Peach gripped the sides of the large wrapped present box with both hands, shaking it gently with her ear held down close to the side. From the other side of the kitchen island in his apartment Mario peered over at her. The rounded edge of his mug of coffee came into view with each sip he took. She was sitting under in front of the tree, the light from the decoration caused a glow around the outline of her from this angle. Her legs were folded partially up under her body, sticking out to the sides like a V so that her knees were together and her butt was on the floor.
“If we know we’re going to open them, why can’t we just open them now?” Peach asked, her blonde moving back to wreath the sides of her face as she pressed the gift into her lap.
“Come on, I’ve seen you get wrapped birthday presents before,” said Mario.
Peach sighed. “Yeah, but no one ever gave them to me until they were ready to be opened. You put these under a fake tree here in your flat and expect me to look at them for days. It’s torture.”
Mario put his coffee down and slide into a sitting position against her thigh. He mushed his face into the warm skin of her neck and her hair brushed at his cheeks and ears until he was surrounded by the sweet aroma that was distinctly ‘Peach’. She was intoxicating. He had always thought so and now he knew why.
He grabbed the present just above where her hands were, pulling up on it and holding it steady until she let go. “Let’s put that away.” Mario turned and pushed the box under the tree behind them, before he had righted himself Peach shifted so that her legs were across his.
“I don’t really understand this holiday. It’s someone else’s birthday, but the died a long time ago and you give each other presents?”
“It’s…hard to explain.” Mario wrapped his hand around Peach’s leg, moving up and down the length from knee to mid thigh and back. “It’s kind of a religious legend, but the holiday became important to millions of people. Billions. Even the ones who don’t celebrate it.”
Peach nodded. “I like the movies and the songs you’ve showed me. They’re a bit twee.” A grown woman whose entire wardrobe consisted bedazzled dresses and themed outfits could say that without the irony. Peach had to like Christmas; it was one more color change of the same dress, one more themed outfit to pick up. Except it came with songs and a whole decorative aesthetic.
“Not saying that you have to be like Constantine or something and declare it a holiday over there,” Mario referred to the Mushroom Kingdom and her world, their home world with the locational immediacy of a hall closet, complete with pointing. “But maybe this could be one of our things?”
“Our things?” Asked Peach, turning so that her face was nearly touching his.
Mario grazed her leg with his fingers, his nails searching the smooth recess where her knee joined the two halves of her leg together for any imperfection or bump and never finding one. He never would. “We’re alone…basically, but we won’t always be. It could be like a family tradition.”
Alone was such a strange thing to be on Christmas. For Mario Christmas meant a subdued night with hot coco and marshmallows where you opened a single gift before bed and listened to lame songs around the tree. Christmas Day was always a dozen plus cousins swapping stories of their last year’s adventures until the alcohol plied them into a state of bragging for the sake of it. Pauline would come around after her family had finished to eat—the whole neighborhood knew their mom’s cooking and if there was a big meal she was going to make sure everyone was fed.
Now mom was gone, one year passed now. Luigi was…also gone. It was a lot to put on Peach. Mario kissed her cheek in the gap of time before she answered him.
“If you don’t mind explaining some of this to me,” she said. “I like what I’ve seen so far.”
Mario glanced toward the sliding glass door as Peach reached up to run her long fingers through his thick, brown hair. “We could also just make it our own,” he said.
With one, fluid motion Peach rolled over, her body suspended above his on all fours. Her hair cascaded down her back with part of it spilling out over her shoulders, leading his eye down the subtle curve of her neck. The at the collar of her shirt drooped toward the floor and from this angle he could see the shadowy line formed where her breasts pressed together in the bra.
The large round earrings clanging against the sides of her cheeks called his attention back to her face as she rocked her head side to side. “Ground control to Mario. Are you listening?”
He shifted his gaze from the sides of her face back to the main-event, locking eyes with her as a smile crept over her lips. She tugged gingerly at his mustache, solidifying his attention. “Thought that I had lost you there for a bit.”
“You hadn’t responded,” Mario reached up and grasped her hand with his.
“I guess I was thinking about this…making it our own thing, but it’s fine.” Peach’s tone of voice went to a place reserved these moments when they were inches apart, her words subdued by the weight of her worry and insecurity. Her eyes searched every part of his face for long time before she crawled up into his lap.
By now her expressions were familiar to him and Peach only got nervous like this right before she got very brave.
His arms held her close, wrapping around to encompass her waist. Mario had to lean out to the side around her bushy blonde hair. She laughed, but cut herself short when he spoke. “Something you want to do?” Mario asked.
