Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, Feliz Navidad, Frohe Weinachten and God Jul everyone!
I present to you a cute, romantic tale centered around this holiday. It’s tagged with LGBT though, so you might guess the gender of the couple in the story (I used them once before actually).
The bright arrivals hall echoed with the voices of the newly arrived travelers, which mingled with the rumble of the luggage carousel as it began to spew out differently colored suitcases in a relatively tidy row.
Jenny was grinning from ear to ear, keeping one eye on the belt for their suitcases.
“Well, that was amusing”, she said, the sparkle in her eye going a long way towards compensating for the dark circles under her eyes and her still sleep mussed hair. They’d been forced to get up at an ungodly hour to catch their flight.
Anna cocked an eyebrow at her girlfriend.
“It was!” Jenny said. “That guy at passport control was just waving you folks by, then I show up with my American passport and he just freezes, like he’s never seen one before.”
“Well, that’s not too unlikely”, Anna said, fidgeting slightly with impatience. Why did it always take forever for their bags to arrive? “I guess most Americans that show up here arrive by sea on big cruise ships and don’t come near the airport.”
“Maybe, but it was still pretty funny.”
Jenny picked out her familiar purple suitcase as it nestled on the belt next to Anna’s black one with the pink bow on the handle, both of them near squished between two larger black suitcases. She pounced for them, nearly elbowing the stout middle aged woman and her equally stout husband that was standing next to them, the man spouting some Swedish expletives. Jenny mumbled an apology, but didn’t feel terribly bad about it; she had noticed the woman shooting ugly glares at them whenever she squeezed Anna’s hand or kissed her in the queue for passport control.
What she did feel bad about however was the fact that she really had to duck into the bathroom, while Anna was nearly dissolving with pent up stress, going on about the bus they had to catch to get to their hotel. There was no reason to worry, though, the bus was still there waiting for them after they were all ready to go- Anna had picked up some water for them as she waited – and she felt the need to tease her lightly about this. Her girlfriend always worried too much for her own good, something she had confessed to being more than aware of. Jenny would try to be supportive, but sometimes a little teasing could help to lighten Anna’s mood.
As the bus drove away from Gran Canary International Airport Anna let out a sigh and sunk into her seat.
“Can you believe we’re actually here, away from all the snow and the ice?” she said, gently lacing her fingers together with Jenny’s. “Away from the crazy Christmas rush and people running over each other to spend as much money as possible.”
“That is pretty great”, Jenny said and smiled, lifting Anna’s hand to her lips to kiss it. “I saw how the work stress was wearing you to the bone.”
Anna offered a strained smile as she recalled her last day of work, with customers actually elbowing each other over who had the right to get to her register first.
The lady from the charter travel group was holding a speech up at the front of the bus, but neither of them was paying too much attention to it. Jenny had never done this charter travel before and Anna had admitted to actually loathing it, but then they’d found this great deal on a package trip with accommodation in an apartment style hotel, complete with a full kitchen. It was charter without all the crazy group excursions and communal dining of regular charter or so Anna had said. They only perked up and listened when the lady offered up a brief weather forecast.
“23 degrees Celsius and clear skies for the next five days”, Anna said and grinned widely, as she leaned her head against Jenny’s shoulder. “It’s hard to imagine that kind of weather in late December, but it’s true.”
She let out another happy sigh. “I’m so glad we decided to do this.”
“I’m glad I could afford it”, Jenny said and nuzzled into Anna’s soft hair.
Outside the Gran Canary landscape rushed by their window, with barren plains one second, large buildings and citrus farms providing some much needed color the next.
“We should find a bus that takes us up to the mountains one day”, Jenny announced as she peered over at the craggy peaks that loomed in the distance.
“I think I read something in the travel brochure about a small zoo up there”, Anna said and began to dig through her purse.
“We’ll figure it out”, Jenny said and smiled. “We came here to escape all stress and just relax.”
Soon enough they could see the ocean peeking through the gaps between the ever present palm trees and buildings, many of them hotels that dominated the landscape. They huddled together close to the window and watched the deep blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean as it lapped at the southern shore of the island.
