Second Time's the Charm
She could be so immature sometimes, so much like a child, and those less than admirable traits seemed to always present themselves around the holidays. It was never intentional; she tried not to be impatient or sneaky, but she couldn't help herself. There was something about being forbidden to do certain things that always tempted her to want to do them even more. While growing up, she was the child all parents dreaded. She was the three year old that hid underneath the tree skirt in the hopes of catching Santa Clause by surprise, she was the five year old that went to school and told all her friends that their Mommies and Daddies bought their Christmas presents, and she was the twenty-four year old that still had a hard time keeping a gift a secret or stopping herself from snooping. As a child, she had always been told that curiosity killed the cat, and it was a great day for the little girl when she learned the second half of the old, wise adage and retorted back to her mother 'but satisfaction brought him back.' Julie hadn't taken too kindly to her cheekiness, but, luckily, for Marissa Cooper, her boyfriend found her snooping and sassiness to be endearing.
However, her bad traits around the holidays didn't start and stop with nosing around her presents; she was also impetuous and never seemed to tire, two things that did not comply well with their plans that day. After a large, traditional Brazilian Christmas dinner of turkey, ham, colored rice, and various vegetable and fruit dishes, their family had decided to go back to their rooms for naps. That evening, they planned to meet in the center of Rio to watch the fireworks display before retiring back to their suites and opening gifts. Granted, the idea had made sense, but Marissa didn't want to sleep, and she certainly didn't want to stay inside the whole day, wasting away a perfectly wonderful, warm summer afternoon. The beach was just waiting for them right outside their hotel rooms, and she was bound and determined to go swimming.
"Ryan," she whispered, rolling over to lay on her side, for it made poking her boyfriend in the back easier. When he didn't respond immediately, she raised her voice and pushed him harder. "Ryan, are you sleeping?"
"Yes," he grumbled, pulling a pillow over his head before asking, "why aren't you?"
Satisfied, the Christmas snoop sat up happily, fully prepared to have an entire conversation with the man she loved, despite the fact that he was obviously in no mood to talk. "I can't. I'm too excited."
"If you go to sleep, time will pass quicker, and, before you know it, you'll be able to open your presents."
"Yeah, that didn't work when I was a kid, so it certainly isn't going to work now, Ryan. Come on," she urged him, sitting up on her knees and bending over his resting form, her long, honeyed blonde hair flowing freely down her shoulders to cocoon around his face and tickle his bare neck and chest. "How many times do you get the chance to spend the holidays in Brazil?"
"Marissa, we go someplace new for Christmas every year."
"Exactly," she beamed at him, grabbing his arm and attempting, in vain, to pull him off the bed with her. "Next year, we'll go someplace different, and the year after that, it'll be another new country, another new experience. We'll never be back in Rio. So, with that in mind, we should enjoy every single minute of our trip."
Realizing he wasn't going to win by simply arguing her points, that he would have to make a few of his own, Ryan sat up in bed, yawning. Reaching out, he took one of his girlfriend's hands and cradled it between both of his own, briefly lifting it to his mouth to kiss softly before allowing their embraced hands to settle comfortably on his bare legs. "I want that, too," he conceded, smiling at just how sweet and innocent, how full of life she looked sitting across from him, her expressive blue eyes wide with anticipation. "But I'm also tired, and we're going to have a long night."
She winked saucily in his direction. "I'll make it even longer if you go down to the beach with me right now."
"The beach? That's the only place you want to go?"
"It's actually a Brazilian Christmas custom," Marissa shared. "Either people take naps after dinner, or they go to the beach. If you go with me," she bargained, "you don't have to actually go swimming. I'll play in the water, and you can set up an umbrella and beach towel and take a nap outside. I just…," fidgeting, she stood and paced towards the balcony, drawing open the curtains to peer outside. "I can't sit still any longer, and it's too beautiful outside to just sleep the day away." Pivoting back around to face her boyfriend, she grinned wickedly. "I'll even let you choose what bathing suit I wear."
She couldn't hold back a laugh as she watched the man she loved scramble out of the covers and off the bed so quickly, he practically tripped over the tossed aside sheets in his haste to get to her suitcase. Although she still had to wait hours to see what her Christmas presents were, at least she would be able to have fun while doing so. Plus, it never hurt to try new holiday traditions, and who was she to argue with going to be beach? In her book, the people of Brazil knew exactly how to celebrate.
"So, tell me more about the holiday customs around here," Ryan urged her later that night while they were walking through the city.
During dinner, they had agreed to meet Sandy, Kirsten, Neil, Julie, Caitlyn, Seth, and Summer by the tree shaped light display in the center of the city's park. From there, they would find places to sit and watch the annual Christmas fireworks display, and, after an afternoon cavorting in the waves and soaking up the summer sun, Marissa was ready to relax for a couple of hours, safely ensconced in her boyfriend's comfortable arms.
"Well, I don't know too much," she shrugged her shoulders while confessing her lack of knowledge on the subject. "I've just picked up a few things from travel guides and from listening to the locals talk."
