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when fortune knocks open the door

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‘What do you want to do for two hours?’ Abby asked, stepping back towards the bed behind her. It wasn’t a question that needed to be asked, but the pre-amble had a certain appeal, heightening the excitement, drawing out the moment.

‘I don’t know.’ Harper was already bringing her hands up to cup her face as she teased her, kissing her even as Abby sat down and scooted back a little, taking the pleased hum from Abby’s mouth with her own. Harper brought her knees up onto the bed, crawling over Abby as she leaned down to kiss her. Teasing, it soon turned more passionate, and they found the easy rhythm of making out with their loved one. Hands started to wander a little and Abby moaned when Harper moved to her neck, planting kisses roughly.

Not wanting to be doing nothing, Abby ran her hands down Harper’s back before tugging at the collar of her pajama shirt.

‘Gotta make the most of this time,’ she gasped, as Harper nipped in a particular spot. ‘Can I?’

Harper breathed a laugh against her neck, nodding slightly as she did. She kissed her way back up to Abby’s lips as the shorter woman started blindly unbuttoning her shirt. That stilled Abby’s hands briefly, as she lost herself to the passionate kiss bestowed on her lips, but she soon pulled herself back to her task. When she triumphantly got to the last button, cool hands skimming her girlfriend’s stomach in a manner that prompted an inelegant snort from Harper, Abby grinned against her lips. God she loved this woman.

When Abby started to push the sides of the shirt back, Harper took the hint, pulling back onto her knees to take it off, throwing it behind her somewhere as she took in the sight of Abby lying back in front of her. She lowered herself down to kiss her again, strong arms flexing wonderfully as she put her hours at the gym to good use, lowering down above her girlfriend like the first half of a push-up motion. Abby gripped her biceps appreciatively, making sure it conveyed how much she enjoyed that particular use of Harper’s time. It definitely enhanced her personal favourite of Harper’s pastimes. Taking stock of their current position, Harper pushed up again, drawing a moaned ‘noooo’ from her girlfriend.

‘Come on, baby. I think we need to move a bit.’

Abby sighed dramatically, tipping her head back. Harper let herself be distracted by the pale expanse of her neck for a moment, biting her lip as she considered it, before shaking herself out of it. She shuffled her right knee, swinging her left over Abby’s body, kneeling beside her now.

‘It’ll be more comfortable if I’m not at risk of falling on the floor, I swear.’

‘You sure?’ Abby teased, but pulled herself back to the middle of the bed, shuffling her legs round until she was more traditionally positioned in the bed, head and body vertical from the headboard, instead of horizontal across it with her feet on the floor like before. She got comfortable, then glanced up at Harper. She took a moment to take in the sight of her girlfriend; ridiculously silky pajama shorts combined with her deceptively toned torso and a bra Abby could recognise as one Harper preferred for days when she wanted a bit more confidence with herself. And atop all that, Harper’s face, smiling down at her. Her heart warmed a little more at the sight, before the rest of her body caught up with the view in front of her. She bit her lip, swinging her arms out and then down at her body, an over-the-top gesture that got the desired laugh from Harper. ‘Well come and get me.’

Laughing, Harper dove forward to her, catching her lips in an easy kiss. They slowed down slightly from before, content to spend the moment just being with each other. That quiet ease once again gave way to a bit more passion, their limited time not far from either woman’s mind. Settling in for at least a solid make-out session, Abby’s hands curled easily around Harper’s back, fingers straying to the strap of her bra. Not necessarily looking to undo it, just finding their natural place, burrowing under the fabric, eliciting a shudder from the taller woman. In turnabout, Harper moved to prop herself on one forearm, bring her other hand to find the hem of Abbty’s tanktop, straying underneath to brush chilled fingertips across her navel. The move had the desired effect, as Abby gasped beneath her at the sensation. Before either woman could think of their next move however;

‘Abby, I just wanted to make sure everything is okay with your sleepwalk- oh my god.’ Tipper’s voice brought them out of their bubble with brutal efficiency.

