There's No Christmas Without You
The sounds of This Christmas by Donny Hathaway filled the air as Liliana watched the snow fall outside her kitchen window. It was Christmas Eve, and she was alone. Her daughter, Yara went to her father’s house to spend the night with her father, Dean and newborn brother, Dean Jr. Liliana was also aware that this was Dean’s first Christmas without his mother and she wanted Yara to be there for him.
Liliana’s boyfriend, Amir, went to Philadelphia to spend the holiday with his family. He asked her if she wanted to go, but she declined. She planned on picking up Yara tomorrow afternoon, before heading to her mother’s house for dinner. But watching the snowfall so hard on the parking lot of her complex had her worried that she would be snowed in on Christmas day eating leftovers.
She blew out a breath before checking on the homemade snickerdoodles she baked. Since she was a child, she and her mother baked cookies and watched movies on Christmas Eve. And she continued the tradition last year with Yara. After checking on the cookies, she poured another glass of coquito that her mother made just for her. She put a cinnamon stick in her glass and stirred her drink before taking a sip. In only a few minutes, her favorite Christmas movie Home Alone 2 would be starting.
The timer on her stove dinged, and she pulled the baking sheet from the oven. The smell of cinnamon filled the air, and she moaned in satisfaction. She picked up three cookies and placed them on a small plate before heading to her living room. She plopped down on the couch just in time, the opening credits for the movie just started.
The light from the small Christmas tree she had in the corner of the living room illuminated the room. She smiled at the LOL Doll ornaments that Yara just had to add to the tree. They completely clashed with the silver and purple theme Liliana wanted, but she didn’t mind. While looking at the tree, a wave of sadness overcame her. She didn’t realize that she would miss Yara this bad.
Lately, she’d been feeling guilty. Her job and schoolwork took up more time than she anticipated. Yara was spending more time with her grandma and her father than Liliana liked. That made her feel like she wasn't a good mother. Growing up, Liliana watched her mother struggle working two jobs just to provide for her and her younger sister. She vowed to do whatever it took to provide the best life for her daughter.
When she graduated from college, she was eight months pregnant with Yara. Knowing she would be a mother motivated her to go straight to grad school that fall. Being the overachiever that she was, she applied for the advanced program which condensed the four-year program into three years. The deeper she got into the program, the more she started to regret not taking a break. Dean assured her that she was still a great mother. In fact, he applauded her for expediting her master’s degree so she could start her career.
Her phone vibrated on her coffee table, letting her know she had a text message. Dean sent her a picture of Yara sleeping next to her brother. Ever since Yara found out, she was going to be a big sister she was obsessed with Dean’s fiancée, Autumn and DJ. She smiled before sending three heart emojis and wished them a Merry Christmas. Afterward, she returned her attention back to the movie and let the adventures of the McCallister family entertain her.
She smelled him before she saw him. His natural sandalwood scent was intoxicating and arousing. Slowly she opened her eyes afraid that she was dreaming. She smiled when she saw the man who’d had her heart for the last four years. Amir took a cookie off the plate beside her and ate it before taking off his coat.
“What are you doing here?” she asked while yawning. She checked the time on her phone and realized an hour had passed.
He leaned down and kissed her lips. She smiled as he placed soft, quick pecks on her lips, neck, and chin. His lips were cold and had hints of cinnamon on them from the cookie he’d just eaten. No matter how many times they kissed, she still melted inside. He always took his time placing kisses on his favorite parts of her.
“It didn’t feel right being without you.” His voice was deep and filled with love. The look in his eyes caused her stomach muscles to tighten.
Liliana’s honey brown skinned flushed with heat at his admission. She looked up at his coffee brown eyes. They were low and reflected how tired he was.
After he got off work, he went straight to Philly to attend his aunt’s annual Christmas Eve party. Once he got there and saw everyone cuddled up with their significant other, he left. Seeing all his siblings and cousins with the ones they loved made him miss Liliana more than he already did. In previous years, it wasn't a big deal to come alone because he knew at least one other person would come solo. Not this year, everyone was with their spouse or with the person they’re engaged to.
He was the lonely one in the corner sipping on his rum and eggnog. After suffering for an hour, he decided to make the drive to Jersey to be with Liliana. The past four years with Liliana had been rocky. They both had insecurities that caused a rift between them, but this past year everything had been going smoothly. It was evident that they both matured and were ready for a serious relationship.
“I don’t ever want us to spend holidays apart. Especially Christmas.” He sat down next to her and pulled her close to him.
She laid her head on his shoulder, and replied, “Me either. I don’t even know why we agreed to do that.”
“I invited you to come home with me, and you declined,” he corrected her.
She laughed and nodded. “You’re right. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“I know in the past we did whatever on the holidays.” Whatever meant hooking up after all the festivities ended and falling back into their endless cycle of uncertainty. “But it’s different now. We are different now, Lily.”
