It took a colossal effort for Liza to force herself to go back downstairs, but her head settled down thanks to Blue Moon and a five person clean up crew. When the dishes were done, they migrated to the living room and sat around Liza’s tree. Its ornaments twinkled away, oblivious to their own ridiculousness.
Liza opened her second Blue Moon. Sam was on his third. Jake was drinking eggnog from a gallon container that he brought over from his house. Bruce was drinking Rum and Coke, though with only Captain Morgan sitting next to him, Liza doubted the existence of the Coke. Michael declined a glass for his Bird Dog, but set a coaster under the bottle on the end table. Liza and Bruce looked at each other and smiled. Then Bruce must have remembered that he was pretending that Liza didn’t exist, because he looked away.
Liza jogged upstairs to get her presents while Jake and Sam handed out theirs. When she came back, a big box with a red bow was perched on Michael’s knees. He leaned away from it as if he thought a bomb or a baby alligator were inside. Liza handed him her present. Before he could open his mouth, she said, “I haven’t had a real Christmas dinner since my parents died, and I wouldn’t have had one this year if it weren’t for you.” Inside the box was a new pea coat to replace the charred one that he usually wore. Jake and Sam gave Michael a pair of waterproof winter boots. If he left, he would be one warm, dry homeless dude.
Liza gave Jake a boxed set of old black and white movies and new mats for his truck. She gave Sam a gift card to J. Crew and a pair of those mittens that fold back and turn into fingerless gloves. Bruce gave Jake a pictography on old-school Hollywood actresses. He gave Sam a Starbucks gift set that had a commuter mug, coffee k-cups, and a gift card.
Sam gave Liza a pad of sketch paper and a set of charcoal pencils in a wooden box with her initials carved into the lid. The font was crazy and asymmetrical. She loved it. Jake gave her gift card to the art museum so that she could see the Cezanne exhibit that was going to be there next month.
Jake and Sam gave Bruce two pair of long johns and a book of letters written by famous authors. Bruce hesitated before opening Liza’s gift. He didn’t look at her as he tore the wrapping paper away. Inside was a leather-bound copy of Robinson Crusoe. Bruce stared at the book. It occurred to Liza that he may not remember the significance of that book. He’d been a bloody, semiconscious mess at the time. This was a stupid idea. He didn’t remember and he wasn’t going to open the cover. She should have gotten him a sweater.