A Boyfriend For Christmas- Two

Part Two- Christmas Eve

I feel someone touching my arm while I’m in bed. My back is turned to them and the cover is over my head. I hope I’m dreaming but then I hear a voice.

“Wake up, Chelsea!” Said the voice.

My eyes pop open and I viciously turn over to yell at Caleb and tell him to get out of my room. However, he’s not the only one here. Nichelle is standing behind him holding her baby and rocking her lightly. She is smiling sweetly at me.

“Happy Birthday,” she says.

I groan and turn back over, putting the cover back over my head. One of the only things I wanted was to sleep as late as I could. For the last week I have either been woken up by someone, noise or my alarm. With a military father in the home, we were not able to sleep too late, and everyone else has been bitten by the early morning bug. All except for me, I glory at the thought of sleeping past ten, but if I come even close, daddy wakes me up every time.

“Your mom says get up because we are going to go out to have breakfast for your birthday.” says Nichelle.

I pop the covers back from over me and stare at her through heavy eyes. Everyone knows, If there is any way to get me out of bed, it’s with food. I hope we are going to my favorite place. Nichelle grabs Caleb’s hand and they leave the room. I want to go back to sleep but now my mind is thinking about buttery pancakes, just the thought of the maple syrup gives me the energy to sit up. I drag myself to my bathroom for my usual hygiene routine and then throw on a hoodie with a long sleeve shirt and a pair of sweats. My favorite thing to wear, especially during this time of the year. As I leave my room, I see my Papa coming out of Duke’s room.

“Happy birthday, knucklehead,” he says as he grins and pats my shoulders.

He follows me through the kitchen and to the living room. The kitchen smells of pumpkin spice and latte grounds. Caleb is in the living room with Nichelle and I suddenly remember hearing a little commotion coming from her and Uncle Nate’s room in the middle of the night. I’m not sure what it was about but it sounded like they were really angry with one another. I flop down on the couch next to Caleb. He is sitting with his legs criss-crossed and staring at the television like a zombie.

The television is mounted on the wall over a white cement fireplace. The stockings that were hung just a few weeks ago are now filled to the brim and another Christmas vine is laid across the mantle. Mama has changed all the décor in the living room to Christmas décor, a twelve-foot tree is standing next to the corner by the fireplace. This is a green artificial tree that has select branches spray painted white. There are artificial red berries poking out. White and gold crystal balls are hanging from some branches while others have white stars hanging from them. To top it off, a rose gold, shiny, lit star sits on the top. Under the tree, the corner is filled with presents. All types of Christmas paper such as snow mans, trees, snowflakes, all stacked on one another. The wall looked as if it would cave-in soon.

“You’re up!” Nichelle says as enthusiastically as she can without waking Olivia.

I look at her and ask. “Does she ever cry?”

“Why do you think I’m up? She doesn’t cry easily but she has her days.”

Everyone is dressed to leave and I assume we are waiting for daddy to come out of the room. I look at the time on my cell phone, it’s exactly 8:30 A.M. While waiting for my dad, my mind drifts back to the commotion I heard last night coming from Nichelle and Uncle Nates room. I really want to know what all the fuss was about so I decide to ask to see if she will tell me.

“Are you ok?” I turn to Nichelle.

She looks at me as if nothing was bothering her. “Yeah. Why?” She says in a super perky voice.

Her relaxed hair is in a pixie bob cut and combed down on her scalp. I don’t think she had a chance to bump it the way she had it yesterday.

“I woke up last night and heard you and Uncle Nate.” I try to say it as if I heard what they were saying to see if she would spill the beans.

She snickered. “Oh that. Girl, he’s just a man but we are fine.” She sighs. “We are both still adjusting to being parents, you know men don’t handle that easily.”

“But shouldn’t having a baby be a joyful thing? Even for men? I mean, you both looked so happy.” I ask.

“Right, but it soon wears off once the real work starts.” She remarked.

I nod my head. “Well, if you need someone to talk to, I’m here for you.”

She lightly laughs. “Well, thank you.”

“Everyone ready to go?!” I hear daddy yell from behind me.

I turn around to face him.

“Happy birthday, baby girl,” he says and gives me a kiss on my forehead.

I smile because he has the best display of affection towards me. No matter what I do, he always shows me that he loves me.

It takes both cars to get everyone to Cracker Barrel. My mouth begins to water as I think about what I’ll choose to eat. The amount of syrup I plan on indulging is going to be unhealthy. Then it occurs to me that I am officially an adult, but the more I think about it….I still feel the same.

I ended up riding in the back seat of mom’s car, while Uncle Nate drove. “So, what are you going to do tonight?” Nichelle asked from the front seat.

Upon hearing her mom's voice, Olivia starts whimpering and I put her pacifier in her mouth.

