A/N: My first try at writing and this will be a one chapter, I can't think beyond one chapter. Special thanks to Sugar Stars at Night for the encouragement to try my hand at writing. So here goes and Happy Holidays to all.
Have a holly, jolly Christmas;
It's the best time of the year
I don't know if there'll be snow
But have a cup of cheer
Have a holly, jolly Christmas;
And when you walk down the street
Say Hello to friends you know
And everyone you meet
Oh - Ho
Hung where you can see;
Somebody waits for you;
Kiss her once for me
Have a holly, jolly Christmas
And in case you didn't hear
Oh by golly
Have a holly
Jolly Christmas this year.
Sung by Burl Ives.
Christmas Eve morning we find Annie in the kitchen with her brand-new Southern Living Christmas Cook Book. The menu for the Christmas dinner had already been planned but she was looking for suggestions for Christmas Eve. She had put up a seven foot Scottish Pine all decorated in odds and ends she had found in some church bazaars and the tree turned out dazzling, like a family collection of different Christmas ornaments collect over the years, not a quick trip to two church bazaars and three thrift shops. The only new addition was a beautiful angel on top, but actually the angel looked antique.
The mantel decorated in fresh greenery with oranges and apples, some holly berries and tall candles. There were the stockings, all hung with care, all five, one for Danielle, Michael, Chole, Katia and herself. Danielle and Michael with the girls were arriving late that afternoon for four-day visit in Georgetown. This was going to be a wonderful Christmas with her family.
Listening to Burl Ives sing have a Holly Jolly Christmas she couldn't help but laugh, hang mistletoe, somebody waits for you. Yeah right, what was the first thought crossing her mind, Eyal Lavin. Who knows where he was keeping himself, the last she had heard from her good friend was a month ago, wishing her Happy Thanksgiving and that was my e-mail.
Always with her phone in her pocket, it started to vibrate, incoming call. Without looking at the caller ID, why should she, only a very few people knew her personal cell number.
"Merry Christmas." She answered cheerfully.
"And a Merry Christmas to you Neshema."
"Yeah, that's my name." He snigger at her high pitch of astonishment. "I'm in Boston today and headed to DC later tonight. Mind if I invite myself around tomorrow for Christmas with you and oh by the way I have Avi with me. If you have other plans that's fine, I understand."
Annie totally taken back, at a loss for words. What, Annie Walker at a loss for words.
"You there Annie?"
"Sorry, yeah I'm here. You are always welcome, you should know that and having your son with you is a bonus. Should be a fun day, Danielle and her family will be here also."
"Great. She has two girls right? What are their ages? A last minute guest should never come empty handed."
"Eleven and eight but you don't have to bring anything."
"I know Neshema. Tell me what time?"
"Ten o'clock and you will be here for dinner."
"Avi and I will come hungry. See you tomorrow."
What a shocker to hear from him out of the blue. September wasn't it? Sure it was September the last time she had seen Eyal, they were in Krasnovishersk, Russia both CIA and Mossad gathering intelligence on a new secret manufacturing plant of smart drones using the latest weapons technology. Was it fate, as Eyal would call it Kismet that seems to put them together on their European missions? She had lost track of how many times their paths had crossed and so extraordinarily delighted to see him. What was so special about him? Stop thinking about him, Annie mused, she has shopping to do to make the two Israelis welcome at Christmas.
Bundling in her warm coat and scarf, she was on her way to pick up some last minute things, two Christmas stockings to add to the mantel. Small gifts for both Avi and Eyal and that will present a problem, what to buy. First stop at the same outlet mega store where she had gotten the other stockings and in luck, two very similar stockings but not matching any of the others. The one for Avi is blue and a happy snowman holding a decorated shovel. Eyal's stocking in red with a gingerbread man holding a candy cane in one hand and a green striped scarf around his neck. Now on to the toy department in search of something a fourteen year old boy would like.
Difficult age to buy for, a boy passing from toys to what teenagers like. Toy trucks out. Fact the entire toy department was out, on to the men's department for ideas.
