AN: This is a little bit of fluffy that I wrote for SWW Christmas in my hometown contest. Hope you enjoy!
"I don't buy it, Babe. After a million miles, it all looks the same. Wait . . . No, look! Dead deer, there's a change. A bit of red to liven things up a bit." I ignore his sarcasm and tighten my grip on the wheel. "Truth now, you just want to stretch things out and spend less time with your mom."
"Emmett, please." I try to get him to let up again, but I know it will only be a brief reprieve.
"Come on, Garrett. When are you going to admit it? We have been in this car for three days and you have not once stopped the tick in your jaw." Of course, he was right, but I am not giving him the satisfaction by telling him.
"Please, Emmett, can we just give it a rest until we hit the South Dakota border? That will give me two more hours of peace, followed by a good four hours of you going on about my 'mommy issues.' " I take my eyes from the road for a brief moment and he holds up his hands in surrender.
"Fine, I was just sayin'." One quick death glare at him and I am greeted with less time of peace than I thought. It had been years since I had driven home, usually we fly into Sioux Falls and drive up to Aberdeen. It is a short three hours in the car and I didn't have time to overthink seeing my mom and her 100 questions that felt more like an inquisition. What the hell was I thinking? Three days in a car with Emmett was worse I think than more time with my mother.
"Emmett, can we give it a little rest?"
"I'm just saying, Garrett. All she wants is what every mom wants - her kids to be happy, to have a family of their own." I have heard it a million times over in the pep talk. This time though, it doesn't help. She has been getting worse and worse since my sister had her kid.
"Trust me. I know, Emmett, I do and I will let her have at it. But this was just some time for us. We never have time together anymore." He snorts at that, probably remembering the alone time we had this morning in our hotel room. Then I remember it too and let out a groan.
"Ok, I will give this. Nothing beats hotel sex." We laugh together and the mood lightens the rest of the trip.
Coming around the final curve that brings us into Aberdeen, I know Em has spotted it. "Babe, pull over." He is bouncing and reaching for his seatbelt before I have even stopped the car.
"Hun, you have seen the castle a hundred times!" He doesn't hear me though. He bolts from the car with no jacket and is back in in a split second.
"Holy crap, it's cold out there." His hands go to his crotch.
"What are you doing?" I give a highly confused look.
"Checking to see if my junk's still there. It's cold enough out there to freeze them off." I can't help it and snort a laugh at him.
"Honey, it's South Dakota in winter! What did you expect?" I know how the weather can get here and this is a really cold year. But Emmett has only been here in the warm weather.
"You said cold. I didn't expect arctic cold. How the fuck did you ever survive growing up here? Did you ever make it out of the house or were you a shut-in?" I shake my head at him. He ups the heat in the car and I crack the window.
"Oh, this isn't bad," I lie as I stick my head out the window and get a blast of the frigid wind. "I will have to bring you back in February when it really gets cold." I laugh again at the sheer look of panic on his face.
Shaking his head fiercely at me, he sinks down further into his coat blanket. "So do they do this every year?" He motions out at the park with his head.
Looking out, I take it in and memories flood back. The whole park is decorated with lights for Christmas. There are displays and carols playing. The best part is the castle - all aglow in reds and blues.
"As far back as I can remember - it was Christmas eve tradition to take the tour. It's always pretty much the same, but it is always magical. But you don't get to go into the castle. I always wanted to sneak in and see it closer."
"Well, I can't wait to see it. It has to be pretty great if you have seen it over and over and still smile like that." I roll up the window and sneak a quick kiss before pulling back on the road and through town.
It always feels good to be home. When I am in Seattle, I feel like it is home. But when I am back in Aberdeen, I feel whole. I feel the town in my blood, the memories everywhere. From the Village Bowl as we round the curve to the glimpse of downtown, everywhere I look there is a piece of me. Within five minutes, we are making the final turn and I truly am home. My childhood home - as my sister calls it "the doll house." The 100-year-old two-story house is painted peach and mint green. The trees are bare now and covered in twinkling lights. There is dad's light-up moose in the front yard and one of mom's wreaths on the front door. I know when I walk in the house will smell like hazelnut coffee and spice cookies. The tree will touch the ceiling and the sewing room will be floor to ceiling gifts waiting for Christmas eve.
