The Orphan Boy

My entry to the Christmas Advent Competition! I'm entering under the Christmas calendar romance option.
The Orphan Boy follows the romance between Church goer Clara Dawkins and orphan boy Charlie Birch. Each chapter is a new Sunday leading up to Christmas, but also a new Sunday for them to get to know one another a little more and perhaps embark in a Christmas romance.

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4. The Fourth and Final Sunday

Christmas Day arrived quickly and I was awake long before my 6am alarm blared noisily. I preferred to spend my early morning laying in bed, watching the tree outside my window sway softly in the breeze. Immediately after turning off my alarm, my phone trilled, signalling a message. Faster than anything, my fingers flew across the screen as I read the message from Charlie,

“Good morning. Hope I’m not waking you, but I’m sure you’re already awake. I’ll be leaving around 7am so I won’t be to early, but not too late. Merry Christmas, Clara.”

My heart beat double-time as I flopped back against the pillows, sighing blissfully. Is this what it felt like to be in love?

Not wanting to spend too long with my thoughts, I set about cleaning my room, just in case Charlie somehow ended up in here although the odds weren’t high. As I did so, my thoughts drifted to the past week. After Sunday at Pasotr Gerard’s and Lynns, they had been texting back and forth consistently and not just meaningless conversations, but ones that were deep and thoughtful. Charlie shared stories about his childhood and years in the foster system and in return, I filled him in about my stories and upbringing. My mum expressed her concern that perhaps we were talking a tad bit too much and we were moving quite fast in our friendship. This worried me a little because my mum was rarely wrong, but I still continued to message Charlie in the days leading up to Christmas.

Just yesterday, Jen took me shopping for a gift.

“I don’t know what he’d like,” I told her, completely stressed and she simply rolled her eyes.

“Surely in your hours of messaging you have some sort of clue of what he’s into.”

She, like my mother, was also usually right and after much stressing, I finally calmed down enough to purchase a gift. In the end, I decided on a Walt Whitman book of poetry because of his love for poems and a gift card from the local music store because of his musical interests. Part of me felt it wasn’t special enough, but I decided it was better than nothing. I just hoped he would be partly happy.

Snapping myself out of the memories, I began to dress for the day in basic, but flattering clothes. Sometimes extended family joined us for a Christmas celebration, but it appeared it would be just us and Charlie this time around. Still, I wasn’t about to let him see me in my favourite sweats and tee and instead pulled on a pair of tights with a bright red tunic. It was family tradition to dress up in the Christmas spirit, so I pulled on the green elf hat that I purchased with Jen. She chose to be a reindeer.

I waltzed down the stairs, wondering how I could possibly speed up the time so I could see Charlie sooner. My dad and Jen were waiting downstairs, but my mum was nowhere in sight.

“Merry Christmas,” I announced and they chorused back.

“Is mum still asleep?” I asked as I jumped on the couch with Jen who was busy texting and chewing a granola bar.

“No, just getting the final presents.”

Like most years, my dad had on his Santa hat since he was always the one to hand out gifts. Mum would be the snow-angel again this year, but us girls would rotate each year.

“Morning, my children,” my mother chorused as she waltzed into the room with her arms filled with gifts. “Who wants presents?”

My sister and I bounced up and down, pretending to be like desperate little children and soon my dad was tossing presents left, right and centre until everyone had a decent pile. Then together, we ripped into them.

Like most years, both sets of grandparents sent Jen and me money. We didn’t see them often enough for them to know our likes and dislikes, so it was always a welcome sight. My uncle and his family sent me a gift card for my favourite clothing line and my mum’s sister sent me a gift card for the local bookstore, where I often found myself. Then from my parents I had, a cute new outfit, a book I’d been requesting for ages and a gift card for the local Starbucks. Jen gave me money, due to my lack of finances.

I was very happy with my haul, although it was never about gifts to me. What I really wanted was for Charlie to arrive…

After our excitement had settled down, mum began to cook a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs with beans and toast. She decided to cook for Charlie just in case and it was just as well because just as she was dishing up, the doorbell rang.

I sprinted to the door but paused momentarily to straighten my clothes, make sure my hair was perfect and plant a big smile on my face. Bracing myself, I flung open the door.

“MERRY CHRISTMAS!” we cheered at the same time before bursting out laughing.

In his hands, Charlie carried a number of gifts, but I could only really focus on his appearance. He was dressed in black jeans and a red t-shirt that I realised with a giggle, matched my own. He was breathtakingly gorgeous and for a little while, I couldn’t respond. Thankfully, Jen had my back.

“Come in for breakfast!” she told him and we relaxed instantaneously.

At first, the table conversation was quite awkward, but he seemed to get along well with my dad and my mum apparently loved him already. He complimented her on her cooking and gracious invitation, so it wasn’t a hard thing to achieve. After the breakfast we exchanged gifts. My parents had bought him chocolate and my dad insisted on a fuel card to help with the petrol expenses he must fork out each week to get back here. Jen bought him a set of light-up reindeer ears so he’d fit in. He also brought gifts for all of us so as he opened my gift to him, I opened his gift to me.

