A/N Here is is! The final chapter of Home for Christmas. I hope everyone likes it, and thanks to all those who have been reading, reviewing and alerting this story along the way. Thank you all so much! Don't worry though, there's more to come from these characters, I have LOTS of ideas rattling round in my head. They basically won't shut up. So keep an eye out for what happens next.
Disclaimer: Not mine, but maybe Santa will be kind this year.
When the sound of stomping feet and the shouts of "Mummy! Eric! Santa's been!" woke us up, it was, according to the bedside clock, only 5.47am. It did feel really early.
"Mum!" Amelia said, arriving in the bedroom. "Get up! Santa brought me a trampoline!" She was practically vibrating with excitement.
"Oh" I said, hauling myself up, "Oh, well actually it was…" but Eric cut me off. "It's for you and Felicia" he said, "It's not just yours."
"But she's a baby!" said Amelia.
"Yeah, but she won't always be a baby, so it's for both of you."
"Fine!" Amelia conceded, "But you have to come now, because I want to go on it." With that she ran out of the room.
I turned to Eric. "Um, she thinks Santa brought it. I was trying to tell her. I think you're Santa now. Is that OK? 'Cos I could still tell her."
"Nah, it's cool. I can live with being Santa. I don't think she really cares one way or the other at the moment." Sure enough the next thing we heard was Amelia shouting "Come ON!" followed by a yell from Felicia who'd been woken up by all the noise.
"OK" I said to Eric. "You go and take Amelia to the trampoline; I'll go and get Felicia up."
He looked at me for a moment and then said "But you're coming aren't you? To the trampoline?"
"Yeah, but I better get Felicia before I go and admire how high Amelia can jump."
"Mmm, maybe you and Felicia could get on it too."
"Oh, well. Maybe. I'll see you out there."
I wasn't really that worried that Amelia had decided the trampoline had come from Santa. The chances of getting much gratitude out of her were probably slim to none anyway, even I realised that kids at Christmas were all about the gifts and not about the thanks.
What I really wanted though was to get Sookie on that trampoline before she got dressed and put a bra on. So I took Amelia out and helped her climb onto it, but I admit that although she kept yelling "Eric! Watch me!" every few seconds, I kept looking at the house hoping that Sookie was just going to get Felicia up and get out here. Like now. Hopefully before Andy was awake, because he was an OK guy, and it was nice of him to help build the trampoline, but I really didn't want him getting a free show.
Thankfully Sookie was outside with Felicia before too much time had passed, and she was still wearing just the tank top she'd slept in. Felicia was shouting "Ma ma ma da da" at the sight of Amelia jumping around, so I guess even she knew there was something new there.
Sookie came and stood next to me "So I take it it's a hit then?" she asked, as Amelia yelled "Look at me jumping, Mummy!"
"Yeah, seems to be one. Are you going to take Felicia on there?"
"Oh, well yeah, I guess I could sit on there with her for a bit. Here you hold her while I climb through the net." I took Felicia off her. Sit, I thought. Well that didn't fucking sound like fun.
It was for Felicia who giggled a lot as she and Sookie bounced gently near the edge, but it wasn't for Amelia who kept fretting that Felicia was taking up too much space, or for me.
After a few minutes however Amelia started asking Sookie to bounce with her. "Well, hang on" said Sookie, "I'm helping Felicia enjoy it at the moment. Maybe in a little while."
"Muuuuum! Please! You have to jump with me!" Amelia whined. I'd never been so fucking thankful for the whining in my life. Surely Sookie would have to give in to the whining?
"OK" Sookie huffed. She shuffled over to the opening in the net. "Here, you take Felicia" she said, handing her to me. Then she stood up and bounced. Briefly, before, I guess, she realised what the whole no-bra effect was like. It was awesome, so it was possibly a good thing for me that she stopped when she did or else it could have been embarrassing.
Best Christmas ever.
Sookie climbed down and held her arms out for Felicia. "Your turn" she said.
"You get to have a turn now."
"Um, I'm not really sure if it'll take my weight…"
Sookie looked me up and down. "I think you'll be fine for a bit on there. Go on."
"Yay! Eric!" Amelia joined in. I looked at Sookie. "I don't think you have a choice" she said. "Plus" she whispered "Now I can perv at you". I looked at her. "You are so obvious Eric, now go and join Amelia for a few minutes and then we'll go inside. God knows, Amelia's shouting so much she's probably woken the neighbourhood by now. They are going to LOVE us this morning."
I didn't think I was that fucking obvious at all. But I hauled myself onto the trampoline and jumped a few times to appease Amelia and Sookie. "Come on!" Sookie called "Let's go inside and see what else Santa brought."
"What else?" Amelia asked, looking at me with a puzzled expression. "I got a trampoline."
"Well there might be other stuff" I said.
"Well, yeah." I got off the trampoline and lifted Amelia down.
"Mummy! There's other stuff!" Amelia shouted as she sprinted past Sookie and Felicia who were halfway back to the house by now.
I caught up to them as they reached the deck. "Jeez" Sookie said "We could have stopped at the tramp and she wouldn't have noticed."
"Doesn't she realise how this works?" I asked.
