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You wake up Christmas morning with Reggie snuggled up against you. The holiday smell of the cinnamon-scented candles she burned last night lingers like a festive ghost, and you can see the little tree on the coffee table in the living room, red and white lights still lit. You've got a couple hours before brunch with your family. Anything left to do, Trev? Are all your presents wrapped? Are you supposed to bring anything for brunch?
Of course my presents are wrapped! Gift cards are super easy, just put them in a Hoops and YoYo card. Just kidding. This is the first Christmas that I've had enough money to get thoughtful gifts for everyone. I'm stoked.
I committed us to sweet potato pie. I've made it with mom a hundred times, and I looked up a few special ingredients based off some recipes I found online. Reggie's also hoping to make some candy this morning, melting chocolate and making Mounds and Almond Joys. I don't know if she can pull it off in the time we have, but she stayed up late prepping. I'm sure she'll wow me like always.
Reggie wakes up just a bit after you and turns around to give you a sleepy kiss. "Merry Christmas, Trev." She looks at the clock and continues, "No time for Christmas morning sex if we're going to get our cooking done. Later, though? I'll even wear a bow."
I look up at the ceiling in mock disgust, "Fine, fine, fine. No Christmas morning boom boom." I tickle her side a touch, "I'm holding you to the bow, though." I rise with her, and keep focused as we take care of morning stuff and start cooking.
Reggie makes some tea (Earl Grey, hot) and peels an orange to tide her over, then starts to work on the candy. She lays out the little piles of ingredients on cold metal trays, then melts and tempers the chocolate in a double boiler. Her tongue sticks out a little bit to the side in concentration as she carefully pours the chocolate.
How's the sweet potato pie going, Trev? Any trouble?
The tongue thing is so damn sexy. I'm thinking of where I want the bow as I bring the sweet potatoes to a boil. Like I said, done this one before. No problems here. "So, Santa Reggie. What did you get me for Christmas?"
As Reggie puts the candy in the freezer to cool, she turns to look at you over her shoulder. "Wouldn't you like to know? What did you get me?"
"See now, I'd tell you." I start off as I look at the boiling pot. Ha, I'm watching you, pot! "But then it would ruin the surprise. And you suuuuuck at acting surprised, which means you'll blow it when you open my present for you in front of everyone." I grin at her, "Me, though, I can pull it off. So, what'd you get me?" She knows I'm playing with her. I can wait.
"Okay. I got you socks. And deodorant. Because you stink." She closes the freezer. "Need any help with your pie? Oh, and do you think your folks will have room in the freezer? I hope these set up before we go, but I usually do everything the night before."
"Socks and deodorant?" I ask, incredulous. "Did you get tips from my Great Aunt Latasha?" She asks about storing the food, "Their freezer is huge, don't worry." I assure her.
Reggie chuckles. "Aunt Latasha has not been in contact, no. You just got that funk of 40 thousand years going on. Just sayin'. Hey, your pot just boiled."
I slip the sweet potatoes in, hum a little Thriller. "Did you get anything for your sister?"
"Of course. Kinda lame, but picked up an online gift certificate for an Army surplus place. She loves that shit. Mom and Dad were hard, as usual, but I settled on a necklace for Mom and a sweater for Dad. How about you? You happy with what you got for everyone? Do share."
I admit, "This is my first year of having some actual money, so I kinda splurged. Got Dad a re-up on his Kindle subscription and the latest model. Bought Mom the latest Immervision, the one for one VR headset for movies. It's pretty great, I sorta tested it out. I got Echo some custom-made t-shirts for Lili's band, mostly as a joke. Plus, I grabbed her some Virtual Techer programs for her classes next semester, they're supposed to be really awesome."
I chuckle, "I got Jake a phat pimp cane."
"Pimp cane is awesome! Jake will totally style that." She takes a look back at the freezer, then to your pot of sweet potatoes. "I did my best for everybody here... I feel so close in some ways, but I don't really know them well, you know? Hope I didn't fuck it up."
