42: Merry Christmas

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"Ah, winter break," sighs Adrian. "The last I'll ever have during high school."

Autumn's face tugs into a smile. The two are walking home in the snowless, frigid cold air, their words exhaling with a puff of condensation. 

 "My hedgehog has been shedding everywhere," converses Autumn. "He's so cute, though!"

Adrian laughs. "What did you end up naming him, anyway?"

She smiles. "Quilliam Shakespeare. What else?"

He laughs again. "Only you,"

In just a few days, they're sitting under the lone pine tree in Adrian's backyard, decked out with lights, under the silent stars. Autumn hands him a gift. 

He takes it. "Thanks," he whispers, and unwraps it. The paper he tears away to reveal a little tin can with batteries attached to its back. 

He looks quizzically at her, who bites her lip in an attempt to hide her smile, leans over and presses a button. 

Two plastic eyeballs pop out of holes in the top of the can, and the paperclips attached to the bottom of the can start to wiggle. She giggles. "Set him down,"

He does, and it walks across the lawn. They giggle like kids as it wanders into a tree root and topples onto its back. 

"That's adorable!" Adrian laughs. He runs over to pick it up. 

"I made it," she says quietly, as the words they said echoed through the silence anyway. 

"Really? Wow!" Adrian whisper-shouts. "That's so creative!"

She smiles at the ground bashfully. 

"I have something for you, too," Adrian says in her ear. He places a folded sheet of paper in the patch of moonlight in the grass. She picks it up wordlessly. 

When she unfolds it, something falls out. She retrieves it and grins at him. It's a gift card to one of her favorite book stores. "Thanks!" she whispers. 

He smiles back. "Now look at the card,"

She obeys, turning her attention back to the page in her hand. It's a letter. 

She reads the page slowly, her lips moving as she reads the words. Her voice builds, getting louder with each word. 

"...pleased to inform you," she whispers. "that Page Publishing..." she says quietly, "has decided," she says, "to publish your book, Midnight of the 31st!!" she shouts excitedly. She skims the rest, then tackles Adrian in a hug. "We did it!!" 

He's grinning. "No, you did,"

She laughs, to happy to argue. "Merry Christmas, huh?

"Merry Christmas."

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