[We open on the couch. Lincoln is joined by all ten of his sisters, along with Ronnie Anne, who's seated to his left. The room is adorned with festive Christmas decorations.]
Lincoln: Hey, everyone! Welcome to a very festive episode of Peeking Through the Fourth Wall. Today, we'll be looking at a Christmas-themed story about us, from one of the top authors in the fandom!
Lucy: I heard he once wrote a story about you dying.
Lincoln: He what?!
Lori: L-let's not get sidetracked here. Anyway, this story's about Ronnie Anne, so we decided to invite her to read it with us!
Ronnie Anne: As always, I'm glad to be here. Now let's get reading!
Lincoln: This is "Secret Santa" by UnderratedHero!
Royal Woods woke up that morning covered in snow on that December twenty-third. Those ten inches of the white mantle gave the city a beauty that only increased the expectations and the Christmas spirit of the already anxious neighbors. The Royal Woods community was pretty small for the American cities standard, which turned it into a very fraternal and warm town. In such special times of the year like Christmas, the enthusiasm was evident. The houses were full of decorations, lights and snowmen, and even the trees all around town were covered in garlands and with stars on their tops.
Lincoln: This is really well-written. I'm impressed.
It was an excellent —although somewhat cold— afternoon, and Lincoln Loud was having the time of his life, accompanied by his not-girlfriend Ronnie Anne.
Lincoln: Thank you. Finally, someone gets it.
Ronnie Anne: Right?!
Their relationship was complicated, no doubts about that. They'd started off as him being her favorite victim for her pranks, but that was the only element of their relationship which remained after over a year.
Lori: She's still pranking you?
Lincoln: She greeted me this afternoon by dropping an earthworm down my pants while she was hugging me. What do you think?
What began as the typical relationship between a bully and a bullied kid, ended up developing into something else. Due to his sister's intervention, Lincoln and Ronnie Anne became a lot closer than they thought possible when they first met. They were on really good terms, they enjoyed each other's company, they really liked each other, and they had even kissed. Only three times, yes, but each one of them had been special in its own way.
Lincoln: Three times? As far as I know, we've only kissed twice. And after the first time she gave me a black eye.
Ronnie Anne: You took me off guard, okay?!
Their first kiss had been special because it was, precisely, their first one ever. It was also a hilarious anecdote to tell: the way Lincoln had been convinced by his sisters that Ronnie Anne liked him, how he'd kissed her out of nowhere and then the punch to the face that he had received accordingly.
Lincoln: This author's got a pretty weird definition of "hilarious".
Lana: I mean, it's kinda funny...
Lincoln: Oh, really? Would it have been funny if I was the one who punched her?
Lana: Sure, why not?
Their second kissed had been in a restaurant, and it was special because that was the first time Lincoln told her how much he enjoyed being with her.
[Ronnie Anne blushes and looks away.]
And the third time had been a month earlier, in Lincoln's twelfth birthday. His birthday party had been really quiet, with him having only invited Clyde, Ronnie Anne and just five friends from school.
Lincoln: Ahhh. So that's the third time.
Leni: That reminds me, Linky. What do you want to do for your twelfth birthday?
Lincoln: Honestly, what the author described doesn't sound that bad. I'd be fine with something quiet and intimate.
His ten sisters, of course, were enough so there wasn't lacking any noise and emotion to his party. In the night, when all his friends had left and his sisters were busy fighting each other to see who would give him a present first, Ronnie Anne took him away to a secluded corner, wished him a happy birthday, and then she kissed him full on the lips.
[Lincoln and Ronnie Anne stare at the previous sentence for a moment, before bursting out laughing.]
Ronnie Anne: Like that would ever happen!
Lincoln: Yeah, I'd probably keel over and faint from your hot dog breath!
[Ronnie Anne slugs Lincoln in the arm.]
That was their last kiss so far, and it was Lincoln's favorite. It wasn't just a very much needed confirmation that they were more than just friends, it was also the first time she took the initiative and it was she who kissed him. That meant that what he felt was corresponded.
Since then, they were even closer with each other. That's why Lincoln had no reservations about sending her a text that morning asking her to meet him at the mall after lunch. She gladly accepted, and they met each other there at the arranged time.
"Wanna go to the arcades and kill some zombies?" she asked him after greeting him, knowing very well that killing the undead was one of Lincoln's favorite activities.
Lincoln: Heck, who doesn't love killing zombies?
[Leni and Lucy raise their hands.]
Lincoln: Eh? Why not?
Leni: Because it's mean! They have feelings, too, you know!
Lincoln: They literally don't.
Leni: You don't know that!
Lincoln: ...whatever. But what about you, Lucy?
Lucy: Killing them is a waste. I'd rather make them my slaves.
"Actually" he said, a little embarrassed, "I invited you over because I need your help."
"My help? With what?"
Ronnie Anne: Got another jar you need me to open, stringbean?
Lincoln: Oh, come on, it was one time! Those peanut butter jars are really stubborn!
Ronnie Anne: Not too stubborn for me, apparently. [Kisses bicep]
"Well… You see, my sisters and I have this sort of tradition. Every Christmas, we play Secret Santa."
