembering that there was joy outside the kitchen.
And then, finally, she lifted her head, her pale face flushed and scrunched; she seemed so small. And when she spoke, her voice was small, too. "I miss my friends..." She snuffled. "From middle school..."
"Oh..." Jet cocked his head, contemplating what to say. He knew very little about Mia, and never really thought of her life before he met her in high school; she was the girl that never blinked, the one Edward was always asking out, the one Abigail protected like a younger sister. And here, he could not relate: He had lived in his home, the same home, for his entire life, and so had his friends. He guessed very quickly that Mia had perhaps moved after middle school, or at least had been introduced to his high school, a very different society from her old one. "But," he said, "you have Abigail...don't you?"
Mia nodded, not looking at him. "But...I miss my old friends... I never see them now..."
Jet tried to think of a reply, but found none. Wracking his brains, he gave her shoulder another pat. She didn't move. "Well...you know...we'll be your friends...and we are your friends..."
"I miss my friends."
Jet paused, before retracting his arm. "It's not the end of the world. It's going to be okay. You can see them again. And then...we'll be here for you. Just remember that." Sparse words, but ones he rarely spoke. For a brief moment, as the laughter leaked into the kitchen, he thought, it was true.
Mia shook her head again, but this time Jet did something he rarely did—it was something he had picked up from the girls' tennis team, when he used to be part of the team. Before he quit. And Mia, she almost looked like a lost child, or... Or a kicked puppy, he thought. As he hugged her.
She froze a moment, but didn't resist. She seemed to accept it, with some unspoken grace implied only in silence. "Thanks."
Jet pulled away. What to do now...
"So...do you...want to go to the bathroom...and wash your face? And then go back? Or..." He gestured weakly as she looked up, green eyes webbed in red.
"Yes. I will do that..." When she stood, he watched her wobble a bit, then make her way to the bathroom. "And...thank you, Jet..."
Then she was gone.
Jet cocked his head again, then remembered what he had come for. Cheesecake. Right. When he took the slice, the living room resounded with that song for the umpteenth time—"GRANDMA GOT RUN OVER BY A REINDEER."
"STILL?" he shouted as he opened the door.
"YEAHHHH," drawled Edward, just as loudly, as Seth cursed him; Edward had been addressing them both. "DO YOU THINK WE'RE EVER SAFE TO LISTEN TO THIS AT ANY OTHER TIME?"
The answer needed no thought, just instant memory. The family picture over the fireplace, with the Schwarzkopfs' maternal grandmother leering out of the frame, helped too. "SHUT UP!"
"—WE'RE ALL SO PROUD OF GRANDPA. HE'S BEEN TAKING THIS SO WELL..."
Jet sighed, dropping the plate of cheesecake onto the table.
"—PLAYING CARDS WITH COUSIN MEL."
"THAT SONG IS FUCKED. UP."
"Language!" Jean said, her eyes widening a fraction.
"WELCOME TO HIGH SCHOOL!" Brandon said, grinning, before launching into the song—"BUT AS FOR ME AND GRANDPA, WE BELIIIIIIEVE."
Jet was about to pick up a fork when he was unceremoniously jerked back; he hardly had time to register it, the action was so abrupt. "What the hell!" He looked back; Alexis had him in one arm, and with a swift motion she had gathered up Jean in her other arm.
"Family picture, dear brothers!" she sang, while Jean blinked and protested.
"No, wait—" said Jet, but she had already pulled them into a bunched up pose, one arm over his shoulder and another on Jean's, facing Summer, who was waiting with the camera.
Reluctantly, he looked at the camera, as did Jean; their faces were hot. "I'm just being nice this once—"
Jet blinked as the camera clicked and the tennis team laughed uproariously in the background, singing along about Santa's license and puddings made of figs.
And when he opened his eyes again, he saw, over Edward's shoulder, mousy brain hair poking its way into view. Then came the green eyes, as Mia made her way back into the room. And for the briefest moment, as he pulled his sister's arm off his shoulder, amid the laughter of his friends, he thought he saw her smile.