Merry in Manhattan - Part 3
Welcome back! It’s part 3 of my December Flash Fiction Friday series. It’s a tad longer than the others but… I think for good reason. I hope you’ve been enjoying reading it as I have been writing it. In case you’re behind, you can read Part 1 Here and Part 2 Here. Then tune in next week for the final part!
“I’m so glad you came, Lane!” One of Chris’ friends, Lucy, grabbed my coat out of her back bedroom and handed it to me. It was Christmas Eve and she’d hosted a get together for their friend group. It was a surprisingly fun and relaxed gathering. It as the first time I’d seen Chris not in a suit, but a sweater and blue jeans.
Expensive designer blue jeans and sweater that would never be in my budget- but still.
“I’m glad too,” I said as I pulled my coat on. It was starting to snow and Chris said we had one more place to go and I needed to stay warm. “This was really fun.”
And it was. Chris and I had been having a great time over the last few weeks. Cocktail parties, dinner, going to the theater, and even a charity sponsored “Yule Ball” where everyone dressed like they were in Harry Potter. But this was the best party by far with his group of friends. It was the first time I actually felt a bit at home in New York. They’d played games, drank (a lot), had a big dinner, and exchanged gifts. Chris even got me a small silver star shaped keychain engraved with the year. A reminder of my first Christmas in New York, he’d said.
Lucy grasped my shoulder as we made our way to the foyer where Chris was finishing a conversation with Lucy’s partner, Amanda. “Please tell me you’re coming to Levi’s Kwanza dinner on Friday. You’re seriously the best date Chris has brought to our parties in a long time."
“I wouldn’t miss it,” I promised, and not just because I was already planning the layout of my new office. While each event we’d gone to there had been a couple of familiar faces with each crowd. Chris had a lot of friends, but there was a circle of about five which were in regular rotation in his solar system. They’d welcomed me with open arms and it was fun to get to know them. Who knew that the high class businessman had such a great found family? I was going to miss them once New Years was past.
“And he must really like you if that gift is any indicator,” Lucy went on.
I clasped the keychain in my pocket. “What do you mean?”
“Girl, did you see where it was from?”
I pulled it out and examined the back.
Tiffany & Co.
It took everything in me to not let my jaw drop. “Oh… wow.”
Lucy shrugged. “Not bad for only dating a couple of weeks if you ask me, and he never gives the girls he brings over gifts.”
Chris’ smile widened when I appeared at the door and he held out his hand for me to clasp. Pretending to be his girlfriend was becoming scarily easy to do. After saying out goodbyes we headed out into the cold and then into the car he’d called for.
“So, where to next?” I asked.
Chris wagged his eyebrows. “You’ll see.”
We stopped all the way down in the Battery and he led me to an ice rink.
“What, did one of your fancy friends rent it out for a big Christmas Eve party for the night?” I asked.
Chris shrugged. “Nope. I just thought it would be fun. I know you mentioned wanting to go ice skating once, and this place is bigger than the rink at the Rockefeller and you get a view of the skyline and the Statue of Liberty.”
I turned and looked around me and he was right. The view was fantastic. “So… no friends or people we need to avoid?”
“Other than the usual muggers? No. We don’t need to avoid anyone.” Which earned him a laugh from me. I hadn’t had that particular New York experience yet and hoped I could avoid it all together. However, I’d heard it was bound to happen at some point if you lived there long enough.
Come to think of it, when I thought about avoiding people, Alexis hadn’t been at the other party that night either. We hadn’t needed to avoid her at all that day. Which was… odd.
Chris paid for our admission and skate rental and we spent the remainder of the evening skating among the others who’d gathered at the rink and enjoyed the peaceful snowfall. It had been awhile since I’d been on skates so it took me a bit to get used to it again, and Chris held my arm while I caught my balance. Then… he never let go of my hands, even when it wasn’t needed. We talked and laughed like old friends.
Months ago, I never would have guessed I’d have such a great holiday season in New York without my family and with Chris no less. I loved how inclusive it all was and how all of his friends were so different from one another but yet… not so different after all. Each event we attended was the perfect blend of a modern edge along with Christmas cheesiness. I missed my family of course, but there was a different sort of magic and comfort to seeing how other people celebrated and spending it on my own. I wasn’t ever alone, Chris and his friends were there. But, it was still just me walking in each time feeling like the new kid in school until one day… magically… I wasn’t. For the first time, I could really see myself living there and building a life. I wasn’t sure what it would look like once Chris’ and my agreement was over, but I could start to imagine.