"Tell me what you do know. After all, it'll be more than I could tell you."
"True," she laughed, leaning over to peck Ryan delicately on the cheek, finding herself thankful that they had most of the day to be by themselves. Although she loved finally having a large family to celebrate the holidays with, there was something to be said about spending alone time on Christmas with her boyfriend. "Okay, well, for one, they don't really put trees up in their houses," Marissa shared.
"I've noticed they don't have one at the hotel," he offered.
"That's because traditional Brazilian custom is to decorate instead with fresh flowers that can be picked from private gardens."
Wrinkling his nose in memory, Ryan stated, "they certainly smell better than pine trees."
She chose to ignore that comment, for she personally enjoyed the fresh, invigorating scent of a Christmas tree… not that fresh flowers weren't as equally stimulating. "They also say Papai Noel instead of Santa Clause. Legend has it that Papai Noel is from Greenland, and, when he's in Brazil, he wears silk because of the heat."
Laughing once again at her boyfriend's mock surliness, Marissa teased him. "Hey, you were the one who refused to listen to me. I offered to go out and buy you some shorts and cooler clothes, but, not you, not Mr. Tough Guy. Apparently, Ryan Atwood is too good for khakis and sandals." Stopping in the middle of the busy sidewalk, she guided them towards the side of a store, turning around to face him. "I bet you're regretting that decision right about now, aren't you?"
"I don't care how hot it is, I like my jeans and boots. What can I say," he asked rhetorically. "I have my standards."
Looping her arms around his neck, she moved closer to kiss him. "You mean you're stubborn and in need of a personal stylist."
"That's what I have you for."
"Uh huh," she agreed with him half heartedly. Just as their lips were about to touch though, she pulled back, a mischievous grin transforming her face, nosiness washing away the desire that had just been there. "What's in your pocket?"
"Nothing," Ryan obviously lied.
Ignoring him, she pressed, "that's either a present you're hiding there or you're really happy to be kissing me right now."
"Except we're not actually kissing," he pointed out, tilting his head to the side in challenge. "To do so, you'd have come a little closer," her boyfriend instructed, wrapping his arms around her waist and jerking her towards him, "and you'd have to press your mouth against mine, eventually, hopefully, opening it for me, too."
Evading his advances, Marissa warned him, "not until you let me see what's in your pocket."
"I can't do that."
Pouting, she demanded, "why not?"
"Because it's for later," he answered, backing away from her and continuing on their way. After a few steps, she caught up with him, but neither said a word. While Ryan continued to avoid her questioning gaze, she glowered and moped in disappointment.
Several minutes passed, and, just when they reached the entrance to the park, she gasped, pointing in the distance towards someone obliviously meandering through the city, minding their own business. "Oh my god."
"What," he asked anxiously, her tone both startling and intriguing him. "Is something wrong?"
"Ryan, isn't that Steve Perry?"
"Steve Perry," her boyfriend parroted, immediately looking in the direction she indicated, lost in his observation. "As in THE Steve Perry? If you're right, and that's him," he exclaimed, observing the crowd, "that will make my Christmas. I won't need anything else."
Grinning like a Cheshire cat, Marissa quickly tucked her hand into his pocket, pulling out the jewelry box that had so captured her attention earlier, confident that her faux celebrity sighting would occupy the man she loved until she could see what he had gotten her for Christmas. Lifting the lid on the black velvet box, she literally felt the air expel from her lungs, leaving her breathless while tears rapidly formed and fell from her incredulous and joyful eyes.
Whispering, she repeated her earlier exclamation, the second time in earnest. "Oh my god."
Without tearing his searching gaze away from the bustling crowd, he queried, "what? Where did he go? Did you see someone else? Perhaps they're finally going to reunite the original band."
Sobbing in delight, all she could manage to say in response was, "Ryan?" But, still, he never looked her way. Needing him to answer her questions, needing him to say the words that should have come with her opening the jewelry box, Marissa reached out and cupped her boyfriend's cleanly shaven face, refocusing his attention upon her. "Is this what I think it is?"
He looked down towards the opened present. "It's an engagement ring."
"Yes," she murmured, jumping up and down. "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! Here," she instructed him, handing him the delicate, beautiful piece of jewelry, "put it on me."
"But it's not yours."
Instantly, she sobered. "Excuse me?"
"It's Summer's," Ryan explained, fidgeting and reddening from both embarrassment and reticence. "Seth was planning on proposing tonight to her during the fireworks display, but he wanted me to bring the ring so that Summer wouldn't accidentally find it while they were getting ready."
"Oh," Marissa sighed in defeat, closing the box and handing it back to him.
"Would you really marry me though?"
Snapping her gaze back up to meet that of her boyfriend's, her disenchanted expression softened at his hesitant, almost beseeching question. "Of course I would, Ryan. I love you," she stated simply, smiling at him gently.
"Then marry me," he suggested, ignoring the stares they were receiving from those passing by. Kneeling down on one knee, he asked again, "I don't have a ring, and I have nothing planned, but I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Marissa Cooper, will you marry me?"
The second time, she was speechless in her acceptance.