[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!]
[Click Here For Chapter One]
Worrying about seeing Evan in class had been for nothing. I’d been so distraught that it had slipped my mind that he had left for France with his family to visit their relatives over there and wouldn’t be returning until December first. And while it was nice I didn’t have to face him right away, it brought up another point that stung my heart.
“He broke up with me from all the way across the world!” Amalia and Joon jumped as I slammed my tray down at our usual table in the dining hall, crashing down onto my seat. “I can’t believe it. Not only did he do it through text message, but from France? What a coward. He couldn’t even be in the same country as me?”
Amalia subtly slid her chocolate pudding toward me. “Yeah, he is a coward. Don’t waste any more time thinking about him. Come with me to get my Christmas tree. You said you would. Joon is coming too.”
I dug into the chocolate pudding. “I’ll think about it.”
“What? But you love Christmas tree hunting!”
“I’m just not feeling Christmas this year, okay?”
“Maybe it’ll put you back into the mood?” Amalia tried. “We can even start decorating it.”
Joon nodded encouragingly. “Yeah! We could find the tree and get Chipotle on the way back. Then maybe we can find those premade Christmas sugar cookies and bake some while we decorate the tree.”
I sucked on my spoon, taking in their shining eyes and hopeful smiles. They just wanted what was best for me. Could I really take that away from them, no matter how miserable I felt? “I guess that doesn’t sound too bad.”
“We could probably fit two trees on my hood if you want to get yourself one too,” Amalia said.
“I really don’t think I’m going to put up a tree this year.”
Joon pushed his own chocolate pudding my way. “Whatever you decide to do is fine, Nell. I know I said not to let him ruin Christmas for you, but neither I nor you can control that. You’ll be ready when you’re ready.”
Ready? Would I ever be ready? Putting up a tree, drinking eggnog, creating ugly Christmas sweaters, even playing Christmas music— just the idea of doing those without Evan numbed my heart. How could he ruin those precious moments? Now Christmas would never be the same.
Realizing I was tearing up, I blinked rapidly, piling spoonful after spoonful of pudding into my mouth. I’d decided not to cry anymore. Two days of nothing but waterworks was more than he deserved.
“I’ll come to your apartment after my last class, okay?” Amalia said as she picked up her lunch tray. “Probably a little after three. Your last class is at two, right?”
“Okay. Joon you’re done soon too, right? Meet up with Nell and I’ll just pick you both up from her apartment.”
Joon gave her a thumbs up. “Sounds good.”
Two hours later I paced back and forth in my apartment, regretting agreeing to go. The first day back had taken a heavier toll than I’d thought. I felt exhausted. I just wanted to curl up under my blanket and watch a Christmas movie on Netflix— no, not a Christmas movie. A horror movie. A slasher film.
Three knocks on my door ceased my plans of creating an excuse to ditch and I trudged to the door, opening it to see Joon smiling. A wool scarf covered half his face and he pulled his duffle coat tighter around himself. “Hope you have a thick coat, it’s freezing out here.”
The cool air bit at my bare feet and I ushered Joon inside so I could close the door. “Maybe we shouldn’t go.”
“We’re still going. I brought hand warmers if you need them.”
Dang. I tried. “I need to find my scarf then,” I said, opening the door to the hall closet. I paused when I realized I’d stuffed all of Evan’s leftover belongings in it. My gaze got caught on his favorite pullover, one I had bought him our very first Christmas together. The scarf I was searching for was beside it and I remembered it was a gift from him on our second Christmas together.
I closed the closet with a slam.
Joon turned his head at the sound. “You good?”
“No,” I muttered. “Everything reminds me of him. I hate it.”
“You guys were together for a decent amount of time. I think that’s normal.”
“I didn’t even realize half of my favorite things were from him. Like my scarf. I never want to wear it again.”
“Do you want to wear mine?”
“No,” I said, but he was already unraveling it. “Joon, keep it. I know you’re sensitive to the cold. I’m just being dramatic.”
He shook his head, stepping forward to wrap the scarf around my neck. “Use it. I know you don’t want to hear preachy things right now, but once you get over this initial step in the breakup process, you’ll stop feeling like this. You’re not being dramatic. You’re hurt.”
I adjusted the scarf so it wasn’t covering my mouth. “You know you’re pretty good with words.”
“I am an English major.”
“Maybe I will get a Christmas tree.”
“I can’t let Amalia find a better one than me.”
Amalia, as it turned out, had done her research on finding the perfect tree on the perfect tree farm. Which took almost an hour to get to. By the time we arrived, the sun was beginning to set. It left us little time to hunt for a tree, but it made the lights strung up around the tree farm stand out more. It was a little mom and pop place. No one was outside collecting money for the trees. Instead, a small lockbox was placed by the gate of the fencing that held the trees, simply asking for a donation.
“Find a tree that’s the deepest shade of green,” Amalia instructed as we stepped into the rows of trees. “It’ll last the longest. Pull on the branches too to see if they’re flexible.”
Already knowing the signs of a healthy tree, I walked off to the right, examining the trees as I went. The smell of pine felt nostalgic. It made me remember cuddling by the fire and sipping hot chocolate. I ran my hands over the sharp needles, breaking a few off to test the scent. Potent pine permeated my nose and I felt a sneeze coming.
I recoiled in surprise, twisting to face Joon. “How in the world are you so silent? A mouse makes more noise than you.”
He grinned. “Practice. Find any good ones?”
“I’ve been looking for like, two minutes.”
“Usually you would have sniffed out the best one by now. You really are heartbroken, aren’t you?”
I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. “You judge my feelings based on whether or not I can find a good Christmas tree?”
“Yep. Your senses are dulled, aren’t they?”