The bus made a few stops around the small towns and villages they passed through, stopping outside various colorful hotels. At each stop a group of people would dislodge themselves from their seats and get off. Jenny drew a loud, perhaps too loud sigh of relief when a family with small children disembarked at a large hotel complex, taking their wailing infant with them.
“I just don’t get why you bring your kid when it’s that small”, she said and wrinkled her nose. “How much a vacation will it be with a baby?”
Anna just shrugged and continued to flip through the info material the lady had handed to them when they got on the bus.
“You’re not having second thoughts about going on one of those group excursions are you?” Jenny waggled her eyebrows at her girlfriend.
Anna huffed. “Well, I wanted to see if they had any boat trips and how much they cost.”
Jenny squinted over the text in the pamphlet. The text was printed in three different languages, none of them English.
“There is one day trip that takes you to a fishing village, but it’s kind of pricey”, Anna explained, brow furrowed as she gestured towards the text.
“Well, if you really want to do that, it can be my Christmas present to you”, Jenny said and wrapped her arm around Anna’s narrow shoulders.
“We said we wouldn’t do any of the regular Christmas stuff!” Anna protested. “That was the point about going here, away from all the standard holiday celebrations.”
“If you say so, honey”, Jenny purred, then perked up, like a cat that had spotted a bird outside the window. “I think the lady just announced our hotel stop next.”
Not five minutes later they found themselves in what looked like a labyrinth collection of apartments, all clustered around a large courtyard where a pool sparkled invitingly, palm trees offering the only shade. The sun that shone from above had encouraged quite a few residents to enter the water.
“That’s what we’re going to do first”, Jenny announced. “Get your swimsuit out.”
“Shouldn’t we unpack first?” Anna protested, adjusting the strap of her purse on her shoulder.
“There’s time for that later”, Jenny grinned. “We’re on vacation!”
Though Anna made a fuss about it, she soon relented and they joined the other residents by the pool.
Jenny was doing laps, while Anna felt content to just lounge on one of the sunbeds with a book, while the sun shone down on them in approval.
“I kind of feel bad”, Anna said when a very wet Jenny had joined her, throwing herself first on Anna’s sunbed, but after some playful protests she flopped down on the one next to it.
“What on earth could you feel bad about right now?” Jenny asked and cocked an eyebrow. “We got someone to water the plants and your mother is taking care of the cat.”
“That’s the thing…I kind of feel bad for just leaving my family for the holidays”, Anna said. “I mean, I did say I wanted to just skip it for a year, but it still feels wrong to break from tradition like this.”
“I’m sure your family will be fine”, Jenny said, tucking a few strands of wet hair behind her ears.
“Well, we’ll be seeing your family for New Year’s”, Anna said, laying down on her side, facing Jenny, letting her sunglasses slide down to the tip of her nose. “That does make me feel bad about not being with my family for Christmas.”
Jenny smirked. “Really, honey? That’s what you worry about? It’s not like you don’t get to see your family enough outside of the holidays.”
She plowed on. “In fact, I distinctly remembered that your mother came over for that…What do you call that thing with the girl in the nightshirt and the fire hazard on her head?”
Anna let out a giggle, a little childlike, but not any less lovely.
“You mean Lucia!” she laughed, pushing her sunglasses up her nose so they wouldn’t fall off her face.
Jenny pretended to look embarrassed, it seemed only proper.
“Well, whatever it’s called…Your mom did come over and stayed for quite a while”, Jenny said. “So you saw her very recently. And don’t think I haven’t heard you complain about what a clusterfuck it is to celebrate any holiday with your family.”
Jenny poked Anna’s shoulder playfully.
“So stop feeling bad about getting an escape for the first time in a long, long time.”
Deciding she didn’t care much about what the others lounging around the pool thought Jenny then leaned over and gently let her lips brush against Anna’s, slowly deepening the kiss.
“I’ll give you your first Christmas present early tonight, when we try out that bed upstairs”, Jenny said and winked in a manner that made Anna flush.