They separated immediately, Harper springing back from Abby like she’d been burned, desperately trying to grab her pajama shirt from where it had been tossed over the edge of the bed. Abby pulled down the hem of her tank top and scooted to sit up on the bed, reaching out to pull a bit of the blanket back over itself, into her lap. Reunited with her shirt and with its buttons mismatched in her frantic efforts to do it up, Harper stood up from the bed, hand outstretched to her Mom, the gesture begging her to stay, to go, to listen, to know.

‘Mom, I can-’ Panic hitched Harper’s breath, tears beginning in her eyes.

Tipper held up a hand, cutting off her youngest daughter.

‘I don’t think you need to, Harper.’ She sighed slightly, looking to the floor. She cut an imposing figure in the doorway, her red dressing gown standing bright in the doorframe. ‘Sit down, Harper, you’re making me nervous hovering like that.’

Harper, obediently did so, perching on the edge of the bed, hunching over herself like an upset child waiting for a scolding they know they deserve. It was kind of obvious what growing up in this house had been like for her. Abby moved next to her, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed to rest her feet on the floor. It was risky, given Tipper hadn’t really said anything on how she felt about the whole walked-in-on-her-daughter-making-out-with-her-’roommate’ thing but she didn’t care. She saw what she saw, Abby couldn’t change that. Harper needed support right now. She sat close enough her leg was brushing Harper’s, intertwining their hands. Harper’s breath hitched again. Abby squeezed her hand.

She was there. She loved her. She was with her every step of the way.

Harper squeezed back.

Imposing in her lavish red dressing gown, Tipper looked down at them both. Her expression was incredibly hard to read. Abby wasn’t experienced in familial homophobia, nor, luckily, strong homophobic conflicts in general, but she knew herself and had pride in her identity. She could take Tipper in a fight, she thought. A verbal one, that is. But if it came down to it she was sure she could cut a bitch in a bar fight, as John would probably say. He’d once told her she looked scrappy, and, unsure quite how else to take it, she’d taken it as a compliment. Though, getting into a physical fight with Harper’s mom might not be a great way to get on with the rest of the family.

She was drawn from her thoughts when Tipper sighed. Harper, almost reflexively squeezed then went to pull her hand back. Abby caught the movement and tightened her grip before she could break their connection. She kept her gaze on the elder Caldwell, keeping her brave face on for Harper. She refused to feel like a shameful school kid being caught doing something wrong. They hadn’t done anything wrong. Other than making out in an unlocked room in her parent’s house, but Abby could honestly put down on Tipper for not knocking.

‘This isn’t what I imagined for you, Harper,’ Tipper finally said, shoulders sagging slightly as she did. ‘We didn’t exactly plan on you being-’ She cut herself off, seemingly struggling to find the word.

‘Gay?’ Abby offered. A squeeze of her hand and a look from both Caldwell women told her that maybe she was best suited as silent moral support for the moment. Still, Tipper acknowledged her with a glance, before bringing her focus back to her daughter.

‘Yes. This is quite surprising. I take it you two aren’t just roommates then?’ She smoothed the front of her robe down, hands fluttering as they finished the task.

Next to Abby, Harper was taking in a breath, shakily holding back tears. Abby moved her hands, now bringing her left arm around Harper’s shoulder’s, her right hand taking up the gentle grip of Harper’s, thumb stroking the back of it. Harper was physically encouraged by this, leaning into her slightly before straightening her spine, shoulders moving back.

‘Yeah, we’re, we’re together.’ Her voice was shaky, thick with the tears she wasn’t letting out. ‘Abby’s my girlfriend.’

Despite the obviously shitty situation there were in right then, it did send a little thrill through Abby to hear Harper saying that to her mom. This wasn’t exactly the time to be celebrating that though. She didn’t think it would be much appreciated if she said something then either. She tuned back into the conversation, turning her head to get a better look at Harper.

‘I was going to tell you guys, but then Dad announced his campaign and-’

‘Sweetie, your father announced his campaign six months ago.’ Tipper seemed shocked at her mental calculations. ‘You- you’ve been hiding your relationship for that long?’