"Well, she kind of does I guess. But I don't think she really remembers last year all that much. Probably just as well, it wasn't the best day. It was a bit sombre. I just remember lying next to the tree feeling pretty fat and watching Amelia open presents. I'd had to wrap some stuff up for me as well so 'Santa' had visited more than just Amelia. And of course Bill didn't bother to come until it was her bedtime, so it was almost a good thing we had lunch with the Comptons as we needed the distraction of watching a good shouting match."
"Oh." Shit, that sounded like a really fucking crappy Christmas. And I knew what crappy Christmases were like.
By this stage we'd reached the living room and Amelia was dancing around the piles of presents on the floor. "These are mine!" Amelia announced. "See, starts with an 'A'!", and she pointed to where her name was embroidered on the pillowcase.
"Yep, they're yours. So you can open them now if you want…" Amelia had already started tearing paper off, so Sookie's go-ahead was a bit redundant.
She seemed to like what she was getting. Felicia still seemed to like the paper better, but Sookie and I helped her open her presents, until Amelia, having finished with her pile, demanded to be allowed to take over. When those were finished with and Amelia was back going through her horde I turned to Sookie and said "Your turn."
Amelia was really getting the hang of this present thing. Last year had been her first year able to really open them herself, but I think the general circumstances of the day had kept her somewhat restrained. This year, she was going all out, and was keen on 'helping' Felicia with hers too. It was going to be a shock to her next year when Felicia wanted to open her own.
When we'd got through all the Santa gifts Eric handed me something from under the tree. It was tiny, wrapped in very pretty paper and felt suspiciously like a jewellery box. Shit, I thought, I'm going to kill him. I also realised that I may have bought him very stink presents.
I almost didn't want to open it, but Amelia looked at me and said "Can I open it?" and Eric said, "No, this one's Mommy's" and I figured I'd better get on with it before she ripped it out of my hand. So I murmured "Mummy!" in his direction and took off the paper. Yep, it was indeed a jewellery box. Bastard.
I stared at it for a moment then lifted the lid. Inside was a necklace. A delicate gold chain with two little hearts threaded onto it. "Oh" I said. "Oh, Eric, it's lovely! Thank you!"
"So, you like it then?" he asked, at the same time as Amelia demanded "What is it?"
"It's a necklace. And yes, I do like it very much." I lifted it out of the box to put it on and noticed that there was something engraved on the hearts. One said Amelia and the other Felicia and on the back were their dates of birth. Oh. Well that was, very, very cool.
I looked at Eric, who was looking a bit worried. "I didn't know what to get you" he said, "So I talked to a jeweller who suggested this because he'd made one before, so I thought it sounded like a good idea. But I had to get the dates from Tara. And, you know, you can always add to it, if you have more kids…" he trailed off.
I leaned over and kissed him. "It's lovely" I said "It really is. I've never had anything so nice, or so personal before. It's just…lovely…" I had to stop for a moment before I did something dumb like cry.
Eric gathered me in his arms and whispered "Your lip's wobbling. I'll assume that's because you do really like it." He helped me get the necklace done up and I looked down at it.
"I really, really do" I said, leaning against him. Amelia came over holding a package of gaudy green plastic jewellery. "Santa brought me a Tinkerbell necklace! I want to put it on." So I opened the package and she put all the jewellery on. It really went with her pyjamas and the tiara she was already wearing.
"I might need my fairy wings..." she said racing off.
I extricated myself from Eric and went to get his presents from under the tree, stopping to move some of Amelia's things out of Felicia's grasp; she'd seen an opportunity when Amelia left the room and gone for it.
"I hope these are OK" I said, handing them to Eric.
"I'm sure they'll be great" he said, taking the paper off the first one. I'd bought him Michael King's History of New Zealand. "Oh, excellent" Eric said when he looked at it. "Thank you." He kissed me.
"Well I thought you might be interested. You'll probably end up knowing more than most Kiwis do. Luckily, it's not a very long book because we don't have a very long history."
Eric smiled and opened up the next present. I'd bought him a GPS. "Scared of losing me, are you?" he asked.
"Scared of you getting lost! I was going to get you an actual book of street maps, but I wasn't convinced you'd know how to read them, plus the fact I'm scared that if you take your eyes off the road you'll drift to the right and cause an accident. But, you know, I hope you like it."
"I do. It will be very useful. Thank you." He kissed me again and then went back to reading the box, so he seemed happy with it.
Amelia arrived back with fairy wings and sparkly ballet shoes on. "Do you want to give Eric the presents from you and Felicia?" I asked her.
"What?" she said.
I handed them to her. "Give these to Eric."
"Oh. OK." She shoved them in Eric's general direction and went back to re-organising her own things and glaring at Felicia.
The first one Eric opened was nominally from Amelia. It was a photo taken the day we went to beach, showing me Felicia and Amelia. Amelia was grinning, Felicia looked a bit worried and I had serious beach hair. But I'd had it framed as it was the only one of the three of us I had.
"I thought that if you ever figure out what you're going to do you might have a desk. Although for God's sake don't put that anywhere other people will see, OK?"
"You look lovely in it" Eric said.
"Yeah, I don't. But thanks anyway."
Eric rolled his eyes and opened the present from Felicia. It was a Christmas ornament, with his name on it in glitter. "Oh" he said "It's like yours and Amelia's."
"Yeah. Felicia got hers too this year, as it's her first Christmas. Judith makes them with the kids at her daycare so she's always made them for the family. I'm just not that artistic."
