All I Want for Christmas




"Talk to him, Jory," Shena said as we left our Literature class. The "him" she was referring to was Evan Parker, God's Gift. He sat behind me in that class, and though we say hello to each other, make polite conversation now and then and have even shared class notes he has no idea that I think he is the sexiest man on two legs. In truth I was rendered idiotic when he spoke to me most of the time.

"I can't," I replied, brushing past her out the door. This was almost a daily ritual. She would see me struggle to form words when he talked to me and then she'd tell me to talk to him at the end of our two hour class. I'd always rush out of the room and off to my car.

"Wait!" she cried as I took off. "Jory, slow down!"

Shena Gordon was the first friend I'd made since all of my friends had gone off to college in other cities. I'd stayed behind in my family's house. My parents had moved east, leaving me the house and our gray furball, Spanky. I was happy to have her for a friend, and I was happier still that she didn't mind my sexuality. She'd figured that out for herself. I'd never actually said the words to her.

She'd asked me out on the second week of classes at Abraham Community College. I'd told her I was busy and she'd surmised that I was a homosexual. Funny, huh? Well she accepted it and decided that I was her best friend in the world instead of a prospective date. But then I'd confided in her. I'd told her that I liked Evan Parker. Now she was constantly trying to get me to at least talk to the guy. The problem with that is that every time I try to talk to him and say more than three words I start sounding like an idiot.

I'd been shocked when I started classes last fall and found Evan Parker in my Literature class. Evan was one of the guys that I had fully expected to leave for college instead of doing two years at Abe Comm and staying in Bryarwood. He had been a football player in high school, and I knew his grades were great. I couldn't figure out why he was still in Bryarwood. Sure I might find out if I took the time to talk to him, but I'd been stuck on Evan since the seventh grade. In all of that time I'd never been able to talk to him coherently.

Thankfully there was only one more day of classes, so I wouldn't have to try to come up with a different set of three words every day for at least two weeks. Christmas was just around the corner and I'd have plenty to say when I called my parents to wish them a happy holiday. I really was happy that they'd moved and left me in the house.

Shena followed me all the way back to the house. We usually hung out after our last class of the day so it wasn't out of the ordinary to come out of the garage and see her car in the driveway. I wasn't in the mood for another lecture from her about not talking to Evan though. To be honest I was getting tired of it.

Evan Parker was easily the best looking guy I'd ever seen. That fact had been constant since I'd known him. We were never really friends, but we were always friendly to each other. We ran in different circles in high school, and in college it seemed that I would be the one to make sure we didn't run in the same circle. Shena constantly tried to change that by telling me I should talk to him. What did she expect me to say? Did she expect that I would just walk up to him, look him in his amazing amber eyes and say that I thought he was the most attractive person in the world?

"You're not getting away from that easily, Matthews," Shena said as she got out of her car. "How do you know that the two of you couldn't at least be friends? He's a nice guy, Jory!"

"I'm sure he's a nice guy," I said, unlocking the side door to the house and going inside with Shena hot on my heals. "I just can't talk to him. You know that."

"God, Jory, how can you refuse to talk to him?" she asked as she put her books and purse on the hall table next to my own books. "You talk about him all the time! You're going to drive yourself crazy if you don't at least find out if you can be friends."

She was right about one thing. I did talk about him all the time. Evan Parker was the perfect guy. I liked everything about him. I loved the way his chestnut hair was always parted slightly off-center but looked perfect as it waved across the top of his head. I loved the fact that he was at least four inches taller than me. I really loved the way his muscular torso bulged under his tight t-shirts and the way his jeans always seemed to perfectly showcase his beautiful ass. I loved the way his green eyes sparkled and it always looked like he was so happy to see you whenever he looked at you. That tired smirk that sat so easily on his face when he was slightly amused was almost as amazing as how his face completely lit up when he had cause to genuinely smile. He was just perfect.

But I couldn't talk to him. I became a complete blubbering idiot when I tried to talk to him. It was so pathetic. He never laughed at me to my face, but I was sure that he thought I was at least mildly retarded or something. Talking to him would just be another humiliating thing in my life, so I said as little as possible to him whenever I was forced to say anything at all.

