“It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year-Andy Williams
“Where the fuck is the cranberry sauce?!”
Nicole always thoughts holidays were far too hectic and not worth much, but that was probably due to the way the Haught Family celebrated. Nicole’s parents may have been “leftover hippies” but still believed in traditions, which usually meant alcohol and pretentious aunts who would be too drunk by the time dinner was served to even eat. When Nicole had gone away for college and stated that after graduation she’d be enrolling in the police academy, her parents had been very sparse in her life. They could accept that she was gay, but not that she wanted to serve in a “deeply flawed institution.”
“Helloooo? Red, you in there?!” A loud mouth firefly brunette was using one of her many nicknames for her roommate, as she noticed that Nicole was deep in thought.
“Yeah, sorry Wynonna… I was just thinking about how different holidays are now.” Nicole responded, while reaching for the oven door to check on their Thanksgiving turkey.
It was a small turkey, since they only had six guests attending and two of them would be dining on their tofurkey instead. This was the first year that Wynonna and Nicole had decided to host a “Friendsgiving” as it was their last year before graduation. Over the past 4 years, their friend group had grown significantly. Wynonna and Nicole had met in an intro to psychology course and became fast friends; they spent that first year bitching about their respective roommates and made a pact that they would room together from then on. They accumulated two “boy toys” of Wynonna’s also known as John Henry (or Doc as they called him thanks to his pre-med courses) and Dolls. Both aware of the fact that they were competition for each other, but neither seemed to care too much. When Wynonna’s baby sister Waverly arrived two years later, she became an instant part of the group despite her bringing around her horrific (and now thankfully ex-) boyfriend for a while. Waverly had brought Jeremy, one her own friends into the group after meeting him in one of her history courses.
A knock on the door interrupted Nicole’s thoughts so she went back to checking to make sure the turkey was done. Dolls and Doc were greeted by Wynonna, as they were the first to arrive.
“We heard that you fine ladies were havin’ a shindig and we reckoned that you were in need of pie and wine!” Doc spoke with southern draw as he held up grocery bags.
“Oh my god, you brought me dessert and alcohol?! You are my favorite!” Wynonna gave Doc a quick peck on the cheek and grinned at Dolls while grabbing the bags and heading to the table that has been set up in the dining room of their small off campus apartment.
Another knock meant that someone else had arrived and knowing that it would be Waverly and Jeremy, Nicole practically dropped the pan of stuffing she was stirring to go and answer the knock. Nicole was having a hard time denying it to herself because of the situation, but she found herself gazing at the younger girl wondering what it would be like to hold her, maybe even kiss her. When Waverly had broken up with her boy-man Champ, she had come to the apartment to talk to Wynonna, but Nicole had been the only one there. She let Waverly in and had let her cry, scream, and curse about the breakup. Even though she had been the one to end it, she was still upset. Luckily Nicole had been there to listen and console her. That night Nicole suggested binge watching Netflix to get her mind off of things. Waverly had curdled up on the couch with her and had even fallen asleep with her head on Nicole’s lap. Nicole resisted the urge to brush a stray strawberry blond strand of hair off of her forehead, yet couldn’t help but take in the smell of her perfume, a sweet scent that reminded Nicole of cotton candy. Wynonna burst in only a few moments after Waverly had fallen asleep and commended Nicole on “being a good friend”, which only caused more guilt and conflict in her mind.
“Waves! Hi!” Nicole felt herself blush a bit when she realized how eager she had been.
“Hey lady!” Waverly gave her perfect smile, the one that made Nicole weak in the knees. She then gestured to Jeremy and the pans he was holding “We already made the tofurkey for us, as well as a vegan side dish that we think everyone is gonna LOVE!”
“Barf! do we have to Babygirl?” Wynonna made a gagging sound, but pulled her sister into a hug nonetheless.
They all helped to prepare the table and each found a spot around it when they had finished. Nicole and Wynonna sat at opposite ends, Doc and Dolls on one side with Waverly and Jeremy on the other. Nicole noticed that Waverly had set her glass of wine down to the seat closest to her end of the table, almost marking her seat, but Nicole forced herself to brush it off.
“Should we say grace or anything?” Waverly had finished placing everything on her plate and looked around the table to see if anyone was answering her question. She was met with blank stares, as none of them were particularly religious. “Just thought I’d ask.”
The group talked about a wide variety of topics as they ate, ranging from finals to families. Nicole had heard some of the stories regarding where they had all come from, but as they spoke about family traditions for holidays she learned more and more. They shifted to plans for Christmas break and Nicole found herself wanting to withdraw from the conversation. Doc, Jeremy and Dolls all had plans to visit their families, but the Earp sisters were debating on what they wanted to do.
