Snowflakes of Love

Author's Note: This is an entry for A Drop of Romeo's Star-Crossed Round 10 writing contest. This round was a one shot. I am not really that much of a romance writer, so I am afraid that it is rather, um, cliché (I think . . . If not, go me.) So, enjoy.

Oh, I did "The Phone Booth."

People think I'm crazy for deciding not to spend my summer holiday from university in Australia with my mum and be close to the uni, but I hate summer, which is why I decided to return to England to spend it with my dad. Plus, having Christmas in the summer is a major no for me. Christmas is something that happens in the winter and I am bound and determined to make sure it stays that way.

My dad smiles at me as our cab makes its way through our small city. There is already a nip in the air, which is something that almost never happens in Aussie. I shiver and my dad laughs. "Looks it someone has gone Australian on us."
"Shut up!" I say in a playful way. That's the way it's always been between my dad and I: careful and playful.

"Nemo is also home," he goes on, referring to my best friend and next-door neighbour. "He says that you are supposed to go over once you get settled in."
I nod. I haven't seen my best friend since I left for university back at the end of January. Nemo has been our neighbour since I was born. Like me, he's more into the latest Harry Potter than the current top forty, which is fine by me.

"So, did you learn anything this year?"

"Um...yeah. I actually had a lit teacher who believed that what the author wrote was actually all there was."

My dad does a double take. "Really?"
"Yup." My dad has heard many of many rants about my major. I'm doing a double major in literature and fine arts. My dad totally supports my major, but my mum has other views. She thinks that I should go into something that has a secure future and all that jazz; I think she's just annoyed that I don't spend any of my holidays with her.

The cab comes to a stop outside of our old apartment building.

"That's wonderful, Auden. It's really nice to hear that someone considers what the writer has written is all there is." Dad is a writer and hates whenever so called literature junkies try to use symbolism on his work.

"I thought you would like that," I say as I push open my door and step out into the chilly British air. Even though I pull my coat up closer around me, there is still no other place that I would rather be.

We walk past the old red phone booth that barely off the road and barely fits on the sidewalk. Between that annoying phone booth and the old metal fence of the apartment complex, there is not a lot of room for walking. I think it's a shame how they crammed that phone booth in front of our beautiful apartment. Something as old as our apartment should not have something as new in front of it.

My dad helps me wrestle my bags up the narrow steps. The few Americans living in this building always complain about the lack of a lift, but I love it. Sure, it can be annoying at times, but there is just something romantic about holding onto the past.

We unlock our apartment and step inside. Nothing has changed. The walls are still lined with overfilling bookcases. We could use more storage, but there's simply not a lot of room for it. I don't care if it looks messy, to me, it's homey. You can't get the smell of old books mixed with the scents of home in a dorm. There all you get is the smell of beer and God only knows what else.

"I haven't touched your room, but I did put a couple of books on your bed that I thought you would enjoy," Dad says.

I nod and smile. I love it whenever he gives me books. You just simply never know what it is going to be.

He helps me carry my bags to my room, which is just as cluttered with books as the other rooms in the apartment. One of the worst things about going to school so far away is the fact that I can't take my large collection with and the library just isn't the same you own.

He sits my bag inside the door. "I'll let you get settled in and then we can dig out the Christmas stuff." He pauses. "That is if you still want to decorate for Christmas."

"Who doesn't? It's just not Christmas without it!"
"I'll take that as a yes," he says as he wanders away.

I know that I should unpack before looking at the new books, but I just can't help myself. I rush over the bed and examine them. One of them is the latest bestseller, but the other is a copy of Romeo and Juliet. I already have several copies of this, but this one looks even older than the eighteenth century one I have. I open it up and look at it. Wow! This is such a find! Shakespeare himself was even still alive when this one came out.

With the book tucked under my arm, I race out of my room. "Dad, where did you ever find it?"
Smiling, my dad sits a box of Christmas decorations down on the floor. "They were going to throw it away, believe it or not."
"Why anyone want to throw this gem away?"

"Because some people just can't appreciate that something old could be so beautiful."

Just like our apartment building...

I throw my arms around him.

"I'm glad you like it. Now, go get unpacked! We have a lot of work to do."

Laughing, I turn and dart down the hall. It is so much easier to be around my father instead of my mother. He and I can relate to each other more than my mother and I. I don't know why, but there's just something about us that causes us to click.

I unzip my first bag and start throwing things in drawers and on hangers. Most of my stuff is still in Australia, but I have enough to make due. Through my window, I can see that snow is faller harder now and in bigger chunks. Good, this is nothing better than a white Christmas. I just hope it sticks around long enough.

"Oh, Romeo, Romeo, where art thou Romeo!"

I look up as a skinny boy hurls himself at me. Nemo pulls me into his bony arms and squeezes me hard. "Nemo, I just ate. Stop-stop! You're going to make me sick."

Nemo lets go and pushes his too big glasses back up on his nose. He is one of those kids who never ages, meaning that he's twenty and looks thirteen. The only hint of his true age is the five o'clock shadow on his cheeks. I suppose with a little bit of work, he could be cute, but for now, he's mine. I mean, fine. Okay, Nemo and I aren't a couple, never have and never will be.

"So, you know that big art project I was telling you about?" he asks as he wiggles onto my bed.

"Yeah."

"Well, they liked it and want me to show it in London over the summer!"
"That's great!" Nemo is an amazing artist. He doesn't think he is, but everyone else does. He has even had a painting in Paris for some art show that I am ashamed to admit that I cannot recall the name of.

"Yeah, but it's not even my best one. It's too sloppy and needs a lot of work done. My professor had the nerve to lock it up and not tell me where it is."

Told ya'.

He shakes his head. "Some people just don't understand the creative process." He rolls over onto his stomach and stares at me. "So, how's your novel going?"

I shrug. "It's not."

"I thought you were doing that National Novel Writing Month thing and I thought you finished it."
"I did, but it just doesn't sound right. There's big holes in the plotline and the one of my characters is too Mary Sue." I hang one of the few dresses I own up in my small closet. "It just really didn't work out."