Inside the perfectly wrapped parcel was a red and gold bracelet with Christmas themed charms like a reindeer, candy-cane, sleigh and Santa. He also remembered my love for books and I was excited to find another gift card with a note to, “GO CRAZY”. I certainly intended to do just that.

We hugged and thanked each other, although it was akward in front of my family and I blushed when I noticed my dads hardened face. Perhaps we were pushing things a little too far.

After breakfast, everyone became more relaxed. Charlie, Jen and I set about cleaning up from breakfast while mum and dad danced in the living room to carols. It was a family tradition to then read about the birth of Jesus and take communion together. Charlie loved this and participated enthusiastically, much to my relief. Finally, though, just before Christmas lunch, we had some time to ourselves.

We sat on the backyard patio, listening to the carols coming from multiple houses. That was my favourite part of Christmas. Everyone united in good spirits. I sat silently, waiting for him to say something, but after a couple of moments, I couldn’t stand it.

“Thank you for the presents again,” I told him awkwardly and he smiled warmingly.

“You’re welcome. Thank you for mine too. They’re perfect.”

We lapsed back into silence and I was only just realising how abnormal that was for us when Charlie finally cleared his throat.

“I’m going to take the job.”

Tears sprung to my eyes and my throat immediately clogged. I knew he would do it, but part of me still hoped he wouldn’t – that he’d find a reason to stay. Like…. Me.

“Are you sure?” I asked when I felt my voice was strong enough to not break. “I mean, it’s a big move to make.”

“I’m sure,” he affirmed, further breaking my already broken heart. “I will always love Liberty Grove, but my home.. my family is in Queensland.”

“What about me?” I wanted to ask. “Won’t you miss me?”

As if reading my mind, he turned his chair to face mine and leant forward with an intensity that momentarily made me forget the pain and instead be enthralled by how good looking he was.

“Can I be honest with you, Clara?”

Not knowing what else to do, I quickly nodded.

“At home, I never really felt like I fit in and I thought that was because my parents were gone. I miss them, I do, but I’ve moved through that pain and I now have another family who I love dearly. I thought coming back here would help me be able to move on, but it wasn’t returning to Liberty Grove that has helped me.”

His eyes skimmed mine and I realised where this was going. I slowly leant towards him too.

“Seeing your passion for the world and for your dreams have reminded me of my own. I’ve wanted to be a mechanic since I was a boy, but after what happened… I lost my passion. When I was offered this job, which is with a business that can really set me up in the industry, I was reminded of you and realised my own passion was being awakened. I have my passion back and now I have to chase it.”

“You do,” I whispered, but he held up his hand to stop me.

“There’s just… one problem,” he sighed and cast his eyes downward, his own voice turning to a whisper. “We’ve only know each other a month, but I feel like you know everything about me and I feel like I know everything about you. But.. that hasn’t satisfied me.”

“What do you mean?” I asked quizzically. Surely he doesn’t mean…

“I like you,” he admitted, almost to quietly for me to catch.  “A lot. I’ve never so much as have a crush on someone let alone develop feelings for them. Ever since that day at Church where you were brave enough to approach me, my passions were stirred for.. something else.”

He raised his eyes to meet mine and I quickly shut my open mouth and hoped my face wasn’t as red as it felt.

“I want… you. I want to know you more than I already do. I want to be the one you come to for help, support or just a good old chat. I want you to know more and every detail about me. I want to be yours. And.. I want you to be mine.”

I tried to speak, but only a choking sound came from my mouth and flushed an ever deeper shade of red.

“I know this is asking a lot of you, but I want to ask you anyway.”

He waited for my response, so I simply waved my hand for him to continue, not trusting my voice.

“I want to stay in contact with you, but not as friends… As a couple. I know it’ll be tough being long distance, but when I can I’ll come back here to see you and maybe sometimes you’ll do the same. I trust myself to be able to do this right, but if you think its to much of an ask, I totally understand. Just… think about it.”

“I don’t need to,” I shook my head and amazingly spoke with clarity. “I don’t need to think about it.”

He waited patiently for a response as I attempted to come up with some poetic way of telling him I also wanted him, but I decided to go with the simplest answer.

“Yes.”

“Yes?”

“Yes,” I told him firmly. “I want this too.”

For a second he was frozen and this his face lit up with a wide grin and I suddenly found myself in a tight hug that I returned easily. As we slowly pulled apart to stare into each other’s eyes, I knew what was coming thanks to the countless romance movies I had seen and the books that I had read. Sure enough, Charlie’s lips brushed against my own and I responded by pressing mine against his. For a moment we stayed like that, locked in embrace with lips together. Then as we broke apart, I couldn’t help but chuckle.

“What?” he asked playfully as he tucked a strand of hair behind my ear.

“We most look so bizzare,” I giggled. “An elf kissing a reindeer.”

“I see nothing wrong with that,” he laughed.

Just then, Jen came bursting out the back door.

“Come on love birds,” she told us teasingly, meaning she obviously saw our romantic exchange. “Mum and dad want to play some board games.”

We turned back to each other with wide smiles and Charlie immediately grabbed my hand and squeezed it warmly. I returned the squeeze and together, we made our way back towards the house and towards a future we could hopefully manage together. 

 

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