Halfway through the show, they heard a siren in the distance. Gaby jumped up and said, “It’s time! Where are your shoes?” She was walking over to the front door to retrieve his shoes before she finished talking.
Owen pushed the pause button. “Are you really going to make me go outside?” he asked.
She put the shoes on the floor in front of him. “Hurry up. We don’t want to miss him.”
She watched the top of his blonde head as he slipped his feet into his shoes and worked on the laces. The siren was getting louder. She grabbed his hand and tried to pull him up even though he outweighed her by about fifty pounds. “Come on,” she said.
He smiled slightly at her enthusiasm and let her drag him outside. They continued to hear the siren for a minute and a family across the street appeared on their porch as well. “You know they go up and down all the streets so we didn’t need to hurry,” he said.
“This way we’re ready,” Gaby said. She was rubbing her hands together as neither of them had put on a coat.
Owen grabbed one of her dark brown curls and pulled it straight before letting it spring back. “I notice you’ve been wearing your hair down a lot more often lately.”
“Yeah, it’s finally getting long enough.” Gaby had nearly waist-length hair through college and up until the summer before last. She went in for a trim and saw a sign for Locks of Love. She impulsively decided that shoulder-length hair would be a nice change for a good cause. But she had underestimated her natural curls. Without the extra weight, they coiled up into a rather triangle-shaped nightmare. She shed more than a few tears over the result. She had expected Owen to make fun of her for crying over hair. He hugged her instead. Sometimes he was very nice to have around. Her hair now landed just past her shoulders even when it was in full curl.
Owen watched those curls bounce as Gaby hopped up and down to keep warm. “Let me get a jacket for you,” he said with his hand on the knob.
“No! He’s coming.” She pointed to the corner where a fire truck was turning onto their street. A second one was right behind it. Both trucks had lights and sirens going and were covered with strings of Christmas lights. On the back of the second truck was a man in a Santa suit, waving wildly.
Gaby returned the wave and Owen put his hand up for a second. This was a Hartford tradition, the arrival of Santa the day after Thanksgiving on the back of a fire truck. Gaby had waved at Santa every year for as long as she could remember and her favorite parts of Christmas were the things that stayed the same every year.
Owen opened the door as soon as the trucks had passed and ushered Gaby inside. She was rubbing her hands together and he put his on top of hers.
“How are your hands still warm?” she asked.
“This is great. Now that Santa’s officially in town, the letters will start coming in.”
“I’m not helping,” he said as he continued to gently squeeze her hands.
“I didn’t even ask yet.”
“I’m still not helping.”
“Hey,” Gaby said, “do you know who Santa is this year? I heard Mr. Overmeyer couldn’t do it.”
Owen nodded. “David Schmidt.”
“Wait a minute. Isn’t he your uncle?”
“So you had a family member playing Santa and you still weren’t going to go outside?”
“Well, because he’s family he knows I’m not six.” He gave her a fairly cheeky grin and for some reason it made all of Gaby’s attention focus on the fact that he was still holding her hands.
She pulled them away and said, “I’m warm enough. Let’s finish the show.”
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