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Holiday Romance by Catherine Walsh

Holiday Romance

by Catherine Walsh

Published by Bookouture

Book 1 in the Fitzpatrick Christmas Series

She’s meant to be catching flights, not catching feelings…

Molly and Andrew are just trying to get home to Ireland for the holidays, when a freak snowstorm grounds their flight.

Nothing romantic has ever happened between them: they’re friends and that’s all. But once a year, for the last ten years, Molly has spent seven hours and fifteen minutes sitting next to Andrew on the last flight before Christmas from Chicago to Dublin, drinking terrible airplane wine and catching up on each other’s lives. In spite of all the ways the two friends are different, it’s the holiday tradition neither of them has ever wanted to give up.

Molly isn’t that bothered by Christmas, but—in yet another way they’re total opposites—Andrew is a full-on fanatic for the festive season and she knows how much getting back to Ireland means to him. So, instead of doing the sane thing and just celebrating the holidays together in America, she does the stupid thing. The irrational thing. She vows to get him home. And in time for his mam’s famous Christmas dinner.

The clock is ticking. But Molly always has a plan. And—as long as the highly-specific combination of taxis, planes, boats, and trains all run on time—it can’t possibly go wrong.

What she doesn’t know is that, as the snow falls over the city and over the heads of two friends who are sure they’re not meant to be together, the universe might just have a plan of its own…



This. Book. Was. So. Much. Fun.

I'm not kidding.

I laughed so much reading this book, that I immediently went and added Catherine Welsh's other books to my TBR, because this book made me so happy.

It's incredibly sweet.

It's insanely funny.

It's not overly steamy, but the tension is unreal.

The. Tension.

Holiday Romance is a fun and unique take on the disasterous traveling home for the holidays trope. The whole premise of two people who end up friends after an unfortante encounter on the first flight they ever had together, and travel with one another to their home country - Ireland - year after year was a unique take on the, admittedly, overused trope.

The banter was top notch. The back and forth between these two complete opposites was an honest delight to read. If I wasn't smiling like a goof, I was laughing. At times, I got teary eyed. Holiday Romance was just so, so good in every way.

If you love holiday romance with insane banter, hilarious situations, and delicious sexual tension, you need to read Holiday Romance ... today!

Hayley : “He makes a lot of jokes.”

I roll my eyes as I start walking again, weaving through the other travelers.

Hayley: “But I couldn’t dump him right before the holidays. I’m not a monster.”

Molly: “No, you’re right. Cold, dark January will be much better.”

Andrew: “Hey, are you okay? You’ve gone white as a ghost.”

Molly: “It’s the lighting,”

I lie. Okay. At least she’s not cheating on him on his birthday.

Oh my God, that should not be my baseline!

Andrew: “You’re breaking my heart here, Molly.”

Molly: “It’s not like I’m a Scrooge! I’m just not really into all the—”

Andrew: “Love? Comfort and joy?”

Molly: “Toys. Money. The same twelve songs played over and over again.”

Andrew: “Ah, the commercialization argument.”

I frown at how quickly he dismisses it.

Molly: “Unless you’re doing it for the kids, Christmas is nothing but several weeks of expensive stress that will inevitably end in disappointment. How can anything live up to that kind of expectation?”

Andrew: “Wow. So, you’re like a grinch?”

Molly: “I’m not a—”

Andrew: “A real-life grinch.”

Molly: “I’m practical.”

Andrew: “I’m getting that,”

Andrew: “Child or no child, you’re never too old to hole yourself up in the house for a few days and eat until you puke. Not to mention the fashion.”

He gestures at his sweater and it’s the first time I notice the cheery reindeer embroidered on the front.

Molly: “Reindeers don’t wave,”

Andrew: “Rudolph does. Rudolph loves to wave.”

Molly: “What?”

Gabriela: “Nothing.”

She runs a finger across the dark wood of the desk before her eyes drop to my stomach.

Gabriela: “Are you pregnant?”

Molly: “What?”

Gabriela: “You can tell me if you are.”

Molly: “No!”

Gabriela: “No, you’re not pregnant or no, you’re not going to tell me if you are?”

Molly: “Both,”

Gabriela: “Okay.”

Molly: “I’m not even seeing anyone.”

Gabriela: “Okay.”

