Monday, November 13, 2017

Chapter 337 What I got for Christmas

As Cassandras belly grew increasingly fuller, her mood worsened. For one  brief moment her cares and worries had drifted away with the joyful chatter surrounding her and the temptation of plentiful, delicious food, but even Simon being more solicitous than ever before couldnt keep her mind off the big question in her head; Where could her mother be at that very moment and could she ever find her?

Sensing the subtle change in Cassandra, Simon asked, Is there anything I can do to make you happy again?

Startled, Cassandra quickly forced a smile. I am happy. Im smilingsee? she said.

He shook his head and pointed at her lips. Youre only smiling here, he said, then pointed at her heart. But youre not smiling here where it counts.

She made a face. I keep forgetting how perceptive you are, she grumbled.

He chuckled. Are you done eating? Id like to give you your Christmas presents, he said.

She nodded and followed him.

If youll excuse us, Dad, Simon began. Id like to give Cassandra her Christmas gifts.

Ill getem! Julian said jumping out of his seat and half way to the family room before Simon could stop him.

Dad, you gotta do something about Julian. Hes trying to steal my girlfriend! Simon said.

Victor laughed. Well, its up to Cassandra, he said. She needs to decide which one of you she prefers and then break the news to you.

Youre no help, Simon mumbled guiding Cassandra out of the dining room.

She giggled. I guess I should tell Julian hes too young for me, huh?

Theres an idea, Simon replied. They found his rival kneeling before the Christmas tree sifting through the remaining gift boxes.

Here they are, Cassie, Julian said. This ones from me. Open that one first.

Oh, Julian, I didnt get a chance to get you anything, Cassandra said, guiltily accepting his gift.

Thats okay. Dad says its better to give than to receivebut I kinda like receiving more, Julian half whispered.

Everybody does, Simon said. We just gotta pretend we dont.

Oh, Julian, its beautiful! Did you make this all by yourself? Cassandra said, placing the bracelet on her wrist, shaking it so the Christmas charms jingled.

Georgiana helped, but just a little bit, he said. Do you like it?

I love it! she said holding her arms out to him. She hugged him and kissed his cheek. Thank you so much. Ill get you a present as soon as I can, okay?

Julian, wearing a sly expression, briefly glanced up at Simon and shrugged. A hug and a kiss is good enough, he said.

She giggled then gave him another cuddle and tickled his belly which pleased him no end and rather annoyed his older brother.

Open the others now. That ones from Dad, this ones from Ronnie, that ones from Violet and this ones from Georgiana and Peter, Julian said, one by one piling them all on her lap. Oh, yeah, and this ones from Sophie.

Are you sure all these presents are for me? she said, needlessly because each gift was unmistakably labeled with her name.

Yup, all of em, Julian said, sitting beside her and helping her unwrap each one.

It took remarkably little time with his help and Cassandra was even more overwhelmed opening all the gifts than Violet had been just an hour before. She didnt ooh and ahh as much, but that was because Julian didnt give her time to fuss over any one present for very longexcept for his own.

Well, now that thats done, can you leave us alone now, Jules? Simon asked as nicely as he could. Cassandra has one more present to unwrap.

Where is it? he asked.

In my room and no, you cant come, Simon added.

But I wanna show Cassie all my presents, too, Julian whined.

You can show them to me later, okay? I have something very important to talk over with your brother, she said, giving Simon a significant look. Really, Julian, thank you so much for all my presents, but especially the Christmas bracelet. I love it!

It took another hug before Julian was appeased enough to leave them alone.

Wow, Cassandra said, looking over her loot. I cant believe all of this os for meI mean everything is awesome. exactly what I wanted.

Aint seen nothin yet, Honey, Simon said.

This dress your dad got me iswellI saw it at the store and fell in love with it, but it was so expensive andits beautiful! How in the world did he guess my size and what Id like?

Choosing womans fashions is his super powerdont ask me how he does it. It may have been the only reason my mother stayed married to him for as long as she did, Simon said, stacking the torn wrapping paper, boxes and ribbons behind the Christmas tree.

Cassandra burst out laughing. I hope youre not serious! she said.

Simon shrugged. Yes and no, he said. So, are you ready for a really good gift?

She stood up with her arms full and said, Better than all of this? Impossible.

Well see about that. Do you trust me enough to come up to my room to open them? I promise I wont attack you, he joked, although he looked rather serious.

She made a face as if contemplating his question. I wanna tell you what happened today at my house.

