We were in the kitchen, lingering over empty bowls that had held minestrone, watching snowflakes waft promisingly downward and then evaporate upon hitting the muddy ground, when Gail asked, “So, are you coming to my parents’ on Christmas?”
I shrugged, trying to look nonchalant. “Not sure, yet. I appreciate the invitation, but . . .”
Gail came around behind my chair and kissed the top of my head. “But the commercial holiday with the cast-of-thousands thing isn’t to your taste? It’s not really mine, either, but it’s my parents and my three siblings and their spouses and their kids. That makes it a little easier.”
She sighed. “Would you believe Brett’s letter to Santa this year was three pages long?”
“Big handwriting?” Brett was her seven-year-old son.
“He used my dad’s computer to make sure Santa could read it! And most of the stuff on it is either TV tie-ins or war toys.” She shrugged. “What can you do? It’s not like I can separate him from the world.”
I leaned back against her. “Even if you did, it wouldn’t help. When I was Brett’s age, my parents were living off the grid up in the Cascades and home-schooling me.” Which Gail probably had guessed, me having a name like Yarrow Dragonwind. “My grandmother sent me Barbie’s and I got hooked on them.”
Gail roared with laughter. “Yarrow, admit it! You just loved those big Barbie breasts, even when you were little.”
Relieved by the change of topic – and knowing she’d relish an opportunity for spontaneous sex while Brett was safely at a friend’s house for the afternoon – I turned around my chair so I could cup her breasts. “If I liked Barbie breasts, it was because I didn’t know how much fun real ones were. Especially yours.” Gail’s weren’t exactly Barbie-proportioned, but they were lovely and full on her otherwise small frame. That was nice, but what I adored about them was their sensitivity, how even a light caress would distract her and anything more serious would turn her brains to mush.
It was always fun, and sometimes it was damn convenient. Right now I really didn’t want to talk about Christmas with her family.
It’s not for the reasons you might think. After Gail’s disaster of a marriage, they were so delighted to see her with someone who made her happy that they’d have welcomed a fire-breathing three-headed Martian if it were good to Gail, let alone a harmless granola dyke. And all of Gail’s relatives whom I’d met were genuinely nice and eager to make me feel like part of the family.
If anything, that made it worse. I could have handled a holiday soap opera in the role of The Queer Daughter’s Dicey Girlfriend. But the idea of spending Christmas with a close family made me want to hide under my duvet with a pile of hankies and not come out until spring.
Concentrating on making Gail writhe in sexual ecstasy seemed like a much better plan than working myself up into a panic. But even that pleasure only took me so far.
Her hot, responsive body distracted me nicely for a while. I tongued her nipples until she begged for mercy, then pulled her jeans off, knelt between her legs and savored the smoky, spicy delight of her until she cried out. She came, squirting as she often does, splashing onto the kitchen floor, and I laughed and used her shirt to wipe it up. But when she went to reciprocate, I couldn’t lose myself in the sensation. Perched on the counter, I felt her clever hands and tongue doing things that would usually work like magic. Instead of getting all juiced up, though, I found myself getting more and more melancholy.
Finally, Gail noticed that, while I wasn’t exactly crying, my eyes were at least as wet as my pussy. She stopped what she was doing and just held me. I wrapped my arms and legs around her, pressed my face against her shoulder and just shook. I couldn’t really cry. It had been too many years and I had cried myself out. Crying would have been easier.
Finally I could talk. “I hate Christmas,” was what came out.
“Something to do with your parents?”
I nodded. “Dying in that fire when I was in college, with my little brother. It was Christmas night – that’s the part I don’t usually tell people because it bothers them too much. And Oak was . . .”
Gail did the math. “He must have been about the same age as Brett. Okay, I can see why you hate Christmas, and why Christmas with my family is scary.”
“It was never a holiday we celebrated, so I don’t even have good memories to balance the horror. It’s just the day my whole family died.”
“You must have some good memories of this time of year. What about Winter Solstice – Yule?”
Gail hadn’t been raised pagan as I had, but it was something she’d become interested in since we’d been together. She embraced the principles of it, but was still learning about the rituals and the history. Just yesterday we’d discussed the pagan origins of Christmas, agreeing that the Christian holiday itself had been almost buried in a snowstorm of commercialism.
I sighed. “That one’s got too many good memories. My last Yule with my family was almost perfect. We did a beautiful ritual out in the snowy woods behind the house, and then came inside and lit candles everywhere and exchanged gifts – we never gave big presents, just some small thing that would be meaningful – and stayed up until dawn to praise the sun’s return. Only I was a little distracted because I had a new girlfriend and was leaving the next day to spend the rest of break with her. The house burned down while I was digesting my first Christmas dinner.”
She shook her head, kissed me again, and pulled away from me long enough to put on tea water and let us both get re-dressed. By the time we were snuggled on the living room couch, tea in hand, I was composed again, trying to pretend my meltdown didn’t happen, and ready to apologize when it was clear that Gail wasn’t going to let me ignore it. “It was almost fifteen years ago. I don’t know why it’s affecting me this much . . .”
She set down her cup and took my free hand between both of hers. “What did you do on the winter holidays until now?”
“Hid. Went to the movies, got takeout, found something to read that would engross me. For a few years I took extra shifts at work – they always need nurses on the holidays – but the ER turned out not to be the best place to be. Sometimes I went on vacation to someplace like Martinique or Jamaica, where it didn’t feel like Yuletide. I’d like to try to be with your family, for your sake, but I’m afraid it’ll dredge up memories.”
She squeezed my hand. “What we need,” she said, “is to make some holiday memories of our own. I’m going to go make some phone calls.”
I must have made some confused noise, because she added, “The Winter Solstice is the twenty-first, right? I’m going to get a sitter and we’re spending the night at your place. And while we’re there, we’re going to create a holiday celebration that’s ours and ours alone.”
The day of the Winter Solstice was cool and blessedly clear. Throughout the short day, I’d enjoyed catching glimpses of the mountains in the distance, unshrouded by rain or snow. I’d had to work, but Gail, a teacher, was off for the week and had spent the day at my house puttering. The sun was setting – a rare treat, in Seattle, to see a proper sunset instead of rose-tinged rain clouds – and a pale quarter moon was already hanging low at the horizon when I got home. Gail came to the door carrying a sprig of mistletoe and held it over my head as she pulled me close with the other arm. We didn’t need mistletoe, but it made me smile.