Christmas time the time for family and friends, the time for presents and surprises. Most people would say it's the time to test if their parents liked their new boyfriend or girlfriend, if you ask me it's a loud of crap. The cold weather, all the annoying family members who come over for dinner, and the awkward meeting of your older sibling's new girlfriend/boyfriend.
Joey had decided now was a good time to bring home his new girlfriend Jamie, she was a small red head with grey eyes and a lip ring. Her hair was long in the front and short in the back, she was shorter than me and since I was 5'7 she had to be about 5'3. Her voice was high but a cute little girls voice high, and she was really nice. I liked her she told me great stories about how her and Joey met the night he got locked out of his apartment building, apparently he saw her window open and thought no one was home so he climbed in and literally fell face first in her lap.
She said she had been listening to her iPod and reading a book under her covers when Joey landed on her, she jumped up and grabbed hairspray no realizing it was empty. So when she flicked on the light Joey went to apologize but she sprayed the bottle, only a fizzing sound came out. They both sat there for a second before both bursting out in laughter, Joey apologized and introduced himself and from there on he couldn't get her out of his head and she couldn't forget the guy who climbed in her window that random night.
Throughout their entire reminisce hour I just sat next to them listening intently at the way they spoke, both of them lost in thought at the memory of their relationship. True love Arianna would have whispered to me, but she wasn't here to make goo-goo eyes at the thought of love later that night.
My family is the kind of family that loves the holidays and took advantage when we could show it, the haunted house we used to do every year for Halloween, the giant inflatable turkey we put out for Thanksgiving, and even the huge New Years Eve party we had every year. But Christmas we always got a big tree and put a million decorations on it, even though me and Joey were too old for it we still loved making cookies for Santa. It was our way of bonding and one of our weird Joey/Ruby traditions, but this year as we stood in our kitchen me getting out the ingredients, Joey mixing the bowl, and Jamie setting the timer and oven I wondered why we still bothered doing this.
"Joey aren't we too old for this?"
He looked up at me and smiled, "Yup that's the point."
Jamie giggled and I just rolled my eyes, maybe it was just me growing up or just the absence of Arianna that just made me not wanna to be in the holiday kind of mood. The mixture of chocolate chip cookies and batter looked weird and made me wanna smash the bowl because it was just a month or so ago me and Arianna spent our Saturdays making late night batches of cookies. From the corner of my eye I could see Joey messing with Jamie as she washed our dirty dishes, she giggled but tried to hold it in as if so I couldn't hear her.
Irritated I slammed down my hands on the counter and pushed up from the table leaving the kitchen, since no one but us were home no one would come to see who was having a breakdown this time. But as I crept up the stairs I hear them talking, "What's wrong with your sister?"
"She just has this little depression over Arianna."
There was a pause, "The one who killed herself?"
"Yeah, we don't know what to do with her. She just drifts through here everyday and I think it's getting worse."
"Don't you think you should get her help."
"No that would only make it worse you should have seen her when we tried to take her to a therapist with Arianna, it wasn't pretty. But no I couldn't do that to her."
"How is she gonna get better?"
I swear I heard him slam his hand down on the counter, "My sister doesn't need help."
After that there was a pause and I decided to go up to my room leaving that conversation that I wasn't supposed to hear alone, it was Christmas Eve and the only thing I had to do tonight was sit in my room and watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Every Christmas eve me and Arianna would have our late night present exchange and stay up all night watching home videos and watching the snow cover the ground outside, but tonight there was no snow on the ground, the home videos were packed away, and the Christmas present I had bought Arianna back in October sat in the back of my closet untouched and perfectly wrapped.
My parents had gone out to a Christmas party at my dad's boss's house and wouldn't be back until late, Kelly had gone down to Florida to spend Christmas with Arianna's grandma, and Caleb had gone out to a Christmas party with some old friends. He had asked me to come with him but I told him no, Joey and Jamie would have had the house to their selves but didn't say anything when I stayed. They were happy to have me around but knew they'd rather not have me here.
"Maybe I should have been the one to go and not Arianna."
As the words let my mouth I didn't regret them but knew I'd never be able to get them out of my mind now, maybe it would have been easier on everyone to still have Arianna. She was the easier one more out going th e one everyone liked, while me I was the one who sat in the background and kept to myself. She was everyone's favorite while I was just there, unwanted and outcast in my own family. That's why Arianna was always more important to me, she understood me and was the only who truly knew me. My mother's version of a perfect daughter was a bubbly girl going on dates, out to parties with her friends, wearing skirts, and pretty. But what she got was a tomboy, whose only friends were Arianna and Luis, who only wore baggy jeans, never bothered leaving the house, and wasn't pretty. It sounds pathetic a teenage girl not thinking she was pretty but the truth I wasn't and I had accepted that, I didn't get asked out on dates, boys didn't like me, and they didn't have a reason too.