He got up and hung it on the tree, stopping to kiss Felicia and Amelia on the head on his way, and gave another two presents to Amelia who looked confused. He pointed at me and she handed them over, and then lost interest again.
I opened the one from Amelia. It was obviously one of her artworks, but it had been framed. I looked closely; it seemed to be four round blobs with arms near a really large spiky, green thing. "Amelia" I said "Is this us with the Christmas tree?"
She came over. "Yeah. See there's you, and Eric, and me, and Felicia. And that's Bob." She pointed to a squiggle I hadn't noticed before. "I can't really draw cats though."
"It's very good, thank you" I hugged her and she beamed. "The writing's good too." It said Merry Christmas Mommy Love Amelia in very shaky capitals. "Eric helped!" she said. Underneath he'd written Christmas 2010.
I opened Felicia's next. She'd disappeared into the kitchen so Eric went to retrieve her. It was another framed picture, only this time he'd obviously traced around Felicia's hands, although there was a small scribble that suggested she'd been allowed to hold the felt-tip for a while, and this time all the writing was Eric's.
"Thank you Felicia" I said. "Ma!" she said back happily. "And thank you too" I said to Eric.
"Yeah. I didn't know what, um…they wanted to get you, so we came up with this."
"Yeah, I like mine too. Thanks Ames!"
"What?" she said, having lost what was going on.
"And thank you Felicia" he kissed the top of her head. "Bub!" she gurgled.
"Can I go back on the trampoline?" asked Amelia.
"After breakfast" I said.
"Is it breakfast now? I'm hungry!"
"Yeah, OK. I'll get onto that then" Eric said. "You can have a shower if you like."
So I did. And as nice as it is showering with Eric, it was also nice showering alone when I knew I could take my time because he was dealing with the tiny Christmas fairy and her offsider. And breakfast. I wondered what we were getting.
When I arrived back in the kitchen Eric handed me a glass of champagne. Or, I guess, more properly methode champenoise. "Yay!" I said, clinking glasses and taking a sip. "All I really wanted when I was pregnant with Felicia was a glass of really dry bubbly and I couldn't bring myself to have any. So this Christmas is definitely looking up."
"Because you can drink alcohol?"
"Yeah…for lots of reasons. Like, I'm getting…scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for brekkie?"
"Yep. It's nearly ready. But I have one more thing for your first, follow me."
I frowned. "I thought we'd done presents?"
"Just one more, but I had to get it out of its hiding place."
I followed Eric out to the deck where there now sat a large, bright red, ottoman. Big enough for several people to sit on.
"Oh" I said, "That's huge!"
"Yeah. Well I thought it would be useful, you know. For sitting on when you're watching Amelia on the trampoline…and other things."
It dawned on me what he meant. I swatted his shoulder. "You shouldn't always count me as a sure thing!" I said.
"Yeah, you are. And I promise I'll turn the sensor light off next time." Eric smirked at me and I tried to give him a filthy look, but he just laughed at me. "Right, let's go and get breakfast" he said, walking inside.
"Where was it anyway?" I asked, following him.
"In the shed, uh, garage overnight. Calvin had it before that."
"Oh. Good plan."
Breakfast was very nice. Amelia liked her eggs but turned her nose up at the smoked salmon. Felicia enjoyed her scrambled yolks and liked the pieces of bagel I gave her because they made an interesting noise when you hurled them on the floor. Eric was right; she could throw a long way.
Afterwards I sent Eric off to the shower and went to make my Christmas phone calls. The one to Judith was pretty brief, she was mainly moaning about Lorena and Portia ruining the day. I sympathised.
"And I had to sit all the way through midnight mass last night with Mum going on and on about Calvin 'hanging out with Sookie's lover'. Honestly. Poor Eric. I don't know why she's got such a bee in her bonnet about it. It's none of her business."
"Yeah, well. Possibly she's lonely?" I theorised.
"How could she be lonely? She's got us all wrapped all around her little finger. I think it's just her payback for all those years she looked after Nanny Marija. I miss her."
Yeah, she was entertaining. Prone to yelling random things in Croatian that only Lorena could understand.
"You're going to her grave this morning?" I asked.
"Yep, but not until Portia is ready, and she's at church. Although it's a Baptist church so Mum doesn't think it's the real deal and is therefore all huffy about the whole thing, and so I won't be able to serve anyone lunch until the middle of the afternoon and I'm over it. Not to mention we'll probably get another round of 'why does Calvin spend so much time with Sookie's lover?", and if she starts that in front of Calvin himself then I'll get caught in the middle of them. Next year, I swear, we are going camping on Christmas Eve, far away from my family. Caroline has the bloody right idea."
There wasn't much I could say. Then I had a thought. "Actually" I said, "its fiancé, Eric is now my fiancé."
"Since, um, I don't know. The day before yesterday."
"Oh, well does Calvin know? He didn't say anything. He's useless at passing on information."
"No I think we forgot to say in all the excitement of the trampoline."
"Oh, well, that's great. Congratulations! Mum'll freak." She sounded really happy about that last part.
"Yeah, I guess it will make Christmas lunch interesting. And it'll keep her off your back for a bit."
"Yeah, I'll bear that in mind and pull out the news when Portia and Mum are going at it."
"Well, glad to be of use."
"Yeah. Good luck with your next mother-in-law!"
