Posted on: 2013-12-14
Emma Woodhouse loved everything about Christmas-music, snow, trees, presents, mistletoe, eggnog, everything. George Knightley, on the other hand, was not a big fan of Christmas. While Emma would listen to Christmas music non-stop from Thanksgiving until Christmas, George would prefer to never hear the stuff at all. If he had his way, Emma would not be allowed to have a Christmas tree in the lobby of their office or a miniature tree on her desk or a poinsettia on her desk. And she definitely would not be allowed to try to decorate his office or his apartment.
But George did not get his way. He never had where Emma was concerned. From the day that his ten-year-old self first met his father's best friend's newborn daughter, he hadn't been able to stop the redheaded whirling dervish from turning his life upside down. From her infancy, she had always been remarkably strong-willed, and while he was always willing to try to make sure she maintained boundaries and was kept within the bound of reason she still managed to bring disorder and excitement to his life.
Up until a few years earlier, he had mostly managed to keep her at a distance from his life. But when Emma was officially licensed as a nurse practitioner three years earlier, her father had hired her on at his medical practice where George worked as a pediatrician. From that point on, George had learned to pick his battles, and he had decided after Emma's first Christmas at the office, having a Christmas tree in his office was not worth fighting over.
About ten minutes after beginning to work with Drs. Woodhouse, Knightley, and Weston, Emma had appointed herself as the office's official social coordinator. From Friday night post-work drinks to elaborate Christmas parties, Emma planned it all. In fact, now in her third year at the office, Emma almost seemed to be building a small side career as a party planner after having very successfully planned office manager Molly Taylor's wedding to Dr. Geoff Weston over the summer and then handling nurse Jane Fairfax's marriage to Dr. Frank Churchill.
But for now, December of 2013, Emma had decorated the office for Christmas. There was a large tree in the reception area and decorations hung in every exam room. There were even decorations in George's office despite his protests. Emma had even hung mistletoe over Rita Smith's front reception desk, which had created more than a bit of awkwardness among the staff.
Now, it was the evening of December 23, and Emma was happily buzzing about the office while humming "White Christmas." George was reading over Jonas Elton's files for the day. Jonas was a resident from the University of Michigan Hospital System who was spending three days a week at WKW, as George and Emma jokingly called the office. Jonas was a completely capable physician but he lacked something both in his record keeping and his bedside manner. George often wondered how Jonas had gotten so far in the practice of medicine without someone pointing out how disorganized his patient reports were or how terrible his bedside manner. He also occasionally wondered how someone could be so charming with women in social situations but so blunt and almost rude with patients.
George was puzzling over those questions when Emma's cheerful face appeared in his doorway. The redhead was wearing a (stunning, if George was honest) green dress (that accentuated all of her body's positive aspects, if George was honest) with snow-themed accessories chosen, no doubt, to distract her youngest patients. "George, it's about six-thirty. Aren't you going home tonight?"
"It's six thirty?" he asked. "But Rita just stuck her head in her two or three minutes ago to tell me that she and Marty were going home and to wish me a Merry Christmas."
Emma smiled brightly; she had finally come to terms with the relationship between Rita and office's only male nurse. "Oh, George, that was over an hour ago. Marty and Rita left around five or five-fifteen. Come on. Leave Jonas's shenanigans behind for a few days; they'll still be here when you get back on Thursday."
"Just a couple more minutes, you can go home, Em."
She shook her head and plopped herself down in front of his desk. "I'll sit here and wait. No one should stay this late at work alone two days before Christmas."
George smiled at her. "You're a gem, Em."
"I try," she replied. Humility never had been one of her strong suits. "I can't leave my best friend alone after all."
She really had become his best friend. And he truly enjoyed her company. "So are you excited to have Jake, Belle, and the kids come home tomorrow?"
Emma grinned. "I can't wait to see the kids. They're growing up so fast and we don't get to see enough of them."
Six years earlier, George's younger brother, Jake, had married Emma's older sister, Isabelle. The pair now had three children together-George, Emma, and Jacqueline. Baby Jacqueline was named after both of her grandfathers-Jack Woodhouse and Jack Knightley. Jake and Belle lived in Washington D.C., a far trip from their hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan. And for Jack Woodhouse, the idea of traveling to the nation's capital was unthinkable, so the only time he ever saw his daughter and her family was when they came to visit hi. Jake Knightley had little patience with his father-in-law's refusal to travel and would have preferred to have the rest of the family come to them for Christmas at least once, but Dr. John Aloysius Woodhouse had a will of iron and he would not be moved.
