For the first time since Paul lost his dad, December felt magical again. The other years, he had been melancholic, and all the Christmas things had left him with a sad aftertaste. Experiencing it with Emma by his side or in his thoughts made it all joyful and exciting again.
They had very quickly switched from going on real dates to just spending time together. Mostly at his little house, but also at her apartment. Paul wasn’t sure what Emma liked the most; his kitchen, Lettuce or himself. Lettuce had quickly started adoring Emma, and would circle her ankles impatiently, if she didn’t get enough pets, and more often she would snuggle up next to Emma instead of Paul, when they sat on the couch. Paul was very glad the two of them got along, but he was also a little jealous of his cat favoring someone else.
In the middle of December, Emma was going to spend an entire weekend at his house, and Paul could hardly contain his giddiness when she picked him up at the graveyard Thursday evening and he could see a duffel bag on the backseat. He was excited for this weekend! It was so obvious, Bill commented on his big smile on Friday, and Paul told him it’s Christmastime in Hatchetfield as an explanation, but he wasn’t sure Bill bought it, even if their office was filled with tacky decorations and Charlotte had pulled out the sweater with the cats wearing Santa hats.
Emma’s Friday shift was later than his workday, and she entered the unlocked house carrying two full brown paper bags. “There are two more in the trunk of my car, if you wanna help,” she panted, and Paul jumped out of his seat.
“What’s all this?” he asked when he placed the bags on the kitchen table.
“This is all we need for this Christmassy weekend, bub,” Emma grinned. “Find me some red wine, while I unpack.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Paul said with a nod.
After the delicious pasta-dish Emma whipped up in no time, they drank more red wine and made out on the couch, neither of them paying attention to whatever movie was playing on the TV. Paul couldn’t remember having this much chemistry with anyone before. There was something chemical or physical happening between them, whenever they were close. He felt like he would never be done mapping out her body with his hands and mouth.
The sound of Mariah Carey singing coming from downstairs woke him up, and he rolled over in search of Emma, but she was nowhere to be found. Paul sat up on his elbow and rubbed his eyes. There was a freshly brewed cup of coffee on his nightstand, next to his glasses and the open condom wrapper from last night. He put on the glasses and lifted the mug to his lips. The coffee wasn’t scolding hot, so it had been waiting for him for a little while. He smiled to himself and crawled out of bed.
The music from downstairs changed to Wham! as he fished out a red and green patterned Christmas sweater, and his comfiest black sweatpants. Not bothering to do anything to his bedhead, he instead made sure to clean up from last night, even pulling off the sheets. He carried them downstairs over one arm, holding the coffee in his free hand.
The music was coming from the kitchen, but he made a stop in the bathroom first, loading a wash with the sheets. He watched the machine start, taking another long sip. Then he followed the music and the smell of more coffee.
Emma was wearing the fuzzy light blue sweater again, her hair was pulled up in a high ponytail and she was bopping around the kitchen, dancing to the music.
“Morning, Em,” Paul said. She stopped and turned around and smiled at him, her whole face lighting up. Paul’s heart skipped a beat. He could get used to having her there when he woke up.
“Morning, graveyard guy,” she said, and reached for the coffee. Paul walked up to her and held out his mug. After she refilled it, he leaned down and kissed her.
“Christmas music?” he asked.
“It’s time to decorate!” Emma grinned. She found one of the bags from the other night and fished out a Santa hat and buttload of tinsel. She threw the hat at Paul, and he laughed as he put it on.
They spent most of the morning decorating the house. Emma danced as she moved around the living room, placing elves and candles and other stuff, while Paul hung tinsel over the window and found the wreath, he had bought last weekend and not yet gotten up on the front door. Whenever they passed each other, they would exchange small kisses.
Paul went outside to finally hang up the Christmas lights he had bought last year, but never got around to opening. He hung them around the porch fence and the windows facing the street, not bothering with the edge of the roof. When he returned, Emma had made them each a BLT sandwich for lunch and was stirring in a pot that smelled like mulled wine.
