Normally, nobody snuck up on Rosa.
On the other hand, normally Rosa didn’t spend most of her afternoon staring darkly into the air in front of her while wearing enormous sound-blocking headphones.
“Ironically,” Jake told Boyle, “it is those very headphones that will make this mission successful.” He looked from side to side – slid very carefully behind Rosa’s chair – and, in one quick motion, lifted her headphones off her ears.
Rosa spun instantly around in her chair; Jake skipped backwards, holding one of the earpieces up to his ear. His face contorted in a mournful grimace. “Oh,” he said. “Oh, Rosa.”
“If you don’t give those back in the next ten seconds,” Rosa hissed, “I will shove your toes up your ear canals.”
“Okay,” said Jake, hastily. “All right. Just running a diagnostic, that’s all.” He handed the headphones back, with a flourish. “We return you to your day, already in progress.
“What the hell was that about?” Rosa demanded, but Jake had already disappeared down the hallway towards the supply closet.
Ensconced in the supply closet, Jake told Amy, grimly, “Nutcracker Ballet.”
Amy gasped, her hands flying to her mouth.
“I thought it was bad when I caught her standing for 20 minutes staring at the tree in the front office --” Jake grabbed for Amy’s hands. “Babe, you gotta help me here. I am wildly unqualified to salvage Rosa’s Christmas. I have one single Christmas card to play, and while I’m obviously always happy to play that card --”
Amy winced, and shook her head. “You know Rosa still hasn’t forgiven Bruce Willis for A Good Day to Die Hard. Giving her a very Die Hard Christmas is just going to fill her with additional rage.”
“I know!” wailed Jake. “I mean, I don’t understand, but –”
“Look.” Amy retrieved one of her hands in order to pat Jake comfortingly on the shoulder. “I’m sure we can do this. You came up with the game nights, right? And those have been going really well!”
“Sure, but this is above and beyond. If we’re going to fill the family Christmas hole --”
“Title of your holiday-themed sex tape,” said Amy, promptly.
“I literally love you more than life,” said Jake, “and also, to return to the point, my Christmas traditions are pretty much limited to Chinese food. I don’t know, Ames. Maybe if you give me a crash course --”
“Wait.” Amy held up her hand. “Wait. Jake. Rewind. Now … word cloud.”
“Uh. Chinese food?” said Jake. “Jewish Christmas? Mel Brooks? That one movie theater in Tribeca that does Mel Brooks marathons with a Chinese food buffet on Christmas Day Ames are you thinking what I’m thinking –”
“I absolutely am,” said Amy, “and if I remember right tickets sell out super fast, so we’d better get on it. Go!”
“How did you know?” said Rosa to Jake, as the C train rattled back under the river to Brooklyn.
Jake’s mouth was full of egg roll. So were his pockets. Jake was not a person to ignore the potential of an all-you-can-eat buffet. “Know what?” he asked, through crumbs.
“That if my mom still wasn’t OK with --” Rosa stopped, frowned at her hands, and tried again, her voice gruff. “That what I needed was to do something on Christmas that wasn’t Christmas.”
Jake swallowed down the egg roll and gave her a slightly crooked grin. “I am like the world’s expert on pointedly ignoring family holidays,” he said. “And we of the tribe are the world’s experts on pointedly ignoring Christmas. I got you covered.”
Something that might almost have been a smile flickered across Rosa’s face.
After a moment, she said, “I still can’t believe you didn’t try to make me watch Die Hard.”
“I know, right?” said Jake. “I think I’ve grown as a person.”