My first ever holiday-themed fic! And yes, it's a shameless rip-off of a literary classic, but everyone else uses it, so I'd be surprised if anyone raised a fuss. Many thanks to Diane Valancy and Rebecca Immich for their help and suggestions!
Disclaimer: Remember WENN and its characters are the property of Rupert Holmes. No copyright infringement is intended.
Part of him wanted to tell her she was going overboard. But the smarter part of him just kept quiet and followed orders.
"Scott! Come over here and help me hang this straight. The bows are lopsided, and I can't get the tinsel arranged like I want."
The frustration etched on her face amused him to no end, but it also didn't give him courage enough to laugh outright. They hadn't been married that long. He didn't want to spend Christmas Eve on the sofa. "Betty, the bows don't look lopsided, and the tinsel looks perfect. If you'd step back here and look at it from a distance, you could see that everything looks just right." Scott held out his hand to pull her away from the tree.
She smacked his hand away and stuck out her tongue. "Can I help it if I want this tree to be perfect?" she teased.
"Get over here," he growled. But when she did stand beside him, he couldn't help but sneak in a kiss on the nape of her neck, which only served to distract her from her main focus of the tree.
"Stop it! We're never going to get anything done if you keep doing that." Her face said to stop, but her voice contradicted her. Scott gave her a wry grin and for the moment squelched what he really wanted to do.
"It's beautiful, don't you think?" His words made her face light up brighter than the electric sparkles on the tree. She'd spent most of the day decorating their small apartment with what few things they had and could afford. Admittedly, most of the holiday decorations were hers, as Scott had never felt it necessary to own ornaments or tree toppings. But since this was the first Christmas he'd really celebrated in years, and knowing it was his wife's favorite holiday, he wanted to do something a little more than plan the menu for Christmas dinner. Which he doubted she'd let him do anyway.
"Well, it isn't much, but we can add to it every year. At least there were some nice trees on the lot. That helps things." Exhaling deeply, Betty moved to reach for some wrapping paper lying on a nearby table.
"Got anything I can help you wrap?" Scott's eyes danced around the room looking for clues to an unwrapped gift. Hopefully his.
Betty couldn't help but laugh as she sat the paper back down and moved him towards the door. "No, there's nothing you can help me do here. It would be nice if you'd go to the market and pick up a few final things for tomorrow's dinner."
"The market?" he pouted. "The market's no fun. Wrapping presents, now that's fun." Pushing out his lower lip, he tried to feign a tantrum, but she was having no part of it.
"Go! Otherwise, you won't get any stuffing or jam cake tomorrow." Ripping a list off a notepad, she folded it and tucked it into his pocket.
Grabbing his hat, coat, and scarf off the hall tree, he noticed the scripts sitting by her typewriter and took them off the table. "Do you want me to take these to the station?" He knew she'd been typing furiously on some of the scripts for Christmas Day, so the interns would have plenty to do and give everyone else the day off. From the looks of the stack of paper, the interns would be on the air non-stop until New Year's.
"Oh, no. I'm not done with the last program, and if I send the scripts over all together, I have a lesser chance of losing them somewhere in the station. Mr. Eldridge might file them away somewhere and I'd never find them again." Betty's fear of that scene had her taking her frustrations out on the delicate wrapping paper.
"Nah." Scott waved his hand to dismiss the idea. "He'd just file them under S for scripts, C for Christmas, I for interns, or P for paper. There are only 26 letters in the alphabet. Eventually, he'd have to put the scripts under one of them."
Betty smirked at the vision of herself taking apart the file cabinets just so she could reach the letter Q. "I'd rather save everyone the struggle." She pointed him in the direction of the door. "You'd better get going before the store closes."
"Yes ma'am!" he saluted, and gave her a saucy wink before closing the door behind him. Scott whistled a Christmas-y tune as he jogged down the stairs and out the main doors of the apartment building to find that it had started to snow again. It actually looked like clean snow, as opposed to the coal-dusted variance they managed to get every winter. It served to chirk him up even more.
Reaching in his pocket to grab the list of supplies Betty wanted him to buy, he also found the sales receipt for her gift that he was supposed to pick up that day. He couldn't wait to see her face Christmas morning when she opened it. As soon as he saw it in the store window, he knew she had to have it, and even though money was tight, he'd do whatever it took in order to keep the store clerk from selling to someone else. Now it really was his. He'd make the trip to the market first, and pick up her gift on the way back.
The little bell at the top of the door jingled as Scott made his way inside the dusty store. "Mr. Sherwood! How wonderful to see you again!" An elderly gentlemen shuffled from behind the counter and quickly extended his hand. "Everything is ready for you, complete with wrapping, just as you requested!" Scott was thrilled.
"That's wonderful, Mr. Henry! I'm glad you were able to get it restored so quickly. My wife is going to love it."
"As well she should. This little antique desk set is one of a kind. It should go beautifully with the heirloom you described. And while I'm sorry you chose to sell your little bottled ship in exchange, I am selfishly glad you decided to sell it to me!"
Scott picked up the desk package and carefully cradled it in his arms. "I felt bad about that, as it's been passed down in my family for years, but once I saw this writing set, I knew I had to have it. Betty is a writer, and I know how much she would treasure this. Selling my little trinket wasn't a problem."
"Well, I shall enjoy gazing at this little ship sailing the high seas, even when the cold winter wind blows outside my window. Have a very Merry Christmas, Mr. Sherwood!"
"The same to you, Mr. Henry!"
Once Scott had left for the market, Betty ran into their bedroom and fished out a package she'd meticulously hidden away. Knowing Scott's penchant for snooping for presents, she buried his Christmas gift underneath some of his old sweaters and a bathrobe she knew he disliked with a passion.