“I don’t have anything planned. Mama and Daddy are probably going to do something.” I replied.

“Really? You don’t want to go out somewhere?” she asked.

That was one of the bad parts of being born on Christmas Eve. My friends are usually not in town or they are busy with their families, so going out is never on the to-do list.

Nichelle turns around and smiles. “I’ll go with you.”

I smile back. “I’ll find something.”

Nichelle squills. “This is going to be so much fun. We can make it a girl’s night.”

I glance from her to Uncle Nate. He is concentrating on the road and his face looks tense. He and daddy are brothers, for sure.

The traffic seems to be getting worse as we get closer to the outdoor shopping center where Cracker Barrel is located. The streets are filled with people walking back and forth across the crosswalk and the church bells continue to ring while a place is blasting the song, ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of The Year.’ Everyone looks happy and preoccupied as they look to continue their Christmas shopping. We pull into the packed parking lot and manage to find a spot.

“Do you think there is a wait?” I hear Nana asking Daddy as we all get out of the cars.

“I don’t know mama. I’m going to check,” replied my dad.

“Birthday girl!” She screams when she sees me.

We smile at one another and hug. She grabs a purple bow and a pin from her bag and pins it on my shirt.

“And I want to be the first one to give you something.”

She then proceeds to pin a fifty-dollar bill to my shirt behind the ribbon and kisses my cheek. I give another smile.

“Thank you, Nana.”

“So, what do you plan to do now that you are grown?” she asks, as she walks next to me with her arm around my shoulders.

I sigh because I don’t really know how to answer. “Live more freely?” I remark.

She laughs at me as we walk through the doors of the crowded restaurant. It seems everyone had the idea to have breakfast away from home on Christmas Eve. Classic holiday music is playing over-head and the gift shop is stocked with holiday trinkets and candy and the restaurant is covered with décor. We walked through the gift shop to the doorway to enter the restaurant. Papa stops me, grabs my shoulders and kisses my cheek. He smiles at me and I look up and notice a mistletoe hanging from the arch. I think to myself about how much I love my family.

“Well, how come she gets a kiss and I don’t,” Nana says with a pout on her face.

Papa looks remorseful and hugs Nana. “You can have one as well, my sweetheart.”

They both pucker and their lips collide. I watch and my heart feels like it is melting with happiness. The hostess takes us to our table that has already been set up for us and right before we are all seated, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turn around and I am face to face with my friend, Zoe.

“Happy birthday!” She yells.

Her face is covered in makeup and her blonde hair swings as she leans in to hug me. Zoe lives in the neighborhood and we go to the same school. She’s a senior like me and I am so happy to see her.

“I thought you would be out of town.”

Zoe rolls her eyes. “Girl, my father got called in.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yep, right before Christmas, so, Moms decided she wanted to stay home.”

Zoe’s dad is a police officer in the town. This time of year, is really hard to plan anything since there are so many people in town around this time. Typically, the police department increases the number of officers on duty. Zoe’s dad never can seem to say no.

“But forget that. Let’s eat,” Shelby takes off her coat and sits next to me.

“Surprise huh?” Mama says, looking down at me from across the table.

“Big surprise.”

“Oh wait, I have something for you.” Zoe says.

She went into her pocket and grabbed money that was folded in her hand. She took the pin from my shirt and pinned the money. I looked up and noticed two more chairs available. Just as I was about to ask who they were for I heard a voice in my ear.

“You still my lil’ sister.”

I looked up and turned my head to see Duke standing there grinning. I jump up to hug him.

“I didn’t think you were coming tomorrow!” I exclaimed.

“I wanted to surprise you. Do I ever miss your birthday?” he replied.

“No. I’m glad to see you.”

As he maneuvers around to say hi to others, I notice someone behind him. The guy looks familiar and he is very attractive. He’s tall with a stocky build and big hands. I notice big hands; they do something to me. I’m standing in front of him and my eyes are wandering over his face. His braids are neatly done and his tape up gives his face a fresh clean look. I think he can see I’m trying to figure out who he is.

“Happy Birthday,” he says.

“Oh, this is my friend everyone. Chels, you remember Brody.”

It then comes to me. He and Duke were really close friends when they were in middle school and during their first year of high school. I had a crush on him for three years but never told him and I don’t think he felt the same. Whoa, he has gotten better looking. I could see his expression change as he remembered me. They both sat in the empty chairs. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Zoe eyeing him and my brother.

“He’s cute,” she says leaning towards me.

I nudge her to quiet her down and she giggles.

“This is great,” I say. “Thanks parentals, for putting this together.”

Ma and daddy smile at me. Nana positions herself to strike up a conversation with Duke.

“So…. How is school Duke? Anything interesting to share?”

