I’m not surprised when I walk up to my apartment and see a small package sitting on my doorstep. For the last five days I‘ve come home to find gifts from my secret admirer. It’s a small box with gold wrapping – five golden rings, I assume. I pick it up with a smile and walk into my apartment. I have the mail in my other hand and my purse over my shoulder. I don’t know what to make of these little gifts, but they’ve all been useful or something I’ve been wanting.
I set my purse on the table in the little hallway as I kick the door closed behind me. I’ve been on my feet for the last thirteen hours at the bakery. My cousin Hadley and I opened it seven years ago. She does the business end of things and I do most of the baking. We have two other pastry chefs to help me, Amelia and Danielle. I let them go three hours ago since Danielle has a son and I know Amelia just started dating Tray Dawson. She’s borderline obsessed with him. I haven’t decided if that is good or bad.
Once I get my coat off and my shoes kicked into the corner next to the door I slide my feet into my slippers and head to the kitchen to check the freezer for a frozen meal. Most of the time I try to eat well, but holiday season is so busy I don’t have time to think about making full, healthy meals. I swear I’ve gained ten pounds from all of the sodium I’ve been ingesting. I find a frozen pizza, set it on the counter and go to the oven to turn it on to 400. As the oven starts to heat I reach up to pull my hair down as I lean on the counter to open the little gold box.
All of the gifts I’ve received have had gorgeous wrapping, this one is no exception. The box isn’t heavy. Before I pull the lid off I pluck the little note off the top to read it. The handwriting isn’t neat, as a matter of fact it’s quite messy and I usually have time deciphering some of the words, but I still try.
For those tired feet…
Of course I wonder how my anonymous caller knows how tired I am, but I leave that thought alone as I lift the lid. I move the tissue out of the way and smile. Again, I don’t know how he or she knows I need to relax, but I’ll take the offered pedicure. It’s a gift certificate for a deluxe pedi at the nail shop right down the street from my apartment. I’ve been there a few times so I know the girls at the shop do a great job.
As soon as the oven beeps, indicating it’s heated to the proper temperature I set the gift card back in the box and open the pizza box. I pull the plastic off and slide it into the oven, directly onto the top rack. I like a crispy crust.
Just as I’m closing the oven door I’m surprised by the doorbell ringing. I push some of my wispy hair back behind my ears and walk over to the door. I check the peephole and smile when I see it’s my downstairs neighbor, Eric. I assume he heard me moving around. I haven’t seen him at all this week and we usually go for an evening jog together at least three times a week.
“Hi,” I smile when I open the door. “Come in.” I take a step back to allow him entrance. He’s a tall, tall man with piercing blue eyes, blonde hair that matches my own, and one of those Colgate smiles.
“For you.” He presents me with a white poinsettia.
“Thanks. What’s this for?” I ask. He walks into my apartment and I close the door behind us as I take the flower.
“Because,” he shrugs. Eric rubs the back of his neck. “I’m glad to be home. I’ve been conking out at the hospital for the most part this week between surgeries, but vacation starts in six days.”
“Oh, nice,” I grin. “I wish I could take a vacation. I trust the girls, but my need to watch every single move and put my stamp of approval on everything prevents me from doing it. I have a pizza in the oven if you’re hungry.”
“No, I just ate your body weight in pot stickers and chicken chow mein,” he chuckles.
“I don’t know how you do that,” I say, shaking my head. I motion for him to follow me into the kitchen. Poor guy looks about as tired as I feel.
“Mostly I open my mouth, drop the food in and chew.” Wise guy.
“Smart ass,” I snort. I lift the gift card from the counter and add, “Did I tell you about this?” I can’t remember if I told Eric about the gifts or if I’ve even seen him since I started getting them.
“No, I don’t think so. What is it?”
“This specifically is a gift card for a pedicure. I’ve gotten a gift a day on my porch for the last five days,” I tell him. “It seems I have a secret admirer. Each gift has been something I need or would enjoy.”
“Oh yeah? That’s… cool and kind of weird at the same time,” Eric says. “Any idea who the person is?”
“None whatsoever. I’ve also been too busy to really analyze them. I think it’s pretty cool though,” I smile. “There hasn’t been anything stalkery so I’m not worried.”
“So no bunny stew on the stove huh?”
“Not yet,” I laugh. “Although that might be welcomed right now. My body is going to revolt soon from all the processed shit I’ve been eating.”
“It’ll be better after the holidays. I could probably introduce you to someone if you wanted a fun way to work off the calories…”
“Will it take a lot of time?” Lately I’ve been passing out within ten minutes of eating.
