In the weeks that followed her friend's birthday, Emily had been slowly realizing that what had shifted inside of her that day was something she had no real frame of reference for...she was developing feelings for her best friend that she could only classify as more than friendly.
There had been moments when she caught herself wondering what it would be like to kiss Daphne, to run her hands through her long blonde hair. When her thoughts turned in that direction, she quickly shook it off and focused on something elseﾗanything else to keep her imagination from going down that road.
It didn't help matters that, as best friends, they hung out every day after school and they even had a few classes together. The moments when Emily would fantasize about her best friend were becoming more frequent and she was having a much harder time just shaking them off.
In light of these new feelings, Emily was even more concerned over what to get her best friend. What was okay anymore? What was too personal, too impersonal, what would be considered too much or not enough? She was stressing out over what to get Daphne that the blonde would love but that wouldn't give her cause to think Emily felt more than just friendship?
Now, she only had a week left to get something before it was too late. Idly, Emily wondered what Daphne would get her this year.
What Emily didn't know was that Daphne was going through a similar struggle as she browsed the stores in the local mall. She had narrowed it down somewhat but she was still struggling to get something that was suitable between friends and not something you'd get someone you're dating. It wasn't until she took a right and walked down one of the hallways in the mall that she spotted a store she hadn't ever seen before. Curious, the blonde walked into the store and started looking around. Near the back of the store, in an ordinary looking display case, she found exactly what she was looking for...the perfect gift. She caught the sales lady's attention and within minutes she walked out of the store with the gift in a bag. Now, she just had to get something cute for Katie and she'd be all set.
William Prentiss could tell there was something bothering Emily. His little girl, which Emily would always be no matter how old she got or how many children she had, could usually hide her emotions from the rest of the world, but she'd never been able to hide them from him. They were too close for that, their bond had grown and strengthened over the years as they were always the ones who were left alone together as his wife did her job in her foreign postings. That was not to say that his wife had ever ignored or neglected them, but she had more important things to attend to than the everyday details of life outside the diplomatic circle.
William understood completely that his wife was doing important work and he fully supported her, doing his part to make sure their personal life, their family, was tended to and safe. He knew Elizabeth loved them both more than anything else, and her reaction when Emily had told her she was pregnant was further proof that his wife had her priorities straight.
Despite all that, however, he knew that Emily was closer to him than her mother and so, where Elizabeth might not have noticed the emotional turmoil Emily was going through, he certainly had.
When Emily returned home from Katie's latest appointment with Doctor Wingate for a routine check up, William decided it was time to confront his daughter about what was bothering her. He couldn't stand to see her sad anymore. He waited until Emily put Katie down for her afternoon nap, then he knocked on her bedroom door.
Emily looked up from the book she was reading when she heard a knock on her door. Since her father was the only one home with her she smiled and said, "Come on in dad."
William walked into Emily's room and smiled at his little girl. "Hey Kitten, how did it go at Doctor Wingate's?" He decided to start small, work his way up to asking the big questions.
Emily grinned, "it went as well as can be expected."
"What do you mean by that?" He grew concerned that maybe something was wrong with his granddaughter. Without thinking about it, his head turned in the direction of the bedroom where Katie lay sleeping then turned back to Emily.
Emily realized how she sounded and was quick to reassure her father, "Don't worry dad, Katie is fine. Clean bill of health...it's just that, she got some of her shots today and I just hate it when she hurts. I know it's important to give her the shots I just...don't like it when she's hurting."
William nodded, remembering quite well when Emily was Katie's age and he had to stand by and watch her get jabbed with needles for her immunizations. For Emily it had been a bit worse, since sometimes when his wife got a new posting, they would need to get immunization shots before they could fly with her to the new country. He hated seeing his little girl cry over the shots so he could sympathize with what Emily was going through now. "I remember that feeling. The only time I ever resented your mother's career was when one of her postings required extra shots for both of us. No parent likes to see their child in pain. Luckily, the pain fades and before you know it, she's smiling again."
"Yeah...that is a plus. She's sleeping it off right now." Emily paused a moment then asked, "So, what have you been doing all day?"