I laughed. “No way. Since you’re so curious, this tree right here is probably the perfect one. I still have to check the others, but my senses are telling me it’s this one.” I gestured to the tree in question, the one I had snapped needles off of.
Joon pulled at a few of the tree’s limbs. “It does seem sturdy. Kind of short.” Leaning closer, he pressed his ear against the needles. “That’s odd. I can… I can feel its presents.”
The smile slid off my face. I can feel its presents. An image of Evan flashed through my mind, stepping up close to a tree just as Joon had.
“Get it? Presents? Since there is going to be Christmas presents under it? Wait, what’s wrong?”
I bit my lower lip, warm tears filling up my eyes. “N-nothing.”
“What? What did I say?”
“I’m sorry, I’m ruining this. Everything keeps reminding me of Evan. I can’t even look at these stupid Christmas trees. Why is he affecting me like this? I shouldn’t have come.” The nauseous feeling returned and I squeezed my eyes shut.
Joon tightened the scarf around my neck, stepping closer to me and pressing against me. The heat from his body felt comforting. “Sorry,” he said quietly.
“I feel like an idiot.”
“Me too. That pun was complete garbage. No wonder it made you cry.”
A watery giggle escaped my lips. “That’s not why.”
“Do you want to leave?”
“Amalia needs to find a tree. I’m okay. I just felt overwhelmed for a moment. It just… it’s like it comes in waves, you know? I feel fine. Then I don’t.”
Joon nodded. “That’s how sadness works.”
“Aren’t you tired of me whining?”
He took my shoulders and pushed me back a step so he could look in my eyes. “Nell, you were together for five years. That is almost one-quarter of your life. It’s been three days since he broke up with you. You have every right to complain and whine and be sad. What kind of friend would I be if I was tired of comforting you already?”
I threw my arms around him. “I love you.”
“Of course you do, you nut,” he muttered, ruffling my hair. “Let’s find Amalia and get out of here. Still up for baking cookies or do you want us to drop you off at your place?”
“I think if I’m alone I’m going to think too much.”
“Aw, I didn’t know my looks distracted you to the point of not being able to think of anything else.”
I shoved him and he almost topped over into the trees. “You’re so modest, Joon.”
“I try to be.”
As he sauntered off in front of me, I studied him. Jokes aside, Joon could make a model jealous. And yet for as long as I’d known him, I’d never seen him go on as much as a date with someone, let alone hold a relationship. Not that the suitors weren’t there. Woman and men came up to him consistently. He always just said school kept him too busy.
Maybe it was a horrible thought, but part of me was glad he stayed single. I couldn’t imagine going through this breakup without him. If he had been dating someone and they were half as jealous of me as Evan had been of Joon, I wasn’t sure how I’d be handling it.
Fortunately, Amalia had found her idea tree during my partial breakdown. Joon and I helped give it a shake before wrapping it up and tying it to the roof of her SUV. I glanced back at the trees. Could I really skip having one this Christmas? I could come back later, sure, but all the good ones would probably be taken.
“Sure, you don’t want to get one?” Amalia asked as if sensing my hesitance.
“No you’re sure or no you’re not sure? Joon said you found the perfect one.”
I shook my head. “No.”
Even though I said that I couldn’t drag my eyes away from the trees. I couldn’t let any memories with Evan ruin what I loved. I didn’t deserve that. And he wasn’t worth it. So why couldn’t I get over it?
Baking cookies and decorating Amalia’s tree definitely helped raise my mood and by the time she dropped me off at my apartment, my heart felt ten times lighter. “I should have got that tree,” I sighed, taking in the heat from the car for a moment longer before I made the dash into my apartment.
“We can go back tomorrow if you want,” Amalia offered.
“No. It’s okay. I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”
“Well, let me know if you change your mind.”
“Okay. Thanks for the ride.”
“Joon get your butt up here, I’m not a chauffeur,” Amalia ordered as I climbed out of the car.
I grinned as Joon hopped out of the back and ducked into the passenger’s side. “See ya, Nellie.”
After watching them drive away, I stepped into my apartment, taking off Joon’s scarf and setting it on one of the wall hooks. It was quiet and empty. Normally Evan would stay over on Mondays because he didn’t have classes on Tuesdays.
“No,” I scolded myself out loud. I wasn’t thinking about him anymore.
I wandered into the bedroom, stripping as I went before collapsing onto my bed. I unlocked my phone just in time to see the time change from 11:59 PM to 12:00 AM. December 1st. Rolling across the bed, I picked up the advent calendar Joon had given me from my side table.
The first piece was a Santa. How fitting. I smiled and ate it, marveling at how one piece of chocolate could make my heart feel so warm.
Classes dragged by the next day. At one point Joon had texted me in a panic saying he’d left his phone charger in my apartment the night before and his phone was currently at three percent, then he’d come by to steal my keys and promised to return them asap. That was three hours ago. Just as I began to worry about not being able to get back into my apartment, Joon appeared, handing my keys back. “Thanks, Nell.”
“What took you so long?”
I raised an eyebrow. “You live on campus, Joon.”
His cheeks flushed. “Well. I’m late for class. See ya!”
“What class?” I called after him, bewildered.
He waved at me from over his shoulder and I stared after him for another moment before walking away. Sometimes I didn’t understand him.
I returned to my apartment with full intentions to go through with my Netflix plan from yesterday. As soon as I opened the door, a familiar scent wafted toward me. Opening the door slowly, I peeked in, my mouth falling open at the sight before me.
A Christmas tree was propped up in the corner of my living room, decorated beautifully with colorful string lights and blown-glass ornaments. I closed the door behind me and walked up to the tree, speechless. A small piece of paper hung from a branch at eye-level.
On the first day of Christmas, my best friend gave to me: the perfect Christmas fir tree.
[Check back tomorrow for chapter 3]