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Seven Days of Christmas

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It arrives after nine in the evening, delivered by an apologetic bellhop. She takes the small package with a forced smile. It isn’t the kid’s fault that he knocked just when she’d gotten comfortable in the bath.

Sitting at the edge of the bed, she opens the carefully-wrapped gift, curious despite her tiredness.

It’s a garter belt. Small and black and lacy, flimsy enough to disappear into her palm when crumpled into a ball. She blinks at it for a moment, and then tosses it on to the night table and goes back to her bath. Nearly all the bubbles have vanished, but she sinks into the still-warm water anyway, sighing with relief. Cons can be exhausting.

 

*

 

The next day, she’s leaving the hotel’s restaurant after a pleasant lunch with Mads and a host of producers whose names she can’t recall when someone from the front desk comes hurrying up to her.

“Ms. Anderson? There’s a package for you at the desk.”

She signs for it and rips it open, annoyed and impatient. It’s a little tube of cheap red lipstick, and the name on the base says Crimson Sunrise. She shoves it into her handbag, hurrying to get to the next panel, and forgets all about it.

 

*

 

The third day, she’s almost expecting the knock on her door when she’s getting ready for bed.

It’s a tiny, jeweled hair clip. There’s a gem missing from the small cluster.

Recognition is instant, this time. She knows where the missing stone is, because she found it under her pillow when she was checking out of her hotel room about… fourteen years ago? Maybe more.

They’d been trying out a kink, that time. He wanted to be fingered, wanted her to refer to him as her girl. She’d gotten creative with the talk, letting her imagination run away with her as she knelt between his legs and slipped her nightcream-slicked fingers into him, his head thrown back on the pillow, his painted lips apart in a silent gasp, her other hand twisting in the elastic of the little black garter around his thigh.

He was beautiful, and he’d asked her for something that he couldn’t ask anyone else for, their lovemaking more tender and sweet than ever before, despite the kink factor. Or perhaps because of it, she mused later, when he’d left.

 

*

 

The fourth day, she packs her bags and checks out, the con over. There’s one last envelope for her at the reception.

Inside it is a festive little card with Snoopy, Woodstock and Charlie Brown, all wearing little 3-D Christmas hats with red bobbles. Within the card is a red origami turtle, the patterns on its shell carefully painted on.

She knows this memory, like the previous one, without having to reach for it. They’d been filming an episode—she’s forgotten its title, now, after so long. But she remembers the plot vaguely—something about a dead man leaving origami for his wife. It had been a hot, exhausting day, and she’d mused aloud, over lemonade and cheese sticks during a break, about how making paper animals for a loved one was a pretty romantic thing to do, if somewhat creepy.

David had taken her words at face value, twisting strips of newspaper into vaguely animal-like shapes as they lay in his trailer that afternoon, bare legs tangled together under the sheets.

 

*

 

The fifth day, she’s back filming in Vancouver. It’s a cliché, but it’s never stopped feeling like home.

She’s picked up her phone more than once, meaning to write a text, but there’s nothing to say. There’s too much to say. In L.A., she’d wondered if he was there somewhere, if he’d come up to her and say hi. He must have been, but she hadn’t once caught sight of him.

Her assistant, Rhea, knocks at her door during lunch. “This just came for you.”

‘This’ is a battered old copy of Moby Dick.

They’d stolen it. With permission, sort of. David had wanted to look up that line about the apple dumplings, and the internet hadn’t been as accessible in the nineties as it is now. He’d found it in a small local library and returned triumphant, brandishing it like Mulder would a vial of green alien goo. He’d made an elaborate tale of his search for the book, and she’d had to admit that he was so gifted at storytelling that she’d been drawn into his words, listening eagerly as he described how painstakingly he’d tracked it down. His quest had been rewarded not only by the finding of the book, but the apparently deliriously happy thanks of a librarian who’d let him have it for the price of an autograph.

They’d read parts of it aloud to each other on the flight home for Christmas, making serious lines funny and funny lines serious, laughing together until it was time to separate and go home to their respective spouses.

Spouses who are no longer in the picture, she can’t help thinking as she slips the book under her pillow. It’s only later that night that she thinks of checking it for an inscription, and it’s there.

G, why haven’t you?

 

*

 

Why haven’t you called? Why haven’t you texted? Why haven’t you emailed?

She doesn’t really know. Maybe she’s waiting, maybe she’s just enjoying the gifts. They’ve been getting more… intense, somehow, as though he’s afraid she doesn’t get the earlier ones, as though he’s afraid she might have forgotten.

There’s no gift on the sixth day. She goes home to the apartment she rents in town: not the same one she’d leased when they were filming The X-Files.

 

*

 

The sixth gift arrives the next day, with a little note of apology. Sorry. Snowed in yesterday.

This one’s not a memory. It’s new, shiny: a thin gold bracelet with a tiny charm, an X that looks a little like a cross when she tilts it in her fingers, the delicate metal glinting in the weak winter sun.

She slips it on to her wrist and covers it with her sleeve, and can’t seem to stop smiling for the rest of the day.

 

*

 

He’s sitting on the steps of her apartment building when her car drops her off that night.

“Why didn’t you?” he asks, looking up at her.

She remembers a scene shot in a basement, Mulder’s utter despair, Scully’s hand on his head.

His hair feels just the same, maybe a little softer without the product that the make-up crew would style it with.

She shrugs. “What, no gift today?”

“I kinda brought myself,” he points out. She smiles, letting her fingertips trail from his hair to his warm cheek, his lips.

“You’d better come in, then,” she says.