Okay, we can do that too. We wont be disturbed there and nobody else will hear us if you dont want, he said, leading the way to the festively festooned stairs.

Umwould you mind if Sophie and Ronnie came with us? she asked, a pleading sort of look on her face. Id like to tell them too cuzwell, they are my best friends and Id like them to know whats going on.

Hiding his annoyance he nodded. Ill ask them to join us as soon as theyre done eating, but I warn you, that could take a while. They usually dont leave the table until every last bit of food is gone, he said. Go on up to my room, first door on the left as you come up the stairs. Ill be there soon.

Do you trust me not to snoop around your stuff? she asked with a giggle.

I want you toso you can decide if Im good enough for you, he said over his shoulder.

A bit stunned, Cassandra watched him enter the dining room as others were leaving it. She swiftly went up the stairs, all the while wondering if that meant what she thought it meant.

Simon stepped to the side to allow room for everyone leaving the dining room, but as he suspected his brother and Sophie were nowhere near done. They both still had a ton of food on their platestheir third helping each he suspected. He moved behind their chairs and waited for most of the others to leave before speaking.

Cassandra requests your presence whenever you finish up here, he said in a low voice. She has something very important to tell us.

Both of them turned to look up at him, their cheeks bulging with food. Simon raised a hand as if to prevent them from speakingas if they could. No rush. Just come when youre done. Well find something to do to occupy the time.

As Simon left they stared after him then exchanged startled looks. Chewing furiously, Sophie gave him a curious look and Ronnie shrugged and swallowed.

Must be whatevers bothering her, he said.

So, you noticed it too, she said, wiping her mouth with a cloth napkin.

That shed been crying? Not blind, he said, putting a whole sausage into his mouth.

She musta had a fight with her father about coming over, dotcha think? she said biting into a buttered biscuit.

Ronnie shrugged. Only way to find out is to hear it from her so finish up quick, he said.

Cassandra placed her gifts on Simons neatly made bed and instantly felt guilty about messing it. She looked critically around his room and was stunned. The rest of it was just as spotless and orderlylike something out of a Better Homes and Garden magazine. Surely that was only because he lived most of the year elsewhere. No one except an OCD person could be this perfect, right? Of course, nothings saying Simon wasnt OCD. After all, Cassandra had not known him for very long sobut she somehow didnt think so.

Not that it matters, she said to herself.

Of course it matters, Simon said, startling her. Sorry about that. Ronnie and Sophie are forever saying I should wear a bell around my neck so they can hear me coming. That or I should join the CIAto teach the art of stealth I suppose.

She laughed. They may be rightabout the bell around your neck, I mean. The CIA scares me.

He smiled and pulled the small box out of his pocket handing it to her along with the large envelope. Merry Christmas, Cassandra. I hope you like this half as much as you liked Julians bracelet.

I have a present for you too, she said rummaging through her pocketbook. She handed him a long, thin box wrapped in silver. I didnt think Id get a chance to give it to you after what my father…”

I love it, he said and he kissed her.

But you didnt even open it yet.

Well, that way I can kiss you before and after I see what it is, he said.

Now I see where Julian gets it, she said.

Whathis charm?" Simon said with a smirk as he opened his gift to see an exquisite silk tie the exact color of his eyes. 

Yeah, lets call it that, she muttered. "Like it?"

He kissed her again. "Love it. Thank you," he said. 

She opened the box, her lips tingling, and gasped. Oh, Simon, its beautiful!

He took the gold chain and pendant out of the box and fastened it around her neck. I wasnt sure you would like it, but in a roundabout way I got Sophie to put the okay on butterflies. It clashes with Julians bracelet, of course, but such is the essence of Christmas.

She giggled and gave him a quick kiss. I love butterflies. She musta told you I especially like rubies.

He shook his head. I guessed that, he said handing her the envelope. Now, brace yourself. You are either going to love it or hate it.

Her eyes grew wide as she looked at the tag and the name of the giver. From Morris Kramer? Why on Earth would he give me a gift at all? He barely knows me!

What can I say? He fancies himself a modern day Santa Claus, Simon said, hiding his anxiety with difficulty. Go on and open it.

I have a feeling you put him up to thiswhatever this is, she said slowly opening up the end flap and slipping the thick stack of papers out. She read the cover letter once, then twice, then looked up at Simons nervous expression and read it through a third time before she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him soundly.

Simon got the distinct impression she liked itperhaps as much as Julians Christmas charm bracelet.

©2017 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved  

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