The snow fell in tiny flakes. The world had turned from its usual woodsy hue to a winter white wonderland. The house was basically empty. I felt utterly alone. This wasn't how I had intended on spending my Christmas Eve. I guess I shouldn't have expected much, Mom and Dad were usually gone.
I went outside and watched the falling snow. It was our first snow, and something about it seemed magical. The cool crisp air crackled with the coming frost. The fire inside called me back into the house.
Why do they always do this to me? I felt utterly and completely alone.
I just couldn't understand why everyone thought it was okay to leave me alone on the holidays.
A knock at the door brought me back to the moment. I got up and walked over to it. I doubt that Santa Claus was going to drop by anytime soon.
“Mia bella, Merry Christmas.” Dom stood in the doorway with a Santa hat on, he kissed the back of my hand.
“Really, Dominic?” I snorted.
“Have some spirit, Emma.” He pulled me out to stand on the porch.
“You know it's snowing out here, right?” I laughed at him as he caught some of the flakes on his tongue.
“Yes, I know. Taste the purity of a first snow fall.” His smile was devilish.
“You sound like the sinister guy in all the movies, trying to tempt the poor innocent virgin into losing some aspect of her purity. It's just snow, you dork.” I punched his shoulder lightly.
“Try to have some fun, Emma. Life can be too short to not enjoy the moments.” He stood watching the snow fall down around us.
I looked over at him. I took in all that was Dominic. He always seemed to surprise me. The snow stayed on his cheeks as he looked up at the sky. He was obviously cold. A smile pulled at my lips as I realized that he had put on the Santa hat and brought a little Christmas spirit to me.
“Hey, do you wanna take a drive through town?” His eyes held mischief.
“That is alright. This town goes way over the top on Christmas. If I had eaten green and red cookies, I would puke them on everyone's lawns.” I gestured toward the outside of our house.
The pillars were wrapped in brightly colored ribbons. There was a huge wreath on the front door. Large red bows were stuck to each window. Of course my family couldn't just have inflatable creatures in the yard. Oh no, we had freaking handcrafted snowmen, Santa, elves, reindeer- the works. On our roof, a happy little Santa stood holding a bulging sack- his sled and reindeer sat behind him. Christmas angels were placed on the widow's walk. I thought that with their glowing halos, they looked like evil children. No one cared about that though. It was all about being “part” of the community.
A sneer rolled across my face.
“What's wrong, Em?” Dom asked in concern.
“Nothing. I was just thinking about how fake all of this crap is.” I pointed toward the lawn and then up at the angels and Santa.
“Your parents just want you guys to fit in.” He shrugged.
“If they truly wanted that then we wouldn't live so far out of town. We wouldn't have a huge house. It's not like anyone can see this junk.” I rolled my eyes.
“Where is your Christmas spirit, Emma?” His bright green eyes seemed to look into my soul.
“Dominic, would you have Christmas spirit if you had been left all by yourself on a holiday that is supposed to be about family?” I countered.
“But you aren't alone. You've got me. Let's go inside.” He said as he brushed the snow off of my cheek.
I don't feel cold enough for the snow not to melt. Odd.
We went inside. The fire blazed happily in the living room. We had a huge Christmas tree that was surrounded by presents. It looked like the perfect Christmas setting.
“So, I got you something. I want you to open it now though.” He held a large rectangular box in his hands.
“But it isn't Christmas yet.” I didn't think that he would love the sweater I got for him- I just didn't know him like when we were kids.
“Come on, you were just gripping about how Christmas is nothing but a scam. Open it.” He pushed it into my hands.
“Fine.” I went and sat down on the couch, holding the box across my lap.
The red and green striped package glistened under the firelight. I pulled the ribbon off and tied it around my hair- I've got a thing for ribbons. I slipped my finger under the tape and popped it open.
“Oh come on! Who opens a present like that? Rip the thing open.” Dom's face was lit with excitement.
“Fine.” I tore back the wrappings and found a Boo-opoly- the Halloween version of Monopoly.
“No way! This is so cool.” I squealed as I flipped it over to check out the back.
“I remember when we were kids you loved to play Monopoly. When I saw this one, I knew that I had to get it for you.” His cheeks dimpled when he smiled.
“Oh, Dominic, I love it!” I threw my arms around him.