Perfect, she found the gift for Avi, a Washington Redskins Blind Pass T-shirt in burgundy. A very large logo of the native American, a great reminder of his trip to the nation's capital, a special nod to American football and something none of his friends would have.
Okay, Avi is taken care of now for Eyal, oh great, another difficult age to buy for. Didn't want to get too personal so buying any type of clothing was out, gadgets maybe but have no idea what he would like. Standing in bewilderment in the crowed store when it hit her, he is a classic man and the times when they had been at a function where a suit was required, well Eyal was impeccably dress. She needs to head to Macy's or Sax's Fifth Avenue and men's jewelry. There she found the gift, Fleur de Lis cuff links in sterling silver to show off his savoir-faire style with unique and clever cuff links. There is a playful side to Eyal and these cufflinks would work well and still maintain his sophistication. Checking her watch, two hours left before picking up Danielle and family and still no plans for Christmas Eve dinner.
Quick stop at the super market but still adrift for dinner. Walking the aisle she remember reading a traditional Christmas Eve dinner being oyster stew but not sure if everyone would like that when she spotted yellow cans of Brunswick stew. That's it, two types of stew, salad, bread and for dessert, apple crisp with cranberries topped with ice cream she already had.
Now on to the airport and collecting her family, this was going to be a very special Christmas. Danielle meeting Eyal, the man Annie had been exceedingly secretive about. Once meeting the charming Israeli, Annie just knew Danielle will start make wedding preparations, no doubt. If anything, tomorrow would be interesting.
Christmas morning and the girls were the first up or maybe never going to sleep in the first place. Giggles, laughter and happiness all around as paper flying with presents being unwrapped. Pictures taken with flashes of light and camera rolling for DVD the Brooks' family Christmas back in Virginia. Annie keeping an eye on the time to make sure everyone was out of their PJ's before her guest would arrive.
Danielle handing Annie a cup of coffee, "So tell me about your guest."
"They are from Israel and maybe seeing firsthand Americans celebrating Christmas." Annie trying to avoid any details but no luck with Danielle.
"You said a man and his son. How do you know him and where did you meet him? The truth Annie."
"We have worked together several times in Europe."
"He's a spy too!"
"Top secret, no can tell." Annie heard the enthusiasm in her sister's voice and wanting to defuse any conversation she might wish to have with Eyal. "Nothing is to be said about my work, understood."
"Yeah sure. Does he know you are a spy?" Danielle wasn't quitting.
"Yes Danielle but his son may not so keep it hush, hush. Okay?"
"Lips sealed. Is there anything romantic with this guest?" There was no unplugging Danielle.
"Quit it Danielle with the questions and no, just good friends."
"I don't buy it but if you say so... I make that judgment after seeing you two together." Danielle looking at her watch, "Okay everyone time to get dress. Company in 45 minutes and be on your best behavior."
As always Eyal was on time. The door bell ringing and Chole and Katia were the first to swing open the door to Eyal and Avi. "Merry Christmas" they sang out.
"Merry Christmas and great tidings to you." Eyal smiling and giving a little bow.
"Hello Eyal and this must be Avi." Annie quickly going to the door.
"Merry Christmas." Avi also with a slight bow. "Yes I'm Avi, and happy to meet you."
"I'm Annie and please come in to meet the rest of the family." Annie noticing Eyal and Avi with large shopping bags in their hands.
Danielle appearing in the hall, "Happy Holidays and please let me take your coats. I'm Annie's sister, Danielle and this not saying anything man is my husband Michael."
"My pleasure Danielle, I'm Eyal Lavin and my son Avi." Eyal turning on his charm reaching for her extended hand and kiss it.
"Hmm... I like him already." She winked at Annie.
Taking off their coats Avi picked up one of the shopping bags, "We Israelis came bearing gifts. I'm sorry ladies, I didn't catch your names." Avi addressing the girls.
"I'm Katia and this is Chole. We have a Christmas tree in the main room, that's where we exchange gifts." Leading Avi into the living room.
"He has grown since the last time I saw him." Annie whispered to Eyal.