From outside me door I could hear Joey and Jamie walking past my door trying to be quiet as if to not let me know what they were up to, but I was seventeen I knew about what couples did when they had time alone. But I'm not going to sit here and hear it, so I pulled on my Uggs and my hoodie and slowly opened my door not to tell them I was leaving. Once down the stairs I saw the cookies were done and snatched four of them, even though there wasn't snow it was December which made the air cold and frigid.
The cold burned my nose and cheeks as I made the way across the street towards Arianna's empty abandoned house, it seemed so lifeless no lights anywhere and no Christmas music blasting through the window. Once at the door I reached into the plant next to the door and pulled out the spare key, I unlocked the door and stepped inside. Someone must have turned on the heat because when I walked in it was warm and the cold that had burned my ears and cheeks was gone. It was dark but I could maneuver my way up the stairs with ease, my feet knew where they were going as I found myself at Arianna's door. Before I could realize what I was doing, I pushed the door open and stepped into the room full of everything Arianna.
The unmade bed, the dresser full of makeup and perfumes, clothes scattered here and there, and a mess I hadn't noticed that day. Maybe she fought herself that day her strong side vs. her hurt side, but her hurt side won her over. The tears that had begun to fall dropped harder as I made my way through the room, at her dresser I placed the cookies down and sat at the chair and flipped on the desk lamp. Light flooded the room and I took in everything from her hairbrush to the bright red comforter on her bed, everything in this room screamed Arianna and it made me dizzy.
"Why Anna? Why did you have to leave me?"
From the corner of my eye I saw a flash of red and yellow and blue, I turned to see the rainbow jump rope. My anger flared and I leaped at the rope, I flung the window open and threw the room as far as I could but a scream still shot out and hurt my throat as it came. The tears fell and all I wanted was a hug and Arianna back, but those were two things I wasn't going to get. I cried and wrapped my arms around my legs rocking myself back and forth hoping the breakdown would end, but just then there was a squeak and I jumped up to see Caleb.
"Ruby?" When he saw the tears he looked around the room and hesitated before rushing to my side, "Come here."
He opened his arms and I willingly threw my arms around him gripped him tight to me as if I didn't the hug would end, but he didn't let go. He held me in his arms and I was glad he didn't pull away until I did, he wiped the tears from my eyes and I nodded telling him I was okay.
"What are you doing in here?"
"I just wanted to make Arianna apart of this Christmas." I motioned towards the plate of cookies and he nodded putting on a small smile.
"That was nice, what kind of cookies?"
"Her favorite." I nodded and he slowly stood up, "Come on let's get out of here this room really makes me wanna smash things."
He took my hand and pulled me to my feet, swiftly he led me from the door and shut the door. I closed my eyes and leaned into him, he smelt like vanilla with a pinch of liquor. The smell was inviting and yet I wanted to scold him for drinking, "Where you drinking tonight?"
He looked down at me shocked, "Uh no I didn't."
"Don't lie I can smell it on you." He looked at me confused but smiled.
"Okay I did a little."
I nodded as he sat me on his bed and I looked straight into his eyes, "Do you have anymore?"
"Ruby I'm not giving you liquor."
"Because I said so."
"That's not a good reason."
He lifted his hand and stuck out a finger, "One reason you're underage, two I'm trying to be responsible, three the last time you got drunk you couldn't even think straight, and four care too much to let you drink liquor."
I groaned and saw a bottle of liquor that sat on his dresser, his eyes followed mine, "Can I get a sip?"
"You won't like it."
He waved the bottle in front of my face as if daring me to take it, so I snatched it out of his hand and unscrewed the top. The mind numbing smell made its way through my nose and tingled my senses, his eyes searched mine and I brought the bottle to my lips. I guzzled a large amount and the sizzling feeling it gave me felt right until it started to numb my mouth and throat, dropping the bottle it shattered on the floor and I started to gag. Instead of Caleb getting angry he just laughed making me growl.
"That was just awful what was that!?"
"Picardy. I told you that you wouldn't like it, stings doesn't it?"
I nodded searching for water, "Like a lot Caleb, I need water."
"Sorry I can't give you any." He snickered and I growled.
"This is your lesson. I don't want you drinking, do you hear me?"
I looked him in the eye and saw his challenging look as if telling me to say no, "You're not the boss of me I'm seventeen you jerk."
