Merry Christmas, Shimmerleaf :) I hope it is close to something you'd like. Sorry it's a week late, but I guess that just means it's Christmas AGAIN for you!
Luna was watching TV, anxiously twirling her long, pink pigtails and biting her lip. She was completely ignoring the weather forecast despite staring directly at it. The pink headed, "averagely-short" seventeen year old was focused on much more important things than the weather.
That day, she was expecting a special guest. She had been lonely in the absence of a boy in her life, and she was finally taking a proactive approach to the issue. It was quite nerve wracking for the girl despite her usual confidence. In order to impress that day's guest, she had let her hair down; she thought it looked good, but decided to put it back into her usual pigtails after all. Twice. Soon, there were only three minutes left until her guest said that he would come by. Luna turned her hands over in her lap to keep them busy and prevent them from quickly letting her hair down again.
Why was she even so nervous? It's not as though today is a big deal. Hmm, yeah. Nothing to worry about. I'll just be casual and show off how mature and composed of a young lady I—.
A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts. She called out to Candace, her older sister, at the top of her lungs, "Chase is here! Um… oh damn, Candace get the door!" Luna ran into her bedroom quickly and stopped in front of the mirror and played with her hair. "Get the door!" She pleaded, muffled by her bedroom walls.
Candace, for all her love for Luna, considered ignoring Luna's plea. She was uncomfortable answering the door, to be honest. She knew of the person who was coming, but felt like she didn't really know Chase, which made her anxious. She wanted to be anywhere else but in front of that door.
Candace's hand hovered above the door's handle. She was about to open it when Luna called from her room, "sis, hurry!" Candace paused, closed her eyes and took a deep breath. I was going to… I was going to but then you startled me and…
She sighed and cut her thoughts off to avoid antagonizing her only sister and best friend, and yanked the front door open.
"She sure yells loudly," Chase joked as Candace stood rigid in the doorframe. His dirty blonde, unruly hair was pinned back in a slightly feminine style, as he often wore it when he waited tables at the inn.
"Oh, uh… Luna, you meant" Candace choked out as she stood nervously, feeling a bead of sweat drip down her back despite the winter chill that was pouring in through the wide open door.
Chase opened his mouth to continue, but he caught a bright pink flash in his peripheral vision. He could have sworn he saw… He looked down. "Hey," He offered a wave to Luna, who was standing in front of him, stretching all the way up to Candace's shoulder.
"Hi Chase!" Luna bubbled happily. She was splitting her attention between entertaining her guest and tying her loose hair up into pigtails. "Come in; sit down!" She said once she had tied her hair haphazardly, allowing herself to give the guest her full attention.
A second passed as Chase stood in the doorway. He raised his hand slowly and snapped his fingers gently. "Earth to Candace… can I get by?" He grinned as the girl standing in the doorway perked up and mumbled a wide-eyed, frantic apology.
Luna ignored her sister's obstinate stare and led Chase to a couch. Candace melted away into another room, her cheeks red as an apple, but not because of the cold air.
"Can I get you anything? Want a Christmas cookie?" Luna offered a tray to Chase as he sat down.
"Water please." Chase said, noticing the disappointment in Luna's face. "Those cookies don't look very good, no offense," he clarified.
"Okay…" Luna's expression sunk further as she rushed to the kitchen. However, she returned with a brighter face and two glasses of water, one for Chase, and one for herself. As an afterthought, she grabbed a Christmas tree-shaped cookie, and grinned as she chomped down on it. Chase's eye twitched a little as he watched Luna bite into the flaky brown treat; he hurriedly squinted and knocked back some water in order to distract from his mind's fantasies of how awful the simple-looking cookie must have tasted.
They sat and chatted as Luna finished her cookie. Afterwards, Chase changed the subject of conversation so as to address the reason he was called over. "So what have you got so far?"
He was, of course, bringing up Mayor Hamilton's Community Christmas Secret Santa Gift Exchange Extravaganza. Luna had invited Chase over to help her with the particularly difficult assignment she was given. Not only was it going to be a challenge, but she had procrastinated and it was already December 23rd; Luna had less than 24 hours to figure out what she should get for her recipient.
"I haven't thought of anything! That's where you come in bub!" Luna jabbed Chase playfully with her finger. "What do twelve year old boys like?"
Chase nervously chuckled to himself. Luna indignantly asked what was so funny, but Chase brushed her concerns off, "Nothing, don't worry about it." He smiled at Luna, who was relieved and shot her own nervous smile back.
Chase continued. "Okay, let's think. Guys that age generally have one or two big interests… any gift related to his main interest is sure get a good reaction."
"But what does Bo like?" Luna asked, exasperatedly.
"How should I know, Luna?" Chase asked. "You wanted my insight and that's what I gave to you. Maybe he likes cars, or video games, or… or trees… something like that!" Chase shrugged.
"But I have no idea!" Luna whined.
"Well, why don't you go talk to him discreetly and find out?" Chase was indifferent in his tone.
Luna pleaded to Chase. "Come on, he's like… twelve. We've never even talked once!"