I walk over to hug her, that arm around the shoulder sideways-hug of support, kiss her temple. "You're very thoughtful and I'm sure they'll love it. I'm just stoked that you are giving this a shot. I haven't had girlfriends over for "Family Christmas" much in my dating past. Your only competition is Patty Simmons. That was fifth grade, and she gave out TCBY coupons. I think you're good."
"I will kick Patty Simmons' ass, T." She looks to the various spices you've gathered, and the pie-crust you made last night. "You're going to make someone a wonderful husband, some day."
I almost make a crack about TCBY being deceptively delicious, but I don't want to tweak her nervousness. Besides, she complimented my cooking. "I sure will. All that, looks and a razor sharp wit, to boot. I'm the complete package, Reginatrix." I even give her a little bow. "We're gonna wow the whole family with our awesomeness."
"No need to WOW, right? I know your Dad's got his head in work all the time, and your Mom seems cool. Echo likes me already, yeah?"
"If Echo liked you any more, Lili and I would be jealous." I assure her the best way I know how.
"It's just... you understand this is a big deal, Trev? This is me, laying myself out there for your people, for the first time, really, and it's Christmas. What if I fuck it up? What if your parents wind up hating me?" She takes a breath. "Sorry, but you have to know it's what I feel."
I leave the potatoes for a moment, moving over to pull her into a hug. I move my mouth to her ear as I hold her, "You make me really happy. My parents already like you, okay? I've told them all about my smart, organized, caring, beautiful girlfriend. Mom thinks I'm batting above my league with you. And Dad... well, he doesn't say this kind of stuff, it's not his way. But he thinks you're interesting. That's huge." I squeeze, then step back so I can look in her eyes, "It's going to be great. You love me. They love me. There's a love transference thing going on here."
Reggie moves back into the hug. "Love transference. I like that. Okay, I'll be fine." She lets you go and moves to the music player. "This morning needs Christmas music!" She finds a Christmas stream, and Eartha Kitt starts purring "Santa Baby" as Reggie starts tidying up her candy-making mess.
"I love this version!" I say happily. "We need to break out the Bob and Doug MaKenzie version of the Twelve Days of Christmas next." I continue working on my sweet potato pie. No way I'm jacking this up.
Reggie keeps the music going while you make your pie filling. Bob and Doug next, as requested, then some little girl singing about how much she wants a hippopotamus for Christmas. You follow the steps to make your filling with a sure hand and put the pie in the oven to bake. Soon, the sweet smells of spices fill the kitchen.
"You are so hot to me when you're cooking, Trev." Reggie comes up behind you and puts her arms around your chest, kissing your neck, then heads to the bedroom to change.
Eventually, the pie's done, the candy's layered into tupperware with wax paper in between, the Tesla's packed with all the presents and food, and you make the drive to your parents' house, with the traditional stop at Starbucks for holiday-flavored lattes and mochas (and one cup of dark roast, black, for your Dad).
Echo takes the coffee off Reggie's hands and your mom takes the pie and candy to the kitchen, then both come back for a round of hugs.
"Reggie, that green sweater looks adorable on you. Of course, I'm guessing everything does. What do you see in this ruffian?"
Echo laughs at that, and your father walks in wearing freshly-pressed khakis and a blue button-down. He has slippers on, though, which is at least a concession to the fact that it's a holiday.
I shrug, like I don't get it myself. "I think it's like Santa Claus. Don't question it too hard, or you spoil the magic of why she's with me."
Reggie punches you in the shoulder. "I know you're teasing, Mrs. Marks, but I'm going to answer you anyway. Your son has an amazing mind and a kind heart. He's also a pretty good dancer, a very good kisser, and a more than passable cook. Most importantly, though, he really cares about people."
"Trev can dance? It always just looked like a seizure to me."
Your dad just smiles and takes a sip of his coffee.
I make a pfft noise of dismissal to Echo's comment on my dancing and put my arm around Reggie, "See? That's why. She's deluded. And... she's miiiine." I kiss her temple.
