Once Upon a December

byChancem77©

I nervously puffed on my cigarette, feeling like a total dweeb, and praying to whatever God would listen that he didn't notice my fumbling around like an idiot. Luckily this wasn't my first time smoking or else I'd really have seemed dumb. I took a hit, blew out the smoke, and said, "I'm Sessy."

"What kind of a name is that?" I wasn't sure if he was actually curious or just making fun but it didn't matter either way, I was just happy that he was talking to me.

"It's a nick name." I told him, "My real name is Cecil." I said my name slowly, emphasizing the fact that it was pronounced as SES-sol, and not SEE-sil, because I hated the latter of the two pronunciations.

"Well, SES-sol, enjoy your smoke. I've got to run." He smashed the remainder of his cigarette out in the ash tray that the hotel provided by the main entrance and left. My heart sank as I watched him walk away. He didn't even bother to give me his name but could I really blame him? He probably just saw me as some dumb kid who didn't have anything better to do than to bug people who just happened to be standing nearby.

I doubted that I'd ever see him again which really put me in a funk. I seriously did not want to deal with my happy-go-lucky family at a time like this but what choice did I have? My dad pulled up in the van and just about that time my mom and sister were coming outside, laughing and smiling, bright and cheery as they normally were, and here I was, the king of doom. 'Yeah,' I thought to myself, 'This holiday is going to majorly suck.'

_____________________________

After breakfast my mom decided she had some last minute shopping to do so we piled in the van and headed for the nearest K-mart. My mom headed straight for the women's clothing section and my father followed behind her with the cart like an obedient little puppy. My sister and I decided to go look at CD's just to kill the time. "Oh hey look!" She squealed at me then held up a CD case. "A new Madonna album! I know you like her." She grinned then gave me a wink. "Yeah." I agreed, "But not for the reasons you think." I muttered that last part to myself then walked over and casually began flipping through various titles, not really even paying attention to what any of them were. I only had one thing on my mind, the beautiful stranger I'd met at the hotel. I'd memorized his face, his calm, cool voice. It was deeper than mine but still soft and it flowed like classical music in an empty room, filling the space around me, and swallowing me whole. Oh, I longed to hear that voice again, the way he'd said my name sent chills all over my body, and I mean all over. My heart began pounding again; just thinking of him was making me hot. I thought about making a run for the bathroom but I was worried my sister would go and tell my parents I had the shits or something. That's the last thing I needed, my mom trying to force Kaopectate down my throat, right before stuffing myself with ham and sweet potatoes. It was a no win situation, I desperately needed to rub one out, yet I was stuck in "quality time" hell. If I thought this day couldn't get any worse, I was sadly mistaken.

Leaving the electronics department, my sister and I went in search of our parents, and not surprisingly, unable to find them where we had originally left them. I thought about going to the service desk and telling the staff that, if they happened to find a middle aged couple wandering around who seemed a little too happy, to please return them to us safely. In retrospect, this seemed like a bad idea, given my mother's intolerance of smart-asses. Our other option was to just idly meander around the store until we spotted them. This seemed the safer, yet less effective method, but it was the choice we decided on none the less. After roaming around countless isles of toys, shoes, beauty supplies, pet care products, (we didn't even own a pet) my sister suddenly stopped dead in her tracks, and did a happy, little, anime fan girl type of bounce.

"What the..." I nearly plowed into her when she stopped which pissed me off. "What's your damage?!" I shouted.

"Oh look!" She shrieked (seriously the girl was eighteen, time to lay off the "Sailor Moon"). "They're taking pictures with Santa!"

"Wonderful..." I rolled my eyes. "Can we go now?"

"I want to get my picture taken." She turned and looked at me, her eyes beaming. How she could get so excited over getting a picture taken with fat guy in a fake Santa Claus outfit was beyond me.

"You realize that's just for kid's right?" I asked.

She frowned. "Oh you have no holiday spirit, you know that?"

I shrugged. "Do what you want. You're the one that's going to look silly sitting on his lap."

"Nope," She grinned at me. "We are!"

"Oh no!" I backed up and looked around for the nearest exit to make my escape. "You can count me out of this one. No way, am I sitting on a grown mans lap!" At least not one wearing a Santa outfit in a convince store.

