CHRISTMAS WITH MY FAMILY • by Lisa Finch

The predicted five centimetres of snow turned out to be fifteen. Most of Southern Ontario had been blanketed. My dad and sisters shivered and brushed flakes off each other, and me, at the back of the church. Not exactly the June wedding I’d always dreamed of. Why had I let Brad talk me into a December ceremony?

I peered inside the church. There they were. Poinsettias everywhere. My future mother-in-law Sylvia had insisted on her favourite Christmas plant, not the lovely and equally Christmasy amaryllis or anthurium, neither of which I was allergic to.

“Well, just don’t eat the poinsettias, dear,” she had laughed at the florist’s.

Later I’d fumed. “This too shall pass,” my mom said as she poured me a cup of tea.

True. Anyway, what did it matter? Brad and I loved each other. Sure, we’d had a few rough spots along the way, no different than anyone else.

But there had been tender moments as well. Like last night after the rehearsal party, Brad’s lips quivered against mine as he kissed me goodnight. “It’ll all be alright. You’ll see.”

I squeezed his hand. Yes, all the wedding stress will be behind us.

I thought about the honeymoon Brad arranged. The Bahamas would be lovely and warm. I tucked away the initial sadness I’d had about not spending our first Christmas as a married couple, with our families.

I tried hard not to think about my family’s Christmas traditions, the things I’d miss, laughs and inside jokes around the dinner table. I’d have to do without my mom’s prize-winning turkey stuffing and the rum-laced eggnogs my dad concocted. There’d be a roaring fire. I usually cozied up with a book at some point after the supper dishes were done, and my brother John would bring out his guitar. Later, we sisters would drag him outside so he could “help” us build a snowman. He’d protest that we weren’t kids anymore but once outside, he’d throw the first snowball.

But Brad had his heart set on the Caribbean. A later, watered-down version of Christmas would have to do.

The bigger problem, though, crouched and waited for us in the wings.

Sylvia rolled her eyes whenever the topic arose. “You are the first couple to have two places to live after the wedding.”

It was the only point I’d refused to concede. My apartment was perfect, close to my work, the bookstores and restaurants we loved. But Brad wanted me to move into his place, a glass-faced highrise near scant few amenities. The commute would be a bear, especially in winter, but neither of us had the energy to fight about it anymore. We were at an impasse.

Never mind, we’d figure it out. I unclenched my fists and urged my shoulders to relax.

Happiest day of my life.

But now my brother was red faced and marching toward us, his eyes wild and furious.

What the hell?

Dad stepped forward. “What is it?”

“Sylvia just told me Brad’s not coming,” I heard him say.

I motioned John over. “What do you mean?”

“That’s all I know,” he said. “I’m sorry, Lil.”

I’m sure my sisters’ blank faces mirrored my own.

“I’ll kick his ass!” John hissed.

“You’ll do nothing of the kind,” Dad said, his hand resting on my shoulder. He leaned in. “Honey, don’t you worry. I’ll take care of everything.”

All eyes turned to me. The bride. On the happiest day of her life.

I shook my head, as if to clear it. How could Brad humiliate me like this, with a church full of people waiting for us to start our lives together?

Now my mother left her seat to join us. “What’s going on?”

She took it all in, set jaw and downturned mouth, then pulled me into a hug. “Oh no,” was all she could say.

Now heads turned to the buzz at the back of the church. Sylvia walked out from the narthex.

“Could I please talk to you?” she asked me quietly.

My parents flanked me. “She’s staying right here with us,” Dad said.

“Look, I’m sorry.” Sylvia held out an envelope. “Here, Brad wanted you to have this.”

This was how he treated me? “A letter? Are you serious?”

I ripped it open. Only a few scrawled words: I hate that I just can’t face you today. Please forgive me. In time I think you’ll realize this is for the best. Sorry, Brad.

I flashed back to this morning. It seemed so long ago. I’d woken to a cold, grey sky, and had felt blank when I looked out my window. Where was the giddy anticipation, the joy?

Sylvia was saying something, but I only caught the tail end. “He couldn’t go through with it, but I think he knew if he saw you, especially like this…” Her eyes were huge as she surveyed me. “You’re absolutely gorgeous.” She shrugged. “What could he do?”

She wiped at her eyes with a tissue. “Lily, I’m sorry about the poinsettias, and well, everything.”