"It isn't possible for us to be friends," I replied. "The very sight of him reduces me to mindless babble, and I would die if he saw me with that "dazed headlight" look on my face that you accuse me of having whenever he smiles."

"Well then I guess I shouldn't tell you what I did this morning," she said slowly. "When I was late picking you up."

"What are you talking about?" I asked as my blood pressure began to rise and my heart began to slam in my chest. "What did you do?"

She grabbed her purse and pulled out a folded piece of red paper. She unfolded it while avoiding my eyes and held it up for me to see. My heart nearly slammed out of my chest when I saw what it was. It was an invitation for a party being held at my house the following week to celebrate Christmas.

"Don't you think it was a bit premature to print invitations for a party you haven't gained my consent to throw?" I asked, ignoring the part where it said that I was the one throwing the party just before it gave my address and home telephone number for RSVP.

"Well you sort of have to have the party now," she said. "I've passed out fifteen of these already."

"You what?" I cried.

"Yeah," she said, looking at the floor. "I gave one to Evan, too."

In that moment I could envision my hands squeezing her throat until she died. I couldn't believe she'd done it. She was supposed to be my friend. She knew what state just talking to Evan put me in. Now he was going to be at my house and she was the cause! Then I decided that she was just having fun with me. Sure it was a cruel joke, but at least it wasn't reality.

"Right," I said, calming down but staying on the brink of panic just in case.

"I'm serious," she said. "Evan told me he can't wait."

"You are a treacherous woman, Shena," I spat, turning on my heels to go to the kitchen for water. I thought perhaps I'd drown myself.

Of course she followed me into the kitchen. I avoided saying anything by filling my glass of water six different times and sucking it down. By the sixth glass I was sure my insides were floating. It sure didn't stop my heart from slamming around in my chest. How could she do this?

"Jory, you're being silly!" she cried. "How are you ever going to know if the two of you can even at least be friends if you don't talk to him? This is a way for that to happen. There will be other people around so you don't have to worry about being alone with him at least."

"But I wouldn't have had to worry about being with him at all if you hadn't done this," I replied. "And what made you think that I wanted to have a party? In case you haven't noticed this house isn't really big enough for all of those people!"

"Oh, it is too," she said with a sigh. "Jory, this house has held over twenty members of your family at holiday gatherings. You told me so yourself. I invited fifteen people. Some of them won't even come."

"Maybe Evan will be one that won't come," I said, turning away from her.

I knew he'd come though. She'd said that he was excited about it. That meant he was coming to the party all right. I was going to have to face him and figure out how to talk without making a complete fool of myself. To make it worse I only had a week.

I decided that there was nothing I could do about it now. She'd already given him the invitation. In truth I wasn't against having a party in my house. She was right about the fact that my house had been host to over twenty people at different times, so I knew they'd fit comfortably. I just didn't want Evan Parker in my house.

So I unhappily agreed to go with her to shop for party supplies and decorations after she'd forced me to put up the family Christmas tree. Once we were done putting the huge green tree up in the corner of the den she decided that we needed new ornaments. I knew we'd need new lights, so I agreed to go. What was I getting myself into?

We went from store to store, buying odds and ends. I got my lights and she got her ornaments. She snuck off in one store and came back with a huge bag that she guarded with her life. I just sighed and decided to let her destroy me. There didn't seem to be anything I could do about it. I did wonder where all of her money was coming from. I knew that she worked part time at the movie theater, but as far as I knew that didn't pay well.

The lights and ornaments for the tree she let me take home with me. The rest she decided would be safer with her until the day of the party. She informed me that we would be decorating the house and yard for most of the day and should be finished just before the party was to begin. There was no way I was getting out of this one. She'd seen to that.

When I got inside the house I saw the little light on the answering machine blinking. With a sigh I pressed the button to retrieve the messages. As I feared it was members of the guest list calling in to say they'd love to come to the party. I held my breath but I was happy when I didn't hear Evan's voice on the machine. I decided that maybe he really wouldn't come to the party.

