A ZIFORN CHRISTMAS
Mylo hummed as he finished wrapping Zaneta’s gift. He expected her to pop in at any minute, and was now wishing he’d begun wrapping earlier. As he topped the present with a gold ribbon, he stepped back to admire his work. It had taken four re-wraps, but the red and gold package was finally perfect. Of course, Zaneta would only tear into it in a few minutes and all of his time would be wasted… Shaking this off, he tried to think only of the surprise and joy on her face, not his meaningless efforts. Petro swooped down from the rafters, landing on his shoulder, and chirped curiously.
“It’s a gift for Neta. Think she’ll like it?” Mylo asked as he stroked the owl’s head.
The petting diverted Petro’s attention from the present and he gave a few satisfied hoots as he lovingly nibbled Mylo’s ear. His tranquility was interrupted by a flash of green light which revealed the bright-eyed, wild-haired girl now standing in the Gatehouse. Petro narrowed his eyes with contempt for this “child,”, and she did the same.
“Morning, Neta!” Mylo interrupted the silent war between the two, spreading his arms for a hug.
A grin spread across Zaneta’s face and she raced to the older boy, wrapping her arms around his waist, her face buried in his chest. This show of affection was too much for the owl, and he flew back to the safety of the rafters, screeching loudly to ensure his disdain was known.
His retreat wasn’t necessary as the hug lasted but a few seconds, broken by Zaneta as she spotted the present.
Zaneta teleported herself the few yards that separated her from the mysterious package, promptly picking it up and shaking it.
“Careful!” Mylo warned, a hand outstretched as he hurried to her side and snatched the gift from her arms. “It’s...a gift. For you.”
Zaneta blinked up at her silver-haired friend. The two had never exchanged gifts before-- in fact, no one on Ziforen was accustomed to the practice of gift-giving. Her gaze shifted down to the bright package, curiosity urging her to rip it open and discover its contents. Again she looked into Mylo’s red and gold-flecked eyes, the matching package still held securely in his hands.
He smiled lovingly down at her. “Cause that’s what friends do for each other.”
A bit skeptical now, Zaneta carefully took the package from her friend, looking it over carefully before plopping down on the floor to tear off the wrapping paper. Mylo watched with delight as Zaneta peered into the box and slowly lifted the contents up to her face to see better.
“What is it?”
“It’s a snowglobe. If you tip it upside down, it’ll snow inside. Like this.”
Gently taking the snowglobe from Zaneta, Mylo tipped it upside down, quickly righting it and handing it back. Zaneta’s eyes grew wide, lips parted slightly as she watched the white spheres drift down around the miniature scene captured within the globe.
“It’s so pretty…” she said, her awe evident through her hushed tone.
Squatting in front of her, Mylo asked hopefully, “So you like it?”
“I do!” Zaneta exclaimed as she threw her arms around his neck, nearly throwing him off balance. “Thank you, Mylo!” She sat back as realization struck. “But I don’t have anything for you.”
“That’s ok. I didn’t expect you to. I just thought you’d like this. Merry Christmas, Neta.” He drew her back for another brief hug.
“I wanna do something for you though…” Zaneta pouted as she pulled out of the hug.
“Tell you what: go on a walk with me, maybe fly up to the field beyond the mountains, and we’ll be even.”
“But that’s nothing special.” Zaneta’s frown deepened.
“Just spending time with you is special enough.” Planting a kiss atop Zaneta’s head, Mylo placed an arm around her shoulders, guiding her toward the door.
She smiled up at him. “Ok. A walk it is.”
After setting the snowglobe in a safe place on the shelf, the two friends went outside and began their stroll, their friendship that had blossomed over nearly a century strengthening with every step.
CHRISTMAS WITH A CAT
The longer Kissa stayed with him, the more Tripp was reminded why he’d never wanted a cat. In past years, with no family to celebrate with, he’d enjoyed a peaceful Christmas morning of sleeping in. Now he was rudely awakened by the impatient poking and prodding of his face, Kissa lying practically on top of him. Cracking a sleepy eye open, he noted that the room was still dark, the morning sun still below the horizon, therefore providing no bright rays to illuminate the room. He promptly shut his eye in hopes that Kissa would leave him be if she believed him to be asleep.