“It’s okay.” I extended my hand; I heard one of my sister’s sharp intake of breath. “This isn’t your fault.”

“Really?”

I nodded. “Really,” I said. “But you know, he’ll have to face me sometime.”

A smile played on her lips. “I guess he’s got that much coming to him.”

Yes, yes he does. I have things in my apartment that belong to him; he has some of mine in his. We’ll have to untangle our lives. But it will be on my terms, when I’m ready. After Christmas.

Christmas with my family.


Lisa Finch is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in print and online. She holds an Honours English B.A. from McMaster University. She lives in a quiet little town in Ontario with a very noisy (but lovely) family which includes an incredibly supportive husband, three wonderful children, two cats, a dog and a collection of fish. People-watching is one of her favourite hobbies.


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Every Day Fiction

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Brad’s quivering lips certainly foreshadowed less than joyful nuptials. As did those two apartments.

    Why did these two people want to marry? We are given not the slightest shred of even tarnished attraction between Brad and Lily. With the classic obstacle to wedded bliss front and center here, just saying “we loved each other” just isn’t enough.

    This might have worked as funny and rueful–a cascade of misconnectedness–with two relieved people able to, say, remain friends afterwards. But the tone of this was, beginning to end, that of two profoundly immature people and a jilted bride awfully glad she didn’t need to leave mommy and daddy after all.

    • Admittedly, I’m more predisposed to cynicism than sentimentality but I thought that was exactly the story. A snapshot of superficiality and essential detachment. Maybe they will get together again when they’ve matured a little. They’re ok really, those two, just a bit feckless and going through the motions.

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        ” A snapshot of superficiality and essential detachment. ”

        Sorry–but I thought it was a grim picture of what sort of credit card bills the parents will be stuck with–without a positive emotional payoff–when you’re dealing with a passive-aggressive couple like this…

        • Hm, I didn’t see any passive-aggression, just two people following a trail – possibly of other people’s expectations. Passive certainly but aggressive? I’d have expected more evidence of manipulation really. But there you go, different readers, different perceptions.

          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

            What undercuts the entire premise of the story for me anyway is the presentation of Lily’s family–quick to ignite and extremely protective of her–yet they allowed Sylvia to run roughshod over Lily’s cherished holiday customs. Lily might not have the gumption to push back, but Dad sure would have.

            And then, after Brad commits the ultimate sin of leaving egg on his ma’s face, she fades with nothing more than a “smile play[ing] on her lips.” Brad must have sterner stuff in his underwear than we’re led to believe if he could get her to meekly deliver that letter without taking his head off first…

          • Looked plausible enough to me 🙂

  • MPmcgurty

    I can’t believe she’d go ahead and marry a man whose lips quivered against hers. Okay, I’ll admit this story set my teeth on edge from the start; newlyweds who won’t stand up to their parents or in-laws annoy me. Still, I’m willing to see a story to the end in the hope of a character developing. Here, we know from the beginning she’s going to end up jilted or running away, but instead of taking us along on a journey of realization, we get dumped at the altar.

    • Jack Tilley

      My time zone puts me behind the eight-ball — I was all set to smack the quivering lips, but I’d be a tired third in line. I also thought the “crouched” from “crouched and waiting in the wings” should go. And does anyone anywhere say “The commute would be a bear”? Did the young’uns get rid of the “bug” while I wasn’t looking?

      The ending intrigued me. It’s like she won — not as a woman digging deep to find the strength to battle on, but as the winner of a rather dark and devious contest. He blinked in their soulless game of chicken. I’m partial to psychotic women and she finally grabbed my attention right at the death.

      As Sarah said above, this piece should have been played for laughs. Seinfeld made silk purses out of stuff like this.

  • Sorry. A pointless story about pointless people.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      Yes. When being dumped at the altar gives the bride her happy ending, letting her spend Christmas with mom and dad after all…

      • JAZZ

        Sarah,
        Aren’t you tired of playing the devil’s advocate? There is little or no dignity in putting down others and their efforts with your consistent sarcasm, one could almost say bullying. You are making a joke of literary reviewing and turning this fine site into a contest of lobbying ridiculous verbal grenades. My suggestion is that you stop playing the fool and concentrate on constructive criticism.

