All Wrapped Up was created based on a prompt from a very good friend. I told her I would write it if she helped me with the gift ideas because I am absolutely horrible at picking gifts. Thankfully, she agreed, and this novella was born.
It was very challenging for me. In all honesty, it almost got scrapped halfway through because I thought the reader would find it boring due to the limited in-person interaction between the main characters. I kept writing, though, and was very pleased with the final result. It’s fluffy and fifthly, and seriously, that’s the best way to spend the holiday.
Below you will find an excerpt from All Wrapped Up. I chose these particular scenes because I thought it would give you all an idea of how very different these characters are. To give it some context, the main characters completed a survey for their university’s annual Secret Santa Gift Exchange. This excerpt takes you through their responses, then the first gift that is given. Click here to purchase All Wrapped Up. It’s only .99c!
“Did ya get your assignment?” Seamus asks, waking Nate again from yet another nap. He is going to have to change the fucking lock. They are a week away from Thanksgiving break, and Nate’s brain has already checked out, which is a fucking shame since finals are right around the corner.
“Don’t know. Haven’t checked,” Nate mumbles, snuggling back down into his bed and closing his eyes again, hoping his annoying excuse of a roommate will get the picture.
“Well, check. I wanna know!” Seamus exclaims, and Nate can feel it when his laptop is balanced precariously on his hip. Maybe breaking in a new roommate wouldn’t be so bad after all. Kill Seamus now, get a new roommate by next semester. Simple as that. No-fuss, no muss. Maybe his new roommate will let him fucking sleep and not make him fill out a stupid Secret Santa gift exchange. Who does Nate have to blow around here to get a decent fucking nap? Not Seamus that’s for fucking sure because that is just gross.
“If I check, will you fuck off and let me go back to sleep?” Nate asks, not even opening his eyes.
“Nate, it’s five in the afternoon. If you nap now, you’ll never sleep tonight.”
“What are you, my mother? We’re in college. There is no such thing as a sleep schedule,” Nate responds, finally opening his eyes just to glare at Seamus, but his roommate is unperturbed. Fucking asshole. Yes, a new roommate that hasn’t known him since they were five and is still very intimidated by Nate. That is all Nate wants for Christmas, a new fucking roommate. Maybe he should have put that on his fucking survey. Too bad Santa doesn’t exist.
“Come on. Just see who you got.” Seamus smiles, looking pointedly at Nate’s computer, still balancing on his hip. After a few minutes of a staring contest, Nate finally rolls his eyes and sighs, grabbing his laptop and sitting upon his bed. He makes quick work of logging into his school email, finding the survey results as the first item in his inbox.
“Okay. I’m doing it,” Nate grumbles, skimming over this person’s answers.
- Number Assigned: 28
- Sex: I thought we were past these types of questions. I am a male, and I identify as one. However, I tend to like things that are more on the ‘feminine’ side.
- Major: Pre-Law
- Why did you choose that major: I want to help people who can’t help themselves. Many people can’t afford a lawyer, so oftentimes, social injustices exist in our system. If you are poor, you are more likely to go to prison because you couldn’t afford a lawyer. This can lead to false imprisonment simply because you are from a lower socioeconomic status. It’s not fair, and I would like to change that. I have also considered changing my major, but I’m not sure.
- Favorite Food: Avocados. There is just so much you can do with them, and they are so healthy. You can put them in a smoothie, have them on toast, or even eat them in sushi.
- Favorite Drink: Water. It’s good for you and allows your skin to stay hydrated. If I had to pick something other than water, I think I would go with Matcha tea. It has healing and energizing properties and is better for you than coffee. It is also rich in antioxidants, fiber, chlorophyll, and vitamins.
- Hobby: Playing guitar and writing music. I learned to play the guitar when I was thirteen and started writing music when I was sixteen. I am also learning to play the piano, but I’m not that good yet. I usually participate in open mic nights at bars around campus. I also love karaoke.
- Favorite Movie: The Notebook. That one is easy. It is such a beautifully heartbreaking love story. I hope someday to find a love like that. One that will last throughout the ages.
- Favorite Book: Harry Potter Series. It has been my favorite since my sister read me the first one when I was 8 years old. Some of my favorite memories are of her reading them to me, then finally getting old enough to read them myself. I own all of them in three different versions. I am a Ravenclaw, in case you were wondering.
- Favorite Store: Gucci, but that obviously won’t work for this since they don’t have anything below around 200 dollars (yes, I realize how pretentious that sounds). I just have expensive taste, I guess. But I would be happy with literally anything from Walmart, the Dollar Store, or Target. It’s the thought that counts.