His body stiffened in response and then fell into my hug.
“Let's play it!” I tore off the plastic wrap.
“How about we eat something and then we can play it.” He offered.
“Sounds good. But we have to drink eggnog then too.” I felt myself warming up to the thought of Christmas this year.
“Deal.” We headed to the kitchen.
I pulled out the fixings for ham sandwiches, a huge jug of eggnog, some Christmas cookies, and chocolate.
“Hey, do you have any marshmallows and graham crackers?” Dom asked with a boyish grin.
“Yeah... why?” I asked.
“Smores!” He laughed.
“Good idea!” I went to the cupboard and pulled out the marshmallows and crackers as well.
“Good deal, let's take it all out to the living room and play some games.” Dom loaded his arms with the things I had pulled out.
I setup the Boo-opoly as Dom made our little buffet on the other side of the table. The fire crackled happily in the background. I watched as he put smores together waiting for their toasty marshmallows to be added. Dom poured himself some eggnog in a red glass and me some in a green one.
“Dude, your eggnog looks all pink.” I laughed at how the cup had turned his eggnog pink, the green one hadn't made mine green tinted.
“I guess I'm just lucky. Real men drink pink.” He took a sip.
I shrugged and pulled out the bat, “oh, I am so the bat.”
“Fine, but I get to be the cat then.” He looked disappointed.
“No pouting, it's my present.” I laughed.
“Yeah, yeah.” He handed me a sandwich.
“I've got a present for you too. It isn't as cool as this, but it's something.” I got up and went to the tree.
All the red, green, silver, gold, and even a few blue wrapped presents under the tree called out to be opened. I grabbed the one in the front that I had got for Dom, there were a few others from the rest of the family for him too. It was a plain green paper. I had stuck a big red bow to it.
I handed it to Dom.
He tore through the paper like it was nothing. Inside was a plain white clothes box. He pulled the lid off like it was an undiscovered wonder of the world. I watched as he pulled the hunter green cashmere sweater out. He touched it gently like it would break. I knew that the color would bring out his beautiful eyes.
“Oh, Emma, it's beautiful.” He slipped it on, and it fit him like a glove.
“Looks good.” I smiled.
“I love it. Thank you.” He smiled at me.
The world suddenly felt completely right. Dominic remembered something so important from when we were kids and added a current flair to it, I loved the sweater I had gotten him. We played Boo-opoly over and over again. The fire was perfect for making our smores and we drank nice cold eggnog.
It turned out to be a better holiday than I thought.
“Thank you, Dominic, for making Christmas Eve so much better than it would've been.” I took his hand.
We fell asleep by the fire, holding hands.
Christmas morning brought a little more chaos to the calm.
“Emma...” I heard the voice in my sleep.
“Go away.” I mumbled and rolled over.
“Mia bella...” Dom's voice echoed into my dreams.
I cracked open an eye and saw Dominic and Grandpa standing over me.
“Ugh, morning.” I sat up and rubbed my eyes.
“Merry Christmas!” They shouted together.
I looked at them both like they were possessed. My grandmother sat on the couch surveying our little mess from the night before with distaste.
“Merry Christmas.” I said.
“Okay, your parents will be back in time for dinner. In the meantime, let's open presents.” Grandpa's eyes looked like a small child's.
I looked over at the tree, the presents seemed to have doubled over night.
“How about we clean up this mess first.” I suggested as I was afraid that my grandmother might have a heart attack if it remained.
“Sounds good.” Dom helped me pick up the mess quickly.
“Merry Christmas, Grandmama.” I kissed her cheek.
“Merry Christmas, Emma.” She patted me gently on the shoulder.
Grandpa handed out presents like he was Santa Claus, I was surprised that he wasn't dressed up in a Santa suit with the way he was acting. We left my parents' presents there.
After we opened gifts, Dom and I bundled up and went out to play in the snow.
“It's so beautiful out here.” I laughed as I jumped into a snow bank.
“You should be careful in case there is something there.” He said as he followed me into the snow.
“Right, Mr. Safety.” I chucked a snowball at him.
“Oh, Emma...” His eyes glinted.
“Uh-oh.” I headed for a tree, but I didn't make it.
Dom pelted me with several snowballs. How he moved so fast I have no idea.
“I give, I give.” I called out as I bunched up another ball behind my back.