Her voice lowers to a whisper.

Gabriela: “But is that the problem? Do you need some sex? We can get you some sex.”

Molly: “Oh my God.”

I shove my laptop bag at her and gather my papers.

Molly: “Stop talking. We’re no longer friends.”

Gabriela: “Have you slept with anyone since Brandon?”

Gabriela asks, still clutching my laptop bag as we reach my desk.

Molly: “Why does it matter?”

I groan, wincing at the mention of my ex.

Molly: “When’s the last time you had sex?”

Gabriela: “This morning.”

Molly: “That’s… I didn’t need to know that.”

Gabriela: “Then why did you ask?”

Molly: "I give most people money as a present. They expect it and they want it."

Gabriela: “That doesn’t seem very Christmassy.”

Molly: “And yet I remain everyone’s favorite relative.”

Gabriela: “Goodbye, Molly,”

she says, pushing me out the door.

Molly: “Bye. Happy Christmas, I guess.”

Gabriela: “It’s good that you sound so miserable when you say that. Really gets me in the festive spirit.”

Molly: “What the hell is that?”

I ask, gesturing to his face.

Andrew: “Oh, this?”

Andrew strokes his chin.

Andrew: “My manly scruff because I’m a manly man?”

Molly: “Are you growing a beard?”

Andrew: “The fact that you have to ask that question makes me want to lie and say no.”

It’s going to be a great beard and we both know it. I’ve just never imagined him with one before. I always thought his face was too open for one, with that stupid dimple in his left cheek and those ridiculous eyes that seem to change color whenever they want to.

Molly: “What happens in the summer when you tan but then decide to shave and your face is two different colors?”

Andrew: “Would you believe I haven’t thought about that?”

Andrew: “You never like anyone I date.”

Molly: “I liked that teacher.”

Andrew: “That teacher. You can’t even remember her name.”

Like it’s my fault his exes are so forgettable.

Molly: “Soph—”

Andrew: “Emil—”

Molly: “Emily!”

I slam my hand against the bar in victory.

Molly: “Emily. Emily the teacher. With the incredibly quiet voice.”

He gives me a fond look.

Andrew: “You’re such a bitch.”

Molly: “Emily was years ago. And didn’t she dump you for that married guy? I’m not even supposed to like her.”

Andrew: “Alison dumped me for the married guy. Emily ghosted me.”

Molly: “You have terrible taste in women.”

Andrew: “Hey,”

he says, one hand going to his heart.

Andrew: “Words hurt, Molly. Maybe terrible women just have a taste in me."

Molly: "We’d only been together for a few months. I mean, I was still scared to go number two when he was in the apartment.”

Andrew: “The real second base.”

Andrew: “What?”

he asks now, and I realize I’m smiling at the memory.

Molly: “You’re a good friend, you know that?”

He eyes me suspiciously.

Andrew: “You need a kidney or something?”

Zoe: “They’re saying it’s going to be another day or two at least.”

Molly: “Who’s they?”

Zoe: “The weather guy. The one with the tie.”

Molly: “They all wear ties!”

Molly: “A movie? I thought you wanted to talk?”

Andrew: “I’ll talk during the movie. People love that.”

Man: “My boyfriend flew out yesterday.”

The man next to me speaks at a normal volume, but he’s not looking at me. His gaze is absent, almost mournful, as he stares unseeing at the row of beer bottles across from us.

Man: “It’s his first time meeting my family. But I had to work last minute so he flew out by himself and now I’m here and he’ll be there. With my parents. Alone. For Christmas.”

He takes a shallow breath, finally looking at me.

Man: “Do you think I did something in my past life? Is this my punishment?”

Molly: “I’m sure they’ll get on great,”

I say awkwardly, but he shakes his head.

Man: “They don’t know about him. I mean they know of him, but not that he’s… that we’re…”

He trails off, that mournful look coming back. I reach out to pat his back.

Molly: “Gay?”

Man: “What?”

He shakes his head.

Man: “No. They know that. We’re vegan.”

Oh. He groans, dropping his head against the counter.

Man: “I had a whole speech prepared. We were going to sit down and discuss it. Steven’s too polite for them. He’ll end up with second helpings of turkey and ham without me there. He’s a skinny guy, you know? My mother’s going to think we can’t afford to eat if he refuses.”