"Really? Cool!" said Ronnie Anne, enthusiastic. "We can't do that in my house; it's just Bobby and me, so it wouldn't be a secret, really. But you're eleven. There's definitely gonna be some mystery there."
Lincoln: Eleven? I thought I was twelve in this story.
Lisa: Perhaps she's trying to refer to the fact that there's eleven of us.
"Yeah, it's really awesome," he answered with a smile. "But since Lori has troubles getting a grip when there are presents in the middle, we change the rules a little.
Lori: I have trouble getting a grip?! Lynn and Lucy are the ones who tear up the house looking for presents every year!
Luna: I never got that, honestly. Why ruin it for yourself? Don't you want to be surprised?
We don't open our presents on Christmas; we open them the day before, in Christmas Eve. Once we see them, we have one opportunity to try and guess who's our Secret Santa, and if we missed, we need to invite for lunch our real Secret Santa."
"That's pretty odd" she said with a grin.
"Secret Santa Loud House Style."
Ronnie Anne: I assume you have to treat them, too?
Lola: Well, sure. Otherwise there'd be nothing at stake.
Ronnie Anne: But what if Lily guesses wrong? Babies don't have any money.
Lincoln: Oh, you'd be surprised.
[Lily reaches into her diaper and pulls out a crisp $20 bill.]
Ronnie Anne: How does she even... you know what? I don't wanna know.
"That's why we're here, then? To pick up a present for your sister?"
"Not exactly" he said, starting to walk around the mall.
It was completely decorated, with dozens of trees covered in artificial frost and long strips of mistletoe and holly dangling from the roof. People of all ages was going in and out of the stores, doing their Christmas purchases. The kids, specially, were running down the halls with enormous smiles on their faces. It was impossible to be there, with the carols ringing softly through the speakers, and not feel any kind of emotion.
Leni: It's not so fun if you're the one working there.
Lincoln: Oh, why not?
Leni: Because my customers get so impatient this time of year. And grabby! It's always gimme, gimme, gimme with them! And the whole time I have to listen to the same five Christmas songs over and over and over again! By the end of my shift I was like, 'Uh-uh. No way, man. Santa Claus can go kick rocks. I'll cry and pout all I want, and I don't care if he sees me when I'm sleeping!'
Leni: Come to think of it, why does he watch me when I'm sleeping?
Lincoln and Ronnie Anne were strolling side by side, with their elbows lightly touching every few steps. They were both pretending they didn't notice it, but they certainly enjoyed that brief and beautiful contact.
[Ronnie Anne looks at Lincoln and lightly brushes her elbow up against his.]
Ronnie Anne: Oh, look, Lincoln, we barely touched! Isn't it beautiful? [Laughs] Gimme a break.
Lisa: Methinks the lady doth protest too much.
Ronnie Anne: What was that?
"We're doing the draw later today, so I don't know who I need to buy for yet..."
"And what are we doing here then?" she quickly asked.
Lincoln turned to see her and smirked.
"If you let me finish I might be able to tell you," he sarcastically commented.
Ronnie Anne hit him softly in his arm, with a smile.
Lincoln: Yeah, you do interrupt people sometimes, Ronnie. It's really-
Ronnie Anne: -annoying, I know.
Ronnie Anne: I just did it again, didn't I?
"Last year I bought Lynn a Captain Tsubasa manga. I thought she would like it, being about soccer and everything but… I don't know, she thanked me and all, but she looked disappointed, you know? She didn't complain, but I realize she was expecting something better. I felt so bad I took her for lunch even though I didn't have to. And I really don't want to mess up that bad again."
Lynn: Ahh, don't be like that, Stinkoln. I wouldn't mind if you got me a minjo or whatever it's called. It's the thought that counts.
[Lincoln looks at Lynn]
Lincoln: Lynn, I don't believe for a single second that you don't know what a manga is.
Ronnie Anne: You were just trying to get him riled up, weren't you?
Lynn: Guilty as charged. What can I say? Trolling nerds is fun.
"So you decided to go shopping with someone who can give you a girl's look into what you decide to buy," Ronnie Anne completed for him.
Luan: Really? Shouldn't you know by now that not all girls like the same things?
"Exactly, but I couldn't find anyone, so I had to settle with you," Lincoln joked.
This time she really punched him in the arm.
"And what do you want to do, then, if you don't know who's the present gonna be for?" asked his friend.
Luan: My point exactly!...but I don't think that merited a punch in the arm. At least, not a hard one.
"I was thinking about making a list," he explained, rubbing his now sore arm, "with the things I could buy for each one of them. Tonight we're going the draw, and I won't be needing to stay awake all night thinking about what to buy. Tomorrow I'll just get here, buy whatever we chose today, and that's it. Easy peasy."
"Well, what are we waiting then? We have a lot to see."
Lincoln and Ronnie roamed around the mall for two hours, and they both managed to find perfect gifts for each one of his sisters, or at least something that they would find useful. Taking into account the limit of how much they could spend on each present, there wasn't anything dreadfully complex, so they needed to be a little original. Lincoln knew exactly his sister's likes, and Ronnie Anne helped him find the right thing for each thematic.