She couldn?t believe it when she found his gift. It seemed like it had almost called out to her to buy it from the store window. The price tag nearly threw her off, but after selling her fountain pen, she could easily afford the shiny wooden and glass display case for Scott's bottled ship.
He'd commented before that the little ship was the only thing passed down in his family that didn't involve anything illegal. A great-great grandfather had actually made the heirloom, although failing to pass the building trait on to his sons and daughters. Scott was quite proud of his tiny piece of history and wanted to show it off, but was afraid to put it just anywhere for fear of accidentally breaking it. Now, with the display case, he could bring it out of the box it was packed in and let everyone else admire it.
The bottle was a marvel of creativity and talent. If you looked at the boat inside long enough, it almost seemed like the sturdy sloop was cutting through rough waves, unafraid of the open sea. The water was blue, the foam on the waves was white, and you could even see the highlights on the water. Sails billowed forth, straining the masts with the energy. Betty could almost see Scott at the helm himself, daring the four winds to take him someplace new and adventurous. She could see why he loved it so much.
As she carefully cut and taped the wrapping paper, her eyes couldn't help but wander over to the table where her fountain pen used to sit. It hurt to part with, but what else could she do? It had first belonged to her Grandmother, who used to write little short stories when she was first married, and extensive journal entries when her children were born. When her Father began writing for a newspaper, her Grandmother passed on the pen for him to use. The day before Betty moved to Pittsburgh, the fountain pen became hers.
It was mainly a sentimental thing. She didn't really use it much any more for writing. Considering how Scott's little ship had been in his family much longer, and was more interesting to look at, she could sell what she had without too much remorse.
Placing the present underneath their tree, she stepped back and admired everything one more time. "Perfect," she sighed. Christmas couldn't come soon enough.
They didn't bother setting the alarm clock for Christmas morning. They both knew Betty would be the first one up and dragging Scott out of bed at the crack of dawn to start the celebrations. All Scott had requested the night before was that if she was up before 6 to at least have a pot of coffee made before rousting him awake.
Tiptoeing around the apartment, Betty gauged her noise level in the kitchen and living room by the level of Scott's snoring. She managed to let him sleep until 6:30, but finally lost patience as the sun came up.
His peaceful slumber was interrupted by someone whispering in his ear. "Scott? Scott, wake up!"
"It's Christmas morning, Scott. Get up! I can't wait any longer." Betty nudged him at first, then figured she would have to resort to other tactics in order to wake him. It was a dirty trick, but she figured it was worth using on a day such as that one.
"Sco-o-o-o-o-tt," she sing-songed seductively near his ear, "don't you want to wake up now? There's so much more to do awake than asleep."
He managed to get one eye open. "Don't toy with my affections, wife." Growling good-naturedly, he tried to smother a grin at her amusement. "And I'm getting up now, as long as the coffee is made."
Laughing, she raced off the bed and into the kitchen for two mugs of coffee. He followed a few minutes later. "I don't suppose you'd rather eat breakfast first instead of opening presents?" Her scornful look answered his rhetorical question. "Well then, if that's how you feel, I think you should open my present first!"
Betty needed no further hint. Eagerly grabbing the large package, she tore the paper and ribbons off with reckless abandon and gasped at what was inside the large box. The soft, varnished wood was wonderful to the touch. "It's beautiful," she stammered. "Where did you get it?"
"I found it in an antique store downtown. I thought it would be a perfect little writing desk for you, especially with your fountain pen that you love so much. Just think of what kind of stories you?ll be able to dream up now!"
Her face blanched slightly. "Oh, Scott, I don't know what to say." Noticing his face, she rapidly backpedaled. "It's wonderful! I can't wait to use it." He seemed so proud of himself for choosing something she liked so much, she didn't have the heart to tell him the truth. She pushed her gift toward him to change the subject.
"Hmm, it's heavy, it's square, and it's wrapped up like a national security secret. It's not a new car, is it?"
She smirked. "Funny. Open the present!"
Paper flying, he stopped and looked at the case confused. "It's a glass box?"
"No, silly! It's a case for your bottled ship! So you can display it properly. I think we can rearrange some things so it will fit on the coffee table, don't you?"
Scott swallowed hard before answering. "My little boat? Uh...I-I think so."
"Where is it? I'll get it out of the box so we can see how it looks." He touched her arm before she could finish the sentence.
"Betty, I need to tell you something." He hesitated for as long as he could before the words came out, albeit with difficulty. "I..I..I s-s-sold the bottle in order to get the money for your desk. I'm sorry. I didn't know what you had planned, otherwise I never would have done such a thing." He looked on the verge of despair.
"You sold the bottle?" At first, she was stunned he would do such a thing. Then the irony of the situation was simply too much. She started laughing uncontrollably.
"Am I missing something?" Scott started to look rather angry.
"No, no! I'm just...the situation is so..." Wiping away her tears of laughter, she kissed him softly and put his face in her hands. "Scott, I also have a confession. In order to buy the display case, I sold the fountain pen for the money. So you see, I think the problem is that we love each other too much. If that is a problem at all." Letting it all sink in for a minute, it wasn't long before he also started laughing.
"This couldn't possibly happen to anyone else, you know." Laughter subsiding enough to form coherent sentences, Scott pulled Betty into his arms and sighed. "I have to admit, even with the comedy of errors, it's been the best Christmas I've ever had. And we're only a few hours into the day yet."
"Maybe next year we'll actually manage to get gifts that don't overlap."
"Even if there are no gifts next year, if I have you, I don't need anything else."
She turned to look into his eyes, and found he meant every word.
"Merry Christmas, Scott."
"Merry Christmas, Betty."
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