I lean back against the back of the couch, watching the snow pile up on the sill of the living room window. It's dark out and the snow seems to be glowing in the lights from the house. Honestly, it's a beautiful sight.
"Artie, is it still snowing?"
I glance over my shoulder and see Tina coming into the room. Much more beautiful than the snow, I conclude instantly. We've just come from a Christmas party at her parents' house and she's still wearing her dress; simple, black, and clean-cut. She's pulled her hair, still defiantly highlighted blue, out of the twist she had it in and it's curling over her shoulders, and she's disposed of her shoes, but somehow it just seems to make her look more elegant. Sort of Indian princess beautiful, I guess. Natural.
"Yeah, still snowing," I answer, not bothering to turn my eyes back to the window. "If it keeps up like this we'll be snowed in."
Tina smiles and comes over to join me on the couch. "That wouldn't be so bad," she says with a shrug, and looks up through her lashes to give me a mischievous smirk. I try my damndest not to blush, a habit I unfortunately haven't grown out of since high school. "Although Lily might be furious if we don't make it to your parents' tomorrow; I promised her that if Santa brought her some nail polish, I would paint her nails."
"I hope you know what you've gotten yourself into," I say with a laugh, thinking of my whirlwind-of-a-five-year-old niece. Tina just smiles and lays her legs across my lap, picking a piece of lint off my slacks. I haven't had the motivation to do anything more than take off my shoes either. Well, that and get rid of my tie, because honestly who can handle wearing those for more than a few hours? "Did you see the mess when I offered that on her birthday?"
"Yes, if I remember right your nails were a very beautiful shade of pink for a while," Tina replies and doesn't manage to pull off the nonchalant expression as she breaks down in giggles. "But the thing is, I'm a girl and pink nails don't look as weird on me."
"I thought they looked kinda nice," I say with a grin and Tina rewards me with a smile. "Although I think seeing you in pink would be quite a sight."
"I was wearing pink the other day," Tina says. "The jacket I wore to the party at your grandparent's house."
"Teasing, Tee, just teasing," I assure her. "And I was talking more along the lines of baby pink, not neon, hot pink." She shrugs and sets one of her arms on the back of the couch, resting her chin on it to stare out at the snow. Her other hand lands on her knee and, on instinct, I reach over and take it. I catch her smile out of the corner of my eye.
"Looks pretty, doesn't it?" I ask, copying her position so I can watch the swirling snow too.
"I thought you didn't like the snow?" Tina asks.
"I don't like being out in it sometimes, but that's mostly just because of what it does to the chair," I explain and Tina nods. "Doesn't change the fact that it's pretty. You know, sort of like how you drive me insane but I love you anyway."
Tina laughs and this is one of those times where my teasing earns me a kiss instead of a playful whap to the head. A really, really nice kiss. When she finally pulls back she's a lot more settled in my lap and her cheeks are a little flushed as she smiles at me. "You drive me insane too," she says with a laugh.
"I have that affect on women," I say and shrug. This time I get the whap in the head. "Oh, you didn't mean it that way? Sorry, my bad." She pretends to roll her eyes in an overly-exaggerated way, but she's giggling quietly as she goes back to watching the snow.
"It's nice to be home again," Tina muses a few minutes later, and a soft smile settles over her face. That statement sends the same thrill through me that it does every time I hear her refer to my house, our house, as her home. "I mean, I like seeing my family," I can't help but snort at the lie, "I do," she insists. "We might not always get along, but they're still my family."
"Okay, I'm sorry," I say, even though I still think she's stretching the truth in relation to how much she actually enjoys being interrogated by her stiff-backed family members. "Continue."
"As I was saying," Tina says with a mock annoyance that makes me grin, "I like seeing the family, but I love coming home. You know; just you and me."
"Yeah, I know what you mean," I agree, looking around our living room. It's sparsely furnished, mostly because it's a small room and I need to be able to move my chair around in it, but we still managed to make it our own. Even though I'd been living here for a year and a half before she moved in, somehow the appearance of her things next to mine just makes it feel even more like home.
"Your dad still hasn't forgiven me yet, and I don't think he plans to," I say with amusement when I join her in watching the storm again. "You know, for corrupting you. He made that point pretty clear to me after dinner."
Tina snorts back a laugh. "I know, you've turned me into such a horrible person," she says with a hint of sarcasm. "This is what I get for not dating a nice Korean Jew like he wanted me to. You've turned me to the dark side, coerced me into living with a man I'm not even married to. Not to mention, sharing his bed."
"What do you mean, sharing the bed? You don't share at all. You're a total blanket hog," I can't help but put in, laughing. This is an argument we have a lot, and one that always ends the exact same way.
