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Evolution Of The Heart
By Demeter


It's the first Christmas away from home. The first Christmas without her husband realizing last minute that they need more lights on the tree, the younger daughter being on the phone with her friends until it takes a stern parental word to get her to the dinner table, and the older one complaining about her professers's unfairness even when all she gets are straight A's.

The days had always been filled with light, love and laughter.

She still has the love, just not theirs anymore. The prospect of having to spend Christmas Eve on her own is depressing her greatly.

"I'm sorry, I hope this won't take too long. But it's work."

"Sure." She thinks that she should probably get back to a regular schedule too, not that she needs to, but it would keep her from thinking too much. She is so much in love, and so much in pain.

She leans forward to embrace her lover, a smile to mask the hurt. "I'll survive." After a pause she whispers, "Barely" into soft hair, inhaling the scent of her shampoo. She holds her for a moment, unwilling to let go if only for a few hours.

A delighted laugh is the answer. "I'll make it up to you. I promise."

"I love you." She holds on tighter yet, dreading the time alone.

The other woman sighs against her chest. "I love you too, but I really have to go now. I know it sucks they couldn't wait a couple of days. It's our first Christmas."

"It's okay," she says though they both know it's not. "I'm going to read a good book."

The woman takes her hand, placing a soft kiss to her knuckles, then leans in for one last kiss goodbye. "I'll see you later, then."

It's less than five minutes later when the doorbell rings. Did she forget anything – or even change her mind?

She all but runs for the door, yanking it open with enough force to startle the young woman on the other side.

It's her younger daughter who complains, "Sheesh, Mom, give me a heart attack, why don't you?" as she shakes her snow-encrusted umbrella.

"I... I'm sorry," she stammers. What now? She hasn't told her, had taken the coward's way.with her baby girl who had been so much braver than she can ever hope to be.

"Can I come in?" The question is soft-spoken, hesitant, and she steps back immediately.

"Of course. I'm sorry," she repeats, just as anxious as her daughter. There are many things she wants to ask, each of them harder to put into a question. How much do you hate me?

"How is everybody?" she asks, lamely.

"It's going to be alright." There is a lot more wishful thinking to her daughter's optimistic statement than conviction, and she calls her bluff easily. A skeptically raised eyebrow is enough, and the girl shakes her head with a somewhat wistful smile. "You got me. Okay, so my sister's still pissed. She will be for a while to come, but I am hopeful that she'll get over it. I know I did, and I wasn't amused about everyone wanting to spare me, which meant no one told me anything."

"That was wrong." She knows that now. Hindsight and all. That, and she is scared. She doesn't want to make that wrong move that will drive awaythe only member of her family who is still talking to her.

"I understand. Dad..."

It takes her a lot not to turn away even though there's no accusation, just matter-of-fact relating of her daughter's point of view.

"He's hurt. He doesn't get it." There are tears in her eyes now, and it's hard to watch. "It makes me sad to see it, but then I think you've been hurting for sixteen years."

It might not be an excuse, but that doesn't make it any less of a fact.

The world becomes a blur, the voice talking to her like from far away, "Would it be okay if I just stayed for a while? I mean I don't know if it's okay, if she--"

"She'd love you to. You're always welcome here."

"That's true."

She spins around at the voice of her lover, the warm, sexy smile nearly making her heart skip a beat. "I called and rescheduled, said something about urgent family matters. Which is not a lie. It's the first Christmas, and we have a guest too."

It's when she realizes while things have spun out of control and this might not be the holidays she'd envisioned, it's the first Christmas in a long time she gets to be who she is.

Amidst the chaos her life has become, it's the most wonderful gift.

The End

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