I continue to pat his back until Andrew appears at my shoulder a moment later, looking in concern at my new friend.

Andrew: “Is he okay?”

Molly: “He’s vegan,”

I explain as the man proceeds to bang his head lightly against the bar.

Andrew: “Ah.”

Andrew: “We should get a charcuterie board.”

I snort at the seriousness of his expression.

Molly: “We can get whatever we want,”

Andrew: “I want a panettone. And some cheesecake. What do you want?”

Molly: “Mince pies. Though I’ve never been able to find them here.”

He makes a face.

Andrew: “Because no one actually likes mince pies.”

Molly: “I like mince pies.”

Andrew: “And you are wrong.”

Molly: “What’s that?”

Andrew’s eyes drop to mine.

Andrew: “It’s mistletoe, you idiot.”

Molly: “That’s mistletoe?”

No way.

Molly: “It looks like spinach. Like a sprig of spinach.”

Andrew: “How do you not know what—”

Molly: “I know what it is, I just haven’t seen it before. It’s not like I spend December looking up the whole time, is it?”

Andrew: “You’re five foot nothing, you spend most of your life looking up.”

Molly: “I am five foot three, thank you very much. And I can see the world just fine from—”

Man: “Don’t be such a grinch! It’s tradition!”

Molly: “Keep your pants on!”

I yell back. Andrew only laughs, but a couple of other people have stopped at the commotion and now suddenly we have an audience.

Molly: “These things are so dumb,”

I mutter, trying not to meet anyone’s eye as Andrew pulls a matching bobble hat on over his hair.

Molly: “And kind of creepy, don’t you think?”

Andrew: “I plead the Fourth.”

Molly: “Fifth.”

Andrew: “Whatever.”

Another couple moves past as we dawdle, glancing up as they see the mistletoe. Without even breaking their stride, they turn to each other and kiss, provoking a small cheer from the onlookers. My mouth drops open as they move on as if nothing happened.

Man: “Bad luck not to kiss,”

the cheery man yells, turning his attention back to us.

Molly: “No, it’s not! You just made that up!”

Andrew shifts beside me, still looking amused.

Andrew: “Molly—”

Molly: “He made that up.”

Andrew: “Just ignore him.”

Molly: “I can’t ignore him. He called me a grinch. Why does everybody always call me that?”

I watch with increasing annoyance as an older duo raise another round of applause by locking lips right beside us.

Molly: “That’s it. You have to kiss me.”

Andrew: “You’re too competitive, you know that?

Andrew bumps my arm a moment later and I cast my eye around the drop-off point for our car.

Andrew: “Blew your mind with that kiss, huh?”

I glance sharply at him, but he’s smiling. He’s joking.

Andrew: “Because I’m just saying, if this is you finally getting into the festive spirit—”

Molly: “Okay,”

I interrupt, and he laughs.

Molly: “We can video call your family. The whole day if we have to. We’ll live-stream my apartment. Everything but the bathroom.”

He sighs dramatically.

Andrew: “But is it really Christmas without one of my siblings barging in on me showering?”

Molly: “You guys have strange traditions.”

Molly: “Do it. Book us in. I’ve got our details on my desktop. The folder’s named—”

Gabriela: “Christmas Flights/Completed. Because of course they are.”

Molly: “You know my computer password?”

Gabriela: “It’s your sandwich order from that deli down the street,”

she says casually as I sputter at this blatant invasion of privacy.

Gabriela: “You’re kind of predictable, you know that?”

Molly: "We’re from Ireland,”

I try again, exaggerating my accent in a way that would probably make everyone back home wince. But sometimes you’ve got to play the leprechaun card.

Trevor: “My wife loves chocolate,”

he admits gruffly, dragging his gaze reluctantly away from them and back to me.

Trevor: “My daughter too. She’s about your age.”

Molly: “I’m sure you must love her very—”

Trevor: “She’s a pain in my side.”

Molly: “Alright, well—”

Trevor: “Just get in the cab.”

I blink in surprise as he takes the box from me.

Molly: “Really?”

Andrew: “Don’t question the man,”

Andrew: “I didn’t know you were serious,”

Andrew mutters, sounding concerned as we hurry down the tunnel.

Molly: “I wasn’t,”

I whisper back.