"I am not," Tina says defensively. I squeeze her knee to show her I'm only kidding and she smiles again. Yep, that's where it ends every time.
We both turn back to the window again, just watching the snow stacking up on the sill. That's one of the greatest things about being with Tina; we don't have to be talking all the time, like some people do. We just enjoy being together, existing side-by-side. Maybe that's what comes from dating your best friend, or maybe it's just something special between us. Whatever it is, I love it.
"This is our first Christmas together," Tina says after a few minutes.
"Yeah, as long as you don't count the other seven Christmases that we've had since we met," I point out with a laugh.
"No, I meant –" Tina pauses, her nose wrinkling up like she does when she's thinking sometimes, "I meant this is our first Christmas like this. Here, in our house, just the two of us. It feels different somehow."
I have to admit, she has a point there. There were three Christmases we celebrated as friends, and then the four since we started dating in our sophomore year of high school, but this time it does feel different. We won't be pulling our presents for each other out from under the family trees, but out from under the little tree in our living room, the one we decorated ourselves one night in our pajamas while singing Christmas carols a little too enthusiastically for so late at night. She'll be here, in our bedroom, getting dressed for Christmas at my parents' house, so I can tell her how amazing she looks right then instead of when I pick her up or, in the case of last year, when she shows up late because of work. This year, Christmas just feels so much more intimate.
My heart is suddenly pounding and I turn to look out of the window again. I really hope my face isn't red because I feel really warm. Tina doesn't seem to notice anything, still facing the window but I can tell she's watching me out of the corner of her eye. And then I realize it's because I never responded to what she'd said.
"You're right," I agree, and then smile as I add, "Like usual."
Tina giggles and rewards me with another kiss. "Christmas movie?" she asks, raising an eyebrow curiously.
"Do I ever tell you no?" I ask in reply and she just beams at me. She slips off my lap and goes to the television, rummaging through the rows of movies on the bookshelf until she finds the one she's looking for. She keeps the cover hidden from me as she puts it into the DVD player and when she comes back to the couch, carrying the remote, she's smiling like it's some big secret.
"What are we watching?" I ask just to indulge her.
She shrugs, smiles at me even wider, and then gives her usual answer of, "You'll see."
I roll my eyes in pretend exasperation, trying not to smile too. Again, this is another thing we do a lot. She nudges me and I take the hint to scoot back on the couch, laying on my side with my back against the back cushions. Tina lays down in front of me, pressing her back into my chest, and it never fails to amaze me just how naturally she seems to fit with me. I slip an arm around her waist and she pulls my other one down so she can use it as a pillow.
The main menu of the movie lights up the screen and I laugh. "White Christmas. How fitting."
Tina giggles quietly. "I thought so too," she says, starting the movie and then nestling her head down on my arm. I tuck my chin on the top of her head, breathing in the scent of her.
"You smell different," I say abruptly. "Sort of like – cinnamon."
"It's the Christmas lotion I'm wearing," she explains. "My present from Kurt and Mercedes, I just opened it early." Then she nudges me in the stomach with her elbow because the movie's started, telling me the conversation is over until the credits roll. Tina will talk through just about any movie, but if it's one that she really likes she'll make sure everyone shuts up.
That silence doesn't apply to singing though, and the moment the first song starts up, she's humming along. Smiling, I join her. Music is what brought us together, and it's still one of the strongest threads in our relationship. We sing with every song in the movie, and once again I relish in the sound of her voice and mine. They both have the same soulfulness beneath them, and every time I hear her sing it feels like I'm listening to her soul. Putting our voices together is a sort of union of souls, and I have to say they fit together perfectly.
"I love this movie," Tina sighs at the end. She sits up and stretches, smiling down at me. When she gets up to go turn off the movie (we lost the remote to the television several months ago so we have to turn it off manually) I pull myself into a sitting position, leaning against the arm of the couch and dragging my legs over so I'm not taking up the whole sofa anymore. As Tina likes to point out, I'm too tall for our furniture.
When Tina settles herself onto the couch beside me again, we lapse into a steady quiet except for her still humming Christmas songs under her breath. I simply watch her, taking in every glorious sight of her. She looks so much like she always has, except that today her self-expressiveness is toned down a bit because her parents still cause drama if she shows up looking like normal. Her features have smoothed out a little, especially around her cheeks, and there's more maturity in her eyes, but besides that she is every bit the punk rocker chick I met in junior high and fell in love with in high school.
