Chapter Twenty-Six - Forever And Always
I looked up at Matt as he stepped through the door and gave me a quick kiss.
Angel made a vomiting noise from where she stood next to me buttoning her coat, and rolled her eyes. I spun around and stuck my tongue out at her like an immature five-year-old.
Matt kissed me on the cheek, ruffled Angel’s hair affectionately and took his snow-covered coat off.
Matt and I had officially been a couple for two weeks, and it was now Christmas Eve. Since it was our last Christmas in school, my mother was letting us have the house to ourselves - by us I mean my friends and I - and she was taking Angel to Miranda and Stacy’s - I was really beginning to love Miranda and Stacy. Just then my mother swooped down the stairs where she greeted Matt and then promptly said goodbye to us.
Angel and her left, leaving us alone. Matt grinned mischievously and leant forward to kiss me, just as the doorbell rang.
Well, so much for being alone.
I went to the door with a smile as Matt groaned and opened the door to see Cole and Annie standing there, holding hands. They were now officially a couple, too. Matt and Cole were slowly starting to become friendlier, but I wouldn’t say we were at the double-dating stage yet.
Annie hugged me and Matt and Cole nodded at each other like macho men do. We exchanged presents and then Aly and Emilie stepped through the front door, shivering. And that meant everyone was here.
I know what you’re thinking. Awkward. And that’s what I was hoping to dissipate in this little gathering. Any awkwardness between everyone.
I was friends with everyone here, and I wanted everyone to be friends with each other as well. Leaving their rocky pasts behind.
Annie, Alyra and Emilie soon got into a discussion about which was better: stripes or leopard-print. It was comical to hear Annie debating about clothes; she wasn’t really much of a fashionista. But the discussion was lively, and Annie looked pretty happy with the girls.
Cole and Matt started talking about car parts, and I smiled at the sight. It felt so satisfying to see all of my best friends getting along despite the roller-coaster ride we’d all been through together. All of us had a history with one another. Cole and Annie, Cole and Alyra, Matt and Annie, Emilie and Alyra, Emilie and Cole, and myself and everyone here. Even though we’d all had our ups-and-downs, somehow we’d overcome the obstacle course that was high school, and were able to put that in the past and make our future brighter.
“Hey, can I talk to you in private?” Matt asked, taking my hand and lacing our fingers together. I jumped out of my reverie, to see him smiling down at me.
Worry twisted in my gut, but Matt didn’t seem angry or anything, so I nodded and followed him towards the front door and onto my porch.
“Behave, you two,” Annie called, and everyone laughed.
Matt grabbed our coats and tugged me outside, shutting the door behind us and effectively shutting off the sounds of Christmas music, the clinking of glasses, and the sound of all of my friend’s laughter. It was pitch-black outside, and the only light came from fairy lights twined around the banisters, casting us into a romantic darkness that sent my heart leaping into my throat.
“Everyone seems to be getting along,” Matt said. “No brawls as of yet.”
I grinned. “I think it’s a success.”
“You look gorgeous,” Matt said, and I looked down my red and black halter-neck dress. It was a silly costume choice considering the weather, but it was pretty and warm inside my house.
“Thanks,” I said. “You look amazing, too.”
He grinned and reached into his pocket. “I wanted to give you your Christmas present privately.”
My mouth went dry as I looked at the velvet box he had procured.
“Matt, I think it’s a little bit early in the relationship to propose,” I joked, smiling up at him. “It looks expensive, though.”
“Don’t worry about the cost,” he murmured. “No cost is too expensive for you. And don’t worry, the proposal will come later in the relationship.”
I felt myself blushing at that. That he had thought ahead that far to proposing, which meant marriage, and kids and a house and family and growing old together. I quickly opened the box to distract myself from those exciting thoughts.
I gasped at what lay inside.
It was a real gold chain necklace, intricate and tiny, with a miniature envelope charm on the end, studded with little diamonds.
“Matt,” I breathed.
“Open the envelope,” he whispered, watching me intently.
I undid the clasp of the envelope, and a tiny gold letter dropped out, attached by some string so that it wouldn’t fall out completely.
I looked down at the tiny writing, and gasped when I made out the words: ‘I LOVE YOU’
“It’s beautiful,” I whispered, my eyes filling with happy tears. “Oh, god, Matt. It’s perfect. I love it.”
“You do?” he asked hopefully. “Well, then, why are you crying?”
“Because it’s so perfect. Thankyou, thank you, thank you!”
I wrapped my arms around him and crushed my lips against his. He had caught me off guard with his gift, but it was so perfect.
He stumbled back against the banisters, but soon returned my kiss just as passionately. My arms twined around his neck as his tightened on my waist. His lips were soft and he tasted like chocolate and apple cider.
“I love it!” I cried when we broke apart. I raised my eyes to look into his. “I love you.”
He smiled that heart-stopping smile that sent my heart into crazy somersaults. “I love you, too, Grace. Forever and always.”
And that’s how long we’d be together.
Forever and always.