Christmas… I remembered years past where Christmas was a day for my parents and me, sharing the day within our small family. Even last year seemed long ago with how much had happened this year. Now my family was larger, given how close my friends and I were, and everything was even grander through their company.
The primary Christmas tree was enormous, too large for even my house as it towered beyond the second floor from its spot in my backyard. The Christmas lights covering the house, trees, bushes, and fence were fabricated by Jarod and Mila, part of an energy experiment Jarod was conducting.
Early this morning, Alma created a series of spells that scattered lights of shifting hues to float over my yard in intricate patterns. The casting itself had been spectacular to witness, the effect over the yard was dazzling. The stunned expressions of my parents after they arrived and stepped out of the limo were magnificent. I could tell my mother was instantly itching to paint.
I was thankfully prepared with gifts, since Aaliyah had scheduled time for gift gathering on numerous occasions over the past couple months. I also received ample help from some of the others. Mila helped me model brush handles for my mother which I carved using magic out of oak Emma provided. When I was investigating what sort of hair to use for the tips, Aaliyah appeared and guided me into my forest. At her insistence, I gave one of the fey there a haircut, and gathered the hair to use for the bristles. Then I bound the brushes together in Jarod’s workshop after Mila created embossed bands for them.
For father, I had Mila hunt down First Editions of a number of authors he enjoyed as well as notes from the authors themselves. I knew he would enjoy them immensely, but felt guilty that I did less work for his gift than I did for mother’s.
In addition to giving all of my employees bonuses, I procured or created gifts for each of them as well. Mila helped with designing and crafting a skateboard and snowboard for Emma. Alma helped me forge a decorative sword for Brandon that matched Elf Hottie’s latest weapon. For Brenna, I created a jewelry box inspired by puzzle boxes Mila had shown me months before. With Aaliyah’s guidance, I managed to get a hundred-year-old copy of Les Misérables for Cosette, apparently identical to her father’s lost novel.
Mila had suggested a box of Marco’s favorite wine for him, since he often speaks to her of how much he missed it. I didn’t understand why he hadn’t bought himself any until I found out that favorite wine hadn’t been produced in years. Fortunately, getting something that shouldn’t be available was easy with Aaliyah and Carl’s help.
I trusted Alma’s judgement on what to get Ai and Mai, so I ended up designing an ocean-themed shoe rack for them with her creative input. Apparently, Ai and Mai regularly had overflow despite the size of their wing and personal renovations to it.
Jarod took a fair amount of consideration given how quickly he fabricated anything he wanted these days. I decided a gag gift would be the most fun in the end. Mila helped me settle on a dating sim after volunteering to do the coding, graphics, and… well, everything except the main story. The game parodied Jarod’s interactions with the twins, but ninety percent of the routes led to his character being tortured by them.
Portentia was another one who caused me some difficulty. Other than playing Ancient Tribes of Earth and hanging out with the rest of us, she didn’t really have pastimes as far as I knew. She spent a vast majority of her free time “on patrol” in hopes of helping people. I ended up writing out “tickets” as promises to act as her sidekick three times of her choosing.
Then there was Raine… Jarod, Mila, and I worked together on a cat house for her room, combining ideas from the different ones Mila found online. Given her love of warmth, Jarod designed an efficient heating system for the “prime nap spots” as he determined them. Then there were extensions from the house that we’d install up and around her room later today. Despite Raine’s penchant for acting as a typical cat, I would have felt the gift a bit rude had I not known that Aaliyah was giving Raine a kitten.
I was at a complete loss what to do for Mila up until yesterday when Aaliyah suggested I take her for another tour of the universe in the near future. I would have preferred giving her something more than a promise today, but I did see the wisdom in Aaliyah’s suggestion. There were many things out there that Mila probably hadn’t seen yet.
If there was something for sale that Alma wanted, she would have bought it without hesitation, so buying her something was out of the question. Instead, I planned a date for us to be taken in the near future whenever scheduling would allow. Well, the date wasn’t completely planned yet, given that I didn’t know how soon we’d be having it, but there were a number of ideas prepared for it. I did have some experience now, largely thanks to Aaliyah. I wrote the general sentiment on parchment in a letter to her and hoped she would enjoy the idea.
Surprising Aaliyah was impossible, so I didn’t even try. I ordered a cake from Carl for her, which she single-handedly devoured before Mila even managed to bring it home last night. There wasn’t even a crumb to be found from what Mila told me.
Over the past month, I had a running suggestion and vote system in place for what we should do as gifts to our clients, since I still felt we, as their friends, should do something. The winner was personalized cards and ornaments, though Emma was stuck with a large amount of the work, not that she minded. She “sculpted” a great number of them, growing them fully formed, and provided wood for numerous others. Mila volunteered to “hand paint” most of them, though Jarod pointed out there could be an argument that they were still “machined”. A few of the clients, such as Chad, did receive something extra.
He came to my party along with Aaliyah and seemed to love the painting of her that I had commissioned from mother. Many gifts were exchanged, and plenty of delight was to be had. To say the day was magical was such an understatement of fact, but Aaliyah had explained away the lights around the yard to her father with such detail that he shushed her within a minute. He didn’t question how such a large tree had been grown in the yard. Maybe he thought it was transplanted? Nothing good would have come from asking him.
I fully expected Chad to question Alberich, since a miniature white lion did not seem remotely natural. I was in shock that Alma had taken him out of her wing until she explained to me that Chad had seen him before.
Raine, thankfully, did not transform in front of Chad, but I did caution her to be careful when she made an appearance in her cat form to play with her new kitten, Pufflewink. Watching those two play with Alberich was incredibly adorable, but I couldn’t decide if he was annoyed or enjoying the attention. Emma took a picture when the three fell asleep together.
Ai and Mai had insisted on helping Marco in the kitchen, preparing a feast that easily rivaled the one from Thanksgiving, and mother seemed keen on taking notes, having remained in the kitchen for a large part of the morning. Father was enjoying himself as well, though he was quick to start reading during lulls in the conversation. He usually got through a novel each Christmas.
Before the night was even that late, Aaliyah seemed to fall asleep on Chad’s lap. He held her for a time, chatting with the rest of us, but eventually said his farewells, taking her with him. My parents left not long after. The rest of the night was passed playing games together, and Christmas was very, very merry.