That was another thing that remained endearing about her Swedish girlfriend, how even hints of intimacy and sex would make her skin flush red. The visual embarrassment on Anna’s face would always vanish though, once they entered the bedroom together.
“I did say we weren’t supposed to do Christmas presents”, Anna just mumbled feebly, her breath hot on Jenny’s neck as she tried to hold onto her, despite the gap between the sunbeds.
“I’ve never been good at following rules”, Jenny whispered against her ear.
The days passed slowly in a comfortable haze. On their first full day spent on the island they took a long walk to explore the surrounding area, strolling on the promenade that lined the cliffs that fell down into the Atlantic Ocean. Palm trees grew green and happy, joining other flowering plant life that prospered despite the chill they felt in the air after the sun set. There were rows of restaurants everywhere, on street corners and along the way, with smiling Spaniards trying to coax them into entering their particular establishment.
They stopped at a small cafe, by one of the sandy beaches that seemed to have been artfully placed at regular intervals (they stumbled across a nude beach once and walked away from it giggling like school girls). The ice cream melted on their hands, but Jenny was happy to lick it off her hands, even commandeering Anna’s hand at one point, licking remains of strawberry ice cream off them to her feeble protests. After the ice cream was gone they let the gulls have the cones, thrown in chunks into the sea where they deftly dove to pick the pieces out from the waves.
Anna took pictures. Pictures of the sea and the restaurants and the shops that sold everything a tourist might or might not need. She took pictures of Jenny and tried a few selfies until Jenny thought she looked silly and took a few pictures of her. They even got a kindly looking old lady to take a picture of them both, Jenny’s arms around Anna with the impossibly cerulean sea to their backs.
One thing that Anna found very amusing, which never failed to make her take out her camera to snap a few shots was the strange decorations they saw, a floppy, stuffed Santa Claus hanging from balconies and windows.
“It kind of looks like he’s trying to break in”, Anna said with a grin.
“Or maybe he just wasn’t welcome and was thrown out”, Jenny suggested, smiling as well. “And now he’s hanging on for dear life, hoping his reindeer will show up to pick him up.”
They found a shopping mall, a small one, though it looked fancy from the outside with a huge glass front and lavish Christmas decorations outside. Inside it did not look as impressive, with some stores selling what looked like cheap purses and electronics knockoffs, side by side with other shops that looked like tourist traps, selling souvenirs and other overpriced goods. It did have a quite a few restaurants though and they spent some time giggling over the bad English translations outside a Chinese restaurant.
“We have to eat here before we leave”, Jenny declared. “I want to know if this dish really contains ‘a fat hat'”
On their second day they ventured even further, to the great desert they’d heard called The Maspalomas Desert, its sand carried there all the way from the Sahara desert on the other side of the ocean to the south east. Anna had thought it would be a fun idea to walk until they found a place where they could not see the rest of the island and thus create the illusion of them being lost in a vast desert wasteland. Unfortunately, it seemed they were not the only ones with that idea and there were several other tourists meandering about, climbing the tall sand dunes for the spectacular views, or enjoying the feel of the warm sand under their feet. They saw some kids who slid down the sand as if it was a rolling hill of snow and Jenny decided to try it for herself. She got her shorts full of sand after the first hill though and decided she’d leave it for children who didn’t care about comfort.
After some research and deliberation they took the bus up to that little zoological park, nestled high up in the mountains. They didn’t have all that many animals there, mostly small ones, but they did have a rather fascinating birds of prey show, which they took the time to attend. Anna was more than a little amused when an African Eagle did not return from a flight as expected and after the end of the show, significantly improved by the staff using music from various movie soundtracks, they remained for a bit as the rest of the crowd left the little stadium and tried to pick out the eagle, still hovering up high above the greenery of the mountaintops.
It was when Anna was pouring over the selection at the souvenir shop that Jenny caught her sighing in a forlorn manner. When it happened again on the bus back to the hotel, clutching the stuffed parrot she had bought, Jenny had to poke her side and ask her what was wrong.
“I’m just…I know I’m being stupid…” she said, looking a little embarrassed.
