"Did you have to be so rude?" Thea asked with annoyance.
"I wasn't the rude one, I was simply retaliating." Holly shot back, "it's what he gets for rubbing up against me."
Thea sighed in frustration, blowing her shoulder-length, blonde locks out of her face. "Don't you think that maybe it was an accident caused by the store being so crowded?"
"Look, you can be as naïve as you want, but I know men. You didn't see him bumping into that old fat guy, did you?" Holly countered as her green eyes peered through her slightly dirty glasses. Strands of her wavy brunette hair were escaping from her ponytail, but she seemed not to care. She simply shook her head in agitation and stared out the window at the crimson sky.
It was obvious that there would be no winning this argument, so Thea decided instead to focus on the snowy road in front of them. She took one hand off the steering wheel and reached down to turn on the stereo in hopes of finding some safe, mundane Christmas music. However, all she was able to find was soft static that strangely seemed to compliment their white, fuzzy surroundings.
"Here, let me get it. You just focus on the road," Holly offered, trying not to sound too controlling. She pressed a few buttons and found a station that was playing hard rock interpretations of Christmas favorites. Thea sighed once again, but this time it was inward.
"I just want to get out of the city and have a nice, quiet Christm-," Thea caught herself before saying the entire word, quickly shooting a glance at her girlfriend to see if there would be any repercussions, before continuing, "uh, vacation...just the two of us."
Holly knew that it was an honest slip-up, so she didn't acknowledge it. Instead, she gave a weak smile and put her hand on Thea's. Thea responded by facing her palm up and interlocking her fingers in Holly's. They continued to drive without speaking for awhile, one enjoying the music, the other trying her best to tolerate it.
When they arrived at the log cabin, they took some time to wander around before unpacking. The combination of the incoming overcast and the dense forest helped to create a dark ambience, yet the mood was surprisingly cheerful. Holly took Thea by the hand and led her through the trees, careful not to lead her girlfriend into any stray branches. Finally, they found a fallen trunk that was perfect for sitting on. Holly dusted off the powdery snow and invited Thea to sit next to her.
"Isn't it beautiful?" Thea asked while they stared at the last rays of sunlight in the distance.
"Yes. It's so pure and untainted, I almost feel bad for being here," Holly responded.
"Nonsense! I think you accentuate the beauty."
Holly laughed bitterly, but then compromised by saying, "I think we both do."
Thea rested her head on her love's shoulder and inhaled the fresh pine scent coming from the surrounding trees. She was overcome with happiness at the thought of enjoying the holiday without stress. She buried her face into Holly's neck seductively, but lost her nerve when Holly looked at her. Rather than pursue anything, Thea simply smiled and turned her attention back to the darkening sky.
Later, Thea wanted to search for birds and other animals, while Holly was more interested in seeing if she could walk backwards to the car by stepping in her own foot prints. She had to lift her lift her legs high because the snow was almost a foot deep.
"No! I was almost there!" Holly cried in frustration as she lost her balance and fell onto her last two foot prints. Because of the snow's depth, she found that her vision was cut off and she could no longer see around her.
"Holly? Baby, where'd you go?" Thea called as she made her way back to the car. She was looking up at the cabin and didn't realize that she was walking past her girlfriend when she felt a hand grab her and pull her to the ground. She yelped in surprise and laughed when she realized that it was Holly. "Don't do that!" she scolded playfully, "you scared the crap out of me!"
"Ah, well then my ambush was a success." Holly responded with a grin.
"So," Thea began, "What do you think?"
"What do I think?" Holly looked confused, "we haven't even been inside the house yet."
"I meant, what do you think about making love right here in the snow?" Thea said softly. Without waiting for an answer, she brought her head down to Holly's and kissed her. Holly did not object, but returned the kiss by opening her lips and letting her tongue slide into her lover's mouth.
"Mmm...I think I'd get icicles on my tongue. And that's not necessarily a bad thing." Holly responded with a warm smile.
Thea's hand reached up to caress her girlfriend's cheek softly. She tucked it under Holly's chin and lightly stroked her neck. Holly responded by resting her head back into the snow. She cooed softly as the fingernails lightly scraped across her skin. Thea's hand crawled on top of Holly's coat until found a breast. As she gazed into her lover's eyes, Thea squeezed the fleshy mound under the thick fabric, making Holly bite her lower lip. The seductive blonde then took her other hand and brushed the stray hair from her lover's face before leaning down to kiss her.