"You ready for this, honey? I warn you - my mom goes overboard with the holidays." He is taking in the yard and lights as he pulls on his hat and gloves.
"No worries, babe. You know me, I love over the top - and wow! I never thought one house could hold so many lights." Grabbing all the bags from the trunk, he only slips on the slick packed snow once.
"Oh, this is nothing in this town. Where mom and dad rule is Halloween."
The walk up was short but slick and I could hear Mika barking before we even turned the door knob. I smiled with the familiarity of it all. I push Emmett in ahead of me to take the force of the excitement of the German Shepherd/Lab cross. Sure enough, the small horse pushes against him and him into me and I see the epic flaw in my plan as I am pinned against the door behind the bulk of my boyfriend.
"Um, help." I manage to squawk out.
"Mika! Down!" Once again, mom saves the day.
After hellos and kisses, we shed our gear and I sit with a cup of coffee and watch as Emmett takes in Christmas O'Maley style.
His joy has never been anywhere but written all over his face. He says it all in the smile. His smile has to be the reason I fell in the first place. It isn't just two lush upturned lips. It is more. It is the deep perfect dimples. It is the high rise of his cheeks and the rosey color. It is the way the edge of his eyes crinkle. But most importantly, it is the sparkle in the clear blue of his eyes. His happy eyes have been my goal everyday since I first met him. I almost made a fool of myself the first time our hands met, but recovered in time. His smiling eyes had me right then and there. Later when I got the nerve to ask him out and he said yes, it was that smile that I vowed I would make happen everyday for as long as he would let me.
My mom's cool hand on my arm on my wrist startles me out of watching Emmett as he talks with my dad by the tree. I give her a small smile which she returns.
"How long are you going to make him wait?" I wasn't shocked by the question, just at her approach this time. But I shouldn't be surprised. Mom has always seen right through me. She pats my arm and leaves the room.
"Charles, can you help me in our room a minute?" I catch her wink as she rounds the corner.
"What was that all about Babe?" Emmett's arms slide around me. Well one does as the other reaches for another cookie.
"Nothing hun, let's go to bed. I'm cold and need my bear to warm me up." His grin around the mouthful of cookie told me I didn't have to ask twice.
I have always been infatuated by him. From the minute I saw him and when he finally got the nerve to ask me out until this very moment. Looking down, he lays in the crook of my arm, snoring loudly and drooling a bit. He has been everything I could have ever wanted, dreamed of and wished for.
Since the minute I figured it out after a game in high school - in the shower, hiding a boner that I got when I saw Tyler's ass cheeks flex at the shock of cold water - I knew and never really felt the need to hide it. I could never get into chicks. I kept up the game in high school and had a girl or two, but as soon as that diploma was handed to me, I was out and proud.
I would love to say I had a rough time of it, but I didn't. It might be the fact that I grew up in a San Fran suburb. It might be they all always suspected it, but I had it just fine. And when I saw him years later, I knew that there would be no one else. I moved into a townhouse in the city and the first weekend, I spotted him at the farmers market. I prayed that he would be there the next weekend and he was. I know he saw me too. We played a cat and mouse game - each week we would get a stand or two closer. Our eyes lingered a few seconds longer. I wanted to talk to him, but something stopped me. Something told me to wait for him, let him make the first move. I almost caved a couple of times, but then I found myself reaching for the same apple he was and that was it. We got to talking and have been together ever since.
True, I am still finding myself waiting on him all the time, but it is okay. I have found he is worth the wait. And I know no matter how long I have to wait, he will still be there. I will still wake to his stubble rubbing across my chest and fall asleep every night with his long sandy hair free from it's normal binding and tickling my nose.
So for the ring, I will wait for that too. Snuggling down deeper into the covers and Garrett's body heat, I feel his normal morning reaction to my hands on his tight ass. I moan and press my morning wood into his and grind a bit. His eyes don't open, but he smiles and they crinkle telling me he is awake and ready.
"Mmm, morning, baby. Didn't get enough last night, huh?" His hand snakes between us and he slowly strokes me.
I push into his large hand loving how he knows just the right way to get me going. "No such thing with you." I can't help the moans, so I bury my head in his neck to stifle them. There's no more talking after that.
