Days passed, then weeks, then months. And before long Winter Break had arrived. Stella had a few weeks off until the next semester, but she wasn’t on a complete break. The first semesters of school had been in a classroom, this next semester would find Stella learning hands-on in the hospital.
To help the students prepare, the professors gave each of the students a Teaching Dummy to practice on and learn from. It would move like a person, rattle off different symptoms and Stella had to diagnose it. The dummy would have everything from a splinter, to a severed limb, and everything in between. Stella loved her new toy so much that she named him Harvey, but Brandon was not a fan.
“I think it is creepy.” he exclaimed after Stella showed him how it worked.
Stella got a break from school, but Brandon didn’t get a break from the military. He still left for the base every morning and returned late every night. Stella was alone in the house with no one to talk to but her new toy, whose only response was a robotic, “I have pains in my stomach”. It was on those days that she found herself missing Brandon more and more. She was happy that he had agreed to stay with her. She convinced him that he could save money faster if he just took the extra bedroom instead of moving out. Brandon had bought himself a small bed and a small dresser. Stella was happy that he would be with her at least a little while longer. Happy yet confused at the same time.
She wanted Brandon in her life, but only as a friend. Or so she thought. She had convinced herself that he was no more than just a good friend. Then again, why was she trying so hard to convince herself in the first place?
“He betrayed my trust,” Stella thought to herself, “I can’t forget that.“
Yet every time Brandon smiled at her a small part of her wanted to throw her arms around him and kiss him passionately.
Lucky for Stella she soon had a distraction. Her parents were flying in from Appaloosa Plains to spend Snowflake Day with her! She was so excited. It would be her first holiday season with them in her new house so everything had to be perfect. Stella spent her days decorating the house, which meant less time to think about Brandon’s soft lips. Or how she noticed that he had gained more muscle since joining the military.
“I have to hang more lights,” Stella though as she tried to focus on something else other than Brandon’s muscles. Or his newly found confidence. Or how the sparkle in his blue eyes had returned. She didn’t know how to handle her conflicting emotions. Instead of dealing with her growing love for Brandon she buried her feelings and put up another Snowflake Day decoration.
Before long the entire house was covered in decorations!
“Look how happy she is,” Brandon thought as he looked around the living room. “she has gone crazy overboard with decorations because she wants everything to be perfect for her parents.”
Brandon was excited yet nervous about meeting Mr. and Mrs. Charming. He was happy that Stella was happy, and excited that Stella was excited. On the other hand, how would Cindy and Ryan treat the son of the witch who put their daughter under an evil curse? Did they know about Brandon’s involvement in Anastasis & Maleficent’s plan to harm Stella?
He was at work when Stella picked them up from the airport, and he knew they would be waiting for him at home. He showered at the base and changed into a fresh uniform that didn’t wreak from the mess hall.
“It is a pleasure to meet you Mr. and Mrs. Charming,” Brandon politely spoke as Stella introduced her parents. He noted how it stung that she referred to him as her friend, but Brandon didn’t let it show.
“Please call us Cindy and Ryan,” Cindy responded with a warm hug, while Ryan offered a strong handshake. Brandon didn’t worry about them after that.
It was decided that Stella, Brandon, Cindy and Ryan would spend Snowflake Eve with the Seasons, while Snowflake Day would be a quiet celebration at Stella’s home.
“Where are the guys?” Stella asked June when she noticed that Eugene, Matt, and Doug were absent.
“We thought that it would be too crowded.” June replied as she took everyone’s jackets when she greeted them at the door. “Plus, we wanted a nice quiet night with your parents.”
The Season’s House was modestly decorated. There was a humbly small tree in the corner of the living room. There were also a few poinsettias scattered here and there, and a beautiful, but not over the top, centerpiece on the dinning room table. It was no where nearly as decorated as Stella’s house. Then again, there is not a single home in all of SimNation that is as decorated as Stella’s house.
May, Cindy, and Brandon out did themselves with the dinner. They prepared a stuffed turkey with all of the fixings. They had slaved over the stove tops for hours, but it was all worth it. The meal was amazingly delicious.
