How I See You

By Laura Schiller

Based on: Wings series

Copyright: Aprilynne Pike

"This is how I see you:

in the snow on Christmas morning.

Love and happiness surround you,

you throw your arms up to the sky …

I'll keep this moment by and by."

- Sarah McLachlan, "Wintersong"

Christmas, thought Laurel, was the only remotely good thing about winter.

She hated the weather – snow, ice, hail, sleet, overcast skies, freezing temperatures. She hated the necessity of wearing heavy, stuffy coats and hats and mittens. It was a very sensible idea, really, to relieve the ordeals of this season by such a beautiful holiday.

Laurel woke up with the sun, as always, shining through the ice flowers on the window. She smiled and unwound herself from the light bedsheet (no stuffiness in the heated interior of the house, at any rate), planning to sneak downstairs and luxuriate in opening her presents all alone, while her parents slept in until ten-thirty as usual. They really needed this break; the holiday season had wreaked havoc on both their shops.

A rattling noise at her window startled her. She wrapped the bedsheet around herself (whoever it was, they should not see her in her camisole and panties) and peered out. There was David in his green parka, spiky-haired, breathing steam, and grinning from ear to ear.

He tossed up another snowball, the thing that had made the sound. She stepped back, closed the blinds, and flew back and forth in her room like a distracted butterfly, pulling on clothes – pants, socks, sweater – as quietly as possible. She scurried downstairs on tiptoes, inched the screen door at the back of the house open, and stuck her head outside.

"David!" she hissed. "Over here!"

He turned around and followed her in, still grinning. As soon as the door was closed, he shed his coat on the kitchen counter and gave Laurel an exuberant squeeze.

"Merry Christmas, Laurel," he whispered, his warm breah tickling her ear.

"David, you sweetie, you're actually up at this hour?" she yelped, squeezing him back. "I can't believe it!"

"I've been up since five-thirty," he bragged. "Opening presents. My little sister got me a Transformers action figure, can you imagine?"

"Should I be happy or sad for you?"

"I think it's awesome."

"That is sad."

He whacked her on the shoulder and she whacked right back.

"Can I get you anything?" she asked, recovering her manners. "Tea, hot chocolate, eggnog … Sprite, of course … ?"

"You have eggnog?" He looked skeptical. "Isn't there milk in that?"

A few moments later, Laurel and David were sitting on her living room couch, sipping Sprite and eggnog respectively and watching the garlands of rainbow-colored lights on the Christmas tree. It was an artificial one (at Laurel's insistence; she didn't want to kill a plant where it was unnecessary), but it didn't look half bad.

"Our relatives are coming over dinner," Laurel was saying. "My grandparents on Dad's side, my Mom's sister and her family … it should be fun."

"Oh, you're lucky." David rolled his eyes. "My Mom's dragging me off to the other end of the state in a couple of hours. I've got more uncles and aunts and cousins than you can shake a stick at, and believe me, sometimes I'd like to. Shake a stick at them, I mean."

Laurel giggled at her mental image of David wielding a gigantic candy cane, martial arts style, in order to fend off a horde of cousins.

"My grandma always pesters me to eat some turkey and gravy. She says it's not natural for me to eat vegan."

David covered up a snort of laughter with one hand. "Boy, did you prove her wrong."

"I know!"

After a short silence, in which they each followed their own thoughts, Laurel looked up to find David watching her with an excited, expectant look in his bright blue eyes.

"I've got a present for you," he said suddenly, as if he couldn't hold it in any longer. "Want to see?"

"Please." The expectation jumped to Laurel like a current of electricity. A present! Thank goodness she had already given him his, a week ago on the last day of school.

David unfolded his long frame from the sofa, went back into the kitchen where his coat was, and came back carrying a small, flat box wrapped in light blue paper. She acepted it with a half delightful, half anxious flutter inside her; it looked like jewelry. Was it a ring?

She unwrapped it carefully, preferring not to tear the paper. She lifted the lid. Inside was a silver bracelet in the shape of a flowering vine.

"Oh, David, it's lovely … "

It was more than lovely; it was exactly the kind of piece she would have chosen for herself. How could he know her so well?

It was in that moment Laurel made her choice: the choice to leap across the gap between friendship and love with David. She knew he loved her; he had as much has told her so, the time he assured her that he would be 'her guy' in whatever way she needed. He was human, she was faerie; but it was a beautiful difference, like the two intertwined trees behind his house. Like an exchange of breath that kept them both from drowning. It made them see the extraordinary in each other.

"Can you help me put it on?"

His warm fingers brushed the soft skin of her right wrist as he fastened the clasp for her. It made her shiver.

"Thank you." She cupped his face in her hand, leaned in close and kissed him softly on the lips.

"Laurel, I … " He was blushing; he broke off the sentence, as if not knowing what to say.

"I love you too," said Laurel. "But before we do that again, maybe you could take a breath mint? No offense, but eggnog breath is kinda – "

Far from taking offense, easy-going David had to hold back another burst of his contagious laughter.

"This is so not what I expected," he said, shaking his head.

"Me neither."

"That's the fun part of being with you."

"Weird eating habits and all, eh?"

"So I take it you'd like to, er, date? Just to be clear."

"Well, yes. You don't mind, do you?"

He raised his eyebrows. "Do I mind? No, I do not. In fact," he kissed Laurel's hand, to avoid inflicting his eggnog breath on her, "This may be the happiest day of my life."