Chapter 6

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Laughter and the shuffling of feet approach me as I enter. I narrowly avoid collision with Elijah as Rory clung to his back like a tiny monkey. He is giggling uncontrollably while desperately trying to hold on to Elijah. 

"Mia!" Rory exalts with a jovial gasp. Without much contemplation, he decides to launch himself off of Elijah's back to land onto my chest. There is not much time for me to prepare for Rory's landing. The wind is practically knocked out of my chest as I receive him. Elijah offers his support during Rory's transfer to my person albeit awkwardly. During, he takes a foot to the abdomen and I receive an elbow to the eye.  

With my good eye, I assess the two boys before me. Their faces are flushed and their hair is identically disheveled. Elijah's usually confined tresses are completely free, having abandoned the hair elastic he usually wears. He offers me a rushed greeting as we finish detangling Rory. We pause for a moment, watching each other, but there is not much time to converse, as he quickly excuses himself to go upstairs. 

As I watch him ascend the stairs, Rory tugs me into the living room. The creaks of the stairs fade as the volume of the television gets louder. His wild hair bounces excitedly as he explains the concept of a gingerbread house and how imperative it is for us to build one immediately. As expected, this new idea has completely consumed his thoughts. 

"That does sound fun." I say, trying to match his energy level, while smoothing down his curls. Internally, I am dreading the idea. The concept is fun but the execution is going to be messy and stressful. However, with Rory's huge chocolate eyes glistening with anticipation, I can't say no. He should have as many happy holiday memories despite his parent's busy schedules. 

"Okay, fine," I cave, leaning on the arm of the couch. "Next time I come. We'll build your gingerbread house."  I laugh as he roars with excitement. He hops up onto the sofa cushions to climb on top of me once more. There, we commence a game that basically entails me running around with Rory on my back. The game I'm sure I had interrupted when I came in. 

After the third or forth lap around the lower level of the house, I hear feet descending the stairs. We skid to a halt as I round the corner. We meet Elijah just as he reaches the landing. His unruly hair is now returned to his slicked back ponytail. He narrowly avoids colliding with me and slides past me to grab his dark jacket, that matches his overall black outfit. 

After zipping up his jacket, his eyes finally meet my own. His deep brown eyes are now framed with dark glasses that I didn't know he needed until now. I can't help but admit that he looks slightly attractive at the moment but I still maintain my suspicions about him. Suddenly, I feel a bit self-conscious about my own appearance. I now match the state in which Elijah was in when I first arrived. Hair disheveled, breathless, skin glistening. . . Do I smell?  

I may have been staring for a minute too long because he eventually clears his throat. I snap back to reality and set Rory down. I discreetly give myself a sniff while raising my arms to smooth down my hair. 

 Okay, I don't smell horrible, I rationalize.

"I'm heading towards the city," he announces, not giving much detail. He walks a bit closer to us and crouches down in front of Rory. "Be good for Mia and I'll bring you back something cool." He proposes this while ruffling his curls and uncharacteristically smiling up at me. 

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