[Note From Frolic: We are so excited to announce our Festive Four Stories! Every week in December we will have a new short holiday story from 4 of your favorite authors. This week we have Wattpad superstar Jordan Lynde!]
Even though it was the last day of the semester, I skipped both my classes. I couldn’t face Evan. Knowing it was fully over hurt, even if it was for the best. So instead, I decided to spend the day doing all my favorite Christmas things. Partly to distract myself and partly to prove to myself I could do them without Evan. I bought my favorite sugar cookies and baked them. I went to the mall and bought the ugliest Christmas sweaters I could find— one for Amalia, one for Joon, and one for myself. I bought cards to write and send to my family and old friends. It felt good.
Just as I was preparing to head out to see the Christmas light display in the town over, a loud knock on my door startled me. Peeking out, I saw Joon and Amalia. “What’re you guys doing here?”
“You missed class,” Amalia said. “We came to check on you. Evan seemed really out of it so we figured something happened between you two.”
“Oh,” I said, cupping my elbow. “Yeah. We talked a little and officially ended things.”
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I just didn’t want to see him today. I’ll be fine by Monday though.”
Joon stayed suspiciously quiet. Usually he couldn’t wait to speak. He held a big box in his arms. When he noticed my staring, he offered it out to me. “Here. This actually contains the next ten days’ worth of gifts, but you can open it whenever. Just don’t be disappointed when new gifts don’t show up. Also, my printer broke so there are no notes.”
I took it from him, frowning. “I’m not going to be disappointed. You’re going out of your way to do this for me. I would tell you to stop again, but I know you won’t.”
Something didn’t feel right. Joon shifted on his feet, unable to stay still. “What’s wrong, Joon? Did Evan say something to you?”
Joon’s eyes darted back to mine. “Huh?”
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. “I can’t believe him.”
“No, I get it. I should just leave you alone for a little so he doesn’t get the wrong idea.”
“What? Joon, no. Just ignore whatever Evan said to you,” I told him. “I don’t care if he has the wrong idea. He’s always been like that with you.”
Joon chewed on his bottom lip. “Yeah, but, I don’t know.”
“Exams will keep him busy. Don’t worry about it. But if he says something to you again, let me know. He shouldn’t be doing that.”
“He didn’t say much.”
“He said enough to make you uncomfortable.”
“I’ll tell him off,” Amalia vowed.
Joon waved his hands in front of him. “No, it’s okay. I don’t want to create any drama. You’re right. I’ll just ignore him.”
“Good. Did you two come over to hang out? I was about to go see Bright Lights.”
“By yourself?” Amalia asked.
I shrugged. “I’m just trying to get myself into a Christmas-y mood. There are only twelve days left.”
“Let’s go then,” she said. “I’ll drive. Do you have cash for the fee?”
I patted my purse. “Yep.”
It took half an hour to make it to the park. Since the sun had just gone down, there weren’t many cars in line and we got in almost immediately. My lips curved up as we came across the first set up— a giant Santa made out of blinking red and white lights. The leftover snow from the last storm fit the scene perfectly.
“How many lights do you think it took to make all the setups?” Joon asked as we passed three reindeer grazing on fluorescent green grass.
“I read online that it’s over half a million,” I said. “There’s a Grinch that’s like twenty feet high coming up.”
“Do you have the layout memorized?”
“I’ve only been to this one seven times.”
Amalia giggled. “Seven times in the two years you’ve lived here is a lot.”
“Don’t ask her how many times she’s been to the one back home,” Joon said, the glow from the reindeer’ noses casting red across his cheeks. “At $15 a car she could probably pay a year of tuition.”
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah right. More like two years.”
“It’s unhealthy, honestly.”
“Says the one who can eat two boxes of Devil Dogs in two hours.”
Joon held up his pointer finger. “Hey. That was once. And I told you that in secrecy!”
“How many calories is that?” Amalia asked.
“4,480. I did the math.”
Joon’s mouth fell open. “You did the math? And remembered it? I honestly don’t even know what to say to that.”
I grinned. “Suddenly I have a good Christmas gift idea for you.”
