Caroline & The Mistletoe
--Richard Karinsky hated this time of year. Everyone was far too chipper and it interfered with his 'doom and gloom' outlook on life. Caroline Duffy on the other hand loved this time of year. With an almost childlike innocence she looked forward to the festivities and traditions of the holiday season. They were like oil and water on so many levels, this was just one more thing they didn't agree on.
--As Richard entered Caroline's apartment he was assaulted by the sights, sounds, and smells of the holidays. Caroline was obviously baking something with vanilla in it, he could smell it before he even entered the loft. She was quietly singing Christmas carols as she decorated the already overly decorated tree, and the whole apartment looked like something out of a department store window. Richard just stood there quietly, stealing the chance to watch her before she realized he was there.
"Hey! There you are! You're late!" Caroline said cheerfully, spotting Richard out of her peripheral vision.
"Yeah, well, sorry... I couldn't get a cab, then I had to dodge all the 'MERRY' people as I WALKED here in the FREEZING cold!" Richard barked as he hung up his coat.
"Yeah, yeah... Bah Humbug to you too!" Caroline said, quickly dismissing his negativity... "What do you think?" she added, indicating she wanted his opinion on the holiday decorations.
"Well, if you must know, I think it looks like Santa Claus threw up in here." he answered sarcastically.
"Well, Ho, Ho, Ho, to you too!" Caroline shot back.
"Look, can we just get to work please? I don't want to work overtime tonight."
"I just want to go home and freeze to death in my unheated apartment, away from all this... mirth and merriment."
"Fine Richard... fine. I don't know what you have against Christmas anyway. Everyone loves Christmas."
"Not true. That's why the suicide rate is highest during this time of year."
"Sheeesh Richard, you're gloomier than usual. What's wrong with you?"
"Nothing, Caroline. Can't you just accept that some people don't like this time of year?"
"Yeah, I can accept that, but there is usually a reason. What's yours?"
"Caroline..." Richard said in a tone that was part scolding, part pleading.
"You know, I'm not going to stop asking till you tell me. You might as well just spill it."
"If I tell you, can we get some work done?"
"Yes!" Caroline said triumphantly.
"Fine. You know what kind of childhood I had, and it was worse at Christmas time. Most times my parents didn't even remember Christmas. The holidays were not a cheery time with friends and family, they were a nightmare. NOW can we get some work done?" Richard snapped bitterly, concentrating on the work at his desk.
--Caroline could feel tears welling up in her eyes. She watched as Richard threw himself into his work; he seemed so sad. She wanted to comfort him, but Richard didn't respond well to Caroline's emotional side, so she resisted the urge. She sat quietly and worked, stealing glances of Richard as she did. Richard could tell something was wrong with Caroline, it wasn't like her to be so quiet.
"Caroline... are you alright?" Richard asked somewhat distantly, trying not to sound like he cared too much.
"You're just quiet is all."
"Usually you're complaint is that I talk to much. I would think you'd be happy that I wasn't talking."
"Well, I am. But it's still uncharacteristic of you."
"Well, I know you don't want to hear what I have to say." Caroline informed as she continued to work.
"Ok, fine. Let's just work then." Richard knew time would get the better of her. That eventually she would have to say what was on her mind. He was right, and it didn't take long...
"Can I just say one thing?" Caroline asked, putting her pencil down.
"Like I can stop you."
"Ok, well... so, your childhood sucked. Christmas sucked. Ok, but... don't you think it's time to maybe... I don't know... make some good memories for the holidays... now? Like with friends and family?"
"Caroline... I don't keep in touch with my family and I don't have any friends." Richard dismissed her idea.
"Oh, well... thanks a lot!" Her tone showed she was hurt by the comment.
"Caroline... you know what I meant."
"Well, there's some truth to it too, Richard! I have tried to be your friend and you just keep pushing me away!"
"I don't do it on purpose... it's just who I am."
"I know, I know. I'm sorry... I would just like for once to see you happy!"
"I can't change who I am, Caroline."
"I'm not asking you to. I'm just asking for you to try to get into the holiday spirit a little! You're not a child anymore... maybe you would like the holidays as an adult!"
"Somehow I doubt that." Richard replied sarcastically.
"I have a great idea!" Caroline announced, jumping from her seat and heading for their coats.
"Uh-oh. Why do I suddenly have the urge to run for my life?" Richard quipped.
"Oh, Richard... shut up!" Caroline shot back humorously... "C'mon..." she added, handing him his coat.
"Where are we going?"
"It's a surprise! We are gonna do something Christmas-y!"
"Am I still on the clock?"
"Yes... and you know Richard, you might actually enjoy yourself!"
"Yeah, well... don't hold your breath."
--They got to the ice skating rink and immediately Richard started to protest.
"Richard... just cut it out!" Caroline snapped as she handed him his ice skates.
"I don't know how to ice skate." His voice was pleading…
"Well, you're about to learn then!"