And then Lincoln's list was finally finished. For Lily, a rattle that made color lights whenever you move it.
[Lily squeals and claps her hands.]
For Lisa, a little frame with different kinds of embalmed insects inside, ready to be studied.
Lisa: Although chemistry and engineering are my primary fields of study, a brief foray into entomology might prove interesting to me.
For Lola, a beautiful butterfly-shaped hairpin.
Lola: Ooh, I love butterflies!
For Lana, a new belt to carry her tools, since her old one was pretty ragged.
[Lana unstraps her belt and holds it up.]
Lana: Yeah, it's seen better days.
Lori: Were you just wearing that the whole time?
Lana: Of course! You never know when something's gonna need fixing.
For Lucy, a compilation of Edgar Allan Poe's tales, along with a black notebook and a skull shaped pen.
Lucy: Quoth the raven... wicked.
Lisa: The raven doesn't say that.
Lucy: In my version he does.
For Lynn, a new waterproof stopwatch, and he was also considering buying a gift card so she could buy a personal trainer app for her phone.
Lynn: Oh, perfect! I've been looking to knock a couple seconds off my lap time.
For Luan, a cop costume, so she could create a new routine.
Lincoln: Eh? What kind of routine would that help you do?
Luan: [In an Irish accent] All right, Clancy, take the boys 'n surround the house! This hooligan's goin' away for a long time, by Jiminy!
[Everyone looks at Luan.]
Lori: Did you literally forget what year it was? You'd better hope you don't get cancelled for that.
For Luna, a special edition of a Mick Swagger record that the store manager told them had just arrived to the US and that there was no chance she had it already.
Luna: Pfft. Try me.
For Leni, several feet of a beautiful turquoise fabric, suggested by Ronnie Anne, with which she could seam a beautiful dress.
Leni: Awwww! I'd totes love that!
And for Lori, a portable charger for her phone, so she didn't need to be afraid of running out of battery anymore.
Lori: I already have one of those, but a spare one would be nice.
After writing all those presents down, Lincoln and Ronnie Anne spent the rest of the day just walking around the mall, chatting and laughing. When the sky started to be painted in oranges and pinks, they decided to call it a day, but not before buying the new Infinite Loop chewing gum, which you could chew for over three hours without them losing any flavor.
Lincoln: Three hours? Who made that gum, Willy Wonka?
"It was fun," commented Ronnie Anne, after making the first of the probably hundreds of bubbles she would be doing that day.
"I had an awesome time, Ronnie Anne," he confessed, giving her a warm smile. "Now I have almost every present decided."
"Well, there's still one really special girl and I haven't decided what to buy her yet," he said, staring directly at her eyes.
[All ten sisters lean into the TV, smiling. Lincoln and Ronnie Anne just roll their eyes.]
Ronnie Anne: Oh, geez, here we go...
She made a new bubble with her gum, perhaps hoping to be able to hide her blushed face behind it. It finally exploded, and she tried to make herself as small as possible so he couldn't see how ashamed she was. She didn't say anything, but as they walked, her right hand fingers tangled with the those on Lincoln's left hand. They weren't holding hands, no! It was just an accident; they were walking and their fingers sort of interlaced with each other's. It was so silly that they didn't even acknowledge it, not bothering to separate each other.
Luna: "Oh, this is so dumb, so let's keep doing it." Y'all ain't slick, kids. I see through you like you're bathing in Windex.
Lisa: Windex doesn't make you transparent, Luna.
Luna: Oh, hush. It's an expression.
Lisa: It's not a very good expression.
"Lincoln? I know tomorrow's a family day and everything," Ronnie Anne started, looking at the very interesting lines of the tiles, "but maybe, before dinner… we could, you know, hang out. Spend some time together."
"I'd love that," he said. "Where?"
"I'll let you know."
Lincoln: Don't "oooooh" me!
They finally reached the entrance of the mall, and their houses were in opposite directions. They stopped and looked at each other for a few instants.
"Well… I'll see you tomorrow, then," he said.
"Yeah. See ya."
Lincoln was twelve years old already. He had entered that stage where he didn't find girls disgusting anymore, but incredibly interesting. And along with his newfound interest, a new facet of him was born: the flirting Lincoln. With ten meddling sisters that were more than happy that give him every little piece of girl advice, he'd gotten a lot of tips on how to treat a girl. So, remembering something Leni had told him, Lincoln leaned against Ronnie Anne. Before she could react, Lincoln pressed his lips against his friend's cheek, and gave her a soft goodbye kiss. When he drifted away from her, he saw Ronnie Anne's face was as red as Santa's coat. He waited for her reaction with a smile.
[Lincoln and Ronnie Anne look at each other, sharing a smile, before quickly looking back towards the screen.]
Lori: I saw that.
Lincoln and Ronnie Anne: No you didn't!
Ronnie Anne frowned and raised a fist, ready to hit him. Lincoln, scared, closed his eyes and readied himself for the impact.
