She smiled back and sighed with relief. “I’m glad.”
Ivan gave his Christmas present one last loving glance, as though still incredulous to think he owned such things, and finally buried himself under the tree to reveal a large, flat, rectangular wrapped box.
“For you,” he said. Now, he was the one to be nervous. His palms were sweaty and his eyebrows scrunched up. “Um…yeah….” He didn’t know what else to say.
Hazel unfolded the corners and gasped—almost yelped—when she revealed what it was.
A complete painters’ set. Stock full with three leather-bound sketch diaries–one with pages that were partly lined and partly blank–that had gold bookmarks attached. Six colorful ink pens and three sharpened wooden pencils. Two erasers. One small, blank book for notes, quotes, and planning. And a photo book of Van Gogh’s best masterpieces.
She was crying.
“Hazel? What’s wrong?” Ivan frowned and crawled over to her. “Do you not like it?”
“It’s one of the best presents I’ve ever gotten,” she told him, tears streaming down her face. “Thanks so much. I…needless to say, I love it.”
Ivan breathed out a sigh of relief. “Whew…and I was about to think you hated it.”
Hazel wrapped a hand around his waist and laid her head down on his shoulder. “No, you know exactly what I like. You know me so well…” She looked up and gave him one of her “hazey” smiles.
“Wait, there’s one more thing..” All of a sudden, his body became rigid and stiff. He took her hands and led her to the nearby couch just feet away from the tree. “Stay there, but give me your hand. We’re gonna play Hot and Cold.”
“Uh, okay…” Hazel waited curiously with her hand outstretched. There was a solemn look on his face, one that made him rosy and melancholy and tense all at the same time.
He took her hand, feeling her soft skin, and led it to the middle of the Christmas tree.
“Feel around until you find something hard,” Ivan said.
“Is everything okay?” she asked uncertainly.
“Yeah, yeah, just do what I say,” he said, almost impatiently.
“Okay.” With an eyebrow turned upwards and one turned down, she fumbled through the branches and then, unexpectedly, caught something hard. Very hard. Like a box.
Automatically, his own hand swooped down and took it from her. It was a small, black, jewelry gift box. In fact, it was the one he had used so many years ago to give her her first little black watch. He sat down next to her.
“Aw, that was really nice of you,” she said, thinking he’d given her a new watch.
He shook his head, almost frowning, and opened it. In it was a perfectly round hoop. A silver ring. She gasped. “Oh!”