After my complication at school, Delcan and I were forced to stay in the rooms nobody used and take our exams. It worked out fine since Mom was secretly giving my phone back to me before I went to school. Just from desperation, Delcan’s already promised three hours of kindness and respect to my friends if I gave him some of the English answers.
The last week of school flew like summer, and before I knew it, Christmas morning had arrived. Every year, my Christmases have always been the same - Emmanuel screams down the hallway and wakes all of us up, Dad grumpily yells at him for it, and Evelyn holds Emmanuel while he pretends to cry. After that, Mom makes cinnamon rolls with homemade icing to it with fruits and orange juice. We all sit and enjoy breakfast like a normal family would, Dad allowing all of us to act like ourselves for a day.
After this, and around two hours later, all of us sit around the $3,000 dollar Christmas tree Dad bought a few years ago and we open up presents. Ever since Emmanuel was born and beforehand, the youngest always went first. Emmanuel opened up his ten presents, acting more and more excited by each one he opened. By present seven, Emmanuel had to close his mouth because it was hurting him to smile. He got a collection of toys from Mom, then a football and baseball from Dad, who continued to fail to pressure his youngest into sports. This was the only day he would laugh these things off. One of the only days out of the entire year he would kiss Mom’s ring and I would watch her fall in love with him again.
After Emmanuel, Evelyn opened up tickets to volleyball games across the world and concert tickets she had been waiting for since 2016. She also got her own credit card (with a price on it, clearly), and she screamed hysterically about that one. After Evelyn’s twelve presents, I opened up my twenty.
Turns out, back-talking my parents didn’t cause any issues during Christmas at all. Like last year, I got three new expensive watches from Dad and a new laptop from Mom, along with a few presents she said would be later surprises for something. I didn’t ask what and continued to open up a small box.
Inside of it lay a credit card similar to what Evelyn had gotten, but under it was...car keys.
Finally, I thought to myself. I looked over to Dad, who gave me permission to sprint outside and look at my new car. It was a brand new model, cleaned and freshly bought. It was a Lexus model, which pissed Eric off because it was much better than his car. There was really nothing I could say other than smiling and thank you. Dad patted me on the back, saying I could drive the car later tonight. I gave him a nod, watching my siblings as they pouted and walked back into the living room.
At least I was still the favorite.
Eric’s presents were about the same as Evelyn’s. He didn’t get a credit card, but he did get an internship with a business Dad had partnered with in his late twenties. Anger and disappointment blended on my brother’s face as he nodded, setting the date, time, and location back into his present. His next eight presents consisted of a new iPad that he would never use, and some gift cards to clothing companies, as well as a cleaning appointment for his car.
Typically, Mom and Dad fail at giving the perfect gifts to Eric.
After Christmas was over and everything was finished, Mom began making ham, macaroni & cheese, and a vegetable mix that Emmanuel would claim was sick to. consume I smiled and laughed with my family like nothing was out of the ordinary, and for once, it wasn’t. The emptiness and silence that fell amongst us every day was missing, like that type of family was never going to return.
But they would, and I know they would. By December 27th, Dad would probably bring back up what I did, or he would ground me again. He’d discriminate against Evelyn again for wearing ripped jeans, and then our family would be back to normal.
On New Year's Eve, I came up with a good enough excuse to leave the house, dragging my ex-girlfriend into things again. Haven showed up at my house fifteen minutes after I texted her, her lighter hair falling over her shoulders and her face decorated with glitter. “Ezra!” she squealed. I forced a smile onto my face as my parents watched her hug me, putting my face in her hair.
Coconut. She still smelled perfect.
“I’m so happy you asked me to go out tonight!” she clapped her hands. I nodded, my peripheral vision showing Evelyn and Eric whispering to each other. Haven waved to my Dad, grabbing onto my arm forcefully. “Hi, Mr. Gatley! It’s great to see you!”
My dad smiled, happy with my choice. “Hello, Haven,” he said, ignoring my mother’s kiss on his cheek. “Tell your father I said hi.”
Haven laughed, leaning into me as she had always done while we were dating. I pretended I enjoyed her touch, placing my hand on the middle of her back. At least they believe this, I thought to myself. “Will do, sir!” she exclaimed. Then, like I had texted her to, she grabbed onto my hand and kissed my cheek. When she pulled away, I could see the disinterest in her eyes; it made me smile. “We should get going, babe.”479Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡzFtJWpDM1K
“Yes, we should,” I told her.
“Please be home before we wake up, baby,” Mom said, her shoulders tense. “And enjoy yourselves.”
I smiled with my lips closed. “Love you.”
If Mom answered me, it was with a whisper. I watched her lips move as Haven dragged me out of the house. Once the door was closed, my siblings must have run to the window, because I was met with Evelyn and Emmanuel staring at Haven and I. Eric glanced from his phone every once in a while to see if we had left yet. I pulled my ex closer to me, knowing Mom and Dad had a chance of seeing us.
“That was amazing,” I told her. She looked up at me with a smile on her face. “Seriously. If I ever need to pretend I’m straight, I’ll call you.”
Haven laughed. “I just have to think, be annoying as possible and grab the ⟴ out of him.” I laughed with her, climbing into the front seat of her father’s luxury vehicle as she looked at her phone. Scrunching up her nose, she gave me a look. “I can’t believe you gave him my number.”479Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡBMqQDX5si2
I nodded, looking outside of the window as my neighbor jogged with their dogs. “Like you wouldn’t be doing the same.”
Instead of answering me, Haven started the car, turning onto the street that would lead us to a familiar neighborhood.
As we drove, Haven maintained small talk, casually asking me what my intentions were once I mentioned her growing crush. I smiled. “I’m just celebrating New Year, Haven, just like everyone else is.”
She glanced at me before her eyes fell on the road again. Although she’s a good driver, she’s feared a car smashing into hers for as long as I could remember her. “Difference is you’re not going to a party,” she stated. “You’re going to be alone in a house with an easy temptation.”
I couldn’t help the grin that spread across my face. “You wish things were the same for you,” I stated.
With a huff, Haven turned on her blinker. “Tomorrow,” she said. “Don’t give me any details about what happened tonight.” ns 184.108.40.206da2