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"What does that mean?" Noah asked digging his fork into his pancakes.
He noticed she stopped cutting into her pancakes for second before she responded. "I used to do things with my girlfriends from work. You know go out to dinner, the show. Believe it or not I used to play tennis a couple of times a week. I haven't done any of that in so long. I just buried myself away from everyone and everything. I'm anxious to go back to the way I once was. Feel normal again."
"You should've said something; we could've gone to the show or played tennis."
Once again, he had to bite his tongue to not say more. He knew she had every right to go back to feeling normal. She should, but the thought of her getting back to possibly going out with guys made the food he swallowed go down like jagged rocks.
She stared at him for moment then smiled. "That's true. We could. But I'm still anxious about getting back to work and getting my old life back."
Noah polished off his pancakes and saw that she was nearly done. What he was anxious about all of sudden was getting off this subject. "Ready to open up your gifts?"
Her eyebrows pinched together. "Gifts?"
She licked syrup off her bottom lip and it was all he could do to keep from leaning over and helping her lick it all off. He managed to stop staring at her lips long enough to stand up and take his plate over to the sink. Clearing his throat he said, "Yeah, you said your neighbor brought something over right? And Nellie?"
Her expression eased up and she nodded in agreement.
"And I got you a little something."
She stopped chewing and looked up at him. "You did?"
"Yeah, I hope you don't mind. I just thought… it's Christmas and we're roommates-friends now so-"
"I don't mind." She stood up and smiled. "Hold on. Let me go get what I got you."
Noah's stomach dropped as he watched her hurry back to her room. She'd gotten him a gift? He brought his hand to his forehead in a panic. What if she bought him something expensive? Holy shit. He'd never even stopped to think she'd get him something.
She walked back out into the front room with a big smile as he walked toward the tree. Roni knelt down next to the tree and handed him the gift bag. "You have to open yours first."
He knelt down in front of her. "I do? Why?"
"You'll see." She smiled so brightly it made him smile. "Just open it."
Noah took the bag and pulled out the tissue slowly. To his relief it was clothes. He pulled the clothes out one garment at a time. Two pajama pants: one with the Raiders' logo, the other with the Dodgers. Noah laughed.
"I tried so hard to find some that had boxing gloves or anything that had to do with boxing but they had nothing." She pouted adorably. "And I remembered you and the guys at the gym going on about the Raiders and the Dodgers."
"This is cool." He smiled pulling out two dark colored soft long sleeve crew neck shirts and two pairs of thermal socks with rubber on the souls. "Anti-slippage?"
She giggled. "Of course, we wouldn't want you to fall!"
Noah put it all down and leaned over to hug her. "Thank you," he said as he took in her scent and the soft feel of her hair brushing against his face. Feeling her arm on his back made him squeeze his eyes shut and he took in a deep breath of pure, unfiltered, refreshing Roni. This was the first time since the day she'd fallen off the stool that he'd been able to hold her. It felt damn good but he knew it had to end, so he pulled away slowly, meeting her apprehensive eyes.
"You have to go change into one of them. That's why you had to open them first. Remember, Christmas is pajama day around here."
"I will. Just as soon you open yours."
He pulled the bag from under the tree and handed it to her. She took it a little too slowly almost as if she were afraid of what it might be. Relief washed across her face when she pulled out the bunny slippers and giggled.
"I figured yours were getting a little raggedy."
"What?" her eyes shot down to her slippers and then laughed and had to agree. One of the eyes of her current bunny slippers was missing. "I guess it's time to put these down."
She pulled her slippers off and started to put the new ones on. Noah gulped waiting for the moment she'd notice it. She slipped her foot halfway in the first one then he saw the confusion on her face and she looked up at him. Noah shrugged. Slowly she took the slipper off and with her hand pulled out something wrapped in red tissue paper.
Again, she looked at him full of questions. "Open it."
She did and it took her a moment to unravel it and see that it was and medal. The kind of medal that athletes win in competition.
"Read what it says."
She glanced at him, then read. "champ."
"The other side, too," Noah said.
She flipped it over. "Forty pounds. You did it, Roni. I knew you could. I'm so proud of you. Noah."
He felt a little panicked when it seemed maybe she was tearing up. "I wanted to tell you so many times how proud I was of you."
"You did."
"I know but since you are my first ever trainee I wanted to do more. Jack gave me my first chance when you and Nellie walked in." He paused for a second when she pulled the medal over her head. Then he watched as she pulled her curls from under the ribbon so that it hung around her neck. "I had no idea how this was gonna turn out but you were such a fighter. After the first workout..." he stopped when he saw her get on her knees and come toward him. He was immediately on his knees, too. "I wasn't sure you'd be back.'

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