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Christmas Angel

Chapter 21

Chapter 21: Christmas Angel

 

     "Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer," sang the cute little characters dancing across the television screen. Miroku sprawled on his stomach on the living room floor, totally engrossed in the animated Christmas special. Inuyasha sat on the sofa with Souta on one side of him and Kohaku on the other.

 

     "Look at this one, Inuyasha." Souta pointed to a photograph in the family album. "This is a picture of Kagome when she played the Wicked Witch of the West in her fourth grade play. I think the warts were a nice touch, don't you?"

 

     "Souta!" Kagome snatched the album out of his hands. "I don't believe you showed him those!" Her cheeks flamed red as she glared at her little brother. His obvious enjoyment of her embarrassment didn't help. She grabbed a pillow from the end of the sofa and tried to clobber him, only to have it tumble from her fingers when Inuyasha seized her wrist.

 

     "Calm down, Kagome." Inuyasha laughed as she struggled against his hold. With a gentle tug, he pulled her down to land in his lap. "I think you made a very cute witch. But my favorite picture is the one of you lying naked on a bobcat rug." Kagome stopped relaxing into Inuyasha's warmth and jumped to her feet.

 

     "I was only two years old!" Her blush returned, only getting worse as all three guys on the sofa collapsed in helpless laughter. With a growl, she gathered the tattered remains of her dignity and flounced off to the kitchen.

 

     She marched past Sango who was just entering the living room. Sango took in the stormy expression on Kagome's face and the three chortling guys on the sofa, and just sighed. Deciding not to meddle, she joined Miroku on the floor to finish watching 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.'

 

     "Very good, Shiro!" Mama helped Shiro press the plastic cookie cutter into the dough. She looked up as Kagome came in. Kagome pinched off a bit of dough, popping it into her mouth.

 

     "Look, 'Gome!" Shiro pointed at the shape he had cut into the soft dough. "I made a snowman cookie! And I'm going to decorate him with red and white and green frosting! And then I'm going to eat him all up!" Flour covered him from head to toe, and most of the kitchen. He bounced on the stool he was standing on, and would have fallen if Mama hadn’t grabbed him.

 

     "We need to bake him first," Mama laughingly reminded him. She slipped a spatula under the snowman and transferred him to a cookie sheet lined with other sugar cookie shapes waiting for the oven.

 

     "Tomorrow's Christmas, right 'Gome?" Shiro asked, choosing a reindeer cookie cutter from the assortment in front of him. He carefully dipped it into a bowl of flour before positioning it on the dough. "And Santa will come tonight with presents for good boys and girls?"

 

     "That's right, Shiro," Kagome said, stealing more dough to eat. "Are you going to leave him some cookies?"

 

     Mama whacked Kagome's fingers lightly with a spoon. "We will if you don't eat all the cookie dough first." Kagome laughed and placed her hands behind her back.

 

     "Yep!" Shiro enthusiastically stamped out the shapes of Santa Claus and a Christmas tree to go with the reindeer he had just made. "Will Santa bring me everything I asked for?"

 

     "I don't know, Shiro." Kagome tried to think of a way to prepare Shiro for possible disappointments on Christmas morning. "Santa's very busy and he doesn't like greedy children. But I'm sure he'll bring you some nice presents. And you can always ask him next year for anything he doesn't bring this year."

 

     "Okay." Shiro nodded his little head, his face serious. "Does Santa listen to prayers? 'Cause I want to remind him about my wish and Daddy said it's too late to write him a letter." Kagome looked at her mom, silently begging for help. Mama dusted the flour off of her hands and straightened her apron, cheerfully ignoring her daughter’s pleading expression.  If Kagome was going to marry that charming young man with the adorable son, she would have to learn to deal with the difficult or absurd questions a child might ask.

 

     "I think that would be a good idea," Kagome finally said after it became obvious that her mother had no intention of supplying an answer. "I'm sure Santa listens to prayers and he would love to hear from you. But he may already have his sleigh loaded, so be sure to thank him for what he does bring you."

 

     "I promise." Shiro turned back to his cookie making, satisfied that he could still reach Santa to remind him of his Christmas wish.

 

     Faintly, through the racket of the television and the stereo that was pumping out Christmas tunes, could be heard the buzzing of the doorbell.

 

     "Answer the door, Souta," Mama yelled, sliding the loaded cookie sheet into the oven.

 

     "I'm busy! Have Kagome answer it!"

