He watched her all evening: laughing with his sister, as Aaliyah showed her embarrassing baby pictures—he made a mental note to kill Aaliyah later—, learning how to cook the dinner his dad was preparing, her eyes glued intensely to the recipe, picking out a film with his mum and bonding over their shared hatred of Elf, he just didn’t get that one at all.
She caught him looking at her sometimes and he just smiled weakly, feeling his heart in his chest. She would poke her tongue out at him or scrunch his nose and he would laugh and be pulled back to the ground. She had this magical way of keeping his two feet on the ground whilst pushing him into the clouds.
She had been at his family home for three days now and it was Christmas Eve. His extended family was over and they were all in the living room laughing and talking. He scanned the room for her upon entering and found her immediately. He squeezed past his aunts and tiptoed around his little cousins to plop down on the couch beside her.
The second he sat down she pulled herself out of an animated conversation with his eldest cousin and her husband. He felt his heart catch in his throat as she smiled at him. Her hair falling gently down her back, her freckles smattering her face, and her Christmassy red lips made him speechless.
“Hi you,” She said, “Where’d you go?”
“Kitchen,” Shawn said indicating to the glass in his hand, “What were you guys talking about?”
“Well, your lovely girlfriend was telling us all about her job, she’s a keeper, truly, Shawn,” His cousin’s husband said smiling.
“Yeah, she’s alright,” Shawn joked scrunching his nose at his blushing girl.
“Mummy,” interrupted a small voice, grasping the attention of the two young couples. A small girl in uneven pigtails started grabbing at the shirt of his cousin. They wished Shawn goodnight as they went to deal with their little one, leaving the two of them alone.
“Wanna go get some air?” Shawn said scanning the room which had become crowded and loud with the addition of his little cousins—returning from a “Secret Christmas Adventure, Shawn, you wouldn’t understand.”
She nodded her nose pressed against his shoulder, sliding her hand into his as they moved out of the room, unnoticed in the chaos.
They stood out on his back porch for a while, embracing the cold temperature and the freshly falling snow. Shawn wrapped his arms around her from behind kissing the top of her head as they looked out at the moon kissed snow.
“I love your family,” She said, shattering the silence.
“They love you, too,” Shawn said smiling, his chin resting on her head.
“Thank you for inviting me,” Her hand finding his, giving it a small squeeze at the end of her sentence. He kissed the side of her head and smiled as he smelled her familiar shampoo.
“Do you remember how nervous you were when you met them for the first time?” He said laughing, thinking of the memory.
“Nope, Shawn I’m just gonna go home I think,” She said her voice shaking in the airport terminal.
“No, you’re not. They are going to love you and if they don’t, which isn’t gonna happen, I love you and that’s pretty important, no?” Shawn reminded her firmly.
“Oh my god is that them? Is it?” She squeaked.
“No dear, they’re waving to the people behind us,” He said pulling her closer to him. They were standing in the cold outside of the airport. Her hand grabbed his tightly as his parents and sister approached them.
“I thought you were gonna break my hand the way you grabbed it so tightly,” He cackled.
“Little did you know, I was only holding your hand to leech your warmth,” She said in a dignified voice.
“You’re full of it,” He said still recovering from his laugh. He pulled her in to kiss her.
“I love you,” She said softly, snowflaked falling on her eyelashes.
He felt his heart catch once again. It’s funny how one person can catch your heart and hold it so tightly, perhaps without realizing it at all. He looked at her in the moonlight and the way that she smiled at him and the little chip in her front tooth and he just knew. Sometimes you just know.