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A New Life in New York

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Michael Buble)

Okay so this was supposed to be finished two days ago but I’ve been on the struggle bus.
Here it is, a little bit of Christmas, only a day late.

Harry: December 24, 2020
“Did you finally get them to sleep?” I asked as Janie walked into our bedroom shutting the doors. She walked directly to the bed and fell backwards onto it.

“Yes. Five stories and three songs later. Which by the way, I hate you.”


“Because our children critique my singing. ‘You’re not as good as Daddy.’ Fuck. You.” I had to laugh. Normally if the kids wanted songs at bedtime Janie put me in charge. Stories, it was her. She’d either read something to them or turned some ridiculous story of her childhood or years on the road into some magical story. She was brilliant, however the children all preferred my bedtime songs.

“Are you going to get up off the bed?”

“Do I have to?” Janie whined.

“You do. We have about four million toys downstairs to put together before the three tiny humans arise in the morning.”

“Ugh. Why? Every year I say I’m not buying shit that needs to be assembled and every year I buy shit that needs a ton of assembly and usually comes with directions in Japanese.” I laughed at her a bit. She liked to be dramatic.

“It’s always been like it is downstairs?” I pulled her up off of the bed and wrapped my arms around her. She’d been keeping the door to her office on the first floor locked for weeks as she hid toys and packages. You’d think Amazon had set up a distribution center in there.

“I guess. Christmas was Greyson’s favorite holiday. He went crazy every year.” She smiled this special smile that I loved. One she reserved for when she was thinking about Greyson. It was one of my top five favorite smiles of hers.

Smile #1 was the smile she reserved for me when we were alone. Smile #2 was the smile she used when she looked at me in public, usually referencing something I’d done for her or our family. Then there was #3, the smile she got when one of our kids did something cute, crazy, funny, or really anything. #4 was the smile associated with her writing; finishing a new piece, getting great feedback from her editor or a reader, or seeing a link to her new article tweeted by someone she respected. #5 was the Greyson smile.

“Let’s go downstairs and start putting toys together and you can tell me all about it.” She stood on her tiptoes, kissed me, and started out the door. It was almost as if she was skipping down the stairs to the first floor. She unlocked the doors to her office and flung them open. It was the first I’d seen behind the doors in nearly a week. “Alexa, play Janie’s Christmas Favorites.”

“Playing Janie’s Christmas Favorites on Apple Music,” replied the little white device that sat on her desk.

“Did you rob a department store or Amazon maybe?”

“I may have bought everything that looked exciting to me. I couldn’t resist. This is our first Christmas all together.” There was smile number two. Every major milestone or holiday we’d experienced since January was something she went overboard on. She was having so much fun enjoying all of our firsts. The first day of school for all of the kids where we walked them together. Her first Mother’s Day as part of Harper’s life; which had been an emotional moment for me as it was the first time Harper got to experience a Mother’s Day with someone other than my own. My first Father’s Day, the kids went overboard with breakfast in bed and all of the very Dad-like things. We hadn’t gotten to the point that the kids were all calling us Mom and Dad at that point, they are now, which had both of us excited for our first Christmas as our not-so-little little family. I should’ve expected that Christmas would be even more than everything else. “Okay, so part of my tradition is that I drink while I put together Christmas presents.”

“What would you like tonight?” I asked. “Wine? We’ve got a few bottles of your favorite.”

“Jameson on the rocks,” she said. “It’s tradition.” Smile #5 told me that this was an old tradition and I’d probably be getting a story or two tonight.

“I’ll be right back then.” I went into the kitchen, filled an ice bucket and grabbed the bottle of Jameson she kept in there. Most of our alcohol was upstairs in the bar area but there was a wine fridge in the kitchen and always a bottle of Jameson. After grabbing two glasses I headed back to the office where she was dancing to an NSYNC Christmas song and organizing gifts. I filled two glasses with ice and Jameson before handing her one.

“Are you drinking Jameson with me tonight?” I nodded.

“You said it was tradition. I’m not one for breaking traditions.”

