Ryan trudged his way through the snowy air, working hard to reach the nearly concealed house, his only guide being the icicle Christmas lights that dripped off the roof and the glow of candles emanating from the windows.
Despite the strong winds that attempted to make him tumble over, Ryan finally reached the dark wood door, slamming his fist into it while pulling his face deeper into his coat.
The door flew open, flooding the porch with warm light.
A voice cut out into the snow. "Who's there?"
"It's me!" His voice was muffled.
"Who?!" She yelled.
"ME!" He pulled his coat away and tugged off his hat.
"Ryan!" He could hear happiness fill her tone. "Come inside!" The woman's hand jutted out into the wintry air, grabbing hold of him and yanking him into the room.
"Well, hi." He greeted, embracing his dark haired beauty.
She didn't release him. "I didn't think you were going to make it."
"Shannon, love," He smiled. "I told you I would. I know how much you look forward to your Christmas party every year. I wouldn't miss it for the world."
"You're so sweet." Shannon stretched up on her toes and bestowed a kiss to his nose. "And so cold! Here, come into the kitchen, it's nice and warm in there." She let go and began to saunter back to her cooking.
"Is that a little black dress I spy?" Ryan smirked as he gestured to her attire.
Shannon spun with a smile. "That it is. But one more comment on it, and it WILL change to sweat pants."
Ryan had a mock look of horror, but then grinned. "Oh well, you'd still look just as lovely."
She blushed. "Well, I do want to look my best for my guests…" Her smile faded. "Though I have a feeling you may be the only one."
"Nonsense." Ryan reassured her. "I'm just the first."
"Doubtful…but I'll let you humor me." Shannon giggled. "But think of it this way. That whole turkey…"
"Your famous turkey?" He asked with a raised eyebrow.
"The famous turkey." She assured him.
"Ooh…" He sighed contentedly. "Do go on."
"…that turkey, all to yourself."
"Well, wonderful as that sounds, I still think you're going to have more people show up."
"Are you saying you DON'T want a romantic Christmas Eve alone?" She jokingly argued.
"No, I'm saying I just think more people will show up." He corrected, coming up behind her and placing his hands at her waist. "And I know that will make you happy."
"Ryan, I am about to pull a turkey out of a 500 degree oven. You sure you wanna hold me right now?"
He let go of her immediately. "I guess I'll leave you in here and go get a fire started."
"Sounds like a plan!" She yelled after him.
Ryan walked out into the living room, taking in its Christmastime spender. The area had a homey feel, what with the mantel decorated with a simple nativity scene that was surrounded in red and gold garlands. Its beauty was only added to by the tree in the corner. It stood tall, the blonde angel's head nearly scraping the high vaulted ceiling. The ornaments that hung from the branches all had some special meaning, and in places where dangling jewels were sparse, there was a picture to hang from the branch. He recognized some of them, memories from their previous dates and holidays past. The look of the spirit was finished by the numerous presents spotted under the tree, all for the friends, family, and neighbors she was sure were not going to come.
With a grin, he reached into his coat pocket to add a gift to the pile. He held the small box in the palm of his hand a moment before placing it into the branches, the corner of the box just barely poking out from behind a snapshot of Ryan and Shannon out on a date.
"Ryan?" Her cry snapped him from his reverie. "Are you done with the fire?"
He looked to the cold empty fireplace. "Almost!" He lied.
But after all, what was a little white lie on a white Christmas?
Shannon settled onto the couch, her cooking finally done, and rested her head on Ryan's chest. "Isn't this nice?" She asked.
Ryan nodded, though he could tell she was dissatisfied. He knew she wanted her family there with them.
As if on cue, the door bell rang, sending a recorded carol though the house.
"Oh, gee," Ryan scratched his chin with fake thoughtfulness. "I wonder who that could be. "
"Ryan, what have you plotted?"
"Better go see who that is dear," He grinned as he sent her away.
Ryan listened as the door opened. "Mom!" He heard his beloved cheer excitedly. "Daddy!" There was a pause as he was sure she was hugging the couple. "How on earth did you get here?"
Shannon watched in disbelief as her family and friends all pooled into her house. She still stared at her parents for answers as she greeted passing friends and ruffled little ones messy heads.
"This man came by and picked everyone up in a bus! Can you imagine! No clue how it came about though!" Her mother relayed the information to her excitedly.
Just then, a man decked out in full Santa costume approached.
"Ho, ho, ho!" He yelled. "Got all the prezzies in me sack!"
Shannon could hear a thick Irish accent peeking out from behind his fašade. She saw a mischievous glint in his eyes and could see his dark stubble poking out from under his wig.
"Keith?!" She beamed at him.
The man said nothing in return, but his eye twinkled with a smile before he made his way into the bustling house with his bulging bad of presents.
Shannon ran into the house, astounded by how many people had flooded inside. "Ryan!" She spotted him near the kitchen, guarding the turkey from the little ones.
She flew into his arms as he scooped her up, her feet no longer touching the floor as he spun her. "Did you do all this?!"
"Perhaps." Like a gentleman he led her to the room with the tree and to the loveseat they had inhabited before.
"Oh Ryan!" She kissed his cheek. "This is the best Christmas present ever!"
"I hope you take that back," He answered slyly.
"Why's that?" She asked as he made his way to the overloaded tree.
He grabbed the gift he had stashed there earlier. "Because," He brought it over to her. "I hope the best gift you get…is me."
Ryan came down to his knees in front of her.
"Shannon…" He opened the box and presented its contents to her. "Will you marry me?"