‘It’s Christmas again,’ Erica sighed dreamily. ‘I wonder if Ailynn will like the gift I got for her.’ She pulled some of the stray locks of copper hair from her face and tucked them behind her ears lazily. She sat at her bedroom window, her long, athletic legs tucked under her, watching the thin sheets of snow falling from the grey skies. She sighed as the smiling face of her beloved Ailynn flashed in her mind briefly. She truly wanted her to love the gift that she spent three entire days searching for.
She had gone to five different malls, all to no avail. She finally decided to hit the smaller, family run shops in the southern district of the city. She spent the better part of the day going from shop to shop searching each and every shelf for the perfect gift for the shy, reserved teen music prodigy.
Almost out of hope, Erica entered a small, very peculiar antiques shop. She had approached the counter when she saw, what she easily thought to be the most beautiful music box, sitting on the wall shelf behind the clerk. She almost yelped in pure joy in finding it. Slowly, and quite cautiously, she approached the aged man running the store. Clearing her throat, she grabbed the man’s attention.
“Um … excuse me, sir?” Erica said softly. Her soft, azure eyes locked onto the man’s face. She lifted her long, tapered fingers to her round chin and smiled softly.
“Yes, is there something I can get you young miss?” The old man replied politely.
“Yes, yes there is,” Erica answered, slightly more confident. “I saw that magnificent music box behind you and I think it’s the perfect thing for my friend.”
Turning to the wall the old man placed his right palm on the restored oak box. “You mean this?” He asked with a mysterious twinkle in his eye.
“Yes, that’s the one,” Erica said with a firm nod. A few locks of her copper hair fell into her eyes. “I’d like to purchase that, and I don’t care how much it costs. It’s perfect, and I must get it for my friend.”
“Well, then,” The man said with a small laugh, “I’m sure she’ll love it. I’m also sure that she’ll be most grateful for such a thoughtful present. You have spent a lot of time on this haven’t you young miss.”
“Wait,” Erica said with hesitation, “how’d you know that my friend was a girl?”
“It’s not important,” the man answered with a wave. “You have spent three days looking for the perfect gift for your friend, haven’t you?”
“Well, I have, but how can you possibly know that?” Erica asked with hint of fear in her voice.
“No need to fear me,” the man said kindly. “I can see it in your eyes. You really care for this young woman; I can tell. You know, I think that I can give this old thing to you on good faith. You take it, and make sure to tell your friend how much she means to you. Can you do that for an old man? You’re young, so find happiness while you can.”
“I … wow … thanks.” Erica said in shock. “I will, you take care of yourself now. Have a good day!”
She rushed out of the antique shop, a good deal happier. She couldn’t wait to see the look on Ailynn’s face when she opened her gift this year. Erica rushed to the nearest gift shop to buy the perfect wrapping paper. She bought a cardboard box, slightly larger than necessary, to make wrapping it easier, along with some bubble wrap to protect the antique music box. She rushed home and promptly wrapped the music box.
Erica sighed again softly, thinking about the man’s odd attitude toward her. She recalled going back to the store the next day, only to find it a vacant, run down building. ‘I knew something was odd about that place, but I can’t complain. I found the perfect gift for Ailynn. I hope she loves it!’
Erica shifted her weight a bit, still watching as the snow fell lightly against her house and smiled as she watched it make a powdery-white blanket on the cold ground. She sat there as her stereo played her favorite Christmas CD over and over again softly. Staring out the window was nice, but she was lonely. She rose, pulling her sweater over her head. She grabbed her jacket, and a pair of gloves, and opened her bedroom door after hitting the power button on the CD player.
Making her way downstairs, she called a farewell to her mom, grabbed the present from under her tree, and walked out the door. She began walking the path to Ailynn’s house on auto-pilot. She let her mind wander into the past years around the holidays. Ailynn always knew what Erica had wanted for the year, but it took Erica more effort to find a good gift. Ailynn always told her that it didn’t matter what it was Erica got her, she’d love it anyway.
‘She’s always too kind to me,’ Erica thought with a soft smile. ‘She’s my best friend, and she always says that my presence at her side is the only gift she needs. That’s why I love her.’ Erica smiled broadly, thinking of how she loved everything about the shy girl.
Hearing the doorbell chime, Ailynn rushed to the door with a hurried “I’ll get it!”. She nearly tackled Erica on sight, seeing her best friend smiling and wishing her a merry Christmas. Ailynn pulled the tall girl into a tight embrace. She lifted her head meeting Erica’s vivid azure eyes with her deep, entrancing ruby ones. She brushed her long, raven hair from her face and smiled her widest smile yet.
“You came to bring me a gift?” Ailynn teased, releasing Erica from her hug.
“I always do,” Erica answered merrily. “I hope you like it.”
“I always love your gifts,” Ailynn admonished her. “I can’t ever hate anything you give me.”
Erica smiled at that, taking Ailynn’s delicate and soft hand into hers. “I know. So, is it okay for me to stay a little while? It’s kind of chilly out there, with the snow and all.”
“Of course you can!” Ailynn exclaimed. “You never have to ask, I can’t turn you out into the elements if you haven’t stayed at least 10 or so minutes. Come on, let’s go into the den and have a nice talk.”
