"What you doing sweetie?" asked Ryan.
"Moving your clothes to the other end of the couch. Mom was concerned someone might trip over them."
Ryan shot right up on the couch. "Let me do that," he said. He was probably worried I might find the box but it was too late for that.
"Nonsense," I said. I pushed him back down onto the couch. "I've got it." I showed him the nice stack of clothes with no box showing at all. His followed me as I moved to the other end of the couch and put down his stack of clothes.
"Come sit by me," he said.
I snuggled up next to him on the couch.
"What time is it?" he asked.
"Very early in the morning," I replied. "Merry Christmas."
"Do you guys always stay up this late?" he asked.
"On Christmas Eve, yes, but this Christmas Eve was particularly late," I said thinking of the therapy session my sister and I had just had. It was very late, even by our standards.
"There must be some really good presents under that tree," he said.
"Yes, but I'm not sure they're all under the tree yet," I said thinking of that box in the middle of his clothes.
"What do you mean? Are there more presents?" he asked, surprised as he looked at the tree that was overflowing with presents.
"Well, Santa still has to come," I replied as I wondered how he planned on presenting that little ring box to me.
"I guess that's right. What do you want Santa to bring you?"
"I don't know," I said. I sat a moment and thought about how content I felt, snuggled up in his arms and how much I might be falling in love with this man. What I really wanted Santa to bring me was an answer to my current dilemma of what to do when he presented that ring box.
Ryan pulled me in closer and said in my ear, "Well, Santa can't bring me anything better than what I have sitting right here next to me."
It made my heart swell and took the edge off my anxiety but as I turned into Ryan's embrace and he kissed me softly, all I could think about was that ring box. I did not want this to end but I was also, definitely, not ready to get married yet. I broke off the kiss and moved away. I had to figure things out and being in his arms all night was not going to help me do that.
"I've got to get to bed," I said.
"Surely you can stay a few minutes longer," he said. "I'm not that tired anymore."
"No, I've got to get to bed and besides, Santa must be coming soon." I stood up.
"Okay," he said, "but I'd really like a few minutes alone with you tomorrow."
I did not need to guess much to figure out what that was about.
"Sure, but I'm warning you, it will be kind of a hectic day. We'll sneak away for a few minutes, probably in the afternoon." Hopefully by then I would have figured out what I was going to say. "Now get some sleep," I said, pushing him back on the couch. He pulled me down next to him and gave me a lingering kiss, that even with all my angst, still made my insides melt.
I broke away. "Goodnight Ryan. Go to sleep so Santa can come."
I walked down the hallway to my room, my heart still lingering on that last kiss but my brain was already trying to figure out what I was going to do. I knew there would be little to no sleep tonight.
I woke up late the next morning, well, late for Christmas morning. It was almost 10:00 and I could smell the bacon cooking and I was sure Mom was making muffins and hash browns and pancakes too. It was our traditional Christmas breakfast. I was a little surprised I had actually fallen asleep. The last time I had looked at the clock it was just after 5:00 in the morning, my eyes had been burning and I had finally reconciled myself to doing what I needed to do. I was moving to Portland. Ryan was too important to me to lose him. Whether he was proposing or not, I owed it to myself and to Ryan, to see where this relationship could go. The only way to do that was to move to Portland. I had been thinking about all the things I had to do to make that a reality when I guess my brain had given out and sleep had overtaken me. I was glad for the sleep but I was still going to need a nap today.
I heard a knocking on my door before Julie poked her head around the door. "Ohhh, good, you're awake. It's time to get up. Dad sent me up here to wake you up. Ryan volunteered but Dad was already nudging me out the door. Did you figure out what you are going to do?"
I nodded my head slowly. "I'm moving to Portland."
Julie squealed. "That's so exciting. We can go shopping together and do double dates. I'm so excited." She started jumping up and down. She had more enthusiasm for this prospect than I did. Perhaps it would be catching and, by the time I talked to Ryan, I would be jumping for joy too. I knew it was the right thing to do and if I had a job and my own apartment I might be a little more enthusiastic about the move. I guess those things would come with time and I was lucky I could live at home and had some savings. It would give me time to find the right job.
"Let's go tell everyone," said Julie.
"Not yet!" I exclaimed. "I'm going to tell Ryan when he gives me the ring. I'm hoping it will make things okay with him since I'm not comfortable with an engagement, at least not yet."
"Ohhhh, good idea. Where'd you get such a great idea? Oh, it must have come from a genius," she said very innocent like, only Julie was anything but innocent.
"Thanks for the idea Julie," I said in monotone.
She gave me a big hug and said, "That's what sisters are for! Now get dressed and come downstairs or just stay in your jammies but everyone else has already gotten dressed. Mom's got breakfast ready and I'm starving."