 

     Kagome tried to wipe the worst of the flour off of Shiro. "Get the door, Inuyasha!"

 

     "It's not my house," Inuyasha called back. "I don't have to!"

 

     Muttering about inconsiderate people, Kagome reached the door just as the bell rang for the third time. A sandy haired boy stood on the front step. Kagome's sour expression melted into one of surprise.

 

     "Um, hi," he said. He nervously shifted his grip on the yellow backpack he held in his hands. From the living room, Inuyasha craned his neck to try and see who Kagome was talking to. No matter what she said, he still got nervous every time she talked to another guy.

 

     "Hi," Kagome said cheerfully. "I didn't expect to see you today! Did you need something?"

 

     "Um, yeah." He rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. "I, um, wanted to, um, thank you for, um, your help."

 

     "It was my pleasure," Kagome assured him. She caught sight of Inuyasha lurking nearby, obviously trying to listen. "Was there anything else?" She smiled brightly, and the poor boy blushed. He fumbled with the strap of the backpack.

 

     "Y-yeah," he stammered and thrust the bright yellow backpack at her. "Y-you, um, you forgot your books at the, um, library."

 

     "Thanks!" Kagome took the backpack and dropped it next to the wall. She tried to ignore Inuyasha's hovering, which got worse the longer she talked to the boy. "Would you like to come in for a cup of cocoa?"

 

     "No, um, thank you," the boy politely declined. "I've, um, got to go. Merry, um, Christmas!" He waved as he turned to make his way down the snow-covered walkway.

 

     "Merry Christmas!" Kagome waved before shutting the door and turning around. She smacked into Inuyasha who was suddenly standing behind her.

 

     "Who was your 'friend,' Kagome?" Inuyasha narrowed his eyes, putting a slight emphasis on the word 'friend.'

 

     "What's your problem?" Kagome asked, perplexed. She tried to push past Inuyasha, but he wouldn't move.

 

     "I don't like these strange guys coming to see you," Inuyasha stated, refusing to budge. "First it was that Jojo wimp, and now this stammering idiot."

 

     Kagome stopped pushing at him to stare in dawning comprehension. "I can't believe it! You're jealous!" Inuyasha snorted and crossed his arms over his chest. "We had a study date at the library and I forgot my books, so he was kind enough to bring them to me."

 

     "You had a date with another boy?" Neither one of them noticed the audience their arguing was attracting. Miroku turned down the television in order to hear better.

 

     Kagome threw up her hands in exasperation. "It wasn't that kind of date." She stepped forward and poked Inuyasha in the chest, forcing him to take a step back. "I'm still in school." Poke and step. "And I need to study." Poke and step. "And I don't need to tell you everything I'm doing in my life, so just back off!" They came to a stop at the entrance into the kitchen.

 

     "Are you having another fight with 'Gome, Daddy?" Shiro sniffled and big tears formed in his eyes. Inuyasha immediately panicked.

 

     "Of course not, Shiro," he said quickly, to forestall the threat of tears. "We just had a little disagreement, but it's all better now."

 

     Shiro jumped down off his stool and ran to throw flour-covered arms around his daddy's leg. "Kiss and make up!"

 

     "Listen to your son, Inuyasha." Miroku's voice came from behind them. Sango stood next to him, looking between the two of them with concern. "Besides, if you look up, you'll see the mistletoe." Both Kagome and Inuyasha looked up to see the sprig of mistletoe hanging above their heads.

 

     Kagome leaned forward to give Inuyasha a quick peck on the lips. Inuyasha had other ideas and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her snugly against him. He lowered his mouth to hers while Souta and Kohaku made gagging noises in the background.

 

     "Don't they need to breathe?" Sango whispered to Miroku after a few minutes. Inuyasha reluctantly disengaged himself from Kagome. She opened her eyes and lightly slapped him on the chest, but didn't step away.

 

     "Daddy?" Shiro's small flour-covered hand tugged at his daddy's pant leg. "Why did you have to kiss just because you were standing under the funny-looking plant?"

 

     "An excellent question, young Shiro." Grandpa emerged from the back of the house where he had been meditating, or more likely, taking a nap. "Now, mistletoe has a long and fascinating history." Grandpa took a seat at the kitchen table, snagging a freshly baked cookie from the batch Mama had just taken from the oven. He juggled the hot treat in his hands before taking a bite.