"Two for flinching," he heard her say, but instead of feeling two bumps on his arm or his chest, he felt her giving him two slight pecks on his left cheek.
Lynn: Ha! Looks like you learned from the best!
He opened his eyes and imagined his face as red as hers.
They babbled some final farewells and then each one of them walked the way to their respective houses.
"Alright, final review of the rules" said Lori, standing in her room. "Each one of us will draw a paper from inside this hat. In said paper, there will be written a name from one of us. Each one will have to buy a present for whoever we draw, so check that you're not drawing your own name. Is everything clear so far?"
The rest of the girls and Lincoln answered unanimously. Lincoln spoke a little distracted as he kept chewing his infinite gum, since he was texting with Ronnie Anne, and that was taking at least eighty five percent of his attention to work.
Lori: And that's why you don't text and drive. Right, Leni?
Leni: Oh, come on! It was one time and nobody was hurt!
Lori: Nobody except our bank account. You know how much it cost to have that headlight fixed?
Leni: Nothing. Lana fixed it for free.
Lori: ...oh, right. But still!
"As always, we have a thirty dollars top for the present, which we must put under the Christmas tree. Tomorrow at around six o' clock, we'll be opening our presents. The usual punishment applies to those who fail to recognize their Secret Santa. Alright, let's start it."
Lincoln: Wait, thirty dollars? Who would sell a cop costume for just thirty dollars?
Luan: Yeah, that price is so low, it's criminal! [Laughs] Get it?
Lori grabbed the Christmas hat inside which were eleven folded papers with their names written on them. The girls started to put their hands inside it and drew the papers. Some of them, like Lola, only smiled to themselves when they read the name, while others, like Lynn, were celebrating very eloquently.
Lucy: "Eloquent" isn't a word I'd use to describe Lynn.
Lynn: Yeah, well, "good at dodging" isn't how I'd describe you.
[Lynn slugs Lucy.]
Lincoln drew his paper indifferently, for Clyde had just texted him telling him that ARGGH was having a Christmas special ten minutes from now about a ghost reindeer that had possessed an old lady in Ukraine. Excusing himself out, he stood up and left the room, going straight to the couch to watch his show.
An hour later, Lincoln had just finished witnessing the best show ever. His mother called them all for dinner, and it was at that time that he decided that he couldn't keep chewing the same gum for over three hours. He took the gum out of his mouth, grabbed a piece of paper from his pocket, wrapped it around the gum and then threw it to the trash bin.
He didn't think about the Secret Santa for the rest of the day. He had the presents picked already, after all. Tomorrow would be as easy as going straight to the mall, buying it, and returning home.
Lori: Unless someone else buys it before you, that is...
Since it was the holiday season, Lincoln hadn't set up his alarm clock. By the time his body awoke on its own it was almost noon on Christmas Eve. Lincoln stretched out, took a warm shower, dressed up and got ready to go to the mall to buy the present for his sister, whoever she might be. He opened the drawer where he had all his savings, took thirty dollars, grabbed his list and put his hand inside the pocket where he had put the folded paper.
He found some fluff and a quarter.
Confused, he checked his other pocket, and found it completely empty. Getting desperate, he started to turn his room upside down looked for the d*mn piece of folded paper which contained the name of the sister he had to buy a gift for. In the middle of messing up his bed, his brain finally comprehended what had happened.
Last night, when he'd thrown his gum…
"Dang it!" Lincoln said, hitting himself on the head with one of his books.
Luna: Sheesh. Talk about a whopper of a mistake. Would've saved you some trouble to just peep at the paper after drawin' it.
He threw the paper! He threw it to the trash, without checking whose name was written there! This was a disaster. How could he know whom to buy a gift for now? He had ten sisters; it wasn't like he could just make a guess and wish to have luck. But… He had a way to improve his chances. He dashed downstairs, running straight to the Christmas tree. If God didn't hate him after all...
Luan: [In a deep, authoritative voice] "Oh, leave me out of this!"
...then he might find that all his sisters except for one had a present under the tree, and he could then know who was the one he needed to buy a gift for.
When he arrived to the living room, however, he realized that there was only one present under the tree. And to make things even worse, it was addressed to him.
So the only one of his sisters that had bought a gift was his Secret Santa. There were no chances of knowing who was on his paper. He started hyperventilating. He went back to his room, thinking about what options he had. How could he get out of that situation? Maybe… Maybe he could find something that he could buy and would please every one of his sisters. Chocolate! They were all chocoholics. He could buy a big box of chocolate and leave it to the end. They wouldn't be mad; they'd be totally hyped up for having chocolate!
Lori: You're not wrong.
But then Lincoln thought about the list he'd prepared. It was a list made with a lot of love and dedication. He'd spent a whole afternoon trying to find the perfect gift for each of his sisters, a present that would feel personal, that could show how hard he'd struggled to choose it. He couldn't fail them like that. It would be… it'd be like ruining Christmas.
Lola: Oh, trust me, Lincoln, any one of us would be more than happy with chocolate. I know I would be.