"I bet it's just fine."
"People have gotten published from that contest."

"And?"

"I'm not in the same playing field as they are."

Nemo snorts.

I move to the bag where my books are. "Besides, you are one to talk about being hard on yourself."
"I don't say anything that's not the truth."

I give him a look. "Nemo!"
"It's true!"

I just roll my eyes because there is no way that I can convince him otherwise.

Nemo flips through an old magazine. "You just don't know when you have something good going for you."

"And I suppose you know what that is?" I place my books on an empty section of floor. I don't have a lot of space, so I have to make every bit count.

"I'm still working on it."
"Aren't we all?"

We fall into silence. I finish unpacking my bags and toss them into the closet once they are empty. Nemo moves over for me on the bed and I flop down next to him, picking up the best seller in the process. We read in silence. Most people wouldn't be able to sit here and just simply enjoy the words on the page, breathing in the smells of ink and paper and just enjoying the fact that someone else shares your love of books.

Knock! Knock!

I jump and see my dad standing the doorway with a giant smile on his face and arms crossed over his chest. "Would you two like to get a bit to eat and then put up Christmas stuff?"
Nemo's stomach rumbles.

"I'll take that as a yes." My dad disappears.

I place a bookmark in my book and close it. I don't believe in dog earring books; there's just something wrong with people who do that. Beside me, Nemo also bookmarks his magazine. I can't even stand when people fold down the edges of a magazine. You need to treat words like works of art that they are.

We both pad out of the bedroom and into the tiny kitchen, where my dad is fixing sandwiches. Let me tell you something about my dad's sandwiches: no two are the same and no two ever will be. Some of them are so horrible that it makes you run to the bathroom with your hand over your mouth as you try not to throw up all over the place. Yeah, it's that's bad.

Nemo exchanges a nervous look with me. "So, what are we having today?"

"Well, it's a little creation of mine. I just had a little bit of everything left and decided to throw it all on." My dad puts three sandwiches out on the table with a towel over his shoulder. "Auden, don't let me forget that we need to go to the market soon."
Nemo looks carefully at his sandwich. I can't tell by his expression if today is a good one or not.

My dad flicks the towel onto the table and sits down. "I was thinking about putting the tree in front of the window. We keep saying that we're going to, but we never do. Plus, we have extra muscle here."

At that probably has something to do with the three large bookshelves in front of the window and I'm not sure if you would count Nemo as extra muscle...

We attempt to eat and I mean it is an attempt, because these sandwiches are just horrible. Not the kind of horrible that sends you running to the bathroom, but the kind that makes it hard to swallow. You know, the stuff you eat so you don't hurt whoever made it for you feelings.

After a gagging meal, we trudge into the main living space where my dad has pulled the Christmas stuff out of nowhere. We all stare down at the mess with our hands on our hips.

"Well, this is it," Dad says.

Nemo nods. "Yep. There it is staring at us, waiting to be put up in the house for one whole month only be torn down and packed away for eleven months. Man, it's gotta be depressing to be a Christmas decoration."

I nod. Nemo did make a good point. It is rather depressing to be something Christmas.

"You kids start unpacking and I'll find us some holiday music to get us in the spirit." My dad takes off toward his room.

Nemo looks at me. "Your dad is very clichéd."

"I know. His life is a clichéd story."

"Huh."

Nemo and I bend down and start unpacking the boxes of Christmas stuff. The tree is in the large tree box we stuffed it in last year. The glory of a fake tree is that you don't have to go out every year and get one. People go on and on about how with a fake tree you can't get the pine smell in your house. Sure, you can. You just go down to the market and get a pine smelling air freshener. If pine is not your favourite Christmas scent, you can pick gingerbread or one of the dozens of other scents that are featured in the Christmas scent aisle.

Nemo frowns at the decoration that he is holding. "Um...I'm not sure what this is supposed to be."

I look at the misshapen white blob. "We don't have to put that out."

"Why not?"

"We have to put that out! Auden made it for me when she was five." My dad has amazing as usual. He's never late for time to embarrass me. "It's a snowman."

Nemo stares at the white blob. "Huh." He looks at me. "I hope you don't on becoming an artist."

Dad takes the snowman from Nemo and places in right in the centre of the largest bookshelf in the room. "I think it's very cute and well done for a child that small. I'm sure Auden has improved."
"I wouldn't hold your breath on that one."

I elbow Nemo hard in the side.

My dad looks at the mess of Christmas stuff on the floor. "Did we have this much last year?"

"Yep."

"Did we put it all up?"

"Yep."
"Are we going to put it all up this year?"

"Yep."
My dad presses play on the CD player and Christmas carols blast out of its speakers. "Well, let's get started!"

I open the box sitting in front of me and dive into it, which is probably one of the biggest mistakes that I can make. Inside are lights, thousands of tangled lights just waiting to be snorted out. I look at Nemo, who just laughs and starts sitting up the Naivety scene. I can't believe it, my best friend doesn't want to help me. Some friend he is...

"Look what I found," Nemo says as he pulls something out of the Naivety's box. "I don't think is supposed to be here unless Mary and Joseph were doing a little something, something."

I narrow my eyes at him. "That's not even funny."

He holds the green plant over his head. "Kiss me."

I grab the plant from him and narrow my eyes at him. "My father is in the room."

Nemo stares at me. I don't care if my dad has his back to us, I am not doing this. Plus, it's Nemo for crying out loud! It would just be like I was kissing my brother or something. I stuff the mistletoe in my back pocket. I will have to get rid of this later because this stuff is dangerous.

We don't want any cute puppies dying.

I turn back to my lights. This is just going to be impossible. Sighing, I slowly start to attempt to unwind them. Was Nemo joking about kissing me? I am sure that he was, but now that I look at it, I'm not so sure. Figuring out a guy's heart is just about like untangling Christmas lights: difficult and messy, with a bulbs getting broken along the way. Heck, you may never be picture perfect with it either. It may always stay kind of messy.

I now have about three bulbs untangled, with thousands more to go. I may have just found the new mission impossible.

