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|Throttled(Men of Inked #3) by Chelle Bliss|
She placed her hands on her chest as she spoke. “Being the baby earns me the right to always go first. I was left out of everything growing up. Christmas day was mine, all mine.”
“Please, you were so far up our ass, you were never left out of anything,” Michael said, laughing and wrapping his arm around Mia.
Suzy leaned over, whispering in my ear. “I’m kind of nervous. Everything is about to change.” Suzy turned her attention back toward the family.
I nodded; leaning over so only she could hear. The shit was about to hit the fan, but for once, it would be a great thing. “Just be ready to have your eardrums shattered.” I laughed. God, the Gallos could be loud, but I imagined my mother’s happy screams would be near window cracking volume.
“Why don’t we start oldest to youngest,” Anthony said, trying to be diplomatic.
“That’s not necessary, your father and I don’t need presents,” Ma said, sitting in her chair next to the Christmas tree.
My parents outdid themselves this year. The Christmas tree almost touched the ceiling. They never went with an artificial tree. My pop had to cut down a tree each year. My parents spent days finding just the right one on their property before cutting and hauling it inside. Thank God they had boys, because it took all of us to help him carry it inside and set it up. Ma spent days decorating it, adding ornaments that dated back to our childhood. The woman kept every decoration we ever made and they lined the tree.
“Ma, stop. You and Pop deserve presents. You’ve always spoiled us and now it’s our turn to give back,” Izzy said, turning toward Ma. “Not really happy about the oldest to youngest thing, but I can wait.”
“You’re a sweet dear,” Ma said, leaning forward, stroking Izzy’s cheek.
I rolled my eyes. The sugar plum fairy must’ve invaded my sister’s body.
“Open my present first, Ma,” Izzy said, reaching under the tree, and pulling out a small box wrapped in red glitter paper and a silver bow and handed it to Ma.
Ma shook it, putting it next to her ear. “Hmm, I wonder what it is.”
“Just open it,” Izzy said, bouncing on her knees.
“Patience, Isabella. It’s a virtue,” Ma said, pulling the ribbon and removing the bow.
“Virtues and me don’t get along,” Izzy said, her laughter growing loud.
“You’re a Gallo, none of us do,” Pop said as he smiled at Izzy and chuckled.
Ma opened the box, a giant smile spreading across her face. “Oh, Isabella, it’s beautiful.” She pulled a bracelet from the box lined in rubies and diamonds.
“It’s our birthstones together, Ma” Izzy said, crawling closer to her. “Can I put it on you?”
“Yes, I’d love that.” Ma handed the bracelet to Izzy. “It’s beautiful. I love you, baby girl.” Ma leaned forward, kissing Izzy on the head as she snapped the bracelet around Ma’s wrist.
“Love you too, Mama.” Izzy moved the bracelet so the stones sat on top and were visible before crawling back to her spot next to Anthony.
“City, why don’t you go next,” Michael said, winking at me.
“Did you tell him?” Suzy mouthed at me with wide eyes.
I shook my head, because I hadn’t said a word to anyone. “No, brother you go ahead,” I said, trying not to spoil their gifts by going before them.
“I can’t follow up Izzy’s gift. You always give strange things to Ma, so I rather go after you,” Michael said as he slapped his knee.
Everyone laughed and Mia elbowed him. I always bought Ma something special and meaningful. The woman didn’t care about price; she only wanted something that was heartfelt and meaningful.
“I hadn’t planned on giving Ma our gift so soon, but we’ll go now just to make you happy,” I said with a smirk. He’d shit a brick in a moment… it served his ass right for his shitty comment.
“I want to give it to her,” Suzy said, placing her hand on mine before pushing off the couch.
We spent hours talking about the best way to break the news. Suzy decided to have a shirt made that said ‘World’s Greatest Nana’ along with the first ultra sound photo tucked underneath. Damn kid looked liked a jellybean, but I knew it was enough to make my ma squeal.
“Izzy, can you give me the big box with the snowman paper, please,” Suzy said as she approached the tree.
Izzy grabbed the box, shaking it as she handed it to Suzy. “Is it an ugly Christmas sweater? You know a girl can never have too many of those.” Izzy smiled as Suzy ripped it from her hands.
“Shush it, you. I’m still mad at you,” Suzy said, sticking out her tongue at Izzy. She turned toward my parents, sitting in their favorite chairs next to the tree, side by side. “We had something made for you this year, Mom.” Suzy handed her the box and came back to sit at my side.
“That’s so sweet of you, dear,” Ma said, tearing the paper slowly.
“It’s for both of you,” I said, grabbing Suzy’s hand, giving it a squeeze.
“Thanks, son,” Pop said, watching Ma opened the box.
As she pulled the shirt from the box, Izzy said, “I knew it. Ugly Christmas clothes, nice brother.”
“Izzy,” I warned.
My ma’s eyes grew wide; her lip trembling as my pop grabbed her arm. Her mouth dropped open as she read the shirt. “Really?” she whispered.