A Christmas Surprise
A single snowflake fell lazily and lit on my nose; settled in the crook between the tip and the trophy bump I have from when I broke my nose as a child. I crinkled my nose and shook, but stopped as I remembered. Sara says I look like a cute little bunny when I do that, and I turn a severe shade of red every time, so I try to catch myself when I can, keep my cheeks from the rosy blush she loves to laugh about. I shook one more time, sniffed a little, and smiled to myself. I slammed the car door shut and looked down the quaint, snow-covered cul-de-sac. I chuckled and kept smiling; this was the perfect Christmas. I had been abroad all first semester and Sara hadn't expected me back until after New Years, but I decided to surprise her for Christmas and caught an earlier flight. I felt inside the right pocket of my wool coat, comforting myself that it was still there. It had been two years, four months, and eight days since we started dating. Over two years, and we had passed the final test: me being abroad. It was time. My smile flickered, betraying my frayed nerves as I began my walk down the powdered road.
My mind was frantic. I hadn't seen her face, the day-brightening dimples and flashing emerald eyes in almost four months. I hadn't heard her voice lilting in my ear without an artificial wall of plastic and wires in almost four months. Almost four months since I had curled my fingers in her wheat-blond hair, four months since I had kissed the soft skin on the nape of her neck, four months since my last Eskimo kiss. I couldn't take it any longer, so here I was; back early and trudging through the snow towards the canary yellow house her family lived in. I stopped about twenty yards or so down the road and looked at the pleasantly familiar sight. Big flakes were coming down around me, and her house looked like a scene out of a Thomas Kinkade painting; the way the light shown out of the windows and reflected off of the pure white snow, the house caked in drifts like icing on a gingerbread house, and my figure silhouetted against that backdrop. It was a painters dream.
With that image of perfection in my head, I began to cover the last twenty yards. I started to hurry, slipping as my boots encountered unseen ice but not falling because my body and reactions were used to the Minnesota winter. I reached the drive-way and composed myself. Once again, I put my hand in my right pocket for courage and trudged up the white-carpet towards my goal. The porch lights were still on, lighting my stage, and I groped for the doorbell with my gloved hand, but a movement out of the corner of my eye stopped my hand, caught it like the air had congealed around it. I turned my head, slowly, and looked through the little crack in the curtains to the living room that was now visible from my perch on the stoop. There she was, the woman I had been dreaming about for the past four months. And there he was, my best friend; the friend who had lived next door to me since childhood, the friend I had shared a room with since the beginning of college, the friend who I had told to "keep her out of trouble" while I was away with a joking smile as I whispered my goodbyes in the airport last summer. I froze, eyes glued. They were close, a little too close, way too close, so close that…was all I needed to see. I shuddered, felt a sob of disbelief catch in my throat. A mind that was frantic a moment before was silent. Time moved in fixed frames, sequential Polaroid's of another man's life, not mine. Not me.
I steeled myself and pulled the powder blue box out of the right pocket of my coat. I traced the white satin bow on top and gently slid off the lid. It looked exquisite, sitting there in a cushioned bed. The one carat diamond sparkled as it caught the porch light, seeming to mock my romanticism. So I grasped the platinum band and brought the ceremonial stone to my lips. I kissed its sparkling facets, a goodbye kiss, and held against my chapped lips for a moment as a single tear broke free from the corner of my left eye. It froze. I set the empty box atop the door handle, rang the doorbell, and walked away.