Dad looks down at the messy lights. "Um, Auden, you really don't have to do that."

"If I don't, then no one else will."

"I mean that no one has to do that."

I look at him. "Why not?"

"Because I bought new ones yesterday. I remembered how tangled they were last year and decided that we weren't going to mess with them." He puts three boxes of new lights down on my lap.

I kick the tangled to the side and stare down at the new lights. Why didn't someone think to tell me earlier? I'm pretty that those old lights shocked me. I know, it goes against logic, but it's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Nemo smirks at me.

"Don't tell me that you knew he had new ones?"

"My lips are sealed."

I thought a pillow from the sofa at him. "You could've told me."

"Then, I wouldn't have got to see your face when he told you that he had new ones."

My best friend and Dad are gaining up on me. Why am I not all that surprised? Sometimes I wish that life were like a book, if you don't like what's happening, you can always fast forward a few pages or stop reading all together.

Nemo and Dad keep laughing. It's like the trick they played was all that funny or anything.

"Fine, Nemo, don't make me tell the world that you still sleep with the stuffed dog that you've have since you were three or that you still have Spider Man sheets on your bed," I say off handily.

Nemo stops laughing in mid-laugh. "You wouldn't dare."

"Try me and we'll see what happens."

Nemo frowns. He looks up at my laughing dad. "None of that is true."

"Your mum told me a few weeks ago that you did."

Nemo finishes unpacking the box with a red face. Oh, I love causing trouble. There's just something makes you feel like you are on top of the world.

My dad opens the Christmas tree box. "Mark my words, you two are going to end up falling for each other yet. I'm probably one of the first father's in the world hoping that his daughter would fall in love."

Nemo and I stare at each other. There's just so many things wrong with that on so many different levels.

A few hours later, the house is a complete and utter winter wonderland, complete with icicles on the tree and snowflake lights in the window. Once again, we didn't move the bookcases from in front of the window. Dad had nearly thrown his back out trying to move one of them, so we just gave up on that idea. We just stuck it back in the same corner that we have for the last four years. Everything else went exactly where we wanted it to: the Naivety scene on top of the telly, the dangerous green plant is safely hidden away, the tiny Christmas village is resting on top of one of the many bookshelves, lights have been placed in the windows and on the door, and the snowman are scattered throughout the apartment. I must admit that it doesn't look at that bad.

"I am afraid that I must be on my way," Nemo says, looking at his watch. "I told Mum that I would be home for dinner and it's about that time."
"I guess we'll see you later," Dad says as he starts piling up the empty boxes.

"I'll walk you out." I get to my feet and follow Nemo to the main door of the apartment. When he opens it, I slip out behind him, quickly shutting the door behind me.

"What?" Nemo asks, confused.

I face him with my arms crossed. "Were you kidding about the mistletoe?"

"What are you talking about?"

I pull the green plant out of my pocket. "This."

Nemo looks at it very closely. "It was just a joke, Auden."

I nod. "Good."

He looks once again at his watch. "I really must be on my way. Mum will have a cow if I'm not there."

I nod. "I'll see you around."
He nods and starts walking down the hall. I slump against my door. What have I gotten myself into? Am I like that undesired literature teacher who reads too much into a situation in a book and misses the joke entirely? I hope not.

Sighing, I turn and go back into the apartment. These needy times call for extreme measures. You know what this means: it's time to go to the experts.

My dad is in the longue reading a thick book of Christmas stories, drinking from a steamy cup, with Christmas carols humming softly in the background. He looks cosy and I wish could join him, but I can't.

I go into my room and push the door shut. I turn to look at my mountains of books. I know I put aside a few books for cases like that. I'm just not sure where that is. I dig around for a few minutes before finding my treasure in the stack by my dresser. I pull the five books out, all Jane Austen, of course.

Now, before we go much further let just say that I am not a Jane Austen fan, but she does give good advice on relationships. Plus, she is what I consider to be one of the first true romance writers out there. Her characters always get what they want and always end up happy. Isn't that how love is supposed to be? Sure, they have a few rough spots along the way, but it all works out in the end.

I toss the books onto my bed and flop down on it. I pick up the first thick volume and start to read. Outside, the snow has stopped. I wonder what our little phone booth looks like and how people have slid into it. It really should not be there.

I turn the page. I am getting nothing from this one. Jane Austen has failed me for the first time. Never mind...I have more where that one came from. I pick up the next one and start reading. It's just like the last one: being true to yourself. How can I do that when I am not even sure what I am supposed to be doing? How?

I slam the book shut and roll over onto my back. I take out the dangerous green plant and stare at it. Maybe there really is nothing there...Maybe he really was joking...Maybe...Maybe...Grr...This is just way to difficult. That's the problem with books: they always make everything look so easy.

I pick up Romeo and Juliet and flip through it. I hate to leave such an old copy just thrown on the floor. In fact, I'm not sure if I should even be looking at it. Will it break? It's just a book. I need to get a grip. I start reading from a random scene. If Romeo and Juliet could make it, then why can't the rest of us?

Gasp! There I go again, reading too much into things. Must stop acting like a literature professor.

I look over at my cat clock on the wall. Well, it's too late to sit here and read into this. Dinner is calling my name and since I have to make it, I had best get a move on it. I know that my dad doesn't have much in stock because he believes in buying everything fresh, meaning that I have to go to the market.

I shove my feet into my fuzzy winter boots. It feels so amazing to be able to wear them again. Winter boots aren't exactly a hot thing in Australia. I go into the kitchen and get the house money out of the cookie jar. I yell at my dad to tell him where I'm going and then I'm on my way.

The snow crunches under my boots. As I approach the phone booth, I see a few tracks that look like they slid into it. Out of towners...Don't know that you don't get close to something like that when there's ice? Especially when there's snow on the ground. People just don't think anymore.

I can hear the sounds of the market ahead of me. There's just something about going to an outdoor market that makes me feel at home. I don't care if it's snowy or doing whatever,, the market is the place to be. Fresh meats, veggies, fruits, and pretty much everything that you could ever want is there. I pick up a basket and start to make my way around the vendors.