I spent the afternoon stringing lights around the tree and putting the mountain of ornaments on it. I searched through the closet to find the angel that had been on top of the tree every Christmas for as long as I could remember. My mother always took special care to make sure that the wings didn't turn yellow or get damaged. The actual angel was porcelain with hand painted features. Her dress was red velvet with gold ribbons. When I finally found her and put her on top of the tree I smiled. She really was beautiful.

My job was done so I decided to find something to eat. I was in the middle of making a sandwich when the phone started chirping at me. I grabbed the kitchen extension and cradled the receiver between my neck and shoulder so that I could finish making my sandwich.

"Hello?" I inquired as I spread mayo over the top slice of bread.

"Um, hi," said the voice of the man who made my tongue tie. "I just wanted to call and tell you that I'd love to come to your party."

"Oh," I said stupidly. "Well that's great."

"I have to say I was a little shocked when I was invited," he said, and I knew that he was going to try to have a conversation with me. This was serious.

"Well," I said, trying to think fast and breathe at the same time. "Why?"

"You don't seem to want much to do with me, Jory," he said.

What was I supposed to say to that? I couldn't tell him that I wanted so much to do with him that it drove me crazy. That wouldn't have been the right thing to do at that point. What could I say? I decided to take Shena's advice and just bite the bullet.

"I'm sorry that you feel that way, Evan," I said, marveling at the fact that my words actually made sense as I spoke. "Maybe this party will change the way you think I feel about you?"

That was a bad thing to say! It was out of my mouth before I could stop it. What was he thinking? I wanted to crawl into the oven and bake my stupid self. I couldn't believe I'd said that to him. Now how was I supposed to face him?

"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "Did you need me to bring anything?"

"Bring anything?" I asked. I had no idea what he would need to bring. I didn't even know what Shena had in mind for this party. I didn't want to tell him that I was being pushed to have the party though.

"Yeah," he said, and I could hear the laughter in his voice. He knew I was uncomfortable! "Whenever my parents would go to a party they would take food."

"Well you can bring anything you like," I said. "I hadn't even thought about food to be honest."

Ok I was babbling at that point. I really just wanted to hang up the telephone, but I was also really enjoying the sound of his voice. It had a deeper timbre than mine and was sexy as hell. Just one more perfect thing about positively perfect Evan Parker.

"Well how about if I bring drinks?" he asked. "I don't drink alcohol, but I could bring soft drinks or something."

"That would be great," I said for lack of anything else coherent to say. "There won't be alcohol at this party."

"Great," he said. "So I'll see you next Friday?"

"Sure," I said quickly.

"Unless you need help setting up or something," he said.

"No," I replied quickly. "Shena is taking care of all of that."

"Oh," he said and paused. "Well then I guess next Friday it is. Thanks for inviting me, Jory."

"Any time," I said stupidly.

For the rest of the day I was nervous. I didn't even eat my sandwich. Shena had got me good this time. I had to remember to thank her appropriately later. I'd have time to think about how to thank her precisely later. At that moment I had to kick myself for telling Evan that the party would change the way he thinks I feel about him. What was that supposed to mean to him? What did he think? I was so stupid.

Every time I talked to him something like that happened. I would babble about every day mundane things and then blurt out something stupid like that. It was bad. I had to figure out a way to get around the effect he had on me. I couldn't just continue to spout ridiculous drivel when he was around. Maybe alcohol wasn't such a bad idea.

Rejecting that thought I finally ate my sandwich. I looked over my Literature assignment while I ate it. Once I got into the lesson plan and assignment I forgot about Christmas parties and Evan Parker. I finished my homework and then went around the house cleaning up the empty boxes of decorations. I had a lot of fun getting all of the excess tinsel out of the carpet. Spanky followed me around and I had to laugh at him when I saw the silver tinsel stuck to his nose.

When I couldn't figure out how to talk to people, Spanky was always available. I spent at least a half hour rubbing his belly for him and generally just doing the dog thing. I loved that dog. I could count on him not to betray me.

For the next week, Shena divided her time between her theater job and helping me arrange the furniture in the living room and den so that everyone would have enough space. She still wouldn't bring her decorations to the house, saying that I'd probably throw them away if she did. By Friday morning I was ready to just tell her to leave her decorations at home.

