It really sucked when there was no snow on the ground during Christmas. Cerise looked outside, trying to will the skies to open up with some powder. Even just a short flurry would be enough. What was the point of winter without snow? All the Christmas decorations in the neighbourhood looked so stupid without snow, as though they were in a mall, all fake and stuff.
Speaking of fake, André was over for the traditional Christmas dinner of vegetarian lasagna and he’d brought his pretentious daughter Trista along for the ride. She couldn’t possibly have been more insufferable if she’d been switched with Jar-Jar Binks. She had dreadlocks. She was a white girl with blonde dreadlocks. The hair was long, reaching practically to her waist and was even adorned with little beads and things here and there. She wore purple harem pants and a grey sweater made of coarse wool. Even with a gun to her head Cerise couldn’t have designed a more perfect example of someone riding the line between hipster and hippie.
“It was just so beautiful. It was all made of wood and the ceiling was really high, almost like a cathedral, which is appropriate because it really felt like a sacred place. And it seemed as though, if you were completely silent, you could hear the wood speaking to you.”
“You could hear the wood speaking to you?” asked Simone with much more restraint than Cerise could have mustered.
“It was very spiritual,” Trista nodded pretentiously.
“It was a sugar shack,” Simone deadpanned.
Cerise let out a giggle, as did Julie. Their mom shot them a look.
“Yeah, you could almost sense the memories of the people who built it. You could feel the essence of the 18th century.”
“That place was built in like, the ‘80s,” said Julie with as much disdain as Cerise felt.
“Well in any case, it was just gorgeous. I’m just lucky that I’m the kind of person who can appreciate that kind of beauty.”
Cerise had to struggle to keep from vomiting and Simone and Julie were clearly having just as much trouble. Their mother actually agreed with Trista and gave her some sort of generic compliment while André encouraged her to tell them about the fabulous documentary she was working on.
“Oh, I’m in a group at school,” said Trista with a pretentious smile. “An activist group. We’re protesting the deforestation of
’s forests. There’s a boy, a film student making a documentary about it.” Canada
Small world, thought Cerise and then asked if the boy was named Jonah Cupryk.
Trista pretentiously confirmed this fact.
“I know him,” said Cerise. “Do you know Cassie Rosen?”
“Cassandra?” Trista said, dripping with pretention. “Yeah, she’s not in the group anymore. She just didn’t have the kind of dedication required for that kind of commitment.”
“So how come we’re not having turkey like normal people?” asked Julie as she poked at her vegetarian lasagna.
“It is so wrong to eat animals,” preached Trista. “I think when you reach a certain level of enlightenment you just naturally become vegetarian.
“You know Hitler was a vegetarian,” said Simone without missing a beat.
Cerise and Julie openly snickered while Trista turned red. “Is that true?” she asked in irritation.
“Google it,” smiled Simone. “I guess he’d just reached a certain level of enlightenment.”
Trista’s bitchface was priceless and the rest of the meal was mercifully silent.
Everyone seemed to be having a good time and Jay couldn’t really figure out why. Even his sister, Amy seemed perfectly happy to be eating overcooked carrots and undercooked potatoes with all their stupid cousins at the kids’ table. This year his aunt and uncle had invited a neighbour family over so the house was full to overflowing and anyone under the age of thirty was relegated to a pillow on the floor surrounding a small coffee table, which was all they had to hold their plates. All the guys were right about
. It totally sucked balls. Toronto
Karine rolled her eyes as Peter texted her again. He was like Steven the sequel with his constant badgering. Of course he’d tried to rope her into joining him and his family for Christmas but she was so not having it. She used her usual excuse of visiting her aunt up north, making sure to stay vague about the exact location but also mentioning that they had shitty cell reception up there. She knew she was being a total bitch and hell, she might have even enjoyed herself at Peter’s but she preferred to celebrate the holidays in her own way.
She’d decided to treat herself this year. She’d gone to Rockaberry’s and gotten herself a couple slices of different pies to be her official Christmas dinner. This was definitely going to be her new Christmas tradition. Maybe she’d even make it her thing for every holiday. Or every night even. Then she could get all fat and gross and get a reality show about being fat and gross. Seriously, why were there so many shows about being fat? It’s like all you needed to be famous in the States was to be a total loser.
Christmas dinner at Terry’s dad’s place was business as usual. They talked about nothing in particular and the atmosphere was sort of tense. When John’s phone rang Vicky didn’t even pretend like she didn’t know what was going on. She slammed her fork down onto her plate loudly and stared at her husband with wide, angry eyes. John actually took the call and stepped away from the table without even excusing himself. It was such a dick move.