Humming under my breath, I think about what we could have for our evening meal. A veggie stew sounds really good to me, but I'm not sure if my dad will go for it. Knowing him, he probably won't He seems to have to have meat with every meal. I don't know why, but he does.

I throw in some veggies into my basket and pick up some fish. There, that should be good. I pay and leave. On days like today, I am glad that I don't have to rush home for fear that the food will go bad, this is another thing that England has over Aussie.

Don't get me wrong. I do like going to uni in Australia. I really do, but it's not my home. I belong in England and England belongs to me. My dad really wanted to me to see another part of the world, but didn't want me to be alone, which is how Aussie came about.

I walk around the phone booth. More footsteps have slid into it since I've been gone. I open our creaking door and start up to our apartment. It's a rather noisy time of day, but it doesn't bother me. Dorm living has made me able to tune out most noises. There are still some that get under my skin, like girls screaming and drunk boys laughing.

I push open the door and walk into the tiny kitchen. Dad hasn't moved. His face is covered by a book that is so large that I can't even see his face. The only indication that he is still alive is the steady rise and fall of his chest.

I sit the bags down in the kitchen and start to prepare our evening meal.

Nemo...Nemo...Grr, why can't I get what happened earlier out of my head. He's my best friend, nothing more, nothing less. Unless, maybe, he thinks that there is a chance that we could be something more down the road, but not right now. Unless, he did actually want to be something more right now, which would never work because we spend nine months out of the year in different countries. I know, I know, people make it work, but it's not going to with us. Trust me on this, it will never work.

Gasp! Why I am even thinking about having a long distance relationship with him. Why I am even thinking about having a relationship with him at all. It's not going to happen. It's not going to happen. Great, great, great. My mind is telling me one thing, but my heart is saying another. Why can't my body just get it together?
I pull my mobile out of my pocket and scroll down to Nemo's number. "Making a late night dinner, care to join us?" I text. I sit it down and stir my veggies. Second later, my mobile buzzes.

"Sure, I'll be right over," he texts back.

"Great! Just let yourself in. Dad's reading, so he may not hear you." Once of the beauties of the male species is that they are always hunger and Nemo is not different than any of the rest of them.

Nemo, what am I going to do about him? I know that I shouldn't even be thinking of him in that way. I shouldn't even be trying to go there. Does he want to...No, just stop it! Best friend! Remember he's the best friend, not the boyfriend!

Okay, it's not like what I'm feeling is really that abnormal. Everyone falls hard for someone at some point in their life. It's perfectly normal and it's perfectly to want to have someone to cuddle up front of the fireplace with during the holidays. It's normal, especially for someone my age.

Nemo comes bounding into the kitchen a few minutes later. "Great, you're cooking! You are such a better cook than Mum!"
I nod and I slide the fish into the oven. I do have to admit: I am a pretty good cook. In fact, I am better than most people who have been cooking for fifty years. It's a gift, what else can I say?

"So, I was thinking," Nemo says.

"Great, we're in trouble," I interrupt.

"No, we're not. Anyway, I was thinking about my next show piece."

"And?"

"I want to paint you."

I whip around and stare at him. "Me? You want to paint me?"

"Well, yeah."

"Why?"

"Because you'll make a great model with your beauty and all."

I blink. Did he just say what I think he just said? I am by no means any sort of beauty queen. No, sir, he must have me mixed up with the wrong girl. Judging by the way he is looking at me, I do think that I have heard him right.

Nemo laughs. "You should really see your face right now? Has no one ever called you beautiful? Because I sure think you are."

My face burns. Me beautiful? What kind of drugs is he on? It must be the good stuff.

"I think that this was all worth it just to see to what kind of face you would make."
"Auden, what's burning?" my dad calls from the main room.

I jump as I sniff the air. Burning...burning...Oh, no! I turn back to the stove and oven and flip both off. "Great! This is just great!" I take the lid off the veggies and peer in. Not too much damage there, I should be able to save most of them. I am afraid to look in the oven. I slowly open the door and peer in. Lovely, this is just lovely. The fish is nothing more than a blob of black mush.

Nemo peers in. "It doesn't look all that bad."

I give him a look. "Not that bad, eh? Why don't you try some then?"

He looks back in at the mess, then at me. "I think I'll pass. I wouldn't want to take someone else's piece."
I roll my eyes as I pull out what used to be our evening meal. "Wuss."
"Ah, I may be a wuss, but at least I'm not eating burnt food."

I look down at the burnt mess. "Is it really all that bad?"

"Trust me, love, it's bad."

There's that word again: love. It seems to be coming up a lot in the past few minutes or maybe it's just my crazy mind hard at work again. Love, what is it actually? A good feeling or something designed to make us go crazy?
Nemo blinks at me. "What?"

"What, what?"

"You're staring at me."

"Oh."

"Yeah."

I turn away from him and scrap the burnt remains of the fish into the rubbish. Why do I keep doing this to myself? The bigger question is, why am I letting these things bother me? I am not in love with Nemo and he is not in love me.

"Should I get your dad?" Nemo asks, snapping me once again out of my daydream. Grr...Why am I spacing out so much?
"Um, yeah," I say as I gather come plates and stuff out of the cupboards.

"Okay and I'll make sure to tell him about the fish." He pads off.

I quickly set the table. I need to get a hold of myself. Nothing has changed between us and nothing ever will. I just need to keep reminding myself of that.

My dad and Nemo walk into the room just as I put the last knife down. As they sit down, I rush to the stove to get the stew. Hopefully, my dad won't ask anything about meat.

We dig in, no one says a word about the few burnt veggies. Good, I don't want to be a victim tonight.

"So, how's the holiday shopping going?" Dad says in between bites. Another good sign, he's eating it. Maybe I can get him to eat healthy.

"Um, yeah, I'm just about done with it. I just have to pick up something else for Mum, then I'm all set," Nemo answers.

I shift my food around. In all the craziness of coming back here, I haven't really had time to go Christmas shopping. I really must put that one my list of things to do.

Dad nods. "Good. I've been done for a few weeks myself. What about you, Auden?"