Fifteen minutes later, George was done with Elton's reports for the day, and Emma had sung her way through an entire Michael Buble Christmas album. (Admittedly, it was his five-song album, not the longer one.)
"All right, Em," he said, rising from his desk. "I'm done. We can head home."
"Want to grab dinner on the way?" she asked.
"Sure, what were you thinking?"
As she shrugged, George noticed an odd light dancing in her bright blue eyes.
"Let me look at some of the takeout menus on Rita's desk."
"Sure thing," he replied. "Let me shut down my computer and such, and I'll meet you at the desk."
"Sounds great," she said as she headed out of the office.
When George came out into the reception area, the Christmas tree and all of the lights still brightly shining. He knew Emma wouldn't want to turn them off until the last possible moment. She had turned off almost all of the other lights in the room, creating a warm, cozy atmosphere in the normally bustling reception area. Emma was standing next to the desk with a white wool coat over her festive green dress. And looking at her, George was struck by a thought. Emma was utterly beautiful, possibly the most beautiful woman he knew. And while she wasn't quiet or humble or demure, she was warm, friendly, caring, and giving. She had one of the best hearts on earth. And then another realization flooded his senses-and not for the first time. He loved her. He had first realized this as they walked down the aisle together at Molly and Geoff's wedding. But now, he knew it. He knew that she was the one he wanted to spend all of his Christmases (and Easters and Thanksgivings and everything in between) with. But he had to play it cool with her.
"Okay, Em," he said as he approached her and the desk. "What do you have for me?"
Before he knew what was happening, Emma's hands were around his shoulders and she was kissing him. And then his arms were around her and he was kissing her back. When they finally pulled apart, her hands were resting on his face and she was glowing with joy. "I've wanted to do that for a long time," she said.
"How long?" he asked.
She shook her head. "Since Frank and Jane's wedding at least, I think."
"I've wanted to do that since Molly and Geoff's wedding," he replied.
"Really? But I was such a monster then. I was like maid of honor-zilla."
He laughed. "You were a whirlwind, but you were acting out of love."
She smiled. "So you like me?"
"Emma, I love you. I think I've loved you for a long time. I realized that I loved you at Geoff and Molly's wedding, but I think I've loved you far longer than that."
"But you're always criticizing me."
"It's called constructive criticism, Emma. I've only ever wanted the best for you."
She smiled and ran a hand over his dark brown curls. "Well, I should admit that I really do want to become the person you see in me."
He kissed her again quickly. "Oh Emma, I have full faith that you will become that person."
She grinned. "George, I love you. I think you might be all I've ever wanted."
"Well, you did have a crush on me when you were ten and I was twenty."
"And you made fun of me."
He shrugged. "You were adorable. I couldn't help myself."
"But now you love me," she said with a teasing smile.
"Well, you've done a little growing up in the past fifteen years."
Emma kissed him again. "How do you propose that we tell our families?"
"Oh, let's just get married and shock them," he replied jokingly.
"Okay, is the courthouse open tomorrow?" she replied. George knew immediately that she wasn't kidding.
"Wait, did Emma Woodhouse just agree to elope with me? I always thought you'd want a big wedding."
"In theory yes, but I've planned two big weddings this year. Let Molly and Jane have that. I just want to marry you."
George smiled. "I love the idea, but I need to ask your dad for permission to marry you. And if I'm going to get married, I really want my brother there for me."
"Small New Year's wedding?" Emma suggested.
"Oh Emma, I love your impulsive side. But let's take a step back and discuss this rationally. I want to marry you, but I want to do it the right way and without offending anyone in our family."
"Always the logical one," she replied. "But I agree. We need to do this the right away. Jake and Belle would kill us if we got married without them."
"But you do want to marry me despite the fact that we've never dated?"
Emma grinned. "I've known you my entire life, George. I don't need to date you. I know that I love you and I want to marry you."
George kissed her again.
George and Emma told their families of their intent to marry on Christmas Eve, and no one was surprised. A week later, they were married on New Year's Eve in a small courthouse ceremony in front of their parents, siblings, nieces, and nephew. Somehow that small wedding was actually exactly what Emma wanted.
And a year later on a snow-draped Christmas morning, George and Emma welcomed the first of their three children, Madeleine Noelle.