"Yeah, he is going to be a tall man, tall genes run in the family." Eyal also picking up two shopping bags and following Danielle into the living room and to the Christmas tree.
"Coffee or hot chocolate." Annie asked her guest.
"Hot chocolate for me and thank you." A very charming Avi, positively Eyal's son in his graciousness as well as his looks, handsome young man of fourteen.
"May I help?" The question didn't need an answer as Eyal was following Annie to the kitchen.
The smell of roasting turkey fills the kitchen with wonderful smell of Christmas. Annie reaching in the cabinet for the Cocoa, Eyal came close to her back, reaching around her waist and turning her to him, one arm raised in the air holding, it couldn't be, he was holding mistletoe over her head. Before she could object, he lifted her chin and planted a sweet kiss on her lips. It was a tender kiss but not yet a romantic one. Without thinking she reached around his body and returns the kiss with eagerness.
"That's not fair Eyal, you caught me off guard." Annie quickly pushing away from his embrace.
"It all in the magic of the mistletoe Neshema." Eyal snickered.
"What's in the magic of mistletoe?" Danielle walking into the kitchen.
"Here allow me to demonstrate" Eyal heading toward Danielle.
"Eyal don't." Annie being nervous about what Eyal had in mind and Danielle's reaction. And Eyal not paying any attention to Annie held the mistletoe over Danielle's head and kiss her gently on the cheek.
"It would have been different if only I knew you better." Eyal with smile, "Christmas magic."
"Well we can change that." Danielle reaching her hand behind his head and drew him near with a kiss squarely on his lips.
"Can't help it Annie, he is so good looking."
"Hmmm... I'm liking her more already." Eyal repeating some of the same words Danielle had spoken early.
"Okay we need to make the hot chocolate topped with marshmallows and quit this fooling around." Annie trying to keep Christmas morning on track.
"Don't be such a Scrooge." Danielle getting the mugs from the cabinet.
Tray filled with mugs of hot chocolate as Eyal playing the server passed around the tray, each taking a mug.
"What took you so long?" Chloe with eagerness, "You know the rule, no opening presents until everyone is here."
The stockings had been left untouched, waiting for Eyal and Avi to be part of the fun. Chloe taking down each stocking and Katia handing them out. "You first Avi since you are our guest." Chloe smiled. Was the eleven year old a bit smitten?
"Okay, let's see what is in my stocking. First, I like the snowman, we don't get snow in Israel." Avi pulling out a Jumbo Candy Cane. "We also don't have candy canes in Israel."
Next came a bike chain luggage tag, an uncommon gift. "Neat. Sure can spot my luggage with this tag or better yet, hang on my back pack. Thanks."
Next was a Cubebot Puzzle - a block of wood puzzle to turn into Transformer. "Love those movies, I've seen them all." Next came a backup battery for an IPhone. "How did you know I had an IPhone?"
"What teenage boy doesn't?" Danielle answered as she and Chloe were the late night Christmas Eve shoppers for more gifts. Their part in stocking stuffing. All the stockings were stuffed with an apple, orange and small bag of M&M red and green candy - family traditions from their childhood.
"Now Katia your turn." Danielle directing the inspections of Christmas stockings. "She received a package of stickers for pretty finger nails, a Powder Puff doll and Christmas socks with kittens. Chole was next with a DVD, Hotel for Dogs with Emma Roberts, lip gloss and nail polish as well as an array of hair accessories, cute and sparkly.
"Adults next." Announced Annie as she started, "All together now, no waiting for each other." And the digging was on. Michael receiving key chain, paperback book and small tool pocket kit. Danielle being the remarkable cook in the family received a digital scale, stainless garlic press and good grip corn stripper.
Annie's stocking had been filled by Danielle and the girls. Kate Spade New York stud deep purple stud earrings, Laura Mercier hand cream sampler and a Scrabble Tile mug.
Eyal had been watching and not pulling out his stocking stuffers. "What are you waiting for, a special invitation?" Annie poking him in his side.
"Having too much fun watching the big kids." As he started with his ginger bread man stocking. Green marble wine toppers with the letter 'E' in gold on top, a set of two. Next a Paul Fredrick essential satin royal purple pocket square. "To go with the lavender pin-stripe shirt you have." Annie remarked.
