Lucille was dispirited when she walked the stair leading to her apartment. She had just walked her girlfriend until her home. She knew Kat couldn’t be always by her side, but that still made her feel lonely. Next week was Christmas, but since she was in a recess from college, she would see her girlfriend less before then.
And on top of that, Christmas made her remind of her family. Spending the day with Kat was a happy occasion, but thinking about her parents, she couldn’t stop feeling a little depressed. After all, she wanted to see her mother again, like she did every Christmas. She felt guilty by suggesting her parents should go on a trip just because she wanted to spend the date with her girlfriend.
She wanted to tell the truth. She wanted her mother to understand.
When she got to the top of the stairs with those thoughts in mind, she froze. Right there, in front of her apartment was her mother looking at her with a serious face.
“Lucille,” Elise said and opened her arms. “What’s wrong? Won’t you give your mother a hug?”
Recovering from the shock, Lucille walked to where Elise was.
“O-Of course, mom,” she said with a smile and hugged her mother. “I’m just… surprised. I didn’t know you would come.”
“I thought about making it a surprise so I didn’t tell you anything. Won’t you invite me in? I’m curious to see your new home.”
“Oh, of course,” Lucille opened her bag and started to search inside. She was so nervous that her fingers were shaking and the keys escaped them the first few tries. “Y-You should’ve called me. I don’t have a room ready.”
She finally managed to catch her keys and opened her door. Bubby came to greet her and she grabbed the cat to keep it away from her mother, who she knew was allergic.
“That’s why we booked a room in the hotel,” Elise said, going inside. “We didn’t want to bother you.”
“I-It’s not a bother at all. I’m happy to see you,” Lucille opened the door to her room and looked inside.
She realized Kat’s lingerie was still on her bed since last night. Her girlfriend had taken a bath and changed her clothes before going out. Lucille put the cat inside and closed the door, hoping her mother wouldn’t ask to see her room.
“I thought you and dad were going on a trip this Christmas?” Lucille asked, sitting beside her mother on the couch.
“I was missing my daughter, so I came to see you. Is that wrong?”
“N-No. I’m happy that you’re here. I missed you, mom,” Lucille said hugging her mother again. Elise’s face was serious, but that was natural for her. “So, are you going to that trip from here?”
“No, we’re canceling it. I and John decided we want to spend Christmas with you, after all. Since family is more important.”
“What?!” Lucille’s reaction was stronger than she intended. Elise threw her daughter a piercing look.
“Is that a problem?”
“N-No. I’m just surprised. Dad was excited about this travel. You two deserve it.”
“Your father agreed to come, too. We can go on that travel during the New Year. We never spent Christmas away from my baby. We don’t want to do it now.”
“I-I see,” Lucille threw a desperate look around her apartment. “But you see, this place is small. Not sure if a Christmas celebration would work here.”
“I know. That’s why I made a reservation in a restaurant for Christmas Eve. They serve the food close to midnight. Looks like a nice place and they plan to do a special event that night. The food seems to be good, too.”
“You don’t seem happy,” Elise looked straight into Elise’s eyes.
“That’s not true! I’m happy! I really am! It’s just that I wasn’t expecting it, so I don’t know how to react...”
Elise finally gave out a faint smile. She touched her daughter’s cheek, caressing the side of her daughter’s mouth with her thumb. Lucille closed her eyes.
“You’re still my baby,” Elise said. Her voice seemed somehow painful and Lucille couldn’t understand why. “Even if you’re such a beautiful woman now. You’re my most precious treasure. So forgive me if I ever make you cry.”
“Mom?” Lucille opened her eyes and looked at Elise with a confused face.
Elise sighed and stood up.
“That was all. I’ll call you to give the time before Christmas Eve. Don’t worry, I’ll come to get you.”
“W-Wait,” Lucille said, standing up from the couch as well. “Are you going already? Why don’t you eat something? Won’t dad come to see me?”
“I’m taking this time to deal with some things I have to do in the city. Your dad is doing the same. We’ll have the whole Christmas Eve to talk, dear.”
Elise kissed her daughter on the cheek. Her eyes looked sad when she gave Lucille one last nod and walked through the door.
Staying behind, Lucille put her forehead on the closed door. She needed to call Kat and cancel their plans for Christmas. Kat, who was so happy about spending that date with her. She wasn’t looking forward to her girlfriend’s reaction.
Lucille took the cell phone and looked at the screen for a few minutes. She could call her mother instead and tell everything about her girlfriend. She knew what her mother’s stance on the subject was, but she needed to tell her someday. And yet, she didn’t have the courage and dialed Kat’s number instead. She sighed as the buzz told her the phone was ringing on the other side.