“Ha!” He shouted triumphantly.
I nailed him right in the head. I ran squealing from him. My laughter bounced off the house as I ran into the backyard. Snowballs flew by me as I dodged back and forth trying to avoid Dom's missiles.
“No fair!” I called as another hit me.
“Oh, is that right?” Dom's smirk just provoked me.
I threw snow in the air and then thumped down on my back.
“Yeah, that's right.” I said as I made a snow angel.
“Thank you, Em, for including me.” He plopped down next to me.
“I don't think it would be so fun if you weren't here.” I smiled at him.
We laid in the snow staring up at the clouds. It looked like it was going to snow some more.
This is the best Christmas. I thought, thinking of all the Christmases I had spent basically alone.
I rolled to get up and Dom slipped snow down my jacket.
“OHMIGOD!” I shouted trying to shake the snow out.
Dom stood laughing to my side. I tackled him and pinned him to the ground. I slipped some snow into his collar.
“You're evil.” He told me as he tried to buck me off.
“Ha, ha, ha!” I laughed until he rolled over with me and I had a face full of snow.
That was the beginning of the snow war. We spent the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon throwing snowballs and tackling each other. It was the most fun we had had in a long time. Every time I spent more time with Dominic, I learned that I truly enjoyed his company and liked being around him.
Some time around four my grandpa called us in to get cleaned up.
“Your parents will be here soon and we'll have dinner then.” He said as we marched up to the house.
“Okay. Dom, you'll need a change of clothes.” I felt bad because I knew I was the cause of his very soaked clothes.
“No worries, mia bella, I have a bag here.” Dom shrugged.
“Go change you two.” Grandpa ordered.
We headed into the house and upstairs. I watched Dom disappear into the hall bathroom as I ducked into my room. I smiled thinking about how much fun it was playing in the snow.
I pulled off my wet stuff and hung it in the bathroom. I grabbed a grey sweater dress and slipped it on. My hair was hopeless so I just pulled it up into a messy bun.
I bounced down the steps and tried to keep my spirit up. I knew that I was still hurt that my parents were only here for the dinner part, but I had to remember that the day had still been great.
Dom was standing in the dining room helping to set the table. He was wearing the sweater I had got him on top of a white t-shirt and jeans. He looked really good. My heart did a strange little flutter as I looked him over.
I just don't understand why I feel like this. It was hard to think about how split I was between Dominic and Mike.
“Hey, my Little Emma Bird.” He called me over.
“I see that they've suckered you into helping.” I took the silverware from his hand.
“I offered.” His smile was lazy and completely natural.
“Sucker.” I stuck my tongue out at him.
We finished setting the table. My parents walked in the house, they had their bags as well as several packed with presents- something that was traditional for them. It was hard not to sneer at their guilt presents. I went and gave each one a hug.
“Merry Christmas.” I told them, my smile was forced.
“Merry Christmas, sweetheart. We got back as soon as possible.” My mother patted my cheek.
“And Dominic, we are so glad that you could spend the holiday with us.” My father slapped him on the back.
“Thank you. Merry Christmas.” He hugged my mother.
“Kiss ass.” I said under my breath, Dom looked at me with a smirk.
We all sat down to dinner. Dom sat next to me and I knew that we were going to end up getting in trouble for screwing around. My grandpa looked over at us and shook his head with a smile. My parents were completely unaware to what was going on.
A piece of bread went sliding across the table and hit grandmother's water glass. The look we got would've killed a normal person. Instead I coughed and slunk down in my seat. Dominic snickered next to me. I kicked him under the table.
“Ow.” He said quietly and rubbed his leg.
After dinner finished, we opened the rest of the presents. I hadn't laughed or smiled this much since I had been in Italy. The world felt good, and I knew that it was because of Dominic. It was the first year that I wasn't lonely and that I truly felt like I had a family and a reason for being thankful during the holidays.
“Merry Christmas, Dom.” I kissed his cheek before I headed up to bed for the night.
“Merry Christmas, mia bella.” His words followed me to bed.
For more adventures with Emma and Dominic, check out the first book to the Bella Series, Bella Notte.
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For a peek at the first five chapters of Bella Notte go to:
Bella Notte Excerpt
All rights reserved (c) 2011 Jesse Kimmel-Freeman