I notice Duke first glances at Daddy but Daddy is sitting there with his elbows on the table and his hand cupped together while his chin rests on them. He looks down as if he has no interest in being in the conversation. I feel my phone vibrate and look at it. Hailey is calling and I answer.

“Hello?” I say.

“Chelsea, you know no phones allowed when we are at a dinner table,” says my dad.

While he is speaking, I can hear Hayley singing happy birthday to me. I know he wants me to hang up, but I’m eighteen now, so I finally get to prove he doesn’t control me anymore. So, I get up to walk away.

“Thanks, Hailey.”

“Any plans? I wish I were there to do something with you.”

“I know, Zoe made it here. We’ll probably go and do something later.”

I’m only standing a way away from the table but just enough to look back and glance. I notice my dad has an impatient expression on his face and mama is patting his hands. She’s telling him to calm down.

“Did she? Well, ok. You would have more fun with me but I get it. I guess we’ll have to wait until I’m back,” She sighs.

“What about you? How is everything going on our end?”

“It's going. The family has this intense schedule of things for us to do and some of it is pretty lame.”

I chuckle. “Well, you are in the city, so I’m sure there are plenty of fun things to do.” I glance at the table again. “I have to go. I will call you later.”

Hailey sighs again. “Whatever.”

I hang up the phone and walk back to the table. Daddy and Duke appear to be arguing but Mama looks up and sees me coming. As I get closer, I hear daddy fussing about how Duke is wasting time pursuing a pipe dream. Duke goes to a college of the arts in Jacksonville since he decided he wants to produce music.

“Ok, Chelsea is back. Chelsea, they have your favorite pancake dish. Is that what you want to order with your hot chocolate?” Ma asks.

I nod in her direction. I love the hot chocolate here. It’s so rich and delicious. Zoe gives me a look as if she pities me, but I ignore the tense atmosphere. Throughout the breakfast, I kept noticing the glances Brody kept stealing further down the table. I was able to make eye contact a couple times but I was afraid to make it obvious since he was sitting too close to daddy. I’ve waited all this time to be eighteen and it seems he still has so much control.

“Brody, are you coming to the house with us?” Nana asks.

Before Brody can answer, Ma speaks up for him. “Brody is going to stay overnight and he and Duke will be leaving tomorrow to go back.”

Zoe looks at me with wide eyes and I try my best to tell her to cool it with just a look. But on the inside, I am bursting with excitement.

“Well maybe you guys can come with us tonight?” Zoe says, looking at him and Duke.

They both look at her and Duke glances at Brody with a shrug.

“Could be fun,” Brody responded.

Zoe looks at me with a wide smile. “You’re blushing,” she informs me.

“I need to be excused.” I stand and grab Zoe’s arm to follow me to the bathroom and as soon as we get in Zoe gets even more excited.

“I think he likes you. Where did he come from?” She wants to know.

I lean against the sink because I am nervous and excited all at the same time. I think the one thing I wanted is about to be granted to me. The God in heaven must adore me and this must be my gift from Him for all the suffering I’ve endured.

“He and Duke went to the same high school a few years ago and he and Duke were best friends.”

“So, what happened? How come you guys never even snuck phone numbers or something?”

“Because he never asked. I assumed he wasn’t interested.”

“Well, he is definitely interested now. And I am going to make sure you guys get some alone time.”

I smile at Zoe but I’m also curious at what her plan may be.

After breakfast is over, Zoe and I agree to meet later to get ready and we all load up and go back home. I look out of the window daydreaming about Brody wondering if Zoe is right. Although I have my birthday, tonight at dinner, Ma doesn’t let me forget that I have to make the mac and cheese. I figured I should get started on that so I’m not up all night when I get home. I go into the kitchen and Ma is there prepping the things she is cooking that night.

I grab all of the ingredients, a bowl and the two large baking tin pans we purchased when we went shopping. I start by melting the butter in a skillet and adding in a pinch of flour to create a base for the cheese sauce. I slowly add the various ingredients to the roux, as I wait for the noodles to finish boiling.

“Where are you thinking about going tonight?” Ma asks.

I shrug. “About tonight, not sure where I want to go. I may just let them decide. You know I don’t really go out too often.” I say as I am stirring in milk and waiting for it to start boiling.

Ma gives a little laugh. “You’re going to let your brother and Zoe plan it?” She shakes her head. “Don’t let them get you into any trouble.”

I look confused. “Why would they do that?”

“You know Duke doesn’t make the best decisions. And Zoe. Whew! That girl. She has trouble maker written all over her. I can smell it.”

See what I mean? My parents don’t miss much. I continue stirring and then when the bubbles arise, I grab the cream cheese and add it to the mix and start stirring again.

“If you think she is so bad then why do you let me hang out with her?”

“Because despite how you feel, Chelsea, your father and I love you. But we have to give you restrictions to steer you in the right direction. Plus, your father and her father are military buddies, so she won’t go too far,” she says with a grin.