“You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me,” Vicky cursed under her breath, but loud enough that they all heard.
“Why mommy cwy?” she asked in a panic.
“She’s just tired,” explained Terry. “She did a lot of cooking today so she needs to take a break.”
“God, I fucking hate him,” said Evan bitterly.
“Me too,” agreed Joey.
“I know,” nodded Terry. He really wished Vicky would just get on with it and file for divorce already ‘cause this shit was getting old.
Thank god Shauna had caught a cold. It wasn’t a particularly bad cold but she milked it like crazy and acted like she couldn’t even get out of bed. She wiped her nose vigorously with rough toilet paper anytime Stan wasn’t in the room so her nose would get super red and she’d look even worse than she felt. It was the perfect excuse not to go to his family’s house for dinner.
Stan had gone without her and she’d had the entire apartment to herself for five merciful hours. She’d taken a long bath and then watched Christmas movies on TV while chain-smoking. Life didn’t get much better than that. But then Stan had to ruin it all by coming home so she coughed and let her nose run as she lay on the couch, covered in more blankets than she really needed.
Stan brought her chicken soup and it was just Lipton Cup-a-Soup but it was still good. They exchanged gifts and Shauna opened a package wrapped in newspaper.
“Your coat?” she asked in confusion, holding up the used garment.
“Yeah, it’s yours now. Put it on!” he said excitedly.
She sat up and pulled it on. It was much too large, not to mention ratty as hell.
“It looks great!”
“Thanks,” she said, forcing a smile.
It wasn’t that Shauna wouldn’t wear such a coat. It was basically her style, in that it didn’t really have any style at all and she’d been known to wear Stan’s clothes whenever it suited her, but seriously? He was seriously giving her his old shit as a gift? Not that she’d gotten him anything much better. She didn’t have much money so she’d made him a 2012 calendar, with a different image for each month. For the pictures she’d printed photos of all his favourite things, and made collages, including pics of him and his friends, which she’d gotten off of facebook. She also included some pictures of herself and even made the effort to smile for them. In the end it wasn’t that great or anything but she was pretty proud of it ‘cause it was completely personalized for Stan and it had taken her weeks to put together. She’d always worked on it when he was off at work so it would be a surprise.
“A calendar?” he scoffed. “Nobody uses paper calendars anymore.” He tossed it aside without even looking at the pictures.
She knew he was right and it was kind of shitty but at that moment she hated Stan so much that she was honestly considering suffocating him with the coat. She could wrap it around his face and use the arms to strangle him and she could sit on his head until he had no air left and then she’d use a butcher knife to cut him up and she’d get a tub made of the right plastic and get some acid and dissolve him like in Breaking Bad.
A few tears rolled down her cheeks but she quickly wiped them away, pretending like it was just her cold acting up.
When John was done with his phone call he came back to the table but Vicky never did. She emerged from the bathroom and went upstairs. John followed her and they argued. Not loud enough for Terry to make out what they were saying but loud enough that they were obviously fighting.
John came downstairs and walked into the dining room. “Terry, I’ve got to go to work, some last minute things… make sure to clear the table… and clean the kitchen…” he trailed off and then just walked away.
“Why does he even bother lying?” asked Evan. “Like does he seriously think we believe him?”
“He’s gonna go see his ho, right?” asked Joey.
“Ok, I’ll clean the kitchen,” said Terry. “One of you has to give Britt her bath and the other has to clear the table. I’ll let you guys choose which one you do.”
Evan and Joey stared at each other, presumably trying to figure out which task was less onerous. Terry stood up and began walking away.
“Why should we do anything?” whined Joey. “Fuck dad!”
“We’re not doing it for dad, we’re doing it for Vicky!” said Terry with more patience than these brats deserved.
Evan brought the dishes in from the dining room while Terry loaded the dishwasher and wiped down the kitchen counters. Vicky was usually very tidy when she cooked, sort of cleaning as she went but today she’d left a lot of spills unattended. She must be crazy stressed.
Once he was done in the kitchen he collected Britt from the bath and dressed her for bed. He put her down, reading her a story about Santa Claus.
“Is Santa real?” she asked.
God, she was only three and a half. She shouldn’t be doubting Santa Claus but Terry felt uncomfortable lying to her.
“Do you think he’s real?”
“I tink the pwesents is fwom mommy. ‘Cause I see her wap dem.”
“Sure, the gifts under the tree are from mommy but what about the stuff in your stocking? Who gave you that stuff?”