"Seventeen eighteen I don't care you're not drinking again, do you understand?"
"I can go get my own water."
"The thing is baby pop there's only one thing you can drink to make the burning go away, and I know what that is...you don't."
I gulp the numbness still there and nodded, "I promise."
"Good here." He reached behind him and gave me a glass of water, "You choose now of all times not to be stubborn, you should have gotten your own water."
My eyes widened at his confession but I snatched the glass and gulped the contents before holding a little in my mouth until the numbness was fully gone, my eyes stayed on Caleb and his smirk stayed on his face. When I was done are stare down continued, but my anger slowly started to fade as his smile became contagious. We both started to laugh and soon enough we both cleaned up the broken bottle pieces and the disgusting liquor off the floor.
But once it was done and the broke glass was thrown away I found myself laying upside down on Caleb's bed watching Liar Liar, "Not exactly a Christmas movie don't you think?"
"Well this isn't a regular Christmas."
His words were empty as if they were to hurt me, I flinched and slowly sat up. His face was straight but when he felt my gaze his eyes slowly found mine, "I didn't mean to say it like that."
"No you did, I'm gonna.....I should go back home."
"Ruby please" he reached for my side I moved too quickly so his fingers brushed my exposed side making me flinch, "are you still ticklish?"
A grin spread across his face and it scared me, I tried to run but he tackled me to the ground and pinned me down his legs on either side of mine and his hands gripping my wrists holding them to the ground, "Are you lying to me Ruby?"
"No I'm not ticklish."
"Then let's test that shall we."
His fingers began to wiggle against my sides and I screamed out, my laughter was loud in my own ears and I couldn't help it. He tickled me and my laughter got louder and I had to scream, "Caleb stop!! It's too much you win I give!! I'm ticklish!!"
His fingers froze and he allowed my laughter to die down, once I was calm I noticed he was still sitting on me and a blush filled my cheeks. He noticed and his grin grew wider, "I win? What do I win?"
"Uh.." He lowered down his face mere inches from me, my breath caught in my throat and he laughed.
"You're sleeping on the floor tonight." And with that he pushed off and jumped on his bed, "Oh yea Ruby, I'm taking you out tomorrow for the day."
"Where are we going?"
He laughed, "Don't worry but you want your present it's Christmas?"
I looked at the cable box across the room and saw it was after midnight, I looked up at him and smiled, "Yea sure but I can't give you yours until later."
He smiled and nodded, slowly he climbed off the bed and reached into his dresser pulling out a small black box with a baby blue bow tied perfectly on top. He made his way to my side and sat down crossing his legs like mine, with the box held out to me his smile was daring and full of anticipation.
I slowly untied the blue bow and began to lift the top, "Should I be afraid?"
"Open it and find out yourself."
Shrugging I lifted off the top and a smile spread across my face, "Oh my God Caleb it's beautiful."
There in the box sat a bottle cap necklace with three bottle caps, on each cap read our three names. Caleb's was on the left one written in cursive in bold in front of a guitar, in the middle sat my name in the same cursive in front of a hot pink heart, and on the last cap on the right sat Arianna's name in front of angel wings. My eyes watered looking at the three names on those caps and realized this little necklace truly meant something to me.
"Caleb this is just perfect thank you."
He smiled, "I was searching for something perfect that I knew was just for you, and when I saw this I thought of when you and Arianna were twelve and had your little obsession with coke bottles. I just thought this held an amazing memory and I thought I'd add our names so you could keep us close to your heart."
"Thank you Caleb I don't know what to say."
"Here let me put it on." I spun around and handed him the chain, he unclasped it and slowly lifted it to my chest. His hands grazed my collarbone and a tingle shot down my back as he clasped it back and put his hands to my shoulders, "Beautiful."
Taking his word I walked to his mirror and saw he was right, the necklace looked right at home and where it belonged, "It really is beautiful."
"And so are you."
My cheeks flushed and I tried to hide it but he saw and smirked, "Stop that."
"Stop what?" His sarcasm irritated me and made me roll my eyes.
He got off the floor and came up behind me, "I know I make you blush when I say things like that."
"Like what?" I mumbled and his smirk grew wider, "You don't make me feel uncomfortable."
I nodded and his hand slowly snaked its way up my arm soft and slowly, a shiver shot through me and up my spine making me flinch a little but enough for him to see. To say the look of satisfaction was unnoticeable I'd be lying because his eyes told me how my shiver proved his point, "That doesn't prove anything."