Thea began to slide her hand down further, but Holly stopped her.
"It's too cold," she whispered, "plus it's getting really dark. Let's go inside."
Thea knew that the reason she gave was not the true reason, but she did as her girlfriend wished anyway. Thea went around to the back of the cabin in order to collect firewood while Holly worked on unpacking the car. After things were settled, Holly went right over to the fireplace and crumpled up some newspaper to get the fire started. She knew that her reason for wanting to come inside was transparent, but she also knew that Thea was familiar enough with her history that she understood.
While she was thinking about this, a flame licked the palm of her hand. "Shit!" she drew her hand back, but the pain followed it.
"What happened?" A concerned voice came from the bedroom.
"The fucking fire bit me!"
"Well tell it to play nice," Thea joked as she came around the corner. The look on Holly's face told her this she was not amused. "Come here, let's run it under some cold water."
Thea accompanied her distressed lover over to the sink and turned the knob. To their unpleasant surprise, no water came out.
"What the hell?" Holly griped.
"I don't know, I guess the pipes must be frozen." Thea said apologetically.
"Well that's just lovely!"
"Don't panic; I'll go get some ice cubes from the cooler"
Unfortunately, almost all of the ice had melted, so Thea had to soak a washcloth in the freezing water. Holly took it grudgingly and sat on the couch facing the fireplace, while Thea took a seat in the chair next to it. Both were silent for a long time, watching the flames dance unpredictably inside the mantle. Then Holly said the words that Thea was dreading to hear.
"Maybe this was a bad idea."
"No, it wasn't. Just give it a chance."
"A chance? Why? What's going to happen? A Christmas miracle?" Holly shuddered at herself for using the word.
"Holly, don't. I didn't mean to upset you." Thea fretted.
"You didn't do anything. It's not your fault, but nothing you do is going to change the fact that in seventeen minutes, it will be her anniversary."
Thea's face fell as she looked up at the grandfather clock, and she cursed herself for not noticing it earlier. Its constant, steady ticking had been so well integrated into the ambience that she never thought of it as a threat. She had gone to great lengths to make sure that Holly had no way of keeping track of the time; even confiscating her cell phone.
"Holly...Holly, are you listening?" Thea pleaded to an expressionless face that pretended to be focused on the fire, "I love you."
"This has nothing to do with you."
A painful void was created in the pit of Thea's stomach when she heard these words. For the first time in her life, she felt completely helpless. There was simply no way to ease her girlfriend's depression that she could see. She resigned herself to watching the fire, too, for if she could not be a part of what was going on inside her lover, at least she could share what her lover saw on the outside.
There were eleven minutes left.
Thea prayed...she prayed with every ounce of strength in her soul that Holly would say something. The silence was deafening and made her want to scream until she had no more breath. But she didn't want to be the one who broke the silence. What would that do, except cause Holly to retreat further into her shell? She tried not to glance at the clock, but soon lost her willpower.
Eight minutes left.
Thea knew that Holly was keeping track of every second that passed. It didn't even matter whether she looked at the clock or not; somehow she just knew. Holly's obsession with the time that it happened was something that always puzzled Thea, for why would that be such an important detail to her? Perhaps thinking of it in such cold and calculated terms allowed Holly to keep her distance from it, emotionally.
"I hate her," Holly finally whispered so quietly that Thea could barely hear her. Thea turned to look at her girlfriend, who was still staring at the fire as though it was to blame for all that had happened.
"You don't mean that." Thea responded cautiously.
"I hate her," Holly repeated, "This isn't how life is supposed to be. What she did was so fucking selfish. What about me? Didn't she think about me?" There were tears streaming down Holly's cheeks now. "She was just going to leave me with him? With my father? The man who beat her? That was her best solution?"
"I don't blame you for feeling that way. I don't. She wasn't strong like you."
Holly looked over into Thea's eyes now, which startled Thea. "You think I'm strong?"
"Yes," Thea nodded slightly, "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do think you're strong."
"What the hell do you know?" Holly's voice wavered with rage and repressed sorrow. Thea did not take offense to her words, but just let her speak. "People say 'it's been four years Holly, you need to get on with your life'. If I was strong, would I still be trying to find a way to make the pain stop?"
Holly looked up at the ceiling and yelled as loud as she could, "Fuck you! Fuck you for killing yourself when I needed you most! I hate you mother!"
