Gina let out a quiet groan when she was awakened by the clock radio alarm. Blue Christmas by Elvis was playing, and the music merged with her feelings as she'd drifted off to sleep. The bed shifted, and she knew Brian was sitting up to shut off the alarm.
In a fit of pique, she rolled over, facing the wall. A quiet sigh let her know that the gesture hadn't gone unnoticed. When he slipped out of the bed without a word or a touch, she knew that he'd likewise received the message she was sending.
Once he was out of the room, she brushed away a strand of light blonde hair that had been tickling her nose from the moment she rolled over. Even as irritated as she was, she felt a twinge of guilt at having so blatantly snubbed him. It wasn't enough to overcome how upset she was at him going in to work on Christmas Eve - and waiting until the last minute to tell her.
"I thought we were going to make it," he'd pleaded when he saw her expression turn dark. "I swear, I would have said something if I knew we were going to have to finish tomorrow. It's only going to be a few hours at the most."
Voice warbling somewhere between barely controlled anger and tears, she could only manage, "On Christmas Eve," as a response.
He opened his mouth as if to say something, but before he could find any words, she'd gone to the bathroom for a shower, and then to bed.
Try as she might, she couldn't stop the conversation from running through her mind over and over again. She wasn't going back to sleep this morning. Unwilling to deal with the wedge between them, Gina fought the urge to get up until Brian left for work, and only climbed out of bed when she heard his car pull away.
She'd planned what she was going to wear today shortly after Thanksgiving, but the outfit remained in the closet when she rolled out of bed. With Brian gone at work, she just wasn't in the mood. Wearing faded sweats, she made her way to the kitchen, the smell of the coffee her husband had made pulling her along.
Once across the threshold to the front room, she realized that she was moving on autopilot toward the power strip that would light the tree and the other lights, as she had for so many mornings. She stopped, and nearly turned away toward the kitchen, but thought better of it. He wasn't here to see her little displays of anger anyway, and it just felt wrong not to light the room up on Christmas Eve.
Brightly colored lights blazed to life, bringing a cheery glow to the room. The wreath over the front door blinked in time to Jingle Bells, the notes sounding through the room from its music box. Gina couldn't help but smile. She'd never really gotten over the wonder of Christmas that so many outgrew. It was a big reason why she was so angry at her husband, but also the reason she was having trouble holding onto that anger.
She stood, hugging her arms around herself, and took in the scene until the wreath ended its first song, moving on to Silent Night. The lure of the coffee pulled her again, and she soon had a cup in hand when she returned to the room.
The pettiness of how she'd reacted steadily burned through her anger as she sipped, listening to the wreath play its brief, slightly tinny-sounding carols. Only married for a little over a year, this was their first real fight since exchanging vows. They had battled a time or two while dating, but this was different - more dangerous.
She had already broken her own rule about never going to bed angry. Brian had tried to talk to her when he came to bed, but she'd completely ignored him, and could almost feel him wincing at the lack of response. The air had felt heavy with tension right up until she drifted off into a fitful sleep. He might have made the mistake, but he was also the only one who had tried to air out the problem the way they'd promised.
"I'm such a bitch," she whispered to the empty room, and then put down her coffee. Fortunately, her cell was still sitting on the end table, forgotten in her rush to go to bed the night before.
After a few deep breaths, her thumbs tapped out a message. "Sorry for how I acted. I'm still mad, but I understand."
Perhaps a minute later, his reply came back. "No, it's my fault. I was stupid. Forgive me?"
"Only if you forgive me," she tapped back, beginning to feel a little better.
"Nothing to forgive, but yes. Shouldn't be here much after lunch, if that helps."
"It does." She'd assumed he would be much later, and the news brought a smile to her lips. "I love you."
"Love you too. Got to get back to it."
Not wanting to distract and delay him any further, Gina put down her phone and plucked at her frumpy sweats. Now that her mood was turning, she couldn't stand the thought of him coming home to her, looking as she did.
First order of business was to fix her hair and put on that new red dress - and everything else - she'd kept so carefully hidden.
Gina was busy putting together the Christmas Eve snack buffet - downsized for two - that was the tradition in both of their families when the doorbell rang. Assuming that it was a neighbor come to call - perhaps with cookies or some other goodies to add to the meal - she put down the jar of miniature pickles and went to answer it.
Little could have surprised her more than the sight of Santa Claus standing on the porch.
"Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas, Gina. I hear you've been a very good girl this year."
She could almost place the voice, and the eyes, but not quite. Whoever he was, he played a good Santa. "Does that mean I get a present?"
He lifted his bag and gave it a shake. "Why, I do believe I might just have something in here for you." Santa opened his bag and reached inside, pulling out an envelope and a gift-wrapped box. He handed them over and said, "Open the card first," before giving a wink, a wave, and turning to walk back off the porch into the snow.
Bubbling over with excitement, Gina hurried to the couch and sat down. She couldn't resist one shake of the box, which didn't give any clues, but took Santa's suggestion to open the card first. She knew in a single glance that her husband was the one who had written her name on the outside. Her nails made short work of the seal, and she pulled it out.
A soft coo escaped her as she looked at the outside of the card. Brian had obviously paid attention to which cards she liked over the years. The scene was of a snow covered porch with a wreath on the door, a tree in the window, and kids running down the stairs in the background, in a style that reminded her of Rockwell.
The card was one with the inner message printed on leaves of paper bound within, and she immediately noticed that the one on the right was stuck to the body of the card with something. She ignored that curious feature, reading the handwritten message inside.
"I know it's early, but this isn't really a Christmas present, so I thought I'd break tradition a little. There's another card coming tomorrow with a better message, too. Look under the right side. I love you."
He'd perfectly anticipated her reaction to the less than stunning message by promising another card, which made her grin. When she lifted the corner of the paper leaf on the right side, she saw that it was held down with little bits of sticky tack, so she could lift it without tearing up the card. Inside was a folded sheet of paper, and she could tell that it was something printed off a computer.
Curiosity piqued, she put the card down and unfolded the paper. A moment later, she sucked in a great gasp of stunned surprise when she saw the printed confirmation page for a Hawaiian cruise.
Her phone was in hand and the number dialed almost before she knew what she was doing, and she didn't even give him a chance to say hello before letting out a squeal of delight. "Oh my god! Hawaii!"
He laughed. "Did you even see the dates?"
She homed in on the page and gasped again. "Two weeks? Next month? Oh my god, I love you so much!"
Still chuckling, he said, "Glad you like it. Did you open the box yet?"
"No." Gina put down the paper and picked up the box. "Hang on."
"No, let me wrap things up here, and you unwrap things there. You can tell me what you think when I get home in just a little bit. Deal?"
"Why did you have me open the card first? Whatever's in the box can't possibly compare to that."
"You sure? Just hang up and open it."
She wanted to argue, wondering why he was so insistent upon her hanging up first, but decided to let it slide. "Okay. I love you."
"Love you too. Bye, baby."
Visions of sunning herself on a Hawaiian beach still running through her head, she hung up the phone and went to work on the wrapping paper. Within the festive wrap was another layer of plain brown paper, and a spot where a mailing label had obviously been removed. The paper surrendered, finally letting her see what was inside.
To anyone else, the vibrating butt plug would have been incredibly tacky. To Gina, it was perhaps the sweetest, most thoughtful thing her husband could have possibly given her. Her first boyfriend had introduced her to backdoor play, and she'd quickly discovered that it gave her intense orgasms. Brian, unfortunately, wasn't turned on by the thought. She'd stopped suggesting it when they were still dating, due to the awkward moments it had caused when she did.
.... There is more of this story ...