"Well, that's sweet. Okay, brunch is ready. Ham, creamed chipped beef, eggs, cinnamon rolls, fruit salad. Oh, and biscuits of course. Anyone want eggnog? I'm warning you, though... your father's the one that spiked it and he's got a heavy hand." She leads the way into the dining room.
"I made the cinnamon rolls. They're not spiked, but they are very very fattening."
Your dad moves on into the dining room, patting you on the back. "Merry Christmas, son. Reggie, we're glad to have you."
"Eggnog me, Dad." I say with a smile. I'm pretty sure I'll only have a little, but he takes pride in that nasty stuff. And, if you drink enough, it continues to taste better.
Everyone takes some eggnog in those little glass cups, alongside the coffee you brought. Serving platters are passed around, and Reggie's not shy about filling her plate.
Reggie takes a sip of her eggnog and her eyebrows raise. "This is super, Mr. Marks!"
Your father raises his cup in a toast, looks at your mom. "Well, at least she has good taste in eggnog."
Your mom looks at her cup, which she's barely sipped on. "Yes, dear. So, Trevian, are you still enjoying your fancy car? I think our property value went up when you parked it out front."
I chuckle at dad's jibe. He was listening after all! To Mom, "It's the bestest ever. You wanna go for a spin later?" Yes, I'm bragging a tiny bit. "To be honest, I'm sort of scared to drive it except when I have to. I park in the way, way back at grocery stores, that kind of stuff."
"I can understand that. Reggie, when Trevian was young, we got him a bicycle for Christmas one year. A cherry-red Schwinn. He was so afraid of it getting beat up or scratched that he refused to ride it to school for a full year." She smiles at the memory. "You must miss being with your family for the holiday. Is it hard?"
"A little. My mom pitched a little bit of a fit when I told her I was staying here, but she's fine now. I'll video call later and wish everyone a good holiday."
Brunch proceeds. Everything's tasty, of course, and familiar, and talk stays light. You notice your father hasn't taken his phone out once, which is a bit of a Christmas miracle in and of itself. Echo tells you that Lili's coming up from Charleston on New Year's day, planning on spending a week.
When you've finished eating and cleared the table, Echo stands at the dining-room door and announces grandly. "And now! It is time! For presents!" It's been her job to manage present logistics since she was eight, and she takes it seriously.
Ugh, the bike story. Again. This is one reason my girlfriends don't come home for Christmas, Mom.
But now it is time for presents. I have a little thrill as I take Reggie's hand and lead her to the presents. So exciting!
It is indeed time for presents. Echo waits for everyone to sit, then makes little piles next to each person. She also pulls down the stockings hanging from the windowsill. You see that your mom made one up for Reggie, with "Regina" stitched in loopy lettering in the fluffy white top.
"Stockings first. We don't need to go one at time, just rip in." She's clearly explaining the rules for Reggie. The rest of you are familiar with the drill.
Your stocking has the usual assortment of sweets and whimsical little things. A wind-up robot toy, a pair of socks striped bright green and orange, a box of cherry cordials. Reggie's is much the same. Trev, did your family ask for advice on presents for your girlfriend?
My mom refused to ask for the help I offered for stockings. But yeah, I shared her Amazon wishlist with her.
I open and eat a cherry cordial, then quickly pull off my socks and merrily put on my green and orange ones. I will OWN it, baby!
"Okay. Presents. Reggie, since you're a guest, you go first. Pick one!"
Reggie looks through the pile and picks out one of two that come from your parents. She holds it thoughtfully, weighing it in her hands. "Hmm. Not too heavy, and it feels soft..." She carefully removes the paper, succeeding in not tearing it, then opens the box. Inside are two lab coats, embroidered with her name, and a nice stethoscope. Reggie hops up and hugs both your mom and dad. "Perfect! Thank you!"
Echo opens a nice, cornflower blue sweater, also from your parents, then it's your turn. There are several gifts from your parents, one from Echo, and two from Reggie. (You got a few things from the Thanatopsis crowd, as well, and one from Tonya/Melzer-Togawa. Also a package from Rama Patel. You left those at Reggie's, though, for later.) What do you open first, Trev?
