This is the second part of my favorite Christmas story. Gabe and I tell it together because we always tag-team this tale. His voice is in RED and my replies to his voice are in italics. We thought it would be fun to frustrate anyone who tries to read this. Because insanity is the gift that keeps on giving.
SO! Remember last week? I’d found a Wii for Gabe’s Christmas gift but had to keep it a secret? This is what happened next.
There I was, newly-purchased Wii in the trunk and a plan in my mind. Oh crap! I had to go back to the house where I’d been staying and get ready for work…but Gabe was there. What was I going to do? If I walked in all euphoric and gleeful, he would KNOW something was up. He’d ask. I’d break and spoil the surprise. After all I’d been through to be the BEST GIRLFRIEND EVER, I couldn’t ruin my own plan. Obviously, I had to tone down my happiness. Actress she is not. Sadly true. Though, I honestly think I’d be great at doing the voices of cartoon characters. I drove slowly and thought about kittens dying of malnutrition and spider bites. I remembered all the bad things I’d ever seen or done. I induced a feeling of triste and self-loathing. When I felt I had properly tamped down my ebullience, I walked into the house, made a beeline for the bedroom and changed clothes. Nothing strange about that, right, folks? Coming home from breakfast with “friends” then changing clothes without even a “Hi, I’m back!” “Spider-sense” tingling… Oh, come ON, Gabe. You knew I had to change for work. It shouldn’t have set off alarms. He asked how breakfast had been and I told him plans had changed and it hadn’t worked out like I’d thought. Then I avoided him. I was bubbling under the surface, tee-heeing and high-fiving myself. I couldn’t even look him in the eyes because I didn’t want him to see the overflowing joy oozing from my pupils. I didn’t want to tempt any information out of myself by talking about…well, anything, really. Also, I suck at lying. Thus, I felt it was best to limit contact and get the hell out of there. I got dressed really fast, gave him a quick kiss, told him to have a nice day and said I’d see him later, then ran out the door and drove away, laughing like the clever little minx I thought I was! “Spider-sense” off the chart! In our quick exchange, I merely asked, “So how did it go, how is so and so,” etc. Usually, I’d get a full report, sometimes with more detail than I want, so when I got nothing, I knew something was definitely up! I had to wonder, did something happen? Was there a fight or an argument that somehow lead to a vicious butterknife battle royale in the wee morning hours at a Dennys? WHAT HAPPENED?! I asked if anything was wrong and I received that “Oh, you stupid man” smile and the comforting phrase, “No. Things are…fine. I’m just tired. Nothing to worry about. Just go back to sleep.” I stared at her as she changed her clothes then slowly sunk under the covers as fear and the beginning of tragic heartbreak settled in. My girlfriend was hiding something! OMG, Gabe. You are NOT Peter Parker. Seriously, when is the last time you were bitten by a spider? Hmm? And I doubt I gave you the “Oh, you stupid man” look. I didn’t even break that out until after we’d been married a year. Jeez.
My friend showed up at work and we made the hand-off. She was as over-the-moon as I was and that just further fed my glorious, self-congratulatory cloud of sparkles which lasted all day long. But once again, I had to return to Gabe…and to silence. I wanted to tell him so badly, wanted him to share in my success, wanted him to know that I am freaking amazing! And I couldn’t. It would totally kill the surprise I’d worked so hard to create.
When I got back to the house, I could tell Gabe knew something was up. He gently probed to find out what was wrong and I cut him off at every turn. The less I said, the better NOT better. I got quieter and quieter as the days went by. When Gabe wasn’t around, I conspired with my friends to figure out how to get The Gift into the house without Gabe knowing. We were soooo sneaky. I concur. I know, right?! We were like Christmas elf ninjas! Of sneakitude! I am still impressed with us. The more excited my friends and I became, the quieter I had to be at home. Our plan was growing, becoming more brilliant every day. My temptation to blurt it all was become stronger and I was becoming more avoidy.