Her mouth turned down into a quivering frown suddenly and, she looked at me with those huge, brown, puppy dog eyes that I can never seem to say 'no' to. "Just this once." She pleaded with me, fake tears filling her eyes. "I'll never ask you for anything else ever again, please, please, please!"

'Yeah right.' I thought, 'Until the next time.' I sighed, defeated by utter, cute sisterly-ness. "I swear, if this gets around school, I will kill you."

"Oh thank you!" She threw her arms around me and smothered me in bear hugs. I gasped for air and tried to push her away, but for some odd reason she was stronger than me. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" She cheered.

"Yeah, yeah." I rolled my eyes. "You're completely evil, you know that?"

I couldn't believe that I was actually doing this. One good thing I suppose was that the thought of sitting on some strange old dude's lap had totally banished any romantic thoughts I was having at the present moment. The only thing on my mind right then was how ridiculous I looked getting my picture taken on Santa's lap with my twin sister. I forbid her from showing the picture to any of our extended family though she did insist on showing it to mom and dad, much to my dismay.

It wasn't that horrible though in all honesty. The old guy playing St. Nick was a pretty good sport about the whole thing and hey, I even got a free candy cane.

__________________________________

It was getting later in the day now and mom wanted to hurry and get to the house. She had agreed to help my aunt with some of the cooking which meant I was going to be spending a fair amount of time hanging out with my dorky cousin Joey, probably playing video games, or reading through comic books. By the time dinner was ready I'd find the entire family forming an assembly line around the table with the food. The adults with small children usually went first, followed by the elderly and infirm. Next would be the unmarried adults, then children old enough to make their own plates, and lastly the teenagers. Every year it was the same thing. By the time I actually had my food the grown up table would be full so I would take my food and disappear into my aunt's basement to eat. It was either that or I sit at the kids table which I whole-heartedly refused to do. After dinner everyone filed into the living room to pass out presents. My aunt popped in her copy of "It's a wonderful Life" while my uncle built a fire. Gingerbread candles that lined the mantel were lit, bathing the house in their sweet, holiday aromas. The tree was silver, huge, and adorned with years' worth of accumulated bulbs, ribbons, and homemade ornaments. I sat on the floor next to my dad who was on the couch. He put his arm around my mom and they snuggled up to each other. The younger kids were dancing around the tree like hungry, little, tribesmen with their prey in sight.

"Who wants to be Santa this year?" My uncle asked the room.

"Sess can do it." My mother chimed in.

"Pass!" I grumbled.

My dad nudged me with his foot. "Don't be such a Scrooge."

"Bah-humbug" I retorted.

"I'll do it, I'll do it." My ten year old cousin Jacob was jumping up and down waving his arms. "I'll be a great Santa!" He squealed.

"Okay Jake, you're Santa this year." My uncle smiled at the boy as he situated himself in his recliner with his pipe, and my aunt readied the camcorder.

'Thank God.' I thought, 'Saved by the squirt.'

Jacob dove into the pile of gifts and started handing them out to family members with a kind of magical festivity that only a child could get away with. He handed me a medium sized box that was wrapped in green and red shimmering paper, and adorned with a huge bow.

"I hope it fits." My aunt said as I started to rip open the paper. "I had to ask your mom for your size, but I have the receipt if it's too small."

"I'm sure it will be fine Dana, he has such a small frame he can practically still fit in youth sizes."

I shot my mother an angry glare and she shrugged her shoulders like she had no idea why I was annoyed with her.

I pushed the wrapping off onto the floor then peeled the tape away from the edges of the box and took the lid off. Inside was a navy blue, denim, button up shirt, complete with a black tie.

"You'll look sharp in that." My uncle said, "You'll have to chase the ladies off with a stick."

I raised an eye-brow. Sure, like I had issues with girls chasing me. "Thanks," I told them, forcing a smile. "It's a real cool shirt."

The rest of the night pretty much went the same. My cousin passed out the rest of the gifts. By the end of the night the kids had toys scattered all over the floor, boxes torn open, and a sea of brightly colored, jolly Christmas, wrapping paper tossed haphazardly throughout the room.