"One of my favorite dress shirts. Thanks Neshema." Eyal pulling out a paperback book. "101 Things Every Man Should Know How to Do. Let's see what is has to say." Eyal turning to one of the center pagers, "How to grow the perfect beard and..." Eyal breaking out in laughter, "Looking good in a Speedo."
"Don't read the instructions..." Annie started showing signs of flush rising up her neck.
"Come on Eyal help me out here, I've always wanted to impress in a Speedo." Michael half chuckling turning into full blown laughter.
"Men and their egos." Danielle lifting the book for Eyal hands and starting to read.
"Danielle you are as bad as they are." Annie taking the book and handing back to Eyal. "It's a good thing the kids are all engrossed with their stocking gifts."
"Only part of the kids are fully engrossed." Avi chuckling but not turning from his Transformer puzzle.
Michael regaining his control, "Shall we do our gift exchange now?"
"Good idea Michael. Come girls, put down the beauty aids we'll open more gifts." Danielle starting to read the labels on the wrapped gifts. "Here Avi, this one is for you."
A hard cover book, 'History and Myths of America' from Danielle and Michael. "Great present and many thanks. Just what I needed for my school project."
"One of the reasons we are on this trip, Avi's World Cultures project is the study of other lands and cultures. He picked America and since I travel in my line of work, he is fortunate to be able to visit your country."
"Only six of us are able to travel to the country we pick so we are being graded differently from the other students." Avi looking through his new book.
More gifts being open, it truly looked like an exchange of cultures, Eyal had gotten a four sampler gift box of Dior perfume for Danielle.
For Michael, a bit more American, a bottle of fine Scotch, of course imported.
Avi handing out the gifts to the girls, for Chole, a friendship bracelet making kit and Punch Studio Haiku Blossoms small nesting book boxes, the perfect place to keep valuables. For Katia, Create Your Own Snow Globe Kit and 'Howliday Inn' in the Bunnicula book series.
The gift to Avi from both girls together, Ghost Masters PC game. "Great, can't wait to play it. Thanks Chole and Katia."
Annie handing her gift to Avi, "Something none of your friends should have."
"Washing Redskins T-shirt, super fantastic. Thank you Annie." Ave getting up from the floor and giving her a kiss on the side of the cheek.
Annie with a small box handing it to Eyal, "Yours."
Opening the pair of silver cuff links, "Perfecto Neshema, you have finished out my dress wardrobe. All I need now is a date for the theater. Will you be my date?"
"Go ahead and indulge him Annie so I don't have to live with a pouting grown man." Avi teasing.
"I don't pout."
"You will if you don't get a chance to show those snazzy cuff links." Avi admiring the Fleur de Lis cuff links
"How can I refuse that. Sure." Annie smiling at father and son playfulness.
"Next time I'm in Washington without a fourteen year old chaperone."
"Have to watch him like a hawk. He can be real sneaky." Avi laughing.
Eyal picking up his gift to Annie and standing, "I hope you like this."
She opened open the box that looked like a ring box but to find a beautiful sterling silver chain necklace with a coin of Sebaste.
Holding the coin in her palm, turning it over to see both sides, Eyal gently takes the necklace from her hand. "May I?" She stands, turning her back to him and holding her hair to one side so he could slip the chain around her neck.
"This coin replicates both sides of an ancient coin discovered in archaeological explorations in Israel and you be wearing of piece of history. I know how much you love languages and the culture associated with them. It's a replica of an original bronze coin, minted in 201 C.E., one of the coins struck in Samaria after it became a Roman colony."
Annie holding her hand over the coin, her eye beginning to water, "It's beautiful Eyal, I shall cherish it always." She turns to face him, kissing him tenderly on the lips to the applause of the girls.
Nothing going unnoticed by Danielle sensed Annie being a bit self-conscious broke the mood, "Okay Annie, it time for kitchen duty. The rest of you entertain yourselves with all the new stuff and dinner will be ready shortly."
