One blanket, two steaming cups of hot chocolate, three cookies each, a roaring fire, and an old Christmas playlist playing on the radio later had you and Belle curled up. The Television softly played the next song as you looked down at the woman in your arms, amazed that she was back to stay.
But what would it change?
You'd had six months of fear, uncertainty, heartache, and finally acceptance to work through. Moving on and living life without her was tough, but you'd finally found a perfect pattern where loss didn't nag your every step and memory. Belle was simply reentering your life and now everything would change, it was for the better, but it would change.
"Hey, can you hand me my bag?" She asked, snuggling deeper against your shoulder and making it clear that she wasn't going to get up.
So you stretched your arm out and snagged her bag, pulling it towards her as she placed it on her lap. "I've got someone who wants to meet you again."
From the bag she pulled out a small stuffed panda, making it wave at you with her finger as you smile in recognition.
Reaching out to pet the toy's head, you remember the day you both won it at a fair, working together to knock down the most bottles in a row. Belle loved pandas with a passion, so when one was offered up as a prize, she had to win it!
When it had been won, you'd worked out a timeshare to make sure you both got equal time with the prize, and you'd named it Bella in honor of its 'mother', both of you treating the toy like your own child.
Both of you were children again, laughing and giggling as you played make believe with the bear, not caring how ridiculous it was as you tried to figure out which 'parent' Bella liked better.
You'd had it the day Belle was set to board the plane to Europe, and you'd given the toy to her when she'd left, thinking that any child would like to be with their mother as she went on a new adventure.
Something to remember you by, you'd said as you placed the bear in her purse, its cute eyes staring out at the airport, almost seeming alive.
You'd snapped a picture of Belle and Bella, your two favorite ladies, and carried it like a treasure after Belle had left.
Now Bella was here, and waving at you as if she were alive, so you chuckle and stroke the panda bear under the chin.
"She missed you" Belle smiled, making the panda bear hug you tightly as you hug back. "Do you remember the last thing you said to me before I left? You said 'Squeeze her whenever you think of me."
Belle stroked the panda's head fondly and smiled "I spent six months in Europe, and I squeezed this bear at least twice a day. You would have liked so much, the food, the colors, the ambiance alone would have kept you writing for days! For almost every experience or sight I experienced, I wondered what you would think about it."
"When I learned I was coming home, all I wanted was to see you smile as I told you stories of my adventures and feel you hug me when you realized I'm back to stay."
She took a deep breath, her eyes warm and comforting "I know you get overwhelmed by change, and seeing me come home must be a big shock, but I just wanted to let you know that every time I was overwhelmed in England, I could hug this bear and be okay."
She pushed Bella into your arms again and then moved her head back onto your chest, her eyes turning back to the ceiling.
"You can hug Bella and have it all be okay too. I promise."
Your arms wrap around the bear tightly, squeezing it and inhaling the scents of Europe, the smells of the plane, and the scent of her in its fur as you remembered just what holiday today was the eve of.
Christmas was a day of new beginnings, the day the world was saved and reborn, the day families came together and discovered what made them families in the first place, and it heralded the New Year. The New Year was all about new beginnings.
Maybe today, on this day of beginnings, Belle could re-enter your life not as an old friend but as someone to get to know again. A new friend who was filled with all the experiences and moments meeting someone for the first time entailed.
You tilt her head up to look at you, gracing her with a smile as you kiss her forehead softly. "Belle, I think I can handle this change, and I'm happy to have my best friend back."
Belle's fingers squeezed your skin as she hugged you, shifting under the blanket to melt her body into your warmth with a yawn.
"So am I." She whispered sleepily, placing Bella between both your hearts as she kissed the back of your hand.
The fire, the sugar of the cookies and cocoa, and the soft droning of music from the TV lulled you into sleep as Belle's soft breathing filled your ears.
As you glanced out of the window, you saw a large star, gleaming and glittering as it signaled the start of a new beginning for the world.
And maybe for you and Bella too, because as you looked down at her beautiful sleeping face, a warm swell of adoration pounded in your heart. An adoration that you'd always felt but had never told her about.
For a new beginning, maybe you could finally tell her that you loved her. But it would wait until the morning.
That would make tomorrow the Christmas morning to remember.
I'm just gonna let our happy couple sleep...
Please let me know if you'd like to see more of this story, and I hope you stick around for more holiday stories!
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