He opened his savings drawer again and carefully counted all the money. Two hundred and seventy six dollars. He checked the list he'd made and summed up the price of each gift: two hundred and seventy four. He sat on his bed and he started to think about the new Ace Savvy collection that was coming out, in the last videogame to hit the stores, in that fancy shirt he'd seen in the mall the day before and that Ronnie Anne suggested would look nice on him, and he also thought about the fact that he really needed a new phone. He was thinking all that and more, and he doubted about what he should do. But then he saw the framed picture he had next to his bed. It was taken by his mother on his last birthday, a month before. He was in the middle, surrounded by his ten sisters, who were practically struggling against each other just so they could hug him. He stared at the picture for a couple of minutes, and then he sighed.
His phone wasn't that bad, anyway.
[Some of the sisters start to get misty-eyed.]
Lincoln: Are... are you girls okay?
Leni: We love you too, Linky...
Around six o' clock, in the living room, Lincoln noticed that all his sisters looked confused, like something was wrong. None of them said anything, because the game was still on, but they were all frowning. Under the Christmas tree, each one of them had a little space, and in almost all of them there were two presents instead of one. Lincoln knew why they all looked slightly confused. They were noticing there was an extra gift next to the ones they'd bought to their selected sibling. Lily was the only one who didn't look very confused, but she didn't really understand much.
Lily: [Angrily] A ba ba!
Ronnie Anne: Eh? What's up with Lily?
Luan: I think she took offense to that last part.
"Alright, time to open our presents! I call dibs!" hurriedly said Lori, desperate to unwrap her presents.
She grabbed the first one and quickly opened it, revealing a new tank top with a big treble clef on it.
"Ha! This one's surely yours, Luna, isn't it?" She said, smiling at her younger sister.
"You got me, sis," Luna answered, smiling too.
Lisa: Lori deduces that the dress adorned with a treble clef came from the musician of the family. Brilliant.
"Thanks, Luna, it's beautiful. And this one… Oh my God! A portable charger! Luna, I've been looking for one of this for literally weeks! You're the best!"
"Actually… I didn't buy that," said the rocker, looking with interest and surprise at that gift.
"What?" asked Lori, looking at her. "You didn't buy it?"
"Then who did it?" she asked again, staring at the rest of her siblings.
Lincoln slyly took a step back.
"I don't want to spoil anything," said Luan, who had no intentions of losing the chance of a free meal, "but I also see a present that's not mine."
"Someone else bought something to the one I got from the hat!" complained Lola. ---
Ronnie Anne: Uh oh. I have a feeling this is gonna blow up in your face, Linc.
Lincoln: It wouldn't be the first time that happened.
"Yeah, there's an extra present next to mine!" said Lynn.
"Guys, I think the store gave me an extra present by mistake!" said Leni, somewhat scared.
They all started to talk at the same time, staring at each other and accusing someone for trying to ruin their surprise or making a mistake. As they were looking at every other face in the room, one by one they stopped at Lincoln. He was the only one out of the argument, some steps away from them, with his hands behind his back and staring directly at the floor, like he was nervous or scared. When all his sisters stopped talking, he knew he had ten pairs of eyes staring at him.
"Lincoln?" said Lynn.
He didn't answer, and he didn't look up.
"Did you buy all those extra presents?" asked the monotonous with a hint of surprise voice of Lucy.
Knowing that he couldn't keep this away from them for much longer, Lincoln finally raised his head. All his sisters were looking at him. There were a lot of raised eyebrows, and they all looked actually surprised or confused.
"I… Yes. I bought all that stuff," he slowly said.
"Why?" asked both twins at the same time.
He took a deep breath, and then he told them everything. He told them how he had lost the paper, how he hadn't read the name, how he had spent a whole day trying to come up with the perfect gift for each one of them, and how he couldn't just risk ruining Christmas for one of his sisters just because he'd been a reckless idiot.
"...so I did the only thing I could come up with: I bought every present on my list, so they would all have at least one present and you wouldn't be mad at me for ruining everything again," he finished explaining, closing his eyes and looking down again.
Ronnie Anne: Wait, here's an idea: why not just leave them up in your room?
Lincoln: My room?
Ronnie Anne: Yeah. Then wait for everyone else to open their presents, and sooner or later the only one left will be the sister you drew from the hat. When she asks where her gift is, you can just say you "forgot" to bring it down, and then you could go up to your room and get it for her. Problem solved!
Lincoln: But then she would have known automatically that the gift was from me, wouldn't she?
Ronnie Anne: Oh, right.
All his sisters exchanged a look between them. It was obvious that they really wanted to hug him, but Luan suddenly realized something.
"Wait, you say you bought just one present for each one of us?" She asked, sounding confused.
"But Lincoln, we all have two gifts under the tree."
Lincoln turned around and looked at the tree. He started to count. Two for Lori, two for Leni… Luna, Luan, Lynn… Lucy, Lola, Lana… Two for Lisa… Even Lily. They all had two presents.
"How can that be?" he asked.