"Oh, um. Eric doesn't have a mum. She ran off when he was little apparently."
"Really? Wow. You lucked out! Calvin's mum's a nightmare, thank god she's in Jo'burg and not here or else I would have had to have it out with her by now."
Yeah, Judith was one of the fighting Comptons alright; I could see that coming out in Amelia occasionally. I couldn't think of much to say to that other than, "Right."
"Oh, sounds like Calvin's back with Mum. So I better go. Merry Christmas and say congrats to Eric too!"
"Yeah, I will do. Bye Judith."
Well it was good to know I could still give the Comptons something to talk about even if I wasn't there. I wonder how long before the news got to Caroline in Bali. I gave it eight hours maximum.
Next I had to ring Jason. I had no clue where he'd be so I rang his mobile. "Sookie, Merry Christmas!" he said when he finally answered it.
"Yeah, Merry Christmas to you too. Wow, it's noisy where you are, what's happening?"
"Oh, I'm at the marae. Been helping with the hangi for today. We had to dig the pits yesterday, so that was fuckin' hard work, eh? But it should be good. I went pig hunting with Crystal's dad to get the pork for it, eh?"
"You…shot a pig?"
"Yeah, couple, eh. It was choice. Gonna get my gun licence so I can get my own gun and go out with them more often."
Shit, I thought. Once upon a time the most lethal thing Jason owned was his souped up Subaru, now he was going to get a gun. What were these people thinking taking him hunting? I wanted to go and yell at them. I guess he was an adult, but still. It's Jason. They shouldn't be letting him take that kind of risk.
"Oh, that's great, Jase" I managed to stutter out. Just then someone in the background yelled something at Jason and he laughed "Yeah, ka pai Eddie! See you in the wharenui later, eh. E haere ra"
OK. That was my brother. Down with the Tangata Whenua.
"Wow, Jason. You know Maori!" I said, reasonably impressed.
"Yeah, well Crystal's trying to bring up the kids to be bilingual, eh? So she speaks it at home, and if I want to know what the fuck those kids are saying, then I gotta learn it too, eh. S'alright though. The kids are pretty hot on it though, 'cos they go to the Kohunga Reo. 'Cept for Wayne. Mostly he just swears a lot, little fucker."
I was quite impressed. Especially with Crystal, if she was able to bring the up kids knowing both languages. That was pretty cool, and I was slightly jealous of Jason.
"That's actually quite amazing Jason. I'm so impressed you can learn stuff, still, you know…at your age…"
"Fuck off Sookie! I'm not over the hill yet!"
"No, I just meant…well, you know. We're not that young anymore."
"Yeah, well I don't think I'll be speaking on the marae anytime soon, eh. But yeah, you're right, we're not that young. Shit, it doesn't seem that long ago since you were running around after me all over fuckin' Papatoetoe."
"Well Mum wouldn't buy me a bike! It wasn't fair!" I was aware that I still sounded a bit like I was four, but boy, that was an injustice I'd been holding onto for a long time, and I wasn't going to suddenly get over it today.
We were silent for a minute then Jason said, "Hang on", and I heard him yelling off into the distance "Oi! Wayne! If you don't fuckin' put that axe down now, there will be trouble! Don't fuckin' make me come over there!"
"Sorry" he said, speaking back into the phone.
I giggled. "You sounded just like Dad then, like he did when he was telling you off. It's uncanny!"
"Yeah, you sound like Mum sometimes too, eh? 'Specially when you go 'honestly Jason!' and sound all annoyed and shit. It's like I'm a kid again."
"I miss them" I blurted out. Jason was the only person I had left who got that.
"Yeah, me too. I wonder what they would have thought of how we turned out, eh?"
"Well, they probably wouldn't have picked you for a farmer! Remember the guinea pigs? You were crap at looking after them."
"Yeah, but they were boring as shit. I don't know why I wanted them."
"I liked them. And the cats thought they were interesting."
"Yeah, I hope they would have been pleased how I turned out, though, eh?"
"I'm sure they would have. I just wish they'd met my kids."
"Yeah, well wish Amelia and Felicia Merry Christmas from Uncle Jase. They must be pretty big now, eh?"
"Yeah, they are."
"I'll have to come and see you guys soon. Maybe when I go to Hamilton for Fieldays."
"Yeah, that sounds good." I was feeling a bit nostalgic and suddenly it didn't seem like such a bad idea to see my big brother after all.
"So you off to your in-laws today?" Jason asked.
"What? Oh no, we're staying here and having lunch. It's Eric's first year here."
"Oh, yeah. He's, um…" Hell, I thought, I might as well say it. "Well we're getting married."
"Sookie, what the fuck? When did this happen?"
"Oh, day before yesterday, I think? Remember I told you about him the last time I phoned."
"You said you were hooking up with someone, not fuckin' marrying them. You sure you're not rushing into this?"
"Yeah, I'm sure."
"Is he better to you than Bill was?"
"Well, Sook, shit. You're like my only family, eh? Apart from Crystal and the tamariki, so you know, I gotta look after you."
"Well, if he does anything tell him I'll come up there and kick his arse."
I snorted. "Yeah, Jason. Good luck with that!"
"Sookie, all those years playing league I know how to take someone down if I have to, eh?"
"Yeah, fine. I don't think you'll need to."