Kat lied on her bed after getting home. She wondered if Lucille had taken a bath already. Last day, she remembered, they took one together. She buried her head in her pillow as that memory dominated her mind and made her blush.
She was looking forward to next week. Spending Christmas with Lucille as her girlfriend was something she could never dream of happening just one year ago. Had that weird phenomena not happened, she would probably still be watching Lucille from afar while sighing melancholic. And yet, now she could still feel her girlfriend’s skin on her fingers and lips. She could still remember her perfume from the last night, or her soft voice as she moaned.
And during Christmas, they would be together. And her family supported them. Kat couldn’t think of a time when she was happier.
She needed to buy a present. She had some money saved that she made through months of part-time jobs just for that day. She wanted something good enough to show the size of her love. Something that would make Lucille think of her.
Her phone rang. Her heart skipped when she looked at the screen and Lucille’s beautiful smiling face was on it.
“Hello,” she said, after picking it up, “I was missing hearing your voice already.”
“Hey, Kat...” Lucille’s voice seemed a little hesitant. She rarely called Kat by her name.
“Is there a problem?” Kat asked, feeling a little afraid.
“No, I mean, I didn’t call just to talk. I wish I had, I love hearing your voice too,” a pause on Lucille’s side made Kat feel her stomach ache. “Well, I don’t know how to say this and I’m really sorry, but…”
“You’re scaring me, Lucille.”
“No, it’s nothing that serious. You see, it’s just that my mom showed up suddenly today. She, uh, want me to spend Christmas with her.”
“Oh…” Kat could imagine what would come next.
“I do want to tell her about us. But I don’t feel like now is the time. So, you see…”
“I get it,” Kat said, letting out a sad smile that Lucille couldn’t see. “I’ll tell mom and dad.”
“I’m sorry, Bubby.”
“Now, it’s okay, really. We have New Year yet, right? I know how much you wanted to spend this day with your mother. And how much you missed her.”
“I wanted to be with you, too.”
“I know. One day we all will spend it together, ok? For now, huh, Lucille. Just have fun, ok?”
Lucille chuckled on the other side.
“Sure, I will. Thanks, Bubby. You’re the best. I love you a lot.”
“I love you, too,” Kat said and turned the phone off.
She let out a sigh. It would be a lie to say she was completely okay with it. She was looking forward to Christmas together with her girlfriend, after all. Yet, she knew how lucky she was that her family was so understanding. She couldn’t imagine having her mother against their relationship.
Her memory went back to the day she went home after spending a week as a cat. How her mother opened the door with a tired face that clearly had cried for days. Seeing her daughter in front of her, her eyes filled with tears and she gave her a tight hug. Kat and Lucille had thought about what kind of story to tell to explain her days out. They said that Kat suffered an accident and couldn’t remember where her home was. She was living with Lucille for those days.
The story didn’t make sense. Lucille could find Kat’s house easily, and they have no record of ever seeing a medic. But Kat’s mother didn't mind. If she didn’t believe the story, she probably knew her daughter had a good reason for lying.
That day, Kat’s family met Lucille for the first time. From the very first moment, they liked her. That made it easier for Kat to tell them Lucille was her girlfriend some weeks later. At first, they did act a little surprised. But soon they became happy to welcome Lucille in their family. Her mother started to call Lucille “my second daughter”.
All that made Kat really happy. And now she was feeling bad knowing Lucille wasn’t able to feel the same. Thinking about it, she knew it would be cruel to ask Lucille to spend the Christmas together anyway. She had her mother close now, so she should enjoy it.
Yet, Kat still wanted to buy her a present. She decided to get something in the next day, and maybe give it to her girlfriend on New Year.
Lucille had a collection of necklaces, even if she, for some reason, didn’t wear them often. When Kat asked about it, Lucille said they were for special occasions. She did wear one on their first date, a pink necklace with the drawing of a rose engraved in it. At the time, Lucille’s appearance had stolen Kat’s breath.
She decided a necklace would be an appropriate gift. It was a present that could last years and wearing it would make Lucille think of her. She didn’t want it to be too cheap, so Kat went to a jewelry shop. Maybe she wouldn’t be able to get something good enough, but she was intending on spending all her money on that present.
The jewelry shop, just like the whole city, was full of Christmas ornaments. No clerk showed up and Kat started to look the necklaces for herself. She knew Lucille liked flowers. Since her favorite necklace was the one with the rose, she decided something similar would be best. She found a lot of necklaces with different flowers carvings in it. There were all kinds of different species and colors, which made Kat confused about what to choose. All of them were equally beautiful.
