Title: Perfect Stranger
"My God Abby this looks so good!" Abby has just lifted the top of her casserole dish to show me what she made. She calls it crunchy potatoes, and it looks so good. I let her in and my helpers take her coat and her dish, then show her into the living room. Alex is waiting to introduce her to anyone she might not know. John is soon to follow with…
"Gifts! Oh John you didn't have to do that."
"We wanted to. Lets see…something for you and Alex, and something little for the kids." I smile and let him in. I no sooner just close the door when the bell rings again. I open the door again. Kerry and the psych girl, Dr. Legaspi are standing on the step. I'm surprised to see her, but cover it up. "Kerry! Thanks for coming."
"Thank you for the invite. Susan I think you know Kim Legaspi. I hope you don't mind that I brought her."
"Not at all. The more the merrier. It's nice to see you Kim. How are things in the psych ward?"
Kim rolls her eyes and it takes no time to see what Kerry sees in her. She reminds me of Alex a little. "That place is a zoo. You should see it some days. I could be driven to just kill them all myself." We laugh and by this time Susie and Kris come in and take coats while I take the food myself. As usual Kerry has outdone herself. I show her and Kim into the living room where Kerry gives Alex a big hug. I smile and go into the kitchen to see Carol setting the food out. "Oh Carol you don't have to do that! Let me."
"Nonsense. Go in and have fun with your friends and my daughter. We'll handle this." I smile and make my way into the living room, where everyone is sitting down talking. I sit next to Alex and listen to the different conversations that are going around.
"In her locker! No one even knew it was me."
"So he dresses her up in these little scrubs, honestly she looked like a little surgeon herself."
"And in comes Susan with the nurse who says, `you have one special girl here. She's pretty popular with the doctors'"
"For God sake honey, if you really aren't enjoying yourself go upstairs and watch your stupid hockey game while the rest of us enjoy Christmas."
That was Jill. I look over and see there is a bit of friction between her and Bob. I then look over to Kim and Kerry who seem to have some friction of a different kind. They are talking quietly to each other and look so happy. I notice Kim has her hand on Kerry's and Kerry looks very happy about where she is right now. I look down to the floor where Susie and Kris are playing with Ella and then up to Joe and Chloe who are talking to John and Abby. The conversation looks serious and I hear the word Atlanta. I have a feeling they are talking about rehab. I hope it helps Chloe to know other people go through these things. I feel a hand on my knee and look over to Alex who smiles at me. She looks good tonight. She always looks good on nights she hasn't had Chemo.
"Hey you're in your own little world there."
"I'm just listening to people. It looks like something's going on with your sister and Bob."
"Yeah, well. They're splitting up."
"What?" I'm shocked at this.
"There've been some problems for awhile. They wanted to have a good Christmas for Kris, but it doesn't look good. Jill wants to move back here after the split I think." I watch as Jill gets up and heads to the kitchen shaking her head. I'm about to follow when I hear the doorbell ring. I go to answer it, wondering who else could be coming, but everyone who said they were coming was here. Elizabeth was missing but I'm pretty sure she went to the bathroom. I open the door and Andy is standing on the step, looking very awkward.
"Hey. I hear there's a party?"
I'm surprised. I had invited him in hopes he'd come and make amends, but he said he couldn't come. "I didn't think you were coming."
"Well I thought about what you said and you're right. I'm being stupid. She's not only my sister but my twin. I love her. Besides, you seem like a nice person too." I sigh and let him in. "Just stay right here for a minute." I go into the living room and take Alex's hands to pull her up. "Don't kill me please. There's someone here to see you. Please…don't kill me."
Alex gives me a look of questioning but follows me into the hall. Andy looks up when she comes in and smiles, a very scared smile. "Hey, sis."
"Look…can we go somewhere to talk?"
Alex looks daggers at me, but leads Andy upstairs to her bedroom. I roll my eyes and make my way into the kitchen. Kerry is setting out the food and doing her best not to listen to Jill who is talking to Carol. "I just don't know if I can be civil to him anymore."
"Well for the kid's sake please try. I want this to be a good Christmas."
I cut in at this point. "Well at least the whole family is here."
Silence. Carol looks over at me. "What do you mean Susan?"
"Andy just got here. He's upstairs talking with Alex."
"Really? She actually went up there with him?"
"Well she looks like she wants to kill me, but she's up there."
"Oh she'll get over that if they start talking again. Susan the family hasn't been together since Alex came out. Thank you."
I smile and give Kerry some help with the food. By the time we're done Andy and Alex come back downstairs and both are smiling. Andy goes into the room and Alex comes out to the kitchen to me. I gulp at the looks she gives me. "Up." I give Carol a help me kind of look and follow Alex upstairs. She takes me into the bedroom and closes the door. Then she just stares at me. I open my mouth to explain but I don't get the chance. She comes in and kisses me like never before. I kiss her back, thinking this is the best punishment I've ever had. She leans back and says, "I'm still mad you know. I have my brother back but I'm mad. I just choose not to show it."
I smile. "Well lets go downstairs."
"Wait. I want to give you a present now."
"Okay, well I'll give you one too."
"No you don't have to. I just want you to have this now." She pulls out what is obviously a ring box. I smile and head for my purse. "I have one too." I say pulling out a box of my own. Alex looks excited but says, "Open yours first!"
So I sit on the bed and unwrap my box and bring out a little velvet one. Inside is the most beautiful ring. White gold, pink and white diamonds making a heart. I look up at Alex with tears in my eyes. She takes the ring from me and slips it on my finger. "Susan. I wanted something to tell you how much I love you. Even though we haven't been going out very long I can't start to say what I feel for you. Thank you for showing me what love is."
Tears are streaming down my face now, but I'm smiling. I pull out a box of my own and give it to Alex. She opens it and brings out the ring I picked out. Her eyes go wide and she too has tears. I don't have a speech rehearsed but I give it my best. "Alex…thank you for teaching me it doesn't matter who you love as long as it's love. Thank you for coming into my life. Thank you for being my one and only." Alex takes me into her arms for another kiss that lasts a little too long. I break away and look Alex in the eyes. "Let's go down and celebrate Christmas with our family." I take her hand and together we make our way downstairs."