Dance For Me Ch. 07bybrightlyiburn©
Chapter Seven: White Christmas
Loud knocking broke through the fog of sleep. Alastair groaned and burrowed further under his covers. It’s too early, he thought, grabbing his pillow and pulling it over his head. A moment later the door burst open. He braced himself, but it didn’t keep him from moaning in early morning agony when his sister landed on him. You would think, Alastair thought, rolling over, that at twenty-one, she would have grown out of that. The pillow was pulled away from him, and Alanna stared down at him. The usual blue of her eyes was hidden by the brown contacts she insisted on wearing these days, to “be different from the rest of the family”.
“Get off,” Alastair growled.
“Morning, Ally,” Alanna chirped. “Merry Christmas!”
“Bah humbug,” Alastair grumped. “Get off, Lonnie!”
His sister sighed dramatically and jumped down off the bed. He sat up and slid off the bed. Knowing she would wake him up this way (as she had every Christmas morning since she was three), he’d dressed in a pair of warm flannel pajama bottoms. Alastair grabbed his robe from the back of the door and shrugged into it. Alanna was already heading downstairs, singing “Jingle Bells” at the time of her lungs. Thank god she can sing all right, he thought, running his fingers through his hair. Quinn had just stepped out of his room when he emerged in the hall.
“Merry Christmas,” Quinn said quietly.
Alastair grinned. “Morning bro. Looking good.”
Quinn grumbled and ran his fingers through his hair much as Alastair had, except that his was more tangled and sticking out in a few places. They tramped downstairs, one behind the other, and into the living room. A giant tree, glittering with decorations, and heaps of brightly wrapped presents dominated the room. His mother met them at the bottom of the stairs and gave them both hugs.
Breakfast was a delightful thing on Christmas morning. His mother an father worked together to make pancakes, sausage, bacon, ham, hash browns, scrambled eggs, and toast. Also, they whipped up cream and cut up strawberries to go with the pancakes. Alastair, Quinn, and their father were healthy eaters, and they usually had very little food left over. When they had finished and were drinking coffee, Alastair eyed the leftovers on the counter.
“Hey, mom,” he said. “Do you think you could um…wrap that up for me?”
His mother glanced at him, her eyebrows raised. “For?”
“Sada,” Alastair explained, staring down into his coffee. “She uh…her parents live in California and well…I guess they had something of a falling out when she decided to move out of state for college so…so she doesn’t have anyone to spend Christmas with. I was gonna um…go by and see her later.”
“Oh, dear, that’s awful!” Aislinn exclaimed. He noted that despite her tone, a gleeful smile curved her lips. “Of course I’ll wrap it up for you.”
Oh boy, Alastair thought, picking up his coffee mug and moving into the kitchen. Just what I need is mom bugging me about this. Alanna teased him constantly about Sada. It’s not like we’re dating, he thought, scowling. She’s my dance partner. And why can’t I have a friend who’s female? Because Alastair didn’t have female friends, that was why. Since Melissa he’d had one-night-stands, a few casual flings, but no one closer to him than that. His mother was no doubt hoping that this time would be different.
Soon his parents and his brother and sister were in the living room with him, and that was when the fun began. In his time he’d seen families, both of relatives and of friends, that tore into their pile of presents like rabid animals, and were done with it in minutes. In Alastair’s family they sat in the living room, usually for a couple of hours, opening the presents one by one. He loved the holidays; it gave him a warm, fuzzy feeling that he wasn’t used to having and wasn’t, to be honest, usually comfortable with having.
The next couple of hours was filled with chatter, laughter, and the sound of tearing paper. Alastair got CDs and DVDs that he’d wanted, and that was mostly all. He was the first to say that he was impossible to shop for; there was a limited selection of things he actually liked. But his brother and sister always found something that surprised and delighted him. Alanna, who’s funds were usually rather limited, had given him something called a Chocolate Lover’s Survival Kit. Very few people actually got close enough to Alastair to know of his passion (bordering on obsession at times) with chocolate.