"You're not pregnant are you?" I looked at her sideways.
"I'm not saying anything," said Julie and she escaped quickly out the door and down the hall.
I ran to the door and yelled at her retreating figure, "What?"
She just waved at me as she headed down the stairs. Now I had even more news to process. I was not sure I could handle all of this. I quickly got dressed and headed downstairs. Everyone was seated at the table waiting for me. I slid into my chair next to Ryan and squeezed his knee. I looked across the table at my sister, who I knew had purposely sat as far away from me as possible, and raised my eyebrows at her. She smiled back at me innocently but there was no chance for any private conversation across the breakfast table. I was not going to be the one to break the news, if indeed there was news to break. I dug into my breakfast and ate with gusto. Everything was delicious and all this new information in my life was making me hungry.
By the time we got breakfast finished and cleaned up it was almost noon. We sat down in the living room to open presents. Julie was asked to pass around the presents. We started opening them one at a time so we could see what everyone got and we thank the person who gave us the present. This lasted about an hour until everyone started getting tired of opening presents and Julie just started handing out presents as fast as she could. It went much faster after that and we were done in another half hour but there was no small box for me or for Mom. I looked at Dad questioningly. He shook his head in the negative as if now was not the time. I think some part of me was had not given up hope that the box would appear under the tree with Mom's name on it.
I thanked everyone for the gifts they had gotten me and turned to Ryan who was sitting with me on one of the couches. "Ryan, I didn't get much sleep last night. I think need a nap."
"That sounds good," he said. "I need to go back to my condo and get a shower and some clean clothes. I'll meet you in a couple of hours and we can take a nice walk down the beach. I still have one more thing for you and I'd love to have some alone time and talk."
I looked outside and saw the wind swirling around on the beach, the waves crashing onto the sand. I did not think we would be taking any romantic strolls along the beach today but we could find somewhere to be alone. We needed to talk.
"Sounds good," I said. "We'll meet back here in two hours, although you're more than welcome to come earlier and hang out with the crazies." We walked away from the family and toward the back doo.
"Thanks. See you in a couple of hours and thanks again for the Christmas gifts. I loved them," he said before he gathered me in his arms and soundly kissed me. A few minutes later I finally pushed him out the door.
I slept like the dead. I woke up to the alarm I had set and hit snooze two more times before I made myself get out of bed. It seemed now that I had made up my mind about what I was doing, I could sleep again. I showered quickly because I knew Ryan would be waiting down with the family and it was very loud down there. I was not sure what they were up too but whatever it was, it was loud. When I finally made it downstairs, I saw the source of all the noise was John and his family, who had arrived a day early.
"What are you guys doing here so early?" I asked, as I moved across the room to sit next to Ryan, who had my niece Amy on his lap. It looked like he was reading her a story.
"Well, sis, there's this big storm heading toward Seaside. It's supposed to have wind gusts of up to 50 or 60 miles so Lisa and I decided to get ahead of the storm and come today. It wouldn't be Christmas if we didn't come to the beach house and besides, we thought it would be fun to watch the storm from inside this nice, safe, warm house where Mom does all the cooking," said John.
I looked out the front window and sure enough the surf was higher and the wind was gusting even more than it had been before. Since we did not have cable here, I had not been listening to the news lately. That was one of the perks of the beach house. We got away from everything. However, we did have a radio for just such a situation.
"Is it supposed to be bad?" I asked.
"Only the wind and a little rain," said John. "Dad listened to the weather report on the radio and he said he didn't think there was anything to worry about. "
"How was the drive?" I asked.
"Not bad. The kids and Lisa took a nap since everyone has been up since very early this morning. I could do with one too."
"We had a late night. We were up wrapping presents until the early hours of the morning but we got to sleep in."
"Lisa was up late too. I'm glad it's over but onto more interesting things," John said rubbing his hands together. "What do you think of Ryan's plan to move to Seattle?"
"What?" I asked, but it must have been a little more forceful and louder than I anticipated because everyone stopped doing what they were doing and looked at us.
Ryan stood up and took my hand. "Excuse us everyone, we're going for a ride," he said.
John was apologizing behind us and I was still in shock. Ryan was moving to Seattle but I was supposed to be moving to Portland. Ryan propelled me across the room and was collecting our coats while I was still trying to digest this information.
Dad came up to Ryan as he was handing me my coat and said to Ryan in an undertone, "You should probably skip the drive and just go to your condo. The wind is picking up and the roads could be dangerous."
"Thank you sir, I'll take that into consideration." With that, he opened the door and led me out to his car. We drove away in silence. I was loath to break the silence, mostly because I did not know what to say or how to say it. My "what" had come out so forcefully he probably thought I did not want him to move to Seattle, but it was not that. It was just that I was so surprised to find it out after I had already decided to move to Portland. I had a safety net in Portland but he had only an old roommate he knew in Seattle. Did he have a job? Where was he going to live? Were things going to work out between us? Would I feel guilty if they did not and he had uprooted his life? Probably. There were so many questions and concerns I did not know where to begin. I think maybe he didn't either. We drove in silence up and around the park before he cleared his throat and turned to look at me.