"Um..." I trail off.

"Just admit it," Nemo mutters. "You haven't even started. The clock is ticking."
"I know and I plan to go as soon as I get the chance."

"Great, because if you don't, I'm taking what I got you back."

"Whatever happened to the 'it's the thought that counts' and all of that?"

Nemo shrugs. "I don't do clichés."

He doesn't do clichés. Maybe this is actually a good sign for us. Maybe this means that nothing has to change between us. Maybe, just maybe, everything can go back to the way it was.

We finish the meal in silence, but I can't help but to notice the looks that my dad is sending between Nemo and I. Ugh, if he suspects that something is up, then he will drill me after Nemo leaves. Maybe I could convince Nemo to move in and stay forever.

After the last bite of food is gone and the table cleared, Nemo looks at his watch. "Well, I had best be on my way."

"Good night, Nemo," Dad says as he treks back to his chair, book, and Christmas music.

I nod and smile at Nemo as I put the last of the dishes away. "Night."
Nemo turns and walks out of the apartment. I don't follow him for once and hold my breath until I hear the door gently close. Whew, glad that's over with.

"Auden, can you come here for a minute?" Dad calls from the longue.

Great! Guess I'm not off the hook after all. I pad into the room just as my dad is carefully placing a bookmark in his book. As he gives me a knowing smile, he motions for me to have a seat. I sit down slowly, playing with the frayed edges of my sweater as I do so.

"I saw that," Dad says.

I look up, displaying my best confused look. "Saw what?"

"What was going on between you and Nemo. You can keep on denying it, but I know how to read between the lines."
I open and close my mouth. I am not about to start talking boys with my father!

"I think he would be good for you. I see how happy he makes and even the way you two look at each other, it's a good match. I don't see why you two don't get together."

Oh, no! We are so not going there!
Dad leans forward in his seat. "You do remember what I said earlier about you two falling for each other, don't you? I've been around a lot of people your age and I know all the signs. Trust me when I say that they are all there with you two." He pauses. "Don't deny yourself the simple pleasures and heartaches of letting someone in, Auden. You never know what could happen as a result."

I blink. When did he get so deep?

"You know what your heart wants, now all you have to do is let go and let it get what you want." He opens his book and disappears behind it, a sure sign that this conversation is over.

I walk down the hall to my room. Opening your heart up to someone is a scary thing. A girl on my floor, Abby, did just that this term and is really happy, but I know she suffered. I saw her many a time stomping across the longue to her room with some guy pleading after her. She and the guy never saw me, but I watched them forever and know now that they are very happy. Could I have that? Am I ready to go through the same stress that Abby did?
I flop down on my bed. Nemo...Nemo...What if we were to give this thing a go and it didn't work out? Not only would I lose a boyfriend, but a best friend. I don't want to lost him, I can't lose him.

My eyes grow heavier and pretty soon I am in a world of darkness.

I awake the next morning to the dark English sky. Outside, the snow has mostly melted, which is kind of depressing know that I think about it. It's just simply not the Christmas holidays without snow on the ground. To make matters worse, it looks like it's raining.

Great!

I pull on a simple outfit. Like all of my clothes, this one will not impress anyone, which is fine with me. It's not like there's someone out there I want to impress anyway.

I walk out into the main area of the apartment. My dad is asleep in the same chair as last night, the only difference is that his book has now fallen to the floor. Smiling, I walk past him and into the kitchen, where I put a large pot of tea on. Let me tell you something, coffee is not the way to go, you haven't lived until you've had a nice cup of hot tea in the morning. Crossing my arms, I stare out the kitchen window.

In the back, my dad starts moving around. He stumbles past me a few minutes later, grunting some kind of morning greeting that I can't make out.

CRASH! BOOM! CRASH!
Dad and I exchange looks.

Nemo appears, holding his nose. "Haven't you people ever heard of turning on a light? I don't know how many walls I ran into." He removes his hands from his face. "That hurt."
"There's no blood, so you're okay," I say. "Besides, have you ever heard of knocking?"
"Your dad said that I don't have to knock and I can just walk in whenever."

My dad wiggles his eyebrows at me. I don't know if I'm a fan of giving Nemo the right to walk in whenever. What if I'm in the shower or have nothing more on than a towel or worse? We are going to have to have a talk about this little arrangement.

Nemo leans over the counter. "So, I was thinking, Auden-"
"We are in trouble if you've been thinking."

Nemo gives me a look. "That we could go out today. You know, to do your Christmas shopping and start on that project I told you about."

My dad frowns. "Project?"

Nemo nods. "Yeah, Auden's going to model for me..." He trails off. "Oh, no, sir, it's not like that kind of modelling. I mean it is, but..." His face gets bright red. "Forget I said that. Just forget that those words even came out of my mouth."
I lean forward. "No, I want to know where this is going."
My dad follows my movement. "So, do I," he says in his Dad Voice.

Nemo looks, nervously, back and forth between the two of us. "Um...Um...This is not going to end well for me, is it?"

"That depends on the next words that come out of your mouth, son," Dad says.

"Look, I didn't mean model like that. I just am going to paint Auden. Grr...Why is everything coming out wrong today?" Nemo runs his heads through his hair. "Auden, can we get out of here before I say something even more stupider?"
I grab my bag from its regular hook by the panty. "Dad, I'm going to get Nemo out of here before he finds himself forever unwelcome."
Dad takes a long drink of tea. "I think that would be wise." He nods to Nemo. "I like you, kid, so don't ruin it for yourself."

"Right," Nemo nods. "Right." He puts his arm around my shoulders and steers me out. "I'll just do that, sir."

"Nemo."

We both turn.

My dad is pointing a large knife at Nemo. "Don't make me use this on you."
Nemo gulps as he quickly rushes us out the door.
Dad's laughter is that last thing we hear as we close the door.

Nemo turns to me once we are out in the hall. "Your dad scares me sometimes. I can never tell if he's for real or just messing with me."

I smile as I grab Nemo's arm. "Come on."

