‘Mum’, I yelled from the front door. ‘I’m going to see Ella. I won’t be long.’
Mum popped her head out of the living room. ‘Alright, Leon. Say hi to her mum and the others for me.’
I closed the door and slipped a pair of gloves onto my hands. I double checked my backpack just to make sure the present was in there. You see, this wasn’t just any present; it was for Ella, and I spent hours looking online and the in the shops for it. In the end, I decided to go with something from a shop. Sometimes online shops are so unreliable. I didn’t want to get her something that looked pretty online and super ugly in real life when it arrived through the post.
I didn’t know if I was shaking because of the cold or nervousness about the whole situation. I had given presents to lots of people before. I’m not showing off or anything, but this was different. Ella and I had been friends for about two years. We were in the same maths and geography class. There was never any real reason for us to have a proper conversation, though. Then, something really cool happened. It turned out that her mum and mine worked together, and that Ella loved the latest marvel movie just like me. At that moment my feelings were confirmed: I was in love with her. Actually, what I should say is that I fell for her over time.
I know I’m only a lanky 16 year old, but I’m sure. We get on so well it’s unbelievable. Ella was like one those rare jewels that you find once in a blue moon. I had no idea if she loved me, but she must have like me enough to stay friends.
I felt a lot warmer now as I approached a corner shop. I checked my backpack again for no real reason. Maybe I was scared that this present might mysteriously drop out of my bag.I don’t know.Sometimes these things happen.
The closer I got to Ella’s the more I felt like this whole thing would fail. I might end up looking like a complete looser. Giving her the present wouldn’t be the hardest part. It was the confession part. I planned what I was going to say and everything, and I picked Christmas Eve because I read somewhere that winter is a romantic season, apparently.
I was two streets away from Ella’s. So, I decided to practice my speech. I took my phone from pocket and read in my head. Then, I was nearly knocked to the ground by someone who bumped into me.
‘Ouch.’ I rubbed my sore forehead and so did the person in front of me. We both said sorry at the same time and that’s when I realised it was a girl and not just any girl. It was Pippa. What was she doing around here?
‘That was my fault’, she said and stepped out of my way.Then looked at me properly. ‘Leon?’ Hey, how are you?’
She was the girl that no one really knew anything about at our school. There were stories that she lived in a mansion. Some said that her family were so poor they couldn’t afford to eat proper food. Either of these stories could have been true. We had never really talked that much. I could get a really close look at her, though. Anyone could see that her lips were cracked, with small red lines ,and her jacket, if you could call it that, looked so flimsy. Maybe it was a fashion thing.
‘I’m okay’, I said. ‘How are you?’
She coughed in her fist. ‘I’m not bad. I’ve just got a cold.’
‘That sucks.’ I didn’t know what else to say. ‘You excited for Christmas?’
‘Yeah. I’m looking forward to it.’ Her tummy rumbled and she coughed loudly to try and cover it up. It was obvious. ‘Anyway, I better get going. See you around.’
She moved pass me and I don’t why, maybe it was the fact that she didn’t have a scarf and I knew how cold it was, but I wondered if she was going to get any presents this year.
I called after her. ‘Pippa. Wait a sec.’
She turned around and waited.
I unzipped my bag and pulled out Ella’s present.’Merry Christmas.’I held it out towards her
She frowned at me. ‘What? Do you think I’m a charity case?’
‘No. I just… I thought you might like a present. It’s no big deal.’
‘I don’t need some free gift from someone that barely speaks to me.’
‘Okay, okay. Sorry.’
I tried to put the box back in my bag, but she snatched it from my hand. Her glare softened and she hesitated before giving me a quick hug.’Thank you.’ Then, she jogged off.
I knew which rumour was true.
It took me ages to save up for Ella’s present and she never got to see it. I couldn’t even go home because I said that I really needed to see her and that it was important. I was not prepared for any of this. Maybe Pippa needed that gift more than Ella. I tried to convince myself.
I stood on Ella’s door step and took a deep breath. This was it. The speech seemed pointless now. It was too late for me to rush off. As soon as I rang the door bell, it was opened within seconds by her dad.
He looked surprised. ‘Leon, what you doing here?’
‘Good Afternoon, sir. I wanted to see Ella, if that’s okay?’
‘Remember, you can call me Anton. Do you want to come inside?’
‘Thankyou, I can wait out here.’
‘If your’re sure… I’ll get Ella.’ He closed the door.
Ella came out in a few minutes. ‘Hey. I didn’t think you were actually gonna turn up on Christmas Eve. I totally forgot.’ She sat on the step and wrapped her arms around herself. I tried to join her on the step, but I ended up slipping and landing on my butt. ‘Woah, you alright there?’ She laughed and grabbed my arm to steady me.
I tried to keep it cool. But, seeing Ella had made the speech flow out of my head. What was I going to say?
I begun to fidget.Maybe I should back out of this? What if she laughed?
‘I’ve had so much food today’, said Ella, rubbing her tummy. ‘I might be sick.’
‘Yeah. Mum’s feeding us so much. I think I might burst.’
Ella laughed. ‘Why does food have to taste so good ? She put her head on my shoulder and pretended to cry. ‘What was it you wanted to talk about? You could have texted me, you know.’
She was wearing perfume, a really nice one too.
‘I wanted to tell you in person.’ She lifted her head from shoulder. Now I had no excuse not to look at her.
‘I really really…’
From behind us, the front door swung open and both of her heads darted round to see Ella’s sister. ‘Monopoly. Now.’ She ran back into the house.
‘It’s that time again’, said Ella. She jumped up. ‘Irene’s late for the first time ever. She better hurry up.’
I tried to keep a smile on my face. ‘Oh, right.’
‘You wanna play?’
‘Nah, I told mum I wouldn’t be long.’
‘Sorry you had to walk all this way. Maybe you can tell me what you wanted to say another time?
‘Yeah. No problem.’ There’s no way I was going to show how gutted I was.
Ella nodded. I nodded. We both stood there awkwardly.
Hugging was never a big deal for us. That’s what friend did. But, to my surprise, she leaned over on her tiptoes and did something she had never done before. She kissed my check.
‘Have a good Christmas.Thanks for the present.’ She went back inside the house.
I held my cheek, completely dazed.
I didn’t get to give her the present this Christmas. What was she talking about? I made a mental note to ask her about it later.
I put my hands in my pockets and made my way home.
Next time. I’ll tell her text time.