Franny blinked, it seems, and the calendar went from Thanksgiving to the week before Christmas. She and Leo decided to spend the holiday together, just the two of them, knowing that New Year’s Eve will bring more socializing.
It’s been ages since they spent more than a few hours together without something to do, someone to take care of. They feel a longing for the gift of aimlessness within their intimacy.
She fully intended to spend Christmas Eve night lovemaking, and to get up early the next morning to make a big breakfast for the two of them. Instead, she fell asleep while they watched a DVD of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” woke just long enough to move herself into bed, and then opens her eyes to full daylight and the delightful smell of onions frying in olive oil.
“Good morning, princess,” Leo greets her with a smile.
“What happened?” she asks. “Did I sleep through Christmas?”
“You needed it,” he answers. “You didn’t even wake up when I came to bed. I was afraid you were sick or something, then I heard you snore.” His eyes twinkle.
“I don’t snore, you do,” she answers out of habit.
“Never fear, it’s still Christmas, my love,” he goes on. “Breakfast will be ready soon.”
Allison wakes up Christmas morning and decides to walk down to the Methodist church, one of the most inclusive in town. She hasn’t been inside a church for anything other than a concert or rummage sale for decades. Something about this year, however, makes her want to commune with others and something larger than herself.
After a strong coffee and hot shower, she bundles up against the cold and trudges the six blocks or so to the church. Before she steps inside, she stomps the snow off her boots and brushes it off her jacket, partly not wanting to track it inside, and partly giving herself time to second-guess going in. Before she can talk herself out of it, a familiar voice greets her warmly.
“Hi there, I didn’t know you came here,” Rosa says.
“I don’t, normally,” Allison answers, wondering if she should turn away, if this particular day is a service just for the faithful.
“Oh, well then, it’s even better you came today. We mostly just sing. It’s really moving, and really fun.” Rosa takes her arm, and they go in together.
David and Penny join Louisa and Douglas for brunch. Their small gathering is full of laughter, and David notices how Penny’s eyes shine at her grandfather. He finds this comforting enough to keep his grief in check, mostly, although at one point he goes into the kitchen to make another pot of tea and breaks down in tears.
His father comes in, gathers him into a hug, and they hold on for dear life until the tears slow. Without words, they return to Louisa and Penny and laughter.
Kassandra drives the little car she borrowed from Jeeves out to River’s place, slowly and carefully over the lumpy snow left on the roads by the plows. They share a vegan lunch with the family, enjoying stories and warm apple cider made from their own apples.
River takes Kassandra aside after the meal. “I know what we need to make next,” they say, and when Kassandra hears their idea, she can only nod in full agreement.