It starts with Luce humming cheerfully around her flat in early December. Rachel tries hard not to look suspicious but it's clear that Luce is up to something. Rachel's dying a little bit inside trying not to say anything and ruin whatever surprise Luce has planned, but Luce looks so smug that she just can't help it.
“Come on, I know that you're up to something.” Rachel says over dinner. Luce has made them some delicious shepherd's pie that makes Rachel wish all over again that she wasn't shit at cooking. (The first time Rachel cooked something for Luce, Luce had smiled wide and said how amazing the food was. Then when Rachel cocked an eyebrow, Luce had dissolved into laughter and said that she understood why Heck cooked at their dinner party.) Luce closes her lips and looks sideways before smiling wide again.
“I'm not going to tell you.” She says. Rachel just keeps looking at her, until finally Luce exhales and shakes her head. “Ok, fine.“ She pauses. I got your Christmas gift today, but I will not tell you what it is.” She then goes back to her dinner, as cool as can be and starts talking about how this crazy customer had come in today wanting to find out if his girlfriend was cheating on him through a bouquet.
Rachel starts laughing at the recounting, but inside she's excited all over in anticipation. She hasn't quite decided what she's going to get Luce, but she's always been great at picking out gifts and she's sure that she'll think of something.
December zips by and slowly but surely she does most of her Christmas shopping. She gets H a book on Australian animals (she can't stop asking questions about kangaroo pouches and how many stings can a human survive from a jellyfish). For her parents she gets a platter that her mother's been eying, for Zina, a basket of lotions and bath salts. She mails a small gift to Heck in Melbourne. It's because she's bought gifts for all of her family and friends before so she can do it without thinking, but she hasn't seen anything that really strikes her as being Luce-ish. Rachel's not too worried though—she knows that when she finds the perfect gift, it'll jump out.
The problem is that December keeps running by and all of a sudden it's December 23rd and Rachel still hasn't found that gift. She has the day off from work, so she resolves to spend the day searching for Luce's gift. She'll shop around in the morning, pick out a few things that she likes, grab lunch with her friends and then go back to make the final purchase.
Rachel figures that she'll start small so she goes to a local bookstore and peruses the shelves. She thinks about getting a cook book, but it sounds like something she'd get her grandmother, so she vetoes it. She thinks about getting a couple of those book club books, but she vetoes those for the same reason. Maybe Luce might like a book on football—but Luce is more the type to enjoy going to the actual game, rather than reading about it.
After the bookstore she goes to one of those cute clothing boutiques—but everything there is just too trendy or odd for Luce to really feel comfortable in. She decides to not even try the jewelery store since she's yet to see Luce wear any jewelry other than the odd ring or two and those were all given to her years ago by her mother. Rachel goes to the music store and looks through records—she knows what kind of music Luce likes, but nothing seems to pop out. And all of the music that Rachel would recommend doesn't seem to fit as a Christmas gift. It all just feels wrong.
As she heads over to lunch, Rachel can't help but feel frustrated. Heck was much easier to pick out gifts for—she could buy a travel book and he'd love it. She could buy ties and shirts and he'd love it. Heck even loved getting sweaters as gifts. Hell, she could walk into any store and find a present for Heck in under half an hour. But she'd spent at least four specifically designated hours looking for a gift for Luce and come up empty handed.
Zina sees the look on Rachel's face before she even sits down. “That bad?” She asks. Rachel sighs and slumps over so that her forehead is touching the table.
Laura just raises her eyebrows and has that look that says she is going to impart basic knowledge that she can't believe Rachel doesn't know. “This is your first Christmas together. So that means you've got to set the gift expectation bar very low.”
“Set the bar low?” Rachel asks.
“Yes. You've got to give Luce the equivalent of Christmas socks so that whenever you give Luce a gift, no matter what you get her, she'll love it. Because it won't be socks.”
Both Zina and Rachel stare at Laura for a minute. “That's brilliant!” Zina says. “I can't believe you haven't shared that before.” Rachel just can't stop laughing at the ridiculousness of getting Luce a pair of socks. “All those years that I've been spending huge amounts of time looking for gifts for boyfriends, when I could have just bought a pair of socks and had it easy!”