“Please do not.”
“You know they make fudge dipped ones now, right?”
“Hey, I see the Grinch one!” he cried, totally trying to change the subject.
I let it slide. The Grinch towered over us in varying shades of emerald. I leaned out the window to get a better view. He had to be made out of at least five thousand lights. Everything was spot on about him. His hat, his Santa suit, his wicked smirk. His smirk was the best part of his design. I’d had a lot of fun creating it on Joon’s cake.
I blinked. Joon’s cake! I’d forgotten about it. “Joon, don’t let me forget I have something to give you when we get back to my place.”
“I hope it’s not devil dogs.”
An hour later, I presented the cake to him. “Ta-da! You said to bake you a cake. It tastes much better than devil dogs, too.”
Joon stared at it, his eyes wide. “I was half-joking. This looks awesome!”
“It’s the least I can do for what you’ve been doing to me. I bought a carrier so you can take it back to your apartment or whatever.”
“You don’t want any?”
“Nope. It’s for you. And Amalia if she wants some.”
Amalia waved me off. “Nope, I’m not a huge fan of frosting. This looks like it has tons.”
“Yeah… I might have messed up once or twice.”
“I don’t even use Instagram but I might make one just to post this,” Joon told me, pulling out his phone. “I have to take pictures now because I’m horrified I might drop it. I don’t even want to eat it. I love it.”
I chuckled. “It’s not that serious. If you did drop it, I could make you a new one. It was fun.”
“If this was fun, then you’ll probably enjoy what’s in that box,” Amalia hinted, making Joon give her a dirty look.
“What is it? Gingerbread house?”
Joon groaned. “How did you figure it out so fast?”
“Ooh, I love building gingerbread houses! Is it just one? Or can we have a contest to see who can make the best one?”
“Just one. I wanted to give you something that wouldn’t distract either of us too much from studying. That’s why it’s so many days in one. I figured we’d both be too busy since final exams are next week.”
We all collectively shuddered. “Probably a good idea,” I said. “I’ve been so distracted lately I really need to start cramming.”
“Me too. That’s what I plan to do the second I get home,” Amalia agreed.
“We should probably get going then and stop distracting each other,” Joon said. “I also need to hide my cake before my roommates get home.”
I went to the cupboard and pulled out the cake container. “Are you leaving as soon as exams are over, Joon?”
“I don’t have an exam on Thursday so I’m leaving Wednesday night. I’ll be back on the 27th, though.”
“A whole week without Joon. It’s going to be very quiet,” Amalia commented.
I pressed my fist to my lips to keep from laughing. “Okay. A big cup of eggnog and a pile of books are calling my name. Good luck with your studies.”
“Good luck to you too. Don’t get distracted by the other Grinch marathon on tonight.”
“There’s another? You shouldn’t have told me!”
He smirked and shrugged. “Whoops.”
After the pair left I wandered into the living room to see if he was telling the truth about The Grinch marathon. He was, and I kept it on for background noise, or so I told myself. I went to get my notes so I could study but paused at the box with the gingerbread kit.
I hesitated for about two seconds before deciding to open it. There were ten individually wrapped items in the box, labeled for each corresponding day. The biggest item was the kit itself while the other nine were different packages of candy for extra decoration. My hands itched to build it. Besides, a gingerbread house would make a nice decoration for my kitchen table…
Three hours later a colorful gingerbread house sat on my kitchen table.
I looked at the clock. Studying could wait until tomorrow.
The next week flew by between taking the exams and studying. It was mentally exhausting but it kept me busy. I didn’t have time to think about Evan. Even after exams were finished, the exhilaration of finishing the semester booted any depressing feelings from my body. Even after Joon left for his parents’ house and Amalia went home early to help get the house ready for the Christmas lunch, I felt happy. I called my parents every day and drank hot chocolate and played Christmas music as loud as I could get away with.
On Christmas I woke up to my parents face-timing me and ordering me to open the presents they’d sent me— a new comforter set and heated blanket. After saying goodbye to them I headed off to Amalia’s house to stuff myself with ham and mashed potatoes.