“Mama, I appreciate you and Daddy, but I’m eighteen now and-”

Ma’s back is turned to me and she is facing the other side of the counter, but she snaps her body around to face me with a serious look. “Hey! You are still our daughter and you still have a lot to learn. You got that? And you still live under our roof.”

I nod and she goes back to prepping.

“I think you guys should give Duke a break,” I say as lightly as I can.

I hear Mama sigh heavily. “I know. I’m working on your father. But your brother doesn’t make it easy either. We just want the best for you guys.”

Mama finishes her prep and then walks past me just as I am dumping the cheese sauce over the noodles. She grabs my face and gives me a kiss, hugging me tight. When I am done, I wipe my hands and leave the kitchen. I see Brody making his way past me in the hall, in front of me.

“I’m looking for Duke’s room,” he says.

I point down the hall at a door. “It’s right there.”

Brody looks at the door. “Oh ok.”

He remains in place looking awkwardly at me I remain in place and start feeling a little nervous by his unyielding glare. I turn my head slightly to the side and rub my arm as I begin to feel warm inside.

“Your brother tells me you like poetry.” He leans on a wall that has framed photos hanging above his head and snowflake stencil stickers throughout.

“Yes, I do. It calms me.” I reply.

“Do you write it too?” He asks.

“I’ve tried but it doesn’t really come out great,” I say as I start smiling.

He laughs at me and I laugh with him.

“I love writing poetry, it’s not that hard. You say how you feel and let the words flow.”

“I know. I remember seeing you recite a poem for a performance once.”

He looked surprised. “You were there?”

I nodded.

“Wow, I wish I would have known. I would have chosen a different poem I wrote the night before.”

When he says that, his eyes soften and his voice sounds smoother.

“Yeah, well, we ended up leaving early so…” I reply.

He nods and we stand there trying to find a way to break the awkward silence.

“I’m looking forward to hanging with you tonight. It’s been so long since I’ve seen you and I always wondered if I would see you again.”

“Really?” I answered, surprised with a sense of excitement.

“Yeah, I asked your brother about you once before when we ran into each other.”

I started smiling again and could feel the heat spread across my face as I blushed. Before I could respond, Duke comes from the kitchen and glances at us both.

“Aye Bro, my room is here.” He tells him and nudges him to the door. I watch as they both go inside the room and I am able to let out the breath I am holding in.

A few hours later, Zoe is at my house and we are in my room choosing an outfit to wear.

“Why do you have so many pairs of sweatpants and t-shirts?” She nearly yells. “Where are your dresses, jeans and skirts?”

I walk to the dresser across from my bed and pull a drawer open. She looks inside of it and starts pulling things out.

“Why are you hiding these cute clothes?” She asks, looking at me but with a look of disappointment.

“I’m on break, and I’m not wearing this stuff.”

She shakes her head and starts pulling things out of other drawers and throwing them on the bed.

“You are going to look cute tonight,” she declares.

“Ok, but I’m not wearing a skirt. It’s cold outside.”

Zoe stops in her tracks and looks at me with a sort of death look. “There is a really hot college guy in your living room right now, anticipating the moment he gets to spend time with you. Don’t make him regret it.”

She then proceeds to go on a rant, as she forces me to try on a bunch of items. None of which seemed to be right to her until she comes across a dressy, pants jumper that looked as if it had suspenders. The pieces came over my shoulders and buttoned on the waist area. Her mouth fell open as if she had a grand idea and she went to the closet to get a dressy blouse that was hanging in the middle of the closet and threw them at me, forcing me into my bathroom to try them on. Once I have on the attire, I look at myself in the mirror and was impressed by how she was able to put it together. I walk out of the bathroom and stand in front of her.

Zoe looks at me with a huge grin. “Perfect.”

Now the hard part is complete, she then proceeds to do my makeup using cosmetics from a pile that I never use and she helps me with my hair. My hair is long enough to curl and falls down around my face. Zoe adds huge curls that give it volume. When I look in the mirror, I am amazed at my transformation. As we are looking in the mirror, my mom and Nichelle walk in and they both gasps.

“Look at my baby!” My mother cries.

I roll my eyes. Zoe is obviously proud of her work as she watches them marvel over how I look, as a huge grin remains plastered to her face.

“Whoa, Chels. You look amazing. I wish I was able to join you guys,” she says.

“Oh, you’re not coming?” I ask.

I really don’t want her to come. It would be like having a chaperone.

“No, I want to be here when Olivia wakes up and feeds again.” She says.

It is approaching sunset and we are ready to leave. We all go to the living room and all the men now get wide and googly eyed over my look. Brody is sitting next to Duke and I can tell he can barely take his eyes off of me. I suddenly feel more confident and make eye contact with Zoe. She sees him looking at me too.