Christmas is never easy, for either one of us. My family is huge and embracing, almost smothering, and Oscar's family has all but forgotten him, his brother sending a cheap card each year and leaving it at that. Oscar isn't used to my family, with their hugs and kisses, and even if given the chance, I have no desire to cooperate with his dark family.
So Oscar and I learned to spend Christmas just the two of us. It isn't always easy; he and I argue a lot, often for no reason. It's just the way our relationship is. Old friends from high school can't believe we're still dating, let alone living together; blonde and perky Charlie 'Blink' Ricko, and broody, sarcastic Oscar Delancey? Opposites must attract.
"Where are we going?" I ask; Oscar has me in the car, driving erratically on the interstate; he's crazy, and this just drives me to the same end.
He smirks slightly, holding his cigarette out the window, smoke vanishing in the air. "Where everyone else is going on the unholiest of holy days: the mall." He laughs at the look on my face. "Blink, we have to go shopping at some point."
"The mall, Oscar? On Christmas Eve? You're insane."
He laughs again. "But you already knew that."
The smirk on his face is annoying, as is 'Little Drummer Boy' on the radio. I hate that song with such a passion, and since it's the annoyance I can actually do something about, I switch to the CD player and turn to stare out the window, grey skies and dead trees flying past in perfect time with the lyrics oozing from the speakers: "I took my baby's breath beneath the chandelier/ Of stars in the atmosphere/ And watch her disappear/ Into the Midnight Show."
Not exactly a Christmas carol, but ages better than that fucking "pa rum pa pum pum" over and over again.
'Hot Fuss' continues to blast as we wander through the parking lot. Oscar should've known better, but still he swears and shouts, driving through the lot in the futile attempt to find a parking spot.
"Don't say it," he mutters through gritted teeth; I'm sure that my smirk is now getting on his nerves. Oh, how the tables turn.
"Say what?" I ask innocently. He takes to time to glare at me, but swears loudly when he's nearly rear-ended by the woman behind us, who flips us the bird with no regard for the children in her backseat.
I manage to coax Oscar to the valets, who only have a few spaces open as it is; we luck out. Once inside the mall, it seems there's no breathing room; people swamp the building in all directions, trying to find the best routes to the best stores but getting caught in traffic anyway. I sigh. "Oscar, really. We won't get anything done-"
"One gift each," he says, cutting me off. "We'll meet back here, at this entrance, in an hour. I'm going to buy something for you. Hint, hint, Charlie." He presses a quick kiss to my forehead before dashing off.
I know Oscar Delancey better than anyone else on this planet, so I know better than to expect some sweet and thoughtful gift. He has something in mind that will embarrass the shit out of me; I have no doubt of this. Such a plan is just... purely Oscar.
But I can't stop him. All I can do is get back at him.
I turn around and make a beeline for Dillard's, the nearest department store. It's a good choice; in order to get to any other anchor store, I'd have to cross the main rotunda, where Santa's Village has been built. Um, yeah, no. I don't think so. I'm not suicidal like that.
Once inside the store, it's difficult to choose where to go. To the right, make-up and perfumes? To the left, men's dress clothes? Upstairs, women's, petites and juniors? Kids clothes?
Then it hits me.
I push my way through fat women and confused husbands at the make-up counters, muttering "Excuse me" after "excuse me" as I try to make it to the escalators, also full of fat women and confused husbands. Oscar would've been delighted to see all these poor people and make fun of them. That's just how he is.
On the second floor, I take a right turn, scouting through women's wear until I reach the lingerie department.
That's right. Lingerie.
Ever since high school, Oscar has been very proud of his tough guy image. Freshman Friday, Halloween, and Senior Skip were his favorite days of the year, because he was allowed to pick on people and pull particularly mean pranks. The first time we met was eleventh grade, where he was getting ready to start a fight with my friend Jack, and I stepped in as a mediator. To this day, he treasures his leather jacket and the motorcycle he paid for himself, and which I refuse to ride.
So if anything will humiliate him, it's feminine, pretty, seductive lingerie.
And humiliate him, I shall.