William chuckled as he took a seat on the corner of the bed. "Oh, you know me...working on the new book. Taking advantage of the silence to get some work done."
"Good. I can't wait to read the next installment of the adventures of Alex Nightwolf, private detective to the stars." Emily loved her father's books. Crime novels based on a character he created called Alex Nightwolf, half Native American, half English private detective who specialized in celebrity cases. This would be the third in the series so far and the first two books had been on the New York Times Best Sellers list for several months.
"Yeah, you and the rest of the country." William grinned, loving that Emily was his number one fan. They were both quiet for a moment before William decided it was time to just ask Emily what he had come there to ask. "Em, you know that if there's anything you want or need to talk about, I'm always here for you, right?"
The change in topic surprised Emily but she was able to reply, "Of course daddy. I know I can always come to you with anything. Why would you ask that?"
William looked away for a moment before he took a breath and then looked at Emily again, "Lately, I've sensed that something was bothering you. Something more than the usual teenage stuff. So...if there's anything you wanted to talk about with me...I'm right here, okay?"
Emily took a moment to think about what her father was saying. A part of her wanted to tell him everything about the feelings she'd been having about Daphne, maybe get some advice or even just have someone to confide in...but the rest of her was scared that if she said it out loud, it would become real and there would be no going back. Emily wasn't ready to take that step...she also wasn't ready for the possibility that her developing feelings might ruin her relationship with her dad.
So she settled for smiling and saying, "it's nothing I can't handle daddy. I promise."
William knew there was more to it but he also knew that Emily would come to him when she was ready and not a moment sooner. He sighed then said, "Ok kitten." Sensing that was all he was going to get for now, he stood up, "Well, I should get back to work. But, why don't you come down stairs and keep me company? Maybe watch some TV, take advantage of Katie's nap and just relax?"
Emily thought about that and said, "That sounds like a good idea. I'll be down in a few minutes, I just want to check on Katie first."
"Ok, see you downstairs." William left the room and went back downstairs to the desk he'd set up with typewriter.
Emily watched him leave then got up and went to check on Katie, who was still sleeping soundly, before she went downstairs to the family room and turned on the TV. MTV News was on and Emily settled in to watch it.
Three days before Christmas
Emily hung up the phone with a smile and then walked over to where her father was sitting watching Katie play in the family room. She hugged him from behind and kissed his cheek. "Thank you so much dad!"
William Prentiss smiled and patted the arm that was around his shoulders. "You're welcome. I take it the 'mission' was a success?"
"Yup...it's all set. Thanks to you and Mr. Nightwolf." Emily chuckled as she came around the couch and sat down next to her father. Her eyes strayed to her daughter playing with her alphabet blocks, building towers then knocking them down and laughing her butt off at the results. She looked back to her father. "All it took was your credit card and an avid Nightwolf fan and those tickets were mine."
"Well, I'm happy to help." William smiled, glad to know that he was able to help Emily with her problem.
Emily sat on the couch with her dad, thinking about what she had to do now that the first step was taken. After weeks of wondering what to get Daphne for Christmas, she was watching MTV News and heard that Daphne's favorite band was playing in New York in March of next year. It took some doing, mostly explaining to her father why she wanted the tickets, which were insanely expensive, and how she was going to pay him back.
Now that she had the tickets secured and waiting for her at the box office, she just had to go and pick them up. Her next step after that, she knew, was going to be getting Daphne's parents to agree to let them go to the concert as well as getting her own parents' permission and babysitting services. But she knew her parents would let her go as long as she kept her grades up.
Christmas Morning 1988
Emily was relaxing on the sofa enjoying a glass of orange juice as she watched Katie playing with the new toys she just opened. Emily smiled at her daughter's antics. Her dad was in the kitchen making breakfast while her mom was getting dressed.
Daphne was due to arrive before noon, after she'd spent the morning with her parents, so that she and Emily could exchange gifts. Emily glanced at the clock on the wall and smiled when she saw it was already 11am. She glanced down to the small box sitting next to her on the sofa, it was Daphne's gift and she really hoped her friend liked it. Emily had already gotten permission from the blonde's parents to take her to the concert, as long as Daphne's grade didn't fall between now and March. Emily's parents had said much the same, wanting to make it clear that grades came before concerts.