"What?" Chase's stoic silence stopped—He sounded slightly shocked. In a small community such as that on Waffle Island, it was indeed a surprise to hear that two people had never even spoken once. "Ok, go find him now; you know where he lives right?"
Luna nodded tentatively.
"Good, if you leave now, you'll catch him in time to introduce yourself. A strong community is a happy one, anyways." Chase advised strongly.
"That's so awkward, I can't just—" Luna started, but was cut off before finishing.
"Bring some Christmas cookies for his family. I'm sure they'll love you for it. They look… interesting," Chase lied though gritted teeth.
Luna blushed. "O-Okay. Will you wait? When I get back, if you want we can watch some TV, or… a movie and like… I don't know…" Luna blushed, but Chase missed it.
"I have to get home eventually, but good luck! Enjoy some quality time with your neighbours!" Chase yawned.
"But you're my neighbour!" Luna complained.
Chase looked at her sternly and frowned, "Go!"
"Okay, okay! I'll be back in a few minutes. Stay here! Wait, I'll make you a hot drink for the meantime." Luna was fussing in the kitchen area but Chase stopped her by putting a hand on her head, which was readily available and at perfect hand height.
"If you insist that I have a drink, I can help myself… Thanks, it is actually pretty cold in here." Chase sighed, but picked up his energy. "Hey, stop stalling! Go be a good neighbour to Bo."
"Okay fine! Drink slowly, I'll be back soon!" Luna cooed, as she grabbed a Tupperware container full of Christmas cookies and literally ran out of the door.
As the door slammed behind Luna, Chase was left alone in the tailor's shop where the two sisters lived, confused and slightly amused at Luna's obliviousness. She's… different? Chase thought to himself, with a wry smirk betraying his thoughts. Kind of cute… maybe. He rolled his eyes and walked over to the kitchen.
Despite Chase's usual confidence, he noticed that it was a bit awkward for him to invade someone else's kitchen—their private place to explore the wonder of all things culinary. He opened an overhead cupboard. Empty. He tried another… just some measuring cups and a tin of cocoa powder. It struck him that Luna probably only used the storage below the counter, and he let out a quiet laugh to himself.
Chase felt more and more uncomfortable being the kitchen as he realized that Luna's sister was actually still in the house. What if Candace thought he had left, and came out of her room only to find the waiter there instead of Luna? Poor Candace, I don't think her heart would be able to take the shock. Chase thought sarcastically. Wait, this is actually pretty awkward, though. She probably doesn't think I'm in her house with her. Uh…should I just leave now? He shivered as he thought about the bitter cold air outside. Well, that's anti-social. He reasoned.
Gulping, he called out in a too-quiet voice, "Candace? Hello, Candace?"
Dead silence penetrated the house, broken only by a brief howl of the wind coming from outside the window.
Chase cleared his throat forcefully. "Candace?" he bellowed, with an embarrassing uneasiness quivering in his voice. She must've heard that, he thought smugly to himself.
The house remained silent for a moment, but soon Chase heard Candace's light footsteps stirring about. He was aware of how painfully shy Candace was, and the knot in his stomach grew as she slowly approached him in the kitchen.
"I-I… thought you left." Candace squeaked.
"Uh, well, you see… hmmm, Luna, well—she left to go see Bo and Luke, and she said I could…" Chase cleared his throat softly, "make myself a drink here." He squirmed a bit despite the confidence he radiated, and Candace noticed.
Candace held her hands folded in front of her. "Okay." She nodded and started walking back to her room.
"Where do you keep your cups?" Chase asked through her back, ignoring her social ineptitude.
"Sorry." Candace returned to the kitchen and pulled a cup from a corner cupboard under the counter, and passed it to Chase, who was looking through her fridge. "Here..?" She almost asked the boy. Chase was only half paying attention, however, as he was already head first in her refrigerator.
"You have apple cider! And oranges! And," He whipped around with purpose to inspect a spice rack on the counter. "Oh, this is going to be great!" He said, whipping out the cider and orange from the fridge.
Candace stood awkwardly in the kitchen watching Chase, unmoving and slightly fascinated at the frenzy with which he prepared his work area.
"I'll make enough for both of us! Get excited!" Chase gushed as he inspected the necessary ingredients for his famous mulled apple cider.
He didn't need to tell Candace twice. She was already excited, and not just by the prospect of a free, delicious drink. As she looked on, her mouth watered and she almost cracked a smile. She watched Chase search the kitchen for things that struck his fancy; he was already much more comfortable working in the foreign kitchen than he was earlier with Candace being in the room as well.
Candace felt butterflies rising in her stomach. All she wanted to do was say something, anything, to the curious boy in her kitchen, but she fought a losing battle with her inhibitions. She kicked herself as she watched the time elapse and Chase drew nearer to finishing the cider. She opened her mouth on multiple occasions, but no words came out. She just stood there behind Chase, wordlessly searching for utensils and bowls and passing them to him when he asked.
Soon, there was a brief pause. Chase smiled and looked at Candace. "Perfect" He stared at the confused Candace, who leaned backwards against the kitchen counter.
She smiled nervously.
"Here, pass me the cups!" He said, snapping Candace out of her own little world, as per usual.