Britt’s eyes went wide as she considered the question. “Santa!?” she breathed, balling her hands into fists as she gripped her blanket tightly.
“I dunno, I’ve never seen him myself but that’s what people say. That’s what people say,” Terry shrugged, smiling, trying to look as excited as she did.
Instead he turned off the lights and left Britt’s bedroom door slightly ajar so she could still see the hall light. She was going through a mild fear of the dark phase.
He walked towards the master bedroom and knocked on the door.
“Vicky? It’s me, Terry.”
“Oh, come in.”
He walked in and found her staring into her walk-in closet, her back turned towards Terry. “Britt’s in bed,” he said.
“Did she ask for me?”
He wasn’t sure if it was better to say that she hadn’t asked, ‘cause that meant she was fine, or if she had asked ‘cause that meant she still needed her mother. Terry shrugged. “She did at first but I let her know everything’s ok. I said you were napping.”
“Thanks Terry,” she sighed, still staring at her clothes. “I know this is shallow of me but I’m really gonna miss this closet.”
She turned around and sat on the bed, facing Terry. Her face was a mess, with her eye goop all smudged. “I’m gonna file for divorce.”
“Do you think that’s the right thing to do?”
It was so weird to have an adult ask for his opinion. Of course, he was eighteen now so technically an adult himself but still, it was weird. “I think it’s about time.”
She chuckled. “Yeah. But I don’t wanna take Britt away from her home or from you guys.”
“Well aren’t you gonna ask for the house? I mean dad’s the one who should move.”
“But he has you boys. I don’t wanna take your house away from you. I’m actually thinking of moving in with my mother for a while. Just while I figure things out.”
“Yeah,” he nodded.
“I think I’m gonna head out there in the morning. Do you think maybe you could pack a bag for Britt?”
“Thanks for being so strong through all of this. For shielding
from it.” Brittany
“Well I don’t know if I really did that great of a job. She knows something’s up.”
“Yeah,” Vicky nodded. “I guess I haven’t really been that subtle.”
“You’ve been fine. It’s dad who’s been a fucking asshole.”
Vicky smiled and even chuckled lightly. “I know, right?”
“He’s a fucking shithead and you should take him for all he’s worth.”
“I don’t want anything besides Britt,” she sighed.
“You gonna ask for full custody?”
“Well, I dunno. I want you to stay in her life. She needs you. She already only sees you part-time, I don’t want her to see you even less.” Vicky walked to her dresser and laughed at herself, seeing her face in the mirror. She grabbed a Kleenex and wiped her cheeks but gave up quickly.
“Even if you keep her full time I’ll still visit, no matter where you’re staying. I mean, you’re gonna stay in the
, right?” West Island
“Well my mom lives in NDG.”
“Oh, well that’s not so far. I’ll still babysit and stuff.”
“God, I’m such an idiot,” she said, staring at herself in the mirror.
“What do you mean?” he asked tentatively, kind of agreeing that it was dumb to have stayed with John for so long.
“This is exactly what he did to your mom I guess, eh?” she turned to look at Terry earnestly. “He had an affair with me while he was married to her. And I knew it. I knew he was married. I mean he always said he’d divorce her but it’s her who finally left him. And now it’s the exact same fucking thing, except this time I’m the wife. So I mean, I can’t exactly be surprised, can I?”
Terry held his tongue and simply shrugged. Everything she’d said was totally true.
“So I’m getting what I deserve I guess.”
Pretty much. “Well, he’s still the bigger asshole,” Terry said.
“And I’m the moron who fell in love with an asshole.”
“Live and learn I guess. At least you got Britt out of the deal,” Terry smiled, hoping he wasn’t coming across as a dick.
Vicky turned to him and smiled widely. “Yeah. Thanks, eh? For being such a good brother to her.”
“It’s no big.” He smiled back. It was kind of dorky, he supposed, but having Vicky acknowledge what he did for Britt was pretty cool. It felt pretty good to be appreciated for something he was good at and actually cared about.
“Pow! Hitler was a vegetarian! That was so awesome!” Cerise cackled with delight.
She and her sisters were gathered in Simone’s bedroom, all sprawled on her black duvet. André and Trista had gone home for the night, after an awkward gift exchange in which they gave the Laframboise girls some homemade tea that smelled rank and they received a set of wooden coasters Simone had made in one of her art classes. You could tell Trista was actually kind of impressed by the coasters but by that point she hadn’t wanted to give an inch and just sort of thanked them with an air of pretentious superiority.
“I could hear the wood talking to me because I commune with trees,” mocked Simone.