She arrived at eight that morning. Her car was crammed with the boxes and bags from our shopping trip. At least she let me help her carry them inside the house. I put Spanky in the back yard and we set out to decorate the house and front yard.

Most of what she'd bought was silly but it looked good when we put it up. There were plastic Santas and snowmen for the tables. Little gift bags were stuffed with chocolate. I knew that chocolate was always a hit so I didn't protest about it. Then she put a huge skirt around the base of the tree. It was hand made, she told me. Red and green material had been sewn in a patchwork design with glitter snowflakes here and there. It was actually kind of neat. When she put the fake presents under the tree I couldn't help but agree that it looked nice.

We broke for lunch and then she was in my parents' room changing into her outfit for the party. I hadn't even thought about what I was going to wear. Clothes were never a big issue with me. She fussed over me for about a half an hour before she decided that my tan cargo pants and black t-shirt would do. Then she decided to play with my hair and I had a small fit. My hair didn't need fiddled with. It was just up there.

"Let me," she said when I shook my head.

"It's just hair," I argued.

"You've got really great hair, Jory," she said. "Just let me . . ."

"If my hair is so great then why do you need to bother it?" I asked, walking away from her to look at myself in the mirror.

My black shirt clung to my body a little more than I liked, but at least I'd worked out enough to not look stupid in it. My pants were not much different than what I wore every day. My hair looked fine the way it was. There wasn't much else it would do actually. I'd had it cut a week before so it was still doing all right. It looked darker when it was short and I liked that. Normally it was a mousy brown color, so this burnt chestnut color was good. I had a goatee that I spent a little time trimming and getting it the way I liked it. The only thing left to do was slip into my sandals and go downstairs.

The guests began to arrive around seven, and I was nervous again. Evan wasn't among the first or second group to arrive though. I almost believed that he wasn't going to show up. I just couldn't decide if that was a relief or disappointment.

Then he arrived with two bags in his hand. He smiled at me when I opened the door and I swear that I nearly had a heart attack. He looked great in his black jeans and muscle shirt. I tried to smile back at him as I stepped aside to let him in the house. He handed me one bag and explained that it was juice that had to be diluted. I just smiled and thanked him.

He clutched the other bag as he came inside and I wondered what was in it. Shena came for him as I closed the door and I was actually happy about that. I went into the kitchen to start making the juice. It was pretty simple and I had three gallons of juice in a few moments. I added ice and then put them on the counter where Shena had stacked plastic cups.

"If it's all right with you, I'd like to put this in here somewhere," said Evan, coming into the kitchen and startling me. "I don't want anyone to bother it."

"All right," I managed to say even though my heart was doing that slamming thing again. "We can put it in the cabinet above the fridge. No one gets in there."

"Thanks," he said with one of his killer smiles. "And thanks again for inviting me."

"Thank you for coming," I replied and tried to smile back at him.

We went back into the living room with cups of juice and sat down with everyone else. I really couldn't think straight with Evan around, but I knew I had to pull it together before I made a fool of myself. Unfortunately he decided to sit on the couch right beside me and keep up a conversation with me. I noticed Shena looking at us with a little smirk on her face and once again I wanted to squeeze her throat with my hands until she was dead.

Thankfully everyone else decided to be a part of the conversation I was having with Evan. I didn't really know many of the people there but that didn't matter. The fact that they kept me from sounding stupid was all that mattered to me.

Through the conversation I learned that Evan had been awarded a football scholarship to a college in California, but he'd turned it down because of the school's reputation. Without the scholarship he couldn't afford to go to a university until he saved enough money. I also learned that he was bagging groceries at one of the supermarkets to help save money for school while he attended classes at ACC. He liked the school and was happy with his classes but missed his friends.

I could commiserate with him there. All of my friends were off to colleges in other cities and states. Shena was the only close friend I had now, and we were still getting the kinks worked out of our friendship. By the end of the conversation I was starting to think that maybe Evan and I could really be friends. It did appear that he liked me enough to be my friend.

