“Hey baby, you make it there okay?”
“Yep! Just got my bag and I’m waiting for Bree to get me.”
“Will she be there soon?”
“She sent me a text when I was in baggage claim saying she was a few minutes out. Actually here she comes.”
“Okay, well I’ll call you later then. Have fun tonight and happy New Year. I love you.”
I bit my lip and smiled, hearing him say that in his deep husky voice always did funny things to my heart. “I love you too Brandon.” I slid the phone back in my pocket just in time to be nearly tackled by my best friend.
“Oh my God Harper I missed you! Two weeks without you is too long!”
“Hah! I missed you too Bree. Next time I’ll just have to sneak you in my luggage.” After we got my things in the trunk, we jumped into her car and fought the airport’s holiday traffic. “Where are we going tonight?”
“Your pick, the guys are having a party, or my parents are throwing a party. Which I promise is not as boring as it sounds. There’s always a ton of people there, everyone plays poker and drinks.”
“Well where will Konrad be?”
She smirked and raised an eyebrow like that answer should be obvious, “Wherever I am.”
“Can we just go to Mom and Dad’s? I missed them too.” During Thanksgiving, Claire and Robert had told me they wouldn’t respond to me anymore if I didn’t act like they were my parents. It started as a joke, but it stuck.
While Bree was on the phone with Konrad, my cell went off and I started when I saw it was from Chase.
Chase – ‘You gonna be at the house tonight?’
Me – ‘Nope, going to hang with the family.’
“Is that lover boy?” Bree questioned as she turned the music back on.
“Uh…yeah.” I have no idea why I lied, but it felt awkward correcting myself now.
“Did you guys have fun in Arizona?”
I laughed at her wagging eyebrows, “We had fun, but not that much fun. Hate to burst your bubble.”
“You’re going to kill that poor guy Harper! It’s been like what…four months? Five?”
“I know, I know. I don’t know what keeps stopping me. It’s not like we never have the opportunity. I just…I don’t know.”
She shut the music off quickly, that was never a good sign. “Are you guys okay?”
“Yes Bree, we’re more than fine, trust me! It’s nothing like that, I just haven’t felt like it’s the right time yet.”
“If you say so. But I’m serious. He’s going to explode if it’s not soon.”
“So you keep telling me.” I was dying to ask how Chase was, even if we didn’t talk, we saw each other every day too. And having him text me for the first time ever just a few minutes ago had my heart racing knowing I’d be seeing him again within the next few days. “How’s the family?”
“They’re good. Mom actually cried because you weren’t at Christmas.”
“What? Are you serious?”
“As a heart attack. Your presents were still under the tree that night and she started crying, I had to take them up to my room to get her to calm down.”
I didn’t know what to say, I just shook my head in disbelief.
“I’m serious Harper, she was devastated!”
“No, no. I believe you. I guess I still have to wrap my head around how much they care for me. And did you say I had presents? Why?” The only presents I’ve ever gotten from Sir was a laptop for graduation and my iPhone. And to be honest with you, I know the only reason I got those was because I had been planning on buying them anyway and he didn’t want me to waste my money. There were never presents, cards or any sentiments on Christmas, or birthdays. It’s just how it was.
“Because we all love you!”
“But I – I didn’t get you guys anything.”
Bree’s voice got really soft and she reached over to grab my hand, “We didn’t expect you to. They all know what growing up with Sir entailed. We wanted to show you what a real Christmas is like.” She looked at me until the light turned green again. “Did you talk to him?”
“No. I called him twice though and left messages.” Jeez, I really did have a crappy home life. Even Bree’s family called me on Christmas. And Brandon… “Oh my God Bree, I’m so stupid!” I groaned.
“What, no you’re not!”
I pulled out my necklace to show her, “It’s from Brandon.”
“He got you a Tiffany’s necklace for Christmas? Good choice!”
“That’s just it Bree. He didn’t give it to me on Christmas, he gave it to me before I left. I thought it was so weird because he’s never given me anything, and we weren’t apart after Christmas so I would’ve known if he’d gotten it after. But he knows what holidays were like with Sir, and that I was upset he wouldn’t answer the phone. I think he thought it would upset me more if he proved how much of a jerk Sir is.”
“He’s a good guy Harper. I’m glad you have him.”
I clutched the necklace in my hand and sighed into the seat, “Me too.” We sat in silence for a minute, just listening to the radio. “So besides Mom breaking down, how were they the rest of the time?”
“Pretty good, we just relaxed a lot. Mom’s trying to learn how to knit, so be sure to make grandma jokes, it pisses her off. Dad and some of his buddies went to that golf tournament.”
“Oh yeah, how’d they do?”
“Uh…don’t ask him about it.”
“Figures.” Dad couldn’t play golf to save his life, but he apparently loved it. “And Chase?”
“I don’t even know. He’s so moody lately.”
“Bree, when isn’t he moody?”