“It is a tradition. One that from my understanding is roughly 21 years old at this point.” I settled in with a pile of gifts and got ready to put the presents together and wrap them. “Lilibet’s first Christmas, Greyson was so excited to have a baby that he went to FAO Schwartz and pretty much bought everything. He got home and had a wife who was less than enthused about having to wrap presents and put together toys because of course being as busy as he was, he did all of this shopping on Christmas Eve. He never really got any better about shopping last minute, though the invention of Amazon and having someone like me who started building the lists of what we would need for Christmas in July made him a little bit better. But still without fail we would wait until the kids got to bed on Christmas Eve and start the building and wrapping.”

“Kids?” I asked knowing that when Greyson was still alive they only had one child.

“Oh, his kids would all spend Christmas Eve Day with Amelia and her family and show up in time for cookies and cocoa at bedtime so they’d wake up with Greyson on Christmas morning. Amelia’s family tradition was always Christmas Eve so when they got divorced she requested Christmas Eve, partially knowing that for Greyson, Christmas was his favorite day of the year.”

“That’s an understatement,” Rebecca said. I looked up to see Janie’s three stepchildren walking across our apartment towards us. Janie jumped up off the floor to hug the three of them.

“I didn’t realize you three were coming over tonight.” Janie hadn’t really filled me in on the plan. Just that she’d be up to make breakfast in the morning and her family would all appear in time for lunch and it would go late into the evening.

“Of course we are,” Elizabeth said. “A) I live here.” I laughed at how much of a smartass she was, she clearly picked that habit up from Janie because every time I’d met Amelia she seemed very warm and inviting but also like she was very proper. “B) Mom’s house will be boring tomorrow and she won’t even be there. She leaves for the Caribbean tomorrow morning with Martin for vacation.” The way that Elizabeth said his name told exactly how not only she, but all of the kids felt about their stepfather. I felt lucky that they decided they liked me because despite Amelia and Martin having been together for several years they’d never taken to him. I’d only met Martin a few times but based on what the kids said I could understand. “C) There are tiny kids here. Tiny kids are the reason that Christmas is the best day ever.”

“She’s very much her father’s child. So I have everything ready for your cookies and cocoa or if you all promise not to breathe a word to Amelia of this, you can have wine or Jameson with us.” I watched as Janie eyed the youngest of her step-children, the only one not of age to drink.

“Are you kidding? Mom let me start drinking at holidays when I was a freshman in college because I was legal to do it where I lived most of the year.”

“Because England is amazing,” I said. Becks bent down to high five me. We had bonded really quickly because I was able to help her get some contacts in London and when she’d had an issue this fall with her flat I’d told her to move into my house. It sat empty most of the time so it was actually nice to know that someone was keeping watch of it. I told her she could live rent free as long as she kept watch of the house, didn’t throw any super wild parties, didn’t sell my belongings ob eBay, or let her college friends into my room or office, or crash any of my cars. Mainly it was to be hard on her. I was close with Elizabeth because she lived with us but Becks was most like me. I’d had a few occasions where I had to go home for work without Janie, even a few times without Harper because of school, and Becks and I had gotten a chance to bond during those visits.

“I’m a sophomore in college. If you don’t think I drink, you’re crazy,” Jameson said.

“Alright kids, pick your poison. But know, your father would tell you on Christmas Eve there are no options, there is only Jameson.”

“He would say that,” Elizabeth said smiling. She quickly headed out of the room, grabbed three glasses from the kitchen and came back pouring a glass of Jameson on the rocks for each of her siblings. Janie stood up, refilled her glass and topped mine off.

“So as a kid, my parents always said this toast as they had a drink on Christmas Eve. May you be blessed with the spirit of the season, which is peace. The gladness of the season, which is hope. And the heart of the season, which is love. Slainte.” We each clinked glasses and took a drink. “As I grew older and I became part of the press pool this is one I learned and someone told me that they swore it was the toast Joe Biden used, I don’t believe them but I love it nonetheless. To all the days here and after - may they be filled with fond memories, happiness and laughter.” Another clink of the glasses and sip before I watched Janie take a deep breath. “And finally, the toast your father always gave. May your glass be ever full. May the roof over your head be always strong. And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.” I watched as the kids all started laughing.

“Cheers!” They all said before taking one more drink.

“Dad was always such a smartass,” Elizabeth said.

“He lived to make my life uncomfortable,” Janie added. “The first Christmas he spent with my family. Oh god.”