Quinn had something rather unique, though. It was obviously a drawing or painting of some kind, Alastair knew by the shape of the package. But he wasn’t expecting a picture of Sada. Done in shades of sienna, sepia, and cream, it was a very accurate depiction of her dancing. Quinn had an amazing ability to keep an image burned in his mind until he put it down on paper or canvas, and this was a tremendous showing of that talent.
Alastair found it hard to find words to thank his brother, but not out of joy, as his family seemed to think. Quinn didn’t know Sada very well, but he had captured her elegance, passion, and the exuberance that took her when she danced in such perfection that one thing was very obvious: he was, at the least, infatuated with her. He’s good, but he couldn’t have done this otherwise, Alastair thought, staring at the picture. He makes her look…mysterious and…like some kind of untouchable goddess. Although he admitted to himself, reluctantly, that he often thought the same of her when she was dancing.
Afterwards he dressed warmly, retrieved the present he’d bought for Sada and the leftovers from breakfast (in convenient Tupperware) and left the house. The ride to Sada’s place might have been uncomfortable, due to the chill. It also might have been breathtaking, due to the blanket of pure white snow covering nearly everything except the streets. Instead, Alastair was somewhat preoccupied with thoughts of that picture. It wasn’t as if he and Sada were dating. Really, he should be glad that Quinn was showing interest in someone…but he wasn’t.
Alastair ended up knocking on the door of Sada’s apartment several times before it opened. Apparently she’d still been in bed. Her hair was tousled, sticking up much as Quinn’s had. She wore a pair of flannel pajama bottoms in an interesting shade of purple, and a clingy camisole that did little to wore off the chill that slipped past him and into her apartment. Sada blinked at him a few times, then stepped back, motioning for him to come in.
“Sleeping in?” Alastair teased.
“Was,” Sada grumbled, grabbing a beat up old robe from her couch and pulling it on. She cinched in securely, then turned to look at him. “What are you doing here?”
“Merry Christmas to you to,” Alastair said, trying to appear offended but only managing to grin.
“Sorry,” Sada said, rubbing sleep from her eyes. “I do appreciate it, Alastair…I’m just not awake.”
“Come with me,” Alastair said, grabbing her by the elbow and dragging her into the mini-kitchen.
He sat her down at the table and began pulling the Tupperware from his bag. Sada watched him intently as he piled the pancakes onto one plate, and the rest of it on another, the heated both up in the microwave. Opening the tub of whipped cream and strawberries, Alastair set it all before her. She stared at him, her green eyes wide, as he settled down in the seat across from her.
“Eat,” Alastair commanded. “I can wait.”
Sada ate enthusiastically while he stood up and took a peek in her refrigerator. There was coffee creamer, which led him to find, with her help, some instant coffee, sugar, and a mug. He boiled water in a kettle, and when it was finished, Alastair poured it into the mug with coffee in it, and brought it to the table. He allowed Sada to put in cream and sugar on her own. By this time she was looking far more awake.
“This is delicious,” Sada said, sipping carefully at her coffee.
“Mom and dad made it together,” Alastair told her. “Every Christmas morning, in fact.”
Sada sighed. “Sounds wonderful.”
She finished eating, then sat back, folding her hands over her stomach and smiling in contentment. Alastair chuckled. He stood up and grabbed his backpack, then beckoned for her to follow him into the living room. Sada plopped down on the couch gracelessly, and he sat down beside her, with a bit more grace. Alastair pulled the package from his backpack and handed it to her.
“Oh,” Sada murmured, frowning. “I…I didn’t get anything for you…I mean…I tried but…I couldn’t think of anything…”
Alastair laughed. “That’s all right. Go on, open it. It was just something small that I saw…”
Sada peered at him for a moment, then began carefully peeling away the wrapping. The package was lumpy and awkward; Alastair wasn’t very good at wrapping presents, especially not of this sort. It was a plush, stuffed kitten with a calico coat that was some of the softest material he’d ever felt. Sada squealed in delight and hugged the stuffed animal close. She peeked up at him, and her cheeks turned red at his laughter.
“I’m glad you like it so much,” Alastair teased.
“It’s so cute,” Sada cooed, holding the stuffed animal up. “I love cats!”
“Why don’t you have one?” Alastair asked.
