549. - Lucien
The kitchen is an horrific mess. If we listen closely, we can hear Frank having an absolute field day cleaning out the dirty dishes in the sink. Neither of us can be bothered to pull him away from there; no matter what we do, he'll find his way back there. So after the fourth time, we simply made sure that all the leftovers were safely stored in the fridge before returning to our self-made den on the couch to ride out our food hangovers. There's chocolates on the table, half the dish already gone, and two large glasses of mulled wine. The room smells of pine needles and cinnamon, with countless lights glittering throughout the space - some candles, others artificial but with the same yellow glow. Not a single other light is on, bathing the whole living room in a dim lighting that makes everything seem all the more magical.
"You know what," I yawn, pulling Emma closer to me. "I feel that we kind of nailed the Hallmark Christmas without even trying."
She smiles lazily, snuggling deeper under the soft blanket she draped over us. "We did, didn't we?"
"It's just your natural preference, I suppose."
"Like you didn't have your part in it!" She wrinkles her nose with a laugh. "You were the one that took half an hour with the baubles, then another ten minutes for the topper!"
"I didn't like the colour of red we initially settled on." I reply meekly, which only makes her laugh more.
"Well, even though it took forever, you made an excellent choice."
We've put on a carefully crafted playlist of the Christmas episodes of all our favourite series, but Emma is insistent on watching 'Love Actually' before all that. "You cannot celebrate a British Christmas and not watch Love Actually!" is her argument before I even have the chance to say anything. "The heartbreak of Emma Thompson? Natalie and the prime-minister? Your heart gets pulled every which way!" After refilling our wine, she rejoins me on the couch, where she studies the smile on my face suspiciously. "Why aren't you protesting more? You don't typically like these kind of movies. Or are you just pretending to, because it's Christmas?"
"I'm not pretending." I say honestly, still smiling. "You just happened to have stumbled on my guilty pleasure movie."
Her eyes narrow even more.
"Em, I'm telling the truth." I laugh. "Brie got me into it years ago. I've seen this movie so often I know every word of the script. I don't know why or how, but that's how it is."
Emma is dabbing tears away with the corner of our blanket. I watch her with a bemused smile, the credits rolling over the screen. When she catches me looking, she glares daggers at me.
"You can hardly blame me for crying at a Christmas movie."
"Wasn't blaming you for anything. I just think it's adorable."
She raises an incredulous eyebrow at me. "Adorable?"
"Yes. Lovable, captivating, cute - call it what you will, but it's all that."
"But I'm crying." She's laughing now, having recovered from the brunt of the emotions, and she picks up her half-empty glass. "How is that adorable?"
"Well, for starters..." As she moves to sit back, I use my thumb to wipe a missed tear from her cheek. "You get these single tears, like in the movies. Your eyes get super bright for some reason, making the colour of them pop." Her hand is frozen midway in the air and she sits very still as I explore her face. Her eyes follow my every move. "Your bottom lip..." I pull it slightly, again with my thumb. "gets a little bruised, because you chew on it in anticipation. But never enough to make it bleed. Your cheeks and the tip of your nose..." I brush over them with my pointer finger. "turn pink, like you've been out in the cold for too long. All in all it makes for a very lovable look."
She blinks, a smile curling her lips, and then she shakes her head. "You're nuts."
"Maybe a litt-"
"Lucien, look!" She suddenly gasps, staring at the windows that we didn't have the energy to pull the curtains over. All the better, because now we can see how tiny white flecks are falling from the sky. Judging by the white layer over the balcony-furniture it has been going for a while. We shed the blanket to walk over to the window so we can watch the snow fall from up close. We stand there staring for I don't know how long, in utter silence, only the soft crackling of candles from behind us. It's the perfect finish to an already perfect night, which I seal by pulling Emma into me for a kiss.
The next morning, through the intentional gap between the curtains of our bedroom window, we can see that the snow is still going. A steady layer has grown in the hours that we were asleep, which doesn't seem to surprise Emma at all, but amazes me. Snow doesn't usually stick around in France, instead becomes a wet mess that freezes up to solid ice.
We keep ignoring the kitchen for a while longer, eating breakfast in the living room. We planned in advance, meaning we had croissants and pain au chocolat at the ready, paired with a perfect cup of coffee that Emma has sprinkled some cinnamon into.
As we eat, I notice her eyeing the tree nervously - or better said, the presents under it. Everything that needs to be taken along to Emma's parents has already been packed, so it's our presents for each other and for Gabriel and Matthew; for Emma, there's felted house slippers she wanted, a set of her body and hair products with her favourite scent that I know she deems to expensive to buy for herself, and to top it off I had all the pictures we took this summer developed, and made a traditional album with the results. When she realises I've caught her looking, she jumps to the defence immediately. "I'm just excited to give you yours!"
I raise my brows with a smile. "That makes two of us, then. Breakfast over?"
She insists on giving me mine first, closely watching my face as I unwrap the tiny box. It's skilfully decorated, though it pales by what I find inside. I recognise the number instantly, since I had them engraved into something just a couple of months ago. "Em, it's gorgeous." I say softly, picking up the pendant. She watches me closely, a soft smile on her lips.
"I figured... to replace my ring."
"I love it. Thank you." I give her a quick kiss before fastening the chain around my neck. It dips just below my shirt, hiding it from view, and it hangs exactly where Emma's ring used to be. The metal feels cool against my skin, and I lean forward for another kiss. "I'm glad you ignored my wish for no gifts."
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