After lunch, it was revealed what her true plan was: using his oven to bake Christmas cookies. She started a full production, making dough and rolling it out. Paul got the job of using the forms and placing them on the trays. The kitchen was getting hot, with the burning oven and the mulled wine.
Emma filled their matching blue mugs, giving them a skeptical look. “These mugs are so sad. You have the lamest mug collection I have ever seen.”
“They match?” Paul said, confused about her statement. Emma stepped over to him, placing both mugs down.
“They are boring. Mugs should be fun, y’know, with puns and drawings. They shouldn’t match,” she said matter-of-factly, placing her hands on his cheeks and pulling him down, so she could press her lips against his. Paul smiled into the kiss, wrapping his arms around her. He decided against defending his mugs, instead focusing on lazily kissing against the kitchen counter, until they were interrupted by the oven beeping. First batch was done.
“Back to work,” Emma said, pulling back and grabbing the oven mitts. Paul watched her move over to the oven, amused at the way she bounced in her step.
“How do they look?” he asked, picking up his mug and sipping the mulled wine. It really was hot in the kitchen now.
“They look perfect,” Emma said, opening the oven and taking them out. She swiftly moved the next tray in there and looked at him. “Time to make the colored icing and get decorating, bitch.”
“You’re mean,” Paul said, giving her ass a squeeze as he passed her.
“Focus up! No canoodling! We have many more cookies to make,” Emma ordered, a big grin on her face as she smacked him with the oven mitt.
“Of course,” he said, removing his sweater and revealing an old t-shirt, he got at a tech-event in college. The ugly logo was printed on in front. Emma wolf-whistled at him, and he laughed.
He liked decorating the cookies, while Emma rolled out a new batch. She was describing one hike in Guatemala, where the weather had changed, when suddenly new information dropped. “My boyfriend there got so worried, when I returned soaked and without the raincoat, I tell you. He was freaking out.”
“Your boyfriend?” Paul asked, messing up the line he had been drawing
“Oh yeah, had a boyfriend for a while, until it imploded,” Emma said nonchalantly. She noticed him looking at her, “he is very out of the picture. No worries there.”
“Oh,” Paul said, swallowing. He tried to ignore the way his pulse had quickened. Emma was allowed to have dated before. He was being ridiculous.
“What about you? Any exes walking around Hatchetfield?” she asked, not looking up from what she was doing.
“No, not really,” he answered, “had a boyfriend in High School, but it only lasted for five months. I don’t even know if he still lives here.”
Emma looked up at him, eyes full of interest, “you’re into dudes as well?” she asked.
“Oh, yeah, I’m very much bisexual, have I not mentioned that?” Paul looked at her in surprise. Had he not brought that up? Weird.
“You have not,” she grinned, “here we could have been dishing on all the hot people together, and I didn’t even know! I personally don’t like to label my sexuality, because it feels so dang fluid, but bisexuality is valid as hell.” she lifted her hand for a high five.
“So, you’re also not straight?” he asked, grinning wide.
“Definitely not straight. I dig it all.” Emma returned his grin, stepping closer. She pressed a kiss against his lips.
“Same,” Paul said, kissing her again.
“So, was this guy your first kiss?” she asked, returning to her work on the cookies.
“He was. My second kiss was a girl from my year. We never talked much in school but would often end up making out at parties. Lost my virginity to her in Senior Year, in the backseat of her dad’s car.” He told her, starting to decorate a cookie shaped like a Christmas tree. She laughed.
“Sounds hot,” she joked, “my first sexual experience was with a girl too. My parents wouldn’t let us have boys over, but the joke was on them, because I just had sex with a girl instead.”
“Hacking the system,” Paul laughed.
“Maybe the joke was on me all along, because I fully decided to experiment with a girl because of the rule, and then I discovered that I was into it,” Emma cackled, “seduced a hot cheerleader and everything only to be like oh fuck.”