"Let's head back to the condo and talk. Your dad was right about the weather. It's really not safe and it's getting dark," he said, turning back to look at the road.
I nodded my head, "Yes, that sounds like a good idea."
It was only a couple of blocks to the condo and we were inside sitting on the couch, looking out at the wind and waves before I knew it.
Ryan turned to me and took my hand, "Jessie, John was right. I am moving to Seattle. I had wanted to talk to you about it but we haven't had much time alone in the last 24 hours."
I nodded my head. He was right. We had had family with us most all of the time.
"I got a job offer there and my old roommate, who I've stayed with when I come to visit you, has agreed to rent me a room in his house. I start my new job on January fifth."
He looked at me expectantly as if I should be jumping up and down with excitement but I was just relieve and surprisingly, a little bit disappointed.
"Is this what you wanted to talk to me about after my nap?" I asked.
"Well, yes. Was there something else you wanted to talk to me about?" he asked.
"No, I was just expecting something else."
Ryan looked at me quizzically, "What else were you expecting?"
I started without thinking, "Well, I found that jewelry box in your clothes when I moved them on Christmas Eve and it looked like a...," I stopped myself before I made a complete fool of myself. I didn't want him thinking I was expecting a proposal already.
He looked at me questioningly and then I could see in his eyes when he realized what I had thought it was. "Ohhh, you thought it was a...," and he hesitated, turning a little red.
"Yes, I thought it was a ring," I admitted. "I spent all last night trying to figure out what I was going to say to you when you presented it to me." I was careful not to say the word proposal. I was not ready to bring that word into the conversation.
"No wonder you were so tired. And what did you finally decide?" he looked at my expectantly.
I could tell there was a lot riding on this answer so I spoke from the heart. "I realized that I was falling in love with you and that I didn't want to lose you but that I wasn't ready for the next step, yet. I was going to move to Portland and give up everything in Seattle to see if things might work out. I didn't have a job and I was going to have to live with my parents for awhile but I felt we were worth it."
Ryan gave me a big smile before he grabbed me into a big hug followed by a kiss that made my stomach jump and made me happy I had told him everything.
"Jessie, I love you too. It's one of the reasons I decided to make this change. Now don't worry, because I know you might. It's a good job, with a great company, doing something I want to do and they are even going to pay me better. Everything is exactly as I would want and even though I'm not asking you to marry me right now, I am asking you to let me live in the same city as you." He shrugged, "We'll see how things work out from there."
"I can live with that. So, tell me some more details about this job and why you didn't tell me beforehand about it."
He explained all about the job and I could see he was really excited about it. He decided not to tell me at first because he did not want me getting all scared he was changing his whole life just for me, which I probably would have done. Once he got the job, he decided he wanted to keep it as a Christmas gift for me but he forgot to tell John that it was a secret. Things always come to light in our family. It's probably better he should learn this now. We snuggled and kissed and got our fill of each other before we decided we should probably head back to the beach house.
"I do have one more surprise for you but you kind of know it's coming," said Ryan as he handed me the square, wrapped box that had caused me so much angst the night before.
"I'm not sure I can open it," I said, but I was only kidding. I picked it up from his outstretched hand and tore off the wrapping. Inside was the beautiful three diamond necklace I had tried on at the jewelry store and absolutely loved. Ruby, the jewelry expert, had come through for me. "I love it! It's beautiful and exactly what I picked out." I handed it to him so he could help me put it on. "How? How did you manage it?" I asked.
"Your father helped me orchestrate the entire thing. I asked him and your mother for advice on what you might like. It was a more than a little nerve wracking to call them, by the way, but I knew John would not be any help. Your father thought he could take you to this jewelry shop he knew and have you try and pick out something you liked as a ruse to helping him pick out something for your mother."
"But he did pick out something for my Mom," I exclaimed. "It was a beautiful diamond ring, which is why I thought this was a ring," I said as I pointed at my necklace. "I thought it was that ring!"
"Are you disappointed?" asked Ryan, with a little chuckle and maybe a little bit of a real question as well.
"Not really. I'm probably more relieved than anything else. It was a ring I liked, I mean I picked it out, but I loved the ring because it was a ring my dad was picking out for my mom. It was beautiful and perfect for her."
I got a hug and a kiss again and then Ryan decided we really had to return to the group. They were probably all wondering what was going on with us and we probably should not keep them in suspense any longer. We got in our car and made the short drive down the road to the beach house.
