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Looking at a blue T-shirt, Christian was startled as a slightly overweight older lady rudely snatched the shirt out of his hands.

"Ahh… Excuse me, but I'm looking at that," Christian said softly.

The woman lifted her chin. "Well, I was looking at it way before you picked it up, and now I'm going to buy it."

Paige, one of his best friends since sixth grade and a current roommate, stepped forward. Her green eyes flashed angrily under strawberry blonde bangs. "Look, lady—"

Christian stopped Paige from going off on the woman. "It's okay, Paige. Let her have it."

Paige gasped in disbelief. "But she—"

"Forget it," Christian said, sighing. "I didn't really want the shirt anyway." The lady had already escaped to the front counter anyway to buy the shirt, and Christian really didn't want to fight through the overly crowded store to argue with the woman for something he'd been hesitant about purchasing in the first place.

Paige glowered next to Christian. "I hate going Christmas shopping. The mall is like a battle zone where there are no allies, only enemies."

Christian smiled. "It isn't so bad." Motioning he wanted to leave, Christian murmured his apologies as he sidestepped his way out of the trendy clothing store, wondering why he’d thought to buy something in here. Everything in the shop was targeted towards kids fifteen to twenty years of age.

Only twenty-seven, Christian felt old and out of place in the store filled with mothers buying clothing for their teenaged sons and "I want to wear boys’ clothing" daughters. Outside the store wasn't any better. The cheerful holiday music playing over the mall speakers was nearly drowned out by the parade of chattering people rushing from shop to shop in bulky winter coats.

Christian let his gaze wander, thinking once again how chaotic the season had become. Parents argued with their children in the middle of mall traffic. Exhausted fathers sat with their screaming toddlers surrounded by bags filled with gifts while their spouses were off buying more than they could afford.

"I swear to God, last minute Christmas shopping must be something the Devil thought up to torture us poor mortals," Paige muttered irritably. She grabbed Christian's free arm, unburdened by shopping bags, so she wouldn't lose him in the crowd.

Christian chuckled. "Bad day, Paige? I thought you loved last minute Christmas shopping. Didn't you say it's the greatest time to get the best deals?" Christian did agree with Paige's statement. Unfortunately, his workload prohibited him from getting everything he wanted in time to bypass all the pre-Christmas Eve rush of shoppers.

Paige glowered up at Christian. "I got all my shopping done early this year. How much longer do you want to stay here? I can't handle the push and shove of all these people right now. Let's go get a manicure."

"Paige, honey, I may be gay, but I'm not that gay," Christian joked, however, he became worried at Paige's moodiness. His long-time friend might not be the spunkiest, yet Paige never was one to dwell on the bad things that came her way.

Well, on most days she doesn’t.

"Just because a man gets a manicure doesn't mean he's gay," Paige muttered. "Seth gets his nails done with me."

"Sweetheart, Seth is gay. And more than half the time, Seth is in his own little world with a mental notebook, jotting down the next scene in his book." Christian laughed, setting his bags down and pulling Paige to sit on an amazingly vacant bench in front of a tower of potted poinsettias shaped like a large Christmas tree.

"Seth's head isn't always in the clouds," Paige muttered.

Christian raised his brows. "Sweetheart, I love Seth, don't get me wrong, but if we weren't there to feed him, our dear friend would have starved to death a long time ago."

Seth was another roommate and a high school friend of Paige’s and his. Seth, the writer in their group, would be a complete shut-in if he, Paige, and their other  roommate, Bailey, didn't force him to get out into the world in order to write about it.

"Yeah, that's true." Paige sighed.

"You want to tell me what's bothering you or do you want to find an old man in a wheelchair and wrestle with him for a pair of mittens?" Christian lifted Paige's chin up and grinned when his friend glared at him.

"That was one time, and it happened three years ago. And the man wasn't old or in a wheelchair! He had to have been in his early fifties at least," Paige grumbled. "When are you guys going to stop teasing me about that?"

Glad to see some fire in Paige's eyes, Christian stood and pulled Paige to her feet. Gathering up his shopping bags, Christian hefted them over his shoulder. "Come on, sweetheart. Let’s go get you a cup of hot coco…"

Available @ Silver Publishing


chibi tako

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