Rolling me over, our mouths swallow the groans as our erections rub against each other. Soon there is no need for covers in the chilly room. As he reaches for the lube and the blankets tumble to the ground, I see the tight line of abs that leads to his hip bone - and as he turns, the amazing ass that dips in just right. Everytime I see his naked body, well-defined by his obsession with biking and running, I am ready to lose it there and then.
As his long slick fingers coat his eager length, I can't resist spreading my knees wider and grabbing his hips. It has never been an issue that I love the way he plays my body. I love the feel of him in me and over me. The way he has always known just how to make love to me without words was one of the first things I loved about him. The way he always - even if it is a "quicky" - takes those moments to kiss his way down my face and make sure I am OK. Those are the moments I think I love him the most. As he swallows my very loud groan with a kiss and laughs into my mouth at the same time, I know there will never be anyone else.
As he fills me and waits until I can't take his stillness any longer. As I push my heel into his firm ass, he smiles down at me. We are like a symphony - a well-practiced and made-perfect couple. It is never boring or mundane, but we know just what the other wants and needs and fill the role perfectly. As I bite my lip and he thrusts harder, I meet his thrust and feel him everywhere. His lips on mine, then his teeth on my neck. I thrust up to meet him, and squeeze around him. Digging my heels into the back of his thighs, I pull him closer. He pauses for a moment and just watches my face before we both feel the tension build. After that there is no more slow torture or loving caresses, it is just us thrusting and grunting and fighting our way to our release. If we were home, the sounds would be almost animalistic at the moment, but here we gripped each others' necks and buried our heads. As soon as my climax burns through me, he thrusts hard and stills.
We are breathing heavy and smiling at each other - Garrett still in me - when we hear the tap on the door.
"Shower is all yours, boys, and breakfast will be ready in twenty." His mom's voice has us frozen for a moment, then he falls to the side and we both bust out in full laughter.
"Babe, it is really creepy that she does that every time. Do you think she waits in the hall and waits until the bed stops squeaking or something?" We have never really been shy about our love-making, but for some reason, his mom waiting on the other side of the door gives me the heebie-jeebies.
"I really don't want to think about it, hun." Garrett shudders a little, then throws his pillow at me. "No, come on. Let's hit the shower. We have shopping and cookie making today. Only one shopping day left before you get the whole shabang you wanted."
He was right. I did want it. I'd never had a real hometown Christmas. We always went from one relative's penthouse to another's mansion every year - tree always professionally done and gifts, though nice, not particularly thought out. I have been begging for years to see how the Denali clan does it up.
The shower was quick and shared, but nothing more than getting clean. Then there was a quick breakfast before we hit the town. I was awed by how people did up their houses and the stores on Main Street were in full holiday cheer.
The mall was our first stop. It was your typical mall experience - the standard cheesy Santa scaring the kids, the same songs every other mall in America is playing. But we did manage to find a few gifts. With the price of baggage claims and the fact that we procrastinate with everything, we have to fit almost all our shopping into this one day.
"Gar, we need to get out of this place. If I see one more child melt down, I am gonna pull my hair out." He laughs at me and pulls me towards the exit. I was still a bit leary about holding his hand in public since it was the Midwest, but he never had a problem with it, so I went along.
After a few stops at some random stores - the Hitch 'n' Post to pick up a belt buckle for Ali's husband Paul, a pop in to pick up his sister Kat a new camera, an hour for me to pick out the perfect remote control car for his little brother, Benji. By the time we headed to the heart of the city, it was starting to get dark. It wasn't even six yet! As we hit Main Street, the lights blew me away.
I glance over when we turn off 6th onto Main and I see the childlike side to Emmett. His face is lit up at the lights and wreaths that light the one-way street. The fresh snow that fell over the day has the whole place shining. The fine powder glitters like diamonds under the spirit of the season.
I can't wait to show him the Ward, the old historic once hotel is always done in old-time Christmas fashion. But the best surprise will be tomorrow night - that is if all the favors I called in come through.
"Wow, it is like the north pole." He is leaning forward as we slowly make our way down the street.
I may be a bit biased, but I have always love this time of year here. Though I love the sun and warmth of Cali, nothing beats Christmas in South Dakota. I have really missed the winters. Sure we have gone skiing. We have seen the snow here and there, but there still is nothing like the mountains of snow or the way this town takes on the season. I never really knew what I had until I spent so much time away from it, I haven't been back for the holidays in so long. Now seeing it through his eyes, I am remembering the joy as a child. I remember the first night that we took that magical trip down Main after the lights were up. I remember the windows on the museum changing to the carolers. The lights going up all around town as my parents hoped to wear us out by seeing the new houses lit up. Every bit of the joy I remember from being a child, I see in Emmett's beautiful face and sparkling blue eyes.