“If he does it right,” he snickers.
I give Eric a wary look. If there’s a joke in there I’m not getting it…
“Um… what kind of calorie burning are you talking about?” I ask with a skeptical look.
“Oh my God!” I cackle. “My brain wasn’t even going there. I could use a good orgasm though.” It’s been hmm, seven months since a lame drunken one night stand with a guy named Bill. That’s not even a cool name.
“I can tell,” he teases.
“Hey now, I don’t see you offering,” I tease right back, playfully smacking his arm. We’ve flirted but it’s always been harmless. Eric is extremely attractive but I don’t think I’ve ever thought about having sex with him. He’s the kinda hot where I know it would a dream if he ever came onto me. Or he’d be drunk… or blind…
“I’m not your type, based on the other guys I’ve seen you with. Besides, if I were you I’d be a big, lesbian slut,” he says with a goofy grin.
“Let me guess, you’d also video tape it and offer it to the attractive neighbor man?” I say. I go to the fridge again to grab a beer. I have a guest; I probably won’t be going to bed anytime soon. I grab one for Eric too, holding it out for him.
He takes it and says, “Nah, his imagination is active enough.”
“Good to know,” I chuckle. It hits me that maybe Eric is attracted to me; maybe he just hasn’t gotten laid in way too long too. It’s none of my business, though. “And for your information, I don’t really have a type. I’m attracted to good personalities.”
“Then I’m definitely not your type.”
“Are you kidding me? You have a wonderful personality,” I tell him. “You’re funny too.” His sense of humor can be a little dry, but it’s still good. I chalk it up to him working so damn much and dealing with sick children. If ever there was an ovary killer it would be an attractive pediatric surgeon like Eric. But like I said, he would have to be insane to be attracted to me, not that I like him like that.
“Oh yeah, I’m a barrel of laughs. Although a patient told me a joke today. Wanna hear it?”
“Sure.” I take a drink of my beer and hop up on the counter.
“What did the buffalo say to his son when he went off to college?”
“I don’t know, what?”
I blink twice before I burst into laughter. “How old was the patient?” I ask as my laughter starts to die out.
“Seven,” he chuckles.
“That’s a good age,” I smile. I have four nieces ranging from twelve to six. “Do you want your own kids one day?”
“Yeah, I think so. Yeah, kids would be good,” he says. “They’re interesting little people. I’ve seen some pretty sick kids with more fight in them than adults with the same illness. It’s sad though when it’s a chronic illness and they get used to being poked, prodded and cut into for one reason or another. I don’t know if I could put my kids through some of the things other parents do, but I suppose I can understand wanting to give your kid the best chance to survive.”
“I don’t know how you do it,” I say, shaking my head. “I would spend more time crying than doing my job. I have a hard enough time when a cake doesn’t come out right. If I lost a patient I’d be inconsolable for months.”
“It’s not easy. The day it doesn’t get to me is the day I retire.”
“That’s a good way to look at it.” As I sit here looking at Eric I start to find myself being a little more attracted to him. Not only is he funny, he has a huge heart. Eric is the kind of guy you take home to meet your mother.
I shake my thoughts when the timer goes off for the pizza. I jump down from the counter to open the oven. I turn to look over my shoulder when I feel eyes on me. I don’t think Eric notices me watching him stare at my ass. That’s a confidence boost if there ever was one.
I place the pizza on the counter to cool while I stretch up to grab a plate from the cabinet. If Eric wasn’t here I’d be eating the whole pizza without slicing it.
“I’ve thought about doing some volunteer work overseas but I don’t know,” he tells me. “I’d want to learn the native language but I don’t know how long it would take to learn Russian or Cambodian. They have nothing in common with Swedish or German.”
“Do you speak those languages?” I find the pizza cutter and start to slice the pizza.
“Oooh, fancy,” I chuckle. “I can speak a little Spanish, but not much.”
“It makes communicating with the kids easier than going through a translator. I think there’s more trust if they know I can understand them on my own.”
“That makes perfect sense,” I nod. “Are you sure you don’t want any of this?” I motion to the pizza.
“Positive, thanks.” He hasn’t opened his beer yet either. “I should actually get going. I could use a run before bed.”
“Oh, okay. I would offer to go with you but I can barely stand right now,” I say. It’s kinda nice having him here but I won’t ask him to stay. He has better things to do than hang out with me.
“It’s okay. It’ll be a quickie, a hot shower and then bedtime for me too,” he says.
“Alright, don’t be a stranger,” I smile. “It’s nice to see you. It’s been too long.”
