“Abby! Can you and Riley come in here, please?”
“Of course!” Abby raises her head from where it rests on her girlfriend’s chest and looks down at the other woman. “You heard your mother.”
Riley’s unhappiness at being disturbed is clear when Abby moves, but she takes the offered hand and allows the blonde to pull her from the couch just the same. “I really don’t understand how I’m her daughter, yet you’re the favourite.”
“What can I say? Parents love me.” Abby replies as they walk into the kitchen to join Riley’s mother. They both know it isn’t a lie; Riley’s parents view her as part of the family. That was apparent after Riley visited without her once and her mother made it abundantly clear all future invites were automatically extended to the blonde.
“Of course we do,” Angela replies, “Riley, stop pouting, we love you too.”
The doctor throws her hands up. “I give up. I’m the only child yet I’ll never be the favourite. It’s fine. My ego can take the bruising.”
Angela rolls her eyes before patting Abby on the arm. “I don’t know how you deal with her dramatics, but I’m glad you love her. Anyway, we’ve been talking about Christmas and we’ve told the Caldwells we won’t be attending their party this year.”
“But isn’t that the best party of the year that people fight over to get an invitation to?” Abby questions, feeling entirely comfortably wading into the conversation.
“Yes, but that’s not important,” Angela explains, “especially when the two of you don’t get to visit often. It’s been four years since we’ve had Riley home for the holidays. We want to start our own family traditions that don’t include the Caldwells.”
“But Mom, you love seeing everyone at their party. You don’t need to avoid going just because we’re here. We can both play nice with Tipper.”
“It’s not Tipper I’m worried about. It’s Harper. You know she has a tendency for dramatics. Does she know the two of you are together?”
“Probably not,” Riley concedes, “which is Abby’s fault.”
“Hey, it’s not my fault I fell in love with her ex!” Abby protests.
“To be fair, I did say ‘Don’t fall in love with me, Abby,’ when you moved in,” Riley teases, but there’s no bite to her words as she wraps her arms around the blonde from behind and rests her chin on Abby’s shoulder before pressing a kiss to her cheek.
“Yeah, and that lasted all of two months before you found your way into my bed,” Abby retorts with not a single trace of embarrassment in her voice. The story of how being just roommates in Baltimore lasted for a whole two months is well known and a subject of many jokes between the family.
“Abby! Not in front of my mother!”
Abby laughs, partially because she knows Riley isn’t concerned in the least and partially because while Harper may be dramatic, Riley isn’t exactly the poster child for the opposite.
“Anyways,” Angela continues, “We thought we could do our own dinner and watch Christmas movies after. After we go to bed, the two of you can go to the Oxwood or do whatever you want.”
“Sounds good to me,” Riley agrees, “I really wasn’t looking forward to a night of convincing people they aren’t likely to die from a papercut.”
“We’re going to need snacks and wine for Christmas Eve. We can run to the store today,” Abby volunteers, “Babe, I can make that spinach dip you like if you’ll make your orange brownies.”
“I support that,” Riley’s dad injects as he walks into the room.
“Alright Abs, you have a deal...if we can get whipped cream for them this time.”
Abby gives her questioning look. “We don’t put whipped cream on brownies.”
“Says you,” the brunette replies, punctuating her words with another kiss to the shorter woman’s cheek.
Dennis notices the glint in his daughter’s eyes and shakes his head. “Riley, be nice to your wife.”
The response is immediate from both women and Riley glares at her father. “Dad, we’ve discussed this. Abby and I agree we don’t want to get married yet.”
“Kids these days,” her father replies, “You’ve been together for three years. Get with it already. Riley, you were already two years old by the time your mother and I knew each other for three years.”
“Dennis, give her a break. Not everyone gets pregnant on their honeymoon,” Angela chimes in.
“MOM!” Riley shrieks, “I don’t need to know this!”
Angela rolls her eyes. “You’re a doctor; surely you can do the math to figure that one out on your own.”
“Why would I want to?! Oh my god. Can we please talk about something that isn’t going to land me in therapy- that YOU would be paying for might I add- for another five years?”
Abby takes pity on her. “Who knows, maybe that can be what we get you for Christmas next year.”
Riley groans when she sees Angela’s face light up. “Abs, you know Mom is going to hold us to that, right?”
The blonde nudges her and they have a silent conversation as Angela watches on. Finally Riley smiles. “Okay Mom, this time next year you can begin to plan a wedding for the following summer. But not a moment before.”
“Are you serious?” the older woman double-checks.
“We’ve discussed it and yes, we’re going to get married.” Riley replies and, seeing her mother’s eyes light up, adds, “For our fifth anniversary.”