We walk out onto the busy street and make our way slowly around the phone booth. Just because the snow is gone does not mean that's it's safe to walk at a normal pace around it. Haven't you ever heard of black ice and all of that fun stuff?

I hook my arm through Nemo's. "So, where are we heading?"

"I thought we could try the shopping centre first and go from there," he says as we fall in step.

"Sounds good," I say. The shopping centre has everything that you could ever want and more. The best thing about it is that it's only a few blocks from our apartment building, no public transportation needed.

We fall into silence. I try not to look at Nemo, but I know he is doing the same thing. Is this what our friendship has come too? Not looking at each other? If this is the case, then I don't know how we can keep being friends. Come on, let's face it. Eye contact is a necessary when it comes to human relationships. Human relationships? Gasp! No, no, no! I did not mean to think that. I did not mean to think that at all.

I can now see the shopping centre. It is so close, but, yet, so far away. The only thing that is keeping us away from it is one of the busiest streets in the city. Cars race each other on the road, while buses go as fast as they dare. It's a death trap, let me tell you, and today is no different.

Nemo and I exchange looks. Ha, I told you that eye contact was a necessary!

"Let's do this!" Nemo says as he grips my hand. Ah, he feels so warm, like the love of my life should. What? Did I really just admit that?

I nod. "Let's do this!"
First off, I think I should explain something very important to you. There are crosswalks in this city, plenty of them. The thing is: Nemo and I view crosswalks as a suggestion and never use them. We would rather risk our lives darting across the streets, than using a crosswalk. There's just something about the rush you get running through traffic. You should try it sometime.

Nemo squeezes my hand as I look for a break in the traffic. "Get ready! Wait for it! Wait for it! Now!" I pull on Nemo as I dart out into the traffic. Horns blow at us, but we don't pay attention to them. Laughing, we end up on the other side as another driver shouts a curse at us.

Nemo rests his hands on his knees. "I need to stop eating so many burgers," he huffs. "I think I hurt something that I may need later on in life."
I laugh. "Maybe next time we should just use the crosswalk."
His head darts up. "And miss all of that fun? Never!"

Laughing, I pull him the shopping centre. Christmas carols blast loudly from unseen sound system and little Father Christmases offer up a little Christmas joy. Christmas trees dotted the display areas, as lights lined the walls. The clerks all wore little Christmas hats and bells around their necks. I have always wondered if they were sick of Christmas by the time the day actually rolled around.

Nemo pulls me over the book section. Yes, I am one of those daughters who always gives her father a book and some candy for Christmas. I can't help it if that's what he likes. We scan the titles. One of the downfalls of this is that I don't remember what I got him last year and what he already has. So, it's probably safe to go with something that came out today.

Nope, he doesn't do holiday romances...Nah, science fiction isn't his thing either...Huh, I didn't know they were making that into a movie, I bet it will be horrible...Wait, a minute! This one looks promising. I pull out a new book about the British Empire in World War II. Dad eats up war books. I pull it out and place it under my arm.

Nemo looks at the book. "Is that the one?"
I nod. "This is the one." I walk off. "Now, all I have to do is get him some candy and he's done."

Nemo follows me. "Great, then I can pick out what you're getting me!"
"Who said I was getting you anything."
"Of course you are!"

I just smile and keep walking. "I probably should get something for my mum." I pick up a bottle of cheap perfume and tuck it next to the book. "There, she's done."

"You are such a thoughtful daughter," Nemo muses.

I shrug. "Hey, I try."
"I guess." Nemo kicks at the tile. "So, what are after now?"

"Candy."
We walk toward the candy section, where I throw a few bags of my dad's favourite candy into Nemo's arms. "There done!"
"Auden, you're forgetting one person!"
I smile. "Oh, and who might that be?"

"Me."

"Oh, I guess I can get you something."
Even though Nemo likes art, I never get him art supplies for Christmas. That's what everyone else gets him and I want to be different. It's kind of how Nemo never gets me any books for Christmas, which explains how I end up walking out of the shopping centre with a giant purple cat who Nemo calls "Bertha."

"Now, don't drop Bertha," Nemo says a we approach the street. "I don't want her dirty."
I can't see where I'm going. That's how big this thing is. "Do you want this thing wrapped?"
"Well, yeah, there's no surprise in what I'm opening if it's not wrapped."
"It won't be a surprise. You picked it out."

"Yeah, but I might forget."

I roll my eyes. Only Nemo could forget about a giant purple cat...

Nemo looks both ways once we reach the street. "GO!"

We race across the street, Bertha bouncing in my arms threatening to fall over at anytime. Love is kind of like that. When it all works out, it is nothing more than a head rush where you are spinning so fast that you know what's going on, but it's such a good feeling, you know. It could all end, but the journey is probably worth it. Maybe that's what these big shot writers where trying to get at.

We reach the other side, both of out of breath-me more so than Nemo because of that stupid cat. Why did he have to pick something so big?
We stumble up the sidewalk to the apartment building once again, carefully, making our way about the stupid phone booth.

Nemo pauses and looks at the fence. "I bet I could climb that."
"And kill yourself."

"It's not that high."

He does have a point, but, skill, he is not all that graceful. "I'm not going to dare you or anything like that, so don't even try me." I keep on walking, hoping that he will follow me.

Good, I can hear footsteps running. "Come on! What could go wrong?" He appears next to me.

"Let's see, you could fall, break your neck, kill yourself, break every bone in your body, or knock yourself out."

"See, it can't be anything bad."

I roll my eyes. "It's your body, I guess."

"See and, therefore, I should be the one who decides what happens to it."
"If you feel that way. Just think what your mum would say and how you explain this to everyone."

"Hum...Good point, but I could always sue whoever put this fence here and get a bunch of money. Mum would like that. I could even cut you and your dad in."

I don't answer, mostly because I don't want to add to this madness. Who in their right mind would encourage that kind of behaviour? Okay, if he was in a group of boys about his age, then they probably would want him to do it.

Nemo walks up to the fence and puts his foot on a low railing. "I'm gonna do it! Okay, I'm really going to do it."