Harper almost laughed- Abby felt her shoulders jump as the strangled hiccup left her.

‘We’ve been dating for a year.’

That news clearly stunned Tipper, and she stepped forward, dropping down to sit next to her daughter on the bed. Abby couldn’t quite see her past Harper’s head, but from what she could tell, the matriarch had her head in her hands. The room was silent for a few minutes, save for Harper’s sniffly breathing. Abby kept up the swirls and circles her thumb was tracing, throwing in a rub of Harper’s left shoulder every now and then. She could feel the tension in Harper’s body. She was fighting the urge to move, likely to hug her mother; Abby wasn’t quite sure if that urge was to seek comfort herself or to comfort her mother after giving her this news.

She was taking a very cynical view, Abby knew, but she figured hoping for the best while preparing for the worst was a good option right now.

‘You thought you couldn’t tell us you were seeing a woman? For a year?’ Tipper’s voice was small, when she finally spoke again. ‘Because of your father’s job?’

Harper shook her head.

‘Kind of. I mean, partially.’ She sounded panicked again. Abby leaned up a little, kissed her temple.

‘Breathe, baby.’ She felt a squeeze on her hand in response.

‘I’ve wanted to tell you for years, that I like...that I’m...that I’m a lesbian.’ Her shoulders sank as she said it, letting the words out in front of her mother for the first time in her life. ‘But I knew you guys have all these expectations, and I didn’t- I didn’t want to disappoint you.’

Tipper’s voice had been practically shouting next to Harper’s. Abby was next to her and couldn’t be sure Harper had even spoken at all. She felt the bed move, heard the swish of expensive fabric as Tipper sat upright and turned to face her daughter. Harper remained looking forwards, head tipped slightly down and to the right. To Abby.

It was a big moment, Abby knew from her own experience, revealing that part of yourself to your parents, opening up that vulnerability, waiting for the reaction. She had come out to parents she knew were cool with gay people in general, had still had to worry that their tolerance would extend to her. She couldn’t imagine how it must feel for Harper; she’d seen some of the Caldwell’s public opinions on these things, heard Harper’s description of growing up in their environment. Not to mention how long Harper had waited for this moment, and the reason she was saying it now. At a loss for what else to do in the moment, but wanting Harper to know she was there, she squeezed her hand.

Harper carried on, oblivious to Abby’s brief diverted focus. She was kind of dealing with something in that moment.

‘I was going to say months ago, but then Dad announced his campaign and I didn’t want to ruin his election and I told Abby I came out because I’d made such a big deal about how I was going to, but then I didn’t, and figured I could pretend like everything was fine, but I love Abby.’ She let out a shaky breath. ‘I love Abby so much, Mom. I want to spend every day with her, and wake up on Christmas morning next to her, and just be with her forever.’

Well. While obviously not a priority of that moment, that did give Abby a good feeling about the answer she wanted to hear, when she eventually asked that particular question.

Tipper was quiet for a moment, trying to process what Harper had just said. Harper was still facing the floor, long legs starting to become goose-pimpled in the chill of the basement due to their significant lack of covering. It really wasn’t the time, but god did Abby love her legs and disinclination for weather appropriate nightwear.

The bed shifted again, mattress springing back into slightly, when Tipper got up, moving to kneel on the floor in front of her daughter. Surprised, Harper moved her legs back slightly as Tipper brought her hands to her daughter’s face. Her hands brushed back some of Harper’s hair, but the long tresses fell back into place once her hands were situated on Harper’s cheeks, obscuring Abby’s view of her face. Abby also shifted slightly, giving the older woman more space by bringing her own legs to sit cross legged next to Harper, her arms still in close contact with her girlfriend.

‘I am so sorry that you felt you couldn’t tell me, Harper.’ Tipper’s voice was quiet, thick with emotion. ‘I am so, so sorry that we made you think your father’s job was more important to us than your happiness. I’m sorry that you thought we wouldn’t be proud of you, wouldn’t accept you, if we knew you were...if we knew you were gay.’

