December 25, 2000
Still half-asleep, I stumble out of my bedroom into a silent apartment. Part of me wishes I went to Sarah’s with Carlisle so I wouldn’t spend the day wallowing. Then again, wallowing sounds pretty good right about now.
I’m halfway to the kitchen when I hear Carlisle’s voice.
“Holy fuck!” I trip over my feet and crash into the wall. “You scared the shit out of me.”
“Clearly,” he says, laughing.
“I wasn’t expecting you—I thought you spent the night at your mom’s.”
He shrugs. “I forgot my toothbrush.”
“You’re a terrible liar.”
“Okay, fine. But if I told you I didn’t want you to spend Christmas morning by yourself, you’d only get annoyed with me.”
“You know I’m not close to my family the way you are to yours. Spending holidays without them really doesn’t bother me.”
“I didn’t come home because I thought you’d be missing your family.”
I lean against the wall, folding my arms across my chest.
“Look,” he continues, “whatever happened last Christmas compelled you to pick up and move halfway across the country. I don’t have to know the specifics…” He shakes his head, sighing. “…but I know it couldn’t have been good.”
“I broke up with my boyfriend—that’s all. People end relationships all the time; life goes on. It’s not worth you rearranging your Christmas plans to babysit me.”
“You’re right; it isn’t. Then again you are, and that’s why I’m here.”
I’m not sure why I start crying but I do, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to stop.
“Come here.” He leads me to the living room sofa and pulls me into his arms as he sits. “I know it doesn’t seem that way now, but it does get better.”
I want to ask him how he can be so sure and if he’s ever loved someone with everything he has only to have things fall apart anyway, but I don’t. I feel strangely at peace in his arms and, selfish though it may be, I’m afraid talking will ruin it.
We stay like this—with me on his lap and his arms around my waist—long after my face is dry. At one point, I think I feel his lips against the back of my head. I’m nowhere near ready for it, but I find myself wondering what it would be like if he kissed me for real.
December 25, 2009
Despite the fact I’m not nearly as drunk as I want to be, so far Christmas hasn’t been bad. Edward and Carlisle have barely spoken to each other, but considering what tends to happen when they do, I’m not about to complain. Then Sarah arrives and things are every bit as awkward as I feared they’d be, but not because of Edward—when they meet, he greets her warmly and right away she’s at ease. If anyone is giving her the cold shoulder, it’s Carlisle. I wait until the others are engrossed in conversation before pulling him outside with me. I fold my arms across my chest in an attempt to stay warm, but it’s useless. The night air is every bit as frigid as his demeanor.
“If you need to clear your head already, you’ll never make it through dinner,” he says.
“This isn’t about me.”
“Since you came back from Thanksgiving in D.C., everything has been about you.”
“Because I love you and I know you’re dealing with a lot, I’m going to ignore the fact you’re being a dick…”
“Great!” He claps his hands together. “Let’s go inside now.”
“So this is about Edward. What has him pissed off now?”
I roll my eyes. “Could the fact you’re avoiding your mom be any more obvious?”
“Absolutely—but since it’s Christmas and there are civilians present, I’m toning it down.”
I open my mouth to speak then think better of it.
He throws his hands in the air. “What?”
“Like you just said—it’s Christmas.”
“And she’s been lying to me my whole life. You’ll have to forgive me if it takes me more than a couple weeks to forgive her.”
“So she lied, big fucking deal. Tell me something. How would you have felt knowing the truth? That while your mother was struggling to put food on the table in Lincoln Square, your father was living in a mansion in Lincoln Park?”
He shakes his head. “Don’t start.”
“I just don’t see where being angry at your mother accomplishes anything.”
“Are you serious? Haven’t you ever been…”
When he stops speaking, I follow his gaze to the sidewalk. The woman walking toward us looks nothing like the one I left in D.C. last month, but it doesn’t matter—I’d still know her anywhere.
“Alice!” I run across the front yard and hug her.
“Sorry I’m late,” she says. “You wouldn’t believe what a bitch it was to travel today.”
“You’re here now—that’s all that matters.” As my arm brushes against the nape of her neck, short hair tickles my skin. “I’ve never seen your hair so short…or so blond!”
“Eh.” She shrugs. “It was time for a change.”
“Well, it looks fabulous. Come on.” I pull her toward Carlisle. “There’s someone I want you to meet.”
She rushes ahead of me and, though I have every intention of introducing them, I don’t get the chance. Before I can even open my mouth to speak, she’s got her arms around him. I can’t hear what she’s saying to him but whatever it is, it makes him laugh. Though he doesn’t say anything as we go inside the house, I don’t have to wonder what he’s thinking—the expression on his face is one I know well.
He loves her already.