I open the one from Echo first, and I don't care what it is, I'm loving it.
Echo watches closely as you open the rather bulky, soft present. It's a really soft, fluffy bathrobe, with a hood, in a dark blue. Your sister smiles. "I don't ever know what to get you any more, and I figured you're sitting around on the couch playing video games even more than you used to, so..."
Your mom goes next, and chooses Reggie's present. It's a really pretty scarf patterned in swirls of dark purple and ruby-toned red. She immediately puts it on, feeling the softness of the wool and thanking Reggie enthusiastically.
Your father, last in line, picks your gift to open, Trev. How does he react when he sees the new Kindle and the card saying his subscription's paid up for the year?
He does that eyes widening slightly in pretend surprise, followed by a nod and a smile, then "Thanks, son."
It's all I ever hoped for.
Echo laughs at the fun t-shirts you had made and seems really thankful for the Virtual Teacher programs. Especially the one for Statistics. Your mom is over the moon about the Immervision, but of course asks you to help get it set up.
Echo knitted Reggie a scarf and matching gloves, which Reggie loves. From your folks, you get some clothes, a Thai cookbook, and a really nice new multitool. Reggie's second gift from your parents is a year subscription to the Merck Veterinary Manual and the mobile applications to go with it. (They're practical ones, your folks, and really latched on to the Vet School thing.)
In the end, now, it comes down to you and Reggie. Echo imperiously indicates that she should open her gift from you first. So, do tell, Trev. What is it?
I kinda splurged. I got her a flexible display computer, paper thin and clear. It's voice activated and you can hold it like a magazine, pretty slick. I added a little surprise in there. I convinced Reggie's family to record themselves singing her We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Plus, it's got some virtual teacher programs like I got for Echo. Because I buy in bulk, yo.
Reggie makes an honest-to-gods surprised face. "So pretty. Hey, what's this icon that says 'Merry Christmas'? She touches it, and when she hears her Mom, Dad, and sister singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," Reggie tears up a little bit. "I'm sorry, people, but I'm kissing this man." And she does. Echo makes a face, like you'd expect, but your folks just smile.
Kissing in front of my parents is a tricky thing. They came home early in junior year of high school and caught me with Holly. So, yeah. But this one? It's good. I OWN this one, too!
When we come up for air, I grin, "Glad you like it."
Reggie picks up the last present from your pile, the one from her. She hands it to you. "I hope you like it!" So, how do you open presents, Trev? Are you a ripper or a peeler? This one's about 15 by 9 inches, maybe 8 inches deep. Stiff cardboard, by the feel.
I'm a ripper. I don't re-gift, either. I use it or donate it. Not that I plan on donating this. I've never known a girl who knew me as well as Reggie. Fifteen by nine doesn't seem like a device, which is cool, but it makes it hard to guess. Could it be something from the PRD? I almost asked Zero to whip something up, but that flexiscreen was too cool and useful.
Yeah, I'm ripping this sucker open. Gently. But ripping.
Everyone's watching. The wrapping paper comes off to reveal a box that says 'Chuck Taylor All-Stars by Converse'. When you open it, you see a pair of custom high-top Chucks. Left foot, the iconic dragon from TSol on the inside (as in, facing toward the other foot, not inside the shoe) and the Jabberwock you encountered on the outside. Right foot, the dragon again on the inside, and an image of Abby and Jace on the outside.
Reggie looks at you hopefully.
"Oh. My. God." I'm putting these bastards on, over the fugly socks, and I don't even care. I scoot over to Reggie and hug the life out of her. Not really "the life", but yeah, big hug. "This is incredibly cool!"
Reggie smiles like the sun coming out. "I'm so glad you like them!"
Everyone's cheerful, Christmassy.
Your mom says, "Okay, I'm making the long trek next door to help Jasmine with Christmas dinner. You all can watch football or nap or whatever it is you do... you've got a few hours. Don't forget to bring over the desserts when you come."
