I don't know who started this absurd Christmas ritual, but it's become as essential to family get-togethers as pecan pie or honey-baked ham. As soon as the food is served and we're all seated around... [+]
Her parents were waiting in the living room when she arrived. Her mom, Elizabeth, excitedly stood and rushed over to hug her daughter. Her father, Jack, moved a lot slower. He was a veteran, after all, and had been injured on his last tour overseas. Nevertheless, he gave his daughter a tight hug and kissed the top of her head.
“Annie! Tell us all about him!” Elizabeth exclaimed, taking her daughter’s hand to inspect the ring. “Did you meet him in class? At work? I want to know everything!”
Either Elizabeth was oblivious to the fear on her daughter’s face or she was choosing to ignore it. Annie could feel her heart racing so hard that she was sure it was going to explode. Her body was growing warm with panic and fear, knowing that there was no way to put this off any further.
“Let’s sit down.” Annie said. She wasn’t entirely sure if it was in case the news shocked them or because she was worried that she herself was going to pass out.
Jack’s face grew concerned, protective, but they all sat. “Has something happened? Did he hurt you?” He asked, his voice gruff.
Annie shook her head and opened her mouth to speak, but stopped short. Was she really prepared to risk giving up her family? They weren’t perfect, but they had always loved her. They had gone to every ballet performance, to every school play, to every award ceremony in school.
They had been the ones who proudly watched her walk across the stage when she graduated and who cried tears of joy that she would be the first family going to college- law school, at that. Every scrape, every tear, every single time she had called. But she had never told them this, not after Great-Aunt Martha’s hurtful comment at Thanksgiving a few years back.
“It’s... no, I’m not being hurt. It’s just...” Her voice cracked and she felt her mom move closer to her, wrapping around her shaking shoulders.
Elizabeth hugged her daughter closer, gently stroking her hair in an effort to comfort her- the same way she had always done when she was a child. “Sweetie, whatever it is, whatever happened, we’re here for you. We will always love you, no matter what. But we can’t help you if you don’t talk to us.” She said gently.
Annie’s eyes moved from her parents and then to the pretty ring on her finger again. Her fiancé was having this same conversation across the country. Despite her terror, she was sure this one would go better than what her fiancé was facing.
“My fiancé isn’t... it isn’t a man.” She finally said, expecting a reaction. There was silence, confusion. “I’m a lesbian. Her name is Rosetta. We met at work when I first moved to California and it was just... it was love at first sight. We went on our first date before my apartment was even unpacked and we’ve been together ever since.”
More confusion... or maybe now it was surprise?
Jack was the one to finally break the silence. “You know, I spent thirty years fighting for this country and for everything I believe in. I have a flag hanging on my front porch, my dad had a flag on his front porch, and so did his dad. We fought for freedom and its people.”
Annie could feel her heart sinking into her chest and her eyes brimming over with tears. She opened her mouth to speak but Jack raised one hand up, silencing her.
“I’m not done yet, Annie. Give me a moment.” He requested. “I want to know why, in God's name, were you so scared to tell us?! This is something you should have told us years ago!”
Annie flinched at his loud voice and averted her eyes. She expected the yelling to continue, to get worse, to hear all of the names she had been called when she went on dates or walked down the street holding Rosie’s hand. But that wasn’t what happened.
Elizabeth removed her arm from her daughter’s shoulders but she lifted her hand again to inspect her ring. It was quite beautiful, but it wasn’t the typical diamond ring either. No, this one was made from created sapphire and had been specifically designed to shine rainbow- albeit, subtly.
“I should have known. You never did show any interest in boys.” Her mom have a small smile, but it was mixed emotions. Happy, sad, confused... it was hard to pick them all out. “Why didn’t you tell us? Why did you wait seven years?”
Annie opened her mouth to speak again, but was not silenced. “I didn’t want you to be angry with me. I didn’t want you to disown me or call me disgusting or say I’m ruining this country or marriage or that-“ She had to cut herself short this time, to catch her breath and wipe away a tear that had finally escaped. “I didn’t want you to stop loving me.”
Now, Elizabeth had tears in her eyes. She grabbed her daughter and roughly pulled her into her arms, burying her face in her shoulders. Through the muffled cries, Annie could barely make out apologies. For what, she couldn’t quite make out, but Jack spoke up again.
He reached across from his recliner chair and put his hand on Annie’s knee. If she wasn’t mistaken, his eyes looked a little glossy too.
“I served this country for you. So you can have the freedom to live your life any way you want to and I would do it again in a heartbeat if it meant your happiness. I’m sorry you thought our love is conditional. It’s not. Nothing in this world could change the fact that you’re our baby.” He told her.
As expected, Rosie’s family was much less understanding about everything. In fact, she hadn’t spoken to them since that day. Not after the terms they used to describe her. It still hurt but knowing she was going to be with the woman she loved for the rest of her life? Knowing she could finally be herself and she didn’t have to hide? Knowing she didn’t have to pretend or tolerate hate? It was the right decision and she was proud that both of them had the courage to make it.
Both brides wore beautiful white dresses of different styles, but their wedding party and the flowers were full of rainbow colors. It was a gorgeous sight full of happy faces. Today was all about love.
Elizabeth and Jack absolutely adored Rosie. They had adopted her into the family immediately. As a matter of fact, Elizabeth was even walking her down the aisle, since Rosie didn’t have her own family to do so. Of course, Jack walked with Annie.
The preacher to marry them was actually their old Manager, from the bistro they had worked at when they first met. He had gotten ordained online just for the ceremony and watched proudly as they stood before him.
“Friends, family, we are gathered here today to celebrate two beautiful people who have found a love most only dream of. I’d like to take the credit for introducing them.” Several people laughed. “Annie?”
Annie smiled as she read her vows. “From the second I saw you, I knew my life was about to change. I knew you would be the one to give me the faith and courage to finally be myself and to really find happiness. I swear, to everything I hold dear, that I will always love you with my whole heart and I will always accept you for who you are.”
“Rosie?” The preacher asked.
“I always dreamed of being a princess and having a happily ever after, but I never thought that was possible until I met you. You’re my soulmate and you complete me. You were the happily ever after I always wanted and I finally found you. I promise to do everything in my power to treat you like the queen you are.”
“Do you, Annie, take Rosie as your bride?” Their friend asked.
“I do.” Annie said, her voice holding pride and strength.
“Rosie, do you take Annie as your bride?” He asked.
“I do.” Rosie replied, her entire face filled with joy.
“Brides, you may have true love’s first married kiss.”
The entire room cheered and whooped, as the brides found their happily ever after within each other.