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Merry Christmas

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The man trudges through the falling snow, a neatly wrapped package with a bow on top in hand.

He first saw her when he was visiting his grandmother on Christmas. She had been wearing a nice yellow dress. It took him several hours and sweaty palms and some weird and awful small talk (including a very, very cheesy pick up line) and a couple of pep talks from his grandmother to finally have the courage to ask her to slow dance with him.

"May I ask you for a dance, madame?" he said, bowing slightly and holding his hand out.

She giggled. "Yes." She reaches out for his hand and he pulls her up swiftly. His right hand were placed on her waist, his left gripping on her left hand tightly. Her right hand were placed on his shoulder. A step, and then another. They danced to the music. There were claps to the rhythm of the music and laughter and all in all it was pretty loud in the house of Geromino's, the community center where the locals hold parties.

For the first time that night, he had a chance to focus on her face, her eyes, those brilliant blue eyes. He had a sudden urge to kiss her. He leans in slowly.

And so does she.

He was pretty sure his nose was red and his ears redder and his hands were freezing even though he was wearing gloves. He could see his breath. He thinks about going to the gym later to be in shape, but then remembers it was Christmas. Gyms weren't open on Christmas. Nothing was open on Christmas. Except for hospitals, he thinks. He hates the hospital. Yet he appreciates it at the same time. Some patients get sent home for Christmas, healthy and well and back to their loved ones.

"Hey."

"Hello."

"Haven't seen you around much."

"Busy with work." He squinted at the computer screen. "You got a hair cut."

She laughed. "I did. Are you visiting again any time soon?"

"Next week, near Christmas. Gram volunteered me as Santa Claus at Geromino's."

"Red looks good on you."

"Red isn't my favorite color though, it's yours."

"All the same. You'd make a good Santa, with your fat belly," she joked.

He huffed. "That's what Grandma said too." He paused, and then grinned. "That, and Merry Christmas."

Why he doesn't just drive there, he doesn't know. The snow was falling heavier and it was getting harder to walk. He doesn't think about it much, though - why he doesn't just drive instead of walking. It's just something that he does. It doesn't makes sense, but then again, nothing in this world makes sense much anyways.

"Come on, I have to show you something!"

"It's Christmas morning, I'm not awake yet."

"But it's your present! Now hurry!"

He walked slowly and unwillingly (after all, it was only 5 AM) while she dragged him, as energetic as a four year old. After a while of walking, she covered his eyes.

"Watch your step here!"

They were going up hill, he can tell. "Are we there yet?"

"Almost!" she said cheerfully, her voice full of excitement. They walk for a few more minutes up hill. Then she stopped, and so he did too. "Now look!" She uncovered his eyes. They were on top of a small hill, and a sycamore tree stood upon it, right next to him. They could see the whole town, even the rolling hills above the horizon. But it was the brilliance of the mixed colors of orange and yellow and hints of red all together that caught his breath.

"Merry Christmas," she said.

The sun was just rising.

He's going up hill now. With each step he is reminded of her and how far away she is.

Drunk driver. She was hit. Losing blood. At the ER. Doctors are trying their best. That was all he could pick out from the phone call.

She had been heading back home from a visit to one of her friends, heading back where he had been waiting eagerly with a home-made dinner and a little box in his back pocket.

News. Running. Breathlessly arriving at the hospital. Caught up with her when she was being rolled in to the ER room.

He looked at her steadily. He knew it wasn't the right time and he knew it wasn't the right place. But he was sure if he didn't do what he was about to do, he would regret it, because if she doesn't make it, if she doesn't make it-

"Marry me."

Despite everything, she laughed a bit. She managed to croak out a "yes".

He got out the small box, opened it, and slipped the ring on her left ring finger. "You come back with that, alright?"

She nodded reassuringly and he almost believed that she will be coming back, that they'll get married and have children. That they'll grow old together and watch their grandchildren run around in their backyard.

They didn't.

He reaches the top of the hill and just stands there, next to that sycamore tree and a headstone that was right beside that tree. He looks out on the horizon. The mix of orange and red and hints of yellow catches his breath, like it does every time he comes up here. He plays with his own ring on his left ring finger, the companion to the one he had given her before she-

He stops his thoughts and turns his head back to the headstone that was right beside that sycamore tree.

It bears her name.

"Merry Christmas," he whispers. He sits down and set down the wrapped present.

The sun was just setting.

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