So, what's next on the agenda, Trev?
It's a little cold for basketball outside, but I'm keeping my hi-tops on. I take Reggie on a tour of the house, show off Echo's old room, mine, too. I'm curious if Mom or Dad have converted them yet. They've been hinting. I don't think Echo's would be different, at least.
Your room is indeed different. It's been converted to a home office over the last few months, and it's clearly Dad's territory now. It's immaculate, of course. White walls and a digital whiteboard on one. As you suspected, Echo's room is still Echo's room. The posters on the walls are a few years out of date, but it's the same familiar mess.
"Thank you for the computer, AND for the family surprise." She leans up to give you a kiss. "Merry Christmas!"
I kiss her back. Glad I didn't buy the mistletoe. "They were thrilled to do it. Your sister was fundamental with getting everything going." I kiss her again, then say, "We better move out of my old room, don't want to move any of dad's stuff, he'd freak. He's got "a system"."
A thought strikes and I grin, "Wanna play a board game? We've got some good ones. I know Echo's down for a classic like Ticket to Ride, or maybe Catan."
"I'm down for some Settlers of Catan. Want to make it interesting? If you win, you get the all-access pass tonight. Whatever you want. If I do, same. No holes barred, either way. And if your sister wins, well, it's a draw... we'll see."
I nod vigorously, "Oh hell yes, you are on, little lady." Why do I secretly wonder if I'd rather lose than win?
Echo is definitely down for a game of Catan. The three of you get set up on the dining room table, then Echo makes a pot of coffee. Reggie, for her part, gets another cup of Dad's eggnog. Apparently she really did like it.
You get the tiles laid out and choose your initial placements.
"Fair warning. We play Catan a lot at school... I'm pretty sure I'm going to kick both your asses."
I look over each of my tiles and make my initial placement as well, "We'll see, young padawan. We'll see." I wonder if she has gotten better. She was always too aggressive and single-minded when we were younger.
Board's set up, and you win the roll to be first to place a settlement. Once everyone's got their initial placements, play begins. Surprisingly, Echo starts off with an early lead after the first few turns, mostly from lucky resource rolls. Reggie plays conservatively, but smart, of course. Do you have any particular strategy, Trev, or do you just go with the flow?
I go with the flow. The game unfolds for you if you let it. I am pretty sure I can anticipate their actions, and I'm hoping to stay out of Echo's way long enough for her to move against Reggie. It should be a hoot.
It's a pretty good game, actually. Echo hits Reggie with the robber at the first opportunity, and looks to be on the way to "Longest Road". Reggie rolls a 7 and puts the robber on a tile that really hits your lumber production. In the end, it's pretty close.
Let's see a roll. I'll roll for Reggie (4 dice for "Organized Mind") and Echo (just the standard 2 dice). Feel free to use Tinkerer for this, or make the case for somethig else, if you like.
Organized Mind (Rolled: 4d6. Rolls: 4, 2, 6, 1. Total: 13)
Just Playing the Game (Rolled: 2d6. Rolls: 6, 3. Total: 9)
Tinkerer works (spending 1 xp)
(Rolled: 4d6 . Rolls: 2, 6, 3, 5. Total: 16)
I squeak it out with a 14. Woohoo!
Reggie and Echo are both disappointed when you pull out Largest Army and get to 10 victory points on your turn.
"I don't know how you do it... I almost always win, at school. We will have a rematch, later."
"Well... looks like I lost. I hope you're not too hard on me, later."
Echo raises an eyebrow at that, but doesn't say anything.
Anything else before you all adjourn next door for the main event? You've got plenty of time.
I grin an evil little grin at Reggie, and shrug innocently at Echo's reaction.
Nothing else for me, I've got exactly what I needed. MWahahaha.
You relax and digest for a bit. Your dad's watching college bowl games without any particular interest, Echo gets on her computer with Lili, and Reggie does her holiday greetings with family on the new device you got her. This is the sweet donut hole of Christmas day, between the welcome obligations of the morning and the pomp and circumstance of Christmas Dinner, and it feels like relaxing into a warm bath.