“What about rings? Are you thinking about--”
“Nope!” Riley cuts her off, “A wedding will not be discussed until next December 23rd and not a moment before.”
“Riley’s right,” Abby jumps in before her future mother-in-law can say more. “We don’t want to think about it for another year. “
“But that’s a year away! What do I do with my time until then?”
Riley rolls her eyes. “You’ll survive. Besides, that gives us a year to work on finding a house we like.”
“And a year for Riley to come up with the perfect proposal,” Abby adds.
“I still say I shouldn’t have to be the one to propose, but okay.”
“Riley, you’re being very responsible about this,” Dennis notes. “Usually we hear of these major life decisions after you’ve done them.”
“If I had it my way, we would have gotten married last year when we were in Vegas,” the doctor admits and rolls her eyes when it’s met with laughter.
Her dad shakes his head. “Honestly we expected that phone call the entire week.”
“She tried, but I wouldn’t agree,” Abby says quietly. “I don’t want to rush things.”
Angela pats her hand, “The two of you do things at your own pace. Sure, we’re going to tease you over it, but we’ll respect it. Not a word from me about a wedding until this time next year. I promise. Now, the stores will be closing early today. Can we get a grocery list together?”
An hour later, Riley finds herself walking up Main Street, light snow falling, Abby at her side, and grocery list in hand. The street is decorated for the holidays and she can’t help but chuckle.
“What’s funny?” Abby questions, bumping their shoulders together as they walk. Riley knows that as long as they’re in her hometown, it’s the most the other woman will do to initiate PDA outside of the Bennett’s house or the Oxwood. She doesn’t hesitate to wrap her arm around the blonde and pull her into her side.
“I know we agreed not to talk about that Christmas but, despite the fact you were with Harper at the time, the day we were shopping I let myself wonder what it would be like to walk up Main Street like this with you. I always thought Downtown at Christmas was so romantic, but I’ve never been able to share it with anyone before.”
A few tense moments pass, and Riley is about to apologize for bringing their ex up, when Abby finally replies. “I love you, but you are such a softie.”
And just like that, the tension is broken and the doctor smiles when they walk into the store that’s teeming with people. “Do you want to stick together or split this up so we can get done quicker?”
“Let’s split up. I’ll get the stuff for the dip if you get your mom’s stuff? You can take the cart and let’s meet at the dairy section to discuss the whipped cream.”
Riley nods and they go their separate ways. The brunette is nearly done with her mother’s never-ending list when she sees Harper approaching. There’s a hesitant smile on the other woman’s face and, while she knows the other woman is heading directly to her, Riley secretly hopes someone else will intercept her along the way.
It’s in vain though, and soon enough Harper is standing in front of her. “Riley! I didn’t think you were able to make it this year. Mom said your parents declined the party invite.”
“Hi um, yeah, I’m here this year. It’s the first Christmas I’ve had off in four years and my parents decided they wanted to spend as much time with us as they can.”
Riley internally curses herself for the slip up and grips the grocery cart tightly. “My girlfriend is here too.”
“Bringing the girlfriend home to meet your parents? It must be serious.”
“Oh no, they met her four years ago and countless times since. We’ve been together for three years.”
Harper’s shock is written on her face and Riley takes slight pleasure in it. It’s short lived when she sees Abby coming towards them and knows there’s no way Harper hasn’t noticed her too.
“Abby, what are you doing here?” Harper asks, confusion in her voice as she looks between the two women as Abby places the groceries in the cart. “Are you two…”
Abby gives her a hesitant smile. “Hi Harper.”
“Are you two together?” Harper asks again as the blonde leans towards Riley and the doctor slips her hand into Abby’s without a word. The visible squeeze is one Harper knows is one of support and Abby takes a nervous breath.
“We are. We’re spending Christmas with Riley’s parents--”
“Who love you more than me,” Riley grumbles jokingly, trying to keep the conversation light.
“Who may have given their daughter an inferiority complex when it comes to choosing me over her,” Abby finishes, rolling her eyes at her girlfriend’s antics.
And yes, Harper does see. She can see how happy the pair look. Can see how Riley looks at the blonde like she’s Christmas, Halloween and her birthday all rolled into one. But mostly, she can see how Abby lights up when she talks about the doctor’s parents.
And she clearly sees that Riley has given Abby the Christmas, and the family, she failed to.
“Harper,” Riley begins, “We didn’t plan for this to happen. Abs got a job in Baltimore and we were just going to be roommates.”
Harper shakes her head and smiles despite the tightness in her chest. “I’m happy for both of you. I should go. Mom is waiting on me to bring back more eggs.”
With that, she walks away leaving her exes behind. After a few moments, Riley breaks the silence.
“What are the odds that Mom gets a call from Tipper before we get home?”