Emily, dressed in her comfy yoga pants and a tank top, settled on the sofa. She sat with her legs crossed and holding a bowl of popcorn. A glass of wine beside her, she thought there was not much that could make the night better. That is, as long as she ignored the fact that she was alone.
She sighed, rubbed the bridge of her nose where her glasses rested and picked up the remote. As she started flipping through programming, she couldn’t help but notice how many she ignored precisely because she was sitting alone. Some of the shows were ones she would watch with Chloe and Beca. Others were ones she knew Stacie or Flo would love. There were the movies all of the Bellas would have fought over, and the shows she and Aubrey watched together.
With another sigh, she turned the television off. She tossed a piece of popcorn in the air, and caught it in her mouth, but it wasn’t as much fun as when someone would applaud or tease her for it. She put the bowl down on the seat beside her and picked up her phone. Maybe she could find something to read to fill the time until she was sleepy.
“Oh, thank god.” Emily muttered under her breath when someone knocked at the door. It was probably room service wanting to pick up the trays she’d been collecting. At least it would be human contact, eye to eye and closer than across the footlights. She moved the popcorn to the coffee table and hurried to the door as the knock repeated. “Coming. Sorry, I didn’t mean to keep you...” she broke off as she opened the door. “Aubrey?”
Aubrey smiled and nodded. “Hi.”
“Oh, my stars,” Emily grabbed Aubrey’s arm and pulled the Bella into the hotel room. “You are a sight for sore eyes. I can’t tell you,” Emily broke off again. “I mean, performing is awesome, it’s just...” she stammered to a stop. “It’s really good to see you.”
“It’s good to see you, too.” Aubrey chuckled and dropped her backpack off her shoulder. “Chloe said you had a couple of days off.”
Emily nodded. “She and Beca went to Chicago for some special event. Our next show is Monday.”
Aubrey nodded, “sounds like a great excuse to see your mom. I mean, since you couldn’t go home for your birthday.”
“I’ll see her at Thanksgiving.” Emily blushed. “I just, I dunno, I guess I’m getting tired of traveling.” She smiled again as she repeated, “it’s so good to see you.”
Aubrey smiled back. “Worth a hug?” She opened her arms.
Emily stepped closer, closing her eyes and feeling her shoulders drop as she relaxed into the embrace. “Oh, my stars,” Emily repeated. “I’ve missed your hugs.”
Aubrey held on, perhaps a little longer than usual, and nodded. “I’ve missed your hugs too.” She cleared her throat as she pulled away and looked toward the sofa. “Looks like you were waiting for me.”
“Well, it’s nowhere near as good as the popcorn you make.” Emily laughed, all of her depression melting away. “Let me pour you a glass.”
Aubrey nodded and kicked her shoes off, curling her feet under her. “Find anything good?”
“Now that you are here?” Emily grinned, “plenty! The television doesn’t connect to YouTube. Isn’t that funny? All those smart TVs and fancy hotels like this still don’t use them.” Emily poured the wine and returned to the sitting room. After Aubrey accepted it, Emily continued, “The BBC is rerunning The Victorian Farm Christmas. The History Channel is showing In Search of Historical Jesus and The Science Channel is showing a documentary trying to solve the mystery of the Star of Bethlehem.”
“It’s not even Thanksgiving yet!” Aubrey laughed at the overflow of holiday cheer. “Although, I have to admit, I started thinking about Christmas early this year.”
Emily curled up so her legs were touching Aubrey’s. She leaned her head on her elbow which rested on the back of the sofa. “How come?”
Aubrey shrugged. “It’s silly.”
“I like silly.” Emily smiled her encouragement and reached out her free hand to rub Aubrey’s hand gently.
“We had an arborist come to the lodge this week.” Aubrey began. She looked down at the wine glass in her hand. She took a sip before looking up at Emily again.
Emily giggled. “Having trouble choosing which tree to cut down for the Lodge Christmas party?”
Aubrey smiled and shook her head. “No. We needed advice. Some of the trees were starting to react poorly to having a parasite. It was thriving, but the trees looked peaked and shriveled. I thought we should ask professional advice on how to remove it.”
“Sounds nasty.” Emily wrinkled her nose.
“You know, it’s funny. It is nasty. It’s poisonous to people, animals and trees. But it’s also sorta pretty.” Aubrey put her glass down on the coffee table and stood all in one fluid motion.
Emily watched, feeling puzzled, as Aubrey crossed to her backpack. She opened a side pocket and pulled something out before returning to the sofa. Aubrey sat down again and Emily noticed Aubrey was blushing. “I’m not sure I’m following, Aubs. How did we get to talking about parasites from Christmas?”
