550 - Emma
The roads are a little hard to drive on, considering every snowflake has stuck and it's currently snowing again, but with a Christmas themed playlist playing and the heater on, it's totally worth it.
Lucien insisted on driving, and I'm glad he did, because now I get to spend more time flicking through one of his presents - the photo album. I've gone through all of the pictures at least four times already, but they fill me with such joy I can't stop.
The backseat is filled to the brim with gifts and other necessities, filling me with an intense feeling of holiday cheer.
"I'm glad you're here," I smile, my hand softly squeezing his thigh, trying not to distract him from the road.
"So am I," he turns to look at me for just a second. "I think this already my favourite Christmas I've had in years."
Mum and Phoebe, as expected, are waiting for us at the door. My mother is wearing her apron, her greying hair up in a messy bun, and her hands are on Phoebe's shoulders, as to hold her back from running towards us immediately and toppling us over onto the cold snow.
"Emmie!" Phoebe cheers, looking back at our mother. "Emma is here!"
Only when I place my basket full of presents on the stoop, mum lets go of Phoebe and she flies into my arms. Her hair is braided neatly, and she's wearing a dark red dress, the same one she's been wearing for years. It's her favourite, and Phoebe is big on tradition just like the rest of us.
"Merry Christmas Emma!" she almost yells, her arms squeezing me tightly. I kiss the top of her head, careful not to mess up the hairdo, and she lets go of me.
Lucien is greeting my mother in the mean time, who has also pulled him in for a hug. "It's so lovely you're joining us this year," she beams, hands on both upper arms. "Truly wonderful."
"I'm very happy to be here," he tells her, smiling that charismatic smile that could melt anyone's heart. "Thank you so much for inviting me, Nancy."
"Did you bring presents?" Phoebe interrupts, her cheeky smile brighter than any kind of fairylight possible. She looks at Lucien with an impatient glare until he nods.
"Right there," he points at the other basket he's been carrying. He asked me for help with some of the gifts, others he came up with himself. "Can't show up without gifts, now, can I?"
"Good," Phoebe smiles, wrapping her arms around him, nearly knocking the air out of him. "Merry Christmas, Lucien."
Daniel is in his same old spot on the couch, arguing with Charles about whether or not people should continue releasing new versions of old Christmas songs, and if there isn't already plenty of music about the holidays.
"Ah, there they are," Charlie turns his head as we come into the livingroom, which is cheerfully decorated everywhere. The tree is decorated with ornaments from throughout the years. Some we've made ourselves when we were kids, others were bought on trips or for special occasions. "We thought you'd never show, you were too busy making snow angels or something."
I stick my tongue out at him, going in for a hug as he gets up from the chair he was sitting in. "Where's the misses?" I ask him, straightening the folds in his shirt.
"Helping mum out in the kitchen," he nods as he sees my confused look. "I know, I know, I told her she needn't do that, but she insisted, and mum seems to really like her."
"Quite a welcome change from the last one," Daniel pitches in, to which Charlie flips him off.
"Hey," I poke him in the side, "Christmas is all about peace on earth. No violent gestures."
I hug my younger brother, who still likes to pretend he doesn't like it when I hug him. "Looking good, Dan," I fix the collar to his shirt, causing both brothers to laugh. Even Lucien, who's greeting Charles, laughs along. "What?"
"You've become more and more like mum," he smiles. "You used to hate it when she'd fix your clothes while you were wearing them."
I roll my eyes, looking around the room. "Where's Beth? And dad?"
"Beth wanted to go pick up Eschieve from the station by herself," Daniel tells me, sitting back down. "Dad refused, said it was too dangerous for her to drive all alone, so he's driving and she went with him. They left half an hour ago, so they should be here any time."
"Many additions to the celebration compared to the last time we were all here," Charles smiles. "Selene, Lucien, Eschieve... Next year, maybe Daniel will finally find someone to bring home for the holidays, and we'll all have someone."
"Beth doesn't count either," Daniel groans, "she's not dating Eschieve, so she's still just as single as I am. I could've just invited one of my friends, too, but I didn't."
Charles is about to make a snarky remark as the front door opens, letting some of the cold air in. "Thanks again, mister Middleton, for picking me up," Eschieve's friendly voice sounds, and not long after, all three last people step into the house.
"Really, it's no problem, Eschieve," his pronounciation of the name isn't perfect, and very Scottish, but it's sweet.
Beth, white flakes in her dark hair, is the first to enter the livingroom. "Oi," she smiles. "The whole idea of bringing presents is to put them underneath the tree, you know." She gestures at the baskets, still in the hallway.
"Merry Christmas to you, too, Beth," I smile, hugging her.
Eschieve seems a little hesitant, which I understand, because a room full of semi-strangers can't be too easy to step in to.
"Eschieve," I point at Daniel, who's peeking underneath the tree, seeing how many presents are his. "I'm sure Beth has already told you all about our family, so I won't have to introduce you to any of these boys," I chuckle, "mum's in the kitchen, and she's been dying to meet you. Beth, will you make sure mum doesn't go all... mum on her? I'll put the presents under the tree."
By the end of it, all of our gifts are displayed under the tree, everyone's names carefully written on the paper. Charles. Nancy. Eschieve. Beth. Emma. Selene. Daniel. Lucien. Phoebe. Seeing new names here and there, in different handwriting each time, makes me smile. Lucien is helping Charles out with dragging more wood inside for the crackling fire, and Daniel is stood outside with them, supervising it all. Phoebe's at the table, colouring a picture of Santa, and dad's in his chair, reading a book. In the kitchen, I hear mum, Selene, Beth and Eschieve talking about the snow, and the smell of cinnamon and cranberries fills the entire house as snow is still falling.
John Legend's Christmas album is playing from the stereo, and all of these things combined make me the happiest I could be.
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