"The answer is pretty obvious," said Lisa, with condescension. "If we all have an extra present, and none of us have only one from you, then that means that we all had another Secret Santa apart from you. Ergo, your paper didn't have any of our names in it, which leaves us with only one explanation: you drew your own name from the hat."
Lori: And this is why when someone is talking, you listen to them instead of staring at your phone.
Lincoln: Oh, like you're one to talk!
Lincoln's jaw fell, almost to the point of hitting the floor.
"You have to be kidding me!" he said, feeling like he had forgot the lyrics of the national anthem in front of a whole stadium full of people.
Lisa: ...oddly specific simile, but okay.
"Fortunately, I'm not Luan," Lisa said.
"That's right! Wait, what?" asked the comedian.
"But I have a present!" Lincoln said, pointing the small package that was on his space under the tree. "One of you had to buy it!"
They all exchanged looks.
"Right?" asked the boy. "Come on, just tell me who bought it, I give up, I'll invite you for lunch tomorrow."
No one said anything.
"None of you were my Secret Santa? Then who…?"
"I saw when it got home," said Lucy in a low voice. "I was reading inside the chimney when someone knocked the door. Mom answered it, and whoever it was gave it to her. I thought it was the mail, and that someone had bought it from the internet."
Ronnie Anne: Oh, gosh, I wonder who it could be. [Rolls eyes]
Completely confused, Lincoln rapidly grabbed his present and unwrapped it. He needed to know the truth. When he removed all the gift wrap, he found himself holding a box with a male perfume. It looked extremely stylish.
"Oh, I know that fragrance!" said Lori, putting her hands over her chest and with heart-shaped pupils. "That's the same perfume Bobby uses!"
Lana: Perfume? Isn't that for girls?
Leni: Perfume is for anyone who likes to wear perfume, Lana.
"Bobby?" asked Lincoln.
And then he comprehended. His pressure dropped, and he felt a dagger slowly stabbing him between his ribs, piercing his heart. Carefully and with trembling hands, he opened the box. Along with the perfume, there was a hand written note:
I'll see you at seven on the fountain in the park near the city hall. You better wear this.
And it had a heart next to her name.
"Oh, no!" He said, dropping the box on the carpet and taking his hands to his head. "With all this Secret Santa fiasco I forgot I was supposed to meet Ronnie Anne! And man, I told her I would buy her something, but I spent all my money!"
Luan: Yeesh. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, eh, Linc?
His sisters started to talk to him, but he was too desperate and they were all talking at the same time, so he didn't understand a thing. He looked at his watch, and he only had twenty minutes until seven.
"I gotta go!" he said, grabbing his hat and his scarf and running away from his house and to the city hall.
All his sisters stood in the doorway, watching him go, exchanging worried, sad and touched looks.
Lynn: You know, one of us would've called you an Uber if you had waited just a minute longer.
Lincoln found her standing next to the fountain. She was dressed with her winter clothes, and he thought she looked beautiful.
[Lincoln glances obliquely at Ronnie Anne. She catches him, turning her head until her eyes meet his, and he swiftly turns away and blushes.]
She was wearing long jeans and brown boots that matched her coat. She was also wearing white gloves and some earmuffs. He, meanwhile, had barely managed to grab his brown hat, his light blue scarf and a black duffel coat. It wasn't the most attractive combination, but he had worse things to worry about. It was almost a quarter past seven. He'd taken a lot to get there, but although he had had a lot of time to think, he hadn't come up with anything to say to her.
He stop a few feet from her. He didn't say anything; he just looked at her and tried to give her a smile, but he had the sensation that it ended up being a sad smirk.
Ronnie Anne: [Sincerely] Aw, don't be sad, Linky. I know you tried your best.
Lincoln: It's okay, Ronnie A- wait, did you just call me "Linky"?
[The sisters start giggling and tittering. Ronnie Anne gasps and clasps a hand over her mouth.]
Ronnie Anne: S-shut up! It was a slip of the tongue!
"Aren't you going to greet me?" she said, slowly stepping closer.
"Hi," he said, sounding like an idiot.
Ronnie Anne: So like he usually does, then.
[Lincoln slugs her in the arm.]
Ronnie Anne: Ow!
She smiled a little.
"What's up? You look nervous."
She leaned over him a little and sniffed him.
"Hey! You didn't wear my perfume!" she commented, looking at him with fake anger at first and then some worry. "You didn't like it?"
"It's not that!" He immediately said. "Thank you, it was really nice. It's just that..."
He sighed. She would probably hate him, or maybe she would just be sad, but either way, he needed to tell her the truth.
Ronnie Anne: Oh, Lincoln, of course I wouldn't hate you. Everyone makes mistakes. You'd still be my friend.
[Ronnie Anne sees a few of the sisters smirking at her.]
Ronnie Anne: Just my friend!
Lola: If you say so.
"Ronnie Anne… I'm sorry, but I..."
The two of the turned around. A girl was running their way.
"Luan?" they said.
Luan: [Singing] Here I come to save the daaaaaay!
Lincoln's older sister stopped right next to them, giving them a warm smile.
"Sorry for the delay. It's all ready now", she told Lincoln, taking them both by the hands and leading them to the other side of the park.
