Christmas was probably my least favorite time of year. They say that depression kicks in around this time. But that wasn’t my case. I was just typically unimpressed by the entire thing, the Christmas trees, mistletoe, carols, gifts, and definitely the snow. This year wasn’t much different. The one thing that was, was him. This year I wasn’t alone. I had a reason to celebrate and a reason to decorate my home. He never celebrated Christmas growing up and this year, he wanted it to be special. He had just gotten home from war. He didn’t have much family, just me. So, I wanted to make this day special for him. After all, it was the day after Christmas. His flight got delayed so he wasn’t able to make it for Christmas, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t normally celebrate anyway. Better late than, never right?
I had to pick him Romeo up from the airport at noon. By 11:00, I had completed the meal for us to eat, decorated the Christmas tree and wrapped his gifts. I was at the gate waiting for him at 11:45.
He seemed so excited to see me.
“How long has it been? A year?”
“Probably longer. You know you don’t know how to come see a brother.”
“Whatever Romeo. Ready to go?”
“You know it. I hope you got dinner ready.”
“You do realize that it’s only noon, right?”
“I do, but I’m also hungry. You know they only feed us peanuts and water on the planes now. I’m starving.”
“Don’t worry about it. Have I ever let you down?”
“Maybe that one time back in high school. But that’s a conversation for another day.”
He drove us to the house. I remember when we were in high school, he never let me touch a steering wheel. He said as long as he was around, driving was the least of my worries.
After what seemed like hours in traffic, we made it to the house. He grabbed his bags out of the trunk as I walked to unlock the door.
“I keep forgetting how beautiful your home is.”
“Thanks! I guess my interior decorating skills come in handy somewhere.”
“What do you mean somewhere? You’ve been doing this for years. I’m sure you just take extra care while decorating your own home.”
“You’re right. I love it. With everyone else, it’s almost like going on a first date with someone. I have to learn things about them to make sure that whatever I put in the house is a direct reflection of them.”
“I understand that.”
He walked into the living room.
“Lisa, you didn’t have to put up the tree.”
“What kind of Christmas would it be, if I didn’t?”
“A great one, because I get to spend it with you.”
“Well aren’t you sweet!”
“I try to be. But about this food. I’ll go put my bags in the guest bedroom.”
I was reheating the food when he walked into the kitchen.
“So, what did you make?”
“Seafood dressing, baked macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes, and kale.”
“That sounds delicious. I can’t wait.”
“It’ll be ready shortly. The table’s already set. Go through my albums and see if you find anything you want to listen to.”
Just as I was taking the food to the table, I heard Nat King Cole “The Christmas Song” playing over the loud speakers. I couldn’t believe that he remembered. That was my absolute favorite version of that song and I loved Nat King Cole.
“Dinner’s served, Romeo.”
“Everything looks great, Lisa! I want to thank you again for allowing me to spend a few days with you. I would have been in a lonely hotel eating take-out if you hadn’t.”
“Well I happen to love take-out.”
“I’m sure you do. But thank you anyway.”
“You’re welcome. Now let’s sit down and eat.”
We spent the next thirty minutes, eating and talking about old times. Romeo and I met in high school. I had a crush on him. But he liked someone else. So instead of making a big deal about it, I decided to just be his friend. That was probably the best decision I made, because he was the best friend that a girl could request. He did everything that you would expect a boyfriend to do. He set the bar so high that it was hard to find a guy worth my time. When he joined the military after high school, I didn’t want him to leave. But he had to do what was best for him and his son.
“How’s Jr. doing?”
“He’s great. Growing every day. His mom sends me pictures all the time. I’m going to try and see him before I leave the city. They’re visiting her family for the holidays. Hopefully, they’ll be back in town before I leave.”
“I remember when you started dating his mom. I just knew you two would get married.”
“I thought so too. But you never know how things will turn out. I actually thought about you a lot while I was overseas.”
“Really? What were those thoughts exactly?”
“We have a lot of history, Lisa. I really wish we had stayed in touch more over the years.”
