Magical Christmas Eve

The afternoon was still early, the moon was out and bring in the dark sky even though it wasn’t yet night. Sitting on the floor, looking out the window as the lights from the tree reflected in the glass I wondered if an evening like this could really bring the magic of the season I was always reading about or seeing in holiday books and movies.

Stretching out I rested my head under the tree in a bare spot on the skirt that wasn’t covered with gifts. I looked up at the branches of my fake tree that I had lugged around from college dorms to apartments all throughout my twenties, and now as I was about to start a new decade it sat. Decorated, looking festive yet perhaps calling out to my loneliness in my new life away from my family, away from my friends.

At least I have my dog, who appears to be in desperate desire of a walk at the moment. She’s licking my face and I almost knock the tree down as I try to get out from under it and her. “Fine, we’ll go for a walk.” I look at her and she knows she has won.

I pull on my boots and find my gloves in the pocket of my puffy jacket. I know it will be cold out, I’m not used to cold this extreme. “Bells, come on.” I pick up the leash and she’s jumping all over the place with excitement. Part of me is glad I have her, just as an excuse to leave my apartment.

After my most recent relationship failed, I picked everything up and moved to Minnesota. My job had me working from home and so I had little reason to leave the house. So far nothing had motivated me to get out and make friends. I had needed this alone time. Plus I felt burned out on the idea of going bar hopping, having done enough of that in my early twenties.

Bells tugged me out of the building and into the blacktop parking lot which was icy, I tried my best not to fall as she tried to pull me on what had become her favorite path to go and explore the neighborhood. I could see our breath in the air as we walked several blocks before arriving at the lake. At least it’s the smaller one though I’m thinking it’s too cold out to do the three mile walk around my bring Bells over to the dog area to play in the snow. She’s in heaven as I watch her run, kicking up the dusting of snow.

This isn’t bad, it’s peaceful really but lonely. I realize for the New Year I have to start getting out more before I become that weird neighbor that only ever leaves the house to get groceries. I notice that Bells is starting to get tired, that’s my cue to get her home and warm.

The sky has turned even darker, almost pitch black and it’s barely five in the evening. The houses we passed by are all lit up with light displays. Nothing extreme, enough lights to warm someone’s spirit. As we get to our building Bells tugs me up the stairs, almost knocking one of my neighbors down in the process.

“Bells!” I call out to her, which makes her sit next to her victim sniffing him.

He smiles, doesn’t seem too upset. “She’s excited.”

“Yeah, I’m so sorry. Are you okay?” I reach to help him up but he waves me off.

“I’m good, fine really.” He pushes himself off the floor. “Are you new to the building? I haven’t seen you around before.”

“Not very new, I moved in a few months ago. Mostly hide out in my apartment.” I confess, feeling that memorable surge of flirtation inside of me.

He nodded as he stepped down a few steps, “Kevin and you are?”

“Melanie.” I smile as I hear Bells moan, “I gotta get her dinner. Nice to meet you, Merry Christmas.”

I feel his eyes on me for a moment as I make my way up the rest of the staircase; he’s gone when I turn around to look back though. Perhaps I was wrong.

Back in the comfort of my apartment I get Bells some dinner while I look around for something for myself. I hadn’t really planned for a major meal, but I probably should’ve gone shopping since I’m low on supplies.

Bells as finished her dinner, pushing her food dish under the counter with her final lick of the bowl. I watch her as she looks around for a spot to lay down and settles on the spot I had occupied earlier under the tree.

She’s happy and that makes me happy. It also makes me realize how lonely my world would be without her in it. I pull a bottle of wine out from the fridge, pouring it into a glass and dropping in some ice cubes to chill it even more. I stretch out on the couch, throwing my lap quilt over my legs and putting a movie on. I’m just in time to catch the first of the many airings of A Christmas Story.

I dozed off somewhere around the pink bunny suit, only to be woken up by Bells barking and someone knocking on my door. I’m groggy; I look a mess from my nap on the couch. I open the door, hugging my cold body but no one is there. I shake my head and close the door again, “Go back to sleep Bells.” I encourage as I start digging through the fridge again as the knocking starts back up.

I open the door again, seeing Kevin from earlier leaning against the frame. He has a bright smile and a twinkle in his eyes. “Hey, I had a feeling you’d be just hanging out alone tonight.”

“Yeah, I guess I am. So what about it?” I’m not sure I knew exactly what he wants, or maybe I do and I don’t want to admit it’s possible.

“Have you had dinner yet?” He shifts just a little bit and I get a whiff of his cologne, it’s the kind that always makes me melt. Amazing how a scent can do that.

“No, not yet. I was just trying to figure that out.” I confess.

He pushed my door open more and comes in. “Well, get ready I’m going to take you to the best diner in town. Also the only place open on Christmas Eve.”

“You don’t have to do that.” I watch him, “I’m fine just here with Bells for the night.”

“I insist. If not for yourself, do it for me. I don’t want to spend the holiday alone.”

His honesty strikes me and I realize I can’t spend it alone either. “Fine, give me a minute to fix myself up.” I go into the bathroom adjusting my make-up, brushing my hair.

“It’s only a few blocks away so we can walk.” He tells me when I come back out.

“Great.” I think about how cold it is, but then I remember I need to get out again.

Bells gets left at home, but she seemed happy enough to nap under the tree again. Kevin isn’t wrong , it was just a few blocks away. I had passed by it a time or two with Bells, never giving it much thought. Now though in the darkness of the night its glowing with warmth.

As we step in, we see it’s fairly busy. Mostly with single older men and a few father’s with their kids. It reminded me of that scene in The Santa Clause at Denny’s. We got a booth and I scanned the menu trying to decide on something, when the waitress shows up though Kevin orders for the both of us.

“Trust me.” He pleads in a happy way, which I wasn’t sure was possible, though after a little chit-chat our food arrives, and it wasn’t bad at all.

“So, what brought you all the way here?” He asks.

I smiled as I think of an answer that doesn’t make me sound like a woman so torn up over a man, even if that might be how I feel. “I needed a change after the end of a relationship. I got offered a job where I could be anywhere in the country. I threw a dart at a map and landed here.”

He nodded before taking a sip of his coffee, “Well, hopefully you won’t keep hiding in your apartment. It’s the time of year to be around people to enjoy what surrounds you. Why not embrace it?”

“Time, I needed it for myself. I had spent so much time as part of a couple or part of a group of friends, I was starting to wonder who I am. That was a big part of why I left and came here. I had to be me, find my own way before I jumped into something else.”

“I understand. I’ve felt that way myself before.” The check arrives and he refuses to let me pay my share. As we’re walking home we stop in front of a few different houses to gaze at the lights. Amazed at how a quiet neighborhood can look so alive with these decorations on.

As we go up the stairs in our building he stops me on the landing, leaning in to kiss me. His lips briefly touch mine. If I didn’t have the phantom reminder of his lips on mine, I would think it’s a dream. He says good night at my door. When I’m inside and greeted by Bells, I realize I don’t feel so lonely anymore. That perhaps things are looking up. Kevin might not be more than a friend in the end or he could be.

I had a magical holiday night, just like the movies and the books, and not like them at the same time. I’m filled with hope now, that I’ll make new friends and stop hiding in my apartment. I won’t let the pain of my past relationship swallow me whole.

I curl up in bed with Bells resting her head on the pillow next to mine. I smile at her, “Merry Christmas Bells.”

She licks my face in return before I roll over, falling asleep, feeling at peace.

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