Frankie didn’t usually celebrate Christmas, but ever since her husband of 40 years had confessed his affair with Grace’s husband and they had decided to get married, the two families had grown closer, and had started celebrating Christmas as a family. Granted, it was weird at first, but then they had gotten used to that special situation, and for a few years, the tradition was to get together at the beach house and celebrate Christmas together.
It was around 6pm when everyone got here. Frankie and Grace didn’t have anyone else in their lives ever since Nick had gotten arrested and sent to prison, but it was fine, as long as they had their families by their side. Sol and Robert were still happily married. Bud and Alison were there with their daughter, Mallory had brought a guy named Steve. Her children were with their dad for Christmas. Even Coyote had a date. And then there was Brianna, alone.
She was sitting on the couch, sipping a glass of champaign, looking at everyone. She was trying to control herself and not just chug it. As much as she loved her family, she didn’t particularly like these events. She used to have Barry with her, but it had been a year since they had broken up. He was incredibly sweet, but something was missing. She couldn’t put her finger on it at first, but not so long after she broke up with him, she figured it out. But since Barry, she didn’t introduce anyone else to her family.
Everyone around her was happy and cheerful, which made her want to barf. So she stepped outside to find Frankie who was smoking. She offered her some and Brianna immediately took the blunt from Frankie’s hand saying “Duh” and rolling her eyes.
Frankie laughed, she was used to it. Brianna was the only cool one in that family, and she loved hanging out with her, especially when they were stoned.
“So? You’re alone too?” asked Frankie, looking at the ocean.
They didn’t need to talk to enjoy each other’s company, that’s why the young woman liked Frankie.
Brianna looked at the waves crashing. She couldn’t really see them because the sun was already set, but she could hear them. She felt at peace. Frankie was feeling the same way. It was almost like they were floating above the waves. They were giggling.
But then the young woman turned around and looked inside. She couldn’t hear anything, but she could feel the warmth and the love inside between everyone. They were all happy with their dates, and suddenly, Brianna had never felt more alone. She didn’t cry, she never cried, but her stomach twisted inside her, and she felt dizzy. She hated that feeling. She used to be unbreakable, the ice queen. But then she had let someone in, and after that, it was hard to build that wall again.
She saw her mother starting to set the table and made her decision. She walked inside and asked Grace “Mom? Can you set one more plate?”
Grace stopped and turned around, a small smile appeared on her face. “Oooh, is someone else joining us? Is Barry finally coming back?”
Grace immediately saw the disgust on her daughter’s face.
“Ew no, mom, don’t make this weird, Barry is long gone”
“Okay, sorry I asked” Grace shrugged and left the room to go get another plate. Brianna noticed that Frankie was back inside so she opened the bay window and went outside. She made sure she had closed the window behind her and then started dialing a number on her phone. The person picked up.
“Yeah….would you like to come?” asked Brianna. “I know I said it was too early but honestly I don’t think I’m going to survive this dinner without you”.
The young woman listened to what the other person was saying “Yes I’m really sorry, I know you made other plans but...could you cancel them? I promise I’ll make it up to you” She paused. “Hey! You know what that means, right? You’re finally going to meet Frankie, and I’m telling you, she’s even better in real life”.
Brianna smiled and said “Thank you so much”. The person on the phone hung up and Brianna went back inside. A small smile was back on her face, which she lost as soon as Bud approached her “So? Why is no one with you?”
“That’s none of your business Nwabudike” She liked to use his whole name when she was being serious.
No matter how much he liked to mess with Brianna, he was terrified of her.
“Everyone?” asked Grace “Dinner is ready, come sit”.
They all obeyed and sat down. To everyone’s surprise, Brianna puts her purse on the chair next to hers. She notices that the whole family is focused on her. “What? Do I have lipstick on my teeth again?” she asked.
But suddenly, they heard the doorbell. Mallory was about to get up and answer the door but Brianna stopped her. “It’s for me”. Mallory frowned.
Brianna got up and walked to the door. Frankie had had the beautiful idea of putting a curtain between the kitchen and the doorway, which prevented them from seeing who was at the door.
“Does she have a date?” asked Sol, whispering.
“I had no idea she was seeing someone” said Robert.
“Do you think Barry is back?” Frankie’s tone was hopeful, she was just starting to like him when Brianna had ended things with him.
“No, it’s not Barry, but I have no idea who he is…” said Grace.
“Well he must be a really good guy because I don’t know a lot of people ready to spend time with her” said Coyote, mimicking a shiver.
“...or she” said Mallory, cracking a smile.
