By Rifath Islam
(Only two days have passed since the events recounted in last month’s chapter! As we rejoin our protagonists, Theo is once again back in the coffee shop with Adeline.)
“Adeline?” Theo asked, poking the girl in the cheek. It was closing time at the coffee shop and Matthew had already left. Adeline was currently ignoring Theo, as she wiped down the counters.
“Aaaadeliiine?” Theo sang.
He was still ignored.
“Adeline, please pay attention to me.”
Still no luck.
Sighing, Theo decided to try something out. He walked behind the counter to where Adeline was and wrapped his arms around her waist and hooked his chin over Adeline’s right shoulder. He heard her breath hitch, but said nothing.
“What exactly are you doing?” Adeline finally asked.
Releasing his arms from the hold they had on Adeline, he pointed a triumphant finger in her face. “Ha! You talked to me!”
Adeline sighed, wiping a hand over his face showing she was stressed. It was a habit she picked up from Theo.
“I’m sorry I’ve been ignoring you. It’s just I’ve been busy with Christmas coming up and all … and it’s hard with only two of us here. Most of the time Matthew is busy with holiday stuff, so it’s me taking over–and really–I’m just one person. There’s only so much I can do before it just gets downright tiring.” Adeline didn’t realize she was rambling until she finished.
Theo placed his hands between Adeline’s shoulder blades and began massaging.
“Adeline, bro,” Theo began. Theo didn’t know it, but the use of the word bro had Adeline’s heart sinking. She was so sure that the feelings she felt for Theo were mutual, but that word made her too unsure.
But then again, Theo said it every so often, so maybe it didn’t mean anything. Suddenly, she realized she was reading way too much into things. Her head was hurting, and she had completely zoned out on what Theo was saying.
“What?” She asked, completely clueless.
Theo gave a low chuckle. “Am I really that good that I made you forget what I was saying?”
“Get over yourself, I just zoned out,” Adeline threw back.
Theo chuckled. “I just said, you need to stop stressing. I was going to tell you later, but then I realized that with only 8 days ’till Christmas, it’s only fitting that I tell you now.”
Adeline was silent, listening to Theo, so he took it as his cue to continue.
“I called Gabe and pulled a few strings and managed to convince him to let you close up the shop for a couple days,” Theo said. “I would have let you do it, but you were clearly already stressing, so I took it upon myself. That, and you already have to come over for Christmas to mom and dad’s place. I would have told you sooner, but it completely slipped my mind. Mom and dad want you to come over and stay for a couple days or at least until Christmas is over.” He paused, then quickly added, “Whaddya say, Adeline? You up for it?”
Adeline slowly took in all of what Theo had just said. She had a break for a while. Theo’s parents wanted to meet her. She was going to spend Christmas with Theo. She was going to be staying with Theo. And all the while, her mind was chanting a mantra of “Theo, Theo, Theo…”
“If it wouldn’t be too much, then I’d honestly love to,” Adeline sighed as Theo stopped massaging her back.
“Great, I’ll let mom and dad know. But I’m pretty sure they’ve already got your room ready and everything. Oh, and by the way, I’ve gotten your gift,” Theo said excitedly.
Adeline turned around. “What is it?” She asked tilting her head to the side and squinting her eyes. Theo found this habit of hers adorable and it was one of the reasons why he liked Adeline so much.
“Not telling you, sweet cheeks,” he teased. “Now, hurry up because you still owe me dinner for helping you out the other night.”
“Ugh,” Adeline groaned. “I hate you, first of all. And second of all, I would have been done already if you weren’t being so annoying and just let me work.”
Theo let out a loud, hearty laugh. He threw a wink at Adeline. “You love me,” he said. And with that, he sauntered out from behind the counter to wait for Adeline by the door.
Ten minutes later, Adeline shut off the lights and locked up, turning to Theo who grabbed her hand and swung it back and forth as they walked. Neither of them said anything, but both had a satisfied smile on their faces.
