I turned the radio on. Every station was full of Christmas songs. After all, it was only a week away.
The fire crackled behind me. I smiled. Christmas was the best time of year for me. Everything was always so happy.... Merry, even. No one could be unhappy on Christmas, or even near Christmas. At least, that's how it always seemed to me as a child. And I know it's naive for me to still think the same way about it, but old habits die hard.
I hummed along with the song as I turned off the lights. Behind me I heard him chuckle. "This used to be my favorite song when I was a kid."
"Oh really? I never would've guessed... You seem more like a 'Let it snow' kind of guy. Never 'Happy Holidays'." I said, making my way back to the couch.
"Well, appearances can be decieving, I suppose." his voice lowered. "Merry almost Christmas,"
I laughed. "True, true."
With that, I cuddled up onto the couch with him and we kissed until the morning.
People sang carols all over the town. Snow fell in fluffy litte flakes, covering the ground quickly. The winds nipped at my face and I burried my hands deep inside my coat pockets. My hat threatened to fly off my head. But it was still so beautiful, despite the weather. That was nothing compared to how festive everything else was.
"Mason, where are we going?" I asked, scanning the rows of office buildings. We were in downtown. Even here there were
Christmas lights strung over the doorways of the buildings, and the occasional store had it's windows lavishly deccorated.
"You'll.... see," he said, his breathing quick. The cold was getting to him to.
My nose burned as I followed him. I couldn't help but stare in awe at the scenery around me. Faint traces of cinnamon was in the air, as well as the sounds of 'We Wish You A Merry Christmas'. Classic, honestly.
He started to slow down. I noticed an extremely large Christmas tree in front of us. I remembered hearing a lot about this tree. Local children made the ornaments, and they could be purchased as a fundraiser for the children's hospital. We walked up to it. Mason looked around.
"Find your ornament. I figure since it goes to a great cause, we might as well help out."
"Okay, thanks," I said.
I looked around the entire tree. Believe me, it took quite awhile. There were so many different ornaments to choose from. Just as I was about to pick a small teddy bear shaped one up, something caught my eye. I looked up.
And there, just above me, was a large heart shaped ornament.
The words, Marry Me, Sophie, was printed in cursive letters.
I turned around, my face red, a big smile on my face. Mason was down on one knee with the most beautiful engagement ring ever in his hand.
I put the dirty diaper in the trash can. Mason buttoned up her onesie, and handed her to me.
"Our first Christmas together," he said. I smiled.
"And it can't be a better one,"
I set Noelle down in her crib and hurried into the kitchen. As I went, I passed our wedding photo. We couldn't wait to get married until this Christmas, so we got married in February. But it was the best ceremony and wedding ever. I couldn't have ever asked for anything better. Being married to Mason was the best thing that ever happened to me, aside from having Noelle. She was born that summer.
Grabbing two mugs, I poured out some hot chocolate. I heard Mason switch on Rudolph the Red-Nose Raindeer. A smile came to my face.
But then I remembered that this was the last Christmas we'd have together for at least two years. He was being deported to Iraq in three days. He would be sent back for a week in July. That was all we'd get to see him until he served his term. And god, did it seem like it was going to take forever.
I went into the living room and sat down next to him. He grinned at me.
"I love you," he said.
"I love you too." I kissed him.
We looked over. Noelle was asleep in her crib, clutching her baby blanket. She looked so sweet. She got his blonde curls, but my chocolate colored eyes. The perfect daughter. Our daughter.
Without saying a word, Mason set down his hot chocolate and scooped me up into his arms. He kissed me passionately, and carried me into the bedroom. He laid me down on our bed and silently took my nightgown off of me. I stripped him naked, too. He got down next to me and kissed me on my breast. Then my neck. Then my arms.
And he slowly worked his way back to my mouth.
That night, we made love several times.
The next three days were filled with sex as well.
But when the day came that we had to see him off, I couldn't believe it. He really had to go. I cried over and over. It was as if I couldn't stop. I cried myself to sleep that night.
No. It... It can't be.
Tears streamed down my face. I couldn't breath. Noelle was asleep in her room. She had no idea what was wrong. She only knew that it was Christmas and that "Santa" had gotten her toys. Everything was perfect to her.
I wanted to scream. Cry, yell, and break everythin in sight. There had to be a mistake. He was not dead. He could not be dead.
"Mason!"I sobbed loudly. "Where are you, Mason!"
Without thinking I dashed out of the house. My mother was there with Noelle. She was fine. But I wasn't.
"Mason! Mason! Come back!" I screamed.
I collapsed in a drift of snow. Tears ran down my face. It was so cold outside. But I felt numb. This couldn't be real. Please god, no. Don't let this be real.
"You aren't dead!" I yelled. I pounded the ground with my fists. "You can't be! Please, Mason. Please!"
I sobbed loudly into my arms. I was empty. He couldn't leave me. He couldn't leave Noelle.
My mother came out and lead me back inside. By now she knew what was going on. My mind drifted. Nothing was real anymore.
That night, I cried myself to sleep again. I clutched a picture of him as I fell asleep.
And in my dreams, I saw him.
"Don't be like this," he said. His voice was cracked. He was trying not to cry, too.
He kissed me sweetly. I didn't want it to end.
"I love you," I sobbed.
"And I love you, too. But you have to move on. It will all be okay. I'm watching over you."
"Mason," I pleaded.
He kissed me once more and started to fade away. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I watched him go. My voice was caught in my throat.
"Remember me," I heard him say. "I love you."
Noelle grew up knowing that her daddy was a hero. She also knew that she was named after Christmas because it was Daddy's favorite time of year. She loved Christmas, too.
And from his death came traditions. Every year on Christmas we visited his grave and put a wreath on it. We sang Christmas carols over it, and drank egg nog. Noelle told him everything Santa got her fro Christmas. Before we would leave, she would say tearfully, "I love you, Daddy." And I would say it in my mind, because I knew I couldn't cry in front of her.
It all started, and ended, on Christmas.