Things were weird. Erica would shy away from the topic – What Happened That Morning – every time I brought it up. I tried talking about it up whenever I could and asked round about questions to try and get her to slip on her story. I would not lay down in her web of lies! Maybe I could talk to her friends and get the story from them but then I knew that they were all pretty tight and chances were good they were all in on it. I couldn’t let them know what I knew so I played along, gathering all the intel I could so I could expose this harlot for who she was! By this time, my friend’s genius husband was in on our adventure and had come up with the brilliant idea of putting the box inside a different box so that it was impossible to tell what it was; he knew of Gabe’s extraordinary ability to know what is under the wrapping paper just by looking at the package. They put rocks in the box, too, to make it super heavy. Oh my gosh, the whole thing was just PERFECT! Gabe was going to be SO surprised Christmas morning! HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE!
Then, out of the blue, Gabe started acting weird. I panicked. He was snappish. He made snarky comments about the few gifts that were under the tree. He’d already guessed what they all were – I told you, he’s got an amazing talent in that arena – and while he wasn’t being materialistic, he said, he figured there’d more than a bit of clothing and some toys on our first Christmas together. He’d bought me a ton of stuff, lots of neat, thoughtful things that he knew I’d like or wanted or needed. I’d bought her lots of stuff and now here it was, almost Christmas day, and lying under the tree was the proof of what I’d feared. I’d be getting just a couple of gifts, a few appetizers before the meal of lies, pain, and heartache. I could only imagine that Rudolpho, or whatever the hell the name of her new lover was, was probably sitting next to his present-laden Christmas tree laughing as he looked at a picture of me. Riiiight. Because that’s the logical conclusion to this scenario. At least he had a festive, Santa’s reindeer-like name. As Christmas drew closer, he got nastier, pettier, and mean. I didn’t know if he was getting sick or just hated the holidays but I was getting irritated. At first, I loved his “Really? There are only three presents for me?” jokes because the joke was going to be on him! But then he kept harping on it and I began to get a bit resentful thinking that we shouldn’t be counting the gifts under the tree. That’s not what mattered. Oh, but it did! It was having fun together during the season that counted. And then one night, he said a few things that lead me to believe he knew that I got him a Wii and, for some reason, he was disappointed. The jig was up. All that joy, all the excitement, all that pride in my Christmas elf ninja ways, it came crashing down. My awesome surprise was broken and I was sad that I couldn’t even keep one gift from him. He always figures it all out and sucks the fun out of EVERYTHING.
We spent Christmas Eve with our roommate and her family. We had a nice time, laughing and sharing gifts and sitting around the tree…but everyone could sense the tension between Gabe and me. I was watching every move she made. Body language, the way she spoke, and especially how she and our roommate talked. They are best friends and I knew the BFF had to know what was going on so I kept cool, playing the role of clueless sap but the next morning, after we opened presents, it would be on! This game was going to end.
In the small hours of Christmas morning, I snuck out to fill Gabe’s stocking with loot and to drag the hidden Wii, wrapped in foreign paper, to the tree. I looked at it sadly. “Little Wii, you are not to be a surprise. We made a valiant effort, but he knows. Alack and wellaway.”
When it was time to get up for real, we ambled out to the tree. I was trying to be extra loving and nice, hoping that would make up for the disappointment of already knowing what was in each gift. I hoped some of the stocking stuffers would be fun for him, at least. I opened each gift with disdain. How could this shrew of a woman sit here and smile and try to be all loving? Did she think I really didn’t know?
We opened our presents. There were three from him for every one from me. I know he liked his gifts but he seemed a bit sad about them all; I figured that was because he knew what they all were. It’s not fun to open gifts if you know what they are already, as I well know.
Then the big moment came. He was sitting there, playing with his stuff and I said, “OH! There’s still a present back there, under the tree. Who is it for?” He looked at it, didn’t recognize it OR the paper, and pulled it out. It was to him, from Santa. He looked at me and I finally saw that little jolt of Christmas joy, of being surprised, of being loved and not forgotten.
He tore open the wrapping and…stopped. He looked at the box. It was a blow-up air mattress. His face fell again. He smiled weakly at me and said, “Wow. I…guess you remembered I wanted camping gear.”
End of Part 2
…To Be Continued ON CHRISTMAS DAY…in the moooorning. But not with three ships, sailing or otherwise.