Reggie certainly hasn't been shy about going back to the eggnog well, but she doesn't get crazy.
It's time for dinner at the Kurumatsu's. Any particular traditions you're looking forward to for this two-family gathering that's been going on since you were five, Trev?
Christmas Day at the Kurumatsu's is pretty neat. Fried chicken, of all things, and a sponge cake decorated with strawberries and whipped cream, with little trees on it. It's a Japanese thing, Mrs. Kurumatsu really gets into it.
It's all that, and the classics. Your mom has contributed the prime rib, as usual, and there are roasted vegetables and other sides on the table worthy of a feast from Dickens or George R.R. Martin. The chicken is fresh out of the fryer when you arrive, with that super-crispy skin that seems like magic (she'll never admit it, but Mrs. K uses a Korean recipe).
Mrs. K exclaims over your pie and the candy Reggie made. "So lovely! Just put those in the kitchen, please? We are ready to eat as soon as everyone is settled." Soon enough, everyone's "settled". Jake makes it to the table with a cane (which is an improvement... it was a walker, last time you saw him, and you know he still uses the chair for longer journeys), Tandy shows up freshly scrubbed and in her usual Christmas "new dress," which started off as an excuse when she was six and developed into an ironclad tradition as she got older.
Mr. K, at the head of the table, asks, "Who would like to say grace, this Christmas?"
Tell me, Trev, who volunteers? It's not going to be one of the "real" adults.
Echo steps up to the plate, which is a first. She pulls it off, too. It's very grown-up of her. I'm a proud older brother. I squeeze Reggie's hand under the table, for support.
Echo's grace is brief, but heartfelt. She gives thanks for the food, for family and friends, and for Jake's continued recovery. Then, of course, it's time to eat. Your dad does the honors of carving the prime rib, using the big Japanese steel carving knife the Kurumatsu's gave him ten years ago. Tandy asks Reggie how Jack Aubrey is doing, and the whole table settles into pleasant small-talk conversation.
Tell me, Trev, who is it that asks when you're going to "make an honest woman" of Reggie, and how do you respond?
Mrs. Kurumatsu isn't quite that direct, but she's the one who asks when we're getting married. I didn't honestly expect that, so I pause with the forkful of prime rib hovered near my mouth. "Well," I say, buying time, glancing over at Reggie. "We're really happy being together as we are. Reggie just started school, I've got the gaming thing... I'm pretty happy to be dating her, you know?"
I am the king on non-answers today. ugh
Reggie's eyes crinkle a little in amusement at your attempt to answer. "Trev's right, Mrs. Kurumatsu. There's a lot going on right now, and we're really enjoying taking life as it comes. Besides, I'm bad enough when I'm planning a trip to the bathroom... I don't think anyone would want to be around me if I was planning a wedding."
There are chuckles around the table at that, and conversation settles back down.
Why don't you ask a question or two, Trev? Where do you want to take the conversation?
At some lull, I'll ask, "Hey Echo, how is Lili's singing career going?"
Later, "Dad, any new projects come your way lately?"
And, of course, I want to ask about Mr. Kurumatsu's latest geek-out tech gadget. He's so fun.
Echo gives that special "Lili" smile of hers. "Really great. The thing with Lyle Lovett was huge... it should be out in February, but she's already getting lots of attention. I think she'll have the pull to put out some stuff with the band commercially and be able to promote it soon."
Your dad goes into some detail about the new project he's managing, using all the buzzwords like "critical path" and the like. It's a little strange, but this stuff really does seem to excite him. He even makes sweeping gestures with his hands.
Mr. K is happy to tell you about the new VR drawing suite he's starting to use, promises to show it to you later. "It will blow your mind, Trevian. It's sensitive enough to do really fine shading, but it's got so much power... they're using this same gear in architecture and engineering offices. It can do super sophisticated math on the fly."
He winds down, then asks, "So, how is it going in the game, Trevian? Still feeling good about the quest?"
