Secret Santa

“I don’t accept things that were bought with money.  I only want it if you made it, grew it or stole it.”

These were the kind of things she said.  These were the kind of things that made her enigmatic personality burn into my skin so it tingled whenever she was near.  Then, when she left, the hairs on my arms felt singed.  Being near her was like walking through a forest on fire, scary yet beautiful.

“You want me to steal something for you?”  I was surprised I could think clearly enough to respond in a coherent sentence.  

I pulled my hand back and clutched the small wrapped gift a little tighter.  I wasn’t afraid it was going to fall out of my hand or someone was going to take it, but my mind tried to cope with the rejection she just swatted my way.  It wasn’t that she said no thank you, it was the ambiguity in which she declined my gift.

“Or make it or grow it,” her tone was even.  She either practiced sounding like a pretentious bitch or it came naturally.  I hated how that made me want her even more.

“I’m sorry,” I fumbled the words out and looked away as if I offended her.  Jesus Christ, I’m pathetic.
“I didn’t know there were rules to this Secret Santa thing.  There was a dollar amount I think but other than that,” I trailed off.  Not because I didn’t know what to say but because the look she was giving me made me feel as if I was speaking a different language.  It was that or she just didn’t care.

“I know the rules.  I would have announced during the draw my further limitations but I was at a protest.  Tear gas.  Police in riot gear.  Arrests were made.  Sorry to inconvenience you after the fact.”

I’ve always hated roller-coasters, the thrills were too much for me.  Moving from lusting after her to hating her within a short conversation is more than a teenager’s fragile emotional state can handle.  

Why does she keep staring through me like that?  

“No.  It’s okay.  I mean.  Never mind.  Was it fun?  Shit, I mean, did you- are you good now?”

Good.  Fucking.  Lord.  Did I just ask her if she had fun at a protest that turned into a riot?

“No, I’m not.  They’re using chemical weapons on children at the border.  I am most definitely not good now.”

Make it stop.  Someone please, make it stop.  Is there nobody that can come interrupt this conversation?  Why is she still talking to me?  Help.  Please.  Anyone.

“I guess I could get you something else.  Although you know who your Santa is now so I don’t know if that means I’ve ruined it.  If you don’t mind I guess.  I’ll take into consideration your rules in excess of the others though.”

I wasn’t even making eye contact anymore.  I couldn’t look at her.  She made me weak.  Most girls did but somehow she was worse.  I only decided to participate in this Secret Santa thing because I knew she was in it.  The chance at pulling her name was slim but I managed it. 
I was ecstatic and barely able to keep my composure when I unfolded the piece of paper with her name written across it in her hand writing.  Block letters she wrote in.  There were no girlish swoops in cursive or hearts over her i’s.  They lines were straight and cold as if they were written by someone at the bank writing out a loan document.

“If you want.  No money though.  I don’t support capitalist ideals.  Don’t whore yourself out to Wall Street,” she said as she was dressed in her True Religion jeans, Guess shirt and Hollister hoodie.  

The present clutched in my hand behind my back made me angry now, as if it were at fault for what just happened.  It had lured me into the mall and down the halls of crowded shoppers.  The store it took refuge in was practically blinking red and drawing me in.  Each item I picked up and looked at in consideration must have had a foul stench attached so I wouldn’t consider it until I finally made my way to the back and picked up the present to be.  
The small intricate horse pulsated and when I picked it up it vibrated in my hand.  It must have.  It’s the only explanation as to why I purchased it.  Not that she used to love horses and wrote a book report on them in the 3rd grade.  Not that she used to have a horse sweater she would wear every day to school in the 6th grade.  Not even that time in the 10th grade I overheard her tell a friend her favorite movie of all time was Flicka.  

The horse was returned to the store and put back on the shelf.  The wrapping paper and the box were tossed in the garbage and I was left with nothing and no idea what I could get her that wasn’t purchased that would get anything more than an, “oh, thanks.”

Nobody listens to mixed tapes.  I took drama instead of wood shop because the idea of spending an hour a day with the wood shop boys made me cringe worse than having to preform stupid skits in front of artsy kids.  I was desperate and leaning towards picking a flower from the neighbors garden and hoping it didn’t seem to lame.  It was hopeless.

The worst part of it though was that the horse was perfect.  She still loved horses.  We had a few classes together and I’ve overheard her telling friends about going riding on the weekends.  I think it would have made her lips break into a smile.  Teenage lust is such an annoying disease to suffer from.

“Make it, grow it or steal it,” I muttered to myself in an annoyed tone.  
People who say things like that never mean it.  They just don’t want to be bothered with finding something unique for someone else.  

I often resorted to resentment when struggling with my Jekyll and Hyde dilemma.  Love her for who she is or hate her because those same qualities make her difficult.  People have such a hard time accepting things for what they are and try to reason them until they fit inside a box that makes it easier to understand.  While reasoning they cut off corners and shave down edges until it fits just right but lose important parts along the way.  I tried to make it a point to not do that, although it was really fucking hard sometimes.

I looked over at the wrapping paper and box that were sitting in the garbage can and pulled my vision back out of focus.  The trouble with reasoning something into a box that makes sense is that you don’t have anywhere else you can go with it.  It is what it is and nothing else.

The next day, before school I caught her attention again.  With somewhat of a found sense of confidence I handed her my Secret Santa gift, “I hope you like it.”

She looked at it then back at me.  The thing with her that was the hardest to figure out was that she didn’t give an expression either way.  She rarely smiled but she also never rolled her eyes or sighed from annoyance.  I could never tell if she hated me, tolerated me or cared that I existed.

The gift unwrapped fairly quickly and she pulled the top off of the small box then looked at me, “I said I didn’t accept anything that was paid for with money.”

“It wasn’t,” I quickly replied while a smile was held back from spreading into a grin.

“You didn’t make this,” she picked up the same small intricately detailed horse that I had originally bought for her.

I shook my head no, “I didn’t.”

She stared at me halfway between confused and aggravated. 
I caught her building vexation, “I followed your rules.  I didn’t buy it.”


“I stole it.”

She was surprised by the answer.  I could tell by the way her face dropped its defenses and softened.  Her head tilted in curiosity, “you did?”

I nodded, “I did.  Well I did buy it first.  It’s the same gift I tried to offer you the other day but when you said you didn’t want anything paid for with money I returned it.  After trying to reason what to give you I came to the conclusion that it was the perfect gift so I went back to the store during the busiest time of day and swiped it.  I’ve never had an adrenaline rush so high as I did in those few minutes of entering the store and leaving it with hot merch.”

It felt so strange to have the upper hand that I was rambling.  She was taken off guard by my forwardness, as if she had only said for me to steal something as a protest of society and didn’t actually expect it to happen.  The feeling wouldn’t last long though.  Eventually I would remember who I am and who she is and clam up.  She would do the same and build the wall around her again, but for those few moments I felt as if I had just won the Secret Santa gift giving.  I felt as if I had won Christmas.  For a day I felt as if I wasn’t a bumbling teenager trying to talk to a pretty girl, but just a boy telling a girl how much I liked her.

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