She pulled her smile into a tight lipped face, looked at the floor and blushed, handing Chase two clear blue mugs with snowmen painted on them without meeting his eyes. He artfully poured cider from the pot on the stove into a glass pitcher through a sieve, and from the pitcher into the two cups. He carried them both to a table in front of the couch and then sat down.
Candace, however, remained standing for a moment in front of the couch where Chase was already seated, and then let out a deep breath. She suddenly felt like she was troubling Chase by being there. After all, he came to see Luna, not her. She looked nervously over her shoulder to the door that lead to her room, planning out an escape route.
Chase chuckled and closed his eyes while sighing. "Sit down. You're making me nervous."
This broke through to Candace's brain and caused her to rush down onto the couch. She sat, but still looked away from Chase, staring longingly at her bedroom door.
Chase looked concerned at the display. "Hey, Candace. Are you okay? You look kind of… spacey." He was sarcastic but wasn't making fun of her. Candace was just intriguing in the eyes of the waiter.
She was out of her element indeed; she was uncomfortable, but she was far from being unhappy. She was doing alright with the social situation, and she managed to give Chase a tentative smile, despite the nervousness mounting inside of her. Chase looked relieved and smiled back.
"You're shaking," Chase noticed, aloud.
"I-I… what?" Candace feigned ignorance. It was the first time she met someone outside of her family who made her feel even slightly at ease. Of course she was shaking. "It's just… really cold." She muttered, and began shaking even more, as she noticed that it was, in fact, freezing cold in the room.
"You look like a sad little puppy." Chase mocked. Candace remained silent but pulled her arms into her chest, which was as much an attempt to keep herself warm as it was an attempt to help her feel more secure. Chase words struck a chord with her. She felt like that. She felt helpless, and not just that day, but for longer than she cared to remember. If only she had met Chase when they were younger, instead of… instead of him. She squeezed her eyes shut and sighed to herself silently.
Chase looked at Candace with a concerned expression. He could tell that she was lost in thought. What else is new? He thought, sarcastically at first, but soon he caught himself sincerely wishing that he knew what she was thinking about.
Neither of them had even taken notice to touch their drink yet. Candace remained staring at her quivering hands. She just looked so damn cold to Chase.
Why doesn't she put on a jacket or something? This girl… Chase was frustrated at Candace's sheepishness. Why can't she just do what she wants? No one's judging her… Chase sighed, thinking over the situation the girl next to him was in. Maybe she just needs a little push in the right direction. Something to make her feel safe! He let out a breath.
"Candace, stand up." He said with concern in his voice. Candace picked up on the thoughtful tone of the boy's voice, and complied.
Suddenly, Candace's nervousness was replaced with fear. It shook her to her core, and she began breathing heavily, but silently to herself. Chase also stood up, and began taking off his shirt. Oh no. What's happening? What am I doing here? Oh no. Candace cried in her thoughts, hyperventilating. Her throat felt dry and constricted and she her head was spinning and—Hmm?
Chase had slipped off the sweater he was wearing, leaving him only in a short sleeved white tee-shirt. "May I?" He asked, holding his sweater through the collar over Candace's head.
Uh. She thought. Oh! She smiled widely, her dimples showing. "'Kay." She said quietly.
Chase slipped his sweater over Candace's head and she pushed her arms up through the sleeves. It was a bit too long for her, but Chase wasn't too much bigger than her, so it fit rather comfortably. It's so warm. Candace reflected. It feels like a hug. She was suddenly glad to be in that room with Chase, and couldn't help herself from beaming.
Chase saw Candace's teeth in full view for the first time in his life. Her happy face was beautiful; there was no simpler way for him to describe it. He became so excited that he didn't even care about how cold he was in just a T-shirt. He'd have done so much more if he had known that face was the reward.
Candace's breathing became steady again as she flopped her arms around in Chase's sweater. "Thanks." She stuck her tongue out.
"Yeah, well Merry Christmas." Chase looked away and quickly added, "How about that cider?"
"Wait!" Candace said sternly in her best serious voice.
"It's going to get cold!" Chase pouted as Candace darted into her room.
She came out with a bundle of green fabric, and stopped close to Chase. "Merry Christmas!" she squealed awkwardly as she thrust the sweater into Chase's arms.
"What? Oh, thanks!" He said as he unravelled the sweater Candace had given him. He turned it around to examine the front: a huge, pink heart with a crude, yet adorable smiley face. "This is nice. You're an amazing tailor, you know." Chase was genuinely in awe at the quality of the shirt. "Thanks Candace."
"Will you try it on?"
Chase had already started slipping into it when she asked. It was too big and he had to roll it up just to be able to see his hands. "If we wait any longer, the cider is going to go off." He stated curtly.
Candace quickly took up the seat next to Chase and grabbed her yet-untouched mug of cider. Without saying anything they both sipped the delicious beverage. The atmosphere was relaxed, and the cold was no longer an issue, for either of them.
"Hey," Chase said between sips of cider. He looked at his sweater and then to Candace. "I love it."
That smile again. It was Chase's turn to be bashful. The redness didn't ever leave his cheeks as the two finished their drinks in silence.