I shrug a little, "It's going pretty well," I start off like I do in most interviews, "We've stayed at the top or near the top of the leaderboards, which is great." But I'm with family, so I talk more openly. I lean forward a little, "Thing is, I feel like most of our progress happens when we go on scavenger hunts in the real world. It's been an interesting mix, some quests key from things we've done, we got some unlockables... even made some close friends. It's been my favorite part, really."
"Sounds fun. Any 'scavenger hunts' coming up? Going anyplace good?"
I frown a little, "Well... maybe. We're still trying to noodle one out. I think it's supposed to be in Wyoming, and it has to do with... cowboy poets." I shrug, still baffled, but intrigued.
"Well, that's certainly different. Your Eve must have been an interesting woman, Trevian. You know, I actually attended the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering two years ago, doing research for a paper. It was quite lively, and a lot of the poetry was really quite good. Not just 'good, for cowboy poetry,' but good-good."
Of course Mom knows about cowboy poetry. "Do you know who Gerard James Dickey is?" It's a longshot, but why not?
"I certainly do. He's one of the best that I saw at the Gathering. We actually still correspond on occasion. Oh, Reggie, he's a large animal veterinarian, actually."
I explain the image Zero sent us, how I ran it through several databases and came up with the museum and his name. I'm actually sharing it with everyone. "I think I need to meet him?"
Everyone's really listening. This is far better than a "let me tell you about my character" story.
"That's really interesting, son. And clever of you to work it out. Hold on a second..." She pulls out her phone and swipes a couple of times. "There. Mary Beth Fitzgerald. She was at grad school with me, and she's a writer-in-residence at the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts through next June. I'm sure she'd love to meet you, and would be happy to help out. I sent you her details." She chuckles, remembering something. "And if she gives you any... guff, just tell her I still remember what she's like when she drinks Pisco Sours."
"That's really great, Mrs. Marks! I'm sure that's going to be a big help. Hmmm. I've never had a Pisco Sour..."
Okay, that deserves a hug, right? I hope up to go over and hug Mom, then look at Reggie, "We'll have to head to Top tomorrow and try them." I almost ask Jake and Tandy, but then, I think about Jake, smile a tight smile and sit back down.
Dinner finishes pleasantly, then it's time to "take a break" for digestion before the desserts are broken out. This is traditionally when the rest of the presents happen. Usually, there's also a white elephant gift exchange thing, but that's been put on hold this year because, as your dad said after tolerating it for more than a decade, "That's just bullshit. I don't want a cheese board painted with cartoon grapes."
So, it's just the real presents. It's a little more light-hearted, this second round, but you know Jake and Tandy have been trying to be more thoughtful and less silly for the last few years. Tandy goes first, and picks your gift, of course. What did you find for her this year, Trev?
I could throw out a bunch of technical terms and jargon, like talk about the AI enhancements, the animatronic grace, the skillsofts and memory components as well as the glowing reviews on CNET, but really.... it's a dancing teddy bear.
I think she might have a cardiac arrest.
Tandy actually says "Squee!" Present-opening has to pause for a full five minutes while she puts her bear through its paces. Once she comes back to herself, she comes over to give you a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "That is the most fun thing ever! I'm going to name him... Kringle. Kringle the Wonder-Bear."
Tandy passes the torch to Reggie, who picks Jake's present. You and Reggie are both pretty sure what it is when you see the package, and she doesn't even try to preserve the paper. As you thought, it's the portrait of the two of you, beautifully framed. It really is the best work you've ever seen from Jake, which is saying something.
"Oh, Jake... it's so... thank you." She gives him a big hug and a kiss on the forehead. Her eyes are definitely wet when she comes back to sit next to you. Reggie leans the picture against the sofa and grabs your hand, tight.
Pimp cane! Pimp cane! Dying to see Jake open the pimp cane!
I take my present over to Jake, "That was awesome, Jake." I hand him the long box, "Here you go, buddy."
