Charlie held up a little green and red pajama set, decorated with frills and fuzz. Included was an equally festive hat adorned with two pointed false ears. She could barely contain her grin. Adelaide, who was searching clothes racks, laughed dryly.
“Ha ha, no way.”
“Oh, come on, look.” She reached to grab a second one. “We can get one for each of them. They’ll match on Christmas morning, it’ll be a cute picture.”
“Oh yeah, so they’ll resent us when they’re older.”
“You dress them in things like this before they get around to doing that.”
“I don’t know about yours, but my kid already has opinions on things I ask her to do. She’s very vocal about them.”
“Oh for sure. I stopped trying to get Caprice to eat olives. I just don’t cook with them anymore.”
Charlie went to hang the clothes back onto the rack where she found them. It pleased her to know only she could really hear retorts like that from her normally quiet friend. Adelaide stopped rummaging in her section, sighing in frustration.
“There’s nothing good here. Let’s go somewhere else.”
They pushed through the shopping crowd out of the building and into the open air. The stores were dressed with the bright colors of lights and wreathes. In the court nearby stood a tall Christmas tree, twinkling in the evening cold. And it was cold. The shopping center’s cobblestone walkway was edged with snow.
The two young mothers shivered both at once, reflexively huddling closer.
Together they decided “somewhere else” would be the nearby cafe for a brief rest. They sat with their coffees and a pastry to split between the two of them.
Charlie held her drink to her lips, which curled into another playful smile.
“Okay, so instead of the kids, you and Mike get matching–Ach!”
She pulled the cup away as she exhaled with her whole mouth to cool her tongue. A little bit of coffee spilled out. Quick to react, Adelaide grabbed a napkin.
“Careful! You’re going to burn yourself.”
She paused in the middle of what she was doing, holding the napkin up. Their eyes met and Charlie’s look shifted into suppressed laughter.
“Ah, jeez!” Adelaide slumped back into her seat, throwing the napkin at her. “Get burned for all I care!”
They laughed together as Charlie cleaned the spill herself.
“I’m too tired. Shopping is so hard,” Adelaide sighed, running a hand through her auburn hair. “My parents always say anything is fine. I barely know work friends outside of work, or school friends outside of school… And I mean, Millie is at the age where she’s got a list for Santa, so I think I could make her pretty happy. Caprice too, I’m sure, but…”
“But you want to get them something that will make them really happy.”
“Yes. And Mike. Do you know how hard Mike is to shop for? He doesn’t ever seem to want anything.”
“Oh, I know. It’s like that every year.”
The conversation lulled. Charlie watched Adelaide pick idly at her food, and could tell she was considering her next words.
“Charlie, you know…”
She hummed in response, a little wary of her tone and the direction it was leading.
“So Mike’s workplace is having this small Christmas party at the end of the week, and you know you’re always welcome to join us… One of his coworkers–you’ve met him, actually–”
She took her hand. It was warm from the coffee.
“I appreciate it, but please stop. Christmas to me is about family, you know? I want to spend it with my dad, with my daughter, and with you guys.”
She scrunched up her nose.
“And not some mechanic named Jack, or–”
“Right, Jake. I remember meeting him alright, he’s not very subtle about his interest.”
“I know, but he’s nice.”
“I’ve told you I’m not interested in that right now. My apartment is full enough with just Caprice and me. Plus, I love you, and I love Mike. I’m glad that you guys think about me, but I’m more than happy to be your third wheel.”
“Aha, have you ever considered maybe that’s why I’m trying to pair you with someone?”
A grin appeared on Charlie’s face.
Adelaide smiled a little bit sadly as she squeezed her friend’s hand.
“I love you too, Charlie. I want you to be happy.”
“I am!” She stood, tugging Adelaide’s arm. “So let’s go! We’ve still got shopping to do!”
“Ah–wait! When did you finish?!”
Adelaide hastily shoved the remainder of her pastry share into her mouth as she was pulled away from the table. They walked together into the cold outside the cafe, huddling together again, their hands still clasped in each other’s. Between them, it was warm.
“By the way,” Charlie turned to look at her friend. “You have an idea of what to get me, right?”
“Hmm. I don’t know. It was supposed to be the coworker guy.”
“Oh, it better not have been!”
They giggled together as they pressed onward to the next shop.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from everyone at Salty Salty Studios! We hope you enjoyed this year’s holiday post, and ask that you please wait warmly for a progress report planned to be coming on or around New Years.