“It can’t be stupid if it’s making you sigh and look like someone kicked your cat”, Jenny said and raised an eyebrow. “It’s not that whole thing about feeling like you’re abandoning your family for the holidays, is it?”
“Well, not…exactly…” Anna said and adjusted the straps on her sundress. “I…am kind of having second thoughts about not doing the traditional Christmas thing though.”
Jenny felt her worry fade into amusement as she watched the look on her girlfriend’s face. “That’s the only thing that’s making you sigh?”
“It’s kind of too late to try and have a Christmas here, isn’t it?” Anna said and sighed again. “I know it can’t be exactly the same…But I’ll miss some of the food and the decorations…And just the general feeling of it!”
Jenny’s mouth curled up in a wide smile. “I need to show you something once we’re back at the apartment hotel.”
Anna gave her a curious look, but no matter how much she begged and pleaded, Jenny would not reveal her secret.
Back at their hotel apartment she produced a bag that Anna had not noticed her packing and from it she pulled a bottle of the mulled wine that was a staple of any traditional Swedish Christmas, which had miraculously survived the trip. Anna’s eyes went wide as she also pulled out a small Christmas tree; decorations already attached to the small branches and plugged it into the wall, tiny lights shining pleasantly against the stark white walls of the apartment’s living room.
It was joined by a jar of chocolates and other candy, two packages of tinsel garlands in red and silver and some other small decorations. Finally there came a package of gingerbread cookies, only slightly crumbled by their long and arduous journey down here.
“This…and your present which I’ve hidden is a good start, isn’t it?” she said and waggled her eyebrows as Anna, who just flung her arms around her neck.
“Thank you so much for realizing I’d be stupid like this”, she mumbled against her neck, taking in the sweet scent of her deodorant and the coconut scented sunscreen Jenny had rubbed on before they left for the high altitudes of the mountain that morning.
“We can take a trip to the stores, including that big grocery supermarket and see what we can find to make ourselves a worthy Christmas dinner”, Jenny said and smiled, reluctantly pulling back so she could look Anna in the face. “Maybe we have to make it some kind of Swedish-American fusion, but we’ll manage something as close as possible to what you want.”
Anna closed the distance between them and kissed her. She came up for air a few minutes later, face flushed.
“I need to get you a present too!” Anna said, her eyes wide and bright.
“I’ll promise to keep my eyes closed and averted when you check the stores for something appropriate”, Jenny said and grinned. “You don’t have to get me anything fancy; I know my present was mostly a little silly thing I found.”
“The last time you got me a “silly little thing” you got me a kitten”, Anna said and stuck her tongue out.
“Well, this is definitely not anything close to that kind of silly”, Jenny assured her.
Together they decorated their hotel apartment with the decorations Jenny had smuggled with them. Just as they had finished Anna flashed Jenny a grin, then told her in a devious tone that they should look for one of those creepy hanging balcony Santas.
“Really now?” Jenny asked. “I thought you said those things looked silly.”
“Yeah…But it would still be fun to see people’s reaction if we take one of those things home with us”, Anna said, grim impossibly wider.
“I have clearly had a bad influence on you”, Jenny said and shook her head.
They went on a shopping spree in the grocery supermarket, Anna clutching a long list of things to look for in her hand. Not surprisingly they couldn’t find the kind of ham that they had in Sweden and their kitchen was not equipped for roasting a whole piece of pig in the way the Swedes liked it for Christmas. They also, unfortunately did not have turkey, but they found a very large whole chicken, which Jenny declared she’d try to cook the way her dad had always cooked the turkey for Christmas.
“Secret family recipe”, she said and waggled her eyes in a mischievous manner.
To make sure they still had some sort of ham on offer, they got some mixed cold cuts, where regular ham was joined by some more traditional Spanish variants and Jenny openly pondered whether she’d make some Spanish tweaks to her dad’s recipe for stuffing.
Anna would not give up her dream about Swedish meatballs though.
“That’s the one hot item we always have for Christmas that I really like”, she said with a pout. “I can give or take the ribs or the tiny sausages, but that…I got to have that.”