She sat up and looked at him. Whenever he called her Lily, her heart raced, and chills ran down her spine.
“What do you mean?” she asked just above a whisper.
“You know what I mean. We are different. Everything about our relationship is different. And there’s no reason for you to be here alone drinking coquito.” He grabbed the drink off the table and finished it. “On the ride back, I had a lot of time to think about all we been through.” He laughed before running his hand over his beard. “What I’m trying to say is I love you, Liliana. I can say that confidently now because I know what it means.” His gaze was fiery. Her eyes fell from his eyes to his lips.
He’d professed his love for her many times in the past. Mostly after he got caught up or when she was threatening to leave him. But this time it felt genuine from the seriousness in his tone to the vulnerability in his eyes.
Liliana has loved Amir since the first day she met him in college. She was walking out of her Black Families class when they bumped into each other. Amir was a gentleman and picked up the papers and notebook she dropped. At the time Liliana was a shy and nervous sophomore, and he was the confident and experienced senior. From that day forward, he met her after her class and walked her to the next.
The conversation was always light usually about her school work. Then somewhere along the way, the subject matter changed to their likes and dislikes, childhood, and future career goals. With each passing day, her feelings for him grew.
Four years later, they both were finally in love, real love. Not the immature makeup to break up that they’d been doing since college. This was the love that had you planning a lifetime together.
Amir grabbed her waist and pulled her onto his lap. He ran his finger down her jawline making chills appear on her skin. His touch was always her weakness. She closed her eyes as his hands moved under her shirt. He slowly raked his fingers across her stomach to her back. When she opened her eyes again, he was smiling. His eyes were still hooded, but she saw the lust burning in them.“You’re the best thing that ever happened to me, and I promise to do all I can to show you how much you mean to me.” “I love you, Amir. So, so much,” she whispered. This was the moment she’d been waiting for. They’d spent much of their relationship on different pages, but tonight it was evident they were both feeling the same.
After she became pregnant with Yara, she lost all hope in them getting back together. Most men in their twenties have no desire to be a stepdad. But to her surprise, Amir was understanding and held himself accountable for her ending her birthday night with Dean instead of him.
If he hadn’t stood her up on her birthday, she wouldn’t have been at Dean’s club. But that was all the past. Amir and Dean are cool and have a clear understanding of their positions in both Liliana and Yara’s lives. He released a low throaty grown and gripped her waist tighter. “Say it again.”“I love you,” she whispered against his lips before taking his bottom lip into her mouth.
Their tongues slow danced with one another, Liliana enjoyed the taste of cookie and coquito that lingered on his lips. He trailed kisses down her neck to her collarbone, making sure not to miss a spot that the thin tank top she wore exposed. She raked her hands through his curly hair as he placed warm kisses on her skin.
His lips returned to hers with fervor he was no longer holding back his desire for her. Usually, his kisses are controlled and calculated. Right now, Amir was kissing with hunger. The love he felt for her spilled from his lips to hers. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer. After wrapping her legs around his waist, Amir lifted them off the couch and walked them down the hall to her room. For the rest of the night, all that was heard were “I love you’s” and Liliana’s cries of pleasure.
The next day she woke up to the smell of bacon. With a smile on her face, she ran down the hall to the kitchen to see Amir cooking them breakfast. She ran her tongue across her bottom lip as she watched her man maneuver through her kitchen. He was shirtless wearing only a pair of basketball shorts that hung off his waist. As he plated their food, she leaned against the counter and watched him attentively. There was a comfortable silence between them.
“There’s a special gift for you under the tree,” Amir said breaking the silence. She stood there with her mouth open as he walked past her to the tree. She swallowed the lump that formed in her throat before finally following behind him.
Liliana looked under the Christmas tree and saw a small red velvet box with a gold bow on it. She looked at Amir with wide eyes. Her heart rate increased as he walked to the tree. He held out his hand.
“Come here, Lily.”
Her mind was telling her to go, but her legs wouldn’t move. Her feet felt like they were glued to the ground. Amir laughed and folded his arms over. Seeing her in complete shock was funny because she always had something to say.
“Come here,” he said again with no hint of amusement in his tone. Slowly she walked and stood in front of him. He grabbed her hands before kissing her forehead.
“I meant everything I said last night. No more games, no more insecurities. It's me and you, Lily.” He leaned down and picked up the box. After opening the box, he said, “That is my promise to you. And if you give me a little more time, I’ll turn this promise ring into an engagement ring.”
Liliana smiled and threw her arms around his neck. After placing a tender kiss on his full lips, she hugged him. He grabbed her right hand from around his neck and slid the one-carat princess cut diamond ring onto her finger.
“I love you, Amir.”
“I love you too. Merry Christmas, baby.”