‘We?’ Harper was crying now, it was clear from her voice.

‘I can’t speak for your father,’ Tipper was choosing her words carefully. ‘But he and I both raised you, we’re both to blame for you not being able to be yourself with us. I don’t know how he’ll take this news, not truly. But whatever his reaction is, I love you. And I will be supportive of you no matter what, okay?’

Something in Harper broke in that moment. She dove forward to hug her mom, desperate for maternal comfort and support. Abby pulled back from her, moving her left hand to rest on Harper’s lower back, as Tipper’s arms came around her shoulders to hug her daughter. Abby watched as Harper sobbed into her mother’s shoulder, Tipper cradling her head and shushing her gently, whispering words of comfort Abby couldn’t make out. When Tipper moved her head to kiss Harper’s, she thought she could see tears glistening in her eyes. She couldn’t be sure they weren’t her own though.

They stayed like that for a few minutes, as Harper let out the emotional toll of twenty something years of secret keeping, clinging tightly to her mother. Even when her sobs stopped, she stayed slumped against her mom for a minute. When she did move, pulling back slightly to lean into Abby’s side, keeping a hand on her mother’s arm.

‘Are you going to tell Dad?’ She sounded so small, like she was waiting for a punishment.

‘No. Not unless you wanted me to.’ Tipper smiled gently at her youngest child. She was really trying to be supportive, Abby could tell, intuitive to what Harper needed to hear right now.

‘I was going to tell you both after Christmas I swear, I just-’

‘Harper,’ The strength in Tipper’s tone really was a perfect Mom voice, gentle but firm as she tapped a hand to Harper’s chin, guiding her face up so their eyes could meet. ‘This is your business to share. I believe you, and once again I am sorry that we put you in a position where you couldn’t tell us until now. But you can tell your father on your own terms, okay? I won’t lie, waiting until after the holidays might be for the best, he’s feeling a lot of stress right now, but if you wanted to go upstairs and tell him immediately, I will be right beside you.’

Harper opened her mouth to speak, but Tipper cut her off again.

‘But, like I said, if you don’t want to tell him now, I will support that. This is your choice.’

Harper was quiet for a moment.
‘I- I want to wait a couple days.’ She turned to look at Abby, and Abby took in the toll the past, what, ten minutes, had taken on her girlfriend. Her eyes were red, tears were tracked down slightly puffy cheeks that were flushed. Abby had seen Harper cry many times in their year together; at movies and dumb meme videos at 3am, from work stress, from happiness and from being drunk and remembering the fact that snakes don’t have arms. None of these times, however, had made Harper look so drained as she did then. Her eyes, so expressive, looked at Abby like she was hoping for her to back her up and offer a solution all at once. ‘Is that okay, baby? I know this isn’t what you expected but-’

‘Your mom’s right, baby. This is your choice. We already planned you’d wait a couple days, and I don’t want to push you.’

Harper’s face softened at the words, some of the worried tension melting away. She looked honestly pretty relieved Abby was being so understanding.

‘Besides,’ Abby tried to lighten the tone a bit. ‘We already got one coming out, out of the way. To be honest, I was getting worried I wouldn’t be able to win your parents over as your orphan roommate, now your mom can judge me as your girlfriend properly.’ This brought the reaction Abby wanted, a small breath of laughter and a smile brightening her face, before Harper ducked her head into Abby’s shoulder. When she lifted her head, Abby checked in with a small nod and furrowed brow, before placing a gentle kiss on her lips. Harper responded eagerly, pressing a kiss of her own to Abby. Abby lifted her hand to swipe a tear from Harper’s cheek, moving to place their foreheads together.

Almost forgotten, Tipper stood up, bringing their attention away from each other.

‘While I won’t tell anyone about you two, can I suggest something?’

The couple exchanged a look, before Abby shrugged at her.

‘Uh, sure?’