Evan texted me to wish me a Merry Christmas and I responded with a bunch of Christmas tree emojis. I hoped his Christmas was going well, too. It felt a little off to not be seeing his family, but it didn’t bother me as much as it had. Even later when I was back in my apartment under my new heated blanket and all alone, I felt content.
I jolted violently and nearly spilled my eggnog when someone knocked on my door. Padding over to it, my jaw dropped when I saw Joon standing on the top step. “What in the world are you doing here?” I demanded when I opened the door. “Aren’t you supposed to be at your parents still?”
“I came home early,” he said easily and slipped around me. “I kept thinking about how you were probably all alone in your apartment and made the executive decision to join you.”
I stared at him. “What? You came home early for me?”
“Yeah,” he responded casually as if it wasn’t one of the sweetest things anyone had ever done for me. “I also never gave you your last gifts. I can’t believe you didn’t notice. Merry Christmas, Nellie.”
“Should I open it now?”
“Well, I guess you can wait until next Christmas if you want.”
I pursed my lips at him and grabbed the gift box out of his hands, heading to the kitchen table to open it. He followed and sat across from me as I lifted the cover of the box off. Inside there was something tucked safely in bubble wrap so I carefully unwrapped it, my heart thudding in my chest.
It was a small, wooden see-saw. A little figure that bared an uncanny resemblance to me sat on one end of the see-saw and a figure that looked exactly like Joon sat on the other, balancing the see-saw out. Wooden trees dotted either side of the see-saw, attached to the base of the craft. Joon’s figure even had glasses that were an exact replica of the ones that sat on his face.
Joon beamed proudly. “I made it at my dad’s shop. Isn’t it cute? It looks just like us, doesn’t it? I did such a great job.”
“It’s amazing,” I said, my mouth going dry. “A see-saw though? Why?”
“You said it before. The see-saw always has to come down. The bad always has to come. And you’re right. There will be good times in life and bad times. But, Nellie, I will always be right there on the other end of that see-saw for you. I will always be there to even things out. To make bad things not seem so bad. It’s for the last three days. Me, you, and the see-saw.”
My mind couldn’t form any words. I couldn’t stop staring at the see-saw. I always compared my life to a see-saw. Up, down. Up, down. It never occurred to me that someone was always sitting on the other side.
“It’s also a music box,” Joon continued. “Here let me crank it up.” He gave the crank a few twists and let the music play.
I recognized the first notes instantly. “The Grinch?”
“The Grinch,” he confirmed, grinning. “Although I have to admit I special ordered this part so don’t be too impressed.”
Instead of answering, I threw my arms around him. “I honestly don’t know what to say, Joon.”
“Thank you is more than enough. I take it you like it?”
“This is probably the best gift anyone has ever given me,” I told him, pulling back so I could look at him. “I don’t know what I did to deserve someone like you in my life.”
Joon’s eyes crinkled. “Aww, that’s sweet. You were you. I feel the same way too, you know. I think everyone deserves a Nell in their life.”
“Did I ever tell you that you’re my best friend?”
“Maybe once or twice. I really hope to keep that position for about eighty more years or so, too.”
I studied the see-saw again, smiling. “This is the best thing ever, Joon. Thank you. I really don’t know what I would have done without you this month. Thanks for helping me enjoy this year’s Christmas.”
He leaned against the table. “A Christmas Nell doesn’t enjoy would be a pretty crappy Christmas. I was just doing my duty to the world, you know?”
“You did too much for me.”
“That could never happen,” he promised. “I just want you to be happy. And here you are, happy. My plan worked.”
“My gift is going to really suck in comparison to yours.”
His smile faltered a little. “It’s not Devil Dogs, is it?”
I kept a straight face as I walked over to the cupboard and pulled out four boxes of fudge dipped Devil Dogs. The horror on his face was priceless.
I wouldn’t tell him about the seasonal snowboarding pass I’d stuck in one of the boxes just yet.
Joon made an attempt to move back away from the boxes of Devil Dogs, jostling the table in the process. His figure hit the bottom of the see-saw while mine rose up high in the air