It was a condition that Emily was confident she and Daphne could meet, they were both A and B students. Emily knew that, if she wanted to get into a good college and have a shot at making a good life for herself and her daughter, she needed to keep her grades up and focus on her education. She didn't want to always have to rely on her parents to support her and Katie. She wanted to be able to be independent and take care of her daughter on her own.
Emily watched as Katie began to ignore the new kitchen playset she'd gotten from her grandpa in favor of the box that it came in and she grinned. Katie had the box on its side and she'd crawled inside. It was a big enough box that she was able to sit up inside of it and she looked out at her mom on the couch and just giggled. Katie's laughter was contagious and Emily found herself laughing along.
Emily got down off the couch and crawled over to her daughter, laughing the whole time. When she reached her, Emily lowered herself to the floor and lay there, supported by her forearms and looked at her daughter. "Whatcha doing baby girl?"
Katie looked at her mom for a moment, as if thinking about the question, before she grinned a big grin and said, "Play!" Her arms gestured wildly at the box she was in.
Emily edged closer, "Can mama play?" Emily pointed to herself when she said mama, her way of helping Katie learn who her mama was, so she wouldn't get confused later in life.
Katie saw the gesture and began nodding, "Mama play! Mama play!" The little girl began to lean forward and reach out for her mama.
Emily moved into her reach and waited as Katie's little hands grabbed the cloth of her shirt and tried to pull her closer. It soon became clear that Katie wanted Emily to join her inside the box. Emily was only able to get her head and shoulders inside the box and she stopped and grinned at Katie. "Mama's too big, baby girl."
Katie's face became serious as she studied Emily's position. She moved her head around a bit to look from every angle before she sat back and looked at her mama's face. After a moment, she put her hands on Emily's forehead and began to push. "Out! Big! Out mama!"
Emily took the hint and pulled out of the box and watched as Katie followed her out. She carefully stood up and walked to the side of the box. She stood there for a moment then began kicking the box. After a few kicks, she turned to Emily and smiled, "bad." She pointed to the box when she said that then she moved closer to Emily. She squatted down to Emily's level and put her hands on her mama's cheeks and said, with a smile, "Mama love me?"
Emily couldn't help herself, she reached out and grabbed her daughter and pulled her into a hug. She shifted onto her back and placed Katie on her belly. She smiled up at her daughter and said, "Yes Katie, mama loves you very much!"
Katie leaned forward and fell onto her mom and hugged her neck. They stayed like that for a few moments, neither one willing to move just enjoying the moment.
William was standing in the doorway watching them, smiling. It was so heartwarming to see them like this. He could remember, back when Emily was Katie's age, watching his wife and daughter in a similar situation. Before she had gotten her first overseas assignment, back when Elizabeth was still an attach?and not a full Ambassador, he had been witness to many moments like this with them. Now, seeing Emily like this, he hoped that whatever she chose to do with her life, she would never lose the closeness she had with Katie now.
After a moment, he felt someone walk up behind him. He turned slightly and saw his wife behind him. He snaked his arm around her waist and pulled her closer. He placed a sweet kiss on her lips before turning back to his daughter and granddaughter.
Elizabeth followed his gaze and smiled, her memory easily calling up a time when she used to play like that with Emily. Over the years, she had often longed to find a way to reconnect with Emily like they used to be, before she'd become an Ambassador and started putting the job first. When Emily had told her that she was pregnant, Elizabeth had realized that this was the chance she'd been waiting for, a way to show Emily that she could put her family first before her job, her political future and maybe even find a way to reconnect with Emily.
Elizabeth's unwavering support of her daughter from the moment she'd found out about the pregnancy wasn't that hard. She loved her daughter and, while she'd hoped that Emily would be older when she became a mom, she wouldn't change a thing if it meant that Katie wouldn't be in their lives. Elizabeth looked at her granddaughter and couldn't help the smile that came to her face.
Katie, seeming to sense she was being watched, lifted up off of Emily and looked up. She saw her nana and papa and smiled. "Nana! Papa! Play!" She lifted her arms in her own version of beckoning them closer to play with her and Emily.