"Where'd you meet him, on-line?"
"No! At work. He's American."
"American? Shit!" Jason whistled. "Is he loaded?"
"Fuck off Jason! You don't ask people that!"
"Well I don't fuckin' know, eh? They all look pretty fancy when you see them on TV."
"I don't think that's real life. But he's OK. I don't think he's marrying me for my money, at any rate."
"Well, you just be careful. And send us an invitation to the wedding, I'll bring the whanau and you can meet them." Yeah, Jason would be thinking about the free feed he'd get out of it. Oh well, some things would never change.
There was another shout in the background, and Jason yelled "Hang ON!"
"OK Jase, well I'll let you get back to it" I said.
"Yeah, better go and see what Wayne's done now. Crystal's giving me the evils, like it's my fuckin' fault, eh?"
"Have a good Christmas, and take care."
"Yep, you too. Oh, and congratulations, I guess. About the wedding. Shit, maybe I won't bring Crystal it might give her fuckin' ideas. I SAID I WAS FUCKIN' COMING!"
"OK, bye then."
When I got out of the shower, Amelia was back on the trampoline and Sookie and Felicia were on the deck watching her. Sookie looked a bit sad though. "You OK?" I asked, sitting next to her on the new ottoman.
"Yeah, I just rang Jason and, well, it reminded me of how much I miss my parents." I put my arm around her and she put her head on my shoulder. She looked at me. "Are you missing anyone?" she asked.
"Honestly? No. Not at all."
"Not even your Dad?"
"Especially not my dad. He did not so much celebrate Christmas as use it as an excuse to get drunk more often and more publicly. It was more about just getting through it really."
"Shit. That's crappy. What about since then though, you don't have friends or anything you miss?"
"Nope. Really Sookie, this is where I want to be. I'm not regretting it, staying here."
"No, I didn't think you were, I just...I don't know, everyone has someone they miss."
I shrugged; there wasn't much I could say to that. If I was defective, then I was defective. "I would miss you" I said. "And Amelia and Felicia. But you're all here, so I'm good."
"Yeah, I'm good too. Oh, and Judith knows we're getting married, so I guess Lorena will soon too."
"Well, that should keep them interested for the afternoon. Gossiping about us."
"Yep. I kinda wish I could see Lorena's face when she finds out, but then again, I'm also glad I don't have to. She does miss Bill and it's just going to remind her, and on Christmas too. Shit, maybe I shouldn't have said anything?"
"Well, she'd have to find out eventually."
"I know. It does seem a bit mean though. Like we're gloating."
"Sookie, you can't make everyone happy all the time. And I think that Lorena is someone you're never going to make happy, no matter what you do."
"She's not your responsibility."
"But…" I wasn't sure how I wanted to phrase this. "Do you miss Bill too?"
"Um, not really, no. I think I missed him more this time last year when he was only in Onehunga getting high instead of with us. I feel like I've moved on, like he's a really distant memory. It's weird. Anyway, thank you for your part in that, Eric."
"You're most welcome." Fuck, I was glad Bill was history for her. I really didn't him fucking up all the good stuff like Christmas.
"Oh, and I told my brother we're getting married too, and he said he'll kick your arse if you hurt me."
"And he's getting a gun."
"So, what? He's going to make me marry you?" I was pretty fucking sure I wasn't going to need anyone putting a gun to my back. Sookie, I wasn't so sure about.
"Only if you're rich apparently. Anyway, we need to start moving on the food. Start up the barbecue."
"The Christmas pudding, I need to move it off the stove. Oh, and I'll sit the chicken on it when it's finished so I can free up the oven, and the potatoes. How anyone ever cooks Christmas lunch when it's cold I do not know."
"No, well they manage."
"They must put the barbecue in the garage or something."
"Yeah, or something."
I got the barbecue started and watched Amelia jump up and down some more. Fuck that kid had energy. Although the trampoline was doing an awesome job of keeping her occupied, and with the net she was stuck in there until one of us got her out. I wondered how long the novelty would last.
Sookie was busy in the kitchen so when she did want out, I had to go and rescue her. She was hot and looked a bit tired, but happy. It looked as though Santa had done a pretty good job with the presents.
I took her into the kitchen where she immediately went "I'm hungry, Mum. I want some of Eric's biscuits. Eric, can I?"
"If your mother says yes."
"What?" asked Sookie who was a bit distracted.
"Eric's biscuits!" Amelia shouted. "The ones in the box, I want some of the pink ones!" She was after some of the weird pink wafer cookies that came in the box that Judith and Calvin had given me.
"You can have two" Sookie said without looking up.
I watched as Amelia got herself a pink, plastic plate and went to get the box out of the pantry. And helped herself to four of the cookies. Sookie looked over at the plate. "I said two" she said.
"I didn't hear you."
"Well, you can have two."
"I want four."
"How about…if I eat two, then there'll be two?" Amelia looked thrilled with that logic, and I was struggling to keep a straight face.
"It doesn't work like that" Sookie informed her.
"Yeah. It does!" Amelia was obviously worried that Sookie had failed basic maths somewhere along the line.
Sookie sighed. "Fine! But only because it's Christmas." Amelia skipped off. I noticed that she was getting away with a lot of stuff because it was Christmas. I wondered if that concession would extend to me as well.