“Who was this hot cheerleader you seduced?” Paul asked, intrigued by this story of teenage Emma.
“Her name was Mia,” she answered dreamily, “we got high and went home to my room to hang out and then I just kissed her, and she immediately took of my shirt. She probably had some repressed stuff too now that I think of it.”
“Way to go, Emma!” Paul nodded in appreciation. “My sister was out already, so same-sex attraction was normal to me. My boyfriend was so much cooler than me, and I was very nervous about it all, but we never did more than kiss. He was a big theater nerd though, which was a struggle for me.”
Emma guffawed. “Oh no, poor you. Did he drag you to every school musical?”
“We didn’t have a theater program at hour school, so no. He was endlessly upset about that. But he was very excited whenever they bussed us over to see the shows at Hatchetfield High. I was not.”
“Wait.” Emma said. Paul looked up at her, and she looked like she was doing mental calculations. “Did you happen to see the production of Brigadoon?”
“Yes! It was the first musical I ever saw!” Paul said, “I hated it.”
“I was Bonnie Jean,” Emma said, crossing her arms and giving him a challenging look.
“What? Are you serious?”
“Dead fucking serious,” she said.
“I saw you in Brigadoon? Wild!” Paul gaped at her. He tried to remember seeing her there, but he had repressed a lot of the night because of how uncomfortable it made him to watch the show. He mostly remembered trying to keep a blank face, so his boyfriend didn’t realize he was hating the whole thing. Emma was watching him, shaking her head slightly in disbelief.
“Freaking graveyard guy,” she muttered, before returning her attention to the cookies.
Paul refocused on decorating the cookie in front of him. His heart was beating a bit faster, and he felt fluttery. He had seen Emma back then without knowing it. He wondered if their paths had crossed in other times as well. The romantic in him was very excited by this revelation.
Not long after they resumed working, Emma cleared her throat. “So, how many have you had sex with?” she asked, lifting her mug, and taking a big gulp.
“How many? Uh, let me count,” Paul answered, narrowing his brows, “I think it’s seven people including you. Wait, no, eight.”
“Only eight people got to experience how much you fuck? Pity for the world,” she joked, sending him a cheeky smile.
He felt his ears grow red, “what about you?”
“I had some fun years in Guatemala, not gonna lie, so I think around 18 people,” Emma said, clearly counting in her head. “You rank pretty high though,” she winked at him, and he blushed even deeper.
“Thank you. You too,” he smiled.
They worked in silence for a while, just listening to the Christmas playlist Emma had put on repeat. Then, after putting a new tray in the oven, Emma quickly moved the finished cookies with icing on a plate and carried them into the living room to place on a table there. When she came back, she was clearly chewing, and she handed him half a cookie. Paul grinned and after accepting it, he scooped some icing up with his finger and smeared on her cheek.
“Paul” she exclaimed, “remove it again!”
“Fine,” he said, and then he licked her cheek.
“Ew!” she laughed, swatting his shoulder.
Their mugs were refilled, and they resumed working. It was slowly getting darker outside, and Paul checked that his lights went on, smiling to himself. Michael Bublé was right, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas, he thought, as the song played from the kitchen.
The coffee table and dining table were filled with plates of cookies now, and the whole house smelled amazing. As he returned to the kitchen, he could hear Emma snicker to herself.
“What’s up?” he asked.
“It’s the last bit of gingerbread dough, and I’ve decided to make gingerbread dicks,” she said, snickering again. Her eyes were shining with amusement and her cheeks were a little red. “I’m gonna give them to Zoey, she’ll find it hilarious.”
Paul hid a smile. Emma mentioned Zoey a lot, for someone she didn’t consider a friend. It was kind of cute. He helped her make the shapes of the gingerbread penises. They both kept laughing, tipsy from the wine. This was the perfect Saturday, and even though he had just met her recently, Paul hoped for many more Saturdays like this.