Brandon had been nervous about the meal, because he knew that Cindy and May could cook circles around him. This was the first time that he had cooked for anyone other than Stella. So when the rest of the family complimented the meal, Brandon took extra pride to be included. Plus, his heart fluttered when Stella raved about the mashed potatoes, which is the side dish that Brandon made himself.
After dinner came the presents. Stella and Brandon decided to pool their money together in order to get nicer gifts for everyone. They got April a comic figure and a few comics to add to her collection. May received a new recipe book a unique seed that they found on one of their walks. June was given Twinbrook Gnomes pajamas. She loved them so much that she ran to put them on immediately.
From the Seasons Cindy was gifted a necklace and matching earrings. Ryan was given some nice sweaters. They gave Brandon some cookbooks and a new pair of boots. To Stella they gave some new clothes, a mug that read, “Dr. Awesome”, and a brand new camera.
Stella’s present to her parents was a special one. She gave them a scrapbook that she made of their time here in Twinbrook, and she included some pictures from her previous trip to Appaloosa Plains.
“Your present is too big to bring,” Stella leaned in a whispered to Brandon. “So it is still back at the house.”
The whole evening was wonderful; full of memories and laughs. The presents hadn’t all been handed out yet, but Stella had already taken over 100 pictures with her new camera. And before the evening came to an end, everyone got together for one last family photo.
“I will take the picture of everyone,” Brandon offered.
“don’t be silly,” Cindy insisted.
“Yeah,” June added. “you know that you are a part of the family too.”
Don’t go into your room just yet.” Stella told Brandon when they got home. “Your present is in there.”
Stella grabbed Brandon by the hand to stop him from going any further. They stood in the overly decorated living room right outside the door to Brandon’s room.
“I have said this before, but I feel like I can never say it enough.” Stella was still holding Brandon’s hand as she looked into his blue eyes. “I have to say thank you. You literally saved my life. I wouldn’t be here to spend Snowflake Eve with my family if it wasn’t for you. So, again, thank you and Merry Snowflake Eve. But before you go into your room you have to close your eyes.”
Brandon did as he was told. Stella put her hands over his eyes as she led him into his room.
“Okay open your eyes!” Stella announced once they were inside Brandon’s room.
Brandon looked around the room in awe. He knew that it was his room, but he didn’t recognize the place. Everything in the room was completely different.
The old bed, with the lumpy mattress, was replaced with a brand new bed, and blankets in his favorite color, red. He had a bookcase to hold his cookbooks, a large full length mirror, and a giant rug (also in red). But what really caught his eyes (besides Stella showing off her bright smile in the middle of his room), were the brand new treadmill and weight machines.
“This isn’t just from me,” Stella beamed with excitement. She loved seeing the surprised look on Brandon’s face. “My parents helped with this too.”
“This is all way too much.” Brandon was still in awe. “I don’t know what to say. I feel like thank you isn’t enough”.
“Now it is my turn to give you your present.” Brandon was still blown away by Stella’s generosity, but he needed to focus on the task at hand.
“Growing up I had a very different Snowflake Day,” Brandon began, “Mother used her dark magic to get anything that Ivy or I wanted. But more than anything I wanted to have a loving family. I wanted Mother to be like those loving and supportive moms that you see on TV. I wanted Ivy to be a loving sister; someone to play games and hang out with.”
Stella silently listened to Brandon as he continued his story, “But I never got that. I never got my family Snowflake Day. Not until today. And that means more to me than I could ever express.”
Brandon handed Stella a plain white envelope. “I know that this isn’t much, but I hope you like it.”
Stella opened the envelope to find plane tickets to China; three of them.
“Why three?” Stella questioned. She silently hoped that Brandon wanted to on a trip together, so what was the extra ticket for?
“The tickets are for you and your parents,” Brandon explained. “You all can go visit China together this summer.”
Stella realized how truly selfless Brandon is. He is always thinking about her; putting her first. Even risking his life for her.
For a split second she almost went in for a kiss. For a split second she almost told him that she loves him. But only for a split second. Stella’s trust issues filled her mind with doubts. Then the moment was gone.