Rachel rolls her eyes. “You don't seriously do that. I couldn't just...get Luce a bad gift!”
“Of course I do this.” Laura nods her head. “The first year that Mickey and I were together for Christmas, I got him a pair of socks. The year after I got him a sweater. I've worked my way slowly up from there. Last year, I got Mickey a gift certificate to the sports store and he was so thankful I didn't have to do any chores around the house for a week.” Zina is now looking at Laura like she's a goddess.
“Well,” Zina says resolutely. “When I get a boyfriend, I will make sure to get them the most horrible Christmas gift. I've decided.”
“But, but, but....” Rachel looks at both of them in a slightly pleading manner.
Both Laura and Zina give her the look that says she might possibly be making a huge deal out of this. Rachel tries to think of all the reasons why she can't do that.
“Ok, ok. In general I think that's a fantastic idea. But, I'm positive that Luce got me some fantastic gift—she's been so smug about it—that if I don't get her a good gift, she'll beat me in the gifting.” Rachel balls her hands into fists and throws them out to her sides in frustration.
And then both Zina and Laura get it because it's ok to give a horrible gift to a guy because they tend to give universally bad gifts, but a girl, that's a whole other story. They look thoughtful for a moment as they both think. Rachel has a moment of hope that they'll figure it out for her—but then the waiter comes over to take their order and everyone's concentration is snapped.
“Wow would you look at that waiter's arse?” Zina practically drools over her plate. “You guys can give him to me as a gift!” Laura starts laughing and they spend the rest of the lunch trying to figure out if the waiter is alternatively single and interested on going on a date with Zina.
When Rachel heads out, Zina and Laura had made a couple suggestions—facial masks, toiletries, a weekend vacation plan, but it's the kind of gifts they'd enjoy, not Luce.
Rachel spends the rest of the afternoon wandering listlessly throughout stores. She debates the merits of getting kitchenware but vetoes it and finally in a fit of insanity calls up Coop.
“Hey Coop,” she says when Coop picks up.
“Why Rachel, my darling,” Coop responds. “Do what do I owe this pleasure to?”
“I've got a real problem—I can't figure out what to get Luce for Christmas and I was desperate enough to call you for suggestions.” Coop just starts laughing.
“Rachel, my love, it's ok. You don't need to feel embarrassed.” There is a dramatic pause. “ Yes, I will have a threesome with you and Luce.”
Rachel starts laughing. “Coop!”
“I know. You were thinking, 'Lesbian sex is hot and amazing, but how can I make it even better? Lesbian sex with the magnificent Coop himself!'”
“Coop, I do not want to have a threesome with you. Maybe next Christmas, but I need you to be serious here!”
Coop pauses for a moment. “I'm not kidding—lesbian sex is hot and amazing. And that's why you should get Luce a brand spanking new sex toy. What better gift is there than even hotter sex? God, I can imagine it: two hot lesbians and their brand new—” Rachel hangs up.
That night is H's Christmas pageant, so Rachel figures that even if it is a fool's errand, there's no harm in asking her family for suggestions. She's kind of doubtful, but it's not like she has any better ideas. She gets to the school before Luce since Luce's store is open late to accommodate all of the last minute Christmas orders and spots her parents in the auditorium.
“Alright,” She says as she hugs and kisses them before sitting down. “Mum, Dad, I need your help. I need gift suggestions for Luce. I'm at a total loss.”
Her mom gives a little snort. “Presents? Do lesbians even give gifts to each other? Aside from the flannel obviously.”
Her dad smiles at her and says “While I'm aware that not everyone is a fan of my sweater gifts, I find that they are quite practical.”
“Don't be an idiot Ned—lesbians are not normal people! And not even normal people like your sweater gifts.” Her mother just scoffs as Rachel raises an eyebrow. “Just shut up please. As if you're one to give gift suggestions, may I remind you of the themed socks debacle from last year? ” Her dad gives Rachel a look and she just smiles back.
