There’s Only You and Him and the Mistletoe
It’s one of those situations that you usually laugh off, only this time you can’t. You haven't laughed for a long while now.
Two people, passing through the doorway at the same time, hesitate and suck in their stomachs, not wanting to encroach in the other’s space. They look up and see the sprig of mistletoe, fresh and green with its white berries and red ribbon, dangling in an unwelcome invitation.
You make the huge mistake of looking – staring – into his icy blue eyes and he stares right back, and it’s weird, he’s looking at you as though he suddenly finds you fascinating, like he sees something unexpected but doesn’t remember how to speak. You feel the same way, only the bottom is about to drop out and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Looking into his blue eyes, so close and intimate, and knowing that this is probably the last Christmas you’ll ever see him, that the distance in your heart will prove to be too much to bear, it literally hurts. You feel an unexpected pain and you can’t breathe. Without meaning to, you raise your hand to your chest because you know, just know you're going to have a fucking heart attack right here in the middle of Ducky’s Christmas party, and any minute you’re going to end up on the kitchen floor, dying. You’re horrified to realize that the last thing you’ll see is all your friends and colleagues clustered around you wearing a colorful array of ugly sweaters.
It’s weird how there’s no sound, and although you can’t tear his eyes away from his face, you know that Abby, over by the fridge with a bottle of chilled vodka in her hand, has stopped in her tracks, and she grabs Tim’s arm as he walks past with a platter laden with freshly cut veggies and dip, and now he's staring too. The oddest part of the whole thing is that for once in your life you don’t care what anyone else is thinking.
There’s a crash from the other room, followed by silence and then laughter; it breaks the spell.
Realization, embarrassment, awkwardness all hit you at once. You can’t even force a laugh as you brush past, finally out of the doorway, and once free, you release the breath you didn’t even know you’ve been holding. There’s a glass of wine, ruby red, sitting on the kitchen island; you drink it down quickly and wipe your mouth. Your hand shakes a little.
You try to act casual, as if it’s nothing, when, in fact, it’s overwhelmingly everything. Trying and failing to hide your flushed cheeks, hating the way your ears go pink when you blush, you can sense he’s watching you from the doorway. You wish he’d stop staring and say something, do something – but when he abruptly turns away and disappears into the other room, you wish, Jesus, wish he’d come back. Wish that you’d reached out, touched his cheek, met his lips with your own.
Wishing for anything is useless. The barriers are too high and have been there too long though.
You hate that an injury got the better of you, that getting shot has forced you to retire before you’re ready to let go. Shit, you’re retiring before he does, how mixed up and wrong is that? You’ve been unhappy for the longest time and loneliness has colored your life in shades of gray. There’s no excuse; you should have told him that you care for him, deeply. You have, forever, it seems. A one-sided love is no love at all, so you’re finally letting go.
He’s treated you badly, and you hate that you’ve never talked it out, never made the attempt to sit down and come to an understanding; but then neither has he. And yes, you blame him for being stubborn and dense, and for pushing you aside, but you have to take some blame, too, half of it anyway. You let him, and didn’t fight back hard enough.
So you swallow all the disappointment, the bitter taste, and tell yourself to stop feeling sorry for yourself. It’s pretty stupid, really, when all it would take would be a touch, a word, and even a kiss, but for some reason, some stupid reason, you just can’t do it.
It’s over. Tomorrow morning you’ll be gone and even though you’ve promised Of course I’ll come back to visit, you know you never will. You move to leave, brushing off Abby’s anxious attempt to console you, refusing to meet Tim’s eyes, and as you turn, half blinded by the tears you swore you’d never show, strong hands take hold of you, and just when you raise your fists, you see it’s him.
He came back. He came back.
He draws you to his chest, and he says, Don’t go, in a throaty plea, sounding desperate, and he takes possession of your mouth and kisses you, and kisses you again, and you angle your head and melt with desire and finally, finally you both meet halfway.
There may be people gathering around, laughter and applause, but he doesn’t care. There’s only him and you and the mistletoe, and his hands are on your cheeks, rough thumbs wiping away hot tears, as you choke out I love you, and you find, to your surprise, that you can laugh, after all.
*** the end ***