A Christmas Story

December 2, 2009
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Maybe he should call this his lucky tie. Could the simple strip of black cotton that he was weaving through his fingers have brought him all that luck? After all, what could have possibly compelled him to talk to this girl and get to know her? Despite the typical open bar at a wedding, he hadn’t had a single drop of alcohol in him. Thinking back though, the tie had probably found its way off his neck and into his pocket, so it wouldn’t have made much of a lucky charm. After the amount of time he had spent on the dance floor, he was surprised that the tie was the only article of clothing that had loosened itself that night.

And now this Christmas party was just the same. Only it was his second chance. This Christmas party was like a gift from above. The night of the wedding he walked away with a peck on the cheek and a solid hug. This was his second chance. And yet here he was standing in the banquet hall bathroom staring into a mirror at tall, skinny figure with short and spiky hair leaning on the sink. He was dressed in black dress pants and a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up and the collar split wide. He was fiddling with the tie, tying and retying it, though he was not going to put it back on.

He finally put the tie away and looked at his hands. They were shaking and sweaty like they usually got when nerves kicked in. In an attempt to calm himself down, he twisted the cold water knob and let it flow at full blast. He waited a few minutes, hoping it would get cold enough to splash on his face and numb it so that he could make his move without showing that he was nervous. He was so concentrated on his next move that he didn’t notice the wisps of steam rising from the marble sink below.

He placed his hands under the sink, cupping them, only to feel the burn of boiling water tear away at his skin. His hands shot back instinctively as he winced and searched for something to dry off with other than his elegant pants. Well at least now he didn’t have to worry about his hands sweating or going cold; they had only the sense of pain shooting through.

The sudden ache gave him a newfound courage as he checked himself one more time, plastered on a smile, and swung open the door to the bathroom. The world changed as the aromas of roasts and freshly made pastries replaced the smell of urinal cakes. The pale bathroom lighting was replaced by the warm lighting of the hallway that connected the other halls. With every stride, the plush carpeting brought him out of his nervous state and into a comfort zone. In fact once he had reached the doors he felt totally renewed, as if during that walk he had, as his best friend Bart would say, magically “grown a pair.”

He slowly opened the door and was hit full in the face with a new scene as the music and the sound of clinking silverware against ceramic plates drowned out all the other senses. He took a short moment to scan for his table. If he was to find her, she would be there laughing with his friends.

Sure enough, she was sitting there in her pink dress: short, but with enough folds sewn in that if they were undone, the whole dress would reach the floor. Her hair was tied back neatly, and if it weren’t for the color of the dress, she could have been sitting in on a meeting about a company’s stats, making all the guys think twice. Dessert was on its way and the whole table was engaged in some heated, inaudible conversation.

“Nick! Oh my goodness! Are you having fun?” a voice rang out from the cacophony. Nick whipped his head around only to see Caroline walking up to him. A tall girl in black heels and a matching dress and hair, she was just about an inch or two shorter than Nick. The question had caught him by surprise, and it snapped Nick out of his daydream.

“Oh yeah, lots of fun. I’m actually heading back to my table for desert,” he replied with a smile, “How are you?”

“Oh I’m great!” she continued enthusiastically as Nick started to head back to his table, his thoughts mixed with the excitement and the task at hand. “But you want to know who’s doing even better? Michelle!”

Upon hearing that, Nick froze and turned to face Caroline. Shock was appropriate at the moment, so Nick didn’t bother with fixing his face into some fake emotion. “What’s that supposed to mean?” He asked, wondering what his face was showing.

“Well, she told me earlier that today, she made out with some junior from Notre Dame!”

In the background, Nick heard the music stop. The clinking silverware slowed down as if everyone was waiting for his reaction. He was near the point of losing balance, and yet his nerves had disappeared…

“Well, what do you think?” asked Caroline, bringing him back to Earth for the second time this night.

“Um,” Nick cleared his throat. “ Wow that’s really… cool.” His emotions going back into hiding. “Should we go and congratulate her?” he inquired jokingly. On the inside he felt like someone had taken a knife and gutted him out. He had blown his chance; in fact, the only person to blame was himself. He was the one who had kept up with her only in school and over the phone. He had never made his move. In fact, this night was supposed to be his night, and literally hours before him, this… jerk, cut him off. On the outside, though, Nick had plastered on a look of surprise and the fakest smile of his life to hide the true storm arising inside of him.

“Yeah, let’s go talk to her about it. I hear he’s redheaded and a soccer player!”
At that moment Nick looked towards his table. Michelle was looking right at him. Their eyes met for a moment and he smiled at her. There was nothing he could do right now, not without being a total jerk. He let Caroline drag him back to the table.

When they got there, Caroline began her interrogation like an experienced detective. “Is he cute? How long have you known him? Where does he live? Is it serious?” Like an air raid, she bombed away.

Michelle answered when she had to, but other than that she kept quiet. Nick laughed and played along, but he didn’t butt in. He looked at her one more time, realizing that though life had thrown him a lucky second chance, he had blown it. Maybe this wasn’t a second chance after all.

“Excuse me for just one second, girls.” He finally spoke, standing up without a change in his expression. He turned and started walking but was stopped shortly by another friend sitting chatting away with her cousin.

“Nick, we’ve been talking, and we think you and Michelle would make a really cute couple,” they turned from their deserts, giggling.

“Thanks,” he replied politely and resumed walking. The floor felt hard and rocky as Nick headed for the bar. It was nine in the evening, and this was already a long night. He needed a drink.

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