The First... NoelbyJakeRivers©
This is my entry in the Holiday Story Contest. Enjoy!
Thanks to techsan for his usual superb job of editing!
CHRISTMAS EVE, PRESENT DAY
Little Harry Bailey was quiet, and sneaky, and patient. He had turned four the previous July and he had a plan. The other kids were in the family room watching a Christmas special. He was too, sorta. He was wedged in between the end of the sofa and the wall. This gave him a good vantage point – he could watch the rest of the kids, he could look at the special and he could see the adults sitting around the dinner table. They were all drinking hot chocolate or eggnog. The ones with the eggnog kept passing around a bottle and they seemed really happy.
Deciding he was ready he crawled backwards, a little at a time. Was anyone watching? A little more, and then he was in the hallway. Getting up to a crouch he quietly, and slowly, went into the living room. Yes, there it was... a tall tree decorated in a fantasy of colors, lights blinking, hung all over with neat things to play with! But that was not his objective! Underneath the tree was a jumble of boxes, packages, big ones small ones – all wrapped in glorious colored papers.
Dropping down to his belly, a snake stalking its prey, he slithered into the room. The only light was from the tree and two candles on the mantle. He could hear the stereo gently playing:
The First Noel, the Angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay
He neared his goal: his presents under the tree! He started reaching for the first box to look at the tag and he heard a soft sound coming from the other side of the tree, a snuffling, sniffling sort of sound. Curiosity won out over his greed, at least for a minute, and he crawled around the tree. There on the sofa was granny Gin Gin. He stood up and walked over to her. There was a sparkle in her eyes, in later years he would understand this was the Christmas lights reflecting on unshed tears.
Seeing Little Harry when he stood up she put out her arms and he ran into them. "Harry, what are you doing in here; no, never mind I think I know!"
"Gin Gin", he asked, "are you crying?"
Taking a handkerchief from her sleeve and dabbing at her eyes, she answered, "No, honey, I just have a few magic raindrops in my eyes."
Standing on his tiptoes, his eyes suddenly large, he stared into her damp eyes.
Laughing a little she kidded her grandson, "You know what magic raindrops are, don't you?"
As he shook his head no she continued, "Every year at Christmas time Santa Claus sends one of his elves around with a bottle of magic raindrops and they put a few drops in every grandmother's eyes. Then when she looks at all of her grandchildren, she can tell if they have been good or not! Only the good ones get presents."
Looking at him a little sternly, she asked "Harry, have you been a good boy this year?"
Looking a little worried, he first nodded yes, then, after a bit, shook his head no.
Giving him a huge hug as only grandmothers can, she pulled him down under the tree. "I know you've been good because look at all these presents for you! Go ahead and see what you can find."
Leaving him to his task, she sat back on the sofa, dabbing her eyes again. Her eyes were on Little Harry but her thoughts drifted back to earlier, her sadness triggered by the song she played over and over every Christmas:
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King Of Israel
CHRISTMAS SEASON, MANY YEARS EARLIER
Ginny had just got out of the shower and was looking in the mirror, seeing what she always saw: a short pixie-like girl with dirty blond hair, always appearing as it did now, a couple inches long, scraggly and sticking up everywhere. She was somewhat angular from the years of competitive running, but she saw enough curves to draw a slight smile.
She finished drying herself, took the silly plastic bag from around her foot and ankle and got dressed, grabbed her hairbrush and stared angrily at the mirror. This was a daily battle she fought, her against her hair. Going into attack mode she furiously brushed. Surrendering, she threw the brush in a drawer and vigorously ran her fingers through the mess on top of her head.
Snorting, she thought "I might as well shave it off; it could only look better! At least this is better than when it was long." Since she rarely wore makeup, she gave up, put a dab of the latest cologne that promised to make her "alluring" and left the guest bedroom using her crutches. She had sprained her ankle somewhat severely, slipping while running in the snow, and was sleeping in the guest bedroom downstairs so she wouldn't have to negotiate the stairs. It was working out okay, especially since it had its own bathroom.
Virginia Davis had graduated from high school the previous spring, and had turned eighteen just before Thanksgiving. She was currently going to the local community college but had no idea what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. As a result she was taking General Ed classes, trying to get some of the required courses out of the way while she waited for an inspiration for her future.
