Author's note: Just a short bit to set things up for Christmas. Only two chapters to go. Yes, the end is finally in sight<g>.
The next few weeks passed in a whirlwind of activity. Between working longer hours and taking care of their holiday shopping, the couple hadn't had a great deal of time together. When Sam learned she would be getting off work early one afternoon, she convinced Tina to do likewise and meet her at the condo for some much needed rest and relaxation.
She's going to be surprised. Sam put her hands on her hips and looked at the cheerfully adorned room with satisfaction. Tiny white lights twinkled from a garland spread across the mantle where two stockings were hung. Large pillows and blankets were strewn about on the floor in front of the fireplace. A three-foot tree was centered on the coffee table, waiting to be trimmed with the decorations lying next to it. Through the sliding glass doors, multicolored lights that were wound around the balcony railing blinked merrily. She should be here soon. Humming to the Christmas song playing softly in the background, the musician went to the kitchen and stirred the contents of a pot on the stove.
Tina unlocked the door and stepped inside. She stood quietly for a moment as she took in the sight of her transformed living quarters. "Samantha?"
"Hi!" Sam ran to the foyer and gave her partner an enthusiastic hug. "Seeing as we're going to be here for Christmas, I thought we should have the proper atmosphere. Do you like it?"
"Yeah…. a lot."
The blonde tugged Tina toward the kitchen. "Here's the BEST part." She stopped in the entryway and pointed up. A red ribbon dangled from the ceiling with a sprig of greenery fastened to the end.
"Mmm hmm." Sam put her arms around the accountant's neck and pulled her down for a kiss. "Good thinking, huh?"
"Excellent, as usual."
"I've got apple cider heating on the stove. Lisa gave me cinnamon sticks to put in it."
"It smells nice."
"Yessssss." Tina leaned in for another kiss.
"I MEANT the cider!"
"I'll have some of that, too."
"Come on, then." Sam chuckled and led the way to the stove. "I'll pour us each a cup and we can decorate the tree."
As they brought their drinks into the living room, Tina walked to the fireplace and touched the stocking with the Florida State emblem on it. "Where'd you ever find this?"
"At a sports store in the mall. I thought it would make it easy for Santa to figure out which one is yours."
And you knew I'd love it. "I got the fireplace working. Do you want me to turn it on?"
"Can we wait till Christmas Eve? It'll make it extra special."
"Let's decorate the tree." Sam picked up the string of lights and started to randomly drape it on the branches.
"Wait a minute." Tina grabbed the end. "The plug needs to be down at the bottom. We should do this in a logical manner."
The older woman took charge, giving precise directions that resulted in a perfectly symmetrical lighting design. Next, they took turns hanging the ornaments. The blonde would quickly pick an open space to put hers. Tina studied the tree at length before carefully choosing a spot.
Thank goodness it's not a six-footer… it would take a week to decorate. Sam picked up the tinsel. "I bet you're going to put this on one strand at a time, aren't you?"
Sam laughed and gave half the contents of the box to her partner. "I believe in the more tinsel the better." She started tossing the stuff at the tree by the handful. In less than 30 seconds, she was done.
Tina hung single strands on the scant number of bare branches that were left. When she finished, the women sat cozily on the couch.
"Samantha, thanks for doing this. The place looks… wonderful."
"You're welcome. Would you prefer that we stay here this weekend? You do too much driving…"
Tina shook her head. "I don't want to miss tucking Josh in."
"He told me you're quite the storyteller."
"Actually… it's only been one story so far. He always asks for the same thing."
Sam was very familiar with the child's penchant for listening to a tale over and over. "Maybe I can hear it sometime?"
Maybe almost always means yes. Sam smiled and cuddled closer.
They sat silently for a bit, each one lost in her own thoughts.
"I… I think I'd like to call my mom."
"Are you sure?" Tina picked up the portable phone from its base on the end table.
Sam nodded, taking the receiver and holding it against her chest, gathering her emotional strength. Finally, she took a deep breath and dialed, waiting nervously as it rang twice before she heard her mother say hello. "Hi, Mom. It's Sam."
Tina listened to the younger woman's part of the conversation alertly, prepared to intervene if necessary.
"How are you?" … "Yes, I'm completely healed. Even the bruises are all gone." … "Yes." … "No." … "Umm… Tina and I are going to be spending Christmas in Tampa, so I was wondering if we could stop by to see you on Christmas Eve?" … "Probably late afternoon." … "Okay. Bye, Mom." Sam pressed the off button, dropped the phone on the cushion next to her, and hugged Tina. "She said YES!"
There might be hope for you after all, Mrs. Whitwell. "Guess it's a good thing I got her a present."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I didn't want you to feel any pressure about calling her. I had Lisa help me pick out something just in case."
"I love you." Sam nuzzled Tina's neck and nibbled on her ear. "What is it?"
"That? I'd say it's my ear."
"You're impossible, Tina Mellekas!"
"But that's one of the reasons you love me, right?"
"One of many, many, many reasons… yes."
Tina gently reclined the blonde down onto the couch and gave her a searing kiss.
Wow. Sam suddenly felt extremely warm. "You wouldn't be trying to avoid discussing that present, would you?"
"What present?" Tina murmured as her hands began to roam.
And both women forgot about Christmas for a while.