He shook his head. “No, this is important for your family. We had Thanksgiving together, and you’ll be back for New Year’s Eve. It’s just Christmas.”
“Just Christmas?” I didn’t like the way he said it.
Christmas was my favorite holiday of the year. I thought it was everyone else’s too. How could he make it seem as if it was as insignificant as Presidents’ Day? This was the single most romantic holiday of the year. Valentine’s Day was too cliché for me. Christmas was about sharing special moments and taking silly pictures. It was about cuddling on the couch and watching holiday movies. Christmas was about being together. It was everything we were not going to be.
“You know what I mean.”
“No, I don’t. Don’t you love Christmas?”
“I didn’t grow up like you did with parents who decorated and did the whole tree thing. I had Pops. Christmas was small.”
“And he didn’t put up a tree?” I couldn’t imagine Grey growing up like that. I hadn’t thought about whether Christmas was a painful time of year for him either. Maybe he would rather skip the whole thing.
“We had a tree, but it was one of those tabletop ones and it’s not like I had a fireplace, so there wasn’t a chance Santa was going to visit.”
“What? Are you telling me Santa Claus did not visit you when you lived with Pops?” My jaw dropped. Grey had Christmas without Santa?
He stood and reached for my suitcase. “Come on, you’re going to be late. We can talk about Santa later.”
“Do you remember anything about Christmas with your parents? Did they believe in Santa?” I couldn’t drop this. It was a revelation about Grey’s past that was bigger than almost anything else he had told me. I stood rooted by the bed, praying his parents had enlisted Santa’s help every year. That Grey knew there was something magical about Christmas.
“I was eight. I don’t remember much about those early Christmases. But, yes, Santa visited. I had a stocking, and we had a tree. All that traditional stuff. I’ve got pictures around here somewhere.” His eyes looked misty, but I knew Grey wasn’t going to crack reminiscing about his childhood holidays. He always glossed over the topic.
“I want you to have that again.” I pulled on his arm, holding him back in our bedroom. “Please come home with me. My parents do all of that stuff. And it’s actually cold in North Carolina. It feels like Christmas there.” Don’t get me wrong, I loved palm trees, but they didn’t really scream Christmas spirit. We needed a good showing of Douglas firs.
“I appreciate it, but you and I will have Christmas when you get back. Marin’s parents have that big party for New Year’s Eve. We’ve got lots of other holiday stuff planned.”
I didn’t want to get in an argument with him during my last few hours in Texas. I knew when to give him some space.
“All right.” I cut the lights as we walked out of the room. The little beach cottage suddenly seemed sad and depressing. I had placed a poinsettia on the coffee table, and had strung up a few lights on the railing, but we opted not to add much since we wouldn’t be together on Christmas Day. Now, I regretted it. Grey needed to know how much fun Christmas could be. Why hadn’t I decorated the cottage like a Christmas wonderland?
I vowed right then we would never spend Christmas apart again. This would be the first and last time.
I followed him down the flight of stairs to the parking pad under the house where his truck was parked. We had to drive to the airport in Brownsville. At least I had some time with him before I had to leave. The wind whipped off the beach, and I caught my hair in a side ponytail as I climbed into the truck.
“Are we supposed to get a storm or something?” I hadn’t paid attention to the South Padre weather lately. I was too busy watching the snow report back home. The local meteorologists were calling for five to six inches of fresh powder. I couldn’t wait.
“Nothing for you to worry about. Your flight will be out of here before it hits the beach.” He buckled his seat belt and put the truck in reverse.
I watched the blue beach cottage fade in the door’s mirror. This was home now, but I was saying good-bye to it for an entire week. Nothing about this felt right.