“Oh my god, I wanted to claw my eyes out!” Julie said way too loudly.
“Shh, mom’ll hear!”
“Oh, who gives a shit? She needs to get the hint that she should totally break up with that asshole!”
“Yeah well, mom’s allowed happiness too I guess,” shrugged Cerise.
“There’s actually conflicting information,” said Simone, scrolling through her phone. “Some say the Hitler vegetarian thing is a myth but other sites totally confirm it.”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s true, it made her shut up,” grinned Cerise.
“Only for like two seconds,” Julie whined. “Seriously, I learned way too much about tea tonight, like seriously. I don’t think I’ll ever drink it again.”
“I know, we totally have to ban tea,” agreed Cerise.
“It’s too bad, ‘cause I used to like tea,” frowned Simone. “But when you’re right, you’re right.”
“To no more tea!” Cerise thrust her hand forward.
Her sisters put their hands on top of hers and they all cheered, raising their arms in triumph. “No more tea!”
Shauna had hoped Stan would work on Boxing Day but he’d gotten it off so she’d had to endure an entire day of him playing GTA with Rod and Bill. They’d all gotten drunk off egg-nog and were being total losers. Shauna was glad for the excuse to stay in bed all day and avoid them but it was getting pretty boring so after a while she joined them.
“Shauna!” yelled Bill. “Get yer ass over here!”
Shauna smiled weakly and walked towards Bill. She was about to sit next to him but he grabbed her and placed her on his lap. He shoved his carton of egg-nog in her face and tried to force her to drink.
“I have a cold, you’ll catch it if we share.”
“It’s ok, I’m not worried,” he laughed and then stuck her nose in his mouth.
“Gross! What the fuck!?” she tried to push him away.
Stan and Rod erupted into riotous laughter. They all laughed and laughed and laughed and Shauna deeply regretted getting out of bed, but then again, the egg-nog was pretty good.
Terry brought more pie, officially making this the craziest, most pie intense Christmas ever. Karine was maybe getting a little tired of pie at this point.
“So she left this morning?”
“Yep,” nodded Terry, finishing off the leftovers from her various pie slices. “My dad didn’t even come home last night. So Vicky just took off first thing with Britt. And then my dad came home a few hours later and was being a total dick, all complaining about how the house was a total mess even though it was fucking spotless so I drove Evan and Joey back to my mom’s place.”
“How’s Britt handling it?”
“Well she doesn’t really know what’s going on yet. She was excited to go to her grandma’s house and didn’t even ask about dad. I think she’s already figured out that he’s unreliable.”
“Well I guess that’s good, ‘cause she won’t freak out as much about the change when Vicky leaves for good.”
“Yeah, still sucks for her though,” he sighed. “Would’ve been nice if at least one of us had a, you know, stable home or whatever.”
“Yeah but she’ll be ok as long as she has you,” Karine smiled up at Terry.
He smiled back. “I wonder if he’ll get married again.”
“You think he will?”
“It’s his thing. Apparently mom isn’t even his first wife,” he said with a furrowed brow.
“Really? I didn’t know that.”
“Neither did I. And he didn’t even tell me. I found out ‘cause like, I dunno, like maybe a month ago or something I was rummaging through the garage and I randomly found this like old shoe box and there’s all these old photos of a wedding and it’s him and some woman I don’t recognize.”
“What? That’s crazy!” It was like a soap opera or something!
“Yeah, and from like the style and everything it doesn’t even look like it’s that long ago. He looks a bit younger in the pics, but not like crazy young. He must have divorced this woman and then gotten together with my mom all in like, the same day I bet.”
“That’s so nuts!” It was so exciting!
“And he never even told you about it?”
“It gets worse.”
Karine gasped. “What?”
Terry frowned and sighed. “Well, there’s like baby pictures. There’s pics of this woman, his first bride in a hospital holding this baby.”
“He has another kid? Like before you? Oh my god, you have another sibling? That’s like totally crazy!”
“Yeah,” he frowned.
“It’s so weird how like, you have too much family and I don’t have enough,” she chuckled.
“Yeah but, we’re family, right?”
Karine smiled weakly. If he was going to say she was like a sister to him she seriously didn’t want to hear it. Without another word he got up and walked off. A moment later he came back with his messenger bag, which he’d left in the front hallway. He sat back down and rummaged through it, pulling out a few photographs.
Karine inspected them. “Oh my god, she’s totally pretty! What a cute baby!” Karine narrowed her eyes and looked at the pictures more closely. Then she looked up at Terry. “Oh my god.”
“Yeah,” he nodded.
“Terry, it’s you.”