“It’s okay. We’re back at it now, right?”
“Yes, we are. Want to watch a movie?”
“Sure, why not. What did you have in mind?”
“I haven’t seen ‘The Preacher’s Wife’ in years. Probably since high school. What about that?”
“I love that movie. I guess you are in the Christmas mood huh?”
“You know it.”
“Wait, before we do that, I got you something. It’s wrapped under the tree.”
“I saw that. I just knew that it was yours.”
“Well you’re the only one who celebrates Christmas the next day. I opened my few gifts yesterday. Just open it.”
He opened the gift and immediately started to cry.
“Why are you crying?”
“I can’t remember the last time I got a Christmas gift. Thank you.”
“It was nothing. I just saw it and thought of you. I’m glad you like it.”
“I love it.”
“Okay enough of the waterworks. Let’s watch this movie.”
We spent about an hour watching the movie before he fell asleep on the couch. I was lying in his lap. When I looked up, his head was tilted backwards. I woke him up when the movie was over.
“You fell asleep on me Romeo.”
“I’m so sorry. That trip drained me. Maybe I should hit the hay. Hang out tomorrow?”
“Most definitely. There are some clean towels and things in your bathroom already in case you need to wash some of that flight off.”
“I think I may. Thanks again for everything, Lisa.”
“No problem. I’ll see you in the morning.”
I got up, cleaned the kitchen, put the leftovers away, and turned off the tv. If he was going to sleep, I would spend the next few hours reading until I fell asleep.
After a few hours I still couldn’t go to sleep. I remembered when I was in college, he would come to visit me in my on-campus apartment. He would be sleeping on the couch. I could never sleep too far from him when we were in the same place. So, I would get up from my cozy bed and sleep with him on the couch. It was a comfort thing. He never seemed to mind it. But we never talked about it either.
Instead of a couch, he had an entire bed. I made my way into his bedroom. He was dead to the world. I gently pulled the covers back in order not to wake him. I curled up beside him with my head on his chest. Before I could get comfortable, he wrapped his arm around me. As I started to doze off, he kissed me on my forehead. I didn’t have any trouble falling asleep after that.
By the time I woke up it was one in the morning. We did fall asleep early. I looked up at him and he was awake, watching me.
“Hey sleeping beauty. You still having trouble sleeping huh?”
“It only seems to happen when you’re around. I sleep okay most nights.”
“I was hoping you would come sleep with me.”
“Yes, really. That was always my favorite part about coming to visit you”
“Well, since it’s another day, I have a question for you.”
“You said I let you down in high school. When did I let you down?”
“I can’t believe you waited to ask me that.”
“I was curious and wanted to know.”
“Well if you must know, you let me down the day that you decided to only be my friend.”
“But you liked Ashely. What was I supposed to do?”
“You were supposed to fight for me. The reason Ashley and I broke up was because she thought we were messing off.”
“You never told me that.”
“I didn’t want you to stop being my friend. I knew that if you thought you were interfering with my relationship in anyway, you would’ve disappeared.”
“You’re right, I would have.”
“After all of those years, I have yet to meet anyone who cared about me as genuinely as you.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want your face to be the first face I see when I get home from deployments. I want to enjoy home cooked meals with you. I want to travel with you. Tell me that you feel the same way.”
“I must admit that picking you up from the airport felt natural. Everything about to day felt natural except for us sleeping in separate rooms.”
“Well let’s fix that. Marry me, Lisa.”
“Wait, I know that I said I didn’t get you anything but that’s not completely true.”
He reached over to the nightstand and pulled out a ring box.
“Lisa, will you marry me?”
“Yes, Romeo. I will.”
Then came the tears. But this time, they were mine.
We spent the next year planning a wedding that we never expected to have. Who would have known that celebrating Christmas a day late, would make me a bride to be. From that moment on, Christmas had a different meaning. It meant more to me than Christmas trees, mistletoe, carols, gifts, and definitely the snow. It meant that love existed right in front of me, I only had to pay attention and maybe fall asleep in his arms.