Most of what I had gotten was clothes, a few CD's, a couple of movies, and some new boots. The boots I did really like, mostly because I had picked them out myself, and had wanted them for some time. The clothes were okay, but my mom had this thing about wanting to get me out of the black depressing stuff I normally wear, so when she shops for me she normally buys bright, happy colors that I hated. I smiled though, pretended to be happy with my gifts, and acted as polite as possible. My sister helped pick up the discarded paper and then all the women went into the kitchen to clean up and wash dishes. I snuck outside to the garage to have a smoke, hoping to kill some time before we left. I really didn't want to sit inside with the men and talk about guy things. My uncle always wanted to know if I had a girl friend, or if there were any girls at school that I was interested in. I could only tell him no so many times before he started to wonder if I was planning to enter the priesthood or something.

I was relieved when my dad finally announced that we would be leaving. It was getting late and mom was tired. She had a bad back and when it started acting up she turned into the ice queen. The best course of action was to get back to the hotel where she could down a couple of pain killers and go to bed. We said our good-byes, then packed up the van and headed out.

On the way back I couldn't help but think about the guy I'd met earlier that day. I wondered if he'd already checked out, or if he was staying for a few more days. I hoped he was still there because I really wanted to see him again.

It was late when we got back to the hotel and the lobby was pretty much empty. I figured most of the people were either with their families still, or in bed. I looked around for my fantasy guy but didn't see him anywhere. It was too much to hope for I supposed. Besides, even if I did see him again, what would I say to him?

I walked back to my room, shoulders slouched and full of disappointment. I fished around in my pocket for the key, found it, and then let myself in. The room was dark and empty. Even the iridescent glow of the over head light didn't do much to brighten the room or ease the loneliness I was feeling. I had developed my first real crush on a guy I didn't even know and would probably never see again. I sat down on the edge of the bed and realized just how pathetic that actually was. I flopped back against the mattress and sighed. This was what my life amounted to. Pathetic school boy crushes and missed connections. It made sense though, you never see two prince charmings' end up together in fairy tales.

__________________________

I was so restless that night that I tossed and turned, not able to get the visage of my fantasy lover out of my head. I imagined him coming into my room, undressing, and crawling in bed with me. I felt him touching me, his lips planting soft kisses everywhere. My mind just exploded with every sultry detail I could possibly imagine and it was driving me mad. Even self gratification wasn't enough to ease this ache in my heart. Finally, around two in the morning I decided to go down stairs, get a soda from the machine, and maybe take a short walk outside. I figure if nothing else, the harsh December air would cool me down.

As I descended the stairs to the lobby I gasped and came to a screeching halt. He was there, standing near the vending machines talking to some woman. I felt my heart began to break in two when I figured it was probably his girl friend. They didn't seem to be getting along very well though. They were talking low enough that no one would hear them but I could tell from his body language that he wasn't at all thrilled with the conversation they were having. I was dead locked on the steps, not sure what I should do. Run back to my room and hide, go over to them and ask them to move so I could get a drink? No, I didn't want to interrupt them but still, I just had to talk to him. That's when I made up my mind, I was going over there. They were arguing in a public place after all and I had every right to want a cold drink at two in the morning, I think. I pulled a dollar bill out of my pocket so I wouldn't look suspicious then I casually walked over to where they were standing and stood next to them. They both turned to look at me and I smiled like an idiot.

"Hi," Was all I could think to say at the moment.

The woman looked annoyed as she glared at the man. "Whose this?"

He shrugged, "Some kid that bummed a smoke off me earlier."

Nice, that made me feel about two feet tall. He looked me up and down then frowned. "What do you want?"

I held up the dollar and pointed to the pop machine. "Oh..." He said blankly then moved to the side. I hurriedly slid my dollar into the slot, pushed the button for the soda I wanted then grabbed the can after it came crashing down into the bottom of the machine. "Thanks." I smiled again then scurried over to the small couch near the service desk, plopped myself down, and popped the top of the can open. I tried not to snoop as they finished up their conversation but I did occasionally catch myself stealing glances every now and then. I couldn't help it, he was so sexy, and there was something mesmerizing about the way that he carried himself.