Ginny ... she never allowed anyone to call her Virginia ... was a lot of things. She was smart, cute, funny, short, a runner, a daughter, a sister, a student, a pretty good cook, and... well, you get the idea. If you could get inside Ginny's head and see what she thought she was, it wouldn't be any of those things. When she really thought about it, when she looked in a mirror, when she woke up late at night, when she gossiped with her friends, she always came back to one thing: she was a virgin!
This wasn't any particular plan or belief of hers, nor a concerted effort to stay that way, that's just how it had worked out. She had had the regular supply of boyfriends, though none for more that a few months. Few of her friends had made it to the senior prom as a virgin - none of them past the prom! Of course they talked about it all the time, sometimes giggling, sometimes whispering, once in a while blushing.
But not Ginny. She had no stories to titillate her friends with. She sometimes felt left out, and in general had very mixed feelings. Some days she was embarrassed, other days proud. Some nights she felt a longing, a stirring in her loins that confused her. She wasn't in a rush to lose it but sometimes it seemed like a burden to bear. Her life was great but it seemed to lack definition to her; some days everything seemed a little fuzzy!
She was waiting for her brother Marty. He was a junior at the state university and was coming home for a little over two weeks. The last time she had talked to him, he said "Ginny, I'm bringing home a boyfriend for you," but he wouldn't say anything else.
Now she was waiting for them to get back from the train station. Her parents had gone down to pick them up. She was alternately curious, nervous, and shy. She awaited their arrival with some trepidation and finally decided to go into the kitchen and futz around rather than appear to be too interested. She tripped a little on the hallway rug and banged into the wall. Boring!
Finally the garage door made that awful grinding, rumbling noise. She heard them come into the house, waited a minute and then nonchalantly sauntered (hard to do on crutches!) in to meet them. Marty grabbed her and gave her a hard time about her ankle. He introduced her to his dorm roommate: "Ginny, this is TD Bailey! TD, this is Ginny."
As he put his hand out she automatically put hers out, forgetting the crutches, and fell right at him. With an athletes reflexes he grabbed her under each arm and steadied her.
"I told you she has the hots for you, TD!" Marty laughed, teasing Ginny.
Blushing scarlet, Ginny mumbled something like "pleasedtomeetcha" and stumbled back to the kitchen on her crutches. The boys went upstairs to get settled in. Marty was staying in his room, but since it only had one bed, TD was going to stay in Ginny's room. She had a sudden flash of intimate apparel strewn all over the room and her diary lying open on the dresser. A quick check with her mom settled her mind on this.
At first she really liked TD (what kind of name was that?), what wasn't there to like? He was just less than six feet, maybe 170 pounds (she wasn't very good at this!), with dark curly hair and long ropy muscles. He was well dressed in nice slacks and a sport shirt. "He's actually pretty cute!" mused Ginny. He was unfailingly polite to her and her parents.
That night at dinner, her dad, George Davis, asked TD about his name. Marty answered for him: "At the homecoming game the week before Thanksgiving last year, he intercepted a pass and ran it back for a touchdown as time expired, giving us the game! We were twenty point underdogs. Anyway, as he was running off the field the head cheerleader came flying through the air into his arms screaming 'TD! TD! TD!' as she hugged him and smeared lipstick all over his face. The name just stuck. His real name is Noel Bailey."
Marty started regaling them with stories of how all the girls would chase him after that. Noel would laugh a little at some of this, but didn't say much. Ginny started having second thoughts about how desirable he was. Unbidden, her mind whispered to her, "Hey, girl! You aren't jealous, are you?"
Things went along for two more days with everyone seeming to have fun... anyway there were lots of laughs. She noticed that Noel (she just couldn't think of him as TD) seemed to be around her more and more. A bit surprised at herself, she didn't seem to mind, even started looking forward to spending time with him. He was very solicitous of her ankle, running around getting things for her. One afternoon when he brought her some cookies and milk, she thought, "I could get used to this," as she kissed his cheek quite naturally.