Brianna had just appeared in front of them, and next to her was standing a beautiful green-eyed brunette, approximately the same height as Brianna. She was wearing a white shirt and a pair of blue jeans, simple but pretty and her long brown hair was in a ponytail. She waved at everyone timidly.
The whole family was shocked, except for Mallory who was the only one to actually wave back.
“Okay, let’s not make a big deal out of this okay?” said Brianna and she guided the woman to her seat, in between her and Mallory. “This is Alexis, we’ve been dating for a few months, and yes it’s a serious relationship, yes I’m aware that she is a woman, no we don’t have to talk about that, and no I don’t need to hear the “i still love you” “as long as you’re happy” or any of that shit. This is Alexis, my girlfriend, and from now on, she will be my date to all of those things”.
This was a very Brianna-like introduction, no one was shocked about that. It took them a minute to actually understand the situation. No one had expected that, except maybe for Mallory, who deep down knew her sister couldn’t be straight, she had way too many crushes on middle-aged actresses when they were kids.
After a brief moment of adaptation, everyone greeted her and introduced themselves.
“So, Alexis, what do you do?”
“I’m actually a lawyer, just like most of you”
“What is your specialty?”
“I work in criminal law”
“Which university did you go to? Maybe we ran into each other, I actually took a criminal law class. I though it was gonna be all like “how to get away with murder” but...nope, big disappointment” said Bud.
“I studied at Stanford”
“Okay no, we definitely did not run into each other”
“Where were you?”
“University of San Diego”
“Not really, I mean, did you see the rankins?”
“The rankins don’t mean anything in the end, I mean, you’re a lawyer now, just like me. But why did you stay here?”
“My mom didn’t want me to go on the other side of the country”
“See?” whisphered Brianna “I told you, he’s basically married to Frankie”
“Hey! I heard that” said Bud, clearly offended.
Mallory felt like it was time to change topics, so she asked. “How did you meet my sister?”
“Actually it’s a fun story” started Alexis before getting interrupted by her girlfriend.
“Not that fun, I mean, you don’t have to tell it”
Alexis smiled at her “So, like I said, it’s a funny story”
Bud asked Coyote “Did she just ignore her?”
“I think so? I love her” answered his brother.
“It was late one night, my day had been horrible. I love being a lawyer, but when you lose a case...you know what I mean”
Robert and Sol nodded their heads.
“I didn’t want to go home just yet so I went to a bar nearby. I sat down at the counter and started drinking, reasonably of course. Then I looked over at the end of the counter and saw a beautiful young woman. I asked the bartender if I could buy her a drink and he said yes. So basically he brings her the drink, and before he could explain to her where the drink came from, she almost attacked an old man at the end of the counter, saying that she didn’t need someone to buy her drinks, that she was an independent woman. Anyway she started rambling and not saying nice things to the people around her. She was lucky because she’s nothing compared to the people I deal with every single day. So I sat next to her and asked her to yell at me. She stopped and looked at me like she had seen a ghost, so I repeated myself, and I don’t know, I guess for the first time, she wasn’t the intimidating one. She didn’t yell at me, she just drank her glass. So that’s how we met for the first time.”
Brianna’s face was red. Not because she was ashamed, but because she was ready to destroy anyone that was going to comment on it. Bud and Coyote looked at her, and understood that, if they wanted to leave that table alive, they had to shut their mouths. Nobody said anything, except for Sol who said “cute” in an unsure way.
Everyone had finished their plates, it was time for dessert. Grace went to the kitchen, followed by Brianna “Let me help you”.
Right before going back with the Christmas log cake, Grace turned around to talk to Brianna.
“I know you don’t want to have that conversation, but I just want to tell you that I’m happy for you, and that I hope you know that I’ll always love you and wish what’s best for you”.
“I know Grace, thank you”. Brianna had always been uncomfortable with sharing feelings, especially with her mother.
“I don’t like hugs, you don’t like hugs” said Grace before getting closer to her daughter “But I feel like a normal family would hug right now, so let’s get this over with”.
Brianna made a face but hugged her mother anyway. They were both secretly happy about it.
It was when Frankie decided to come in the kitchen to know what was taking so long. She saw the two women hug, her heart exploded with joy and she yelled “HUGS? Hugs are happening here? Why did no one tell me? You know what? Who cares, I’m here now”. She literally jumped on them to take a part in this hug, which made both Hanson women laugh. It was one of the best Christmas Eve dinners Brianna had ever spent. If only she had met Alexis sooner, everything was easy with her, she couldn’t be happier.