About a minute later Amelia was back and showed Sookie her plate. "See!" she said. "I ate two and now there's two left! It does work that way."
"Amelia, honey. If you ate two and then you eat another two, you still eat four. I said you could only eat two. It doesn't matter how many are on the plate."
"Oh" Amelia finally got it, then realised she'd come out on top. "Oh well" she said and raced off smiling.
"She's going to try that on me again now" Sookie said.
Sookie gathered herself. "Right, OK. Now, you can take the chicken out to the barbecue then come back and slice the ham, by which stage I think the potatoes will be almost done, and the rest of the veges will be about there. So I'll make the cheese sauce and the gravy, and then you can bring the chicken back in and carve it, OK?"
"Um, OK. So chicken goes out first?"
"Yeah, it's here in tinfoil."
"I think you'll find that's aluminium."
"Yeah, whatever. Kitchen help doesn't get to be smart though, not if it wants to eat the food later on, so chop, chop, mate. Snap to it!"
I shut up and did as I was told before Sookie got any more snarky. The day so far had been going well; I did not want to be the one responsible for pushing her over the edge. With any luck, if anyone did push her over it would be one of the kids and I could pick up the pieces. I was starting to realise that it all worked a bit better if I just concentrated on keeping Sookie sane.
A little while later I was standing in the kitchen trying to figure out how on earth you were supposed to carve a chicken. I'd already been told once to just hurry up and do it. All of a sudden I felt something on the back of my calves. And heard some giggling. I twisted and looked down as best I could. Felicia had decided to pull herself up again, only this time, she was using me for balance.
Sookie wasn't looking in my direction, and she shoved a bowl at me and said "Take that to the table".
"Um, I'm kind of stuck."
"Stuck?" Sookie looked over, and I nodded in Felicia's direction. "Oh" she said. "Well, yeah, you are. She looks really pleased with herself for coming up with that idea."
"How long do you think she'll stay there?" Felicia was still giggling away to herself.
"Until she gets tired. Although you seem to be taking a lot of her weight, so I don't know. Hopefully you won't miss lunch."
"Ha ha. I'm counting on you to rescue me if it comes to that."
"Yeah, but she needs the standing practice, so you know…it would be a shame…" Sookie stepped around us and carried something to the table, and then she disappeared from view, returning a minute later with the camera.
"Right, everybody. Smile!" she said pointing it at us. "Bub!" Felicia yelled, sitting down on her bottom.
"I just got that, I think. Here have a look." Sookie brought the camera over and showed me the picture. Felicia was grinning enormously. "She thinks she's pretty clever doing that" Sookie commented.
"Well, she is."
"Yeah, be prepared to be used as a solid object from here on in I think." Sookie said, going back to the food preparation. I wasn't sure whether to be pleased or not that Felicia saw me as a part of the furniture. It was actually kind of nice in a way. I liked it when they all needed me for shit, even if all that was required was that I just stand there and not move.
It felt a bit weird eating Christmas lunch in the middle of a hot day with all the doors and windows open, but the food more than made up for it. Although I seemed to be the only one eating most of it. Sookie declared she was kind of over it having cooked the meal, and Amelia was far too excited to eat much. Felicia had a small plate with bits of food on it, but a lot ended up on the floor. I just turned a blind eye to the small plate with pieces of chicken and ham put aside which was obviously for Bob. Fuck, let him enjoy Christmas as well. Although I guess no one was going to make him wear a stupid paper hat like I had to.
All in all it was fucking awesome. Probably the first family Christmas I'd ever had. I was starting to understand why people made such a big deal about the holiday. I'd always wondered why half the staff in my office were trying to be somewhere else on Christmas day so they could celebrate with their families. It sounded like a lot of fucking effort for nothing to me, I mean, shit. It was just sitting around with a bunch of people you were related to, where was the fun in that? But I kind of got it now. And I had no intention of missing any Christmases with Sookie and the kids.
When Sookie and I were standing in the kitchen after lunch, packing away leftovers and stacking the dishwasher, I leaned over and kissed her. "Thank you" I said.
"Oh, no problem. It was just a roast really."
"No, not just lunch…just, Christmas, and, well, everything."
"Oh, OK. Well you're very welcome. I like having you here at Christmas. Last year everything was just so…broken. And now it's not. I like being part of a family again. So thank you, Eric."
Just then Amelia went past. One of her presents from Santa had been a broom, which Sookie insisted wasn't weird at all because 'she likes to help me with the cleaning!' Only now she was using the broom like it was a hobby horse. "Look!" she shouted "I'm a witch!"
Sookie glanced up. "Yeah, 'course you are sweetheart."
"What happened to the fairy thing?" I asked.
"I think it's a five minute wonder" Sookie said.
Lunch had been a success, and now we got to the bit of Christmas I actually liked. The sitting around eating chocolates part of the day.
I finished cleaning up in the kitchen and went to sit on the deck on my new ottoman. Amelia was back on the trampoline. Eric was playing with his GPS and working out how to get it to give him distances in miles, which seemed like a totally wasted exercise when all the street signs were going to be in kilometres anyway. He really needed to move into the 21st century.
"Do you think maybe it would be easier to just recalibrate you for metric?" I asked him, as I sat down.
"There's nothing wrong with me! I just don't get the way you guys measure distance is all. It's fucking weird." He went back to his task with a lot of muttering, but I recognised it as happy muttering. He seemed to be having fun.
