A Little Piece of Mistletoe
The snow was falling pretty heavy outside. I watched as one guy in a grey jumpsuit shoveled the walkway from the dorm to the cafeteria. He piled the snow in huge mounds on the side, tremulous drifts that threatened to topple with each windy gust. The trees were barren of leaves, save the few evergreens that rimmed the campus walks. Such a far cry from my home in the desert. There a terrible winter saw temperatures drop into the forties, here, the howling of wind was enough to send a shiver down my spine.
My first semester at school had been a lonely one. My room mate had dropped out after only a week, and while I had enjoyed having the room to myself at first, by the end of the first month the walls seemed so much closer around me. St. Christians Academy was an accelerated school, very private, very insular. My dad had gotten me in, but I knew that the cost of tuition here was really stretching the family. I hadn't wanted to go, but they had insisted. I had been stifled in public school, here was a place where I could excel and set my life up. Here I could realize my dreams.
Don't get me wrong, I loved the curriculum. The Science and English departments were some of the best in the country, graduating from here could mean a free ticket to the college of my choice. Medical school, the works. All because of what my parents were doing. The part that didn't appeal to me were the other students. Rich, spoiled, I didn't really get along with most of them. My clothes were not good enough, my books not new enough, even I wasn't good enough. I mostly stayed in my room, out of the way.
Hence today, staring out my dorm room window at the flurry of snowfall outside. It was Christmas, and I missed my family terribly. They couldn't afford to fly me home for Christmas and I understood. Mom had cried a lot telling me that, and Dad had said that they would make it up to me this summer when I went home. But it didn't change today, I kept thinking about all of the things Mom and Dad did at Christmas. Dad use to let me pick out the tree down at the lot next to the supermarket. He always let me pick, even the year I had picked one that shed needles all over the floor, Dad had let me pick it. I remembered decorating the tree with Mom. Each of us placing out special ornaments on the tree. My two, an old wooden angel, painted and cut out from balsa I had made when I was five, and a red orb adorned in silver with my name on it. Each of us had one, Mom, Dad, My brother Donny, My sister Edie, and me.
I could almost smell the ham Mom always made on Christmas morning, or the gleam in my Dad's eye when he caught his first glimpse of pecan pie. I remember Donny waking me up with noogies to get me downstairs, and the way Edie would roll her eyes when she opened a present she thought she was to old for. It was all these little things, the things I had taken for granted that really seemed to make this Christmas that much more unbearable.
I pulled the curtains closed and got up, looking at the strewn wrapping paper laying on the floor. Mom and Dad had mailed my Christmas present, a new Ipod, as well as a small bundle of cookies and winter clothing. The Ipod was nice, but I think I would have preferred the ride home. They had probably been saving for months to get it for me, or purchased it even months back. I was grateful, really I was. I pulled the thick grey sweater over my head and shoved my feet into a battered pair of steel toed boots that were the only water resistant shoes I owned. I pulled on my coat and cap, grabbed the Ipod, and made my way down the dorm hall.
The dorm was mostly empty, with all but a handful of students back with their parents. There was a small holiday dinner planned in the cafeteria, turkey and stuffing, for anyone staying here over the break and it sure beat eating off of my hot plate. I slipped on the earbuds and let the warm wash of music flow into me as I cut across the quad. The wind bit at my exposed flesh of my neck but I huddled a little deeper and quickened my pace. As I neared the door, I saw someone squatting on the ground, gathering up dropepd paperwork. I grabbed a piece of paper as it flew by me, Chemistry notes from the look of it, and helped them gather up remains of their work.
I couldn't tell what the person looked like, they wore a huge black parka and had a scarf and hood drawn over their face. Thick blue mittens and a pair of black parka pants completed the outfit. We made our way inside the cafeteria, the hot air catching us in the face as we entered the building. I stamped out the snow that clung to my boots and shoved my cap into my pocket as I watched the stranger pull down the hood of her coat. Long brown hair bound in a single plait fell free and as the scarf unwrapped, I noticed the stranger was a girl. Her pale skin was flushed red, especially her cheeks, as she brushed snow from her coat. I watched her hang the jacket on a hook and wipe her glasses on the hem of her long sleeve shirt.
Her name was Penny Martin, from Lubbock, Texas. She started talking the moment her scarf fell free, and I am not sure if she ever stopped. She was half a semester ahead of me, focused on Chemistry and Advanced Mathematics, though secretly her passion was Philosophy. She was staying over break to work on her Chem project and was super grateful for me helping her out. We sat together at one of the small tables in the cafeteria and shared our Christmas meal. She talked about Socrates and Aristotle, and how she used their teachings to apply to Chem.
I had never been transfixed by someone like this before. She didn't look like a girl on a magazine cover, but she looked beautiful to me. The way her glasses slipped down on her nose, or the way she cupped her hand when she got excited. For the first time since I had came to this school, I didn't feel so alone. We sat in the cafeteria until they started flicking off the lights, lost in time. Eventually I walked her back to the girls dorm, huddled together against the wind as I strained to hear her talk through the thick layer of scarf over her face.
She finally drew quiet as we stood together in the dorm common. It was nearly curfew and I had to get back to my room. She loosened the scarf around her neck and gave me her cell number. She smiled awkwardly and shook my hand, wishing me a goodnight and a Merry Christmas. She started to walk to the stairwell, he back to me. She took a few steps and as she got to the bottom of the stair, I called her name. She turned around and looked at me, her warm, brown eyes peering beneath her foggy glasses. I walked over to her and told her to look up. Her eyes peered upward, to the single bough of mistletoe that someone had hung overhead. She looked back to me quickly, he face flushing red even more furiously. I pulled her scarf loose and kissed her. The first time I had ever kissed a girl.
It lasted for just a few seconds, but I still tasted her as I walked home. She had blushed furiously and ran up the stairs, though she had turned back at the top, a huge smile lighting her face, as she wished me a good night and a Merry Christmas. I slipped in my earbuds again, the shuffle pulling up one of the Christmas songs my Dad had indubitably loaded, an walked back to my dorm. Suddenly it didn't seem as cold anymore and I began to sing along with the song. "Home for the Holidays" suddenly had a whole new meaning this year, all thanks to a little piece of mistletoe.
End of Line.