Men's lingerie is hard to find, but it does exist, in the form of sheer, translucent pajama pants in various colors. Also available are, of course, thongs, but I'm not sure if I want to be that mean. 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing' crackles from the speakers overhead and the girls at the counter are busy dealing with -what else?- confused men. I'm on my own in this tiny area, shoes clicking on the tile beneath my feet. It's nice to breathe, feel the fabrics and try to decide which color he'd hate the most: lavender or pale pink? Or if I could actually convince him to wear them, wouldn't he look good in dark blue? So many choices-
I jump, startled, and turn around. Oscar is standing behind me, carrying a generic green bag and looking surprised.
"... What are you doing here?" I ask helplessly. "Are you done already?"
"For you, yeah. You weren't planning on buying those were you?" He practically spits the word in the rack's direction, looking disgusted. I bite my lip, afraid of responding. "You were! Blink what... Jesus Allah Buddha, Charlie, this is..." He's blushing, the tips of his ears practically glowing in the dim store light. He's too angry to form coherent sentences, and I realize with not a little shame that maybe he is taking this seriously.
As tough as he likes to be, as mean as our arguments can get, he also has his moments of awkward sweetness. Leaving soup by the bed when I'm sick, letting it grow cold while I sleep. Once-or-twice a year placing a gaudy, pungent flower in my mother's cracked violet vase by the kitchen table. Doing the dishes after a fight and accidentally cracking a few plates in the process. Little, clumsy things that he does in secret and often denies, but who else would do them for me?
"Oh, stop," he says, eyebrows furrowed. I blink at him.
"Pouting at me, you homo."
"Was I pouting?"
"You always pout, Blink. Every time we fight, you pout."
I know this, of course, but I didn't realize I'd been doing it just now. Force of habit, I guess.
"Why are you shopping here?" He still sounds angry, and I guess the fact that he caught me in the act of not trusting him and attempting to embarrass him justifies that pretty well.
"You've never been too excited about shopping and gifts before," I answer, fiddling with the strap on the eyepatch I've worn since the eye-surgery Dad made me get two weeks ago. "I figured you were going to buy something embarrassing. I was going to get you back."
He throws his hands in the air, rolling his eyes before reaching into his bag and pulling out a book bound with plastic rings. The white text on the blue cover reads 'Piano Classics for the Advanced Player.'
I raise my eyebrows and grab the book. I've been playing piano since I was five years old, and it's still one of my favorite hobbies. I inherited my great-aunt's old upright piano, and whenever Oscar is out or sleeping, I play on it. I didn't know he saw it as anything more than another one of the Ricko family heirlooms, there to collect dust and brag about when friends or family came over; he's never seen or heard me play, as far as I know.
"When I try to nap, sometimes, I can hear you play," he explains, still looking annoyed. "But it's always the same songs, I guess 'cause you don't have any other books. So I got you another one. The songs you play are nice, but they're getting boring. Try something new."
This is, of course, a purely Oscar explanation. As sweet as the idea is, he writes it off as boredom. I can't help smiling as I hand the book back, pleased by the composers listed on the back (Guaraldi, a few arrangements from Holst, even a little Beethoven). "Well... all right, Oscar. I'll try something new."
He snorts and pushes past me. "Yeah, you better. Thirty-damn-dollars on this book, you better try those songs. And don't you dare buy me no damn girly-pants either. I'll kick your ass, Charlie, you know I will."
I nod, still smiling, not taking a word of it seriously; again, purely Oscar. "All right," I tell him. "I won't buy you any... girly-pants, is that what you said?"
He glowers at me, but there's a little smile in it. "Yeah, got a problem with that?"
"Not at all. I have another idea in mind." But as I turn to go back to the escalators, back to the mall, he grabs my wrist and draws me back, pink tinting his cheekbones.
"Listen, Blink..." He glances around and sighs. "Don't worry about getting me anything. All right? I really don't care."
I just keep smiling, and briefly press my lips to his. "Yeah, right, Oscar." He shoves his hands in his pockets and tilts his head, obviously pleased by the kiss, but not willing to show it. "I'll see you in a half hour, okay?"
"At the mall entrance?"
"At the mall entrance."
"All right." He exhales heavily and checks his watch. "See you then."
Of course, when he opens his present the following morning to see black, shiny biker boots, covered in buckles and zippers, I get much more than just a thank you kiss.
But this is, of course, purely Oscar.