The week leading up to Christmas went by in a blur. The shop was the busiest I had seen it since I had arrived. Wes and I never talked about the night we spent together in part because he was gone doing deliveries most of the week and partly because I avoided him when he was in the shop. It was probably for the best. That night confirmed my fear – I wasn’t just blindly infatuated with him. I wanted him. I wanted him to brush my hair like he did when I was falling asleep at this place. I wanted to fall asleep with him again, wake up to his face, his touch. Every time I saw him I imagined a life with him.
Christmas Eve finally came but it didn’t feel like Christmas. I wasn’t home with my friends – I had only read the first stave of A Christmas Carol and I hadn’t seen one Christmas special on TV. The only thing that reminded me that it was Christmas was the bustle of shoppers and decorations everywhere I looked.
As Wes and I closed up he asked, “You doing anything special for Christmas?”
“No. Beatrice and her family are coming for Christmas dinner tonight but I don’t think I’m going to attend. They’re spending the night as well.” I replied as I balanced the debit machine.
“Why not? That sounds really nice,” Wes grabbed our jackets and handed me mine.
“They have their traditions. I don’t want to get in the way. The diner is open for dinner tonight – thought I’d grab a burger.”
“That sounds, really depressing,” Wes shrugged his coat on, “I have some turkey breasts at home I was going to cook for myself. Why don’t you join me?”
My heart flipped at his invitation, “I’d love too.”
“Come on then,” he held the door of the shop open for me.
Wes cooked a mean turkey breast. He also made stove top stuffing, potatoes and broccoli. It wasn’t the Christmas dinner my mom made, or the one I would’ve had in Boston with my friends, or even the Christmas dinner I would’ve had at Winnie’s but it was perfect. Better than I could have imagined this Christmas would be.
After we were done eating we sat on the couch sipping wine and talking.
“No in reality growing up in Vegas was nothing like the movies. I had a pretty normal middle class life,” Wes took a sip of his wine as he fondly told me stories of him and his brother.
“I can’t believe you went from the busy lifestyle of Vegas to quiet Peterborough.” I smiled at him.
“Well that’s a lot about me, what about you?” Wes asked.
“My story is boring.” I lied; I could feel my heartbeat quickening at his question.
“Tell me about your childhood. Something about Christmas?” he asked.
I took a long sip of wine and sighed. I knew I had to be careful about what I said.
“Well every Christmas my mom and I would read “A Christmas Carol” together. She loved it. We would open one gift Christmas Eve, always pajamas, and then snuggle up on the couch and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Then we’d have a big family dinner on Christmas day. I say big but really it was just my mom and dad and I competing at who could eat themselves into a turkey coma first. It was perfect though.” I smiled fondly at the memory.
“Do you miss your mom and dad back in Boston?” Wes asked.
I felt my face drop. I fingered the rim of my wine glass trying to think of what to say, “My dad and I had a falling out almost a decade ago. My mom killed herself around the same time.”
“I’m so sorry Riley.” Wes ran his fingers through his hair.
We sat silently and sipped our wine. He poured me another glass when mine emptied and we continued to drink in silence.
Suddenly Wes stood up, “I have something for you. One second.”
He disappeared into one of the rooms and came out with a gift wrapped in candy cane paper. He handed it to me. I carefully peeled away at the wrapping to find the book store’s first edition of “A Christmas Carol”.
“Oh my God,” I covered my mouth with my hand.
Wes sat down beside me and smiled, “You like it?”
“Wes, I can’t. This is a first edition. It’s worth a lot of money,” I looked at him in disbelief.
“Hey – it’s my book to do with what I please. I want you to have it Riley.”
I suddenly did something out of character for me – I reached over and hugged Wes. He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me tightly into him. He smelt so good.
I looked up at him still in the embrace, “Thank you.”
We looked into each other’s eyes. Wes slowly leaned down and his lips gently brushed mine. I didn’t flinch. My breathing didn’t quicken. I felt calm. I leaned in and kissed him back. The kiss quickly deepened his tongue finding its way into my mouth. Everything about this felt so right. His hands reached for the hem of my dress and I quickly backed off.
“What?” his eyes searched mine concerned.
I covered my face with my hands. I didn’t know what to say – I didn’t know what to tell him. He reached out and touched my cheek. I felt a hot tear roll down my cheek. I knew I had to tell him.
“Wes I…” I tried to find the words but none seemed to feel right for what I needed to say, “Well… um…”
“Riley you can tell me anything,” he gently stroked my cheek with his thumb.
That was one of the things I needed to tell him. I wasn’t Riley.
“I’ve never been with a man. Not willingly anyways. I’ve never done this.” I looked at him shame filling me as I told him. I couldn’t read his facial expression and it felt like an eternity waiting for him to talk. His hand moved from my face and it felt like a bad sign.