I can't really tell you what all happened at the party, because I was too busy trying to not look or sound stupid. I do know that I used every available chance to look at Evan Parker. To his credit he didn't seem to notice, or he didn't mind if he did notice. Unfortunately he decided to stay after the party to help me and Shena clean up. He kept a steady conversation with us as he worked.

"So why didn't you go off to school, Jory?" he asked as we were walking around the living room and den to collect the empty cups.

"Well I wanted to at first, but then my parents moved to New York and left me the house," I said. "They wouldn't take Spanky with them, and I didn't want to leave him behind. There's a bit more to it than that, but those are the biggest reasons I didn't leave."

"Well I'm glad you stayed behind," he said. "At least I know someone at school."

"You haven't made any new friends?" I asked, marveling at the fact that we were actually having a conversation with only each other and I was doing all right.

"Well sure I've made new friends, but I don't know any of them very well," he said. "It's hard for me to get to know new people sometimes."

"But you don't know me very well either," I said slowly.

"Right, but I at least know who you are and remember enough about you to make it easy to get to know you better," he said with a smile.

"Oh," I said stupidly.

We were quiet for a few minutes as we tied the trash bags. I noticed that Shena seemed to have disappeared. One look through the bay window in the living room told me that she was outside cleaning up the decorations from the yard. That was when I realized that I'd been virtually alone with Evan.

"Jory, it seems like I make you uncomfortable for some reason," he said, startling me again. "Why?"

"I'm not sure," I lied. "I guess it's because I don't know you very well."

"You didn't seem to have any trouble with the others at the party," he said. "I don't know any of them at all really, so I know that they weren't in school with us."

"Right," I said. "That was just polite conversation."

"But we have polite conversation all the time," he said. "You always seem nervous."

"You do make me nervous," I mumbled, hoping that he didn't understand what I'd said and kicking myself for saying it.

"Do you not like me?" he asked, looking at me with a passive expression on his face.

"It's not that," I said quickly, and before I could stop myself I said more. "I think that I like you too much."

I was horrified! I couldn't believe I'd said that to him. My heart was slamming around in my chest again, and my knees felt weak. I fully expected him to pound the shit out of me right there. He didn't though. He just smiled at me.

"Oh," he said and walked off into the kitchen, leaving me to stare after him.

I was sure that I'd made a huge mistake, but there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn't take it back. There was no way for me to make him think I'd been joking. He'd heard the truth in my voice. And what was that smile about? Did he think it was funny? He probably did. That would be just my luck. I stopped thinking completely when he came back out of the kitchen with the bag I'd put in the cabinet above the fridge.

"I'm glad you came, Evan," I said, knowing that he was just going to leave and never talk to me again. "I can clean the rest up myself."

"I'm not leaving yet," he said with another smile. "I just wanted to get this. I couldn't decide if I should give it to you or not. See, I thought we'd be exchanging gifts at this party. I bought you something."

On rubber legs I walked over to stand in front of him. We were standing in the archway between the living room and the den as he handed me a small wrapped box. I took it with shaking fingers, cursing my self control. Without words I opened the box to find a little statue of a dog that looked so much like Spanky. I looked up at him in confusion.

"I noticed that you always carry a picture of your dog," he said. "I just thought this was as good a gift as any."

"Thank you," I said softly, and then I just stared at it.

"We have a little problem," he said, making me jerk my eyes back up to his face.

"What?" I asked quickly. Was he still going to pound me?

"Look," he said, pointing at the archway above our heads.

I looked up and saw the mistletoe hanging there. I remembered Shena hanging it and couldn't believe I'd left it there. I was ready to scream at her when I felt his hands on my shoulders. I looked up into his green eyes with just enough time to be shocked before he kissed me.

It was a soft kiss, and it only lasted for a few seconds before he let go of me and looked me in the eye. I was having a little trouble standing still at that point. Shock and happiness battled within me as I looked up at him. He looked nervous now, and I almost laughed at that. Luckily I was too stunned to laugh.

"Was that all right?" he asked in a shaking voice.

Instead of answering I just stood on my toes to kiss him again. I couldn't believe it, but I'd gotten exactly what I wanted for Christmas.