His grin faltered but instantly was back up again, Oops. He spun me around and stared straight into my eyes as if daring me to try and run, being stupid I did. I tried to run around him but me caught my waist and spun me in the air dropping me onto the bed. I tried to hold in my laughter but he made it a point to keep tickling my sides, I tried to push him off but that only made him tickle me harder and enjoy himself farther.
"I give I give!! Caleb stop!"
He paused and looked down at me from where he straddled my waist, my eyes widened at the sight of where his rested on my stomach and the angle my boobs sat. I quickly pushed him off to fix my bra but he just laughed, "I already saw Ruby no point in trying to fix it."
"You're just a jerk Caleb."
"But I'm still your jerk."
I didn't want to say anything to that because we both knew he would never be mine, I'm sure the only reason he did this was to mess with me. He liked the way he put me on edge with his invasion of space or the shivers that shot up my back when his fingers grazed my skin. But I knew he was just a temptation like a little kid who sees cookies on the counter but is scolded by their mother not to touch those cookies, of course the little kid wanted the cookie badly but they didn't dare try to go against their mother. That was me, Arianna, and Caleb.
I was the kid, Arianna was my scolding mother, and Caleb was that so tempting cookie. But tempting was an understatement when it came to Caleb Taylor.
"No I want to sleep."
"Did I ask what you wanted to do?"
"No and I don't care."
"You're so stubborn."
"Yea I know. Now go away I want to sleep." I mumbled my words but I didn't care I was tired and Caleb was trying to wake me up at nine in the morning to go sledding, Which I keep objecting to but he won't go away!
"Ruby get up it's the first snow of the year now get off your lazy..." I jumped up and glared at him, "Well good morning sunshine."
"Why must you keep bothering me?"
"Because I want to go sledding and you're the only who would go with me. I asked Dani she said she'd come but you have to come too."
"You haven't seen her since Christmas and she said her parents got her brother this sled while he wants nothing to do with so she wants to try it out."
"Urgh do I have to?"
"Yup now get dressed and brush your teeth your morning breath is deadly." I glared at him and kicked him off my bed, even though he fell hard on the ground his laughter showed he wasn't in anyway hurt, Figures.
"Get out so I can change."
He stayed on the floor and pretended to start snoring, "Oh so you can sleep but I can't?"
My anger flared, "Pervert."
That drew the line, I growled and jumped on his back making him cry out. I wasn't heavy but I still held him down by sitting on his back, "I am not a tease."
"Because you are." I smacked his head, "Was that supposed to hurt?"
"You know what forget it if you're not gonna leave fine I don't care I will, just don't touch my stuff while I'm gone. I know how much you like to meddle in my things." I searched my closet and found a pair of tights, sweats, a sweater, and my winter coat. My gloves were stuffed in my coat pocket from when Arianna put them there last years, she always got mad I lost my gloves so she bought me these ones and stuffed them in the pocket before I could lose them again. The memory hurt and I knew if I dwelled on it I'd get depressed and ruin this day for Caleb and Dani, I didn't want to be the jerk and ruin the fun so I pushed the memory away by setting my sights on Caleb, "Caleb have you seen my..."
Something was flung at my face and dropped to the ground, I looked down at my black beanie and looked back at Caleb as he snickered.
"Real mature Caleb real mature." With a grin he laid back down and turned his back to me, "I'm going to go brush my teeth."
Taking my clothes, and my hat, I walked out the door and into the bathroom, no one was home like always so it was really quiet. I turned on the faucet and wet my toothbrush, I started to brush my teeth and began to take off my pajamas so I could so we could leave. Just after I took off my shirt and finished brushing my teeth the door opened.
"Ruby, Dani said...." I froze and so did he, in this small bathroom me almost fully naked and Caleb staring at me his jaw ready to drop to the tile floor. I didn't think to cover myself, "Uh I didn't...I thought....I'll just leave."
My heart plummeted as he shut the door and left me standing in complete shock, my mind was blank not one think was clear for me to say or to think. Instead I got dressed slowly and made my way back into my room which was now empty, I gulped thinking how stupid I was to just let Caleb stare at me naked. He probably was right, I am a tease.
"Jesus what the hell just happened?"
No one was going to answer my question so I gathered my pajamas and walked back to my room and pulled on my Uggs, the sight of the snow on the ground was bright and so purely white. The Pink Palace looked so out of place and yet perfect in the midst of the white, like a bright blush on a newborn baby or a fresh drop of blood on pale skin.
Snowy days were some of my favorites, though I didn't like winter per say the first snow days were always a happy memory for me and Arianna. We'd spend our mornings drinking hot chocolate on our spinning wheel and hours sledding down the giant hills at Livington Park, the snow angels we'd make that laid side by side and perfect made in the freshly falling snow.
