The five of them stayed up most of the night drinking and playing cards. The tree gained more ornaments: two Joker cards and over a dozen bottle caps. They put on one of those radio stations that plays nothing but Christmas songs all day. Liza had come to hate Christmas songs over the past few years, but tonight she didn’t mind them. After their kiss, Bruce dragged Liza outside.
Her little Focus, parked right in front of the house (for once), was an oasis of cleanliness in a sea of dirty snow. “When did you do this?” asked Liza.
“This afternoon, when you were helping Michael in the kitchen…after I borrowed it to go Christmas shopping,” said Bruce. His smile was both embarrassed and defiant as he handed her the keys.
Liza took them and shook her head. “Nice, Professor. So you stole my car. I probably should have asked this before, but do you have a driver’s license?” She tried to sound annoyed, but couldn’t stop herself from smiling back at him.
“Hey, I said ‘borrowed’. Besides, you can’t be mad, I brought it back in better shape than I found it in. And yes, I have a license.” Bruce motioned with his head for her to go look.
Liza walked down to the curb. The car was immaculate and there was no snow around it in a five foot radius. She clicked it open and got inside. No trash. A big square present sat on the passenger seat and a shoebox was in the foot well. Liza picked up the shoebox. It contained the items from her car that Bruce must have deemed to not be trash: makeup, a book, a bunch of change, a magazine, a tin of mints, an old GPS, and a phone charger. On top of the pile was Liza’s butterfly knife.
Liza grinned and held it up. Bruce and Michael were standing together on the sidewalk. Bruce smiled. Michael let out a bark of laughter. “I’d of loved to see the look on Ray’s face,” he said.
Bruce pointed behind Liza. The card was for “The one I love” but it wasn’t too sappy. She unwrapped the present. It was a stack of blank canvases. Liza looked at Bruce. He shrugged. “Because your drawings are too good to be scribbled on a wrinkled food wrapper. I know you like to sit in the park and sketch, but I thought…you might like to draw on these sometime too, so you can display them.”
Liza felt excited and scared. She was trying to think of something to say when she noticed a folded up piece of paper sitting on top of the pile. It was a job posting from the University’s website for an assistant art director. “Thanks, but I can’t apply for this. I don’t have a degree, just a bazillion credits that add up to nothing,” said Liza.
Bruce was giving her that look; the smile with the tongue poking around in his cheek. “You already applied for it. Sort of. The director was in my office last week showing me cover samples for one of the magazines that the English department publishes. He saw your sketch on my credenza. I need a copy of your resume and a time next week when you’re free for an interview.”