“I know that Mama and Gus are gonna start hounding me about what happened with Champ the minute I walk in the door! I don’t want to spend Christmas explaining and refusing Mama’s attempts to play matchmaker with boys in town.” Waverly was arguing for not going, but Wynonna was vocal and made it clear that she actually wanted to head home for once.
“I know, but I really wanted to see Aunt Gus, I heard Mama saying that she hasn’t been the same since Uncle Curtis had his heart attack.” Wynonna pleaded.
“Too bad I’m going back home, or I’d totally volunteer to pose as your new boyfriend!” Jeremy said. Everyone had a good laugh knowing that Jeremy was as gay as the day was long and that Mama would see right through it.
Wynonna was nearly bent over with laugher, “No offense Jer, but I think Waverly’d be better off to bring Haught-stuff and pretend that she’s switched teams!” This got a round of laughter as well, but Nicole’s eyes shot to Waverly who had slightly blushed at the mention. To Nicole’s surprise she then smiled and grabbed Nicole’s hand.
“Maybe that’s not the worst idea…” Waverly spoke softly and looked to Nicole for her reaction. Nicole was sitting mouth agape, as she wasn’t sure what to say to the offer. “Mama doesn’t know any queer women in town, so she’d never try to hook me up with anyone every again! And, Nicole’s got such a way of charming people that I’m sure they would give her approval!”
Nicole could tell that Waverly was getting more excited as she spoke, so she broke her silence to offer what might go wrong. “I mean don’t you think she’d notice when we weren’t acting… couple like?”
“You guys would just have to pretend, it’s not like you’d have to be giving each other heart eyes all the time, just a few hand holding moments, which you’re already doing.” Wynonna gestured down to their hands which were still inter twined from when Waverly first started talking. “Maybe a kiss every now and then and POOF! You’re gayfriends, I mean girlfriends, wait no I like gayfriends.” She giggled at her own joke before looking at Nicole.
“Do you think they’d mind having another person in their house? I mean I don’t have any Christmas plans, since I’m not going home to my family this year. And it’d be really lonely with all of you guys gone.”
She paused, mauled it over before giving in “You know what… fuck it. I’m in.” Nicole gave Waverly’s hand a reassuring squeeze and flashed her dimples for good measure.
Waverly responded with a returned squeeze and smile then released Nicole’s hand as the conversation switched back to how they were preparing for their upcoming final exams, the only thing that stood between them and Christmas break. Nicole’s mind wandered as the others spoke, as to how she was going to pretend to be into someone that she was already into. By the time they finished the meal and everyone had begun to help clean up, Nicole had started to believe herself that she could manage the ordeal that she had just been volunteered into. This is until Waverly came up behind her and wrapped her arms around her waist, snuggling into her.
“Might as well just used to it now, right?” Waverly spoke softly as if she was trying to avoid others hearing her.
“Uhhhh…” Nicole felt like a useless lesbian in the moment as she was stopped in her tracks by the physical contact. She swallowed hard and turned her head to look over her shoulder at Waverly who was now resting her head against Nicole’s back. Nicole couldn’t deny the warmth that moved through her body by having Waverly attached to her. In a moment of bravery, she spun around to face her, catching Waverly off guard and causing her to back up to give more space while still keeping contact.
“Why don’t we get together before break to talk about the uhh,” Nicole cleared her throat before continuing “the, uh, ground rules and get our story put together since you know your Mama’s gonna have a lot of questions. We could meet up at that coffee shop right off of Main St. that you love.”
Waverly grinned from ear to ear before responding. “Why, Ms.Haught, are you asking me out on a date?”
Nicole instantly felt herself blush but continued to act on the shred of bravery that she had mustered up. “What kind of girlfriend would I be if I hadn’t taken you out on date before meeting your family?”
“Wow, sexy and considerate. You are quite the catch. It’s a date then. I’ll text you after class on Monday to let you know when I’m heading over.” She reached up and placed a quick peck on Nicole’s cheek before flashing her smile once more while releasing Nicole from the embrace. She turned on her heels (Nicole swore that her hair blew in the non-existent wind for a moment) and grabbed her coat as she made her way around the room to give her goodbyes. As she and Jeremy existed, Wynonna walked over to where Nicole continued to stand after the interaction and bumped shoulders with her.
“Well Haught-Damn, brace yourself because we Earps do not play around!”
Nicole sighed and felt her heart beating against her chest. “Yeah, you could say that again.”