 

     "The mistletoe plant is a parasite that can only be found at the tops of oaks and other trees. In ancient times, it was held sacred by the Europeans. The Ainu, an early people of northern Japan, believed that mistletoe was magical. Also, mistletoe was used by the Druids in their ceremonies. Some people even attributed great healing properties to the plant.

 

     "It was in England, I think, that the kissing custom first got started--a sign of friendship, and goodwill-- and some say as a promise to marry. One legend says that, for every kiss, a berry must be plucked from the plant. When all the berries were gone, then the kissing had to stop."

 

     "Thanks, Grandpa," Kagome interrupted. She shoved a snowman cookie into his mouth. "Have another cookie." Grandpa, easily diverted, mumbled happily.

 

     "I like mistletoe," Shiro announced. "Can we use it all year?" Inuyasha scooped Shiro into his arms, tickling him.

 

     "Sorry, Shiro." Inuyasha tickled him again, listening to his giggles. "But the magic only works during Christmas. Besides, mistletoe can only be found during the winter. Now, why don’t I read you a story before we have to go home?"

 

     "Yay! A story!"

 

     Inuyasha settled the two of them on the sofa and pulled out a tattered book. "This is the book that my mom used to read to me every Christmas Eve."

 

     'Twas the night before Christmas

     And all through the house

     Not a creature was stirring

     Not even a mouse

 

     The stockings were hung

     By the chimney with care

     In the hopes that Saint Nicholas

     Soon would be there

 

     Kagome watched Inuyasha read to his son, a slight smile on her face. Her dad used to read this same story to her and Souta every Christmas.  That was before he got so sick.  After he died, Mama tried to carry on the tradition, but it wasn’t the same.  With a sigh, Kagome turned back into the kitchen to help her mom with cleaning up. Mama was running a damp sponge over the counter.  Kagome filled the sink with hot water, added the soap, and started to wash the dishes.

 

     "Does this mean that you are going to marry Inuyasha?" Mama asked. Kagome started and dropped the spoon she was holding. It fell with a splash into the sink full of soapy water.

 

     "You don't really listen to those old legends that Grandpa is always telling, do you?" Kagome could feel the blush creeping up her cheeks.

 

     Mama patted her on the shoulder. "You know I've always wanted grandchildren, Kagome dear. And if you marry Inuyasha, then I won't have to wait for the babies to be born. Though I wouldn't mind having a granddaughter or two." Mama laughed as Kagome's face got redder and redder.

 

     "Are you going to marry that boy, Kagome?" Kagome jumped again. She had forgotten about Grandpa sitting at the table. "I approve. I like that young man. Got a good head on his shoulders." He stood up from the table. "If anyone needs me, I'll be meditating in my room."

 

     Kagome wandered out into the living room, mostly to escape her mom's questions and not so subtle hints. Shiro nestled against his daddy, fast asleep. Inuyasha was just finishing the story.

 

     But I heard him exclaim

     Ere he drove out of sight

     Happy Christmas to all

     And to all a good night!

 

     Sango helped a sleepy Kohaku into his coat. They left with Miroku, promising to come back in the morning. Kagome walked Inuyasha to the door.

 

     "Mistletoe," Inuyasha whispered, indicating the sprig above the door. He leaned forward for a lingering kiss. Shiro shifted, mumbling sleepily. "See you in the morning." Kagome stood in the doorway watching him walk away until Souta complained that she was letting all the heat out. Tomorrow couldn't come soon enough.

 

^**^

 

     Mama answered the door early the next morning to be confronted with an array of brightly colored packages piled so high that she couldn't see who it was.

 

     "Nana!" A small bundle of energy attacked her. "It's Christmas, Nana! Did Santa come to your house? He left lots of stuff at our house! And he ate all the cookies! And the reindeer ate the carrots! And where's 'Gome? I want to show her the new Power Ranger I got! It's the red Ranger, see?" Shiro stopped talking long enough to show off his red plastic action figure. He bounced in place, too excited to stand still.

 

     "It's very nice, Shiro," Mama told him. "Why don't you come in, Inuyasha? You can put those packages down over by the tree."

 

     "Thanks, Makiko." Inuyasha groaned with the strain on his arms as he deposited his load. He stretched, trying to work the kinks out of his back. "Shiro's been up since before sunrise. I don't remember getting this excited over Christmas when I was a kid."

 

     Mama smiled. "Why don't you go wake up Kagome?" she said to Shiro. "I'll fix your daddy a nice cup of tea."

 

     Shiro bounded up the stairs. He stopped outside of Kagome's door and opened it very slowly. The lump in the middle of the bed indicated that she was still asleep. On tiptoe, he crept to the side of the bed. He took a deep breath.