‘I’m not a fan of lying, but I understand the subterfuge in this case; if you two would like to stay together for the duration of your stay- and I offer this on the same principles I gave to you girls when you lived under this roof, Harper, the same courtesy I give to Sloane and Eric while they’re here- if you two want to stay in Harper’s room, with no shenanigans, then we can tell the others I was worried by Abby’s sleepwalking misadventure, that I won’t question you about further, and so I asked if Harper would mind keeping an eye on her in her room, with the door that locks.’

That was honestly a very good offer Abby thought, and she said as much, thanking Tipper for her generosity. Harper agreed with her sentiments, standing to hug her mom. Abby watched this with a smile, the sight of Harper stooping to properly hug her mom admittedly quite funny. They broke apart and Tipper immediately brushed imaginary creases out of her robe. Abby raised her eyebrows at Harper, who just shrugged.

‘Well, it’s getting late, and we have a busy day tomorrow. I’ll leave you two to sort yourselves out for tonight.’ Tipper nodded, more to herself than them, Abby thought, moving to hug her daughter again, who accepted it easily. ‘We can talk tomorrow, sweetheart, properly. If you like.’

‘I’d love that.’

Tipper nodded again, and went to turn to leave the room. She stopped though, and turned to Abby, raising an arm slightly.

‘Oh, uh.’ Abby was pushed into the offered hug by a gentle shove from Harper, but she fell into it with an awkward happiness. It was weird. She was essentially hugging a stranger. But this was her girlfriend's mom, and she hadn’t been hugged by a mom since, well, her mom. Not counting the woman she’d dated briefly in undergrad who had a kid, but that wasn’t really the same at all. So, yeah, hugging Tipper Caldwell was very weird. But also weirdly comforting? She removed herself from the hug as soon as she could, offering a smile to the older woman. Tipper took the cue and left, disappearing back upstairs to the house.

As the sounds of her footsteps echoed away, Harper let out a full body sigh, before flopping back onto the bed, closing her eyes. Crawling to join her, Abby curled into Harper’s side, pressing a kiss to her cheek.

‘Stupid question time; are you okay?’

Harper groaned and Abby couldn’t stop a small chuckle escaping.

‘This. This is not how I thought this holiday was going to go.’

Abby chuckled again, snuggling closer into her side.

‘I get that. But how are you doing? Now that your mom knows, I know being walked in on is like, the worst way to come out.’

Harper opened one eye at that, then the other. She sighed again, sitting up. Abby followed, mirroring Haprer as she pulled her legs up to sit cross-legged.

‘It’s not the worst way to come out.’ She sighed again. ‘You remember I told you about me and Riley, in high school?’

Abby nodded, unsure where this was going.

‘I wasn’t honest about that. We used to leave each other notes and letters in our lockers and one day a friend of mine saw one, signed ‘love Riley’. And I didn’t. I couldn’t be outed. I couldn’t own it, I couldn’t admit to it. I couldn’t. I threw Riley under the bus. Said she was obsessed with me, and I thought it was so weird, that I wasn’t gay but I felt bad for her, and everyone bought it. And Riley was outed to everyone, but I was safe.’ Harper was crying again.

Abby didn’t quite know what to make of all of this. That was awful. Truly, absolutely, fucking awful. Finding out your girlfriend outed someone against their will? Not good. Harper was looking at her, a pleading look in her eyes. Abby broke her gaze. That was in high school, Harper said. She was clearly upset about it, though part of that could be the emotional rollercoaster of the past fifteen minutes, not actual remorse for what she did. But Abby thought she knew Harper, and she couldn’t imagine Harper not feeling bad about it. As she had learned the past few days, Harper was good at avoiding situations that were going to be uncomfortable for her regarding her sexuality. She looked back at her.

‘Have you apologised to her?’

It was Harper’s turn to look away.

‘I meant to.’

‘Okay. I’m not- I don’t know a lot of your history, it turns out, I don’t know what it was like for you growing up, not really. I’m not telling you to do anything. But I think if you see her again this week, try and do that. If you’re coming out now, on your terms, I think the least you can do is apologise for taking away Riley’s chance for that.’

Harper nodded, head bobbing vigorously.

‘I will. I promise. She’ll be at the Christmas Eve party, definitely, if we don’t see her at any of the other events Mom roped us into.’

