Foto bij 721. - Lucien

It's snowing again. Scotland seems to be the one place that consistently has a white Christmas, no matter how hot the globe is getting. I put the teapot down on the table, and let myself fall down on the couch next to Eschieve. After Nancy called for an emergency shopping trip with Emma, brunch has been postponed to a late lunch instead and Emma had said she'll call when she's ready to go.
Frank complains loudly from Eschieve's lap when she bends forward to pour us both a cup of tea, but where he would have jumped out of mine he is now deadset on staying. Eschieve seems unfazed by the tiny nails digging into her skin. It's nice to have some time with just my sister, even if it's just for an hour and a half - we haven't seen much of each other in the past year. It doesn't matter that that time is spent watching old-timey British children-shows, it's good to just be together. She hands me my mug, and I smile at her in thanks. When she smiles back, it's sadder than it has to be. It's the third time in the twenty-four hours that she's been here that I noticed it, so I grab the remote and mute the tv.
"Talk to me." I say gently, seeing her questioning look. "Something's been on your mind. Get it out of your system."
She frowns. Not in the 'I suppose you're right and you busted me' kind of way, but in a 'I can't believe you right now' kind of way. "Bold of you to say that."
"Sorry?"
For a moment she stares at me in silence, then she shakes her head with a sigh. "Nothing. Forget about it." She makes a grab for the remote, but I pull it away from her.
"No. Nu-uh, nothing of that." I hold the remote up high - she could easily reach it if she stood up, but she doesn't. "Tell me."
"What, so you can pretend everything is jolly just a little more?" She bites, glaring at me. "Act like nothing is wrong, continue to put on a smile and trick everyone around you?"
I blink, staring back. "What are you talking about?"
"What am I talking about?! You, Lucien, who else! Just two weeks ago I had to talk you through groceries and now you're here, sitting in all your Christmas cheer pretending everything is fine and dandy!"
"I'm not -"
"Don't." She cuts in, and there's tears in her eyes. "Don't even say you're not pretending. Maybe all the others buy that, or maybe they're just humouring you, but that doesn't fly with me. I know you. The way she broke you, Lucien? The only time I've ever seen you to anything close like that was when you and Emma broke up. Do you have any idea what it's like to see you like that? Everyone was worried sick about you. I lay awake worrying about you!" She shakes her head, clenching and unclenching her hands. "So don't lie to me."
"I..." I begin, but nothing seems quite right to say. I watch her pet Frank in long strokes, hands shaking every so slightly, and let out a long sigh. "What would you have me do, Es? Sulk in self misery and have everyone pitying me? Put their Christmases on hold because they need to take care of me? I'm not like that, and you know that."
"No, you need to take care of everyone else." There's some viciousness to the statement, and she doesn't look at me.
"That's not... entirely true." I change my opinion halfway through, and it gets me a half-hearted laugh from her. "But you're right. You do know me. You know that I don't care much about Christmas, but everyone around me does. Emma is big on tradition - hell, the entire family Middleton is. Brie and Matthew love it, and so do Kenna and Tom. If it were up to Beth, she'd put up a tree mid-September." Another half-laugh. "I don't want this time to be about me. And if it takes a little faking of being okay to achieve that... So be it."
"None of us would mind, you know." She says quietly, wiping silent tears of her cheeks.
"I know."
"You're an idiot."
"I know."
She laughs through the tears, shaking her head. I chuckle along with her, and open my arms. "C'mhere."
She scoots closer, to great disdain of the cat, and lays her head against my chest. I let myself lay back against the arm of the couch, taking her with me, and kiss the top of her head.
"So how are you?" She asks quietly, and I heave a sigh again.
"Some days are better than others. A good day may become bad, and a bad day may become good. I'm not pretending all the time."
She nods thoughtfully. "Does Emma know?"
"I think she does. Much like you, she isn't stupid. She also knows I'm too stubborn to stop what I'm doing."
"A clever woman."
"That she is."
For a while, we just lay there in silence. Frank has nestled somewhere under my arm, making it impossible to shift without him loudly complaining. The old cartoons are still running mute on the TV, but neither of us wants to take the remote.
"I'm going to kill her, you know." Eschieve suddenly says. I can't help but chuckle softly.
"You're going to have to get in line."
"We'll all do it together."
"What, and have everyone go to prison for me? Then who's left to call me out on my bullshit?"
"Like we'd get caught!"
"You would if you took Brie. He'd make a short movie out of it, and have you stab her again just to get the right shot."
"I'll happily oblige."
I laugh softly, placing another kiss atop her head. "When did you become so violent?"
"Since Emma is taking forever to be done with shopping. I'm starving."
Just as she says it, the phone rings with Emma's designated tone. Eschieve sits up with a satisfied grunt.
"Finally."

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