I follow Eric to the front door. I reach up to hug him without thinking.
“I’ll be back.” He hugs me in response.
I let him go after a few seconds. I watch Eric walk out, closing the door behind him. I see the little gold box on my way back into the kitchen and my thoughts leave Eric, turning to my secret Santa. It is a little weird to have anonymous gifts sitting on my door each day, but at the same time it’s kinda sweet. I just hope that I learn who it is one day. I would hate to get twelve gifts from someone and never be able to say thank you…
I get an idea and run to my office. I sit down at the desk and write a quick thank you note to my admirer. I’ll tape it to the door tomorrow on my way to the bakery in case I don’t ever get to meet this person dropping the presents off.
The next day I’m in the bakery mixing cupcake batter in the kitchen. Danielle is with me and Amelia is at lunch, in other words off fucking Tray in the back of her Jeep. Hadley is in the office doing paperwork, like always. Today is just as busy as yesterday. The cupcake order and an order for an eggnog cake are my number one priorities.
I’m actually surprised when I hear a knock at the back door. I look around and it’s obvious Hadley doesn’t hear it so I grab a towel to wipe my hands as I walk to the door. When I open it there’s a kid in his early twenties standing there with two giant reusable bags.
“Hi, can I help you?” I greet him.
“Delivery for Sookie Stackhouse,” he says.
I didn’t order anything…
“Oh. Then these are for you. Where do you want them?” He holds up the bags.
“What are they?” I nod my head for him to follow me into the kitchen. I have a clean table he can set the bags on.
“A spring mix salad with microgreens, a carrot and butternut squash soup, whole grain bread, herb butter and free range grilled chicken breasts,” he replies. “Oh, and vegan cheesecake.”
My jaw drops. “Who sent this?”
“I’m just a delivery guy,” he shrugs.
I have a sneaking suspicion that this is gift number six from my secret Santa.
I make him stay where he is and run to the office to get cash for a tip for the kid. “Thank you,” I say as I hand him ten bucks.
“It’s already taken care of. Merry Christmas from your secret Santa,” he says, confirming my suspicions.
I slip the money into my pocket as he walks out. I’m completely dumbfounded. The pedicure was one thing, but as I sift through the bags I realize there’s enough food for all four of us.
“Danielle, take a break,” I call over my shoulder as I lay the food out on the counter. “It’s lunch time.”
“Holy shit, where’d all this come from?” She plucks a cucumber slice from the salad.
“No clue. This is day six that I’ve gotten a super-secret squirrel present from some unknown person. Yesterday there was a gift card for a pedicure on my doorstep. I’ve gotten movie tickets, a gorgeous red sweater just the right size, and a giant bouquet of chocolate covered strawberries.” They’re my favorite… this person definitely knows me.
“It’s probably Calvin.” Danielle opens the soup.
“Calvin Norris?” I chuckle. “I guess it makes sense, but I didn’t think he’d be the type of guy to do this.” Calvin Norris has been asking me to go on a date with him once a month for the last three years. He’s a nice guy, but about thirty years older than me and I don’t like him that way.
“Maybe Bill wants a rematch,” she snickers.
“Never gonna happen,” I laugh. “I haven’t heard from him since I left his house that morning. I highly doubt it’s him. You know, I haven’t even really thought about it. I’ve been too tired to care.”
“Well for now, just get your grub on,” she says, handing me a plate.
“Thanks.” I take the plate from her and we start to dish up the food.
I guess I should try to figure it out. The girls have the weekend off and I usually do too, but I’ll probably be in the bakery Saturday and part of Sunday. I’ll try to figure it out then. All I know is the things I’ve been getting are extremely thoughtful. They’re the kind of gifts you get from someone that really cares and pays attention to what you say or how you’re feeling. I don’t think it’s either of the guys Danielle mentioned but I can’t think of anyone else that would care this much. I just hope he or she got my thank you not today.
The gifts continue to come, each more thoughtful than the last. The bakery is closed until after the New Year on Hadley’s orders. I can barely stand by the time I leave these days. Today when I walk up to my door there’s no box or gift, but there is a folded piece of paper taped under the peephole. I slip my key into the tumbler as I pull the note off of the door. As I step inside I open it and pause when I read what’s written there in the same illegible scribbles.
On the roof. Meet me when you get home
It is the twelfth day so I guess this is it. I haven’t had a chance to think about who it could be. At this point there’s no point in wondering. I’m going to find out as soon as I gather the cajones to walk up the three flights of stairs to get to the roof. I go inside to change my clothes quickly, mostly because now that I’m faced with knowing who has been sending me the best gifts I’ve ever received I’m scared.