Their conversation ended abruptly with his female companion throwing up her arms in frustration before storming off. I took a sip of my soda pop and thought, 'This is it; I blew my chance to talk to him. Now he's going to go after her, they'll probably make up and head back to his room. What a letdown.' To my complete surprise though, he didn't go after her. Instead he walked over and sat down on the couch next to me. I momentarily forgot how to breathe, or think, or move. He stretched his arm out across the back of the couch then propped his left ankle up on his right knee. 'Say something smart!' I instructed myself then, without thinking, I blurted out, "Merry Christmas!" Oh God, how dumb was I? I cringed and felt my face go hot.

He turned and looked at me with an expression of pity or slight amusement, I wasn't sure which.

"Shouldn't you be in bed?" He asked me, "Santa Claus won't come if you're still awake."

I narrowed my eyes. "I stopped believing in Santa a while ago."

"I figured that." He said. "I was only joking anyway." He winked at me and gave a half smile.

"It is pretty late though, couldn't you sleep?"

I shrugged and took another sip of my drink. "Not really."

"Me either." He leaned his head back and sighed. "At least it's nice and quiet right now, gives me time to think."

I nodded in agreement. I didn't really know what to say. I was still in shock that my crush was actually sitting here talking to me. He was so close that I could reach out and touch him but my body was frozen. Damn he looked so good. His jeans were skin tight and he wasn't wearing a coat this time so I could clearly see the curve of muscle in his arms, and the shape of his torso as his shirt hugged his frame. The top three buttons of his shirt were undone as was his tie that he let hang loosely around his slender neck. I caught myself staring and so I quickly jerked my head away before he noticed. I was turning to putty right beside him. Those damn lascivious thoughts were again invading my head, and all the talk about being in bed and sleeping wasn't helping the matter any. I decided to do a quick change of subject and also maybe fish some personal information out of him.

"You're girl friend seemed kind of pissed." I said, praying to God I didn't over step my bounds. He didn't seem angry or offended by my comment at all, in fact he was very nonchalant.

"She's my younger sister." He corrected me.

"You not get along with her?" I asked him.

He shrugged. "Normally we get along fine. She just wants me to stand in for the best man at her wedding, the groom's brother backed out at the last minute, and I'm one hundred percent against it. In fact, I'm one hundred percent against the entire wedding."

"I guess...you don't like the groom then?"

"He's not right for her. She thinks that she knows what kind of man he is but she doesn't really. Besides that, she's way too young to get married. She's barely older than you."

I blushed. I couldn't believe that he actually remembered how old I was. In fact, I was shocked he remembered me at all. "Well, if she's in love with him..."

He scoffed at that. "Yeah, love, right. She's too young to know what love is."

"Seriously?" I glared at him, "Just because someone is young doesn't mean they don't know what love is!"

"Oh wow, I hit a nerve." He smiled at me playfully. "Have you ever been in love?"

"Well..." I looked down, and shrugged my shoulders, "Not exactly...maybe."

"That's my point, you don't know."

He was actually starting to piss me off now and for some reason I felt the need to defend his sister, or maybe I was defending my own feelings. "Just because I haven't experienced love yet doesn't mean your sister isn't in love. You should cut her some slack. I'd think you would want her to be happy."

"Oh I do. But, I've been around the block a few times kid. I know that she won't be happy with this guy, that's why I'm against her marrying him."

I rolled my eyes and looked away, getting irritated.

"Oh don't be like that kid; I thought we were friends here."

"I don't even know you, and for your information, I'm not a kid."

"Well, to me, eighteen is a kid."

"And how old are you?" I sounded a bit flippant but it only seemed to amuse him more.

"How old do I look?"

I shrugged. "Twenty-one, maybe twenty-two."

"Close, I'm twenty-five." He extended his hand and I stared at it for a while before hesitantly shaking it. I felt my heart skip a beat when our hands touched; it was more than I had even hoped for. "My name's Kyle by the way, Kyle Hartmann."

"You have a beautiful name..." I said it before I could stop myself. I could feel the color drain from my face. Did I actually just say that to this guy?

"Thanks." He chuckled. "No one's ever said that to me before."

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