“I remember that!” Jameson exclaimed as he started to laugh. “Didn’t he show up late?”

“Yes. I’d told him I was going out to my parents early to help Mom with dinner on Christmas Eve. We were hosting everyone the next day and since we didn’t have you kids I wanted to help my Mom and spend the day with my sisters like I always did growing up. He was a half hour late. I was so embarrassed. We had only been dating a short period of time and at Christmas he was meeting a lot of my family for the first time. He was twice my age. My father wasn’t quite sure how he felt about him yet and showing up late to Christmas Eve dinner had my Dad convinced that your father wasn’t going to last. He also then out of nerves proceeded to drink too much and I spent all mass trying to keep him from passing out on me.” The kids laughed imagining their Dad in this state. “When we went to leave that night to get home for your Mom to drop you off my parents both lectured me. It was a nightmare. They both expected that they were going to come over for Christmas morning with their daughter and her new boyfriend and his kids and find your father still drunk. Your Dad was perfect in the morning and on his best behavior all day. By the end of Christmas Day my parents both changed their opinion of him. Thank god they did.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“He proposed to her on Christmas night as we were all unwrapping presents,” Becks answered.

“It’s why he’d been late the day before. He got stuck in traffic leaving the Tiffany store with my ring. He’d been planning on doing it Christmas Eve, which was the drinking to calm the nerves. But I’m glad he waited.”

“Me too,” Elizabeth said. “We all got to be with you then. If he’d done it Christmas Eve it wouldn’t have been quite the celebration.”

“I know. Plus it landed on Christmas Day which was your Dad’s favorite.” She looked like she might cry remembering it. I knew that it was a memory she cherished. We’d talked about it a little, she’d told me the basics of how he proposed but not the details. She’d always said she never wanted me to feel like I had to compete with Greyson. He was a grand gesture kind of guy as she explained it. Everything was over-the-top. There was never anything small in his book. She’d told me that he grew up in a small apartment with his parents in Brooklyn. His Dad worked two jobs to make ends meet and his Mom worked in the cafeteria at the school he went to. He’d studied hard to be able to get a scholarship to college and was self-made, which was incredibly impressive considering how successful he was before his death and the fact that his five children would never experience college debt and truthfully wouldn’t have to work a day in their lives if they didn’t want to.

I had learned that I was different from Greyson in a lot of ways. I liked to do little things for her and she told me how much she loved that. That somedays she’d come home from running the kids to school and I’d have breakfast made. I’d bring flowers home for her every time it was my turn to run to the grocery store. That sometimes I’d take the kids to the park on a Saturday morning so that she could get a massage and pedicure that I’d scheduled without telling her. When she was gone in summer for the Democratic and Republican National Conventions working I’d called to get her hotel rooms upgraded, had flowers waiting in each of the rooms and when she’d get home on Friday I’d have a massage scheduled and dinner reservations so that we could have a quiet night together. I’d done this anytime she’d traveled for work which had been a lot lately with the election having been last month.

Listening to Janie and the kids tell stories about Greyson was really enjoyable. They laughed at the memories they had of him. Little by little over the almost year we’d been together Janie would open up about Greyson. When she finally got comfortable telling me about his death she planned a night where Elizabeth was gone, my Mom had all three of the kids and she had a lot of Kleenex and even more liquid courage. It was hard for her to relive. It broke my heart to watch her go through the emotions of retelling what his death and the time shortly after it was like. She went from having a dream life with a baby on the way to her whole world crashing around her. Knowing how far she’d come had me so proud of who she was now. Despite not knowing her them, I knew her now and knew how strong she was.

“Okay kiddos, time for bed. Your younger siblings will be waking us all up in a few hours to see what Santa delivered,” Janie said. We’d moved all of the presents around the giant Christmas tree in the living room. Getting the Christmas tree up here had been a task. Janie picked the tallest tree I’d ever seen outside of a department store and we lugged it through the building and in the elevator but she claimed it was perfect. After hugs from all three of the kids and we watched the girls take off for Elizabeth’s room, which was now in Nellie’s old room, and Jameson taking off upstairs to Elizabeth’s old room which we’d converted to a guest bedroom that he stayed in when he was with us. Janie stood staring at the tree, I walked up behind her and wrapped my arms around her.

