"How about this?"
Mom held out a pair of boxer briefs in an eye-insulting Christmas pattern.
"No," I grunted unamused.
"Why not? This plays music when you push o..."
"Mom! Stop! First off all, I'm not comfortable with shopping underwear for men together with you. And second, I really don't wanna know what dad wears under his pants, okay? Why can't we just buy him a new tie like last year?"
Every freaking year, it was the same problem. Mom needed help finding Christmas gifts for the family and I was the natural 'victim', since I normally like shopping, unlike my brother. But even though she paid for the gifts I picked out for my best friends in return, it still didn't cover underwear shopping for my dad!
"He can't only get ties, Avery. And he really needs some underwear, because his old ones are..."
"MOM!! Come on! You're embarrassing me."
God, how I wanted to disappear between the aisles of boxers, socks and PJ's! And even though nothing there was inappropriate, it still felt incredibly wrong for me to even be in this department of the store.
"Oh, alright," she sighed.
"You can go to the women's clothing, and I'll find you when I'm done here. Okay?"
"Yeah," I mumbled, just as a well-known Christmas carol started on the radio. And even if I was quite annoyed at the moment, a big smile crept onto my lips anyway.
Absentmindedly, I let my hand brush over the racks of clothes, as I walked towards the exit. And I smiled when I thought about the little boy with the beautiful voice, singing so purely, that it made your heart flutter. It had been a few years now, since The Jackson 5's Christmas album came out, but their songs were already deeply incorporated as a heavy Christmas tradition, like if they'd always been there. Because that's the way it was. The Jackson 5 was so big in the music industry, that it seemed like there wasn't much, before they came.
I was lost in deep thoughts, when I heard my mom clear her throat behind me.
"I thought you said you didn't want to be here?"
"I-I do. Uhm. I mean, I don't! I'm leaving. I left. Bye."
I heard her giggle behind me, as I walked, and my mood stooped right back into being annoyed again. Then I rolled my eyes, and exited.
A little later, mom and me had found a toy store, where we were looking for Christmas gifts for my cousins. And, as usual, mom kept finding the wrong things, things that were totally uncool or too childish for their age. It was true. She really needed shopping advice!
"No, mom. She's eight. Not four. If you want to buy her a book, look in that shelf," I said, and pointed to where the more suitable books were.
"Oh. How about..." she pulled out another book from the shelf.
"...this one? What eight year old girl wouldn't love to read about unicorns?"
She was so satisfied with her own suggestion, that I actually felt bad for her.
"Elaine. Elaine doesn't like stuff like that. She likes sports, remember? Buy her a book about soccer."
I pulled out one I thought would be a good gift, from the rows of boy's books, and saw my mom wrinkle her nose. But my attention was immediately drawn elsewhere, when the same tune as earlier, filled the store. Ahhh... It's them again. Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5.
"Avery? What are you smiling about?" mom suddenly asked, yanking me out of my little mental escape.
"Me? N-nothing. Just... The song."
She listened, and nodded carefully, and I could see how she slowly recognized it.
"Oh! That's those boys, isn't it? The Jacksons?"
"The Jackson 5, yes. Do you wanna buy the book or not?"
She looked down at the book in her hands with pursed lips.
"Yeah... The book. So... You're sure she'll like a boy's book, Avery?"
"Absolutely positive. Let's go."
We sat down in a cafeteria, after ordering something to eat. Mom eagerly searched through our bags, to see what she could cross out on her checklist, and she seemed pretty satisfied when she was done.
"How many do we have left?" I asked in curiosity.
"Six. Your brother, grandma and grandpa, aunty June and uncle Leo, and Jolene."
I raised my eyebrows.
"What? You're buying Christmas gifts for our neighbor, too?"
The waiter, a young man with beautiful brown eyes, big, fluffy afro and a pearly white set of teeth, smiled at me as he put my plate down at the table in front of me, and I stumbled in my own thoughts. I was so sure I had seen him somewhere. He looked so familiar!
"Enjoy your meal, ladies," he said with a handsome smile and a little wink.
"T-thank you," I studdered, and felt my cheeks burning. And my eyes followed his lean body, as he surprisingly gracefully, walked away from us.
"Oh, look at you," mom immediately teased.
"Did you know him?"
"I... Uhm. No. I don't really...know."
I focused on the pasta salad in front of me instead, and frowned upon my own reaction. I never use to get flustered like that! What's wrong with me?!
"Oh, I think you do. You're blushing."
God... She just had to make my problem worse, didn't she? Sometimes I wondered if she was put on this Earth for that purpose only; to make me embarrassed in every situation possible.
"No, I'm not, and what about Jolene?"
I smirked to myself, for managing to change the subject again.
"Oh, yeah. She always comes over with Christmas cookies a couple of days before the big day. Then, we have a cup of coffee and a good talk. She's such a nice lady!"
Hm. I never knew mom and Jolene used to meet like that? But, then again, she had to do something, while me and my brother were at school, right?
My eyes wandered back into the direction where the young man had disappeared, but I saw no one. But just as I was about to take the first bite of my salad, the song started again. I giggled a little, and started eating, while Michael and his family, filled my heart with happiness.
After we were done eating, we went to a book store, to see if we could find something for my grandpa. He loved books, and his favorite topics were fishing and history books, especially from WWII. So we didn't spend much time on searching for that. I also found a great cook book for grandma, and shook my head when mom eagerly checked out two more posts on her list. And while she was waiting in line to pay, 'Santa Claus is coming to town' started playing again. She looked at me with a surprised face.
"That song is really everywhere today."
She noticed too? It wasn't just me? Thank you! I was starting to think that I was going crazy, or something!