I sigh and roll my eyes. This day just turned into an even longer day. "Well, can you hurry up. Bertha is getting kind of heavy."

"With my mad skills, this won't take very long at all," he huffs.

Oh, good, he's already running out of air, so this really won't take long and my aching arms can have a break.

He moves his feet and hands as he ever so slowly creeps up the side of the fence. Maybe he'll actually make it to the top without any problems. Maybe this will be okay. Ah, I spoke too soon.

"AH!" Nemo screams as he loses his grip and falls over backwards unto the sidewalk, barely missing the phone booth.

"NEMO!" I rush over to his side. "Are you okay?"

Nemo stares at the sky, blinking, but not saying a word.

"NEMO, TALK TO ME!"

He blinks again. "Man, talk about a head rush. It feels like all the blood in my body is in my head. Is this what stoners feel like?"

I smile. "Are you trying to imply that you feel like you're high?"

"Well, I've never actually been high or drunk or really much of anything, so I was just wondering if this is what it feels like."

"I think you're asking the wrong person for that one."

"Come on! You go to party school and you're telling me that you've never done that stuff?"
I nod. "Yep."

"Huh, what do you do down there, sit in your room and read?"
"Don't forget about studying and writing."
"That's not much of a life."
"Well, it's my life and I like it just how it is."
Nemo sits up slowly. "I see blinking dots." He points toward the apartment building.

"Those are Christmas lights."
"Oh."
"Yeah."

"Here I was hoping to have a concussion."
"You really didn't fall all that far."
"Yeah, I did! I climbed a mountain!"
"Nemo, the fence is less than two metres tall and you weren't at the top, not even close to it for that matter."
Nemo flops back down on the sidewalk, swearing. "Here I thought I was making progress!"
"Nope."
He looks up at me. "Can't you at least pretend?"
"Nope."
"You're no fun."

"Nope."

"Will you stop saying that?"
I start off toward the main entrance. Bertha is breaking my back. "Nope."
I hear Nemo get to his feet and race after me. "Hey, I could have been dying and you just left me there."
"But, you're not."
"I could have been. It's cold, so you should have offered my your coat."
I snort. "That's not going to happened."
"Well, if I die because of this, it's your fault."
"I think I can live with myself."

Nemo frowns. "Sometimes, I wonder what kind of a best friend you actually are."
"I can honestly say that I wonder the same thing about you."
He pauses and stares at me. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"It's open to interpretation, so read into it however you please." I walk up the first flight of steps, leaving him there wondering what I meant. Sometimes, it is good to leave while you are on top.

The thud of Nemo's trainers is quickly approaching me, but I don't stop. I don't even stop when I hear his heavy breathing behind me-really, that guy is a complete mouth breather.

"Auden!" He grabs my arm and forces me to turn around. "I think I know what you said."
I move my head to the side. "And what was that?"
"I'll tell you Christmas Eve when the clock strikes midnight."
"Really? That is like the oldest line in the book."
Nemo shrugs with a big smile on his face. "Everyone needs a little Christmas surprise."
I watch as he leaves my floor. What just happened? Do I really want to know what just happened or should I just let it go? I shove my way into the apartment. Things are just getting to difficult for my liking.

Dad is sitting in his chair in the longue whenever I come in. He slowly lowers his book, looks at me, then Bertha, then back at me. "Do I even want to know?"
I sit Bertha down on the sofa. "Probably not."
"What is that thing for anyway?"

"Nemo's Christmas present."
"I see."

"Yeah."
"Did you carry that all the way over here?"
"Yep."
"Lovely."

"Tell me about it. People gave me the strangest looks. Hello, haven't you ever seen anyone carrying a giant cat before?"

Dad laughs. "Well, it is a rather strange sight." He pauses. "What was with all the yelling?"

"You heard that?"

"Kind of hard to ignore."

I sigh. "Oh. Um, Nemo thought he could be a climber and decided to climb to the fence outside. Of course, he ended up falling and, then, tried to convince me that he was dying."
"Did it work?"

"Nope."
"He always was the dramatic one."

"I know." I look around. Dad is slowly reaching for his book. "I'm going to go soak my arms before they start hurting even more."
"Drama queen." He opens his book.

"Excuse me, you try carrying that thing."
He opens it to the page he was reading before I came in. "I don't think so."

"You're no fun."
Dad shrugs. "I try."
I walk out of the room and down the short hall to mine, where I carefully shut the door. Flopping down on my bed, I stare at the mountains of books. What am I going to do about Nemo? I don't want to be Ron and Hermione and always end up fighting. Sure, it ends will for them, but they almost kill each other in the process. I don't want to do and almost lose him. He means too much to me.

I roll over and stare at the ceiling. My emotions are nothing more than roller coaster. One minute, they want to be with Nemo and enjoy the joys of love, the next they are just enjoying the whole friendship thing. You know, it really is difficult.

I open a random book to a random page and start to read. It's not a love story, which is good because I don't want to think about love right now. In fact, I'm not even sure what I'm reading, which is even better.

Time passes, as it always does when you lose yourself in someone else's world and before I know it, it is time for supper. Living your mind is really so much better than facing what's actually out there. Closing my book, I get to my feet and pad out into the kitchen, where my dad is flying something up.

"How do you feel about fish?" he asks.

"Sounds good."

"Since we didn't get it last night, I thought it would be good tonight."

"Funny."
"I can't help it. I'm just being honest."
Being honest...Why can't I just be honest when it comes to Nemo? If I could just tell him how I really feel and don't care what his reaction is, then maybe life will be good. I just need to get over the fear of what could happen and live. There is only one life and each moment that we spend doubting ourselves, is a moment that we will never get back.

There's almost two weeks to Christmas Eve. I have two weeks to decide what I am going say to him. Two weeks seems like a lifetime, but it's really not that far away. Even during a day, a lot can happen.

"Auden, are you still with me?" Dad asks. "I've been talking to you and you haven't been answering."

I blink. "Oh, sorry, I was just thinking."

"About what?"

"The world's problems."
"And did you come up with any solutions?"
"I think I did."

"Good. What did you come up with?"