* * *
Finally … Christmas Eve rolled around. Theo knocked on the front door of his parents’ house as Adeline awkwardly stood beside him.
Meredith Reed was the one to swing open the door upon Theo and Adeline’s arrival. Completely ignoring her son, Mary squeezed Adeline in a hug. The girl had a surprised look on her face as she returned the gesture.
“You must be Adeline! Theo’s told us so much about you! Come on; get inside, everyone’s dying to meet you!” Meredith gushed.
Adeline sent a smug smile Theo’s way that said “you told them about me!” and Theo looked flustered. He rolled his eyes and played it off, ushering Adeline inside. After all, they could only stand in the snow for so long.
After many greetings, Adeline was finally able to sit next to Theo who was watching the whole exchange from the couch with an amused smile. Adeline nudged Theo with a grin, warning him to wipe that look off your face before I slap it off.
Jen, whose intelligence Adeline was still marveling over, let out a loud laugh upon hearing them. She could already feel how much the two liked each other, but it was obvious they wouldn’t admit it.
Later that night, as everyone was eating Christmas Eve dinner and talking and laughing over childhood stories, Adeline felt overwhelmed. She was overwhelmed by how easily Theo’s family got along and how loving they were.
With a small smile tugging at her lips, she started eating, listening in to the conversation going on around the table.
“So, Adeline,” James, Theo’s father, started. “Theo tells us you’re studying Literature and Art History in college. How’s that going for you?”
Adeline swallowed her mouthful of food, surprised that she was being spoken to. Theo was sitting next to her and let out a light laugh at Adeline’s obvious shock.
“Well, I’m on my way to becoming a Graphic Arts designer. And just in case anything goes wrong, I have the backup plan of becoming an author to fall back on,” Adeline explained.
James nodded, invested in Adeline’s choice of career. “That’s interesting. Where did you go to college?”
“I went to University of Michigan, actually. Mom didn’t want me to travel far.”
“Where is she now?”
Adeline hesitated before answering. “She passed away 2 years ago. Dad was distraught, but he started to travel the world with a lot of encouragement from Gabe and me. He sends postcards a lot.”
“Ah, I’m sorry,” James said, sending a sympathetic smile to Adeline.
She simply shrugged in return.
With that, the conversation carried on. After dinner, they had guests. It was Harvey who brought along Jessica and Emily Hale. Then Charlie came too, who dragged along Ian, Carter, and Sam.
Adeline smiled at Theo who was so enthusiastically engaging with his close friends and family. Needing a breather, she went upstairs and retreated to the guest bedroom where she would be staying. Not too soon after, Theo knocked on the door, asking if he could come in.
Calling him in, Adeline smiled as Theo settled on the bed. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing!” Adeline blurted out. “God, no, nothing Theo, your family is lovely and so are your friends, I just needed a breather.”
Theo chuckled. “Yeah, they can get that way sometimes. They’re very…enthusiastic.”
Just then, the clock on the wall struck midnight and he heard the shouts of “MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!” downstairs and some were even shouted up the stairs to Adeline and Theo.
Theo turned his head to Adeline. “Merry Christmas, Adeline,” Theo said gently.
“Merry Christmas, Theo,” Adeline said.
• • •
And oh God, she wanted to admit it to Theo right there and then. To say that even though they’ve just met, Adeline could already feel herself falling for the geeky, Christmas-loving, old music loving, 25-year-old in front of her. But it all caught in her throat.
Theo could read in her eyes that Adeline wanted to say something, and so did he. He wanted to tell Adeline how happy he was that she came to his childhood home to celebrate Christmas with his family and him.
He wanted to tell her how much he wanted to kiss her, to be able to finally sweep her off her feet and call Adeline his. That he wanted to hold hands in public, and be able to kiss her whenever, and not feel like he needed to give an excuse when he visited Adeline while she was working. But he didn’t.
Instead, he asked Adeline where her keys were. (To Be Continued … )