“Tripp?” she whispered in his ear. “You awake?”
Knowing there would be no appeasing his werecat housemate until he was up, Tripp heaved a sigh, yearning for the rest he wouldn’t get now.
“You are!” Kissa squealed as she rolled off of him and sat up. “Did I wake you?”
Resisting the urge to roll his eyes, Tripp replied, “Why would you think that? I’ve been awake for a bit now.” Kissa didn’t notice the betrayal of this statement in his voice, deep and groggy with sleep.
“Oh good. I’m just excited.”
An unnecessary statement as that was clear from her bouncing which caused the bed to squeak with every movement. Her excitement was further shown by the eager stretching and relaxing of her fingers, clawing at the sheets as she waited for Tripp to get out of bed.
He couldn’t help but smile at her child-like anticipation for the few gifts under the tree. He’d realized mere hours after placing them there that he should have kept them hidden until he was ready to let her open them. All she’d thought about the past few days was the gifts. She’d even tried to sneak a peek when he wasn’t looking, gently sliding a finger under the seem in the wrapping paper to open it in a way that she could easily hide by replacing the paper just as it had been before. Tripp caught her just in time and gave her a firm reprimanding, though he had to assure her afterwards that he wasn’t truly mad.
He swung his legs over the bed, sliding his feet into his slippers before standing. Before he has even risen fully, Zaneta leapt onto his back, nearly causing him to tumble to the floor. He merely shook his head as he carried his passenger downstairs.
“Let me get some coffee and then you can open your presents, ok?”
Kissa protested this delay, but Tripp wouldn’t budge on the matter of coffee. His decision became even more resolute upon seeing the time on the stove clock-- not yet six o’clock. A groan sounded from his throat, silenced only by the coffee mug he raised to his lips. His moment of peace brought a smile to his face, but it was short lived.
“Ok, let’s go!”
Kissa hopped from his back, grabbing his hand as she raced to the living room. The sudden jolt almost made him spill his precious coffee, but he recovered once she released him and kneeled in front of the tree, looking up at him, a yearning glint in her eyes.
Lowering himself onto the couch, he nodded as a signal that she could now open her gifts. Barely did he have time to get comfortable before she had the first gift open-- a soft blanket. She proceeded to wrap it around her shoulders before tearing into the next gift. Again only seconds passed before she opened it, the trend continuing until the final present. Once the gifts were unwrapped, paper strewn all over the living room and her treasures kept close, Kissa surprised Tripp by revealing a small gift that had been hidden behind the tree. She scrambled to the couch, sitting cross-legged so she was facing him as she handed over the poorly - but thoughtfully - wrapped present. Tripp turned the gift over in his hands, stunned. Lifting his eyes to meet hers, he was at a loss for words.
“Open it!” she urged, giving his arm a goading push.
A curious smile upturned his mouth as Tripp gingerly removed the wrapping paper to reveal a navy blue box. Glancing at Kissa to see the excitement still clear on her face, he opened the box and removed the contents.
“I felt bad for breaking your watch last week so I got you a new one,” Kissa explained timidly, her excitement receding slightly as she recalled the mishap. “Now you won’t have to worry about being late all the time.”
Tripp grinned as he slid the watch onto his wrist, thinking of how nervous Kissa got when he was rushing around the house in the fear of being late to work. Though not what he would have chosen had he picked it out himself, the watch was perfect because Kissa had picked it out. His brows furrowed, creating lines on his forehead as questions came into his mind.
“When did you get it? And where’d you get the money?” He looked up for the answers to his quandaries and wasn’t surprised to see she’d inched closer, almost too close for comfort.
“I used the money you gave me for helping in the book shop.” She hesitated before adding, “I may have had to borrow some from your wallet though…”
That explains the forty dollars I thought I’d lost, Tripp mused.