His patience was the first thing that got me all those years ago. To this day, I have no idea how he does it. I took my sweet time - I really did. I saw him, I wanted him, but I was just newly out. I had no clue how to go about anything like this. Yes, we were in San Fran, but that didn't mean every guy there was gay. I may be from the Midwest, but I was in no way a moron.
Thankfully week after week, he was there until I got my nerve to come face to face with him. I was so grateful he waited for me. The smile he gave me when we reached for the same Granny Smith made me melt. I found in that second and a half the strength and courage to be me. I was blessed and I know that I am slow to the uptake. I wait and overthink everything, but I am hoping to change everything in the next day.
"Hun, you are gawking," I chuckle as he watches as we pass under the lights. "They are just strands of lights."
"Shut up, this is cool and I am gonna enjoy it." His fake pout is too cute to resist and at the stop sign, I lean over and peck his lips.
I was right about his reaction to the old hotel, but something told me he was waiting on the proposal. He has been having that look a lot lately. I wish I could have done it a thousand times over, but something has held me back. I am convinced though - when it does happen, it will be right and worth the wait.
The day was a blur - shopping and eating and looking and laughing. But also trying to sneak off here and there to get Emmett's gift set up. Everything seemed to be falling into place and by the time, we were back at my parents' house, I was more relaxed and sure. My mom on the other hand was going to blow a gasket. All the time we were making the gingerbread men, she kept having to slip off to the pantry before she giggled to much or let something slip. She would stare a bit too long and I would clear my throat. Her eyes would whip to Emm, then me. I glare and she slips out of the room. I have to shake my head at her. I know she is excited, but she is killing me here.
Relief came in the form of bedtime. Mom was still up in her last-minute craziness, but I saw the day wearing on Emmett and pushed him up the stairs.
"Wow, babe, does your mom have an off switch?" I register his words after I break from his body being revealed to me. It doesn't matter how many times I see him. I still want to tackle him each and every time I see him nude. The man would put any Calvin model to shame.
"Uh, ummm, yeah no. Not really, well, not this time of year. She runs herself dry until the 26th, then all bets are off until the 30th." He laughs at me as I drag my eyes away and grab my own sleep pants.
"Am I causing you a bit of trouble there, babe?" he laughs as he takes in my semi. Normally, I would let this little game play out until we were both out of breath and half asleep, but I couldn't let that happen tonight. There is to much to do after my big man falls asleep.
"Not tonight Emmett, big day tomorrow and you know how cranky you are if you don't get enough sleep." He didn't even argue - he just shrugged before hopping into the bed. He shivers a bit as his back hits the cool sheets.
"Hurry up, baby. I need a warm snuggle." I don't have to be asked twice and I climb in and snuggle close.
It only took minutes for him to drift off. Unfortunately, it took a lot longer to extract myself from his death grip. There was a lot of fancy maneuvering and inventive pillow positioning, but in under an hour, I was out of there and tracking down my mom. Tomorrow was going to be a Red Bull and Monster kind of day, but it would all be worth it.
I could feel some moving around in the night - the loss of his body heat and the dip of the bed when he came back to it. He doesn't think I know when he leaves at night, but I always could. Usually it was just to go sneak a smoke, or get some painting done, but being here I listen half asleep and hear the soft lulling tones of his and his mom's voice and figure they are just catching up. I pick up his deep tone out of the two and let myself drift back to sleep.
Morning came with the beep of Garrett's phone alarm at a way-too-early-hour for vacation and a holiday. But the cute faces he made as he registers the noise! As always, he yanks a pillow from under my head and covers his own. Being an artist, he rarely has to wake at a certain time, but when he does it is the same.
Pulling back his fingers, I pry up one side of the pillow and lay kisses from temple to lips. His grumble but return of the peck tells me he is awake but fighting it.
"How about you shower and I will get coffee and whatever the hell else smells so good and get the run down." His grumble and nod has me questioning if he will fall back asleep or make it to the shower, but the quick slap on the ass I give him makes me more sure the shower will win.