 

     "Wake up, 'Gome! It's Christmas!" Kagome jumped about a foot into the air. She fought her way out of the blankets until she could see little Shiro, convulsing with the giggles. She gave a mock growl. He shrieked in pretend terror and ran out of the room with Kagome right behind him.

 

     Kagome chased Shiro into the living room. He took shelter behind a pair of legs. Too intent on catching Shiro to watch where she was going, Kagome collided with the owner of those legs. Inuyasha gripped her arms and pulled her upright.

 

     "Good morning, Kagome." He smiled and gave her a quick kiss. "Merry Christmas."

 

     Kagome smiled back, lifting a hand to brush a strand of hair out of her eyes. Her fingers snagged in the sleep-tangled mess. It suddenly occurred to her that she was standing in the living room with Inuyasha, wearing her pajamas and with hair in need of a good brushing. Blushing fiercely, she pulled free and rushed to the bathroom to make herself a little more presentable.

 

     Miroku, Sango, and Kohaku had arrived by the time Kagome finished and returned to the living room.

 

     "Merry Christmas!" shouted Miroku. He was wearing a pair of reindeer antlers and a bright red plastic nose that blinked. Sango wore a plush Santa hat and was sitting by the tree sorting presents.

 

     "Do you want to be Santa's helper?" Sango asked Shiro. She handed him a present decorated with tiny snowmen. "This one is for Souta."

 

     With Shiro's help, the presents were soon distributed. Before they could begin, the doorbell rang. Mama went to answer it and came back with Sesshoumaru and Rin and another pile of gifts.

 

     "Rin wanted to come for Christmas," Sesshoumaru announced. Inuyasha grunted something that sounded like “Merry Christmas” while everyone shifted to make room for the two.

 

     After months of preparation and decorating and stress, the paper was ripped off the packages and the big moment was over. Paper, ribbons, and empty boxes littered the living room. Buyo amused himself by eating the ribbon and attacking the paper.

 

     Shiro walked over to where Inuyasha and Kagome were sitting on the sofa. He held out two wrapped parcels, made up of more tape than paper. "This is for you, Daddy. And this one is for 'Gome. I made them in daycare." They were pictures, made with glue and yarn and macaroni. They had been colored and liberally sprinkled with glitter. Both pictures seemed to be of the same subject.

 

     "This is Daddy." Shiro pointed to the first figure. There was a slight resemblance if you squinted. "And this is 'Gome. And this is me." He pointed to two more macaroni blobs.

 

     "What's this one, Shiro?" Kagome indicated an extra figure on the paper, smaller than the Shiro blob.

 

     "That's my new baby sister," Shiro said. "'Cause that's what I want for Christmas. I want us to be a family."

 

     Inuyasha put his macaroni present down and pulled Shiro into his lap. "That's very sweet, kiddo. But Kagome and I aren't ready for that yet. I'll tell you what, though. You will be the first one to know if we decide to become a family. Okay?" Shiro nodded his head like he understood. Sango, Kagome, and Mama looked like they were about to cry. Souta and Kohaku looked nauseated. Rin looked confused, while Sesshoumaru showed no emotion at all. And Grandpa was fast asleep in his easy chair. Miroku was too busy playing with Kohaku's new remote-controlled car to pay any attention to what was going on around him.

 

     Inuyasha pulled out a small wrapped box and handed it to Shiro, whispering something in his ear. Shiro turned to Kagome. "Daddy says to tell you that this is from both of us." Kagome carefully removed the paper and lifted the lid off of the box. A delicate silver bracelet nestled among the tissue paper. Dangling from the bracelet was a small charm in the shape of an angel. Inuyasha whispered to Shiro again.

 

     "Christmas is a time of giving," Shiro said. "You have given us so much. Joy. And laughter. And--" He paused, wrinkling up his nose as he tried to remember what came next. Inuyasha whispered in his ear. "And hope." Shiro smiled brightly. "This gift is for you, to remind you that you will always be our Christmas angel. Merry Christmas, 'Gome!"

 

     Kagome threw her arms around both of them, laughing and crying at the same time. Mama soon called everyone into the kitchen for waffles and cinnamon rolls. It was a time for family and friends.

 

^**^

 

Food for thought: (courtesy of Sheer Bliss)

 

Never frown, even when you are sad, because you never know who is falling in love with your smile

copyright: The Literary Dragon 2004