When the many gingerbread and sugar cookies were packed neatly in tins and jars and split up between them to share with family and friends, they heated up leftovers in the microwave. Emma had removed her sweater as well now, sitting on the counter in just a thin tank top and her black tights. Paul poured Lettuce her food, giving her some pets as she appeared next to him.
“I just wanna drink a soda and watch a Christmas movie – you up for that?” Emma asked.
“Sounds great. What do you wanna watch?”
“I don’t know. I had a lot of wine, so you can decide. What’s your favorite Christmas movie?” she asked.
Paul thought it over. “I like a lot of the classics. And Alice has made me sit through The Nightmare Before Christmas more than once – it’s okay, for a musical.”
“Just decide, flower boy,” Emma said, as she jumped down. The microwave beeped and she pulled out the leftovers and began pouring it into two plates.
They always watched Die Hard with Kristen, and Evan insisted on Home Alone, so it had to be something else. He was silent for a moment. She had asked him what his favorite was, and while he wasn’t sure it was his favorite, he did have one movie he always had a soft spot for.
“Please don’t laugh, but I’ve always been really fond of The Holiday,” he said, awaiting her reaction.
Emma snorted out a laugh, putting down the empty Tupperware and looking at him. “I forgot about that movie. It’s pretty cute, right?”
“Oh, the cutest. Kate Winslet’s character has such a wonderful arc, and it makes me wanna date Jack Black so bad,” Paul grinned.
Emma snapped her fingers. “Right! I remember. I would be up for watching that,” she smiled, grabbing the plates. “Will you bring me a Coke and the forks?”
Paul nodded, getting up from his seat on the floor, grabbing sodas, forks and napkins, and following Emma into the living room. The first part of the movie was watched while eating, and then Emma stacked their empty plates and grabbed the blanket laying on the armrest. She snuggled up under it, and squeezed herself in between Paul and the couch, while Cameron Diaz talked about never being able to cry again.
Paul wrapped his arm around her waist, and she rested her head against his chest. Paul couldn’t remember the last time he had felt this content. Occasionally he would laugh, or mutter a response to the movie, unable to stop himself. Emma responded to it at first, but then stopped. At first, he didn’t pay attention to it, but then when Jasper appeared in L.A. and Emma didn’t tell him to fuck off, like she had done for his other appearances, Paul realized she was asleep. It made warmth grow in his chest, as he listened to her heavy breathing. He considered stopping the film, but who knew if she was going to wake up again right away.
She didn’t. She continued to sleep on his chest, and he was pretty sure she was drooling on his t-shirt. He was getting a little tired himself, as the ending of the movie made him smile and silently aww. As the credits began to roll, he leaned down and kissed Emma on the top of her head. She didn’t react. There was no way he would be able to lift her up from there and move her to the bedroom. He touched her shoulder gently. “Hey Em,” he whispered “you gotta wake up.”
She made a noise and smushed her face into his chest for a moment. “No” she mumbled, and he almost couldn’t hear it. Then she lifted her head and looked at the TV. “Did I sleep through the movie?”
“Yup,” he said.
“Oh,” she said and rubbed her eyes. “I wanted to see it.”
“We can watch it some other time,” Paul promised, “now let’s go to bed.”
“Yes, we should definite bed. And bone.” She said, blinking up at him like it was hard for her to keep her eyes open.
“Maybe we should just sleep. You seem like you might pass out any second now,” he said gently and then promptly had to fight a yawn.
“I’m not tired. You are,” Emma said, wagging her finger at him.
“Sure,” Paul said, getting up and extending a hand towards her. She took it and let him pull her to her feet.
“You’ll owe me for tomorrow,” she told him and then she yawned. “A big one.”
Paul wrapped his arm around her shoulder and kissed her temple. “Of course. Tomorrow it is.”
Paul chuckled. This day really had been perfect.