“What are you looking at, love?” I asked.

“My three favorite ornaments on the tree.”

“Which three?”

She pointed first at one that was a little frame that said ‘Baby’s First Christmas’ on the bottom of it. The photo inside was of she, Greyson, and the grown kids. In Janie’s arms was a tiny baby Finnegan. They were all standing in front of a giant Christmas tree that looked a lot like the one we were looking at right now but standing in the living room of what I knew to be the brownstone in Brooklyn that Janie and Greyson had lived in when they were married. Despite it being a small photo I could see the giant smiles on everyone’s faces as they all surrounded Finn.

The second ornament was another “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament. This one wasn’t quite as happy as the first. It was Janie, Finn, the grown kids and a tiny little Grey. She was a happy baby and everyone was all smiles but there was a darkness over the rest of the family. It was their second Christmas without Greyson and first with his namesake. While everyone was happy to have little Grey but they missed their leader.

The third and final was a similar frame to the first two but rather than saying “Baby’s First Christmas” it just said “Christmas 2020” on it. Inside the frame was us. Our family, all of eight of us, standing in front of the Christmas tree we were admiring right now. The weekend after Thanksgiving, after Janie had lugged this tree through the city with Jameson and I in tow, we all gathered at the house. Thanksgiving was Amelia’s holiday, the only one that Janie still requested and that Amelia easily obliged to was Christmas Day. Janie had made a huge deal out of the weekend. The kids showed up Friday night in time for family pizza night, something that since Elizabeth moving in with Janie often included Jameson and always included Becks if she was home. We started watching Christmas movies and decorating the house. Saturday Elizabeth and Becks took the littles shopping to pick out their new ornaments for the year and find a few other things for the house. Saturday night was filled with Christmas music, way too much food and decorating the massive tree that Janie insisted on having. Just us and the six kids. At the end of the night, when the tree was decorated and we were all dressed in the matching pajamas that Janie had found, Becks used her exceedingly impressive selfie skills to take a photo of all of us with the tree behind us. It was perfect and a bit crazy, just like us.

“Those are your three favorites?”

“Yup. They are the first ornaments for each stage of my family in it’s evolution. There are a few pre-Finn that I love but having him made Christmas magical for me. My first Christmas with Grey was so hard but Finny worked to make it fun. And honestly, without those three that just went to bed, I would’ve given up on Christmas the moment Greyson died. It’s a hard day for me. It just serves to remind me how much I miss him.” I lightly kissed the top of her head. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be talking like this. It’s our first Christmas together, not all that great to listen to your girlfriend cry about missing her husband.”

“I miss him for you. I love you and I am so grateful that I have you in my life but I wish I’d known Greyson. He seems like he was an incredible person.”

“He was. He would’ve liked you a lot. You’re so good to his kids.”

“I love them as if they were my own.”

“I know. We are lucky to have you,” she said as she turned around, stood on her tiptoes and kissed me. “Let’s go to bed. We’ll have six kids up before you know it.” I squeeze her tightly before we headed upstairs to bed. It didn’t take long before we both passed out cold.

“Mommy….Daddy, I think Santa came,” came the whisper of Finn. I opened one eye and saw him. His face was a few inches from mine.

“How do you know that, buddy?” I asked, my voice clearly not prepared to talk to an excited 5 year old yet. I glanced at the clock on the nightstand. It was 6:05. We’d only been asleep for about three hours.

“There are glitter footprints in my room!” That was all Elizabeth and Becks.

“There are?!” Janie was doing her best to sound excited while also trying not to show that she was pissed off she’d been woken up. She loved sleep.


“Okay, let Mommy and I get up and then we can get your sisters and go downstairs.”

“Okay.” Finn crawled into our bed as I turned the TV on to cartoons for him. We went into the master bathroom and shut the door.

“Fuck. I just want to sleep. I should’ve told him no waking up until 7:00,” Janie groaned.

“It’s okay. He’s excited.” After a few minutes we both emerged, feeling a little bit more human. “Okay, I’m gonna go get the girls. Why don’t you two go wake up Jamo?” Finn jumped onto his Mom’s back and she carried him piggyback down the hall to Jameson’s room as I went and got the girls up. After bathroom time and brushed teeth we found Janie and Finn at the end of the hall.