Aubrey looked down at the item in her hands. Emily could see it was green with a little splash of white. Aubrey looked up again. “Do you know there is only one variety that grows in Georgia? That makes it rare.” Aubrey’s blush deepened. “As rare as you are, Emily. I’ve met so many people in my life, but no one makes me smile like you do.” She looked down again.
Emily swallowed. “You make me smile, too, Aubs.” The words came out softly, almost whispered. She still didn’t understand, but she sure as hell didn’t want Aubrey to stop now.
Aubrey smiled and shrugged a little shyly before she held up the item in her hand. “It’s a little early,” she said softly before she lifted her arm so that her hand was over her head.
Emily’s eyes widened even as her throat felt tight. Aubrey Posen was holding a sprig of mistletoe and looking at her expectantly. It took her long enough to register that Aubrey faltered. Before she could lower her arm completely, Emily came out of her reverie. Taking a shaky breath, Emily leaned forward, pausing for just a second before she pressed her lips against Aubrey’s.
Aubrey sighed into the kiss and brought her free hand up to caress Emily’s jaw. Emboldened, Emily scooted closer and slid a hand around Aubrey’s waist. Their lips parted as they explored each other. Emily tasted of salt, Chardonnay and cherry lip balm. Aubrey tasted like cinnamon and peppermint. When they finally separated, Emily left her hand on Aubrey’s leg. “Oh, my stars.”
“Merry early Christmas?” Aubrey whispered as she dropped the mistletoe on the table. “I’ve missed so much more than your hugs.”
“Oh, my stars,” Emily repeated. “I have missed you so.” She scooted closer still, changing position so she could wrap both arms around Aubrey. “I thought, I mean, I like, I oh...” Emily sighed explosively.
Aubrey smiled fondly as she rested her palm against Emily’s cheek. “I wasn’t sure you would feel the same.” She admitted, nervously. “You aren’t just humoring me?”
Emily shook her head. “Not on your life. You are my favorite person to talk to, Aubrey Posen. Every day I find myself turning to tell you something, only to be disappointed you aren’t here and I have to wait for our next call or text.” She smiled back. “I worried you were getting bored with me.”
“Not on your life,” Aubrey teased back. “I look forward to your breathless explanations of your day, and wish every time that I’d been here to witness it.” She adjusted her position so she could lean against Emily’s side. “I’d love to be your groupie.”
“Then stay.” Emily whispered into Aubrey’s hair. “With me.”
“Em,” Aubrey began.
Emily pulled back so she could look into Aubrey’s eyes. “I mean it. Look, you would have Chloe to talk to when Beca and I have commitments. But we could see each other every day.” She blushed. “I know I went from zero to sixty in no time flat. But seeing you, hugging you,” her blush turned redder, “kissing you just makes me want to never let you go.”
Aubrey closed her eyes for a moment as she let that confession wash over her. “I would love nothing else more than seeing you every day.” She rested her head against Emily’s shoulder. “I don’t know when I got so used to you, but it’s been terribly hard with you gone.”
“I know what you mean,” Emily chuckled quietly. “I mean, I’m not kidding the performing is great. I just,” she broke off as she started to laugh harder.
“What?” Aubrey pulled back to look at Emily. “What’s so funny?”
Emily picked up her phone. She tugged Aubrey close so she could take a selfie of the two of them, and sent it to Chloe without a caption.
Chloe: merry early Christmas, you two!
Aubrey smirked and picked up her own phone.
Aubrey: did you plan this?
Chloe: of course.
Chloe: you’ve been miserable. She’s been miserable. 2+2 = 4 Elf.
Aubrey: I suck at math.
Chloe: you are a business major. You so don’t. Was I wrong?
Aubrey: you ready to have company on the road?
Chloe: more than ready.
Aubrey laughed as she could imagine Chloe’s‘ squeal through the texts
Chloe: Welcome home, Elf.
Aubrey showed the text exchange to Emily who nodded and laughed some more.
“She kept trying to set me up with members of the crew. Said she was tired of me third wheeling it.” Emily took both phones and put them down. “None of them were you.” She shrugged a little bashfully.
“We’ll have to thank her, you know.” Aubrey cuddled back closer, tucking her head under Emily’s chin. “But don’t you dare tell the Hobbit how much I like to cuddle. It’ll ruin my rep.”
Emily kissed the top of Aubrey’s head, then nuzzled at her until Aubrey turned her face up. “Both of you worry about your reps too much.” As she brought her lips close to Aubrey’s she added, “but your secret is safe with me.”
“Merry early Christmas,” Aubrey whispered as she pressed her lips to Emily’s.
Emily decided it had to be the best Christmas ever. Even if it still was November.