Utter, total chaos. The house may not survive the Bacchanalia; the wine consumed, the meats and sweets ingested, people standing, people sitting, cheering the football, singing the songs. Children yelling, sometimes screaming, always running, adults shouting, "Not in the house, take it outside"! Dogs barking, babies crying.
Jaimy grabbed Simon's hand and pulled him upstairs, past the bedrooms, jumping up to grab a string from the ceiling to pull down a ladder. She quickly pushed him up to the attic, retrieved the ladder,and slammed the door shut. It was the first quiet moment they'd had to themselves since they arrived at her parents' house three days ago.
Jaimy knelt on her knees and crawled over to where Simon sat sprawled against a box of old clothes. She rolled over on her back, letting her head fall into his lap. She smiled up at him.
"How ya holding up, sweetie?"
Simon leaned against the boxes, grateful for the relative silence of the room. Jaimy had said Christmas with her family would be unlike any he'd experienced before, and she was right. When he was a child Christmas had been a quiet, decorous affair; drinks and church on Christmas Eve, breakfast, Church (again!) on Christmas morning, THEN the presents could be opened. Three presents only, because, after all, that was all the Christ Child received. Relatives to lunch in the afternoon; a quiet board game to pass the time, or perhaps someone would read Dickens a loud. No one ever raised their voice, no one ever careened through the house like a wild savage. Really bad form to show too much emotion on a solemn holy day.
Only it wasn't. Well it was, it was holy, but it was also a birthday, a day to celebrate, to rejoice, to laugh out loud and eat too much and make a mess in the company of loved ones. You don't dabble in Christmas, you jump in! Feet first, and damn the torpedoes!
Simon bent over and kissed Jaimy, letting his nose gently brush against hers. My God, he loved her so much! He could feel the small ring box in his jacket pocket stab his chest; now was as good a time as any, he thought. He sat up straight and took her hand.
"It's like this every year?"
"Oh, my no. When the whole family's here, it's even worse."
She smiled up at him, hoping, not hoping for what would come next. The two of them gazed into each other's eyes.
Simon started to speak, felt his throat catch. He took a deep breath, then pulled the box out. He smiled at her, then playfully placed the box in between her nose and her forehead.
"I'd really like to come back again next year, just to see. And the year after that. And the year after that."
Jaimy sat up, catching the box before it fell to the floor. She opened it up, gasped, laughed. Started to shake, then started to cry. Simon took the ring, placed it on her finger, then held her in his arms. A loud crash sounded from below.
"Cheese and Crackers, will you kids stop running in the house! Take it outside!"