**Here’s some more with Travis and Noah. Last week they decorated their tree. This week it’s all about the gifts. Enjoy! And Happy Holidays!!**
The house was full to bursting with every member of my family. The kids were running around creating havoc with Gianna as the ring leader. Even the babies were in on the action. Micah was the smallest and youngest, but he even had his part to play. I watched them run around, my sister Marielle riding herd and trying to keep any one of them from getting injured, maimed, or worse, in trouble with Nana. My older brother Nick was helping, occasionally managing to wrangle a baby and keep them occupied for minutes at a time. The rest of my siblings, and assorted spouses, were watching with amusement while my mother tried to feed everyone, my nonna chastised in rapid-fire Italian, and my father looked on indulgently. It was basically another Christmas Eve in the Mastriano household and I loved it.
The children were getting restless, and pretty soon, we’d have to start opening gifts. With or without Travis. He’d had no choice but to work the holiday, but he’d lucked out and not only snagged a shift on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas day, it had also been an earlier shift. He’d been scheduled to finish at five, and then his plan had been to go home, change out of his uniform and be at my parents house about six.
It was now almost seven.
I wasn’t exactly worried. As a trooper, any number of things could have come up to keep him on shift. And keep him from texting me saying he was going to be late. Unless he was dragging his feet on purpose. Travis had every good reason to be wary of the Christmas Even celebration at my parents. Last year had not gone very well. In the end, it had worked out. Mostly. And I knew he’d be here. He said he would, and the man never lied or went back on his word. But I could understand if Travis was reluctant.
My phone let out a snippet from a carol, letting me know I had a text, and a glance at the screen showed it was from my boyfriend. Travis didn’t elaborate but he did say he was sorry and that he’d be here in twenty minutes. I was sure he’d tell me later what exactly had held him up. In the meantime, I let my mother know Travis was on his way, and she set Nonna and the kids the task of sorting the presents.
Travis made it in nineteen minutes, and I met him at the door with a kiss and a hug. I didn’t want him walking into the packed living room alone. He held me extra tight for a long minute, and then together we entered the chaos. It took us a while to work our way across the room, because everyone had hugs, kisses, and Merry Christmases for Travis. By the time we made it back to the couch, Joe had procured Travis a plate of food. My mother wouldn’t allow the gift opening to go on until Travis was fed, and Joe was trying to expedite the process. Travis gave him a grateful smile, a fist bump, and settled down into the corner of the couch, making sure there wasn’t space to breathe between us.
All I could do was smile.
An hour and a half later, all the kids were happily entranced by new toys, and we were halfway through opening the adult gifts. Since we had the tradition of the youngest starting and moving up through the ranks, quite a lot of presents had been opened. Nick had just finished, which meant that Travis was up next, since he was a few months younger than Joe. Nerves fluttered in my stomach as Travis reached for my mother’s gift first. She spend all year knitting, sewing, or otherwise crafting gifts for the entire family, and I knew it meant a lot to Travis. His own family couldn’t be bothered with presents even when he was a child, so that my mom took the time and put the thought in was special to him. I wasn’t suprised that he picked up that one first. But that he had made my pulse pick up.
I knew what was inside.
Travis ripped off the paper, then opened the box with a sort of reverence one didn’t usually reserve for gifts. The mittens inside were a rich, cobalt blue. I’d picked the yarn from Mom’s stash three months ago. She’d thrummed them, adding wool to the inside to make them especially warm. And the outside was decorated with an intricate cable. They’d be mittens he wore when it was negative fifteen degrees out and the sidewalk needed to be shoveled.
“Thank you, Angela,” he murmured, awe in his voice. He hadn’t been able to call her “mom” the way she used to insist upon since the year before, and even though I could see a little bit of hurt around my mom’s eyes, she understood. It had taken them awhile to get back to where they’d once been, though they weren’t quite there. Her behavior last year had been forgiven but not entirely forgotten.
“You’re welcome, honey.”
Travis slipped them on, as we all knew he would, and my heart literally skipped a beat as adrenaline flooded my system. I saw the moment he realized something was inside, his eyes went wide, and shot to my mom. Slowly, he pulled his hand out, and then stared in utter shock at the ring he had caught with his pointer finger.
My mom smiled, a little of the sadness leaving her eyes. “It was my father’s.”
Travis’s mouth gaped open, and then he shut it and swallowed hard. “Angela, I don’t…what?”
I took that as my cue and dropped down onto my knee before him. I looked up at him, his bright blue eyes shiny with tears, love and affection all over his face, and fell in love with him all over again.
He knew how I felt about him. How hard I loved him, and how much I wanted him in my life. We talked about it all the time, and never lost and opportunity to tell each other. So as I knelt before him, and took his left hand in mine, I only had to say two words.
“Absolutely.” He let me take the ring and slide it onto his finger, then he yanked me up so that he could kiss me hard and fast. When we pulled apart, we were both a bit misty eyed, and couldn’t seem to tear our gazes away from each other.
“Love you, baby.”
“And I love you.”