"Mum! Come and jump too!" Amelia yelled.
"Mummy's a bit tired" I yelled back.
"Go on" said Eric. I rolled my eyes. "Well, you know, it is Christmas" he said.
"Muuuuum!" Amelia yelled again.
"Fine, here I come" I yelled.
That trampoline was a fucking brilliant idea on my part. As long as Amelia didn't want me to get on it again. It wasn't really my thing. Sookie, however, definitely her thing.
She didn't stay on there for long though, and she climbed out and started walking back across the lawn. I was still trying to figure out how the GPS worked. I could probably have read more of the instructions but those things are usually written for idiots and could do with some serious editing. I was pretty convinced I could work it out.
Just as Sookie was coming back up the steps to the deck, Bob appeared, and of course he fucking had something in his mouth. Fuck, if he gave that to me and ruined the afternoon he was finding a fucking new home.
Sookie froze, waiting for him to go past and give whatever the fuck it was to me. But he didn't, he marched right up to Sookie and dropped a half dead looking flower at her feet.
"Oh. Pohutakawa! Thank you Bob!" Sookie said. Fuck, she seemed impressed.
"What is it?" I asked, trying to see.
"Po-hoo-tar-car-wah" Sookie enunciated. "New Zealand Christmas tree it's known as, because it blossoms at this time of year, and it's red. Bob must have brought it over from Halleigh and Andy's"
"Oh, thank you Bob." She picked him up and hugged him to her chest. "Come on Bob, baby. I've got Christmas lunch for you inside." She put her face in his fur, and then started to carry him in to the kitchen. I swear that cat fucking smirked at me as he went past. I think he's smarter than any of us give him credit for. He certainly knows how to play Sookie.
At that point though Amelia needed a drink and I had to go and get her out of the trampoline.
By the evening Amelia was starting to wilt big time. Felicia had at least had a nap, but the early start, combined with all that time on the trampoline, turned Amelia into a bit of a pain in the bum. There was a lot of whinging and some crying when I said no more biscuits. Eric was great though; he took her for a walk up the street for a little bit to snap her out of the mood.
We had leftovers for dinner, well I picked at things. Eric had ham and chicken sandwiches. Amelia had a marmite sandwich and then we sent her off to bed because she was just about dropping off at the table. She wanted to sleep with the broom though. And she asked a few times if the trampoline would still be there in the morning. Unfortunately, we couldn't fit that in her bed with her.
Felicia was less interested in bedtime and it took her a while to stop moving around and singing "Ba ba ba ba" to herself. I pottered around doing the last bit of clean up and I fretted. I knew that Eric liked his GPS, you could tell because he was still playing with it, but at the same time...my necklace was amazing. It was handmade and personalised and just…wow. I felt a bit like I'd short-changed him somewhere. I just wasn't sure what else I could do.
To top it all off I wasn't sure he'd got the right idea about how I felt about getting married. I was trying so hard to get over my fears for that, because really when I sat down and thought about it, it was the alternative, the one where Eric wasn't here, that felt wrong. But I'd caught Eric looking at me, as if he was scared I was going to change my mind.
So I was standing in the kitchen absent-mindedly wiping the bench when Eric came in. "Hey" I said, "So have you got it all sorted out?"
"Um, pretty much, I think. We need to go somewhere to test it."
"Well, we could take a drive tomorrow, maybe go out to Piha?"
"Yeah, that sounds good."
"And then watch the cricket when we get back."
"You'll like it, it's not like it's a five day test or anything."
"They play for five days?"
"Yeah, and sometimes even after all that time, it's a draw."
"You'll get used to it."
"I'm really not sure I want to. Anyway, let's go and sit outside." Eric opened the other bottle of bubbly and handed me a glass. I followed him out to the deck and we sat on the ottoman, with the bottle on the deck next to us.
"I really like this" I said, patting the ottoman.
"Yeah, I hoped you would. We can test it later on."
"Dream on. First it has to get dark enough, and late enough that everyone in the neighbourhood is asleep, and then..."
Eric cut me off. "Just shut up and drink your champagne. It will seem like a better idea soon."
I giggled. "Are you trying to get me drunk?"
Eric looked at me, "Would I?" he asked.
I snorted. "Don't even try to look innocent. It doesn't suit you."
We were quiet for a bit, and then Eric said "Well it is getting later, the stars are starting to come out."
"Yeah…hey, do they look different?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, it's a different hemisphere, so you know, the stars are different. So if you'd lived like, oooh, a thousand years ago or something you'd be totally lost because you wouldn't be able to find any of the markers you were used to, and you'd never get home. So, do they?"
"Um, no, not really…"
"Yeah. I couldn't tell the difference when I lived in London. I kind of suck with stars; I can't even find the Southern Cross."
"Yeah, it's on our flag. And the Australian one, but they went for accuracy over aesthetics and it's not as good."
We were silent again and then Eric said "I don't really need stars though."
"I don't really need the stars to figure out where home is. I think you're the only marker I need for that."
"Oh. Oh, that's really lovely."
"No lip wobbling though!" Eric warned.
"I wasn't!" Eric leaned over and we kissed. And then I had an idea. I suddenly realised what it was I wanted to say.
