A Month In Sin
24. Christmas Surprise
There had been a long thought process about what I might wear to Christmas with the Hemmings. I spent an entire day shopping for different occasions, for different types of family events.
Christmas with my family always had different outfits. For example, when it was just the six of us—Mom, Dad, Claire, Elys, Ori, and myself—we would eat in comfortable clothes, more closely resembling pajamas than an outfit. If we went to our mom’s family events, we would dress nice but still casual, and Dad’s family events were formal. I’m talking suit and tie, extremely nice dresses. Once, his older sister chose to have a Christmas ball.
I prepared for everything, and Luke had laughed at me, insisting that I was overthinking all of it. Yet he never mentioned how simple they really were.
Simple was a term that people sometimes took in a negative way, but there was nothing bad about the simplicity of Christmas with the Hemmings.
Luke dressed so much like the way he normally would, an oversized grunge tank with black skinny jeans and black high top converse, but on top of it all, he wore probably the ugliest sweater I had seen on someone. It was mostly blue, with some red, green, and black stripes, and each row had different Christmas symbols.
I was laughing at him the entire time I was getting dressed myself.
The mood had changed a bit since we got to the place his parents lived. They had a room for us to stay in, but things were more comfortable than sexual. We hadn’t tried to get one another dressed even once, which might’ve had a lot to do with the fact that his parents’ room was just a couple doors down.
We could’ve been quiet. It was something we had actually gotten really good at, but there was something special about laying down to go to bed and just snuggling into each other’s warmth.
It was crazy, but I was in love with him. With his arms around me, holding my body into his, I wondered if maybe he felt it, too. Maybe, just maybe, he wanted this to work out in the end.
Luke had been on board with this “thirty day” idea all along, and we had been really good at doing our video diaries. Even in the middle of traveling to Australia, we took time during our layover to do a video, making note of the things we had learned and all of the things we hoped for in the future.
Jack’s long-time girlfriend, Celeste, was a gem and seriously beyond beautiful. They were all so kind to me, even with the uncertainty that their mother clearly felt towards all of this from the beginning. She hadn’t said anything mean to me over the phone, but I’d heard the words she said to Luke. “Looking for five minutes of fame,” or there was the “gold digger” I should’ve expected.
She seemed indifferent now, and I felt comfort in that. She had been so sure before we met, but talking to me changed her opinion, at least made her doubt her opinion.
Celeste did have plenty of sweaters for me to choose from, so I chose a white Christmas cardigan, worn over a ribbed Henley tank, paired with some crimson velvet skinny jeans. The grey boots, lined with fur on the inside and most of the outside, looked a lot like house shoes, but they were actually designed for snow.
There wasn’t any snow outside, but they kept my toes warm.
I had brought my own Christmas accessories, a pair of snow man earrings and metal cat ears with red, green, and silver bells. It went perfectly with the double crown braid, giving my hair a casual half up-do look that would go perfectly with the rest of the outfit. Luke insisted I not bother with makeup, but I didn’t go that far. It was just a light touch of it, though.
The two of us made it downstairs around the same time Celeste and Jack arrived, both carrying armfuls of stuff. Luke went over to grab some of the presents from Jack, to help him put them underneath the tree, and my body tensed.
He had no idea that I had gotten him something, and the only way I was able to be sneaky about it was with the help of Mikey. His mom had helped me sneak it underneath the tree, and I was afraid he’d see it now and question the hell out of it.
Hearing him talking about how much he missed having dogs broke my heart sometimes, and it would especially now that I had met the sweet but very old Maggie that he had to remember. My parents were always afraid to let us have pets, as they could be in danger of Dad’s threats as well. If these people would hurt children, why wouldn’t they hurt animals, too?
But Luke wanted a puppy, and I was safe now. I wanted one, too. Still, I had no idea what kind he might want, and Calum mentioned that he liked bulldogs.
Instead of picking the puppy out for him, I bought a collar. It was just a black leather collar, and I figured he’d probably buy a better one later. That was how I wanted him to see that I had gotten him a puppy.
Phone calls were hard to make when Luke was around, but I got ahold of John. He did a little dirty work for me, and he made a deal with a shelter in Vegas. When Luke and I got there, we would come and get to pick out any puppy that he wanted, and every Saturday, they’d bring the dogs to our shelter. If someone got attached to a dog, we’d buy it for them, especially if they were homeless.
Sometimes, dogs can change everything.
Dad had already seen to it that our shelter had a steady supply of dog food shipped to it, and I hadn’t gotten a chance to see it for myself yet, but John said the dogs were already working wonders.
That was what I had worked pretty hard to get Luke, without him finding out about anything.
His present that I wrapped and put underneath the tree was a collar with a “coupon” I printed off that said, “One Free Puppy,” with a few details about where he could turn in that ticket and whatnot.