She turns to glance at me and I smile when I see the lights off our Christmas tree reflecting in her eyes, making them glitter and bathing her skin in multi-colored hues. She's framed in the window, the softly falling snow still drifting down, and my heart swells. Everything about this sight just feels so – perfect.
Coming to a decision, I lift my legs down off the couch and then carefully slide down after them. "Artie, what –?" I hold up a hand to quiet her.
"Humor me for a sec, Tee, I wanna do this right," I say and then go back to arranging my legs under me. Once I'm sitting on my bent legs, I check to make sure that I'm balanced and then look up at her.
"When I met you eight years ago, I knew we had something special," I start off. "We were only friends at the time, but we had a connection. And that's only gotten stronger the longer we've known each other. Eventually we wanted more than friendship, and we started dating. And now, again, I want even more."
"Artie, what –?" Tina tries again but she trails off on her own this time. I meet her gaze and she looks wary, but at that same time I can see something else in there that gives me the courage to keep going. I see hope.
"I'm kneeling," I inform her quickly, gesturing down at the closest my body can come to the desired position. "I love you, Tina, and I am always going to for as long as I live. Will you marry me?"
I only have the time to see a blur of a bright smile and then she's all but thrown herself at me. If it weren't for the fact that she's holding onto me so tight, I'd have lost my precarious balance and fallen over. She's hugging me like she wants to crush all the breath out of me and I can't help but wrap my arms around her too. For a second it sounds like she's sobbing into my shoulder, but then I realize she's repeating the same thing, one word, over and over again.
"Yes, yes, yes, yes…"
My eyes are burning, but I don't care and I tighten my grip around her. When we finally release each other, I really do lose my balance and I slump sideways into the couch, but I just laugh and reach down to untangle my legs. Once I'm through, I look back up at her and she's crying, with the truest smile I've ever seen on her face.
"Oh, right," I say suddenly and I twist around to reach for my chair. I pull down the suit jacket that's still hanging off the back of it and rummage in the pockets until my hand closes around the little velvet box. Tossing my jacket onto the chair again, I turn back to Tina and open the box, pulling out the little silver ring tucked inside. "I was originally saving it to be your Christmas present," I admit, "but this just felt right."
"Artie," she gasps, looking at it. It's a pretty simple thing, just a traditional band with a little diamond mounted on it. When I hold out my free hand, she places her left hand on mine. My hands are shaking as I slide the ring onto her finger, where it sits like it was made for her.
"I love you, Tee," I say, a bit redundantly in hindsight.
"I love you too," she replies and then she's kissing me again. I'm sitting a bit awkwardly, half-propping myself up against the couch, and I can feel the tears on both our cheeks whenever they touch, but it's the most beautiful kiss we've ever shared. And when she places her hands on the sides of my face, I can feel the ring, our engagement ring, against my skin.
When she pulls back, leaning her forehead against mine, she lets out a quiet laugh. I open my eyes and look at her questioningly. "My present for you seems really lame compared to this," she says with a smile.
Laughing, I kiss her forehead and her lips again. "You said yes, that's the greatest gift I could ask for," I tell her sincerely. She pulls herself into my arms again and for a long time we just sit there, holding each other and drinking in this moment.
Finally I hear Tina yawn into my neck and I chuckle quietly. "C'mon, Tee, bedtime," I say, pulling back to look at her.
"Can we – let's sleep out here, on the couch," Tina says. "With the lights and the snow, it just feels really good out here."
I nod, because when can I ever really turn her down, and I hoist myself back onto the couch cushions. Tina takes off her necklace and earrings, setting them on the coffee table, and I pull off my belt and slip out of my dress shirt, tossing them both into my chair. Tina disappears for a minute and I pause in taking off my glasses to figure out where she's gone, and once I see her coming back into the room, carrying the blanket off our bed, I smile and set my glasses on the table. She lies down with me again and we make ourselves comfortable before she spreads the duvet over us.
Once Tina's nestled in, she lays her left hand on my arm, the one she's using as pillow. I watch, and I know she's watching too, as the lights from the Christmas tree reflect off the diamond, and an enormous sense of contentment sweeps through me. It's Christmas Eve, it's snowing gently outside, and I'm snuggled up warm under the covers with my fiancée. Fiancée… Wow.
I'm not exactly sure how long we've been lying here, but I still haven't fallen asleep. At the moment I'm just memorizing every single thing I can about tonight. I slip my arm more securely around her waist and bury my face in her hair, breathing her in. I decide I like cinnamon just as much as I like jasmine.
The clock on the bookshelf suddenly chimes out midnight. I smile and whisper, "Merry Christmas, Tee."
Tina hums with pleasure. "Merry Christmas."