"I feel like, well…I love my necklace. It's beautiful, and the fact that it celebrates my daughters... I mean, poor old Felicia her birth kind of got over-shadowed by everything else that was happening and she missed out a bit. But this reminds me just how special it was, and how lucky I am to have them, even if Amelia drives me nuts. So, thank you for that. The fact that you, I don't know…recognise the fact that it's special is just amazing. You're amazing. And I love you very much."
"I love you too Sookie."
"And so, what I really wanted to say is…" I paused and took a deep breath. Eric was looking at me really intently waiting see where this is going, and I had to fight my natural instincts to look away and avoid his gaze. "Eric, I want you to know that despite the fact I've been a bit…skittish the last couple of days, I really do want to spend the rest of my life with you. I don't have a lot to offer, just me and half share in each of my kids. So, Eric Northman, will you marry me?"
Eric broke out into a grin. "Sookie Stackhouse, it would be my pleasure." And then we kissed again, clinking our glasses in a toast when we broke apart.
Fuck, this was definitely the best Christmas ever. "So" I said, pouring Sookie some more champagne, "it's a lot darker now".
"Yeah, it's definitely getting darker."
"Drink up your champagne then."
"I can't believe you bought this specifically to have sex on."
"Well, not specifically for that. But it did cross my mind. And at the moment, I'm having trouble thinking about anything else."
"Yeah, I'm kind of starting to see your point." She finished her champagne and said "Right, I'll be back in a minute." I heard her moving around the house while I drained my glass. Fuck, Sookie had actually asked me to marry her. She really did want this. She really did want me.
The lights in the house turned off and Sookie re-appeared on the deck. "I remembered the sensor light" she said, handing me a blanket and a condom.
I stood up and wrapped the blanket around my waist and dropped my shorts and underwear. Sookie just giggled. "What?" I asked.
"This is so not romantic."
"No, but it's hot."
"Yeah, it is. Fine, we can do romance later."
"Ooh, there's a later? Remind me to pace myself."
Sookie sat next to me and we kissed and I managed to get her t-shirt pushed up and her bra pulled down which gave me access to her nipple. I was pleasantly surprised when I ran my hand up under her skirt to find she'd lost her panties at some point when she'd been in the house. And she was fucking wet.
She stuck her hand under the blanket and stroked me, before I put the condom on and opened up the blanket so she could straddle my legs. She lowered herself onto me and both of us let out a sigh of relief. Sookie wrapped her arms around my shoulders and began to move. Fuck this was awesome, she was awesome. I was so fucking lucky.
"I love you Sookie" I said.
"I love you too"
And then she stopped, and I wondered what the hell had happened. "What?" I asked.
"Sssh!" Sookie said. And then I heard it too. Voices. Andy and Halleigh's voices, they must have been sitting on their deck. They couldn't see us, but they might have been able to hear us.
Sookie began to move again, she was biting her lip trying to keep quiet. When she came, clamping hard around me, she buried her face in my shoulder to keep quiet. When I came, just after, I couldn't help myself. I said "Sookie!" not loudly, but loud enough. The voices next door stopped.
"Eric!" Sookie whispered at me. I shrugged, and then I stood up, making Sookie wrap her legs around me to hold on, and I walked us inside and into the bathroom.
Sookie frowned at me. "What?" I asked. "I'm allowed. I was just fucking my wife on my deck. Now I'm going to put her in our shower and get her nice and clean, then I'm going to carry her to our bed and make love to her. What is so wrong with that?"
Sookie just looked at me. "Fine. It's Christmas. I'll let you off."
"Yeah, and also because you're never going to change so I might as well get used to it."
"You might as well." We stepped into the shower. "I love Christmas" I said as I started to work shower gel over Sookie's boobs.
"Yeah, me too. Merry Christmas, Eric. I hope you got what you wanted."
"Everything I wanted and more. You have a lot to live up to for next Christmas you know."
"I'm sure I'll think of something."
"Yeah, I'm sure you will. Merry Christmas, Sookie." And then I did actually manage to shut up for a bit because I was far too busy kissing my wife.
Hope you all enjoyed Christmas day in the summer! Thanks for reading!
Marae (Ma-rye): the area for formal discourse in front of a meeting house or applied to a whole marae complex, including meeting house, dining hall, forecourt, etc.
Hangi (Hung-ee): traditional Māori method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a pit oven still used for special occasions.
Ka pai (Car pie): Very Good
Wharenui (Far-ree-noo-ee): meeting house.
E Haere ra (Eh hi-ray rar): Goodbye (if you are the person staying).
Tangata Whenua (Tongue-ah-ta Fen-oo-ah): The people of the land, i.e. Maori who see themselves as guardians of the natural world, and, more specifically, New Zealand.
Kohunga Reo (Co-hung-ah Ray-oh): Total immersion Maori language pre-school.
Tamariki (Tar-mar-ree-key): Children
Whanau (Far-now): Family
Once again, I have NO specialised knowledge in Maori and am not an expert in meaning or pronunciation.
Fieldays is the big agricultural show they have in Hamilton once a year. It is HUGE in the agricultural sector, and there's a lot of agriculture in New Zealand.
The league that Jason mentions is Rugby League, which is slightly different to Rugby Union, which is what the All Blacks play and was shown in the movie Invictus. Don't ask me to explain the difference!
Hope that's everything, let me know if there was anything else that needs explaining! See you all again soon!