Fortunately they found a guy working the meat counter who ground them up a pound of nice beef, probably of a finer quality than the ground beef usually found in stores back home.
“You focus on the chicken and I’ll make the best Swedish meatballs ever”, Anna said, clutching the package of ground beef as if it was a small child she’d just given birth to.
They found potatoes; even sweet potatoes and Jenny insisted they get some.
“You’ll love them, trust me”, she said as she added them to their basket.
They were joined by some other necessities, before they devoted some time to snacks. Anna scoured the shelves for snacks she deemed Christmas appropriate, but eventually she caved to Jenny’s repeated suggestions to try some of the strange flavors of potato chips.
“Are these ham flavored?” she said as she held up a package with what looked like a roast ham on it. “And wow, I don’t even know what this is? Olive oil and rosemary?”
Anna made some feeble attempts to get marzipan to be made into little pigs and some chocolates, but after that their basket was very full and very heavy.
They stuffed the cupboards full of supplies for their improvised Christmas away from home and ventured out again to stock up on some more holiday appropriate alcohol and find more decorations. Anything red and green and twinkling was okay, even some glow sticks Jenny suggested they crack and place about the apartment on the eve of Christmas. After a bit of looking they finally found one of those creepy-silly Santa decorations and hung it proudly from their apartment balcony for all to see.
“I almost want to bring it to your parents place for New Year’s”, Anna said and smiled.
Jenny shook her head, and proclaimed in a tone taken from some Monty Python sketch: “No, that’s a little bit too silly of an idea.”
She bopped her girlfriend lightly on the head, mussing up her hair slightly.
The next day Jenny accompanied Anna to the small, quaint shopping district, quite close to the Maspalomas Desert (“I want to find something nice that is not a shoddy product or potential bootleg”) and was ordered to stay at an ice cream cafe and wait for Anna to finish shopping for her present. About an hour passed before she returned, face bright and smiling, clutching a package wrapped in brown paper.
That night, which just happened to be the day before Christmas Eve they celebrated by checking out a bar they’d walked past on their quest for decorations. It wasn’t too crowded and the music wasn’t too loud, the kind of rock-punk-alternative mix they both liked. Not to mention, the drinks weren’t too expensive. Jenny tried to teach the bartender a drink she’d invented herself, just for the holidays last year and the guy was surprisingly accommodating. Anna suggested it was because he thought she looked hot and might have a chance with her.
Jenny smiled cheekily at that. “Maybe I should discourage him a little on that front.”
Then she leaned over to capture Anna’s lips, deepening the kiss and savoring the taste of peppermint from Anna’s drink. If the bartender was put off by it, he had one hell of a poker face.
As Christmas finally rolled around, though the winds outside were balmy and palm trees swayed in the breeze outside instead of pine trees, they did what they had always set out to do, have a good and relaxing time of it.
They played Christmas songs on Anna’s laptop; they drank both the mulled wine and some drinks Jenny whipped up for them. Together they cooked the strangest, but also fairly elaborate Christmas dinner they’d ever had and had enough leftovers that they realized they wouldn’t have to go out to eat before it was time to leave. Jenny mourned that they might not get to eat at that Chinese restaurant after all.
And on Christmas morning, a compromise they had both agreed on they opened the presents they’d bought for each other in the light of their tiny Christmas tree. Anna was delighted to unearth a brand new leather bound sketch book, with her name embossed into the leather.
“This isn’t just some silly thing”, she said, but couldn’t stop smiling all the same.
Jenny told her she was more than happy about the complete Game of Thrones book series in paperback she’d received.
“It’s about time you finally read them all”, Anna said with a knowing look. “The next book is due out in just a few months, and then you’ll have them all!”
“I promise I’ll read them fast, so you can stop hinting about all these things they changed for the TV series.”
Anna stuck her tongue out and Jenny took that opportunity to thank her with a kiss.
“We never found any mistletoe, but I don’t think we need any”, she whispered against Anna’s face.
Anna shook her head and leaned her head against her shoulder.
“Merry Christmas”, she murmured.
“Merry Christmas”, Jenny replied and decided that all things considered, this was probably the best one yet.