"Ready? What's ready?" Ronnie Anne inquired, totally confused by what was happening.
Lincoln opened his mouth to tell her that he had no clue neither, but Luan spoke first.
"I'm sorry, Ronnie, but Lincoln told me to keep it a secret. He wants it to be a surprise!"
Ronnie Anne gave Lincoln an intrigued look. He just laughed a little and tried to pretend like it was nothing. The truth was that he was absolutely bewildered.
Luan kept them walking across the park, until they finally arrived a secluded place, where there was a lot of space between the trees. When Lincoln saw what was going on there, he couldn't keep his mouth shut.
The rest of his sisters were there, and they were all working hard to prepare things. Lori and Leni were fixing all the details in a little table for two, arranging the chairs and the tablecloth, while the twins brought candles and napkins. Lucy and Luna were testing some microphones in an improvised stage, while Lynn was carrying the heavy amplifiers and Lisa's portable electric generator. The little genius, meanwhile, was using a strange machine to create some glowing balloons that were moving slightly in the air, tied to the tree branches and illuminating the place. Lily was sitting in the ground, moving her new rattle.
Lincoln: Okay, I appreciate it, but this is... this is a little much. We're not boyfriend and girlfriend.
Lucy: So you say...
"What's going on?" asked Ronnie Anne, amazed at what she saw.
"They're here!" announced Luan. All the girls immediately finished their chores. Then, they all went to the table, while Luan lead Lincoln and Ronnie Anne there. The twins drew the chairs, inviting them to sit. Without any real chance of denying it, they both did.
"I'm sorry we were late, Lincoln," Lori said, giving him a significant look, "but your present for Ronnie Anne is now ready."
Lynn came by the table holding a tray with two cups of hot chocolate and a plate full with candy and cookies.
"Now we'll let you alone," said Leni.
"Luna? A little 'dinner for two' music?" asked Lola.
"You got it, sis," said the rocker, getting her guitar ready.
In an instant, the rest of the girls vanished out of sight, leaving Lincoln and Ronnie Anne practically alone in a table for two, with cups of hot chocolate and all kinds of candy. Under the stars, beneath the moonlight and with Luna playing a soft melody in the background, both kids realized the kind of romantic atmosphere they were in. They blushed slightly and tried to hide their nervousness drinking a little of their hot chocolate. The awkward silence extended for a couple of minutes, until Ronnie Anne finally spoke.
"Did you plan all of this?"
Lincoln let out an uncomfortable chuckle, fixing his coat's collar. He was about to say yes, that it had been his plan all along. But for some reason, he felt like he needed to be honest with her. So he sighed, left his cup aside, put both hands on the table and told her the whole story. By the time he finished, he was afraid of her being mad with him. Ronnie Anne, though, was smiling from ear to ear. She extended her hand across the table and wrapped her fingers, covered in her glove, on top of Lincoln's.
"Lincoln, what you did for your sisters is the sweetest thing I've ever heard," she softly told him.
"Aren't you angry I forgot to buy you something?" he asked.
"Of course not, you dummy. You really think I would get jealous because you've been too occupied trying to make this Christmas the best for your sisters? That just proves to me how sweet and caring you are."
Ronnie Anne: Well, that and how much of a scatterbrain you are. [Laughs]
"Besides..." she added, blushing a little more. "Well, I think this is the best Christmas present you could've given me."
Right then, Luna started to play a new song. It was an old song, he could tell.
There's a light, a certain kind of light, that never shone on me. I want my life to be lived with you; lived with you.
Lincoln and Ronnie Anne looked at each others' eyes and smiled. He took her hand and held it tight.
"Lincoln," she interrupted him, while her free hand was nervously playing with a lock of her hair. "You can… well, if you want… you can call me Ronnie. Just Ronnie."
He blushed even more.
There's a way, everybody says, to do each and every little thing.
"R-Ronnie" he said, with difficulty, "there's something… Something I'd like to ask you."
[All ten sisters lean into the TV. Lincoln and Ronnie Anne just blush, squirming in their seats.]
Leni: Here it comes...
"Go ahead," she timidly told him.
"Well… Do you remember the first time I kissed you?"
She was staring intensely at him.
"You know how it was. My sisters told me you were messing with me because you were in love with me, and I just, I don't know, I felt with confidence and… Well, the point is that at the time you were no big deal for me, you know? Like, you were just a regular bully."
"And I'm not that anymore?"
"I eventually stopped thinking of you like that. I started to… see you in another way."
But does it bring? If I ain't got you.
Ain't got you...
"How is that?" asked Ronnie Anne.
"Well, I realized you were really funny, and that we like the same things, and that… I enjoy being with you, you know? I like to just sit and talk with you. It's like..."
You don't know what it's like...
"...like you're special. You understand what I'm saying? It's like… Something like with Cristina, but with you it's different, because you're you and not her. Am I making any sense?"
Lincoln: Oh, here we go again.
Ronnie Anne: [Blushing even deeper] Can we get through one story without someone trying to hook us up?