Now New Years Eve was only a week away. I always mourned the ending of the holidays, but there was something else about this one ending that particularly made me sad.
“So, what are your plans for tomorrow?” I asked as we returned our skates at closing. “Some big fancy celebration with your posh family I’m assuming?”
Chris shrugged and put his arm around my shoulders. “Not so much. I’ll probably sleep in, maybe go see a movie.”
I stopped in my tracks. “Wait… you don’t have anything going on tomorrow? What about your family?”
“You met my family. Levi, Lucy, Amanda…” He opened his phone and got to work on arranging a ride for us to go home.
“And your parents? Siblings? Grandparents?”
Chris shook his head as he wrapped up getting our transportation. “Haven’t seen my dad since I was a kid, my mom is off with… who knows who this year… no siblings, grandparents died after college, haven’t talked to anyone else in years.”
He waved away my pity. “Trust me, it’s for the best. I’ve been spending the holidays with my friends ever since I moved here and I don’t want it any other way. They’re the best ones I’ve ever had. If you ever met my family, you’d understand.”
The car arrived and we climbed in. I relished the warmth of the vehicle but I couldn’t tell if I was numb from the cold or Chris’ declaration about his family life. Yet, he did genuinely seem happy. Especially tonight at the party and even ice skating. I fingered the keychain in my pocket and I realized he and I were still holding hands.
“Thank you for the gift,” I eventually said. “You really didn’t have to do that.”
“I didn’t want you to feel left out while we exchanged,” he answered as though it was nothing at all.
“I didn’t get you anything.”
He shook his head and ran his thumb against my hand. “Don’t worry about it.”
We chatted the rest of the ride until we got to my apartment. The car waited while Chris walked me to my door. It was something he always did at the end of each night. “You know, you did get me something,” he said.
I stopped searching for my keys and looked up at him. “What do you mean?”
“Well, you helped me avoid Alexis.”
“Not a gift - a deal.”
Chris chuckled. “Right. But… this month has been fun. Every Christmas in New York is the best but, this year was different. I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun going to all of those things as I have with you. So, thanks. This might be one of the best Christmases ever.”
I was stunned for a moment. I hadn’t been imagining things that we were having a great time. He’d liked it too. Who knew? “It’s been one of my best too,” I admitted. Wow, he was standing really close.
Chris smiled. “Good.”
I was surprised when his lips met mine, but it wasn’t unwelcome. I wasn’t sure who went in for the kiss first, him or me. Not that I cared. We may have been cold and tired, but I hadn’t been kissed like that in… well, ever. We’d exchanged kisses on the cheek or temple through the month for a good show, but never this. Not even when I kissed Terrance did I feel so warm and light.
“Well, that was a pretty great gift,” Chris said when we broke apart.
I laughed. “Yeah, it was.”
We stood there in front of my building for a few comfortable and quiet moments. “Do you want to do something tomorrow morning?” I asked.
“Lane, you don’t have to do that. I told you, I’m fine-”
“I’m just saying that I don’t have plans either. You can sleep in as long as you want but maybe we can have a Christmas brunch and see a movie or something like you said” I said. I ran my fingers through his, not wanting to let go. “It would be nice to do something… just us. You did the skating, I’ll do this.”
Chris looked down at our hands then at my face. “Sure, that sounds great.”
“I’ll give you a call in the morning then.”
He kissed me one more time before I searched for my keys again and let myself in. I watched from the window as the car drove away and leaned against the glass.
Oh. My. God.
Did that actually just happen? Was I actually glad it happened?
Yes, I was.
Marveling at the turn of events I unwrapped my scarf and unbuttoned my coat and threw them in the closet. I’d barely changed into pajamas and gotten some sleepy time tea started when there was a buzz at the door. I wrapped a robe around myself and opened it. I gasped and took a step back.
He removed his knit hat, one I’d gotten for him the year before, getting snow all over the floor and his brown hair was ruffled. A small carry on size suitcase was at his feet. “Hey Lane. Merry Christmas.”