The tears that seemed to be stored for seventeen years ready for a hurtful time like this, filled my eyes once more at the memories I could hardly remember her in. Even though she'd be the main one in all of them I feel as if she was fading slowly from everyone of my memories, and I feared soon I might not even remember what she looked like. Looks like.
A knock at the door snapped me out of my thoughts and I quickly went to wipe my eyes before Caleb got all protective again, He hates seeing me cry and I don't know why. But it wasn't Caleb, instead in walked Dani a coffee braced in her hand and a fluffy panda hat nestled on her head. Even though I had wiped the tears she knew I had been crying and pulled me in a hug, her hug was warm and comforted me but it only made the tears come back.
"The memories again?"
I nodded against her hair and she sighed, "Dani everywhere I look she's there, a memory of her ready to attack my heart. I just...she's never coming back and I know that one day I won't even remember her, I just miss her so much..."
"I know Ruby I know, it's gonna be hard but I'm here Caleb's here you have your parents. You don't have to go through this alone, I will always be there for you no matter what. Your problems are now my problems."
"When did my problem become your problems?"
She pulled away and smiled, "The same time you punched Lindsey and we walked out together, the day you let me into your world Ruby."
"And the same day you let me into yours full of pictures worth a thousand words."
The minute I said it we both knew it was true, even though I'd known Dani for a short few weeks she was there for me and I knew she wanted to be. She would never be Arianna and I didn't want her to be, I wanted her to be Dani and I just wanted her to be my friend. Maybe one day we'd call each other best friends, but Arianna will always be my first and only true best friend. I love Dani and her friendship and she means a lot to me just like Arianna, if I could trade them for the other I would never be able to make the decision Dani really has grown on me and to trade her in would hurt me like losing Arianna did.
We had spent twenty minutes in each others arms until Caleb started honking the horn making us rush outside, the ride wasn't bad because Dani blasted the radio making all of us scream the lyrics to every song that came on. When we got to Livingston they both looked at me softly as if waiting for my breakdown, but I kept it together and followed them to the top of the hill and climbed on our sleds. Since we only had two sleds I got on with Caleb him in the back me in front, Dani and on her sled and I looked around the park remembering the best memory I had during me and Arianna's first year together.
"Joey come on it's the first snow day please!!"
"Ruby I said no now let me sleep."
Arianna jumped on the bed with me and yelled, "Joey please please please!!"
It was the first winter me and Arianna spent together, and we had woken up to see that it had snowed for the first time that season. We had been waiting for months for this day and Joey had promised to take us to Livingston to try out our new sleds, but he was fourteen at the time and when Joey was a teenager he was always lazy and yet still got a lot done.
"If you guys give me twenty more minutes of sleep I will take you to the park." We immediately jumped off his bed and went to go get dressed, he was true to his words and he got up twenty minutes later and got dressed quickly before leading us out the door and to Livingston. We shrieked the whole way there excited to get to the park and enjoy our first winter together, the past few months have been perfect and since our friendship had progressed since we met back that June.
"Okay guys run to the top and I'll be right here when you guys come down." Joey had said and we raced up the hill my blue sled in my hand and Arianna's pink sled in hers, we got to the top and braced ourselves ready to race down.
I looked over at Arianna and she smiled at me, "Ready!?"
"Set." She leaned down.
We both smiled and yelled, "Go!!"
We pushed off and the minute we did our sleds zoomed down the hill at full speed, my laughter rang in my ears as Arianna's laughs followed. At the bottom we hit a bump and went flying off our sleds, we landed softly in the snow and laughed together. Everything came in slow motion her jump of joy at me, Joey's laughter watching us, and the bright smiles that spread across our faces. That day was perfect and everything about this memory held deep in my heart for one of my best days with Arianna.
"Ruby?" Caleb whispered in my ear.
"Are you okay?"
I turned to face him not knowing if I had tears in my eyes or if I looked happy thinking about the memory, but I did know the memory put a smile on my face as I faced him, "Yeah I'm okay."
He nodded and looked over at Dani, "Are you guys ready?"
"Ready!" Caleb said.
Dani smirked, "Set!!"
They looked at me and I thought of Arianna, "Go."
Her smile flashed in my mind as we raced down the hill, Caleb's laugh mixed with Dani's and my giggle subsiding with theirs we made it to the bottom tumbling off our sleds. We still laughed but as I stopped rolling and laid on my back my arms braced at my side Arianna's smile still fresh in my mind I made a snow angel. I didn't care if it was perfect, I just wanted Arianna to know I still remembered her and that our memories wouldn't die with her.
I'd make sure they lived on.