- Favorite TV show to binge-watch on Netflix: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I know it’s considered a ‘chick show, but I love it so much. I just think it is so well done and thought out. It is a feminist masterpiece that takes a traditionally male character and puts a blonde female cheerleader in his place. It completely flips the gender roles and does it in a believable way. She feels like the weight of the world is on her shoulders, but she keeps fighting. That is the best part of the whole thing. That she keeps fighting and winning even though she feels guilty for all of her misdeeds. It teaches young girls that they can be a badass and still have emotions. They don’t need to be like a man because they are perfect being themselves.
- Favorite genre of music/band: Rock and Indy, but I will listen to anything as long as it makes me feel something. My favorite band is probably Fleetwood Mac if I had to pick only one.
- Favorite Holiday Memory: One time, my mom fell and hurt her leg right before we were supposed to host our family’s holiday get together. She always cooks for everything. She couldn’t really cook when her leg was hurt. We couldn’t expect her to stand in pain for hours. That would be cruel. My brother, sister, and I stepped in to help her. She sat at the table and drank wine the entire time. She got increasingly more drunk as the day wore on, and she walked my siblings and me through the steps of each dish. It was pretty disastrous by the last dish since she was so drunk, she couldn’t remember her name, let alone a recipe. At one point, she even told us to use a cup of salt instead of flour; thankfully, we figured that one out. By the end of it, we were giggling, and we had made a mess. It was the best holiday ever because we spent all of it altogether in the kitchen, just chatting. It was lovely, even though my mom was hurt. When the family came over, it was great because the kitchen was a mess, we had food all over us, and mom was drunk. They didn’t know what to think, but we all just laughed at their reactions and eventually ate the food.
- Favorite Sports Team/ Sport: Quidditch I know that doesn’t count. Maybe yoga? Does that count? I just started doing yoga for my body, but it also helps my mind. I hope you will try it out sometime. I am just, truthfully, not that into sports, but I do love running and yoga. It keeps me limber and healthy.
- Shirt size: Medium or small. I have a long torso, so it’s sometimes hard to tell.
- Favorite Color: Pink because it’s pretty, and everyone should feel pretty.
- What is one thing about you that most people don’t know: Sometimes I get really anxious when I have to speak or perform publicly. Most people think I am charismatic and charming or whatever, but I still get stage fright sometimes. Not many others know that about me, though.
- Favorite Scent: Sunshine? I know this isn’t technically a scent, but I love the smell of a warm day. It just makes me feel so happy and warm, just the smell alone.
- Favorite chocolate/sweet: Ferrero Rocher probably. I love hazelnut, and because it is mixed with chocolate, it makes it that much better.
- Favorite holiday song: Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. I just love how upbeat and peppy it is. Like you want to get up and dance to it. It isn’t boring like other Christmas songs. My family and I always played it growing up on Christmas Eve as we wrapped some presents and sang and danced along.
- If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why: I will actually be going to Europe during my break, just to visit for the first time. My mom doesn’t want me to go alone, but I think I am going to. It seems fun, and I love learning about cultures and exploring different cities. I can’t think past that for the moment. I am really looking forward to it.
“Oh great, I got a rich, gay, hipster dude who wants to change the world. Fucking winning,” Nate says sarcastically after he skims over the answers, not even bothering to read the long-winded ones because he doesn’t have time to read a fucking book.
“You’re gay. Plus, how do you even know he’s gay? I think you’re jumping to conclusions just to be an asshole, Nate,” Seamus responds, pointing at him threateningly. Nate knows he could take him, though. He is quick and scrappy, whereas Seamus is far too nice to do any actual harm.
“His favorite movie is The Notebook. His favorite color is pink, and when asked about his sex, he went into this whole spiel about gender conformity, for fuck’s sake. The dude is gay,” Nate defends, voice getting higher with each answer he lists off. Nate knows gay when he sees it, or in this case, reads it. He has been gay his entire life, after all, so he is no stranger to it. His gaydar is impressive, even if he does say so himself.
“Give him a chance. He could be fun. You’re just grumpy because you didn’t nap,” Seamus argues, and Nate can’t exactly tell him he’s wrong. He may be right, but Nate also would never admit that. He just bets this person talks slow, based on the rambling nature of his answers. Suddenly, he has a brilliant plan as to what he wants the first present to be. It should be easy enough, but it just may make him an asshole.
“They’re here, Z! Oh my God! I’m so nervous. Why am I nervous?” Roman exclaims, jumping when he sees a new email in his school inbox labeled ‘Secret Santa Survey Exchange.’ He hovers his mouse over it but doesn’t click. His fingers are shaking with anticipation, hoping that whoever he is paired with has a good sense of humor.
