Thursday, December 16, 2021

Noah Strikes Again - Part 3

    Footsteps and excited whispering in the hallway told Katie it was morning. It said her siblings were awake anyway so it was probably morning. She smiled to herself against the grogginess because it was Christmas. She pushed the covers back to sit up and not fall asleep during her morning prayers. They were somewhat rushed because it was Christmas. Then she slipped a pair of fuzzy socks onto her feet and went downstairs in her pajamas.
    “Katie’s up,” Noah said. “Now we only have to wait for Michael.” Though he was speaking to the family, he seemed to be trying to raise his voice loud enough for the only one not in the room to hear him.
    Katie claimed a comfy seat and gazed up at the lights on the tree. She was certainly looking forward to the presents, but her favorite part was all the pretty decorations.
    “All right, everyone.” Cecelia stood in front of her yawning parents and addressed her siblings with an air of impatience. “When Michael gets here, no one can start until we’re all ready. Then we have to open them one at a time so we can all see what everyone gets.”
    “That’s how we always do it,” Liz said.
    Katie nodded.
    Cecelia made a sharp inhale. Her expression showed how much she did not like to be contradicted, despite the fact that no one had done that.
    “Would you like to pass them out?” Mom asked.
    A pounding noise indicated Michael was on his way. Even rubbing the sleep from his eyes, the fifteen-year-old came down the stairs like someone who weighed three times as much. He went to the kitchen first, to the dismay of Cecelia, but came to the family room with a bowl of cereal only a minute later.
    Cecelia handed a present to Liz, who carefully peeled off each piece of tape before she opened a box with a new sweater. She smiled and said, “Thanks, Santa,” to her parents. She was one of those odd teenagers who liked getting clothes for Christmas. Katie was amused by that and the fact that her parents still labeled all the presents from Santa.
    Michael tore into his first present while holding his spoon in his mouth. It was a book. He dropped the spoon into the bowl to thank “Santa” and brag that he had guessed it was a book. There were a few sarcastic comments about the impressiveness of that deduction as Cecelia picked out a present for herself.
    She held it a moment waiting for eyes to turn to her before she ripped the paper off the small package. She displayed a silver chain with an angel pendant. “Oh, it’s perfect,” she said. “Thanks, Santa.”
    “Don’t you already have an angel necklace?” Mom asked.
    “It broke, remember?”
    Cecelia didn’t look up as she answered because she was focused on trying to undo the clasp. She didn’t notice that the people she’d just thanked were silently questioning each other as to who was responsible for the gift. The answer appeared to be neither of them.
    Noah said, “Katie’s turn,” as he shoved a gift with shiny paper into her lap before she could question the mystery. Mom smiled knowingly, which made Katie suspect the redirection was intentional. She peeled back the paper slowly as she reflected that having a little brother who liked to do things without getting caught wasn’t always a bad thing.