“She likes blue anemones,” a serious voice talked behind Kat, making her jump startled. “Also pink roses, but I bought one like that for her already.”
Kat turned around. A middle-aged woman wearing glasses was looking at her. Her expression was stiff and her eyes seemed to pierce Kat.
“Katherine Porter,” the woman said. “We need to talk.”
It was Christmas Eve. Lucille was nervous waiting for her mother. She could hear the Christmas song playing in the city even from her apartment, but she wasn’t in such a happy mood.
Elise was supposed to take her at 10 PM. Looking at her cell phone, Lucille realized it was 9:50 PM already. Her mother was always punctual, rarely arriving too early or too late.
Lucille had a long black skirt and a white blouse. Her feet were swinging while she was sitting nervously at the couch. At a point, Bubby jumped on her lap and she petted the cat. It was relaxing.
The doorbell rang, announcing her mother was there. Just one minute early. Elise had a smile on her face when Lucille opened the door and looked in a better mood than the other day. She hugged her daughter and kissed her forehead.
“So you’re ready. That’s my baby. Let’s go?”
“O-Okay. Can you stop calling me that, though? I’m an adult already.”
“No, I can’t.”
Lucille got inside the car as they got out of the apartment and Elise turned it on. They traveled for some time. The city was full of people and Christmas ornaments. It was like a red town. Most people out looked like families and they would greet each other with happy smiles.
Elise was silent the whole way, but that was normal when she was driving. Lucille looked at her phone. She wanted at least send Kat a message but wondered if that was too cruel. Kat probably wanted her girlfriend by her side that night.
“Calling someone?” Elise asked with an indifferent voice.
“N-No. I’m looking at my messages.”
“Oh? I heard you’re very popular at the college. As expected.”
“Through Selma. Remember Donna? Her son goes to the same college as you. I’m sure you wouldn’t recognize him, but he did recognize you.”
Lucille felt a chill. She opened her mouth, but no word came out. She was afraid to ask anything else.
“Is there anything you want to tell me, dear?” Elise asked. Her eyes fixated on the street.
Lucille realized her hands were shaking. To hide it, she crossed her arms. She tried to talk again. The voice came out with difficulty.
“M-Mom… I… actually,” she stopped. She wanted to jump from the car and run away. She felt like crying. “No, i-it’s nothing…” She said, turning her face away.
“Oh,” her mother said and became silent.
They stopped in front of the restaurant. It was a famous and expensive restaurant in the city. It was packed for Christmas Eve and decorated as such, with Christmas songs playing inside. Lucille knew it was a popular place for families wanting to eat outside on that time of the year.
But her eyes turned to the lone figure waiting in front of it. Lucille felt her heart accelerate and her legs lose strength. She managed to get out of the car, but stood there, looking at the nervous young woman in front of her.
“Come on, dear,” her mother rushed her. “Don’t leave your girlfriend waiting.”
Lucille walked to Kat’s side. She didn’t take her girlfriend's hand, even though Kat tried to do it. Instead, she asked, in a very low voice:
“What is going on here?”
“I’m not sure,” Kat said, lowering her head. “She said I should come.”
“Come on, come on, it’s cold outside,” Elise rushed the girls inside the restaurant.
Kat was so pretty. With black jeans and blouse. She was even wearing a faint pink lipstick, which she rarely did. In any other occasion, Lucille would jump on her arms and steal a kiss. Now she couldn’t stop wondering what her mother was planning.
Elise guided them to a table where her husband was already waiting. She sat beside him and invited the two girls to sat across them. John gave Kat a curious look.
“Oh, yeah, this is Katherine Porter,” Elise told her husband. “She’s our baby’s girlfriend.”
The man looked at his wife. He looked like he was trying to understand his wife’s intention. But after some seconds, he turned to Kat and offered his hand and a smile. To greet his daughter, he got up and gave her a hug.
When Lucille sat back, her hands were shaking. Kat probably realized it, because she squeezed one of them below the table, away from Elise’s eyes. Lucille gave out a sigh. It was reassuring having her girlfriend’s touch.
“Mom!” She said, but Elise rose her hand.
“Let’s order something.”
They told their order to the waiter, who went away. Lucille couldn’t understand the situation. She was too conscious of her surroundings. Her mother and her girlfriend reunited together with her was a dream she had, but not like that. She was scared. It looked more like a nightmare.
The waiter brought their orders. There was a bottle of wine that Elise asked. Opening it, she looked at Kat.