Going down the stairs, I am hit with a wall of smells. In the moment I am convinced I am never leaving this house. Fuck SanFran, fuck the great weather. I want to wake up every morning to the smell of coffee and French toast, and warm laughter. I can see now the absolute charm of the holidays here and am kicking myself for not coming here 9 years sooner. How have I missed out this long? We visit many times a year, but never for the holidays. It was never to be mean or exclude, it was just circumstance and timing. I now will never miss it.
My family was foster home after foster home since I was very young, so there was never a real sense of connection or tradition. Most places were good and OK, but this - this is everything a little boy could imagine.
"Hey Mom, what ya got for grub?" Seeing her at the stove flipping the doughy goodness, I go over and kiss her cheek. She pats my cheek as always and motions to our mugs sitting next to the hot pot of coffee.
"Traditional cinnamon nutmeg French toast, of course, like your belly couldn't tell." She smiles her warmth at me. "Is Sir Gumps-a-lot up yet?"
Taking a deep breath of the hazelnut coffee, I take a long sip and hum at how perfect it is. "He is pillow-stealing awake."
She laughs and nods as she places a complete breakfast on a tray. "Well, take this to him and stop the thunderstorm that is your inner beast and feed away his grumps."
I nod as I lean down and kiss her once again. Something in her bright green eyes is brighter than normal. It may be her love of the holiday, but there is a bit of mystery there too.
All thoughts of downstairs are lost as I enter the room and Garrett is bent over and stepping into some heather grey boxer briefs. I choke on my own saliva and almost drop the tray, but regain my composure in a millisecond.
"Your mom went all out, babe." We catch his reflection in the mirror and I see the humor in his eyes and know he totally set me up.
"Perfect start to the perfect Christmas Eve." He motioned to the bed. "Let's eat it in bed."
The sleep lost was well worth it. My mom had come through in such a short time. Well, actually, everyone had come through. From Paul my brother-in-law that works at the civic building to his sister Leah, that work with parks and rec, to my sister Ali that had an "in" with many artists and decorators in town. The topper was mom's part in all of it. The fact that she would give me my grandfather's ring to give to my love almost brought me to tears. Even though she told me a year or so after we were together that she would, it still never sunk in. Everytime we came to visit, she asked if I needed it, but it never seemed right. Something this time seemed right. I have no idea what did it. Somewhere along the way though, I knew it was right. It was a lot to ask of my family, but I knew they had enough of a wait - as I am sure Emm did - and were more than happy to step up and get the ball rolling.
I fought myself not to look to the nightstand, not to shoot laser beams at the small pouch sitting inside the drawer beside the bed. Crap, I was just as bad as my mother.
I manage not looking by stuffing my face and watching as Emmett gets dressed. Him naked in a room is the eighth wonder of the world. The morning passed quickly - too quickly. I was worried things wouldn't fall into place - was worried I would get caught as I slipped out of the room to take a call. But it got easier to do as family started arriving. Emmett kept entertained with the kids and football talk. Mom pitched in with keeping him distracted with cookies and cider.
"All set, big guy! You getting nervous yet?" Ali snuck up on me as I was at the window watching Emmett build a snowman with Leah's daughter and Ali's son. I jumped a bit. She always was a quiet one, forever sneaking up on you.
"Funny thing is no, I'm not." Cocking her head to the side, she waits for my clarification. "It's weird. Nerves have held me back for years. But now that it is all happening, there is nothing but butterflies and a whole lot of 'I can't wait'."
Her giggle has me smiling and pulling her into a hug. "It is going to be magical GarBear."
"And I have you to thank for that."
For the life of me, I can't understand why we haven't done the holidays here before. It has been everything I have ever wanted and imagined Christmas should be. The chaos of the day has me on a high. I have never seen so much going on at once and I love it. I didn't love that I didn't see enough of Garrett, but his niece and nephew made up for it. And playing in the snow was a blast, once I got used to the cold.
The dinner table was full of laughter and talk about what Santa is going to bring. The kids had high hopes and I am sure that as spoiled as they are, they will get most of it.
"What do you want Santa to bring you, Uncle Em?" Charlie waited, looking like my answer was the most important thing in the world. He was a very serious little boy, but Ali claims I am his hero.
