It had been a good Christmas. Clare Edwards glanced around the living room that was currently in disarray. The once beautiful wrapping paper and boxes were strewn about the living room, neglected for the presents they had held just a few hours earlier. Clare had received everything she had wanted on her Christmas list, but for some reason, she couldn't shake the nagging feeling that something still was not quite right.
She knew what she was feeling. She was feeling regret for what she had done at the Frostival. She and Eli had seemed to just fall back into place. He made her laugh and smile and forget everything…almost. She felt as though it was easy again; like they had just picked up where they had left off.
But they couldn't just pick up where they had left off. It wasn't possible – not after everything. Clare suddenly felt childish and immature for randomly kissing him like that. The action had lacked all tact, all logic. His dad had been honking at him, urging him to hurry up so they could be on their way to heading out of town for the holidays. Clare should have just waved goodbye and maybe even hugged him. A hug would have been appropriate. But definitely not a kiss.
She couldn't get the look in his eyes out of her mind. He had just stood there, almost in shock. Maybe that meant he didn't want her to kiss him and was put off by it. Maybe it meant he was just as terrified as she was. Or maybe it meant something else. Whatever it meant, that look in his eyes was something Clare hadn't been able to get out of her mind all winter break. She had pondered over it and fretted over it day in and day out. She knew so much about him (like his disliking of cotton candy) and yet he still remained an enigma.
"Clare," her mother called from the kitchen, "While I'm washing up the dishes from breakfast, can you start tidying up the living room, please? Just put the wrapping paper in a trash bag and get it all picked up."
Clare agreed, and grabbed a trash bag from the kitchen. As she was picking up the discarded and crumpled pieces of once-shiny and beautiful wrapping paper and ribbons, her thoughts drifted back to Eli Goldsworthy. Maybe the kiss hadn't been too inappropriate. He had been flirting with her all day, right? Maybe that wasn't flirting. Maybe that was Eli being his usual pain-in-the-butt self. Maybe he just enjoyed getting under her skin and making her laugh.
But that had to mean something right?
But then again, he enjoyed getting under Fiona's skin and making her laugh and they were just friends. But Clare wasn't lesbian. All the thoughts swirled in her head, and she felt dizzy as she stood up too quickly from picking up a bow off the carpeting. She put a hand to her head and winced.
As she was recovering from the dizzy spell, the doorbell rang.
"Clare!" her mother called, "Can you please answer that?"
Clare had to take out the trash bag anyways, so she headed to the front door. When she opened it, she was shocked to see who was standing there.
Snowflakes peppered his black hair and black military-style pea coat. His hands were shoved deep within the pockets, and he looked completely frozen. His cheeks and nose were rosy and swollen from the stinging frigid air.
"Excuse me?" Clare was taken aback.
"No, I am not just going to 'hold that thought until after the holidays.' I refuse!"
"You don't get to do that, Clare. You don't get to just kiss me and then expect me to go on with my winter break without having that kiss be forever engraved into my head."
"I know," Clare blushed, and turned to make sure her mother wasn't near, "I shouldn't have done that. I was just…caught up. We seemed to be picking up right where we left off and…"
"You didn't let me finish."
"I know, but I need to apologize. I shouldn't have kissed you. I know now that it was silly and childish of me to assume we could just pick up right where we left off. You probably just want to be friends or something along those lines – if even – and here I am making a fool out of myself and…"
"…I shouldn't have kissed you, Eli. I know I must have screwed everything up. We were doing so well and then I had to go and make a mess out of…"
"…everything and it's stupid and I can't believe I did something so untactful. I just…"
"God damn it, Clare! You talk way too much," he rolled his eyes, but there was a small smile playing at the corners of his lips, "Can I get a word in edgewise, or are you not going to allow that?"
Clare blushed as he teased her, "I'm sorry."
"Enough with the apologies already!" Eli shook his head, "I was going to say – before you interrupted me – that you can't just kiss me and expect me not to want to kiss you back."
Eli shoved her against the brick wall and smothered her with a kiss. Clare's hands fought to grasp the doorknob, and finally she was able to close the door behind them. His kiss was greedy and powerful and commanding. It was thirsty and desperate. Finally, they pulled away – breathless.
"Like I said," he smirked, "you don't get to just kiss me without me getting to kiss you back. Well, I guess now we're even."
Clare felt dizzy again, "Eli…"
"Merry Christmas, Clare."
"This is where you smile and say 'Merry Christmas, Eli.'"
Clare rolled her eyes at his smirk, "Merry Christmas, Eli. But we can't just randomly kiss each other like this. You're not even my boyfriend."
"How did that hurt? We aren't dating anymore, Eli. You're not my boyfriend."
"Ouch. Right in the heart."
Clare was catching on, "…Unless…you want to be?"
"Why, Clare Edwards, I'd be honored! I thought you'd never ask!"