She snorted, “No, I mean he’s been way worse than usual. Literally since the day school let out for break he won’t talk to anyone without snapping at them. And at Christmas, he’d barely stay long enough to even eat with us, just kept leaving. I swear that guy needs to get laid.”
Brandon and I left for Arizona the day school let out. Could that – I wanted to smack myself for even thinking me leaving would have anything to do with Chase being upset. I think way too highly of myself. “Yeah probably…holy crap is this all for their party?” Cars were lined up blocks from the house and people were walking towards it. Thankfully we could still get in the garage.
“I’m telling you, this is their big thing every year!”
We grabbed my bag and somehow squeezed through the mass of people and made it upstairs to her room so I could freshen up and change. Bree must have let them know we were on our way because Mom and Dad were already waiting in her room to engulf me in hugs.
“Oh sweetie we missed you!”
“How you doing baby girl?”
I laughed and hugged them back, “I missed you guys too. Why are you up here? You’re missing your party.”
“Oh hush! We had to say hi, and plus we have some things for you.” Mom bounced over and sat on the bed where there were boxes of presents.
“Oh. My. Word. You guys…you really didn’t have to get me anything.” Now I really felt awful for not getting them anything.
Bree grabbed my arm and pulled me over to the bed, “I already told you, we wanted to.”
I took a deep breath in and willed myself not to cry. God, I had never been an emotional person until I moved here. Mom and Dad showing me how parents should be had made the water works come frequently, and I still wasn’t used to it. Bree got me a new outfit she picked out specifically for tonight, and a Coach purse that I absolutely adored. Mom and Dad got me two pairs of UGGs, an extremely expensive jacket I’d been drooling over since Thanksgiving and a prepaid spa day for us girls. I just sat there with everything scattered across my lap and legs and stared at them through blurry eyes. I tried to speak through the lump in my throat but my thank yous were barely audible. Mom and Dad both kissed my cheek and walked out with Bree, who was going to save Konrad from all the older people downstairs he didn’t know. I slowly put the things I wouldn’t be using tonight back in boxes for when I took them back to the dorms or Brandon’s room and was almost done when there was a soft knock and the door pushed open.
“Hey Princess.” Good God I missed hearing his voice.
“Chase,” I had to clear my throat to continue, “I didn’t think you were going to be here.”
“I asked if you were coming to the house.” He replied hesitantly.
“Right, I just figured you meant your house.”
The room was thick with the tension that always followed us around. My heart started racing from his nearness and I silently cursed myself. I really didn’t want any kind of feelings for this guy, and here I was wishing he would try to kiss me again. We sat there watching each other for who knows how long before he walked over and sank down on the floor next to me, handing me a small wrapped box. “Merry Christmas Harper.”
I picked it up and just stared at it, all I could say was “Why?”
“Because you’re my favorite, remember?” he huffed and his lips tilted up a little, “When I saw it, there was no way I couldn’t get it for you. Please open it.”
So slowly I probably drove him crazy, I took off the wrapping and opened the little leather box. I gasped when I saw the ring inside there. It was a silver band that wrapped into the trinity symbol on top. I’d always wanted that symbol as a tattoo. I looked up at Chase and shook my head in wonder.
“How did you know?”
“You doodle it on everything put in front of you.”
He was right of course, if I had a pen and paper or napkin, it always ended up on there at some point. I just hadn’t realized anyone other than Brandon noticed that, especially him.
“Chase…” I couldn’t hold them back any longer, tears started falling down my cheeks and I quickly dropped my head hoping he wouldn’t notice. He did.
“Don’t cry Harper. If you don’t like it, or you don’t like that it’s from me I’ll take it back.”
My laugh sounded more like a sob than anything else. “I love it, please don’t take it.”
“Then what’s wrong?” He tilted my head up and brushed away a few tears with his thumbs. I had to force myself to not lean into his hands, it was the first time we’d had any type of physical contact in over a month. He was a whole new kind of Chase on Sundays, but I’d never seen him like this. So gentle and kind. It made my entire being crave him.
“I’ve never had this before. Not just the presents…the love that your family has for me. I’ve never had it until now, and it’s so overwhelming. I don’t know what I did to deserve it and I don’t know if I show them that too.”
“You do. Trust me.” He searched my face for a long time and wiped the remaining tears from my cheeks. “You’re special Harper, it’s not hard to love you.” Dropping his hands from my face, he stood up and left the room.
After I rinsed off my body, fixed my hair and make-up and got dressed in my new outfit, I grabbed the ring and tested it on my fingers before leaving it on the ring finger of my right hand. Looking in Bree’s full-length mirror, I smiled to myself. She really knew how to shop. I was wearing a short sleeved see-through green top that was fitted on my chest and flowed down to cover my bottom, with a black camisole underneath, faded skinny jeans and my black UGGs. I wasn’t the best at saying thank you, but I hoped the family knew how much I loved everything.