Page 14

A White Wedding Christmas Andrea Laurence 2022/8/3 13:46:15

Natalie’s cheeks flamed at the accusation. “Not at all. I’m relieved, really.” She took a large sip of her wine and hoped that sounded convincing enough.

“You can say that, but I know it isn’t true. You couldn’t get out of the house fast enough that night.”

“I had an early day the next morning.”

Colin raised his brow in question. He didn’t believe a word she said. Neither did she.

“Okay, fine. So what?” she challenged. “So what if I’m holding it against you? I’m allowed to have feelings about your rejection.”

“Of course you’re allowed to have feelings. But I didn’t reject you, Natalie.”

“Oh really? What would you call it?”

Colin turned in his seat to face her, his palms resting on each knee. “I would call it being the good guy even when I didn’t want to be. You may not have noticed, but I had a date at the party. She was in a corner sulking most of the night. It wasn’t really serious and we broke it off the next day, but I couldn’t very well ditch her and disappear with you.”

Natalie’s irritation started to deflate. She slumped in her seat, fingering absentmindedly at her pizza crust. “Oh.”

“Oh,” he repeated with a chuckle. “Now if you were the kind of woman that would date me, you’d be feeling pretty silly right now.”

Natalie shook her head. “Even if I were that woman, this is still not a date. You can’t just decide to be on a date halfway through an evening together. There’s planning and preparation. You’d have to take me someplace nicer than this old kitchen, and I would wear a pretty dress instead of my clothes from work. A date is a whole experience.”

“Fair enough,” Colin agreed, taking another bite of his pizza. “This isn’t a date.”

Natalie turned to her food, ignoring the nervous butterflies that were fluttering in her stomach. It wasn’t a date, but it certainly felt like one.

They cleaned up the kitchen together and opted to climb in the attic to take a look at what was up there before they called it a night. Colin’s father had had the attic finished when they moved in, so the space was a little dusty, but it wasn’t the treacherous, cobweb-filled space most attics were.

“Wow,” Natalie said as she reached the top of the stairs. “There’s a lot of stuff up here.”

She was right. Colin looked around, feeling a little intimidated by the project he’d put on himself. He’d put all this off for too long, though. Giving the house to Lily and Frankie was the right thing to do and the motivation he needed to actually get it done.

He reached for a plastic tote and peeked inside. It was filled with old Christmas decorations. After further investigation, he realized that was what the majority of the items were. “My parents always went all out at Christmas,” he said. “I think we’ve found their stash.”

There were boxes of garland, lights, ornaments and lawn fixtures. A five-foot, light-up Santa stood in the corner beside a few white wooden reindeer that lit up and moved.

“This is what you were looking for, right?” Natalie asked. “You said you wanted to decorate the house for the holidays.”

He nodded and picked up a copy of A Visit From St. Nicholas from one of the boxes. His father had read that to them every year on Christmas Eve, even when he and his sister were far too old for that sort of thing. In the years since they’d passed, Colin would’ve given anything to sit and listen to his father read that to him again.

“This is perfect,” he said. “I have to go through all this to see what still works, but it’s a great start. I’ll just have to get a tree for the living room. What do you think?”

Natalie shrugged. “I told you before, I’m not much of an expert on Christmas.”

He’d forgotten. “So, what’s that about, Grinch?”

“Ha-ha,” she mocked, heading toward the stairs.

Colin snatched an old Santa’s hat out of a box and followed her down. He slipped it on. “Ho-ho-ho!” he shouted in his jolliest voice. “Little girl, tell Santa why you don’t like Christmas. Did I forget the pony you asked for?”

Natalie stopped on the landing and turned around to look at him. She tried to hide her smirk with her hand, but the light in her eyes gave away her amusement. “You look like an idiot.”

“Come on,” he insisted. “We’ve already talked about my matrimonial betrayal. It can’t be a bigger downer than that.”