Two days before Christmas Ginny was in the kitchen cutting out cookies in several different Christmassy shapes. Her mom had made the dough ahead of time so she could sit at the table, do the cutouts and sprinkle different colors of crystal sugar on them. This had always been her job to do, and it was something she could do sitting down. Suddenly there were two large hands covering her eyes, and a falsetto voice rang out, "Guess who?"
Knowing who it was and deciding to make it her game not his, she said in a tentative voice. "Fumble?" She continued, "No, his voice is much nicer! I know! It's Interception! No, it can't be him; he's too polite to bother me when I'm making cookies. Let's see... Gosh it can't be TD, he was supposed to help me make cookies – if it is him, I'm calling delay of game!"
With a laugh, she pulled his hands off her eyes and turned her head towards him... only to be met by his lips brushing hers! Blushing she turned her head back and picked up the cookie cutter again, and mumbled, "Delay of game! No cookies for you buster!"
Noel smiled and as he sat down he couldn't resist rubbing her hair with one of his hands, causing her face to turn even redder.
"I'll make you a bargain," he told her, "If you give me some cookies I'll make hot chocolate! Deal?"
"Okay," she said with a grin.
That night Ginny had a plan on how to get back at him. None of the other boys she had dated would sit still for a movie unless it was a "bang-bang, shoot 'em up." Marty had gone out on a date and her parents were going to a neighbor's house to play cards.
While they were sitting with her parents having eggnog after dinner, she said "Noel, would you like to watch a movie with me tonight. They are showing one of my favorites." Expecting him to hem and haw a little she was surprised with his answer.
"Sure, that sounds like fun! Since you are a cripple I'll make popcorn!"
Thinking, "Wait 'til he sees what it is! He'll be stuck."
The movie was on at eight. She had been watching "It's a Wonderful Life" every Christmas since she was ten.
They got settled in on the sofa in the living room, popcorn ready as promised, in a bowl between them on the cushion. She was surprised again when he seemed interested in the movie. He said he had only seen it once, about five years ago.
During a commercial about half way through the movie, Noel took the popcorn bowl back to the kitchen and brought them a soda. Acting like it was the most natural thing in the world, he sat next to her where the bowl had been. A few minutes later she felt his hand lay on hers, not holding it, just resting there. She started to pull her hand out, but decided to leave it there for a minute. After a while she forgot about it and eventually noticed they were holding each other's hands tightly.
When the movie was over, Noel turned to her and said, "Ginny, I really enjoyed that. I could see it was a special movie for you and I appreciate you asking me to share it with you." He put his hand on her cheek for a minute, looking in her eyes. After a minute he got up and turned off the television.
Coming back to the sofa he leaned over and picked her up. "Come on girl, It's time to get you in bed!"
Aghast at what he said she tried to wiggle out of his hands but he ignored her. Carrying her down the hall to her temporary bedroom, he laid her on the bed.
"Noel! Wh... what are you doing?"
Grinning at her, he turned around and threw over his shoulder, "I'm going to get your crutches. What did you think?"
She could hear his laughter rumbling down the hall. She smiled to herself, remembering her thoughts and wondering if she was less panicked than she had acted.
Noel came back with the crutches and put them across the foot of the bed where she could reach them easily. Sitting down next to her on the bed he took both of her hands in one of his he put the other on top of her head and rubbed it through her hair.
"Noel! What are you doing to my hair?"
"I'm just doing what you do all day long."
"Yup, you do," Noel countered. "During dinner I counted, seventeen times!"
Leaning over her kissed her gently. When she didn't move away he put his arms around her and kissed her more energetically.
Pulling her head back to catch her breath, she chattered, "Wow! I've never been kissed like that!"
Teasing her, he said with a smile, "Well Ginny, you've never been kissed by a man before!"
Kissing her again he started rubbing her back with his hands. Lost in the moment he pulled his hand around and put it on her breast.
Putting both of her hands on his hand on her breast, holding it there, she whispered, "Noel, what do you want?"
Cupping her face in his hands he looked at her for a longish minute, not saying anything, looking into her eyes. "Ginny, I want... I need... Damn! I'm sorry Ginny. I'd better go to bed."
