Foto bij 553. - Lucien

Nancy's thanks are similar to her husband's, focusing on her family. Next is Charles, who mentions Selene most and foremost, and then how well business for The Griffin is going. Selene mentions Charles with as much love in her eyes as he did, but then her gaze flicks to me and Emma. Just for a second, but I could swear she winks at me. "And for love. Just in general. It makes the world go round."
"It does." Nancy says tenderly, nodding. "Lucien, then? Forgive me for not knowing your birthday exactly, but I do believe you're a bit older than Emma still..."
"I could make a joke about how in spirit, Emma is much older than I am, but..." Soft chuckles all around, except for the kick that Emma gives me under the table. I've been going over this since Emma mentioned we were doing this. Had we been alone, I might have said it all. We're not alone, however, instead surrounded by an array of people that I do know and that I don't really. "I..." I start hesitantly, still uncertain of just how honest I'm going to be. These people, while clearly full of love, still throw me off - so different from what I'm used to, judging me for different things than most people. I've been a bit on edge all day, as always when I'm here, but it's reached its peak now. My gaze find Emma's; suddenly it's a little easier. "am thankful for all the things this year has taught me. But mostly for finding Emma again."
It's a heavily edited version of what's in my head. Just vague enough to get me an approving nod from Reginald and a loving smile from Nancy, as well to avoid any questions I don't want asked. Emma's fingers have find the hand still laying on her thigh, and they clasp together. Her smile in this moment is worth more to me than anything in the world. Her name doesn't have to be announced for her to start. "I am thankful for all the curve balls that were thrown at me in the last year, for being able to handle them at all. And..." A quick sideways glance to me, her cheeks colouring a soft pink that might just be mistaken for a flush caused by the high temperatures in the room. "how they always brought me back exactly where I needed... and wanted to be."
I squeeze her hand, winking at her when she dares to glance at me again, though the family quickly moves on to the next, unaware of the emotions that truly go hidden behind these statements. Daniel and Beth both mention family; Daniel adds being able to find a nice studio that was exactly what he wanted, and Beth makes a point of mentioning Eschieve as well. That makes it my sister's turn, and she looks nervous. Does she feel the same way I do - so awfully out of place, yet so accepted? She looks at Beth with a smile, then at me and Emma. "I am thankful for family as well." She says finally. "Which seems awfully unoriginal, but if there's one thing my family is not, let it be unoriginal."
Beth squeals, throwing her arms around Eschieve's neck and nearly knocking her off her chair. We all laugh, and I feel Emma press a quick kiss to my shoulder, her hand still tightly in mine.

Dinner is marvellous. Chatter goes around the table in a nonstop manner; it's absolutely impossible to follow all conversations going on at once. Currently Selene and Daniel are discussing a big movie that is about to hit theatres, Eschieve and Beth are making silly faces at Phoebe, to great frustration of Nancy because every time the youngest Middleton-daughter laughs, food gets sprayed about - and her mother is in the splash-zone. Charles and Emma are bickering about the correct way to eat Pringles, but it goes in such rapid Scottish that I've given up on trying to understand either side. I assess the whole scene in silence, enjoying the gorgeous roast that is on my plate. It's a Christmas unlike any I have ever had, which is both comforting and overwhelming.
A soft tap on my wrist makes my head snap to the right, where Reginald is sitting. He's looking at me with a face I can't read, very reminiscent of my own father. "Tell me," He grunts in a tone so low I can barely distinguish it over the constant babble of the table. "Do you love my daughter?"
"Of course!" I breathe immediately. "More than anything in the world."
"Mhm. Any plans of pulling a stunt like you did last year?"
My cheeks flush, a vague anger rising in the pit of my stomach that I immediately push back down again, and I shake my head. "Quite the opposite, sir."
Is that a smile I detect? I honestly couldn't be sure. "And what exactly does 'the opposite' mean?"
"I..." The answer to that question, of course, isn't too hard, but saying out loud seems like a terrible idea. My brain betrays me by making me peek at the gold band around his finger.
"Dad? Are you scaring your in-laws again?" Charles suddenly comes in between, saving me from disaster. "Leave the poor boy alone! He's had to deal with us all day, if he's now got to deal with you, he might actually break."
Reginald grumbles something, though his grin matches Charles - albeit a little tighter. My heart is pounding in my chest. Did he even see me look at his wedding band? Did it give anything away at all?
"Babe?" Emma draws my attention with a bright smile. "You okay?"
"Perfect," I tell her, and it isn't a lie - just like my clue to Reginald wasn't. It's just a matter of when.
"Alright, everyone finished?" Nancy's cheerful voice carries over the table. "Dan, Beth, help me clear the plates, will you? Then we can all pick a bauble and move on to presents!" While Emma promised that I wasn't expected to bring anything, I still did, though most of them are joined presents from Eschieve as well: a bottle of high-end cognac for Reginald, a dutch oven for Nancy, a polishing set for Charles and his motorcycle, a leather-bound agenda for Selene, a set of rechargeable controllers for Dan and his xbox, and a set of nail polishes that lets you mix your own colours for Phoebe. Beth, a bit better known, has two eyeshadow palettes waiting for her that are hard to get in the EU, and Eschieve a ceramic tea set I know she's been eyeing. I bought more presents for her, but considering their price I didn't feel comfortable to give them here.
      All the men have a glass of bourbon in front of them, as do Selene and Eschieve - who surprised the man by saying she wanted some. Phoebe by now is practically bouncing on her seat, waiting for her mother to announce the actually picking of baubles. She's first to jump up when the word is finally given, and she draws a '1', meaning she'll go first. I pick a '7'.
Phoebe's gifts consist of a homemade, self-decorated cupcake for everyone, along with a small item that was clearly picked out with help from Nancy. I, however, am presented with macaroni art that depicts something that looks like a horse - with a googly eye - and a couple of trees.
"Emma couldn't really tell us what you wanted either." Nancy explains with a smile. "So Phoebe decided she'd give you an original."
"Well, I love it." I say sincerely to the girl, who beams. "I promise to give it a special place."

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