Zac just laughs at Roman’s antics, shaking his head and pulling out his phone so that he can look at the survey without actually getting on his laptop. Roman wants his computer, though, feeling like he can understand it better on a bigger screen. He knows that it is stupid, but he can’t help it. He just wants to make sure he gets every detail down.
He takes a deep breath and opens the email, reading each answer carefully.
- Number Assigned: 28
- Sex: Yes. The answer is always yes, and I am a male.
- Major: Theatre
- Why did you choose that Major: Because I like to make people laugh
- Favorite Food: Anything greasy and can cure a hangover
- Favorite Drink: Coffee or Yorkshire Tea. I need caffeine.
- Hobby: I play piano, occasionally. I also love soccer and video games. Video games count as a hobby, right? If you don’t think so, you’re wrong.
- Favorite Movie: Grease
- Favorite Book: Don’t read. It’s against my religion.
- Favorite Store: Dick’s Sporting Goods. Adidas is my favorite athletic brand. What can I say… I love dicks.
- Favorite genre of music/band: I like a little bit of everything. Mostly punk rock, but I want it to sound interesting.
- Favorite TV show to binge-watch on Netflix: Friends
- Favorite Holiday Memory: Staying up late with my mom to help her wrap my sister’s presents the night before because, of course, she put it off. She usually let me have wine or beer with her, then we would get to wrapping, getting them all done at like 3 am only for them to be ripping it all off again 2 hours later. We had the best conversations those nights.
- Favorite Sports Team/ Sport: I love soccer even though it’s not big in the US. My grandmother still lives in the UK, so I grew up with it. My favorite team is the Doncaster Rovers.
- Shirt Size: Small, but I sometimes like to wear my clothes baggy
- Favorite Color: Blue
- What is one thing about you that most people don’t know: I spent my summers in England with my grandparents growing up, so when I am drunk or tired, I will sometimes slip into an English accent. Random AF, I know.
- Favorite Scent: Tobacco… if you think that’s weird, you can fuck right off
- Favorite chocolate/sweet: Maltesers, they are hard to find in the US, but my grandparents always gave them to me as a special treat.
- Favorite Holiday song: Santa Baby hahaha
- If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why: I think I would go back to Doncaster to visit my grandma. She is getting old, and we don’t know how much longer she will be with us. It would be nice to see her again.
“Well?” Zac asks, snapping Roman out of his read over of the person’s answers for the fifth time.
“I think I’m in love,” Roman responds, laughing at the mystery man’s answer for favorite scent. He is sassy, and Roman likes him already.
“Isn’t that a bit soon. You don’t even know if he’s gay,” Zac reasons, giving Roman a very confused look.
“His favorite movie is Grease,” Roman points out, and when Zac still doesn’t look convinced, he then adds, “His favorite store is Dick’s Sporting Goods because and I quote ‘what can I say… I love dicks’.” Zac’s mouth drops open at the statement, and Roman allows a wide grin to take over his face.
“Okay, maybe you got me there,” Zac concedes, nodding his head at Roman once he finally closes his mouth. “But I still think it is a bit too early for love.” He chuckles with the statement, but Roman isn’t so sure. When he looks back down at the guy’s answers. His chest flutters and his stomach does a weird jumping thing.
“What’s the first gift category?” Roman asks, mind already whirring with possibilities. He has the sudden urge to spoil this person, but he knows there is a limit to how much he is allowed to spend. Maybe he can exceed that just a tiny little bit, though.
“Umm…” Zac looks at his phone for a few minutes before looking back up. “The first category is food.” Roman bites his lip, mind whirling with ideas. He could go for something simple and easy, but he doesn’t want that. He wants his gift to be unique, but he doesn’t have a whole lot of time. The gifts are due in two weeks, so he needs to find them quickly.
“Where are you going?” Zac asks, staring at Roman as if he has lost his mind. He may have, but that’s not the point. The point is, he has a gift to find, and it may be nearly impossible to find it. He needs to start now.
“Going to get the first gift, and maybe the others if inspiration strikes,” Roman responds, slipping on his jacket and grabbing his keys, wallet, and cell phone from his desk.
“You have two weeks, though,” Zac argues, the line between his brows deepening, becoming more pronounced as he draws them in confusion.
“May take me awhile. Don’t wait up,” Roman responds, then waves and is out the door.
