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Everyone enjoyed dinner and Aunt Gina’s cooking. They decided that they would keep up the tradition of giving one gift on Christmas Eve and then exchanging the rest on Christmas.

“Are the other guys coming tomorrow?” Chris asked AJ as everyone was settling into the living room.

“They are and they’re bringing their families. And relax Nick; there is plenty of food for everyone!”

“Why do I always get picked on?”
“Cuz we love you little brother.”

Nick smiled at his older brother and pulled Brenda down into his lap.

“Who said I wanted to sit with you?” she said teasing him. “Maybe I wanted to…”

Nick kissed her gently. “Shhh. I wanna open some gifts.”

Everyone kept exchanging gifts until it got to Kat and AJ. She had picked his gift up yesterday and she really hoped that he would like it.

“This one’s to you from me.” Kat whispered.

“You didn’t have to get me anything. I already have what I need.”

“I wanted you to have this.”

AJ repositioned himself so that Kat was sitting between his legs and he held the gift out in front of them.
He opened the box and pulled out a glass bottle. It was filled with sand, shells, gemstones and a long piece of rolled up paper.

“What is it?”

“It’s a message in a bottle. The sand is from the beach behind our house. The shells are from our trip to Cape Cod a few years ago. The stones are your birthstone, mine and the boys and the note is from me.”

AJ was taken aback by how much thought went into her gift. “Can I read the letter?”

“Not unless you break the bottle open.” Kat said with a smile.

“But I wanna read what it says.” AJ said with a frown.

“You can, just not now.”


“I don’t know. You can read it whenever the right time is.”

“What if the right time is now?”

“It’s not.” she answered with a playful shove. “Promise me you’ll hold off on reading it for a while. I want it to be a special time when you need it.”

“I love the gift but it bothers me that I can’t read the letter.”

“I’m sorry but those are the rules babe.”

“That’s so wrong.”

“You’re not really mad are you?” Kat asked looking concerned.

Even though not being able to read her letter upset him, he could never really be mad at her. “Maybe a little. You’re going to have to make it up to me.”

“I think that can be arranged.”

“Good.” He reached back and brought out a large box. “This is from me and the boys.”

Kat pulled off the ribbon and unwrapped it. “Oh AJ’s, it’s beautiful!”

“What is it?”

She turned it around so everyone could see. “It’s a picture of the four of us.”

“Where did you find the background AJ? Those handprints are great.”

“That’s me!” Nick piped up.

Brenda turned to him. “Those are your handprints?”

“No but I helped AJ dip Jake and Ryan’s hands in paint to make them.”

“So that’s why your clothes were covered with paint!” Brenda exclaimed. “You told me that James and Baylee had gotten some of their watercolors on you when you visited!”

“I couldn’t tell you the truth. It would have ruined the surprise!”

“I love it Nick.” Kat said.

“Hey, it was my idea!” AJ yelped. “Nick just helped.”

“I love it and I love you.” Kat smiled. “Nick didn’t get an I love you.”

“He’d better not get one.” AJ said kissing her gently. “Want me to put it up for you?”


AJ stepped over everyone and hung the picture right above the fireplace.

“Perfect.” Kat said as he sat back down. “I love the handprints.”

“I didn’t know if they were going to come out or not since the boys were painting Nick and I more than the paper.”

“Well then you must have the magic touch.” Kat lowered her voice and leaned in towards AJ’s ear. “Maybe we can try your touch later?”

AJ groaned. “Really? You’re gonna get me going and I have to wait till everyone goes home?”

Almost as though she heard what he murmured, Aunt Gina stood up and announced that she and Kat’s cousins had to get going. Brenda and Nick echoed the sentiment and walked with them to the door.

“We’ll be back about one ok?” Aunt Gina said as she hugged her niece. “Do you need anything?”

“No but thank you for everything you did.” AJ answered. “We really appreciate it.”

“Anytime. Love you both.”

AJ and Kat watched as everyone left and then brought the boys upstairs and changed them for bed. Once they were settled and nodding off, AJ followed Kat down to their bedroom.

“Time for bed.” Kat said pretending to yawn.

“No way woman! I was counting the seconds till they left. You’re all mine now!”

Kat started giggling when AJ tossed her onto the bed and crawled in next to her. They were going to make the most of the time they had before the boys woke up and everyone came back.