Sada shrugged. “I’d get one but…free kittens have to be taken to have their shots and stuff…I can’t afford that, and I can’t afford one that already has.”
She paused and looked up at him. Her green eyes were bright and lit with flecks of gold. Sada stared at him for what felt like a long time, and he could tell by the way she chewed at her lower lip that she was thinking about something. Finally she set aside the stuffed kitten and leaned towards him. Alastair braced himself as she pressed her mouth gently against his. It was a bare, chaste kiss, and Sada sat back afterwards, her cheeks bright red.
“I uh…I figured that…since I couldn’t find anything for you,” she stammered, staring at the couch. “I mean, I thought…maybe…”
Alastair chuckled softly. “Oh, that’s a very good present.”
Sada’s cheeks heated further. She moved to stand, but he grabbed her wrist, dragging her back. Feeling her tremble, Alastair kept his kiss brief and soft, and he released her quickly. She coughed, running her fingers through her hair and over her clothing, looking anywhere but him. Laughing, he stood up from the couch.
“Go get dressed,” Alastair said.
“Where are we going?” Sada asked, her shyness fading into curiosity.
“It’s a surprise,” Alastair told her, grinning.
Sada laughed softly, then turned and headed into the bedroom. He tried to catch a glimpse of it as she slipped inside, but she closed the door quickly. Sighing, Alastair settled down on the couch to wait for her. This is probably a bad idea, he thought, running his fingers through his hair. I don’t want her to get the wrong impression from this. Well, he would have to do his best to make sure she didn’t.
Sada huddled beneath the thick fleece blanket, pressing closer to Alastair’s side. She closed her hands around the cup of hot chocolate, grateful for the cover, which kept the liquid from spilling over her fingers each time the cart bumped. I can’t believe this, she thought, glancing up at Alastair, then forward, to the driver of the horse drawn carriage. I wasn’t expecting this. Sada sipped at her hot chocolate, sighing softly as the sweet liquid warmed her to her toes.
“This is great,” she said quietly. “Although…I’m a little surprised…”
Alastair’s eyebrows lifted. “Why?”
“Well um…this is kinda…” Sada stammered hesitantly. “I mean, isn’t this the sort of thing couples do?”
“Well, doesn’t it depend on how you define the word ‘couple’?” Alastair asked, smiling slightly. “We’re a couple of friends, aren’t we? And I mean, as dance partners, that’s what we are…a couple. Right?”
Sada scowled. “Very funny.”
He reached over, his fingers tweaking the tip of her nose. Sada squeaked in surprise, then found herself giggling. No matter what, this was a lot of fun. She’d never done this sort of thing before with anyone. And when she leaned against Alastair he put his arm around her shoulders. He’s warm, Sada thought, settling her head on his shoulder. And strong. It felt so nice to be close to someone like this.
“So, where did you get this idea, anyway?” Sada asked, peering up at him.
“Dad takes mom every year,” Alastair explained, looking out at the snow covered trees lining the street. “I…I guess I figured you’d be the kind of person who would enjoy this kind of thing…”
“Well, if you had that attitude, you could have taken your sister,” Sada teased, grinning at him.
Alastair turned to look at her. “Because I can’t think my sister looks cute with the wind blowing through her hair.”
Sada felt her cheeks heat. Although he managed to keep a straight face, Alastair’s pale blue eyes were sparkling with good humor. She turned away from him and stared down at the Styrofoam top of her hot chocolate cup. Just after New Year’s, she and Alastair would be off to Florida to compete in the Quarterfinals. Sada knew they would go back to practicing next time they were together again, and they probably wouldn’t spend time like this again until after the Quarterfinals were over.
“Don’t tease me,” she said quietly.
“That’s right,” Alastair said. “You’ve never had a boyfriend. I forgot.”
“You did not!” Sada accused, glowering at him.
“You’re right,” Alastair agreed, grinning. “I wouldn’t forget something so cute.”
Sada’s scowled deepened. Alastair laughed, and tightened his hold on her. She sighed, leaning into his side, and sipped at her hot chocolate. She hadn’t had a Christmas this nice in such a long time, even with Farah, Heather, and Gina. I’d better call them later, she thought, feeling a sudden flashed of guilt. She hadn’t spent too much time with them since she’d begun practicing with Alastair. Not even at school. Speaking of school… Sada thought, glancing at her companion.