Two Weeks Later…
“Hi, I am here to deliver the Secret Santa Gift Exchange’s first round of presents. Is this the room of Nate and Seamus,” a cheerful girl asks when Nate opens the door after hearing a knock. She looks far too peppy, with a too-wide smile and black thick-rimmed glasses. She is wearing bright red lipstick and a Santa hat. She is even wearing an ugly Christmas sweater, and Nate kind of wants to smother her with it.
“Yeah. I’m Nate,” he answers.
“Okay. I just need you to sign here, and I will give you and your roommate your gifts,” she replies, still fucking smiling. Don’t her cheeks hurt? Jesus. She shoves a clipboard at him, and he signs his name by his and Seamus’ room number. She then hands him two small packages.
“Thanks.” He takes them from her, and places them in one arm then rubs his eyes tiredly. He needs to take his contacts out; his eyes are getting itchy from overwear. She waves then wheels her cart full of packages over to the next door. He kicks his own door shut with one barefoot before he even hears her knock on their neighbor’s door.
“Ooohhh, it’s the presents!” Seamus exclaims, pushing his homework to the side and rubbing his hands together excitedly. Nate chuckles, remembering what he had bought for his Secret Santa. The gift labeled for him is in a smallish sized box, maybe big enough for a large mug. It is wrapped carefully in brown paper with pink designs.
Nate can actually feel them under his fingers since they are embossed into the paper. Around it is a pink ribbon interlaced with a brown one, both tied into a bow. Nate shakes it, his curiosity starting to peak, but it doesn’t make a sound. He throws Seamus’ gift to him, without even looking up, too interested in his own present to pay attention.
“Aren’t you gonna open it?” Seamus asks, and Nate can hear the confusion in his voice.
“It’s almost too pretty to open,” Nate responds, barely above a whisper. He just can’t believe someone would waste so much time and energy on something so trivial. He has no idea what it could be, and a warmness is already spreading throughout his chest. However, his guilt over his own chosen present is threatening to strangle him. He looks at the tag, rubbing his finger gently over the messy all caps letters of his Secret Santa.
To: Number 28
All the Love: Your Secret Santa
“For fuck’s sake, just open it,” Seamus yells, pulling Nate out of his thoughts. He throws a pillow at Seamus because that’s what he deserves and rips into the pretty wrapping paper. Inside is a plain white box with obvious hand-drawn trees, snowflakes, snowmen, and all things Christmas-y on every side, and Nate is even more confused. On top, in the same messy scrawl, it reads, ‘Hope these bring good memories. Enjoy XX’ in big, bold letters, written in what is clearly green sharpie.
He pulls the lid off the box carefully, his breath hitching when he registers what’s inside. He blinks back tears as he pulls the plastic-wrapped item out, memories from summers long ago flooding back to him. The smell of his grandparent’s house on warm summer days and the rainy ones, too. Playing football with his younger sisters in the back garden. The taste of his nan’s cooking, but she would always sneak him some of these before dinner even though his mom said it would ruin his appetite. All of them come flooding back like a tidal wave, and Nate wants to cry from it all.
“Oh, my God. How did he find these? I haven’t even been able to find them anywhere. I didn’t even think they were sold in the US!” Nate exclaims, carefully pulling out the bag of Maltesers from the box, eyes lighting up like a kid on Christmas. Nate supposes it is almost Christmas, but he never expected to get such a special gift, especially from a stranger.
Suddenly a wave of guilt hits him over the ‘presents’ he bought for his Secret Santa, making him feel sick to his stomach. Fuck. He feels like a total asshole, which is saying a lot because Nate rarely feels guilty. It’s too late to do anything about today’s present, but he may be able to exchange the one for Wednesday and Friday if he plays his cards right, but first, he needs to get new ones.
“Wow. That’s awesome, Nate,” Seamus responds, holding a bag of coffee in his hand, but Nate barely registers it. His mind is racing with gift ideas, scenarios, and a plan. One that he is going to have to pull off in twenty-four hours. He is also going to have to sweet talk the exchange people. He has to at least try after such a thoughtful gift from the mystery man. Nate grabs his keys, coat, wallet, and cell phone off the desk, shoving some of the items into the pocket of his sweatpants. “Where the fuck are you going?” Seamus asks, breaking into his thoughts.
Nate is startled at first. He had almost forgotten Seamus was even in the room, too wrapped up in his memories and guilt. Nate glances at the bag of Maltesers he left lying on his bed, then looks back at Seamus. “I have some presents I need to buy. You touch those, and I will kill you,” Nate warns, then he is out the door, off to go and pull every string he can.
Thank you all for reading the excerpt from All Wrapped Up. I sincerely hope you enjoyed it. If you would like to chat, feel free to follow me on my social media platforms below. I would love to hear from you.