“Hey,” Nick said, setting the rum glass on the lamp table next to the pullout couch that Joe was currently sitting on.
“Not now, Nick,” he whispered, pinching the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger.
“Yes now, Joe. You have to tell me what is going on here. You know she didn’t mean that. But you really hurt her,” Nick said and Joe sighed.
“Yeah, I know,” he said and Nick sat down next to him.
“So, what happened?”
“Remember what I told you this morning? At the tree farm?” he asked.
“About how she said you followed a pattern your whole friendship?” Nick asked and Joe nodded. “You didn’t really go into detail though.”
“She said every time I was with someone; I’d basically ignore her until things were going wrong, we’d talk about it, and eventually we’d break up and then Natalie and I were back to hanging out like nothing ever happened. And I never realized it when I did it, but after she told me this morning, I’ve been thinking back on every relationship I was in and… she’s right. I’m a dick,” he said, shrugging his shoulders and slouching back into the couch.
“Well I could have told you that,” Nick joked and Joe just glared at him. “Sorry, not the time yet.”
“Can I ask you something?” Nick asked and Joe swirled his rum, taking a sip and nodding. “Why didn’t you ever date Natalie? Frankie, Kevin, and I all expected it. And I think Mom and Dad did too.”
“The thing about Natalie was… she was so different from any of the girls I ever dated. We could hang out and talk for hours and she was actually interested in listening to me go on about music and I loved seeing how excited she got over things she loved,” he said.
“Isn’t that a good thing?” Nick asked.
“Yeah, but I felt she was too good. I didn’t want to go into a relationship with her and possibly fuck it up and lose her forever. I wanted her to always be in my life,” he said, shrugging.
“Well that worked out well,” Nick said sarcastically, rolling his eyes. “Did Lindsey judge Natalie without ever knowing her? Thinking there was something more between you two?”
“Yes. And that’s the real reason Natalie wasn’t invited to the wedding. I didn’t have the heart to tell her,” Joe sighed.
“Dude. You have to tell her,” Nick said pointedly and Joe groaned.
“I know,” he said, taking another sip of rum.
“Do you regret never giving her a chance?” Nick asked and Joe turned to him.
“Every day,” he whispered. “I just… I really thought Lindsey was the one.”
“Well, maybe this is your second chance,” Nick said and Joe shook his head.
“Yeah… right. Like she’d ever forgive me enough to consider that possibility,” Joe scoffed.
“Never underestimate the magical powers of Christmas,” Nick said and Joe rolled his eyes. “So, when are you going to talk to her?”
“Tomorrow I think. Today’s been eventful enough,” Joe answered and Nick nodded.
“Good idea,” Nick said, clapping his hand on Joe’s shoulder and giving it a squeeze.
“Hey boys! Come on up, it’s movie time!” Kerry called down to them.
“On our way!” Nick said, standing up.
“I’ll be there in a second,” Joe said. Nick nodded and headed back up the stairs. To his surprise, Natalie was still sitting at the counter, a now full glass of wine in front of her. Her head snapped up when she heard him and she jumped down from the stool.
“Is he okay? Did I upset him?” she asked frantically.
“He’s fine. He’s more upset with himself than anything,” Nick said reassuringly, putting his arm around her shoulders. “Come on.”
“What about…” she started, turning to look towards the basement stairs.
“Don’t worry, he’s coming up. He just needed a second.”
“Okay…” she said slowly, grabbing her wine and following Nick into the living room, wishing she could turn back the clock twenty minutes and keep herself from opening her big mouth.
Natalie laid on the air mattress staring at the ceiling, her hands resting on her stomach. Turning her head to her left she could just make out the slumbering forms of Jen and Kerry in the moonlight. To her right, Danielle was sound asleep on the other air mattress.
Quietly she reached for her phone, shielding the dim light with her hand as she checked the time. 1:17 a.m. She was wide awake. She slid off the mattress and pulled her socks on. As she headed to the door, she grabbed the cardigan she had been wearing earlier and wrapped it around her body.
She tiptoed towards the stairs, the floor slightly creaking underneath her. The warm glow of the Christmas tree was so inviting, but her stomach rumbled so she headed toward the kitchen first. When she rounded the corner, she was surprised to see the refrigerator door open, outlining the silhouette of Joe. She cleared her throat as to not startle him too much.
“Hey,” he whispered, turning back to the fridge and pulling out some food.
“Can’t sleep either?” she asked and he nodded.
“You hungry?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said, sitting on one of the island stools. He reached into the cabinet and pulled out two plates.
“Tell me what you want to dream about and I’ll know what to give you,” he said, placing a plate right in front of her.
“What did you just say?” she asked, her eyes widening at the familiar sentence. He was just silent as he opened the package of bread, grabbing slices for them. “You have seen it.”
“Seen what?” he asked as he spread mayonnaise on his bread.
“White Christmas. That’s a very specific quote from a very specific scene depicting a moment much like this one,” she said and he smirked.
“Maybe once or twice,” he admitted and she shook her head in disbelief.
“But just never with me,” she said, shoving the plate away and standing up.
“Nat, wait,” he said, setting his sandwich down and stepping towards her.
“I’ve suddenly lost my appetite. Goodnight,” she said, heading up the stairs, expecting Joe to follow her, but he didn’t.
She didn’t know why she was so upset. But now Joe’s reaction earlier confused her even more. Because she was right. All those years refusing to watch it, only to find out he watched it with her. She slipped back into bed and forced her eyes shut, begging sleep to overcome her.