I get to my feet. "It's a secret."

Dad laughs. "I knew you were going to say that?"

"Then, why did you ask?"

"To see if I was wrong."
I smile and walk out of the kitchen. Oddly, I'm not hungry. I need to do this right and I only have two weeks to pull this off. Plus, I only have one shot and I have to do this right. I just have to or I could end up losing everything.

It's amazing how time passes whenever you are working on a project, because the next thing you know it is almost time. Outside the snow is falling, children are laughing, and Christmas music is blasting, but I don't look up. My dad calls me to watch yet another holiday special, but I don't move. There's only three more days left, three more days until D-Day and I'm not even close to being ready. Let me tell you, this is worse than finals week and I didn't think there was anything that could top that.

I can't keep my eyes open for much longer, but I have to keep going. I look over at my books for the millionth time, seeing if there's anything that I've missed, something that needs to be added. I write, cross out, write again, throw the piece of paper across the room, but nothing seems to work out. Everything is wrong, wrong, wrong!

I get up and pace around my room. There has to be a simpler solution to my mess of a problem. I know that there is an easier way of doing things out there, but I just haven't been around to find it. I guess it's better that way because the easy way isn't always easy and most of the time the difficult way is the way to go.

Outside, the snow has stopped falling, but there is enough that I know it will not be gone by Christmas. There is nothing like a white Christmas.

Christmas Eve

It has been snowing all day. Friends and my dad's family have been in and out all day. I haven't been able to see Nemo yet, which is fine by me. We agreed yesterday to met later on in the evening, when most other people are asleep.

"Bye, now. Thanks for coming and Happy Christmas," Dad says as his parents leave, finally. "We'll be over sometime tomorrow." He closes the door and turns to me. "Well, I'm going to go find something to watch or read." He disappears.

I nod. "Okay." I can't help myself.

I go into my room, where Bertha and my note are waiting. I stare out the window, it is snowing harder than ever before. It looks beautiful in the street lights, all glowing like little pieces of glitter. Most of it is unmarked and there's not a soul on the streets. Normally, little kids are out there playing in it, but tonight is different, tonight they are all in their beds waiting for Father Christmas.

I just hope that Father Christmas is able to deliver my present to me.

I look at my watch, eleven o'clock, time to move. Sliding my feet into my boots and pulling on my coat, I gather up Bertha and the note, yell at my dad, and leave the apartment. The halls are oddly quiet, most of the parties probably ended a few hours ago.

I stare at my feet and focus on putting one foot in front of the other, which is very difficult considering how big Bertha is. I only almost break my neck twice on my journey.

Outside, the snow is still falling. I carefully step out onto the snow covered walkway, trying not to mess up that much snow. The apartment's gate is still open, probably some small children begged the head to leave it open for Father Christmas. Slowly, I make my way to the red phone booth, open the door, and place Bertha inside. I put my hands in my pockets and stare at the apartment building. Christmas lights dance in the windows of difficult apartments, but other than that, all is quiet.

Christmas Eve really is one of the calmest nights of the year. It feels like the entire world just spots for one night and breathes in all of the glory of the world. Time just spots and nothing else really matters tonight.

I turn. There he is. Walking out of the apartment with my gift tucked under his arm. He is attempting to walk like someone who is sure footed, but failing. I don't see that, I don't see how he almost falls as he steps out onto the sidewalk. All I see is Nemo, who, the next to my dad, is the most important male in my life.

"Where did all of this snow come from?" Nemo asks, once he reaches me.

"It's Christmas Eve, it's supposed to snow."

"I think you watch way too many Christmas specials."

"And what is wrong with that?"
He just looks at his feet. He has no room to talk, because he watches more than I do.

"Um, here this is for you." I hand him the note. "Bertha's in the phone booth."
Nemo took the note, before peering into the phone booth. "She looks like of creepy sitting in there."
"She looks kind of creepy no matter where you put her."
Nemo nods. "Should I read this?" He points at the note.

"Um...Yeah, look please don't take my answer the wrong way, that is unless you want to it be that way. Okay, shutting up now so you can read."
He opens it. I kick at a snowdrift as the words come back to me.

Nemo,

One of the oldest clichés in literature is falling for your best friend. Pop culture is just loaded with them-Gossip Girl, Twilight, The Mortal Instruments, and of course, Harry Potter. It didn't end well for most of these characters. Jacob didn't get Bella, Alec and Jace didn't get together, Nate, Blair, and Serena ended up hating each other, and Hermione and Ron ended up almost killing each other. However, this is hope. Alec ended up with a really great guy, Jacob got Nessie, Hermione and Ron ended up happily married, and, well, I'm not sure how Gossip Girl ended because I didn't actually finish the series. Plus, it really doesn't make any sense to me how Ron and Hermione ended up together, because, damn it, it should have been Harry and Hermione.

Anyway, the point is they all made kind of made it work. It wasn't easy, but if they can do it, then why can't we? Why can't we give this a try, that is if you want too? For once in my life, I want to be a cliché and I want to do it with you.

Circle either: yes or no.

~Auden~

Nemo looks up at me. "Do you have a pencil?"
"Um, yeah." I pull one out of my pocket and hand it to him.

What is he circling? I am really that thick to believe that he will circle yes. I was so stupid for putting all of those characters in. Come on, he probably hasn't read most of those books, because they are kind of girly.

He hands the paper back to me. "Before you read that, let me just say something." He moves closer to me.

"Yes?" We are now just centimetres apart.

"It should have been Harry and Hermione," he says as our lips touch.

The note falls out of my hand and into a snow bank as I wrap my arms around his neck and run my hands through his hair. Fairytale endings do come true, even for girls like me.

He breaks the kiss a few minutes later. "Happy Christmas, Auden."
I lean into him. "Happy Christmas, Nemo."

And there you have it! When I started writing this, I had no idea that it was going to be a Christmas story, which is fitting considering that it is December-where did the year go? Anyway, thanks for reading and Happy Holidays! Oh, I used British English because the story does take place in England and I wanted it to be clear that Auden, Nemo, and her dad are British.