When we arrived, everyone was doing their thing. We got a big hello and some sidelong looks but other than that, everyone went back to doing what they were doing except John. He hurried over to our side before we got our coats hung up.
"I am so sorry. Ryan, I had no idea your moving to Seattle was a secret. Lisa has already roundly chastised me, but if there's anything else you'd like to say to me, go ahead. I can take it."
"It's fine," Ryan said. "I should have told you I was surprising Jessie with the news. I just figured you wouldn't be here until after Christmas so I would have time to tell her the news in my own way, but the storm..."
"..and my big mouth," interrupted my brother.
"Yes, and that too, brought it all up sooner than expected, but we're all good," Ryan said, giving me a little squeeze.
John looked at me and I nodded.
"Yes, and look at the necklace he got me for Christmas."
John whistled. "That's nice!" He turned to everyone else in the room and said, "Look at what Jessie got from Ryan for Christmas."
Everyone started standing up so I moved quickly towards them and started showing off the necklace. They all ohhed and ahhed appropriately. Once I had shown everyone, I sat down next to Julie and told her everything that had happened. She laughed. I'm glad someone was able to laugh, already, at what happened.
Michael came over and asked Julie to come join him by the Christmas tree. Ryan slipped into the spot Julie had vacated and we sat and watched Amy and Riley, John's two oldest children, trying to play a board game that was meant for children twice their age. Ryan reached out and took my hand in his.
Michael asked for everyone's attention. He and Julie were standing together by the tree, holding hands. "We have an announcement," said Michael. He paused.
Ryan leaned over and whispered in my ear, "I know what it is."
I whispered back in his ear, "I'd like to hear the story behind that."
Ryan smiled and squeezed my hand.
"We are expecting and I am due in about seven months," said Julie.
Congratulations came from every direction. Mom and Dad came and gave Julie a big hug. Mom hugged Michael too, but Dad just shook his hand and patted him on the back.
"Julie, I have one more gift for you," said Michael and he handed her an oblong package wrapped in familiar wrapping paper.
Ruby was doing some brisk business with our family this year. All the men must have gotten something when they went out yesterday. I did not even realize they had been gone that long. Julie tore off the wrapping paper and opened the oblong case to reveal a very nice charm bracelet with one charm on it. It was a baby rattle.
"I love it," she exclaimed as she quickly put in on her wrist.
My mother took Julie's hand and admired her new bracelet, "Congratulations, and what a thoughtful and lovely present, Michael. You did good."
Just then my father grumbled and everyone looked at him. He was on the other side of Mom and she turned to see what was the matter.
"Thanks, I just wanted to get everyone's attention," said Dad, clearing his throat. "Congratulations to Julie and Michael. That will make our sixth grandchild and we couldn't be happier. But, since we are all handing out gifts, I have one more for your mother." Dad took Mom's hand. "Dear, we've been married for 35 years, soon to be 36. It was 36 years ago today that I proposed to you. That Christmas day so many years ago was one of the most nerve wracking days of my life, just ask your parents."
Dad gestured at Grandma and Grandpa Thomas. They both nodded enthusiastically before he continued, "I had talked to your father and asked for your hand in marriage on Christmas Eve. It seemed like the best thing to do seeing as I was a guest at their home and was about to ask their daughter to marry me. I spent most of the day with sweaty palms and a nervous stomach. I think it's the only Christmas when I haven't been able to fully enjoy all the good food and treats. It took me until well into the night before I finally got up the nerve to ask you. It seems like only yesterday but it wasn't and I only know that because we've raised four kids and now are about to be the grandparents of six grandchildren. I look around me and they remind me but you still look the same to me. I don't know how you do it."
Mom pshawed him but he kept on going.
"You do look as beautiful as the day I met you and you've managed to put up with me and all these hoodlums," he gestured at all of us, "these past 35 most wonderful years and I love you more than I realized was possible that day 36 years ago. I wanted to give you a little token of my love and my thanks for putting up with all of this."
He put the small square package with the all too familiar wrapping paper in her hand. She carefully removed the wrapping paper and then opened up the box.
"Oh my," she said and was looking up into the eyes of my father so quickly that I was not even sure she truly saw the ring. For her, it seemed to be the gesture of the ring more than the actual ring. That was something I wanted to remember for my own future. She gave my dad a great big hug and a kiss and then handed the ring to him. He put it on her finger. It was a beautiful ring and would be a lovely reminder of this moment. We all got up to admire the ring but Mom was looking at Dad. He had really come through this year.
I snuggled back into the couch with Ryan and whispered into his ear, "Just think, you might have been the catalyst behind all of that."
He squeezed my shoulder and I felt like one lucky girl.
Merry Christmas! Check back next week to read about the "long story" behind why Jessie's father hunts for the Christmas tree the day before the family goes to chop it down!