It was the first Christmas Betty would spend without her family – not by choice, but unfortunately running a new magazine entailed more work than she had anticipated. By the time she managed to wrap everything up, on Christmas Eve, it was already too late to even think about getting a flight. The only ones left were way out of her price range. Even with her increased salary, the pay wasn't nearly as much as what a well-established publication like MODE provided.
So instead, she was forced to sit alone in her postage stamp–sized flat with her tabletop tree - the only thing she had managed to have time to decorate. As she sipped hot chocolate and indulged on store-bought peanut butter fudge and Christmas cookies, festive songs shuffled on her IPod, like "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and she became even more depressed. But the one that saddened her the most was Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You".
She thought of Daniel and how stupid and cruel she was to have pushed him away. He had given up everything to have a chance with her, poured his heart out, and all she had thought about was her career. How there was more than enough change and chaos in her life as it was, without having to think about a romantic relationship – especially one that came out of left field.
He was and always had been her friend. The thought of Daniel being in love with her was too much to wrap around her head at the time. He had respected her decision and returned to New York, finding it too difficult to simply remain friends. The last she heard, he was heading some sort of non-profit organization and hadn't stepped foot in MODE.
After eight months of perspective, she knew it was the biggest mistake of her life to not even consider giving it a try. And the more time she spent without him, the more sure she was of her feelings for him. She missed his smile, his laugh, his advice . . . even his minor freak-outs. She missed the way he teased her, the way he supported her, the way they could talk about anything or nothing at all.
They could see each other for who they really were inside and didn't care what others thought about their friendship. He was everything she could possibly want in a man and she had thrown it all away. She needed so badly to make things right. But she knew it was too late and she didn't deserve a second chance, anyway - not after the way she had treated the most important person to her in the world.
She opened up her laptop to check if Justin or Hilda might be online. A chance to see their faces would brighten her mood and make things a little more bearable. Her computer had just booted up when she heard a knock at the door. Puzzled, she stood on her tiptoes to peer through the peephole. To her delighted surprise, it was her father.
"Papi! What are you doing here?" she beamed, hugging him tight. Ignacio smiled and kissed his youngest daughter's cheek. Hilda, Justin, and Bobby followed close behind him. "How did you guys manage to get here? Plane tickets are way too expensive," she said, embracing the rest of her family. "Let's just say we had the help of a Christmas angel," Hilda mysteriously answered, motioning farther down the hallway, before she went inside with everyone else.
Betty looked over to find Daniel timidly standing around a corner. Tears immediately flooded her eyes as she rushed over and threw her arms around him. "Thank you," she managed to get out, as she took in his warmth, the feel of his body close to hers, the scent of his cologne – the same scent he had been wearing when they had last said goodbye.
"Well, I know how much your family means to you . . . and I was already going to go visit Alexis and DJ, so . . ." he replied, his body language stiffening a little. "H-how did you even know?" she wondered, looking up at him as she slowly pulled away. "Marc sends me 'updates'. I keep telling him not to, but you know how he is," Daniel answered.
"But I haven't said anything to Marc or Amanda for a couple of weeks . . . Justin," it hit her, realizing that of course the subject would come up during his after-school internship at MODE. Daniel nodded. "I'd better go . . ." he said, preventing an awkward silence. "Wait. I thought I'd never see you again . . . and now that you're here, I just need to say some things," Betty requested, grabbing his hand, hoping he wouldn't resist. She felt his fingers gradually wrap around hers and took it as a signal to proceed.
"I'm so sorry, Daniel – I shouldn't have treated you like that. The things I said –" she began. "Were true. Betty, it's okay. You have no need to apologize. I was a loser who spent all my life coasting on my father's name and fortune. Up until a few months ago, I had never accomplished anything without that or the help of my former assistant," he told her.
"Daniel, you can't believe that – you've grown so much since we first met. You changed MODE for the better - you have nothing to prove," Betty insisted. He shook his head. "No - it was stupid and selfish of me to assume you'd want the same things as I did – to be with a screw-up like me. You needed your space . . . time to get used to your new surroundings without having to babysit me anymore," he stopped her.
"If anyone was selfish, it was me," she argued. "I was so eager to start my new life and my new career that I forgot about the ones who have always mattered most to me. I came here because I was ready to do something for myself - everyone I was taking care of didn't really need my help anymore. So I got caught up in the excitement of something new – something I had always wanted to do. But work isn't everything," she said, lowering her head in shame.
"Daniel . . . I know I said I didn't want to be more than friends, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that I do. I love you, Daniel – I'm in love with you. I know that doesn't make up for anything . . . and it's probably too late . . . and I don't expect you to forgive me, but I just thought you should know . . ." she confessed, needing to finally get the weight off of her chest, whether he reciprocated or not. Daniel stayed silent for a while, before eventually speaking.
"You're right – maybe I shouldn't forgive you. After months of trying to forget you . . . trying to erase all the feelings, the pain, all the memories . . . I was finally ready to move on," he said. Betty let go of his hand and backed away. She felt her heart plummet to the floor. She had pictured herself in this moment one day. She'd already prepared herself for rejection – she deserved it. However, it didn't make it hurt any less.
"It's fine. It's been too long - I didn't have any right to ask . . . you've probably found someone else – someone who deserves you more than I ever will . . ." she tried to maintain her composure. Daniel approached her, holding a mere finger to her lips.
"Let me finish - I got Marc's message and was reeled back in. Despite how bad you hurt me, I still couldn't stand knowing you were unhappy. I couldn't ignore it when I knew there was something I could do," he admitted, caressing her cheek.
"You've got this pull over me and no matter how hard I try, I can't let you go. I love you, Betty. And I don't want to begin Christmas or the New Year without you in my life," he revealed as he rested his forehead on hers, closing the remaining space between them. Betty felt her breath catch, the heat rising in her body as a glimmer of hope seemed to appear. "So does this mean you'll come in for a little bit?" she asked, resisting the urge to just kiss him.
"I promised Alexis I'd make it in time for dinner," he said. "Oh," she said, her eyes focusing on the floor, disappointed and a little apprehensive that she'd misunderstood his intentions. Maybe he didn't want to be with her after all? Then Daniel raised her chin. "But I was thinking maybe I could stay for a few days next week . . . maybe New Year's?" he suggested.
"That sounds good," she couldn't contain her gleaming smile. "Good . . . I think we have a lot to talk about," he smiled back. "Well, I'd better get going – Alexis'll kill me if I'm late," he joked, reluctantly pulling away. "Yeah," she smiled, as he headed toward the elevator. She turned to open the door to her apartment when she felt a light tap on her shoulder.
"I forgot something," Daniel said, gently taking her face in his hands and capturing her lips with his in a kiss that left her completely breathless. His tongue carefully parted her lips and slipped into the warmth of her mouth, as she felt her knees weaken in pleasure. The thrill, curiosity, and desire were so intense it was as if she was being kissed for the first time in her life. Any reservations of a transition beyond friendship vanished. In her mind, this was exactly where they were meant to be.
"Merry Christmas, Betty," Daniel whispered, slowly breaking away. "M-Merry C-Christmas, Daniel," she sputtered, as he left. She beamed, already counting the days until she'd see him again. She couldn't wait to go in and tell her family. Betty knew that she and Daniel still had a lot of issues to work out, but there was hope. And hope was the best present she could receive.