Abby bit her lip, looking at her for a long moment.

‘Come here,’ She opened her arms and Harper eagerly rose to her knees, moving forward into the embrace. She moved into Abby’s lap, bracketing her hips with her thighs, and Abby wrapped her arms tightly around her middle, pressing her face into the junction of her neck and shoulder. ‘I’m so proud of you though, for how that went with your mom.’

Harper’s arms tightened around her in response.

They sat like that for a few minutes until;

‘Baby, my legs are getting kind of numb’

Harper laughed, and shifted off her lap, moving to stand next to the bed.

‘I’m getting pretty cold too, to be honest.’

‘You’re wearing silk shorts in a basement in the winter.’ Abby deadpanned, stretching her legs out and swinging them over the side of the bed.

‘I was trying to seduce you! I thought we’d be texting or on the phone, or you’d successfully sneak into my room, not bring mom’s cupboard crashing down.’ Harper swatted at Abby’s side as she stood, but she was grinning as she did so. Abby gasped in mock horror.

‘You mean you were trying to bait me into shenanigans? In your parent’s house? Harper!’ Her facade broke quickly though, and the two lasted a moment before breaking into laughter.

Placing her hands on her shoulders, Harper kissed Abby’s forehead, pulling away slowly.

‘Thank you, for tonight and everything. I know this isn’t what you signed up for.’

‘I love you, Harper. And I think we need to have a conversation about some things too. But it can wait a couple days til we’re home. Right now, we need to go to bed and not ruin your mom’s Christmas.’

‘We can do one of those things.’

‘Okay, well as much as she scares me, there is only one Caldwell woman I really need to impress, and that’s the one freezing to death with her legs exposed right now.’

‘Don’t lie, you love it.’

‘Never said I didn’t.’

She pressed a quick kiss to Harper’s lips but stepped away before it could deepen, moving to the foot of the bed to grab her bag. Luckily, she hadn’t really unpacked, and the clothes she’d probably wear tomorrow were in there still. Hefting it onto her shoulder, she made her way to the door, following Harper out the room and up the stairs, all the way through the main house until they were in Harper’s room. It was still as strange a sight as when she’d first seen it with the pink colour scheme and the male pin-ups inside the closet door, but Harper closed that before she could open her mouth to mention it, shooting her warning look.

‘I’m taking that down tomorrow.’ Was all Harper said on the matter, before closing the bedroom door and pointedly locking it. Crossing back to the bed, she sat down, starting to undo her shirt buttons. Abby ogled slightly at the sight of the bra coming back into view.

‘Your mom said no shenanigans.’ It was a feeble attempt, she knew, as Harper merely raised an eyebrow at her. ‘I don’t want to be like, immediately ignoring the one request she had.’

‘I’m not suggesting full shenanigans , just you know, what we were doing before. Some making out. Holding each other. Barely a shenanigan at all, really.’ She was holding back a smile, eyes full of mirth as she finished undoing the last button. All Abby could do was stare when she threw the shirt behind her, a wonderful reminder of what exactly Abby had been feeling not even thirty minutes before. ‘You’re falling behind,’ Harper teased, before standing up and shimmying the goddamn shorts down her legs.

With that, the last of Abby’s resolve broke, and she quickly started to pull her own clothes off. She nearly tripped in her haste to get her pants off. Harper, to her credit, only laughed a little.

‘It’s not soundproof up here, so we have to be quiet.’ Harper gasped as Abby moved forwards pushing her back onto the bed and starting to kiss her neck, hands quickly finding their place over her bra.

‘And what do you think we’ll be doing that needs us to be quiet?’

‘I’m sure I can think of something,’ Harper grinned as Abby finally moved to her lips.

There was still a lot to figure out, to talk about. But for the moment, as Abby made out with her girlfriend in her parent’s house, heavily reconsidering her ‘no shenanigans’ stance, things weren’t as bad as they could be. If things all went according to their, admittedly flimsy, plan, then this Christmas could turn out to be pretty great after all.