A few days after the Friendsgiving feast, Waverly had done as she had said and texted Nicole to let her know that she was out of class and was heading to their pre-determined destination. Nicole found herself “primping” in the mirror after changing her outfit several times. She settled on blue knit sweater with her favorite slim jeans and sneakers and decided to just throw her hair up into a messy ponytail.
She jumped into her car (thank the gods for off-campus parking that allowed her to bring her own vehicle so she could drive into town or around whereever she needed) and headed to the coffee shop. Nicole had beat Waverly there since she assumed she had caught a bus from class. She picked a table that was close to the back and felt more secluded so to not draw attention from others around them as they cooked up their master plan to deceive Waverly’s family. Nicole looked up from the table in time to see Waverly bounding in, hair blowing perfectly in the wind from the open door. Smiling, Nicole waved her down. Waverly settled into her seat before noticing that Nicole was sitting at an empty table with no drink or snacks in front of her.
“Hi. Aren’t you getting anything?” Waverly questioned.
“Oh! No, I am! I just was gonna see what you wanted before I paid!” Nicole responded before flashing her dimples.
“Wow… you really are thoughtful. I’ll take a latte with coconut milk and a vanilla scone, if that’s okay?”
“Sounds great, I’ll be right back.” Nicole jumped up from the table to go and place their order, getting herself a caramel cappuccino and a muffin. She juggled the plates and cups back to the table finding Waverly watching her walk towards her. Nicole smiled and it was returned by Waverly who Nicole could have swore blushed a bit at the attention.
“So, cutie… where did we meet?” Waverly cradled the cup of coffee in her hand as she blew to cool it down.
“Um, I mean we legitimately met through Wynonna. I feel like the more truth to the story, the easier it’ll be to remember.” Nicole laughed, somewhat out of nerves but a little at the situation.
“You’re probably right, so when did you know you liked me?” Waverly spoke but didn’t look up from her cup.
Nicole swallowed hard, not knowing wether she should tell the truth or make something up. She stared into her cup for a moment not knowing where to start. She internally said ‘fuck it’ and went for the truth.
“Well, I think I always thought that you were pretty, but maybe it was the night that you broke up with Champ. You came over and you were so mad and you talked about how you had found out that he was cheating and I got really mad at him for pulling a major dick move on someone as amazing for you. You started crying and I felt bad because I didn’t know what to do. I all remember is wanting you to be happy and never have to put up with jerks. And then I think I realized that I wanted to be the one to make you happy…”
Nicole realized she was rambling on and gave a shy smile and looked up to see Waverly had been starring at her with a look that made Nicole understand what Wynonna’s “heart eyes” meant.
“Holy crap Nicole… that’s so sweet… Mama’s gonna love you if you give her that story!” Waverly started to giggle, but Nicole was brought back into the moment of ‘this is just a story’ and felt a pang of disappointment.
“Okay, so when did you realize you had feelings for me?” Nicole locked eyes with Waverly, as if daring her to tell some bit of truth.
“Well, after Champ, I needed some time to find myself and who I was and what I wanted. I started hanging out with you and I heard some interesting, er, sounds coming from your room that one night and it got me thinking what it’d be like to sleep with a woman and then more specifically you.” Waverly looked as if she had just said the most scandalous thing in the world.
Nicole eyes widened and she blushed, HARD. She distinctly remembers when she had gone out with a girl that she had met in a biology course. After a few too many drinks she had lost a little bit of control and brought her back to the apartment. They had engaged in shameless, loud, sloppy sex before waking up and agreed that while it was fun, they were not compatible partners. The one aspect of that night that she had overlooked until just now was the fact that Waverly had been there watching movies with Wynonna.
“OHMYGOD! You were there. Oh nooo….” Nicole buried her face in her hands and groaned.
Waverly burst into laughter which caused Nicole to peak up through her fingers.
“Waverly, we cannot tell your mother that story! She’ll think I’m a womanizer!” Nicole gave up with her hands and let her forehead fall onto the table with a thunk. “Ow!”
This caused Waverly to continue laughing. “You’re adorable and you’re also probably right. How about we say that it was a mutual attraction and that you asked me out for coffee once and it was history from there?”
“Yeah, that sounds believable.” Nicole lifted her head and her eyes met once again with Waverly’s. Nicole had always been confident but was never one for prolonged eye contact just because it always felt weird with people. With Waverly, however, it didn’t feel awkward but felt rather as natural as breathing.
Waverly spoke, breaking the silence and eye contact. “So how long have we been together?”
“It probably shouldn’t be too long since you only broke up with Champ in May, but long enough that we’re not in the ‘honeymoon stage.’ This would explain us not having to be all over each other.” Nicole did the mental math in her head. “So how about we got together in July?”