Emily twisted her head and saw her parents standing in the doorway and grinned, "Yeah, come play with us!"
Emily knew her dad would join them but couldn't picture her mom getting down on the floor and playing with them, it would mess up her outfit, her makeup, her image of the always together Ambassador. So she was pleasantly surprised and pleased when both of her parents came closer and got down on the floor to play with Katie.
Katie, seeing two new grown-ups to bounce on and around, shifted off of Emily and began to crawl to the closest adult, her nana, and began climbing atop her. When she was securely seated on her belly, she looked down at her nana and laughed as she began using her belly as a drum.
Emily and William looked on, giggling as Katie began to tap out a drum solo on Elizabeth's belly, and the best part was that Elizabeth was letting her, even playing along and tapping out a matching rhythm on the carpet beneath her.
Emily was about to crawl over to them and join the impromptu band when she heard the doorbell ring. She glanced at her father and then got up. "I'll get it, it's probably Daphne."
William just nodded before he moved closer to his wife and granddaughter to join in the fun.
Emily got to the front door and opened it, smiling when she saw her best friend standing there smiling. "Hey Daphne! Merry Christmas! Come on in."
Emily stood back to let the cute blonde walk past her into the house.
Daphne smiled as she walked in and then pulled Emily into a one armed hug as she said, "Merry Christmas Emily!"
When the girls separated, Emily noticed that Daphne was carrying a big shopping bag filled with wrapped boxes. Emily gestured towards the family room where the tree and her family was, letting Daphne lead the way as she closed the door and locked it again.
Daphne walked into the family room and was charmed by the sight of Emily's parents on the carpeted floor playing with Katie.
Being an only child, Daphne never had the benefit of siblings or of watching her parents turn into children themselves around any small babies, so to see Emily's parents doing it was charming. Especially considering how aloof and put together Emily's mom always seemed, this was a nice change.
Emily walked up next to her best friend and just grinned at the sight of her parents playing with Katie. To anyone else, it looked like two parents playing with their young child, but Emily knew it was deeper than that...this was two grandparents playing with their only grandchild. Somehow it made it more...significant to Emily.
After a few moments of watching the floor show, Emily was about to say something to draw attention to themselves when Katie chose that moment to look up and smile at her. She held her arms out to Emily and said in a loud voice, "Mama! Up!"
Emily felt herself begin to blush as she walked closer to Katie to pick her up, hoping Daphne wouldn't ask why Katie was calling her mama.
Daphne watched the moment with a small grin on her face. Given what Emily's mom had told her on Katie's birthday about the bond between Katie and Emily, Daphne wasn't too surprised that Katie would occasionally slip and call Emily mama. She thought it was cute actually, and a part of her couldn't help but imagine life ten or fifteen years down the line, when she finally confessed her feelings for Emily and they ended up with a baby of their own who would call Emily mama. She knew it was a fantasy that might never happen, but it didn't stop her imagination from going there and picturing the two of them as parents to a little girl or boy.
Several hours later, after late lunch, Emily put Katie down for a nap then walked back into the family room where Daphne was sitting with her parents just talking. Emily walked over and sat next to Daphne on the sofa, not too close but not too far away either.
She picked up the small box that she'd hidden under the tree after Katie had distracted Daphne and then turned to her best friend. "This is for you."
Daphne took the small box and smiled as she opened it. She lifted the lid after removing the wrapping paper and was surprised at what she saw inside; two tickets to see her favorite band, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts in March in New York. She looked up at Emily, "How? I didn't even know they were going to be in New York! How did you get tickets so fast?"
Emily shrugged and said, "Let's just say I have connections." She glanced at her dad and he winked, willing to remain the silent partner in this moment.
Daphne didn't know what to say so she leaned forward and engulfed Emily in a huge hug. Emily returned the hug, smiling, happy that Daphne liked her gift.
After a few moments, Daphne pulled back smiling. Then she reached into the bag she'd brought with her to pull out the only remaining gift. She'd already given Katie her gift, a fun educational toy she could make plenty of noise with, Emily's mom got a gift certificate to a local spa and her dad got a stainless steel grill masters gift set for when he started grilling again in the summer. Daphne handed Emily a smaller box and said, "It took me while to figure out what to get you...hope you like it."