“Do you drink?” She asked. Kat shook her head. “I see. You look like a good influence, at least.”
Elise poured a little on her own glass and took a sip. Her husband also started eating, but Lucille and Kat didn’t touch their plates. Lucille’s face was pale. She was looking at her mother, trying to discern any emotion on her face.
The Christmas song around them just made everything worse. The clash between the atmosphere and her feelings was suffocating her. The lights in the Christmas tree close to her was making her head hurt.
“Aren’t you hungry?” Elise asked.
“Stop that,” Lucille said, with a low voice.
“What are you planning?!” She rose her voice. Everyone around them looked at their table. Kat took Lucille’s hands again, trying to calm her down. “I-I’m sorry,” Lucille said and felt tears rising up to her eyes.
“I don’t get it,” Elise said, with a serious face. “What is your problem? I just invited my dear daughter to dinner on Christmas Eve. Isn’t that what a mother should do?”
“Don’t be cynical. You know what my problem is,” Lucille tried to control her voice so those around them wouldn’t hear. “Is this some kind of game? Why did you bring Kat?”
“Katherine Porter. She’s your...” Elise paused and threw a look at Kat, who avoided her eyes. “She’s your girlfriend, isn’t she?
“Cut down this bullshit already!” Lucille failed to control her tone again. Kat hugged her girlfriend’s arm.
“Calm down love,” Kat whispered in her girlfriend’s ear. Lucille didn’t manage to control her tears anymore and started crying. Kat looked at Elise. “Misses Barker. I’m happy for the invitation, but you should be honest with your daughter. I know you don’t,” she paused and pressed her lips. “You’re not okay with a relationship like ours. So you shouldn’t play with your daughter’s feelings like that. She loves you a lot, so please, be fair to her!”
Lucille was surprised to hear such a composed voice coming from Kat. She was usually so shy around strangers and now she was standing up against Elise, who was really intimidating. Getting closer, Lucille realized her girlfriend’s heart beating fast.
“You owe me apologies,” Elise said, looking at Lucille. Her husband touched her arm and asked her to calm down. “I am calm. At least, compared to our daughter.”
“Apologize?” Lucille gave her mother a defiant look, her eyes wet by tears. “Apologize for what exactly? Apologize for loving someone?”
“No. For not telling me. You think it’s okay for your own mother to know it by someone else’s mouth? That’s not how I raised you.”
Lucille made an incredulous face.
“Oh, should I tell you?” She said and gave a sarcastic laugh. “Sure, mom, sure. I should call you and tell ‘oh, by the way, you know one of those people you’re always calling disgusting? Well, I’m one of them!’,” she paused and wiped the tears in her eyes. “Or what? Are you telling me you changed your mind suddenly? Now you’re fine with it?”
“My mind didn’t change one bit,” Elise said, with a cold voice. “I still believe that two women having a romantic relationship with each other is disgusting and immoral.”
“Look here…!” Lucille started, but Elise rose her hand, stopping her.
“I do think it’s disgusting and immoral. However, I could never talk about my dear daughter like that,” with Elise’s words, Lucille’s eyes widened. “I was in shock when I heard about it. Even more when I saw it. At that moment, I won’t lie, I felt like I had lost my daughter. My first thought was to make you two break up somehow. I could try it in so many ways. I could make you choose between her or your family, for example.”
Lucille threw her mother a horrified look as Elise took another sip of her wine unperturbed.
“But you know,” Elise continued. “The smile you had when you were with this girl was so beautiful that I couldn’t take it off my mind. In the end, all a mother wants for her daughter is for her to be happy like that. So, while I can’t fully accept it yet, I don’t want to make my daughter cry anymore. And that’s why,” she turned her face to Kat. “As long as you keep my daughter smiling, I’m willing to support your relationship.”
Lucille looked at her mother without believing it. There were still tears in her eyes, but she was struggling with her mouth’s muscles trying not to form a smile.
“Y-You’re not joking, right?” The corners of her mouth finally formed a smile. “What you just said, you really mean it?”
“The reason why I invited young Katherine here wasn’t that I wanted to provoke you or play some twisted game. I’m willing to allow her to be part of our family. And since this is a family celebration, her place is here, sitting on your side.”
“Ah… Ah…” Lucille couldn’t control it anymore. She started to cry, this time with a smile on her face. She didn’t care anymore about all faces turning to look at her. She hugged Kat and cried on her chest. Kat passed her hand through her girlfriend’s hair.
“Thanks,” Kat said to Elise, with a smile on her own face. “Thanks for giving your daughter a chance.”
