#343 Christmas Lights.

After a day spent in the yearbook office with Ben who gamely sat and talked to me while I worked, I was waiting on the sidewalk in front of the dorms. It was just getting completely dark, my breath was making fog in front of my face and my wool peacoat was barely insulating me from the wind. Charlie pulled up in his white Silverado and I climbed in. We were going to the pharmacy Christmas party at Dayne’s and I was anxious about how the conversation would go. Good thing, he didn’t seem to be miffed by my little performance the night before. He asked how my day was, if I’d had fun on my first trip to the club, what I brought for the dirty Santa gift. I was polite, doing my best to be there with him and not in my head thinking of Ben and what he might be doing right now. Before I walked out of my room to meet Charlie, I got a text message from an unknown number:

“Meet me after your party?” I knew it was Ben using Chase’s phone since he’d lost his the night before. I didn’t have to call to tell him—of course I would see him after the party.
Once again, my evil twin took over, telling Charlie I’d need to be home by 8 to study for finals next week. I doubt he believed me. We walked into the party and saw the shock on our coworkers faces who had no idea we were dating at all. One girl who often worked my same weekends asked, “So are you guys pretty serious or what? That’s so exciting!”
I smiled nervously and said, “I don’t know about that. We’re just talking.”
This made me feel like dirt, but it was out of my hands. You can’t help who you fall for, can you?
The moment dirty Santa was over and I had won a crystal desk clock, I asked Charlie if he would mind taking me back home. Everyone was disappointed that we were leaving so soon, but he said he didn’t mind at all. We were approaching the dorms and he pulled into a parking spot near the door. My stomach lurched, fearing the worst. He knew. And he wanted to talk about it. Before he had the chance to say what was written all over my face the whole night, I opened the door and hopped onto the pavement.
“Thanks for taking me tonight. I had fun.”
As I was closing the door, he stopped me—I was leaving my fabulous new desk clock. I thanked him and leaned across the bench seat to give him a kiss on the cheek. It was all I could offer him, but he smiled and said goodnight. He was a gentleman. And that was the end of that. We both knew it.
I walked into the lobby of the dorm, took a breath, put on my creme brulee lip gloss, turned around and walked out to my car. I pulled up to Ben’s house and he took the driver’s seat. We were going to take a drive and see the Christmas lights in Mason Park. He leaned across the armrest to kiss me, and his smell is what will forever remind me of Christmas—Lucky You cologne, its perfect green glass bottle will always hold this memory for me.
“I’ve missed my girl tonight,” he told me.
We drove through the park, and I stared at the lights. He held my hand and I wondered how I’d never seen them Christmases before.