"Well, little man, I think I have about everything I need right here." I ruffle his hair and smile over at Garrett.
"You don't gots a ring." With a gasp, Ali slaps her hand over her son's mouth and pulls him from his chair.
"Come on, Charlie. I think it is time to get in pj's so we can go look at the lights." With that, she ushers him out of the room, and I have a few sets of eyes on me and I am confused.
"Well, that's kids for ya, blunt and to the point." I shrug and go back to my pie. They probably all think I would be upset because I still don't have a ring, but hey, I will wait a thousand years.
The excited kids came rushing into the living room minutes later, dressed in their jammies and boots, struggling to get into their coats. They were bouncing so hard that it took a good five minutes to get the coats on them.
After the struggle with all our gear, we made our way out and into various vehicles. Ali, Paul and Charlie along with Garrett's parents in Ali's minivan. Then Leah, her husband Riley and their daughter Claire in their sedan. Bringing up the rear was Garrett and I.
We took a colorful route through town, seeing all the lights and decorations throughout the town. The people around here really went all out. The only part I didn't like - and voiced - was the giant blow ups. Poor Garrett had to endure a lot of grumbles about it.
"I mean it takes no creativity or time. It's 'take it out a box and blow it up.' Ooooh, so creative!"
He gives me the look again. "I promise, Hun. We will never ever decorate with them."
"Damn straight, we won't babe." I nod my head and watch as the town disappears and we approach the park. Pulling in and paying the fee, I am lost in the beautiful magic. After pressing a few buttons on the radio, the car is filled with music to fit the scene. The attendants space the cars out so there is no light behind to distract.
"I bet the kids are loving this."
"They do every year. Maybe next time they can ride with us and you call all be kids together." He jokes and kiss our joined hands.
At the end of the line, he stopped the car and put it in park. I saw the other cars go off down the 'V' of the path, but before I could ask what he was doing, he hopped out and moved the saw horse out of the road.
He looked just like Charlie does every year when he sees the lights. His nose pressed up to the glass. Up until now, I am sure he has no idea what is going on and I give him no chance to ask as I jumped out of the car and cleared the road. Through many strings being pulled, I was able to set it up so we could pull in on the side and walk a candy cane path to the castle. Parking and pulling him out of the car, I made sure his hat was pulled low and his scarf was tucked in.
"Garrett, what's going on? You said no one can go in off-season." The confusion caused the cutest crease between his eyes.
"Just trust me, honey, just trust." Taking his hands, we passed through the gate and I count my blessings as I see all the hard work one by friends and family. A path had been carved out in the snow and seven-foot candy canes lined it and were topped with a thousand twinkling lights creating a tunnel. His hand gripped mine tighter as we walked down the, well, magical path. It was more than I ever would have thought up. But in all the years, I knew if you wanted perfect and over the top, you gave all control over to Ali.
"Wow!" is all he said under his breath as the pathway of light through trees opened up to the park. There were tons of things to see and do there, but the only focus was on the castle. From this distance, all you could see are the beautiful lines lit up and reds and greens and blues. You couldn't tell it wasn't a real castle. It looked like you stepped back hundreds of years in time. It was just as I thought it would be in all of the years I dreamed of getting this close. But then as we got closer, there was more detail. The guards in their full armor on top the white steeds were not left untouched. Each horse had a wreath around it's neck and the swords were wrapped in silver lights.
"Babe, this is too much. Is this my gift?" He was smiling so big I was afraid it would crack in this cold.
"It's part of it. Come on, I will show you." All he could do was nod and follow along as we crossed the bridge that covers the frozen moat. I have never been here when the castle doors were closed, but for effect, someone had closed them and tied them shut with a giant bow.
"Well? What are you waiting for? Open your gift, Emmett." I gestured to the bow.
Laughing, he walked over and pulled on one end. "This is over the top, Garrett - even for you, Mr. Artist."
All I could do is shrug. Honestly I cannot wait to see inside. This is as much a surprise for me as it is for him. As he pulls the ribbon away and opens the door, the lights and scene have us both struck stupid.
"Ali doesn't fuck around." I couldn't help it. It just slipped out.
There are no words. Well, I am sure there are, but I am not the guy that has them. The whole thing was amazing - cold, but amazing. Once I opened the doors, I didn't even register the cold or my frozen parts.
