author · Storm Trilogy · writer

The gift exchange

xmas

The gloom outside mimicked the atmosphere that filled Kaden’s house. It was silent, like what a house sounds like after its’ inhabitants return from a funeral. The sun was clouded by grey dripping blankets that could have made it snow if it was only a few degrees colder. Despite the hour, Kaden’s neighbors had already lit up their houses with their decorative colored lights. She sat in her room, gazing out the window with her pen in hand hovering over a blank piece of paper when the door bell rang. It was Christmas Day and the only person who could have been expecting company was Quinn, but she was out.

Kaden checked the street below her for a car she could identify the door-bell ringer to, but they were all her neighbors. “Great,” she sighed to herself, “a Bible thumper.” She slowly made her way down the staircase to see the frosted glass front door and the silhouette of Megan outside of it. The tension in her shoulders relieved themselves at the sight; she wrapped her hand around the door knob and swung it open. “Get off my property,” she said with a grumpy frown.

“Merry Christmas to you too, Scrooge.” Megan flipped a present into Kaden’s hands unexpectedly. Kaden fumbled with the package before she firmly got a grasp on it. She raised an eyebrow at Megan, staring from the glistening wrapping paper back to her friend.

“Kaden,” A strained voice from the kitchen called. “Who is it?”

Kaden half turned her body toward the kitchen almost expecting her mom to appear in the door frame, “Just Megan.” There was some shuffling before she showed herself, practically hiding behind the kitchen wall.

“Hi Mrs.—Ms. Storm,” Megan called into the house. She leaned herself to the side so Kaden wasn’t blocking her view. Megan waved to Kaden’s mom with an eager grin on her face.

“Hi Megan,” Kaden’s mom replied with a not so enthusiastic wave. She disappeared again behind the kitchen wall leaving both Kaden and Megan. The two exchanged a wide-eyed look the second she was out of sight.

“Mom,” Kaden shouted. “I’m going out on the stoop to talk to Megan.” She waited a moment for her mother to reply, but she never did so she shrugged before stepping out onto the cold stoop. Her bare feet felt the roughness of the cement beneath her. Kaden closed the door, pulling it shut tightly so it wouldn’t stick like it always seemed to. “I thought we agreed no presents for Christmas?” she asked Megan. Kaden’s mind desperately tried to recall if they had actually promised to no exchange gifts or if that’s what she wished they had did.

“We did,” Megan agreed. “But I thought you deserved it.” She rubbed her hands together as the brisk air swooshed the fainted drizzle that lingered toward them.

“Well,” Kaden sighed. “Now I look like an asshole.” She inspected the tiny package with curiosity and a ball of guilt forming in her stomach for not thinking to get Megan a gift.

“No you don’t,” Megan insisted. “I don’t want anything anyway.” Megan watched as Kaden eyed the gift, still uneasy about opening it when she had nothing for Megan.  “Just open it,” Megan said slapping Kaden on the arm.

Kaden sighed as she began to peel back some of the perfectly wrapped gifts. It looked as if Martha Stewart herself had wrapped it. “Why am I the only person on the planet that says ‘no gifts’ and means it?” she asked.

“Just open it!” Megan cheered. She started bouncing up and down with anticipation as the paper revealed more and more the gift hidden beneath it. It was a thin black wallet with the letter ‘K’ written in cursive. Both the zipper and the letter were gold making it stand out in a classy way. It wasn’t a tacky wallet like Kaden had always used, it was elegant.

Her jaw dropped at its sight, “This is so awesome.” Kaden traced her finger over the ‘K’, cursing herself for how good the gift was. “A wallet for the money I don’t have,” she added.

Megan glared at her, “You’re such a jerk.” She smiled brightly knowing Kaden loved it.

“I’m just kidding,” Kaden teased. She wrapped her arms around Megan’s neck, “It’s great,” she said into Megan’s shoulder. “Thank you.”

“You deserve it,” Megan said pulling herself out of Kaden’s hug.

“You deserve a gift too,” Kaden told her. “But I thought we weren’t buying anything.”

Megan shrugged her shoulders as if she could care less. “It was a surprise,” Megan insisted. Kaden still felt guilty for not having anything to give to Megan. She was her best friend and the person that pulled her away from all her family crap.

“Now I have to find you a surprise,” Kaden said.

“I would stay and argue with you,” Megan began, “but I have to get back to my place before Brian eats all the good cookies.” Megan grabbed Kaden for another good-bye hug before she scooted off the stoop. Kaden waited to see Megan turn the street corner before she headed back into her house that wasn’t much warmer than outside. She leaned her back against the front door and wondered how different things would have been if her father hadn’t left. If she would still be best friends with Megan. If the house would actually feel warm and inviting rather than like a worm whole. She tucked the wallet into her back pocket and made her way back upstairs to her bedroom. Despite not having a huge happy family to celebrate the holidays with, she was glad she had Megan and Quinn. Kaden would rather have those two people than a bunch of people she didn’t care about.

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