        • Jack Tilley

          I disagree, Jazz. The internet is awash with writing sites that have a depressingly uniform bravo-well-done comments section. I’m looking forward to strongly disagreeing with something Sarah says so I can jump in–so far I’ve mainly been chastened by my own lack of attention as a reader. If they ever re-open submissions here, I’d love to have the chance to be done over, to see how a group willing to have at it will respond – that sort of feedback is gold for any author who’s serious.

          Besides, all authors need constant rigorous birching – everyone knows that.

          • Camille Gooderham Campbell

            As long as you “jump in” with courtesy and respect, Jack, it’s all good.

          • Jack Tilley

            Like most dutiful middle-class citizens, my daily life is choked with courtesy and respect (and I wouldn’t have it any other way). I turn to literature for something more red-blooded and essential. It’s not possible (or desirable) to read Shakespeare all day then train one’s quill to reverb pieties. Blow, winds! Spit, fire! and all the rest. But I certainly respect your right to run your site as you see fit. Cheers.

          • Camille Gooderham Campbell

            Let me be more simple, then. Don’t be a dick. Respect = treating others as human beings who have feelings. If that chokes you, go play on Reddit.

    • JAZZ

      Jeff, you may want to research to find out what a literary review is exactly. Academically it is your opinion based on reasoning with critical comment both positive or negative. It is not an angry rebuke.

    • Camille Gooderham Campbell

      I’d like to ask everyone involved in the replies to this particular sub-thread to go read our Welcome page regarding our commenting policy. Attacks and disparagement of other commenters are not acceptable. We can disagree and debate without insults and sneering, right? Moderators at EDF can and will redact or delete comments that cross the line.

  • Melissa Reynolds

    I overanalyze stories at times. I can’t enjoy stories that my (non-writer) friends do because I’m in my head too much, worrying about structure, word choice, theme, inconsistencies etc… after all there are a million different ways to rip apart a story. I didn’t do that with this story. I took it at face value and enjoyed reading. That in itself made me love it.

    To me, the main character had concerns but wrote them off as cold feet. She was going to push herself to go through with the wedding because she promised, because he was comfortable and what she knew, because she had spent the money and everyone was already there, because she knows that life isn’t a fairy tale and she couldn’t expect a perfect happily ever after with Prince Charming. I didn’t see her as immature, but rather someone who felt trapped under the weight of expectations.

  • Von

    What a great twist on a wedding story! I adored reading about all the family Christmas traditions Lilly lamented missing. Definitely made her and her family feel real to me. I love how the more the writer reveals about the groom and his family, the more we also learn about the bride’s family. Nice work with that. The writer shared so much in a very small window of time. Excellent work.

  • Michael Stang

    I, like Von, was captured by the Christmas tradition descriptions. Perhaps the saving grace to the whole thing. Sarah’s daddy’s credit card stands on its own as I’m thinking the characters are too special to pay for all this on their own. I simply could not come to care.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Not much to excite me, I’m afraid. Now, if Brad got gored by one of Santa’s reindeer,…

  • Rose Gardener

    I thought the engaged couple were not untypical of many young people getting married these days; haven’t thought it through, haven’t learned to compromise to resolve their differences, don’t know the difference between love and romance… I could go on, but I’ll sound like a middle-aged grump.
    For me there was a pleasing story arc as the bride woke up to herself (and her groom), discovered what was important to her and what wasn’t. I liked her (by the end). I found myself thinking the next time she decides to marry she’ll be a bit more worldly wise and that pleased me, so the story brought satisfaction.

    • JAZZ

      I don’t think today’s young people are any different in the love and romance department than the many lovers who have gone before.
      Shakespeare said that love is blind.. And thus it will ever be.

  • I couldn’t get past the fact that she still wanted to marry this guy who still allows his mother to interfere and dictate. I couldn’t find any likable characters so my interest in what happened to them was fairly non-existent. I thought the writing was done very well, however. I think the story would worm much better with characters I actually cared about. That’s really my only critique.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Lisa Walpole Finch

    I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to read and/or comment. For all the stories I fretted and struggled over, and all the ones I felt I made into the very best versions of themselves, for all its complexities and challenges, I wouldn’t change the writing life for anything. Thanks to you all for being part of the learning experience, with this particular story. Cheers and a Happy New Year to you all!

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      Right back at ya…

    • Michael Stang

      Dear Lisa, it is indeed for writers such as yourself who leave the light on that a new year will be filled with creation and achievement.
      The very best to you.