With a quick kiss on her forehead, he left her alone, prisoner to her thoughts.
The next morning, the day before Christmas, when she went in for breakfast, Noel was already there. Pausing at his chair she ran her hand vigorously through his neatly combed hair, laughing at him. Laying her crutches on the floor she slipped into the chair next to him.
They were having a big dinner on Christmas Day, so they didn't have anything particular planned for Christmas Eve. Ginny's mom and dad went to his brother's for dinner but she stayed home because of her ankle. Marty and TD went out with some of Marty's old high school friends to deliver toys to kids that needed a smile that holiday season. Both of them dressed up in Santa costumes and they had a lot of fun taking Polaroid pictures of each other in various combinations. They left and Ginny was left alone, smiling at some of the photos.
Christmas Eve wasn't a fun time to be by herself and Ginny was feeling melancholy. Putting a nightgown and robe on, Ginny turned the radio to a station playing Christmas carols. She wanted some hot chocolate, but thought it would be too hard to carry back with her crutches, so she sat on the sofa between the tree and the fireplace. It was a little warm on the sofa so she took her robe off, knowing she would be in bed well before anyone came home. Sleepily listening to the music, she heard
The First Noel, the Angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay
In fields where they lay keeping their sheep
On a cold winter's night that was so deep.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
as she dozed off, incongruously musing of her virginity and Noel.
About nine, Marty and Noel came back from delivering their packages. Marty went on upstairs while Noel decided he wanted a beer first. He had seen the firelight flickering, and considered sitting there in the quiet family room sipping the beer and thinking of Ginny. He hadn't said anything even to Marty but he was falling for Ginny fast. She was cute, mostly sweet, with a biting humor at times.
Walking into the family room where the Christmas tree was located, he was startled to see Ginny asleep on the sofa... wearing only her nightgown. He started to cover her with her robe, but he didn't want to wake her up. He sat on the floor, his back to the fireplace and watched her. He couldn't help but see her body, the slim legs, and the gown almost see-through. But mostly he just looked at her face, somewhat surprising himself. He memorized each feature: small button nose, oval face, her eyebrows natural, not plucked. The phrase "girl next door" came to his mind. Ever after that whenever Noel heard that phrase, he saw her there in his mind, face in repose, tranquil.
Deciding on another beer, he went into the kitchen. As he was opening it, he heard Marty's parents coming in through the garage. They chatted for a moment, asking about the caroling and delivery of presents. Marty's grade school class started that tradition many years before when they used to drive the kids from house to house. Yawning, they bade him good night.
Going back into the family room he sat as before, back to the fireplace watching Ginny. Finishing the can, he put it on the floor and dozed off. A little later his head fell down and he awoke as he jerked it back up. Looking at Ginny he saw that she was watching him with doe eyes. They stared at each other for a time, and then startled she grabbed her robe and covered herself with it.
Turning his head away, he mumbled, "I'm sorry, I was going to cover you up but I didn't want to wake you."
Now that she had the robe over her she was more comfortable, "That's okay. I thought I would be in bed before anyone came home, but I fell asleep. I'm dying for some hot chocolate, but I didn't want to try it on my crutches. Noel, could you please fix me some?"
With a quick "sure!" Noel left with some alacrity to fix the chocolate. He returned a couple minutes later with cups for each of them and a thermos of hot chocolate. He noticed she had put the robe on and had it tightly belted.
They talked for another hour, until almost midnight, getting to know each other better. It was cozy; the fire was down to coals, but still radiating heat.
Ginny felt somewhat outside of her body, as if she were watching herself. She was having very confusing and conflicting emotions – at times having warm feelings for Noel, at others feeling very nervous, almost jittery. The chocolate gone, the fire burned down, it was time to go to bed.
Not looking at him, Ginny asked, "Noel, I hate to ask you this, but my ankle is really bothering me tonight, it hurts! Could you... you carry me in to my room?"
Without responding, Noel leaned over and seemingly with no effort picked her up and carried her down the hall to the guest bedroom. Being careful to leave the door open, he laid her on the bed.
Putting his hand on her ankle with surprising tenderness, he asked, "Ginny? Does it hurt that much? I can ice it for you if you want."