“Have you thought about what I said?” she asked. “About school?”
“Ah. Sada…” Alastair groaned, rubbing the back of his neck. “You know I can’t…”
“Oh, sure you can!” Sada insisted. “Come on, Alastair. Why can’t you just accept that you’re smart and clever?”
“Because I’m not!” Alastair growled.
“Why?” Sada demanded. “Why do you think that way!?”
Alastair let out a frustrated snarl and let go of her, twisting in the carriage to turn away from her. Damnit, she thought, dropping her head into her hands. I’ve really done it now. She sighed heavily and lifted her head, glancing over at Alastair. His shoulders were tense. Sada reached out and gently laid her hand on his arm. He flinched, but turned back in the seat to look at her.
“Someone I knew once told me I was stupid and worthless,” Alastair said quietly. “Maybe it was the way she did it…I believed every word.”
“Melissa,” Sada said.
Alastair nodded. “Yeah.”
“Oh, Alastair,” Sada sighed. “You should know better than that. Melissa wouldn’t know intelligence if it jumped up and bit her on the ass.”
Alastair stared at her. She could tell he was fighting hard not to laugh. Still, there was a bit of sorrow in his eyes. Sada could think of only one thing that might distract him from whatever awful memories were floating around his head at the moment. She reached up, gently catching his face in her hands, and lifted her mouth to his. Alastair stilled for a moment, then closed his arms around her, pressing his lips eagerly to hers.
Never in her wildest dreams could she have imagined being kissed like that. His mouth was soft and hot, his teeth nibbled gently at her lower lip from time to time, and his tongue pressed against hers, teasing. Sada clung to him, her fingers curled in his hair. Alastair kissed her until they were both breathless, then drew back just a bit. His breath was warm against her face.
“You give me more credit than I deserve, little Sada,” Alastair murmured.
“No I don’t,” Sada argued, still breathless. “You don’t give yourself enough.”
“And if I decided to go to school?” Alastair asked, sitting back. “I mean, there’s still time for me to sign up for courses at the community college. Would you help me study?”
“I don’t think you’d need help,” Sada answered. “But I would, if you asked.”
Alastair grinned. “Well, I suppose that’s fair enough.”
“But I have to warn you,” Sada went on, forcing herself to keep a straight face. “I’ll be just as much of a slave driver as you are.”
“I am not a slave driver!” Alastair protested indignantly.
“You are,” Sada insisted, grinning at him. “I don’t mind, though. Well, not always. We’re in the quarterfinals, aren’t we?”
Alastair laughed softly. He settled his arm around her shoulders once more and pulled her close. Sada held up her hot chocolate cup, offering it to him. He flashed her a smile, then sipped from the cup before handing it back to her. She snuggled down further beneath the heavy blanket and sighed in contentment. This is nice, Sada thought, smiling to herself. A bit of relaxation is nice for a change.
“You know, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a female friend,” Alastair mused. “I forgot that it could actually be fun.”
Sada’s eyebrows lifted. “You kiss all your friends like that?”
“Only the ones that let me,” Alastair joked, wiggling his eyebrows at her.
“Pig,” Sada muttered, scowling.
“Oink, oink,” Alastair murmured, pressing his mouth against her ear.
She squeaked when his teeth nipped lightly at her earlobe, and jabbed him sharply in the ribs. Alastair yelped and pulled back, rubbing the spot she’d jabbed and staring at her. She smiled at him sweetly. I can’t let him get away with things like that, Sada thought firmly. Her resolved fizzled a moment later when he pulled the cup of hot chocolate from her grip, bent her backwards, and kissed her. She flailed in his hold for a moment, then relaxed beneath the soft, sweet pressure of his lips.
“What’s gotten into you?” Sada asked, when he had finally pulled away.
“I think all that eggnog I drank wasn’t the non-alcoholic kind,” Alastair murmured, nuzzling against her neck.
Sada rolled her eyes. “Alcoholic eggnog, huh? Bah humbug!”