"There's no way I can talk you out of this... is there?"
"Fine. How do you feel about spending the day in the emergency room?"
"Just shut up and put your skates on!"
--Richard carefully stepped out onto the ice and was immediately grabbing at Caroline for support.
Caroline helped him over to the side so he could hold onto the wall for support… "It takes a minute to get used to it."
"Ugh... Caroline, I can't do this!" Richard said, exasperated.
"Yes you can Richard! Just try!" After a while, and with Caroline's help, Richard wasn't quite as wobbly. "See? You're getting it!" Caroline announced cheerfully.
"Yeah, well, I don't think I'm quite ready for the Olympics yet." Richard joked.
"That's tomorrow's lesson." Caroline teased. Richard actually smiled and laughed at her comment. "Hey! Was that a laugh AND a smile!?" Caroline asked, amazed.
"Maybe... don't get used to it." Richard smirked.
Caroline slapped him playfully, and when he tried to dodge it, he fell to the ice, dragging Caroline with him. At first they just kinda laughed, Caroline more than Richard, but then their eyes met and locked. For a moment they both felt something, but before they could determine what it was, they were interrupted...
"Hey, you guys alright?" the rink employee asked. He broke their trance and they both looked at him...
Richard struggled to get up… "Yeah, we're all right."
"Yeah, we're fine." Caroline replied as she helped Richard.
The employee smiled and started to skate away… "Ok then..."
Caroline and Richard just stood still, staring at each other, for what seemed like an eternity. The rest of the world seemed to disappear.
"Skate or leave the ice please." the employee said as he made his way around again.
"Sorry." Richard called out to him, then turned back to Caroline... "We should go."
"Yeah... ok." Caroline agreed.
--They didn't talk much on the way home, they were both too deep in thought. Before they realized it, they were back at Caroline's…
"You want some cookies?" she asked as she fumbled to get the door unlocked.
"Um... well, I was thinking maybe I should go..."
Caroline unlocked and opened the door, then turned around to look at him… "Why?" she asked, confused.
"Well, it's kinda getting late. I don't think we'll get much done..."
"Are you upset about something?"
"No! No... I'm not upset... just tired. Ice skating takes a lot out of you..."
"So, we'll finish up tomorrow..." he suggested…
"Ok..." Richard started to leave when...
"Richard?" Caroline called to him quickly, getting his attention.
"Did you have fun at all today?"
"Yeah... well, nothing like falling down on ice to cheer you up."
"Ok." Caroline bowed her head, disappointed…
"Caroline... it was a joke. I had a good time today."
She smiled, then her eyes glanced upwards. Richard followed her gaze to see what she was looking at. Mistletoe. They both looked at each other for a moment, then Caroline took a step towards him. They both leaned in and kissed, innocently between friends at first, then it became passionate. Just then the elevator door opened and Annie walked into the hall.
"Ahem!" Annie announced her presence, which made Richard jump back away from Caroline. "Whatcha doin'?" Annie laughed.
"Oh, um... well... mistletoe! We were kissing under the mistletoe... is all!" Caroline announced, flustered, justifying her actions.
"I have to go... I'll see you tomorrow Caroline." Richard said as he pushed the button to the elevator.
"Sure you don't want to stay? Maybe... the night?" Annie teased.
Richard just glared at her... "Shouldn't you be saying that to a guy you just met?"
"Bite me Richard!" Annie shot back.
Richard entered the elevator and pushed the button… "I'm not one of your 'dates'..." he quipped sarcastically as the elevator doors closed.
"Like I'd date you!" Annie called out to the closed elevator doors.
"Um... Annie? He's gone..." Caroline chuckled.
"Yeah... but it doesn't make it any less true!"
--"So... you gonna tell me what that was all about?" Annie asked as they entered Caroline's apartment.
"Nothing... it was nothing..." Caroline replied nonchalantly, dismissing her…
"Yeah, right Caroline. You two almost set off the smoke alarm!"
"Well, sorry... it was nothing. We were just kissing cause of the mistletoe and… it got a little..."
"Intense... was the word I was looking for..." Caroline corrected.
"Ok, ok... fine... deny it." Annie said as she headed for the door.
"I'm not denying anything... there's nothing to deny!" Caroline insisted.
"I don't know what the big deal is! You guys obviously have feelings for each other! Why you won't admit it is beyond me!" Annie said as she headed out the door, closing it behind her. Caroline just stood there after Annie left. Her words made her heart jump... but what did that mean? Did that mean there was some truth to what she had said?
--Richard couldn't sleep, he was too consumed by thoughts of the day's events. Without even giving it conscious thought, Richard had kissed Caroline passionately, with emotion he didn't even know he had, didn't even know he was capable of. He dreaded the morning. Caroline would certainly want to discuss the kiss, she discusses everything... even dryer lint. He wondered what she would say. What should he say? His mind reeled with the idea of admitting his feelings for her. How else could he explain what had happened? He closed his eyes and fought to remember every detail of the kiss. Caroline returned the kiss, he was sure of that. He could feel it. But what did that mean? Did that mean she was falling in love with him? He couldn't allow himself to think that. If he were wrong, it would hurt too much. He eventually fell asleep.