"Baseball bat? That's not cool, man..." He rips off the paper and opens the box. When he sees what's inside, "Holy sh... moley! Dude, I need to buy a purple suit and a wide-brim fedora! I will be the most stylin' rehab-working, pimp-daddy of them all!" He pushes up, using the new cane to hobble back over and give you a bro-hug.
So, everyone's looking at you to pick next. Jake, Tandy, or Mr. and Mrs. K? Which goes first?
Since he's up, I choose Jake's.
Jake's present is a small, flat box. You open it, and inside is a year's gift membership to the local YMCA, which has two basketball courts, a pool, and a full weight room.
Jake gives you a sly grin. "Figured, since I'm not around to drag you out to 'hike' or play hoops for a while, and Reggie's too fast for you, you might want the opportunity to keep your sofa-riding, game-playing butt in shape."
I show off my badass hi-tops, for second time, "Now I can put these to work on the court! Thanks, bro." I bro-hug him again.
Jake returns the hug, rather tighter than pre-accident Jake would have. Reggie hands him a present from her, "while he's up."
He unwraps it and puzzles over the contents of the package for a bit, then laughs, loud. He holds up this:
"Because I'm gimpy! Reggie, you are evil and delicious." He hobbles over to meet her for a hug just as she stands, then goes back to his seat.
Wow. That was a bit. Extreme. I wish we'd talked about that beforehand. I hope Dad doesn't say anything. He probably won't.
Before anyone else can respond out loud (Tandy's laughing into her hand, and the parents are bewildered but gradually getting it), Reggie says, "The real present's in there, too. Look for the envelope."
Jake digs into the tissue paper and pulls out an envelope, opens it.
"A gift certificate for four massages at PT Cruisers! Ooh. That I need."
Everyone smiles, although Mrs. K still has a puzzled look...
I visibly relax. Still a bit weird, but a good weird. Dang, a gimp mask? Wow, she's got stones. Was this why she was so nervous?
Everyone recovers from that "moment"... and you move on. Mr. and Mrs. K gave you a warm hoodie made from some new carbon-and-wool fiber, with "Mac Daddy" written across the back. (They try...) Tandy gives Reggie perfume from a local business that distributes through the boutique (essential oils rendered from locally-grown herbs and such, and it smells really good). Your present from Tandy is a handmade 'coupon,' not the first you've ever received from her... "Good for one outfit, courtesy of someone with FAR better taste than you." For the first time, though, there's a Visa gift-card attached, for a hundred bucks. You know that's a stretch for Tandy, but her look dares you to challenge her.
Hugs for Mr. and Mrs. K. I put on te sweatshirt and I OWN IT! The coupon is super sweet and I do a bro hug for Tandy, kiss on the top of the head. "Thank you, so much. I cannot wait to go shopping with you, Tandy."
Reggie chuckles, and hands Tandy a neatly-wrapped box the same size as Tandy handed her. "I asked your boss..." It's perfume from the same company, but a different mix. The label just says 'Tandy'. "They were excited to mix something up for you... you may not know it, but you're kind of a superstar..."
The rest of the afternoon and early evening goes well. Margie stops by in time for dessert, and Jake hobbles around with his pimp cane to show off.
Soon enough, though, you're back at Reggie's, and she says "Bow time, winner? Next time, Carcassonne, and I will beat your ass. Figuratively and then literally."
"This was the best Christmas ever," I say as we walk inside. "Admit it, that was pretty great." I kiss her, then add, "Yes, bow time. Get in the bedroom."
"It was a very good Christmas, Trev." She gives you a kiss and moves into the bedroom with a look back over her shoulder.
Oh, I follow, no hesitation. I do like paths where she leads. She's such a pretty girl. Once we're in the bedroom, her bedroom, I close the door. "You know, I thought about throwing the game today. I got to be in control at the PRD, and again the other night. But, you've never had the chance to be the boss. I thought it would be cool to let you be the queen." I leave it out there, see if she'll take the bait.
Reggie raises an eyebrow. "I'm glad you didn't throw the game, Trev, but I'd be happy to... be queen, if you want." She would clearly be more than happy, actually.