The house was dark when I entered, the only light coming from the fully decorated Christmas tree, flashing in the corner of the room. ‘Last Christmas’ played in the background faintly.
Aaliya was seated by the tree, hugging her knees and staring off into the distance.
She blinked, eyes widening in realization when they fell upon me.
“You’re home!” she exclaimed, standing up. She still sounded distracted, lost almost, “I’m sorry I didn’t wait– I know we said we’d decorate the tree together and I thought I’d wait for you to get back home, but then there was nothing else for me to do and it was killing me, and I– I don’t know. I’m sorry, I don’t want to ruin our first Christmas together.”
“Hey, Aaliya, breathe. You’re not ruining anything. Tell me what’s wrong.”
I sat on the floor, gently pulling her down with me.
She stayed quiet for a few seconds, before sighing, “I just– I thought they’d call, I suppose. My parents. It’s silly to hope, but I couldn’t help it.”
“That’s not silly at all, Aaliya.”
“We haven’t talked in months anyway but it’s Christmas. Christmas was our time. I’ve never spent a Christmas without them. We’ve got all these traditions, and banana bread, and we decorate the tree together.”
“I can get some banana bread, if you’d like.”
A weak laugh between sobs, “I’d like that. Thanks, Sarah, I just– I thought they’d come around eventually, you know. I never thought this was permanent. And them not calling me on Christmas– it just feels like it’s set in stone now. I don’t know what to do.”
“Aaliya, you don’t have to do anything. This is on them for not being able to accept you for who you are. They know what they’re missing out on.”
Aaliya sniffed and then wiped her tears with the back of her hand. Suddenly, a determined expression came all over her face.
“I want to make our own traditions. I want Christmas to be ours, from now on. I can’t hold on to a family that left me for dating a girl. The most wonderful girl in the world, might I add.”
I nodded, pulling her into a hug, “We can bake the banana bread tomorrow.”
The song changed to ‘All I Want for Christmas’, and a small smile crept onto Aaliya’s face.
“I’m going to take the decorations down. I want to start all over again with you.”