Eyal grabbing the last unopened bag and drew out two bottles of fine wine, one red and the other white wine, "California wine ladies for dinner."
Michael trying to make conversation with Eyal asked about his line of work, of course Eyal with ease sided stepped the question with something in marketing Israel products. There was no common ground for much of a lengthily conversation they settled on looking at their gifts. Avi had moved to the couch beside Eyal and reading. Both started snickering softly as Avi had pick up 101 Things Every Man Should Know How to Do.
Dinner is ready. And all set down to feast fit for a king. Avi eating ham and cranberry sauce for the first time and loving the tease. Half way through the meal Avi noticed snow falling.
"Look Abba, it's snowing." With the excitement of a young boy. It is also the first time for seeing snow.
Katia taking note of Avi calling his father something strange. "You don't call him Daddy?"
"In Israel we call our fathers Abba, it is Hebrew for Daddy." Avi with a kind answer.
"Mom, after dinner can we take a walk in the snow, go down to the park?" Chole asking, "Think Avi would like it."
"Sure, why not." Danielle was being more relaxed with allowing the girls out with her along.
After dinner, Avi and the girls on their stroll in the snow, Annie and Danielle cleaning the dishes, Michael motioned for Eyal to follow him. They found the punch bowl and Michael commenced to pour eggnog in the bowl.
"My mother use to make this from scratch but now days I find the purchased stuff to be just as good with a little addition." Michael opening a bottle of Johnny Walker.
"Like your thinking Michael." Eyal stirring the eggnog as Michael poured. Stopping to tease and pouring more.
The afternoon being relaxing as the four sat and chatted, drinking eggnog and of course Danielle and Eyal are being the chatty ones. After a few round of eggnog, Danielle, not a normal drinker, started feeling the effects of Michael's additions.
"Where is that mistletoe of yours?" Danielle waving her hand at Eyal
"You know mistletoe has some magic to it properties. When Christianity became widespread in Europe the mystical respect for the mistletoe plant was integrated to an extent into the new religion. The custom of kissing under the mistletoe during the Christmas season dates back to the 16th century in England. So you see, kissing under the mistletoe is a long standing Christmas practice."
Annie shaking her head at Eyal lengthy narration of mistletoe. "Always with trivia knowledge."
Eyal handing Danielle the mistletoe and she holding it over Michael's head, "You are obligated to kiss me by Christmas tradition."
Michael standing, taking Danielle in his arms, bending her backwards and giving her a long and passionate kiss.
"Wow." Danielle grasping from breath. "I am keeping this mistletoe."
"With my blessing." Eyal smiling and giving Annie a friendly hug.
Avi, Chole and Katia returned, cold and happy. It was getting late and the snow was acclaiming fast when Eyal decided it was time to leave. Gathering up their gifts, Avi giving Danielle a hug for a wonderful Christmas Day and kissing Annie on the cheek, "I have completely enjoyed this day. One I will never forget."
Both girls giving Avi a hug, "It was fun and thanks for sharing the stories of Israel with us." Chole with a kiss to his cheek. Katia, "Come back next Christmas."
Eyal shaking Michael's hand, "Enjoy your Scotch and thanks for the gifts." He turned to Danielle, "So delighted to finally meet Annie's sister, you are a sweetheart." He gives her a hug.
And to Annie, with one arm around her waist and whispering in her ear, "Merry Christmas my dear Neshema." He kisses her sweetly and headed toward the door.
"Remember we have date." Annie called after him as he and Avi walked down the steps.
"I shall remember, until we meet again, good evening."
Danielle and Annie standing in the doorway watching the two Israelis walk to their car and drive off.
"You can't tell me you two are just friends." Danielle nudging Annie with her hip.
"That's all we are, just friends."
"Not the way you two look at each other. That gift, a part of his homeland yeah right - just friends my foot. What is it he called you... Neshema. What is that some pet name in Hebrew?"
"You might say that Danielle. It means soul." What Annie didn't say was the underlying meaning could easily be soul mate, a term of endearment. Yes, her Christmas was now complete and perfect.
Merry Christmas Eyal she whispered softly.