There wasn’t much that he could get me, so I felt comfort in that. We had mentioned Christmas presents, but we agreed to focus on our families, with all the craziness of the holidays.
Ben showed up not even five minutes after Celeste and Jack, and Liz came into the room, announcing that it was all ready to go.
Home cooked meals had been something I never took for granted. Mom tried to cook and all, but every day was a mystery. There was a two months span once, when we were five and Claire was ten, that we were living inside of a cottage on the outskirts of Vegas, without power or anything. It was hot. It was miserable, but the worst part was that every night when Dad would come home, he would bring food. There were things to make sandwiches, but Mom couldn’t cook there because there was no power.
Since that time period, home cooked meals were a blessing, and this road trip had brought me back to that. We were eating out almost constantly, with occasional meals cooked by one of the guys. It was the final stretch before their big winter break, so the shows were kind of crammed in. There wasn’t much time or energy to cook, and I was pretty horrible at it. I tried, and they banned me from doing it again.
I appreciated this meal, loved every bite I took. Liz could cook, and I understood why Luke would lay around whining about how much he missed his mom’s cooking. I’d remind him that I had a mom who could cook, too, but he would insist that I didn’t understand.
It was definitely good, comparable to my mom’s. It was a bit unfair to compare them, however, because my mom had a degree in culinary arts. That was actually how she met my dad. He was out with his dad, eating at a restaurant, and he asked to meet the chef who cooked his wonderful meal. His intentions were to hire the chef as his personal chef, but then it was my mom. Sparks flew, and they were married a year later, with Claire coming along only a year after that.
My mom had been a big comfort when I was reading all of this stuff saying that I was just using Luke, and I’m sure Ori had turned to her as well. For the longest time, my dad’s family insisted that Mom was just using him for his money, that she didn’t care about him. It wasn’t until Claire was three, with all of the chaos and danger surrounding them, that they realized she was sticking by him through all of it. Getting their child away from it all would’ve been much safer. Leaving him behind would’ve been the best thing for her and Claire, yet she stayed because she loved him, no matter how hard it was.
One day, maybe people would understand, just like my dad’s family. Sure, there’d always be an Uncle Jeffery who still believed it was for money, but most people would recognize the truth eventually.
After the delicious food, it was time to open presents, and then we were going to drink wine or eggnog—I was the only one drinking wine because eggnog makes me sick—while watching old Christmas favorites. I demanded that we watch A Year Without a Santa Claus, after finding out that none of them had ever seen it before. Celeste backed me up, insisting that she had been trying to get Jack to watch it every Christmas for years but he never would.
With two of us working against them, there wasn’t much choice, and then Liz scolded Jack for not taking forty-five minutes out of his day to watch a movie with his girlfriend.
I felt pretty successful, especially with Luke whispering in my ear, “See? Look at you, getting Jack in trouble. I’m so proud.”
I mostly tried to stay out of the way while Liz handed out the presents, sipping on the glorious wine that Andy had given me. He winked at me and said, “Don’t tell your mum, missy. I know it’s not legal for you where you’re from.”
I almost reminded him that alcohol was the reason I was at their family Christmas, but I didn’t say it, not with Liz glaring over at Andy like she was.
Luke was sitting next to me, with his arm draped over my shoulders, and I felt the peace and comfort that seemed right. Marriage wasn’t a walk in the park. We had learned that the hard way, but it didn’t have to be the nightmare everyone seemed to think that it was.
Taking comfort in the small, intimate touches could go a long way.
I was ripped from my thoughts when Liz handed me three presents, all wrapped in the same paper. The surprise I felt inside must’ve shown on the outside because she laughed.
“You didn’t think we’d let you sit here and watch us all, did you?”
“I, uh, I know this was all sort of crazy and short notice,” I admitted. “Honestly, I didn’t think about it.”
Jack smirked at me from where he sat, on the floor next to Celeste, and he held up his glass of eggnog. “I told you. We’re not as horrible as including you in the family as your husband.”
Celeste lightly smacked his arm. “Come on, Jack. Quit making things uncomfortable for her. You’re gonna scare her off, and Luke seems pretty smitten.”
“No, he’s good,” I disagreed. “It actually makes me feel kinda bad for my sister. Her reception in Ireland is, uh, not this welcoming, so I appreciate it. Really.”
I watched Luke’s eyes light up, the skin of his face seeming to glow along with the smile that formed. “Okay, so, you know what? I think we should start with Eri.”
“Let’s not start with me.” My nose scrunched a bit. “I’ll just kinda open mine quietly from the b—wait a second.” I took a good look at the three gifts in my lap. With Luke’s insistence that I go first, something was up, something I wasn’t actually prepared for. One gift was from his parents. The other was from his brothers and Celeste, and the third was from my husband. “Luke! Why would you do this to me?”