“I do love out chats in your den Ailynn,” Erica replied with a big grin. “It’s always so warm by the fire.”
“I know it is, that’s why we always sit there in the winter,” Ailynn replied.
Erica and Ailynn walked into the den together, sitting on the large cushioned sofa in front of the flames. The talked for a good while, Ailynn leaving once to collect a couple of mugs filled with warm cocoa. The resumed their talk after the brief separation, easily making each other smile and laugh. Soon, the sun had set and they continued to talk into the night, as many friends do. Without realizing it, they chatted until the stroke of midnight.
“Oh my!” Ailynn exclaimed. “I didn’t realize I had kept you this late. I’m so sorry Erica!”
“Don’t worry yourself,” Erica replied calmly. “I bet our parents were expecting this. It happens often, doesn’t it?”
“Well, I do admit that we spend this much time together often,” Ailynn replied softly, “but it is Christmas Eve and all.”
“Don’t worry,” Erica repeated. “I’ll just have to take you and your parents’ home with me tomorrow, and then we’ll spend Christmas as a big family.”
“Like we do every year?” Ailynn said smiling.
“Like every year,” Erica repeated.
Ailynn just hugged her friend and smiled. It was indeed their tradition to have their families together for Christmas. She leaned on Erica’s shoulder as she slowly drifted into a deep, peaceful slumber. Soon, both girls slept peacefully in each others arms, and were content to do so. Shortly after they fell asleep, Ailynn’s mother and father wrapped the peaceful pair in a warm blanket before heading to bed themselves.
Erica awoke with a yawn and opened her eyes to see the sleeping Ailynn in her arms. Erica smiled sleepily as she remembered falling asleep with Ailynn last night. She glanced at the wall’s clock to see that it was still early Christmas morning. Erica closed her eyes for a moment, reveling in the shared warmth of her and Ailynn under the blanket. Gently, she shook the sleeping girl and tried to wake her.
“Ailynn,” Erica whispered in the girl’s ear. “Ailynn, it’s morning.” She placed a kiss on the rousing girl’s forehead as she opened her ruby eyes slowly. “Good morning,” Erica said with a smile.
“Merry Christmas,” Ailynn said drowsily. “Are my parents up yet?”
“Making breakfast,” Erica yawned, “I think.”
“Okay,” Ailynn yawned, mimicking Erica. “So, you want to open your gift?”
“If you want me to,” Erica answered. “And what about you?”
“I will if you do,” was Ailynn’s answer. “Shall we?”
“I suppose we will in any case,” Erica smirked. “On three?”
“On three,” Ailynn nodded, grabbing hers and Erica’s gifts.
“1 … 2 … 3.” They peeled the wrapping paper off the presents slowly. Erica was the first to finish, but Ailynn got done soon after. Erica pulled out her pocket knife, cutting the tape on the box. Ailynn smiled and pulled the bubble-wrapped music box out. Erica waited, judging the reaction as Ailynn finished pulling the entire bubble wrap off.
“Oh … oh, it’s beautiful Erica!” Ailynn exclaimed. “What is it?”
“Open it up,” Erica replied, her smile covering her face.
Ailynn did open it, and was delighted by the tune chiming, and the small picture of her and Erica that had been placed next to the small mirror behind the figurine that was elegantly carved in porcelain. It was a man and woman, dressed in the clothes of the English colonists, and they waltzed to the tune wonderfully. Ailynn squealed and embraced Erica with glee.
“I love it!” She exclaimed.
“I knew you would,” Erica said returning the hug.
“Now, I think it’s your turn,” Ailynn said, releasing her.
“If you say so,” Erica replied, still smiling.
Erica looked back at the box, noticing now that it was actually small and covered in luxurious blue velvet. She looked at it curiously and wondered what Ailynn had bought her. She opened the case to find a hand-made gold locket. The locket’s pendant was crafted in the shape of a phoenix, and had a bracelet with a matching engraving, as well as a phoenix engraved ring and phoenix shaped earrings studded with azure and ruby stones. Looking again, she noticed the *all* of the jewelry was studded with azure and ruby stones.
“I … I don’t … I don’t know what to say Ailynn,” Erica stuttered. “I’m … wow!”
“You don’t have to say anything,” Ailynn whispered. “It’s a symbol.”
“A symbol?” Erica said quizzically. “A symbol of what?”
“Of our relationship,” Ailynn replied. “May it be as friends, or as … lovers.”
“Lovers?” Erica echoed. “You mean …”
“Yes,” Ailynn nodded. “I mean that I love as more than my best friend.”
Erica turned her head from the locket and its matching counterparts to look at the girl next to her. Her azure eyes met hopeful ruby ones. “Ailynn,” She breathed, tears forming in her eyes “I love you.”
“I love you too,” Ailynn replied softly.
They moved together slowly, drinking in the love reflected in the others eyes. They brought the faces together, hesitating for a small moment, then their lips met in a slow, loving kiss. Ailynn wrapped her arms around Erica’s neck as Erica cupped her face in her hands while they deepened the kiss. Pulling apart, they kept their eyes closed and whispered in unison. “I’ll love you always.”