Emily smiled and began opening the gift, "I'm sure I will." When she got the box opened she gasped lightly when she saw the gorgeous silver pendent resting against a black velvet backdrop. Gently, Emily lifted the pendent out of the box, letting the silver chain attached to it slink out behind it. She held it reverently in her hand as her eyes traced the intricate design on the front. It was a wreath of laurel leaves with a heart and crown in the center. Emily recognized the pattern as a Claddagh design and she was speechless. She looked up at Daphne. "Wow, this is...gorgeous Daphne, thank you."
Daphne smiled despite the blush creeping up her face. "There's more...it's, um...it's a locket. Open it."
Emily looked back at the pendent and lifted her other hand to find the seam and open it. When she opened it she found two pictures inside. On one side, was a picture of herself with Katie that she remembered Daphne taking, and on the other side was a picture of her and Daphne that Daphne's mom had taken. She looked at the images for a long moment, realizing that the images held the two people in her life that were closest to her heart. She finally looked up at Daphne, wondering how to ask how Daphne knew which pictures to put inside.
Daphne saw the question in her friend's eyes and said, "I figured, since we'll be going away to college soon, it would be good to have a reminder of your best friend and your little sister. Your mom explained to me why you are so close to Katie and I wanted to find a way to let you know I fully support it. This way, when you're away at college and so am I, you can look at the locket and remember us." Daphne closed her mouth then, realizing she was rambling and probably not making sense. When she'd seen the locket in the store, she'd known it was perfect...but now, she realized that it wasn't a best friend gift as much as it was a girlfriend gift and she was starting to feel like she'd made a mistake.
Emily understood though, what Daphne was trying to say, and she loved the necklace even more because of it. Emily knew she wasn't going to be leaving the state for college but she knew Daphne wanted to. She knew her best friend was worried she'd forget her when she went away, not knowing there was no way Emily would or could ever forget her.
Emily leaned forward and hugged her best friend, "Thank you, I love it."
Emily's parents took that moment to slip out of the room to give the girls some privacy, and also to exchange their private, married couple gifts that their daughter didn't need to know about.
Emily noticed her parents leaving and was secretly glad to have some time alone with her best friend.
Daphne pulled back and looked around and that's when she noticed they were alone. She turned back to Emily, "So you really like it? It's not, you know, too much?"
Emily just smiled and shook her head, "No it's perfect, thank you."
Daphne relaxed a little, "Good. So, what are your plans for the rest of the day?"
Emily took a moment to think about that then, "Um...right now nothing except hanging with Katie. Why? You have something in mind?"
Daphne took a moment to think about what she wanted to ask then amended her original plan and said, "Well, I was thinking maybe we could hang out today? Maybe take advantage of the recent snowfall and teach Katie how to make a snowman?"
Emily smiled and said, "That sounds like a great idea. As soon as Katie wakes up from her nap, we can go. In the meantime, since my parents are doing their own thing, why don't we just relax here and watch some tv?"
Daphne nodded, "Sounds like a plan to me. What's on right now?"
"I don't know, let's find out." Emily picked up the remote control for the cable box and turned on the television. She began flipping through the channels until she found one that was airing It's a Wonderful Life. It was Emily's favorite movie and it was just starting.
Daphne admitted that she'd never seen the classic movie before so Emily insisted they watch it.
The girls settled in to watch the movie, both content to sit there together on the couch enjoying each other's company.
Much later, after the movie had ended, they took Katie out to the park and had a great afternoon making snowmen and just playing in the snow. When they'd had their fill, Emily drove them back home and made them some hot chocoalte with marshmallows. They then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening watching television and playing with Katie until her bedtime. It was one of the best Christmases that Emily could remember having in a long time.
AN: Sorry for the long delay. This chapter took longer than expected as I tried to figure out what would be suitable gifts in 1988. The concert mentioned was a real concert that I found during my research. This story will have a few time jumps...while I have a rough idea as to where the jumps will be, I am open to any suggestions. Reviews are always welcome.