--Caroline was restless. She was tired enough to sleep, but she couldn't. The kiss under the mistletoe plagued her, and so did Annie's words. Did she have feelings for Richard that she couldn't admit to herself? Did he have feelings for her? She knew she cared for Richard, but was it more then that? And what about Richard? How could he be feeling anything for her? He usually acted as if he didn't even like her. She tried to think of anything, any moment that would indicate he had feelings for her, but she couldn't remember any. He was always so sarcastic, how could Annie think he had feelings for her? What was Annie seeing that she wasn't?
"There's no way I'm going to be able to sleep now..." Caroline said to herself as she got out of bed and put her robe on. "I have to see if Annie is up. I have to talk to her..."
--She had to knock several times before Annie finally answered the door...
"Hi. Sorry to wake you."
"That's ok... what's up?" Annie asked sleepily.
"I can't stop thinking... about what you said today... about me and Richard."
"Ok, what about it?"
"I just gotta know... how could you think Richard has feelings for me? I mean, this is the guy who charged me double-time for attending my birthday party!"
"Caroline, it's so obvious! He's always acting like he doesn't care about how you feel, always acting like he's better then you..."
"Don't you think that shows just the opposite? Those are the actions of someone who doesn't care!"
"Or the actions of someone who doesn't want you to know he cares..."
"Don't you think that's a bit of an assumption?"
"Caroline... I see the way he looks at you... he has it for you bad!"
"Ok, ok, ok... but why would you say I have a thing for him?"
"Cause you do!" Annie laughed.
"Annie... don't you think I'd know if I had feelings for someone?"
"Not if you're in denial. Look, Caroline, it's late, can we talk about this tomorrow?"
"Oh, yeah, sure. I'm sorry."
Annie hugged Caroline… "It's ok sweetie... we'll talk more tomorrow..."
--Richard stood outside Caroline's door, too nervous to go in. Even though he had spent most of the night thinking instead of sleeping, he still had no idea what he was going to say to her. He finally, after several minutes, got the courage to go in and face her.
Caroline was in the kitchen toasting pop-tarts when Richard walked through the door… "Mornin' Richard." She greeted him cheerfully.
"Yes, it is. And in 3 hours it will be afternoon." Richard quipped.
"Aren't we a little ray of sunshine this morning!"
"Yeah, well... I didn't get much sleep."
"Me either." Caroline confessed.
Richard avoided eye contact with Caroline as he walked to the desk and sat down. Caroline grabbed her pop-tarts and joined him at the desk, watching for any signs that would indicate he had feelings for her. After several minutes of silence Caroline finally spoke...
"Look, Richard, I think we should talk about what happened yesterday."
"I told you Caroline, I had a good time ice skating." Richard said, stalling for time.
"Not that. I mean... what happened... after that."
"You know what I'm talking about! Don't you think we should talk about it?"
"Ok, you want to talk about it?!" Richard asked, exasperated... "Let's talk about it!" he added as he got up and headed for his coat. "Ever since I started working here you have attempted to drag me into your little world. A world I have never seen. A world of happiness and optimism. And ever since I started working here I have fought your attempts... and you know what? I failed... and you won..." He put his coat on and opened the door... "I've fallen in love with you. I didn't mean to, but I did. So, now, if you'll excuse me... I'm just gonna go throw myself in front of a bus." Richard then started to leave…
"Richard! Wait!" Caroline called after him, walking towards him. Richard stopped and turned around with his eyes shut tight. He couldn't look at her. He couldn't bear to see her expression.
"What?" he asked softly, eyes still shut tight.
"Richard... look at me..."
He opened his eyes and looked at Caroline nervously.
"Richard... why would you want to throw yourself in front of a bus?" Caroline asked softly, with concern.
"Caroline... I... um... I just..." he stammered, not sure of what to say.
"Did it ever occur to you that I just might feel the same?"
"You want to throw yourself in front of a bus?" Richard asked sarcastically.
She walked closer to him… "No, Richard..." She stopped right in front of him, then looked up... Richard followed suit. "Mistletoe..." Caroline said softly.
"Deja Vu." Richard replied nervously, and she smiled at his wisecrack.
She put her hands on his shoulders and leaned into him, kissing him tenderly. Richard put his hands on her waist and returned the tender kiss, which quickly became very passionate.
Caroline gently pulled away from their kiss... "I have fallen in love with you too, Richard."
"Caroline..." Richard whispered, breathless. She leaned in and kissed him again... "So... what do we do now?" Richard asked nervously.
Caroline smiled mischievously and headed for the desk... "Well, I still have a deadline to meet. So, now we get some work done... later... well, we'll see." She smirked.
Richard smiled back and headed for the desk... "Whatever you say boss."