Thea could stand it no longer. She got up and rushed over to her love, embracing her as hard as she could. Holly fought against the affection, but she was too weak. She allowed her head to slump against Thea's chest and focused all her rage on crying as hard as she could. Within moments, Thea's shirt was soaked with tears. Neither girl moved for a long time.
The sun had set completely, leaving only darkness surrounding the cabin. The fire had burnt out, and the only light was coming from a lantern in the other room. Both girls continued to stare into the fireplace, as if in a daze. Thea was stroking Holly's hair very gently.
"Thea," Holly's hoarse whisper broke the silence.
There was a pause before Holly continued to speak. Thea imagined that she was searching for the right words.
"For always being here. I honestly don't know why you bother with someone as fucked up as me."
Thea propped Holly's head up on the front of her shoulder so that she could look her in the eyes. "Holly, I love you. You are the kindest, purest, strongest person I know. And whether or not you believe me, you have more courage than I could ever hope to have. The truth is, Holly, that I look up to you."
Holly gave a disbelieving expression, but did not say anything.
"It's true. Every Christmas Eve, we search for a new way to fight off your depression; to find some magical way to forget about your mother's suicide. We never find it, but Holly...you never give up."
Holly's eyes glistened as she listened to her girlfriend say these things about her. The words enveloped her mind like a warm blanket, and yet she questioned whether they were real, for she could not believe that someone could feel this way about her. Holly felt so very grateful to have someone this understanding and unconditionally loving in her life.
"The truth is that you inspire me, so that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Holly, I brought you up here so that I could ask you a question."
Holly stared at her with uncertainty, for she wasn't sure where this was going. Her eyes followed Thea's hand as it reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a small box. Her face went pale as she realized what the question would be.
"Will you marry me?"
"...Oh...oh Thea...," Holly searched for something as profound back to her love to match the speech that she had just been given, but realized that she only needed to say one word, "Yes."
Both girls collapsed into each other's arms and shed tears of joy. Thea's mouth pressed against Holly's tangled brunette hair as she moved her face up to her partner's. She licked the tip of Holly's nose playfully, to which Holly laughed, despite herself, and returned the gesture. The playful blonde responded by wagging her head furiously.
Unexpectedly, a wave of passion overcame Holly and she kissed her lover as hard as she could. Their mouths moved together in one fluent motion, their tongues clashing furiously. Holly felt as though she wanted to merge with her lover, to become a single being. The strongest gesture she could show was to wrap her hand around the back of Thea's head and push into her. Thea reacted by groaning hungrily into Holly's mouth, the vibrations on her tongue arousing her even more.
Holly unbuttoned her lover's jeans while making sure that their lips never parted. Thea shivered at first, but pushed Holly's hand back down when she attempted to withdraw it. Holly found the edge of Thea's panties and slipped her fingers inside, making Thea gasp as the sudden algidity. Rather than causing her to object, this seemed to amplify Thea's arousal. She scooted her hips down so that her lover could reach down further.
As Holly was fingering her lover's sex, Thea was showing her intention of returning the notion by unzipping Holly's pants. She mimicked Holly's actions by sliding her fingers under the panties. Both girls were panting heavily between kisses as each raced to push the other over the edge of ecstasy. Despite the constriction of the jeans, Holly managed to insert two fingers inside her lover, who arched her back and bucked her hips into the air. Holly refused to let their lips part for even a second, and soon the motion of their tongues matched the rhythm of their fingers.
Thea was the first to reach her climax, but Holly didn't stop pleasing her. Instead, she simply slowed her rhythm down to avoid making her oversensitive. Sometimes her hand would bump against Thea's clitoris, making her jump a little, but the accompanying whimper told her that Thea had no intention of asking her girlfriend to stop. When Holly finally came, her blonde girlfriend was feeling her third orgasm. Their moans mingled in the air and filled the cabin, undistinguished. After the waves of pleasure finally began to fade, they collapsed, each trying to catch her breath.
The two lied on the couch, completely spent, and began drifting off to sleep. Holly was the first to go, which was no surprise to Thea. After all, she had been through quite a lot that night. As much as she would have liked to do the same, Thea realized that they needed the heat from the fire and built another one. After the flames illuminated the room, Thea laid out a few thick blankets and coaxed a very groggy Holly to join her on the floor.
The next morning, they awoke at the same time. Thea wasn't sure how her Holly would react to last night's proposal in the light of the morning, so she waited patiently. Holly slowly looked over at Thea and smiled.
"Merry Christmas, fiancée." She whispered.
"Merry Christmas, my love," Thea answered back.