Ratzenberger Steeger St. Jost

November 23, 2000
“You’re just letting yourself in?”

Carlisle takes a step back from the door, looking at me as if I have two heads. “Uh, this is my mom’s house.”

“I know, but still. I don’t even have a to key to my mom’s house. The last time I visited, she made a point of not giving me one—god forbid I could come and go as I please. And my dad…” I remember flying home this year for my birthday. I’d be hard-pressed to think of a time in my life I felt less welcome. “Let’s just say I ended up getting a room at the Dew Drop Inn.”

“Oh.” He raises his arm and, for a fraction of a second, I think he’s going to hug me. Instead, he pushes his mother’s front door open and gestures for me to go inside. “Ladies first.”

I cross the threshold not knowing if I’m disappointed or relieved.

“We’re here,” he calls from behind me.

“Izzy!” Sarah rushes into the foyer and gives me a hug. “So glad you decided to join us!”

“Thank you for inviting me.”

“Of course. I’m just sorry you weren’t able to fly home to be with your family.”

The truth is I didn’t want to. My plans were to stay in the apartment, watch old movies, and maybe make a small turkey breast all the while trying not to think about how if Edward and I were still together, it would be our fifth anniversary. He said the first holiday away from family was always the hardest, but I barely noticed being away from them. It’s my first holiday without him that’s killing me.

Faking a smile, I hand Sarah the bottle of wine I brought. “This is for you.”

“Ratzenberger Steeger St. Jost?” she asks, reading the label.

“It’s a dry German Riesling,” I say. “I think it will go well with the turkey.”

“I know it will go well with the turkey.” Carlisle steps out from behind me and kisses Sarah on the cheek. “Izzy has great instinct when it comes to wine; she just has to start trusting it.”

“He’s right,” she says to me. “You wouldn’t be working with Laurent now if you didn’t.”

“No, I’m still just an assistant server. I’m learning a lot though and hoping that with all the reorganization going on at Jude’s I’ll have a chance to move up.”

Sarah shoots Carlisle a pointed look I don’t entirely understand.

“We haven’t had a chance to talk to about it yet,” he says. “Things have been crazy.”

“Oh. Well, I should put this on ice so it will be chilled in time for dinner. Everyone else is in the living room.” She hurries off, leaving me alone with Carlisle.

“Let me take your coat,” he says.

I manage to pull off my gloves and scarf before my curiosity gets the better of me. “What is it that we haven’t had a chance to talk about?”

“Impending staff changes at Jude’s.”

“Oh.” I take off my coat and shove the rest of my cold-weather gear into one of its sleeves. Sighing, I hand it to Carlisle. “I’m not holding my breath. You know Georges is a misogynistic fuck. As long as he’s in charge…”

“He won’t always be.”

“I guess. It’s hard to look forward to something that may never happen.”

“You won’t be clearing tables forever,” he says.

“I know. And once I have a full year’s experience, I’ll to start look for a job somewhere with more room for advancement.”

“You won’t have to look far.”

He turns his back to me as he hangs both of our coats in the closet. His shoulders are broad like Edward’s. For a moment I wish he had hugged me before, and not just because of how much I miss physical affection. Out of everything I’ve managed to create for myself post-Edward, I value Carlisle’s friendship the most.

He’s smiling when he faces me. “Come on. I’ll introduce you to my grandparents.”

I follow him into the living room, grateful for the distraction small talk with strangers will provide. And if it doesn’t, there’s always wine.

December 24, 2009
Edward holds up a cluster of grapes made from tiny red crystals. “I’m starting to sense a theme here.”

“You think?” I say, laughing. “I mean, didn’t the garland of corks strung together tip you off?”

“Actually, no. I figured you were still just putting anything you could find up on the tree, like you used to.” He hangs the grapes on the tree and reaches into the storage bin for more ornaments. “Yet another bottle of wine. Why am I not surprised?”

“What can I say? I’m nothing if not consistent.”

“Indeed,” he says, rummaging through the box of ornaments. “I can’t remember the last time I did this. I’d forgotten how fun it can be.”

“Don’t let Alice hear you say that. I can imagine what kind of holiday hell she would drag you into with her.”

“I’d mind less than you think. Well, provided she didn’t torture me with that god-awful Christmas music she seems to love so much.”

I laugh; I can’t help it.

“It makes no sense,” he continues. “She has good taste in everything but music—and the holiday music she likes is the worst. It’s all that schmaltzy crap, the more melodramatic the better. When I saw her before flying out here to see you, she was playing that song about the shoes. You have to know the one I’m talking about—the mother is dying and her son is out shopping so she’ll look pretty when she goes to heaven? Alice was sitting at the kitchen table bawling. I teased her; I couldn’t help it. She asked me how I could be so heartless considering the way our mother cried the Christmas before she died because she didn’t feel pretty. In actuality, my mother had just found out about Carlisle. Feeling pretty was the least of her concerns, but I didn’t tell Alice that.”

“Maybe you should have. The thing about Alice is that she’s incredibly strong.” And perceptive, I add silently.

“She also worships our father.”

“Sooner or later, we all have that moment where we realize our parents are just people. I’m not sure you’re doing her any favors by postponing the inevitable.”

“I’m not planning to keep it from her indefinitely. I will tell her. It’s just…” He shakes his head. “She’s given up a lot for me over the years. This Christmas is something I can give her. Besides, if I know my sister, she’ll want space away from our father while she processes it all. Telling her while she’s staying under his roof will only make it worse.” He turns his attention back to the box of ornaments on the floor beside him. “Well,” he says, holding up a piece of cheese. “This one’s different.”

“Here.” I hang it on the tree next to one of the wine ornaments. “It goes best with Riesling.”

He nods as he smiles—it’s the smile that makes me want to rip his clothes off.

“Do you put up a tree every year?” He leans back on his elbows, stretching his legs out in front of him. “I haven’t had one since… well, let’s just say it’s been awhile.”

“I do, yes. In the beginning, it was under duress.”

“From whom?”

“Who do you think?” Not wanting to say his name probably makes me a pussy, but I don’t care. I want tonight to be about Edward and me, and it won’t if I mention Carlisle.

“Oh.” His shoulders tense. “So what goes on top?”

I smile. “I do, but you know this.”

He laughs. “I meant on top of the tree, you dirty girl.”

“I don’t have anything. It always seemed to me like it should be something symbolizing what mattered most to me. Putting your senator on the tree…that’s kind of psycho.”

“Is that where you want me?”

“No,” I say, shaking my head. “I’d rather have you inside me.”

He pulls me against him and flips me onto my back. There’s nothing gentle about his kiss—it’s passionate and rough, demanding even. By the time Christmas Eve becomes Christmas Day, we’re joined as one and I’m the most at peace I’ve ever been. In his arms, there’s nothing we can’t face.

Not even Christmas.


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  1. on 29 Jun 2012 at 1:29 amSimone

    Something just occurred to me: what Edward wants is his father’s approval–the approval that Alice seems to already have. I wonder how that’s affected their relationship and if it’s at all influenced his decision to keep Alice in the dark concerning their father’s true character.