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Christmas Fiction Coming of Age

“One more, I can’t believe this is the last one. I made it!”

I hold the dress up and give it a last look over before I put it on. I take a few steps back until my entire dress is visible. I do a little twirl and smile.

“What do you think? Now that I’m here and actually have it on it feels like it’s a little too dressed up for Christmas dinner.”

He leans forward slightly, squints and tilts his head to the side. “I still love it.” He smiles.

“Thank you, let me get out there before they start looking for me.” He blows me one kiss with each hand before ending the video call. I take my other earbud off the vanity before seating down and staring back at myself in the mirror.

I chug what’s left in my glass of wine before heading to the kitchen for a refill.

***

I brushed my hands along the hallway trying to remember a time I was happy here. Trying to remember a time I didn’t want to escape from within these walls. I had almost given up hope, until Lora. Naturally the responsibility of caring for her fell on me. I was the one that got up when she cried, her crib was eventually moved to my room. I walked her to every first day. I helped with homework. I didn’t mind any of it because more than anything I wanted to protect and keep her safe. It was finally time for me to leave home and all the excitement I had anticipated was suddenly replaced by grief.

I paused in the doorway. Mom was hovering over Lora and Tom, showering them with questions. Dan was barely part of the conversation. He was just there. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I didn't have the luxury of watching my parents fall out of love. I have no memory of them ever being in in love. Or genuinely being happy if I’m being honest. They're married just not to each other anymore. I wouldn’t say they are any happier though.

Mom gets to host her lovely Christmas dinner. Dan will go along with it, because he’s just as pretentious. Dad gets to spend the night or two, if we’re being completely honest, out with his friends drinking. Julia seems to not mind. They live less than 20 minutes away but it feels like a lot more. It has always felt like more. Sometimes I wish it was. I was only ever there because I had to be. Because it was their turn to have me.

There was never quite anything to look forward to during the holidays. Until now.

“Keep drinking like that and you will end up like your father.”

“I’m not allowed to have two glasses of wine?”

“You’re ALLOWED to have TWO.”

Lora scoots over to make room for me to sit. Let the party begin. Hours of endless chitter-chatter go by, reminiscing on the moments that we felt like a normal family. The moments someone was watching. From the outside looking in we were a perfectly normal family.

***

Mom takes her seat and smiles before exclaiming, “No phones at the dinner table.” Lora grabs Tom’s phone of the table and hastily place it in her bag. He shifts in his seat and looks at her, but says nothing. She grins before nervously running her hands back and forth along the top of her dress.

“Sorry Mommy.” I quickly swipe mine off my lap before making my way to my room. I double check to make sure it’s on silent before tossing it under the duvet just in case. I frolic back to the dining room, find my seat at the table and try not to drag my chair as I sit down.

Everyone bows their head to say grace and I follow suit, with eyes wide open tracing the lace on the table cloth. I try to look up to see if anyone else has their eyes open. “Amen.” I bow my head and sheepishly raise it again.

Time seemed to slow down. The clanging of knives and forks was almost deafening. I became so conscious of my chewing. Was I chewing too loud? Could everyone else hear my chewing? I chewed slower.

“Are you okay?” Tom asked, he was actually concerned. Everyone else’s eyes just momentarily darted at me.

“Mm-hmm,” I managed as I take some sips of water. The sight of him suffering through his first Christmas dinner with my family was almost saddening, but at least he managed to smile through it all.

***

I lock the door behind me and plummet onto the bed. I stare at the ceiling and make no attempt at holding back the tears as they stream down the sides of my face. I pat down the bed on either side of my body searching for my phone. He’s online.

“It’s over” I manage to type.

“How do you feel?”

“It doesn’t feel real. I can’t help but question whether I’m doing the right thing.”

“You are”

He’s right. I am. I’ve been looking forward to this for as long as I could remember. So many of my choices have led up to this moment. I got the grades; I got the scholarship and I got into the furthest university from home. And I threw myself wholly into it. I had promised myself I’d be free one day and now it is finally within reach. It has been a long time coming.

“I know. It’s just that I have spent just as much time and energy as they have trying to convince everyone we are a normal family. Normal people don’t cut their families off.”

“You don’t owe anyone an explanation”

“Funny how this is the first Christmas in my entire life that I have actually had something to celebrate.”

“Well, I can’t wait for you to get home so we can properly celebrate”

I’m startled by a knock at the door. I had forgotten I had locked the door.

“Tom and I are leaving.”

I open the door just enough to step out of the room before shutting the door behind me, “I’ll walk you out.”

“This time again next year?” She stops to look at me.

“I doubt.”

“I will send you the wedding photos.”

“Does she know you’re eloping?”

“Noooope.” We both chuckle before sharing a long hug.

I watch as they pull out of the driveway and drive off.

It’s finally my turn.

December 30, 2022 01:27

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