Long before they came back to their flat Ulf regretted the way he had treated the man from that black car. Maybe it was unavoidable, but that still didn't make it right.
While Amaya parked the car Ulf ran up the stairs and hurried inside. There was a little something he needed to do that involved a computer and their television set. More exactly it involved connecting his laptop to the media-box and making certain all signals went through the way he wanted.
Ulf got his confirmation before Christina arrived together with Amaya, and he hastily closed the lid and hid his laptop behind the TV.
They barely made it inside the door before Amaya threw a hand to her mouth in the worst attempt at acting Ulf had seen for a very long time.
“My my, I forgot the cake! No worries, I'll just leave and get it. Should take about half an hour.”
What are you up to now?
“Ageruman-san, that should be enough time for you to take a bath. Thirty minutes.”
What the hell?
And Amaya was suddenly on the outside of the door.
Left inside was Christina who stood facing the door with her arms hanging by her side. Despite watching her back Ulf knew she was grinning wildly, and blushing while doing so.
Take a bath. Sheesh! Thank you Amaya!
Half an hour, it turned out, was more than enough for the kind of bath Amaya had in mind for them when she left to fetch a cake Ulf was certain had never been forgotten in the first place.
Two flustered teenagers with the experience of most of a full life each tried preparing food pretending that nothing had happened. In that sense the doctor Principal Nakagawa had brought with him down at the beach resort during August was right. All that experience couldn't prevent Ulf from behaving like a teen, and from what he saw of Christina, neither could she.
But you're cuter this way, he thought and was rewarded with yet another deep red blush.
He sliced up some green vegetables for their mostly Japanese Christmas dinner when he heard keys inserted in the door and Amaya returned with an overly loud greeting.
You never wait in the doorway like that when you come home. Amaya, you're sweet. Thank you, I really mean it.
Then his guardian must have heard the sound from the kitchen and entered the flat. Ulf could hear her dropping off her shoes in the hallway.
Beside him Christina flared red once again and busied herself with something that would give her another few seconds before she had to face Amaya.
Christina, in what alternate universe do you believe Amaya would expect us not to have shared a bed until now?
Ulf shook his head and smiled down at the food he prepared. Then he felt his own face heat up and realised he was just as prone to blush as Christina right now.
Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!
Embarrassed for the very reason that he could still become so embarrassed he left the kitchen and rushed into the small living room. There he busied himself with laptop, cables and the TV.
After a minor eternity he had finished his work and checked the time. Almost three pm.
I hope you like my Christmas gift for you Christina. It's the only thing special for Sweden I could think of.
“Christina, could you come in here? Dishes can wait,” he called.
Amaya stared at the laptop hooked up to her TV. “Why?” she asked. Shouldn't the two of you get ready for your Christmas date instead?”
“Trust me, Ulf said. Just trust me.”
“Can't it wait?” Christina shouted from the kitchen.
“Sorry, no. It's three pm.”
“Eh?” She came out into the living room with hands still wet from preparing food and washing some dishes.
The TV screen flared into life and lit up the room with a very old Disney cartoon.
“Trust me, Amaya, trust me,” Ulf said again. I hope you like it Christina.
Christina sagged in the door opening. “Ulf?” Then she dropped to her knees. “Ulf, no way!”
“I'm sorry I could only get last year's show, but I guess you missed it anyway.”
“Ulf, how could you...”
“How could I not? Merry Christmas Christina!”
She was crying silently when she crawled on her knees across the floor, and she was sobbing loudly enough for Amaya to hear when she grabbed Ulf and pulled him into her arms.
For once I want you to be a little kid again and just enjoy Christmas. I love you, I love you so very much. Merry Christmas.
He cradled her tall body in his arms and met Amaya's perplexed look. “Swedish tradition,” he whispered and nodded at the TV.
“But why?” Amaya mouthed and stared at Christina who lay in his lap smiling and sobbing at the same time.
“When we grew up this was Christmas. Stupid tradition, I know, but the entire nation used to drop everything at three pm sharp and watch this show.”
Amaya smiled and nodded. “And you wanted to bring some of that back to her?”
Ulf hugged Christina closer to him. “She deserves is.” Then he burrowed his face in her hair and revelled in the luxury of slowly drying hair full with the smell of the girl he loved.
“You're a good man,” he heard Amaya say. “I knew that from the beginning. An arrogant and cocky bastard, but a good one.”
He wasn't clear why she heaped this kind of praise over him right now, but he felt grateful for it, and with Christina in his arms some of the feeling of wonder from Christmases past returned to him.
He sat there watching snippets of old animated films flicker on the screen, saw them but didn't really register them. For him that one hour long show had long since become the backdrop for Christmas, and now he just enjoyed silently sharing those memories with Christina.
Somewhere far back in his mind he wondered how the rest of the gang enjoyed their Christmas.