Daniel walked up the steps of the porch calmly. He stood by the front door, contemplating on whether to knock like a seventh grade boy calling a girl for the first time on the telephone. Without thinking, he finally hit the door three times and waited. Daniel was motionless; feet covered in snow, exhaling steam into the December air. The cold did not to bother Daniel, however. He would have waited for hours.
Finally, after a minute of attempting to blow smoke rings from his mouth, a young woman answered.
"Daniel," she said, surprised to see this person standing on her porch. "What are you doing here?" She then closed the door so only her head could be seen, for she had already changed from her school clothes into comfortable pajama bottoms.
"Oh, hey Emily," Daniel said, very casually, as if they were passing in a hallway of school and this situation was not at all out of the ordinary.
"Hi, Daniel," Emily said.
“Hi, Emily,” Daniel said.
Any plan that Daniel had was now forgotten. He stared at her, frozen, not from the cold, but because he was so taken back.
"I...I just wanted to come and see you," Daniel said.
Emily smiled, only slightly, and opened the door to reveal most of her clothes.
"You don't have to be embarrassed of your pajamas,” Daniel said. “I like reindeer.” Emily laughed and completely opened the door.
"Yeah, my cute Christmas pajamas," Emily said. "I got them a while ago. It's kind of a tradition for me to wear them around this time of year."
"Oh, yeah, that's funny," Daniel said. "Not the pajamas, I mean...You know, that you wear them every year." Daniel’s calm, casual image he tried so hard to maintain was falling into pieces. But Emily continued to laugh. She always laughed with him.
"So, how you doing?" Emily said.
"Pretty good, I guess,” Daniel said.
There was silence.
"Happy photography is over?" Emily said. This is how they met. Daniel and Emily sat next to each other in a photography class for the first half of the year. Here, they would talk about music, film, and their plans for the future. Although Emily was a year younger than Daniel, she had a much better idea of what she wanted in life, something Daniel admired very much. Emily was an artist, eventually planning to study art in college. Often she would sketch in her notebook during their photography class. When she was done, she would show Daniel her drawings, mesmerizing him every time as he got lost in the beauty of her pictures. It was one of the many things he thought was so special about her. Daniel was very shy in school, and everywhere for that matter, and his relationship with Emily was like nothing he ever had.
"Photography? Yeah, I'll miss it," Daniel said. "That was a pretty fun class...Well, actually, no it wasn't, but I had fun talking to you at least."
Emily looked down and smiled. They always did this, giving each other random looks and hitting one another like little kids in the hallway. But now it was different, for this was the first time they had ever seen each other outside of school; horrible timing, due to the fact Emily was moving away in less than a week, leaving their small town forever.
They both knew this could be one of the last times they would ever see each other.
Daniel looked to his side and noticed some boxes that were stacked next to the door, all with different labels.
"So you all set to go?” Daniel said.
"Pretty much," Emily said. "Great Christmas present, huh? Moving away to a new school your junior year of high school."
"I'm sure you'll be fine," Daniel said. "You'll get to be the new kid. Everyone loves the new kid. Have all the guys chase after you."
"Sure, Daniel. Just like they did at this school," Emily said, a little sarcastically.
There was a pause. They continued to stand in the cold, staring into each others eyes. Daniel then finally put his bag down and scratched the side of his head, preparing to say something he had never said to anyone.
"I have a gift for you," Daniel said.
"Really?" Emily said. "You didn't have to do that."
"Just think of it as a Christmas slash going away present," Daniel said.
"Well, thank you," Emily said, in her soft, sweet voice. Daniel then pulled a large sketchbook out of his bag and handed it to her.
"Sorry it's not wrapped," Daniel said. "It kind of takes the surprise away."
"Oh, Daniel," Emily said, holding the sketchbook like it was made out of gold; the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. "Thank you, Daniel. Thank you so much."
"Open the first page," Daniel said. "There's something in there for you.”
Emily turned the cover of the sketchbook. The first page had a picture of them together taken in their photography class. Above the picture was a drawing Daniel made, attempting to copy the picture. Emily saw it and immediately laughed. They always joked about what an awful artist Daniel was. Emily would draw pictures of beautiful skies, portraits, and Daniel would then draw his own pictures, consisting of nothing more than stick figures and birds with smiley faces. They always made Emily smile. Daniel loved making her smile.
“You didn’t have to do this,” Emily said.
"Well, I wanted to,” Daniel said. “The picture is so you never forget me. I mean, I couldn’t let you leave without a picture of us. And the drawing I did was so you never forget how good you are. Because if you ever do, just flip to that page and look at that drawing. I mean, it can't get any worse that." Daniel laughed, and Emily continued to as well.
"I don't know how talented I really am, but I know I’ll never forget you,” Emily said. "I don’t need a picture to remember how special you are."
Once again, silence grew. Not uncomfortable silence, however. Daniel and Emily never felt uncomfortable with each other.
"I have to tell you something,” Daniel said.
"What?" Emily said, staring into his eyes, holding her new sketchbook tightly against her cold body.
"I...I ah,” Daniel said.
“What?” Emily said, now taking a step forward. “What do you have to tell me?”
Daniel smiled and scratched the side of his head. He was still such a little boy.
“You know, I really hated photography,” Daniel said. “I mean, I know some people like it, but I just thought it was really dumb. I would have been out of there in like two days if I didn't have you to talk with."
Emily then burst out laughing; loud enough for her neighbors to hear.
"Really?” Emily said. “Well, thanks. I'm not gonna lie, I kind of liked photography, but you definitely made it more fun for me, too." She continued to laugh. Emily expected something profound, which Daniel wished he could have said; but although a senior, a young man who was about to go to college and face the world, he still was not ready for the many things this world had to offer.
"Yeah, seriously," Daniel said. "I thought photography was awful. Kind of like your reindeer pajamas."
He then playfully hit Emily on the arm.
"Hey, watch it!” Emily said. “My pajamas are a lot better then your picture at least.” She laughed, looking at Daniel still standing in the snow.
"You want to come inside for a while, maybe watch a movie or something?" Emily said.
"Yeah, that'd be great," Daniel said, trying not to sound too excited. Daniel then lifted his bag and began walking closer to the door. Emily was still. She stood in the doorway and continued to stare into his eyes. Silence grew. Emily was not a child, and unlike Daniel was ready for the many things this world had to offer.
"You didn't come her just to say hi, did you?” Emily said.
Daniel began to stutter, as he often did when he was nervous.
“Stop it, Daniel,” Emily said. “Look at me and stop thinking. What do you feel?”
Daniel stared into her eyes.
“You have no idea how much I love you,” Daniel said. He paused, then slowly raised his hand to touch Emily’s now cold and red cheek.
“Trust me, Daniel. I do.”
The young woman leaned in and kissed the little boy softly. Daniel was motionless, with his hand still resting on her cheek, stroking her skin and moving his fingers from the top of her face to the bottom. He was mesmerized by Emily. Just like one of her pictures.
The two teenagers remained on the porch, holding each other in the cold December air. Two people that for one moment put the rest of the world on pause and existed only with each other.
“Are you cold?” Emily said. “Do you want to go inside?”
Daniel smiled. “I forgot we were outside.”