"You're saying I'm like her but I'm different because I'm me and not her. Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense."
Lincoln stared at her. You could tell from miles that she was holding back her laughter.
Baby, you don't know what it's like.
"Are you making fun of me?"
"Me? Making fun of you? No way!"
"You're not making this easy for me, you know that?"
"Lincoln, I will never..."
And she got up from her chair a little, leaning against him.
"...ever, make it easy for you, lame-o. You better get used to it."
Lincoln: [Chuckles] That's my Ronnie.
To love somebody, to love somebody.
"Would you be my girlfriend?" He spitted out, not being able to hold it back any longer.
Ronnie Anne: Definitely no! How many times do we have to tell you that we're just friends?!
Lori: Why, is there some other boy who's caught your eye?
Ronnie Anne: What?! No! That wouldn't be fair to Linc...
[The sisters all give her knowing smirks.]
Ronnie Anne: I-I mean, I wouldn't want him to think that I didn't... I do care about him, like, a lot, and I know he cares about me, but that doesn't mean... you're not... it's not...
[Ronnie Anne sighs.]
Ronnie Anne: Forget it. I give up.
Lincoln: Give up on wha-
[Suddenly, Ronnie Anne leaps forward and kisses Lincoln on the lips. Lincoln is shocked at first, but eventually returns the kiss, putting her in a tight embrace. Once they finally release the kiss, they gaze dreamily into each others' eyes.]
Lincoln: Oh, Ronnie...
Ronnie Anne: Oh, Lincoln...
[Lincoln gives her a peck on each cheek before turning back towards the TV.]
Ronnie Anne: Phew. That's a load off my chest.
Lincoln: Yeah, I feel a lot more at ease now.
[Lincoln takes Ronnie Anne's hand and intertwines his fingers with hers. Ronnie Anne smiles, and her eyes shimmer as she squeezes him back.]
Lincoln: Ready to finish the story, girls?...Girls?
[Lincoln and Ronnie Anne look around the room to find that all ten of his sisters have gone bonkers. Lori and Leni are hugging each other and squealing at the top of their lungs, Luna is banging out a face-melting guitar solo, Luan is performing all of the choreography from "Make 'Em Laugh" at triple speed, Lynn is banging herself in the head with a barbell, Lucy is levitating in midair while her head spins around 360 degrees, Lola and Lana are playing leapfrog, Lisa is standing rigid while her glasses display the blue screen of death, and Lily is bouncing off the walls like a pinball.]
Ronnie Anne: Um... should we be worried?
Lincoln: Just let them burn themselves out. In the meantime, let's wrap up the story.
[Ronnie Anne looks back at the screen and her eyes go wide with surprise.]
Ronnie Anne: Um, Lincoln? That might be difficult.
And closing their knick knack paddywack give a dog a bone this old man came rolling home there were ten in the bed and the little one said move over move over so they all rolled over and one fell out there's a hole in the bucket dear Liza dear Liza there's a hole in the bucket dear Liza a hole so fix it dear Henry dear Henry dear Henry so fix it dear Henry dear Henry fix it la kova shelie shalosh pinot shalosh pinot la kova shelie lu-hey hayu lo shalosh pinot lo haya ze ha kova shelie and when they were up they were up and when they were down they were down and when they were only halfway up they got into a rocket ship and-
Lincoln: Oh, geez. Even Grammy's gone off the deep end. Guess we'll have to wait for them, too.
Ronnie Anne: You know, maybe this is just me, but I don't think I can hear anything coming from Lori and Leni.
[Lincoln leans towards Lori and Leni.]
Lincoln: Oh, hey, that is weird. Their mouths are moving, but they're not making any-
[They then see Charles a few feet away from them, writhing in pain.]
Lincoln: Ah. That explains it.
[Fifteen minutes, later, the girls are all back on the couch, looking weary and ragged.]
Lincoln: Got it all out of your system?
Lori: Y... yeah. We're good.
Ronnie Anne: And you, Grammy?
[I'm good. Let us finish the story.]
And closing their eyes, both of them slightly turned their heads to the side, and they joined their lips in a kiss...
The way I love you.
Behind some nearby bushes, they heard nine girls squealing with delight and excitement. As they shared their fourth kiss, Lincoln realized this one was special too. It was the first kiss they had as a couple. He smiled, while Luna kept playing her song and his sisters were taking pictures with their phones.
This was, most certainly, the best Christmas Eve ever.
Lincoln: It sure was.
Lola: What a beautiful story.
Lincoln: What'd you think, Ronnie? Did you like it?
[Ronnie Anne says nothing. Instead, she just wraps her arms around him and lays her head against his chest, sighing contentedly.]
Lincoln: I'll take that as a yes.
Lori: All right, girls. Let's leave the two lovebirds alone.
[Lori gathers up all of her younger sisters and walks them upstairs. For a long while, Lincoln and Ronnie Anne just sit on the couch together, basking in the glow of the TV.]
Ronnie Anne: Merry Christmas, Lame-O.
Lincoln: You too, Ronnie.
[Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Peeking Through the Fourth Wall!]