“But know this,” Elise said, facing Kat. “If you ever make my baby suffer, I’ll be your worst enemy.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it, misses Barker,” Kat said, still caressing Lucille’s hair. “But right now, you’re the one who made her cry,” she said with a smirk.
Elise smiled and stood up. She still hadn’t finished her food.
“I’ll take some air,” she said and walked away, seeming to be in a hurry.
John also followed his wife. Before that, he gave Kat a sympathetic look and said:
“I need to comfort my girl as well.”
It was ten minutes left for midnight. They all had finished dinner and Elise suggested them to walk through the park until Christmas Day came. The park was full of people, probably with the same idea. Everyone was either talking to each other or singing songs. The park was illuminated with all the Christmas decoration.
Lucille was holding her girlfriend’s hand and had a huge smile on her face, which was a contrast with her eyes, still red from crying. She was almost skipping of happiness. Her smile was directed sometimes to Kat, sometimes to her parents.
When the clock finally marked midnight, Lucille threw herself on her mother’s arms, hugging her.
“Merry Christmas and thank you so much, mom,” she said with emotion on her voice. “This night was the best present I could ask.”
“No, baby,” Elise said, putting her hand on her daughter’s face. “I, uh, shouldn’t say all those things without thinking either. I realize my words hurt you before, so, I’m sorry for that,” that was the only time Lucille ever saw her mother apologizing for something. “I want to say it doesn’t matter what happens, I’ll always love you. Merry Christmas, my dear. From now on, if something I say hurts you, please tell me.”
“Can I teach you to be more tolerant?”
“You can try,” Elise said with a smirk. “My feelings didn’t change. Well, maybe that’s not completely true. Something that makes my daughter happy can’t be that bad.”
“Oh, speaking of which. If you were willing to accept Kat, why didn’t you talk to me before? Like, when you came to get me, or even before that?”
“That is…” Elise paused and looked at Kat, who had her face red and looked embarrassed. “I was a little upset, I guess, that you would hide something like that from me. You did say you would invite me to your marriage.”
“We’re not married, though! I did plan to tell you eventually. But I was afraid...”
“I understand why you hid it, but it still hurts me that you couldn’t trust me. I always said I would be on your side.”
Kat got close to Lucille and hugged her girlfriend’s waist.
“B-By the way, Misses Barker, Mister Barker, uh, Merry Christmas. And also,” she said. “Tomorrow, well, today, I guess, we’re going to have a Christmas party at my home. We would be happy if you two could come too.”
“Are you sure?” Elise asked.
“I want you there. I mean, we do, right?” She said, looking at her girlfriend.
“Of course,” Lucille said with a big smile. “Nothing would make me happier right now.”
“Well, we’ll be there, then,” Elise said and gave Kat a smile. “Katherine. You’re a nice girl. All things considered, I think we’re lucky to have someone like you in the family. Well, I trust my daughter’s judgment.”
“O-Oh yeah,” Kat put her hand on the inside of her blouse and took a wrapped box. She gave it to Lucille. “M-Merry Christmas to you, love.”
“Oh,” Lucille took the box in her hand with a smile. “Thanks. I didn’t buy anything for you, though. With everything that happened, I forgot about it completely.”
“Don’t worry about that. You can open it now if you want.”
Lucille unwrapped and opened the box. Inside was the blue anemones necklace.
“This is beautiful, but, how do you know I like…?”
Kat threw a look at Elise, who smiled at her.
“Well, someone who knows you better told me.”
Lucille threw an understanding look at her mother. She put the necklace in that same moment, remembering how everything made her forget to wear one for that.
“So, do I look pretty?” she asked with a smile.
“You always do,” Kat and Elise said at the same time. Kat lowered her head embarrassed, but Elise just let out a smile.
“Apparently we have something in common,” Elise said and scratched her cheek. She seemed a little embarrassed for the first time as she talked to Kat. “Anyway, it’s Christmas. Won’t you give your girlfriend a kiss to celebrate?”
“Ah, I-I’m not sure that is...” Kat said, turning her eyes to the ground again.
“If it’s because of me, don’t worry. I might not be used to it, but I did saw you two doing it once, already. And I can tell my daughter wants it...”
“No, mom, don't worry. That’s not it. She’s shy and can’t do it when we’re in public. On these times, that’s on me,” Lucille said and pulled Kat’s face up, giving a soft kiss on her lips. Kat’s face became completely red. “Merry Christmas to you, my little kitten,” Lucille said with a smile.
“Your… little kitten?” Elise asked.
“Oh, that is… a long story…” Lucille said with a laugh.