If the lights outside weren't enough, the inside was a fantasy come to life. Not really mine, but I can see Garrett everywhere - the way he described what he always imagined as a child looking from far away. I know his sister probably did the work, but I can see him and his vision. He joked over the years about how different they were, she being very commercial and him creative, but here I see how much they are alike.
There were trees decorated circling the wishing well, lights and holly dangling, a rich red runner leading a path to the stage where two thrones sat next to a small fireplace. There were fur blankets draping the thrones, and a small table between them with a Thermos and two elegant cups.
"This is way over the top, Garrett. What is all this?" I can't even look away from the scene and at him. So he turns me to face him.
"This is your gift, so let's go enjoy."
I was in as much awe as him and it took everything I had not to show how shocked I was. I also had to wrap my thoughts around all of this and what it meant - figuring out what I was going to say, and remembering not to stumble over my words. It was hard with how bright his eyes were, how he looked at me. I saw everything - every minute, every second of the time we have been together, but also the years to come - the wedding, the life, the kids, the future Christmases, everything.
I have no question in his answer. I never thought he would say no. The first time I brought him home and saw how he fit. We had only been together for a few months and it was summer, but it was the first time I knew it was forever. We were right here. It was late fall right before the park was closing for the year. The fountain was still running and I handed him a coin to make a wish. I took my own, tossed it and hoped in my wish it would work with us. He slid his in his pocket and wrapped his arms around me and told me that he doesn't have to wish for anything else because he had me.
I knew just at that minute just what I have to tell him. Pulling him deeper into the castle and to the fire, he follows easily. I grab the fur and reluctantly let go of his hand as he sits and I place the russet-colored fur across his lap. The warmth created in the nook of the stage with the fur and fire has us pulling off our gloves. I pour out some cocoa into the silver mugs and hand him one. We both stare at the fire for what seems like a lifetime as I gather my thoughts.
I look up and see the clear Christmas Eve sky and catch a shooting star. Looking over at him, I see him smile up at the sky as he sees it too and looks down at me. His eyes are sparkling in the firelight and his smile is huge. I realize that that is the one. That is the first smile, the always smile. Standing and letting the fur fall to the brick, I reach into my coat pocket and grab the pouch.
He watches my every move as I palm the ring hoping he doesn't see. I am sure he knows what is coming, but not how, so I look down at our joined hands and then up in his eyes.
"Garrett . . ." It isn't a question or a statement. It is a hushed praise, a prayer, a reverence. It is love. His love for me and I can only relish in it, bathe in it. I know.
"Emmett, you are my world. You are my life, my love, my heart. You are the reason I breathe - the reason I create beauty for the world. Your love is the reason I am. I know it has taken a long time to get here, and your understanding and never-ending devotion is unfathomable. Your smile and humor, your big heart and beautiful smile are the only thing I have ever wanted or needed. And I know I never want to be without." I take a breath in my rambling and a deep swallow. He is slack jawed and glowing. "Will you do me the great honor of marrying me?"
There is nothing that could have shocked me more then his words. I had a good idea what was coming after the out-of-this-world set up. But his words? They are nothing that I could have ever expected. And when I tear my eyes from his and see the ring? That ring I had seen time and time again on the finger in photos - twenty-four karat gold with a hematite square depicting a trojan warrior. It was his grandfather's ring. A ring that his new wife scrimped and saved to give him when he was sent off to the Korean war just after they married. It took her four years but he made her promise 60 years later that it would be passed on.
The tears didn't stop as I nodded and he slipped it on. It seemed like forever before I could find my words. But when I could utter the "yes," he was in my lap and his lips were on me in a millisecond. Then the sound of clapping and hooting hit us.
Pulling ourselves apart, we both look up to the second story and see everyone. There are catcalls and clapping and I have to pull Garrett closer. Burying my face in his neck, he jumps a little at my cold nose but pulls me closer. I know I am bigger and all that, but I feel safest wrapped in these arms. I also know I will never have to leave them.
"Merry Christmas, Baby." I say into his neck.
"You, Emmett, are the best gift ever." But I think he is wrong there. He is, if I never get another ever. Looking up at his family and thinking back to all the years and the dreams of what's to come, I could never want for anything else.
We will always come back for Christmas in his hometown.
I knew then, and I know now . . . As I watch the magical scene below us . . .