“Because I care about you, and I don’t need anything,” he insisted. “Come on, don’t ruin Christmas with your sass.”
“Oh, you haven’t even begun to see the sass,” I informed him. “Seriously, why won’t you let me do stuff for you, too?”
He sighed. “Come on, Eri. You’re already so busy with your shelter and stuff.”
My eyes widened. “Uh, Luke?”
“Yeah, don’t worry.” He waved a hand at me, dismissively, but his eyes were shining brighter than the well-lit Christmas tree across the living room. “I already told them all about it.”
His expression sobered, the lids of his eyes widening. “Was . . was I not supposed to? I thought you didn’t tell people because you didn’t like people knowing how amazing you are.”
“I never told anyone because I didn’t wanna take away from what Ori did,” I sighed. “Look, let’s just get back to Christmas and not all this? I’ll deal with you later.”
“Aw, how cute.” Ben grinned at us from where he sat in the floor. “Their first marital fight.”
“Ha!” Luke clamped his hand over his mouth, though the amusement still brightened his eyes. “No. I get in trouble a lot.”
“You probably deserve it,” Jack agreed. “I agree with the newlyweds being the first to open their presents, but I want Luke to go first.”
Celeste raised her hand. “I second that.”
I nudged Luke’s arm, which earned a glare sent my way. “They like me better than you.”
“Why am I going first? What did you do?”
“You know what?” I snorted. “I don’t wanna hear it. You lied, too. How about we just agree next year to be completely honest about it?”
I didn’t understand why Luke’s eyes began to shimmer, why his smile grew ten times in size, until I thought over what I had said, without even thinking. Next year.
“Deal, if you agree to go first today.”
That knocked the breath of me, made my head spin, and Luke noticed the way I seemed to be out of mind a bit. He distracted everyone from that by taking two of the presents from my lap, leaving the first one for me to open.
It was the one from his parents, and the blanket that was inside was probably the softest I had ever felt, a beautiful teal blue. Liz explained that Luke mentioned that I was always cold, especially on the tour bus, so they got me a blanket to keep me comfortable.
The present from his brothers and Celeste was an oversized 5 Seconds of Summer hoodie, which Luke said that he had them get so that he could have his back. It was sweet, especially paired with the Pittsburgh Penguins fuzzy socks they had gotten as well.
Then it was on to Luke’s, and it was hard to keep tears back when I opened up the rather large box he had wrapped for me.
There was a Keurig, which he probably got because I always complained about the coffee we had in hotel rooms, or complained about how much I missed my Keurig back home. More than that, there was a bag of glitter coffee, but the best thing in the box was the polaroid camera he had gotten for me.
“You said you always loved the look of polaroid pictures, so I found the best I could find for you.”
I had to wipe the tears forming underneath my eyes, moving my fingers carefully to ensure I didn’t smear my makeup, but I managed to not get any of it on my fingers and changed the focus by forcing Luke to go next.
He saved mine for last, like I had done for him. His family definitely knew him. Jack had gotten him a new PS4 controller, one of the pro controllers, and Ben got him a new pair of boots. They were very similar to the pair he had back home, which had been worn from all the wear, and his parents got him a video camera.
“I know it’s a bit late, but you’re doing daily videos, right?” Liz asked, and she gave us both a smile. “I figured you didn’t have to stop them at thirty days if you don’t want.”
“Thank you.” He smiled widely at his mom, clearly hearing more in her words than the words themselves. “Alright. Enough stalling. I’m really curious about this last one.”
I fought back the urge to say anything, only bit down on my bottom lip and waited eagerly as he tore the paper from the box. It wasn’t huge, like the box he had gotten me. The box the collar was in barely held the collar.
Tears filled his eyes the moment he took the collar out, and he looked over at me, not even glancing at the ticket inside. “Um, this isn’t what I think it is, is it?”
“You know, I’m actually a little scared to ask what you might think it is.”
The corner of his lips pulled into a devious smirk, but the tears remained. “Well, I can use a bit of logic because if it was that, I don’t imagine you’d, ya know, give it to me here, so, this is a dog collar.”
“Look at the paper inside.” I sat up a bit, leaning towards the box in his hands to point at the ticket. “That’ll explain everything.”
He took a deep breath and picked the ticket up. I watched his eyes move across the ticket, reading the words carefully, and with each word, more tears formed until they began to slide down his face.
I have never been hugged as hard as I was in that moment, but it actually hurt. It was a pain I could live with forever, though.
If he would let me, I would definitely live this way forever.
The description is from Tori Kelly's song I Was Made for Loving You with Ed Sheeran. I highly suggest you go look it up if you haven't heard it yet. :)
Eris and Luke
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