“Wow, and I thought I was the planner! That sounds like a great timeline.” Waverly winked at Nicole before taking a sip of her latte. “So are you ready to meet my crazy family?”
“Yeah, I think I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.” Nicole laughed and took a sip of her own drink before she and Waverly began to talk about their classes and a random assortment of topics.
They had finished their drinks and food but had stayed for over an hour just laughing and talking. Nicole greatly enjoyed their time together and could feel herself being torn in two directions. One way pulled towards believing that maybe Waverly felt the same for her; the other said, “don’t be the lesbian stereotype” reminding her not to fall for one of her good friends. She was equal parts excited and terrified to be Waverly’s fake girlfriend. However, this was happening regardless of how prepared she told herself she was.
Wynonna, Waverly and Nicole loaded up Nicole’s Subaru, which was usually the butt-end of a Wynonna joke about the stereotype, but the space for all of their luggage was particularly helpful for this road trip. Waverly had gone shopping for snacks, Wynonna had crowned herself DJ, but the four hour drive from the University to the Earp Homestead was up to Nicole. Waverly had demanded that she deserved the front seat so that she could “bond with my girlfriend.” Every time Nicole heard Waverly call her that, she noticed a weird feeling in her stomach that felt like butterflies. Nicole tried to ignore the feeling, but it seemed the butterflies were growing despite it.
“Okay, so what do I need to know or not know before meeting the family?” Nicole asked as she grabbed a handful of granola that Waverly had made for the trip.
“Well, you know a lot already since you and Nonna have known each other for a while. Is there anything you want to know?” Waverly questioned.
“All the time I’ve known you guys, you’ve never mentioned your Dad. Am I allowed to know why?” Nicole noticed the sisters both got quiet and suddenly felt ashamed for asking such an intrusive question. “Shit, guys I’m so sorry, I...”
Waverly interrupted Nicole’s apology with one of her own. “No, Nicole. It’s okay. I’m sorry we haven’t ever talked about it before. Daddy has been gone since we were young, but I always hate talking about it. You need to know though.” She looked over at Nicole, who returned the look and laid one hand on Waverly’s knee. Nicole felt weird getting this physically comfortable with the younger girl, but Waverly never mentioned or acted like it wasn’t okay.
It was Wynonna who decided to break the silence and tell the story. “Daddy’s dead, for good reason. He was a no good drunk. He would always hit us, all of us. So much so that Mama gave us to Aunt Gus and ran off herself. Daddy wasn’t happy about that so he tried to come get us one night. Uncle Curtis saw him comin’ up the drive and promptly called the sheriff. When Daddy got onto the porch Curtis said he could smell the alcohol on him and refused to hand us over. Daddy got violent and knocked Curtis out. He was working on getting into the house when the cops showed up. He started arguing with them and swinging his revolver around. They had no choice; they took him out when he lined up the Sheriff in his sights. Mama didn’t come back until a few years ago. She felt horrible about what she did and sometimes still beats herself up.”
“Holy shit! I am so sorry guys. I had no idea. So, sounds like someting I should avoid entirely?” Nicole asked.
“Yep,” Both Earp girls responded in unison.
“And maybe not mention my future career goals.” Nicole looked in her mirror at Wynonna, knowing that they had discussed it, but that Waverly hadn’t heard yet.
“Wait, what’re your career goals, Nicole?” Waverly questioned
“I’d like to be a police officer someday.” Nicole felt awkward saying it out loud after the story of her Dad’s death.
“No, babe. It’s okay. Mama says that the Sheriff saved all our lives that night. She doesn’t have a problem with the law.” Waverly gripped Nicole’s hand that had remained on her knee throughout the conversation. “I think that’d be great for you. You’re so caring and would help so many people.”
“Ugh, guys. You don’t have to start all this cute shit yet. It’s just me. Though I gotta say… you’re gonna sell it.” Wynonna quipped.
Waverly let go of Nicole’s hand suddenly, as if it had just caught fire and Nicole pulled her hand back onto the steering wheel.
The rest of the trip was uneventful for the most part, Waverly and Wynonna spoke about what Nicole could expect from the rest of the family, including their older sister Willa (who they described as a bitch) and her husband Robert (who they also described as a bitch). They spoke about past memories of Christmases, laughing about the time that Waverly had made an angel out of tampons and pads because she wasn’t yet old enough to understand what they were actually used for. As the GPS counted down the minutes until arrival into Purgatory, Nicole had a growing sense of unease. She couldn’t quite place whether it was out of fear or hope, but she decided to remain cautiously optimistic for what was about to happen. Spending the holiday pretending to be something she started to worry she was… in love with Waverly friggin’ Earp.