Luce gets there just in time for the pageant to start. She squeezes in next to Rachel, smelling like soil and holly and grabs Rachel's hand.
“It's freezing outside!” She whispers. Rachel smiles and leans close enough for Luce to put her arm around her. She laces their fingers together as the lights dim and H takes the stage to narrate the birth of baby Jesus.
After the pageant ends, Rachel, Luce, her mom and dad crowd around the exit waiting to congratulate H. Luce has brought a bouquet to give to H and when H comes out, still in stage make up and her costume, she's so excited.
“Did you see how I didn't forget any of my lines?” She asks.
“You were truly remarkable.” Luce says.
Rachel gives H a big hug and says “You're such an incredible actress.”
“Well, I don't think that was really acting,” H says. “Because I was narrating the story. But it was a lot of fun, wasn't it?” Everyone laughs for a moment and then H is off and asking all the new questions she's thought of about the birth of Jesus.
On their way out, Rachel's dad and Luce fall behind talking about gardening tools so Rachel pitches her voice down low and says “H, what do you think I should get Luce for Christmas?”
H has managed to grab some candy and thoughtfully chews for a moment.“Well,” H begins. “Luce always knows the coolest things—and she always hangs out with me and does what I want to do. But I bet that she would love a gift that was about what she likes doing. Because those kind of gifts are the kind that I like best.” H smiles now. “Like the time Luce gave me that awesome football and took me out to play with it so I didn't have to clean up after the party.”
Her mother rolls her eyes and says that the reason H liked that gift was because she got out of having to clean up. Rachel, on the other hand, thinks H might have a point.
The next morning, Rachel sets out to go shopping, but she soon finds herself outside of Luce's store. Luce is inside helping out a customer (yes, we do have mistletoe, she hears Luce say. No, you do have to fasten it to the ceiling—it will not hang by itself) and Rachel hangs back for a moment. It feels like defeat, not being able to figure out what Luce might want—like Rachel doesn't actually know her at all. She thinks about how she knew Heck inside and out, but she can't even pick out a simple Christmas gift for Luce.
She thinks about what she and Luce do together. They go to the pub with their friends, they eat dinner, they go and chew out bad sports players, they don't really have a specific routine. And that's when it hits Rachel—she loves how Luce isn't like anyone else. She loves the way that Luce seems to know everything and is always up for trying new things. She loves how Luce makes even the most mundane activities seem interesting but isn't afraid to speak her mind when she's bored.
Rachel's in the middle of her epiphany when Luce catches sight of Rachel and drags her inside. “What are you doing outside?” Luce asks, rubbing her hands vigorously up and down Rachel's arm. She kisses Rachel once before continuing. “What have you been up to this morning?”
Rachel thinks about making up a story but she's too excited to go through with it. “I spent all day trying to find you a gift.” She smiles at Luce. “But you are terrible to buy gifts for. ” She kisses Luce and then pulls away. “I mean that. You're the absolute worst.”
Luce just laughs and says “You spent all day trying to find me a gift? I don't need any gifts.”
Rachel just rolls her eyes, shakes her head and says “Don't worry. I think I just figured out the perfect gift.” She thinks back to a memory of dancing and laughing with Luce and just smiles.
A rush of customers come in all at once, so Rachel helps out and manages not to bungle up anyone's orders or give into temptation and pull Luce into the office area. After an hour, she heads out of the shop and dashes off to the nearest electronics store.
The next day, for Christmas, Rachel and Luce head over to Rachel's parent's house. Ella's meeting them there so they take their time in driving out. Once everyone arrives, they open up gifts first before eating dinner. Rachel's trying hard not to look smug as Luce grabs the present that Rachel put for her underneath the tree and she takes Luce's gift. However once she starts opening up the wrapping paper, the smug look is gone and she can't stop laughing. Luce looks slightly crestfallen and confused until she opens up her own gift and then she's laughing just as hard.
“Well,” Luce says, cupping Rachel's face and kissing her while smiling. “At least we know that the dance dance revolution will not go unused in the flat.”