“Maybe,” she turned her face slightly away from his, pressing her chin against her shoulder. “Yeah.”
Mario dragged the back of his hand along her inner, stopping at the edge of the fabric that marked the leg of her shorts. He swept a finger into the sight space allotted between her skin and the shorts. “Okay. Tell me when I’m getting warm.”
Each hair’s width that his finger moved against her leg seemed to strip off layers of control Peach had developed over the years. Her heart thundered into his chest through her back. All of her weight melted back into him, her body no longer able to support itself. Her eyes shut now and she hummed her reply.
“You always get like this,” he said.
“Like what?” She asked, eyes still closed.
Mario kissed her shoulder. “Like a nervous virgin.”
He could feel the heat off of her face as the blood gathered around her nose and cheeks, reddening her usually pale skin until she was forced to hide behind her hair like a boo. “I-I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
The fingers tucked into her shorts ceased movement and he waited for her heart to calm, waited for her breathing to come to a more regulated pace. “If you ever don’t want to do something or feel like it’s too much, I understand.” Mario swallowed a lump in his throat, trying to feel his way around the words he really wanted to say.
“You don’t have to make yourself available to me,” he said.
“I know that.”
“No, let me finish—it’s not your job to fi what happened or distract me,” Mario said now.
He could see the side of Peach’s face now; a tear on her cheek caught the colors of the light from the Christmas tree before she reached up and wiped it away with the back of her hand. It wasn’t normal for Mario to talk about his brother anymore, but everything that he did was driven by what had happened.
“Distracting you helps keep me distracted too. And sure, it’s different. Luigi wasn’t my brother,” Peach said. “I guess he was as close to a brother as I’ve ever come. He took me shopping and we talked about you and we talked about him and Daisy. He was the first person I told how I felt about you and he was just so darn happy to hear.”
Mario squeezed her close, moving both hands to her waist again. “He loved you. He always told me that you were just the best of us.”
Peach giggled the way she had when she was younger, the way she had when they all had first met. “He used to tell me stories he couldn’t tell anyone else about the stuff Daisy had him get into. I guess he was always a little more scared of her than he was me.”
“Stuff they got into? Like what?” Mario asked.
Peach glanced out the window as if expecting to get permission from a distant Luigi. “I doubt he would care and it would definitely cheer you up to hear,” she said.
“What is it?”
“So this one time Daisy got drunk and rowdy and, they were both drunk, really—but anyway they were wrestling around and he didn’t exactly describe how this happened, he just described the what. It’s not very eloquent thing, not sure how to explain it.” Peach stared into space for a long moment before giggling.
“I don’t even know if it’s okay to say.”
“In front of your husband?” Mario asked.
“In front of anybody,” Peach said. “You’re going to think Daisy is weird and that I, by virtue of the transitive property, am weird too.”
“Dolcezza,” Mario said as pushed her chin playfully with his knuckles. “I already know you’re weird.”
Peach furrowed her brow at him. “Okay. Well, Daisy got hold of Luigi and she kind did something to him…with her feet. And—and I don’t mean for it to sound like he didn’t enjoy it, because he said it felt really good,” Peach was stuttering and curling a lush tendril of hair around her fingers now, “but he said it was weird and he felt weird for liking it…”
“A fucking foot job!” Mario shouted. “I knew he was nasty like that. He was always weird about feet and toes!” Mario laughed, burying his face half in her hair so that his cheek spilled out onto her shoulder blade.
Peach’s face reddened again. “It was Daisy’s idea, but he told me he wanted to request it again. I think she does stuff like that out of boredom.”
“Daisy’s a wild one. One thing you can never claim is that Luigi had a boring time.”
“Do you think it’s going to be boring to…you know, make love with me?” She asked.
His fingers sunk below the waistband of her shorts, ghosting past the tender indentions where elastic had held too tight to her skin. “You could never bore me,” he whispered against her shoulder.
“Mmhmm,” Peach nodded, her solemn tone shattering as she giggled at the sensation of his mustache brushing against her. “I never got to tell you if you were getting warm before,” she said finally.
Mario’s fingers glided through the soft, slick hairs between her thighs coming to a stop at the mouth of her engorged opening. He traced the perimeter by memory. “Are you?”
Peach glanced over toward him, her lip half caught between her teeth so only the side nearest Mario jutted out. Her breathing was erratic again, but in the eye that he could see, he could only really see one from this angle and through her hair, she had a brave determined look.
She let out a slow breath, nodding slowly. “Yeah,” she said. “Yeah, you are.”