I pull my flour covered work clothes and find a pair of clean jeans. I put on the red sweater I was gifted along with the jeans and pull my hair down, running the brush through my ratty locks. I think they look okay… I put my fuzzy slippers on along with my black hoodie. With a deep breath I walk out of my apartment, locking the door behind me.
I feel like it takes hours to walk up the stairs. I reach the door to the roof, resting my hand on the knob for a good thirty seconds before I finally open the door. The first thing I notice are the twinkle lights strung around some of the poles. There’s a small fire pit for warmth and then I see him…
“Eric?” I breathe. Eric is my secret Santa?
“Surprise,” he says rather sheepishly. He’s dressed in casual, well-worn jeans that are ripped at the knee with a black, V-neck sweater and a pair of ratty looking Chuck Taylor’s.
“All the things… th… those were from you?” I manage to stammer. I don’t know what to think… Eric? Really? It’s absolutely insane. I can’t say I’m mad at it though.
“I’m surprised the shitty handwriting didn’t give it away, but yeah,” he answers. “Just coming right out and telling you that you’re awesome and I would be crazy not to have feelings for you was too easy.”
I’m stunned. My lips quirk up in a small smile. It makes perfect sense when I think about it. Eric and I aren’t besties but he knows what I need and what I complain about. “If I wasn’t so tired I couldn’t put two thoughts together I would have figured it out,” I chuckle as I move closer to him. He has to be blind if he’s attracted to me, but I’m not going to question it.
He holds up one more box. It’s small, wrapped in pretty red paper with a gold bow on it. “For you,” he says.
I keep my eyes on his as I take it. I finally look down to pull the little note off. I can’t decide if the note is creepy or sweet, but I know Eric. It isn’t intended to be creepy.
Now I’ll see you wherever I am
I tuck the note into my hoodie pocket and lift the lid. I gasp, covering my mouth. It’s a gorgeous star pendant on a thin silver chain. I notice there’s another little folded piece of paper stuck to the bottom of the box so I pull that off to find out what it is.
Eric had a star named after me. My smile widens. This is the sweetest, coolest gift anyone has ever gotten me.
“Thank you, Eric,” I smile up at him. “This is… wow… wow is all I can think.”
“You’re welcome,” he replies. “Listen, I want you to know that I’ve done all this without expecting you to go swooning into my arms. I just want you to know that I think you’re amazing and I would be lucky to have you.”
“Are you asking me out, Eric?” I ask, that small smile is still present. If he’s asking me out I don’t even have to think about the answer. I’m attracted to him, especially to his personality. He’s smart, hardworking, and has a kind soul. He’s pretty damn awesome himself.
“Only if your answer is yes,” he chuckles.
“I’m so happy to hear you say that.” He tugs me a little closer and boldly leans in to kiss me.
I accept the kiss. My ovaries immediately kick into overdrive when his soft lips press against mine. He’s not too rough or demanding, but he’s not shy about it either. I wrap my arms around his neck as the kiss goes from sweet to exploratory. His hands settle on my hips as his tongue slips into my mouth. Eric is an absolutely amazing kisser. Holy cow.
“Were you talking about you when you said you knew someone to help me work off the calories?” I chuckle against his lips when we break to breathe.
“Yep,” he answers with a little smile. “The offer still stands.”
“Good to know,” I smile back. I pull away to go set the necklace and notes on the table about two feet from us. I don’t hesitate to walk right back to Eric and wrap my arms around his neck again. “I don’t know how to thank you for my twelve days of Christmas.”
“You just did.”
“You know you’re a pretty awesome guy, Eric. You could have just asked me out. I would have said yes,” I smile up at him, playing with the short hair at the nape of his neck.
“Too easy, remember?” His big hands land on my hips and he adds, “Besides, it was fun to see the look on your face when you opened the box with the shoes.”
Eric was there for shoe day. He played it cool like I was insane for accepting all of this so easily. I also know now why all of the clothing items fit so perfectly.
“How are you not taken already?” I ask as we start to sway from side to side.
“Probably because until I met you I was a better taker than a giver,” he says.
“I have a hard time believing that.” Eric is one of the kindest, most giving men I’ve ever met.
“I have a list of ex-girlfriends who will gladly tell you what a jackass I am,” he says modestly. “But I’ve learned my lesson. Or maybe the right girl came along.”
“This feels like one of those cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies,” I chuckle. “It feels right, though.” As crazy as I think he is for liking me, it does feel like this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.