“And I snuck out of the store a few days ago when you were busy with a customer.”
Tripp would have chided her, but she looked so proud. Besides, it was Christmas. A loving smile spread across his face.
“Thank you so much, Kissa. It’s perfect.”
She pounced on him, knocking him back onto the couch as he laughed and returned the hug. For a moment she snuggled into his arms before sitting up.
“Oh, sorry. Forgot about the whole personal space thing and warning before attacking…”
Sitting up, Tripp chuckled before opening his arms to her. “Come here.”
Eyes lighting up once more, she nestled into his arms. Tripp rested his chin on her head, giving her a loving squeeze.
“Merry Christmas, Kissa.”
The only reply that came was the purring that reverberated from Kissa’s chest as she slept, worn out from the excitement of the morning. Planting a kiss on her head, Tripp closed his eyes to take back the stolen hours of sleep. He decided he was happier sleeping like this anyway.
Jeffery pressed his nose and hands to the icy window as he waited for the sun to come up. His parents had instructed him to let them sleep until he could see daylight. He felt as though he’d been awake for hours as he waited impatiently, his fingers red from the cold of the window. He cast a glance back at his parents, sleeping peacefully together, their faces showing perfect contentment. Returning his gaze to the world outside the window, he squealed in delight as he saw the first rays of the sun reaching the treetops. Hopping up from his kneeling position, he raced to the tall bed, using the blankets to pull himself up.
“Mama! Daddy! Wake up! It’s Christmas!” Jeff cried as he jumped up and down on the bed, his parents waking with sleepy groans.
“Dear, would you make the coffee?” Alice mumbled to her husband.
“I already did! Come on!”
Jeff slid down from the bed, taking his mother’s hand and pulling her from the bed. He managed to successfully drag his parents downstairs where they reclined on the couch, Alice snuggled close to John for warmth.
“Can I open them now??” Jeff asked eagerly, kneeling in front of the tree.
His mother nodded, smiling sweetly. “Go ahead.”
After receiving a nod from his father, Jeffery tore into the gifts, stopping to hug his parents after each one he opened. He only paused when it was his parents’ turn to open a gift, though theirs ran out before his. Alas, the pile dwindled until there were only two gifts left, one for each of his parents that Jeffery had picked out himself while out with the other. Climbing onto the couch between them, Jeff waited eagerly for his parents to open their gifts. For his mother he’d gotten a new shawl, and for his father, a travel thermos.
“I payed for them myself!” he stated proudly, sticking out his chest.
“They’re beautiful, Stardrop!” Alice drew him into her arms, planting a kiss on his head.
“Well done, son.” John wrapped his arms around his wife and child.
Jeff giggled and squirmed in their arms. “Can’t breathe!”
His father’s hearty laugh filled the living room as Jeffery was released. An ulterior motive for wanting to be set free was revealed as he hurried to play with his toys. His parents whispered to each other things Jeffery soon became curious about.
“What are you whispering about?”
“Nothing, love,” his mother assured him.
His father rose from the couch, sitting beside him on the floor. “How about you show me some of your new toys, son.”
This was enough to distract Jeffery from his parents’ secrets and he played with his father while his mother excused herself to the kitchen to make breakfast.
A strong hand on his shoulder pulled Jeffery from his reminiscing.
“Ready to go?” Gabe’s gruff voice resonated in the hotel room.
Heaving a regretful sigh, Jeff nodded. One moment longer was spent looking at the fourteen year-old-picture, the scene of him and his parents laughing in front of the Christmas tree a reminder of the happiness he’d once known. Then he placed the photo back in his wallet, whispering an apology to his mother. That had been their final Christmas together when he was seven-years-old, and since then no year had truly felt like Christmas.
“Then let’s go. I wanna get this job done in time to get home for Christmas,” Gabe ordered as he tucked a pistol into its holster.
Jeff tossed a knife in the air then tucked it in his boot upon catching it. Once he’d pulled his jacket on, Gabe lead the way out the door. Unless Jeff could shake the memories of his parents from his mind, this job was going to be very difficult...