“Jameson isn’t in his room,” Finn announced as we found them sitting on the stairs at the end of the hall.

“Well maybe he’s up already,” I said. “Okay kids on the count of three you can head downstairs.”

“One,” Janie whispered.

“Two,” I answered in an equally hushed tone.

“Three,” we said together and watched as our three kids took off down the stairs. We followed quickly. As we made it to the first floor we found all three of grown kids asleep on the giant sectional in the living room. The yells and giggles of the kids woke them up. Judging by how easy it was to wake them up I knew that they were all pretending to sleep while they waited for the kids.

“Merry Christmas,” Elizabeth exclaimed as she quickly caught all three of them in her arms.

“Merry Christmas,” three tiny voices replied.

“Santa was here!” Finn declared.

“He totally was,” Jameson replied. “I set up the cameras to try and catch him last night. Let’s see if we got him.” It was a stall technique. All of us needed coffee. I watched as Elizabeth and Becks headed into the kitchen with Janie to start coffee and get drinks for the kids. I sat down with the girls in my lap as Jameson had Finn in his. Jameson pulled up the app for the security cameras in the house and started to rewind it. “Whoa! There he is.”

“It’s Santa!” Finn yelled.

“Ho ho ho!” came the voice through the camera. It was Jameson’s voice and judging by the way Santa moved it was also him dressed up in a Santa costume.

“Daddy, it’s Santa!” Harper said excitedly.

“It is. I wonder what he brought you?” The kids all jumped down from our laps and started looking through the presents that surrounded the tree. Janie handed me a cup of coffee and as she sat down next to me with her legs going across my lap and rested her head on my shoulder. Becks handed her brother a coffee before crashing back into the couch. The kids all started digging through the presents as Elizabeth decided to play gift giver and sat on the floor with them.

One by one each of the littles started opening presents. Eventually Janie stood up and started handing out presents to her stepkids. She’d had a lot of fun getting gifts for everyone and had drug me out shopping on a few occasions. She had gone a little overboard but it was nice to see that she was enjoying herself rather than dreading today. As all of the gifts came to a close we moved towards the kitchen for breakfast before we all began getting ready for family to arrive for the remainder of the day’s celebrations.

“You did good, love,” I said as I wrapped my arms around her.

“Thanks and thank you for all of your help.”

“Of course. You did miss one present though,” I said as I pulled a small blue box with a white ribbon out of it’s hiding place in the kitchen.

“You weren’t supposed to get me anything big, Styles. And you already gave me so much.” She gestured at the pile of gifts in the living room that were from me and the kids, knowing that I’d paid for the gifts from all three of the littles to her. She opened the box I’d handed her and found inside a heart shaped rose gold locket. “Harry.” I watched as her eye started to water.

“Open it,” I replied. She used her fingernail to pop open the heart where inside she found a photo from this summer of all six of the kids that she’d taken when we were in the Hamptons for Finn’s birthday. The opposite side was a photo of the two of us together, locked in a kiss.

“Harry, this is too much.”

“No, it’s not. It’s actually not enough.” She looked at me confused. “You have been the architect of this beautiful family and I wanted you to be able to carry us with you everywhere.”

“I love you,” she said as she went to kiss me. I unclasped the necklace and hung it around her neck.

“I love you too.” I kissed her again and held her close. “Merry Christmas, J.”

“Merry Christmas, Styles.”


Again, I sincerely apologize about this being late but I hope you enjoyed it. I can’t wait to hear from you. :)

Now to get to work on the next chapter of Los Angeles, When Will You Save Me?
xx AM.


I am really glad you're enjoying it. These characters are fun for me to write and such a departure from what I've written in London Calling and In the Heat of Los Angeles. Writing Harry as a Dad basically makes me melt.

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That's probably why I love it so much... because Harry with kids makes me so happy.

xXFluffy_GruXx xXFluffy_GruXx

YAY! I'm glad you like it. It's SUPER fun to write. I also really love the challenge it gives me. Plus really, Harry with kids. I'm pretty much dead.

raybansncoffee raybansncoffee

:) I am so in love with this.

xXFluffy_GruXx xXFluffy_GruXx