"Looks like it..." I mumbled with a smile, busying myself by trying to find a gift to Gary, my friend, while I was silently humming along with the tune.
"Great voice," I heard from a man behind me, and I turned around and saw another handsome man with a big afro and wide smile. He was a little older than the waiter, but I still got this crazy feeling that I knew him from somewhere. But before I even got to say thank you, he'd left.
"Avery? You coming?"
I shook my head, and followed my mom, that was closely eyeing me up and down, clearly wondering why I behaved so oddly.
I didn't know...
A while after, we had already found a gift for my aunt and uncle; a nice wine rack to put on the kitchen counter or a table. And since my mom told me they wanted one, I didn't object. But when she tried to buy my brother, Jeremy, a twelve pack of wash cloths, I did object. So, I dragged her to the music store on the first floor of the shopping center, instead. That was my favorite store, and I knew we would find something great for Jeremy, there.
"Oh my, how glad I am we're almost done, Avery. My feet are killing me, and these bags are getting really heavy now."
My mom wasn't really the type to complain, so I knew she had to be pretty exhausted, to be saying that. Still, I hardly responded.
I was already deeply concentrated on flipping through the neatly lined LP's, under the 'most popular' genre. Stones, Beatles, The Carpenters, Ray Stevens... They were all there, amongst probably thousands of others, well-known or less known artists. And, when my fingers found the cover of 'Lookin' through the windows', I automatically stopped and pulled it out, slightly giggling when 'Santa Claus is coming to town' started playing on the loudspeakers, for the fifth time today. But this time, I didn't really think too much about it, because, after all, this was a music store, and music stores usually plays the most popular music. But then I jumped, when a man's light voice spoke up right behind me.
"May I help you, miss?"
I quickly turned around to face him, and blushed like crazy. Another large afro, another charming smile and another set of gorgeous, brown eyes, met mine, and I automatically took a step back, and into the rack of LP's.
"N-no... O-or, yes. I... We are looking for a Christmas gift for my brother, and... Uhm."
This man! I'd definitely seen him before! Question was, where?
"Anything special in mind? What kind of music does he like?"
I swallowed heavily, trying not to stare at him. But it was like everything about him was screaming for attention, and I was the only one to hear. I had to! And while he talked and showed me around, I walked with him, completely dumbfounded, and without capability to say or do much else but just that; walking. All I could think of, was his plump lips forming his words together with a very distinct and high pitched voice, that sounded just as soft as his perfect looking afro. Oh, my God. To be the one to dig my fingers into his hair...
"I..." I started, but my mind came up completely blank.
"Bee Gees just released this new single, it's called..."
I shook my head, before he could finish.
"No? Okay. What about the album you hold in your hand?"
What? In my hand? Oh. I completely forgot about that.
He giggled a little, sounding amused, but a little shy.
"You like The Jackson 5?"
"Yaahhh..." I groaned, immediately heating up so badly, that even my ears were burning.
"And how about the person you're buying the gift for?"
"Yaahhh..." I groaned again, feeling even more embarrassed over myself.
"Well, then maybe the Christmas album might be a good idea?"
All his perfectly lined, bright white teeth came to view, when he smiled from ear to ear again, and I honestly felt a little dizzy.
"N-no..." I mumbled.
"No! Not no. Just no, because we got it already. That's... I'm sorry... I don't know what... I'm just..."
My words felt like moss in my mouth and I didn't know what to do.
"Alright. How about a signed cover of the one you're holding in your hand?"
"A s-signed... How...?"
I looked at him, smiling his extremely beautiful smile, and then down at the album. Five pictures of the band members were on the cover, and none of them were smiling. But they didn't need to smile. How could I not recognize it?
With widened eyes, my attention was drawn to the young and handsome man in front of me.
"Oh, my goodness! Do you have any idea how much you look like Michael Jackson?!" I blurted out, and the man started giggling. I looked down the album again, shortly, and then up at...
His name tag.
"Great God! Your name is Michael?! What a coincidence! That's the most..."
I stopped talking, and just blinked my eyes, while I studied the shy man. He was biting his lip, and looked down at the floor for a moment. But when he looked back up at me, I could see his pearly whites yet again.
For several seconds, I just stood there, gawking at him. But when he cleared his voice uncomfortably, I finally managed to control myself.
"I... Oh, gosh. Mom!" I yelled, as if I needed her to believe that what I saw was true. And when they hand shaked, it erased every trace of doubt. He was really there.
"Hi. I'm Michael. Nice to meet you."
Mom greeted him back, then nudged me, with a clear message to get a grip. Like if I wasn't already trying?!
"So, would you like a signed album?" Michael asked.
"Yeah!" I exclaimed, then slapped my hand over my mouth, knowing that I'd been both loud and rude. But he just giggled.
"Okay. Wait here. Let me go get my brothers. They're rehearsing... Wait. Would you like to listen to a song or two? We're about to start warming up for a concert later tonight. I think I might get you some tickets to it, too, if you'd like?"
I didn't know about any concert?! I always kept a close eye on that sort of things, just to be able to go to one of them. But so far, I hadn't been lucky enough to go to a single one.
"Yeah. It's a private arrangement, that Joseph made us do. But I'm sure I'll get you in, if you'd like?"
"Are you serious?!"
He giggled again, and smiled adorably.
"Of course, I am!"
And he really was, too. Both me, my brother and our parents got tickets, and had the best time of our lives. They all signed the album, and a few other items. I found out that it was Jermaine that had served our food, and that it was Jackie who stood next to me in the book store. They loved doing stuff like that, both for the sake of their fan's, but also, at least for Michael, as a way to feel a little normal.
The night ended way too fast, but that's the way it always is, when you're having such a wonderful time. But one thing I knew for certain;
This was the best Christmas gift ever!