Christmas LGBTQ+

I don't want to meet him, Dad.

Paul pulls up in his silver Corsa, snow turning to slush under the tires. The gravel is muddy and his leather boots are flecked with dirt. He rubs them on the hessian mat and slips them off in the boot room, hanging up his coat on the empty peg. It's red - a dark, bloody colour. Lottie returns to the sofa, sitting down next to me. She fits perfectly. This is what home is - everyone fits. I start to stroke her hair as Paul’s footsteps pad down the hallway towards us.

Dad stands up from his chair, picking up and downing his wine in one smooth motion. He walks to the table, a dark wooden rectangle with a stack of presents piled up on one end. The wine glass balances precariously on the edge as he pours more from the Pinot Grigio bottle. As Paul hovers in the doorway, Dad hands him the glass and opens the cabinet to find another one for himself. 

‘Girls, this is Paul. Paul, this is Lottie, and Mel.’

Paul smiles. The lines around his eyes crinkle a little and one of his dimples is more pronounced than the other. ‘It’s so nice to finally meet you girls! I’ve heard a lot about you.’

Dad told us about Paul a year ago. He told us he was gay about a year before that. It tore me apart. I would have preferred it if he’d cheated, if him and Mum had been fighting, if something had felt wrong - but it didn’t. Everything was more or less perfect. When he told us, it felt like my whole life just stopped. The family I loved was built on a lie; his relationship with Mum was a lie; he was a different person at all. It’s not homophobic to say that I wish he wasn’t gay, or hadn’t told us. I’m fine with people being gay - just not my dad. He ruined my life by telling us. If he can lie for the first fifty years, he could have at least waited until we were both in college before he decided to drop a bomb on our lives. So no, I didn’t want to spend Christmas with Paul. In fact, I didn’t really want to meet him. I feel a bit sick when I look at them together, especially this one photo where they’re kissing. It’s just… wrong. 

I wanted to spend Christmas with Mum. Well, I wanted to spend Christmas with Mum and Dad, but I’ve pretty much accepted that’s not going to happen. I definitely, definitely, definitely did not want to spend Christmas with Dad and Paul. 

Lottie is a natural conversationalist. As the snow falls thick and fast outside, she asks Paul about his job, his dog, his siblings: a lawyer, a dalmatian, two younger sisters. He says they’re a bit like us. She’s all smiles, laughs at his jokes, asks him more questions. Either she’s a great actress, or she’s really ok with this. I’m not.

I stare out the window at the barren, frozen apple tree as Lottie stumbles towards the end of a sentence. Suddenly the room is silent. Dad sips his wine quietly and Paul fiddles with the hem of his jeans, nervously searching for something to do. Slapping his knees, Dad stands up and strides over to the table.

‘Present time, I think?’

Of course, Lottie got Paul a present. Really it’s for Paul and Dad, but she gives it to Paul to unwrap. ‘This is from me and Mel,’ she lies, ‘I hope you like it!’

He unwraps it neatly and puts the green crêpe paper to one side to use again, just like I do.

It’s a small cherry-red wooden box with an engraving on top. It reads For Dad and Paul, from L and M xxx. Dad slides back the lid to reveal two small silver keychains, with dates engraved on the top. The engravings are neat, small black lines. One for Dad with Paul’s birthday, and one for Paul with Dad’s birthday. Paul beams, hugs Lottie. I can tell he’s a bit teary-eyed. I feel sick.

The oven timer goes off and Dad gets out the mince pies. I hate mince pies, but they’re Paul’s favourite, and apparently today is all about him. They’re too hot and I can tell Lottie’s struggling to swallow. Paul’s oblivious. He looks over at me, smiling, and asks - ‘So, Mel, how’s school?’

I don’t really want to answer. I mumble ‘fine’ under my breath and go back to looking out the window. I can see Dad glaring at me in my peripheral vision. I don’t care; he lost his glaring privileges when he ruined my life.

Obviously, Paul got us presents. Lottie opens hers first, tearing off the silver paper to reveal a small gold bangle. It has a tiny yellow daisy charm in the middle. It’s gorgeous. She slips it on over her wrist and it fits perfectly, the same colour as the earrings she’s wearing; the ones I got her last Christmas. Dad smiles wide, and holds out his hand to have a look at the bracelet. She shows it off proudly. As Dad draws back, he brushes hands with Paul and they share a look, smiling the same way Lottie smiles at her boyfriend. Dad looks genuinely happy. Taking a deep breath, I reach forward for the small silver box on the table, wrapped with a neat green bow. I slide my thumbnail under the sellotape to unwrap it neatly and put the paper down on the floor.

Inside is a thin grey box. I remove the lid to reveal the daintiest, most gorgeous watch I have ever seen. It’s beautiful. The straps are long and silver, with tiny diamonds circling the face and hands. I turn it over, and see a tiny engraving on the back - For M, Merry Christmas 2019. 

Paul’s tense, inquisitive. I let go of the breath I didn’t realise I was holding and murmur ‘I love it, thank you.’ He looks at me and smiles. Dad looks overjoyed. 

‘Did I choose the right thing then Mel,’ Paul asks, ‘do you like it?’

I nod gently and fasten it on my wrist. As the cold metal hits my skin, a shiver runs up my arm. Looking up at Paul, I smile and say thank you. It’s not really about the watch, though, and I think he knows that. He went out and chose it for me. He went out and chose something just for me, hoping I’d love it. He cares whether I like it or not. He makes my dad happy.

The blanket of snow on the driveway is marked here and there by birds’ footprints, but mostly still and perfect. We’re watching Love Actually, and Paul’s favourite scene is in the lake - we laugh in unison, I’ve watched this movie every Christmas since I was ten. He yawns, stretching his arms high above his head and settling back down over Dad’s shoulder. He fits on the sofa perfectly. Lottie snuggles into my chest, half-asleep. This is what home is - everyone fits.

November 21, 2020 21:37

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