Molly: “I’m honestly okay.”

Only now that I’ve opened the floodgates, hell if I know how to close them again. Oh God, did I break something inside? Is this just who I am now?

I’m going to be so dehydrated.

Andrew: “So,”

Andrew says, opening the plastic bag of airplane freebies. He finds a tissue and hands it to me as the tears continue to stream down my face.

Andrew: “You bring your own bottle of Tabasco sauce home with you?”

Molly: “I grew up in a house where the only flavors were salt and pepper.”

I sniff, dabbing my eyes.

Molly: “What do you think?”

Andrew: “I think that if you can keep up this crying trick, we’ll never have to queue for anything ever again.”

I start to laugh, which somehow only makes me cry harder, but I give into it, letting my adrenaline tip into hysteria until an attendant politely lets me know that I’m scaring the other passengers.

Molly: “I want you to stop sending me pictures of lamps.”

Andrew: “Now, see…”

Andrew shoves my bag into the overhead compartment before sliding into the seat next to me.

Andrew: “Now that you’ve said that I’m never going to stop. You’ve just shown your hand, Kinsella.”

Molly: “Does your girlfriend know you’re sending me pictures of lamps you find on the street?”

Andrew: “Not only does Emily know, but she actively encourages it so I don’t take them home to show her.”

Molly: “I need a massage.”

Andrew: “I have a girlfriend, Molly.”

Molly: “Shut up.”

Andrew just grins at me.

So, I do the first thing that comes to mind, which as it turns out is kicking Andrew’s foot with mine.

Andrew: “Ow,”

Molly: “I’m happy for you.”

Andrew: “And you have a weird way of showing it.”

Andrew: “God, you know what I’d love right now?”

Andrew says from where he’s sprawled on the chair beside me.

Andrew: “Some of those little truffles from—”

Molly: “I will punch you in the face. In your big stupid face.”

Andrew: “I mean the money, I can understand. But the chocolate?”

He brings one hand to his heart, looking at me with a wounded expression.

Andrew: “I love chocolate.”

Molly: “I know you do,”

I grumble, staring at an image of a red-lipped tango dancer on the opposite wall.

Molly: “That’s why I bought them.”

Andrew: “We should go to the Music Box next Halloween,”

he continues, and I raise a brow. The Music Box is the kind of pretentious movie theater that I love and he tolerates.

Andrew: “They do horror marathons,”

Molly: “I can’t sit still for that long; I’ll need to pee.”

Andrew: “I’ll get you an aisle seat. Quick escape. Or one of those adult diapers.”

Molly: “Well, how can a girl say no to that?”

Andrew: “It’s a date then.”

Andrew: “Molly—”

Molly: “It’s stupid,”

Andrew: “What’s stupid?”

I ignore him, noticing his empty hands for the first time.

Molly: “Who’s watching our stuff?”

Andrew: “A shifty-eyed man who tried to sell me a Rolex. What’s stupid?”

Andrew’s gaze narrows as he examines me, but I actually feel a little relieved. Confessing to him has already started to heal me like the good little lapsed Catholic I am.

Molly: “You don’t think it would be weird?”

Andrew: “I don’t think it will be any weirder than how you’re being right now. It’s worth a shot, isn’t it?”

I have no idea. But the man kind of has a point.

Molly: “Okay,”

I say, calling his bluff. If he’s surprised, he doesn’t show it.

Molly: “Great idea.”

I straighten my shoulders, hands clenching into fists at my side as I fight the urge to pull my hair back.

Molly: “You should probably do it. Kiss me, I mean. Seeing as I kissed you the first time. Although I guess, scientifically, we’d need to go back to O’Hare and find the mistletoe, but I don’t think they’ll still have it by the time we— Okay, okay! Jesus.”

My back hits the wall as Andrew crowds me, stepping into my space until we’re as close as we can be without touching. My hands shoot out, grabbing onto his shoulders to hold him there as my pulse starts to race.

Molly: “This is an experiment,”

I clarify, and I swear I see a faint glimmer of amusement in his eyes. For whatever reason, it makes me feel calmer.

Molly: “It’s for science.”

Andrew: “For science.”

He echoes it like a vow.

Andrew: “Do you want to hear a chemistry joke?”

Molly: “No.”

He grins and I suddenly can’t breathe.

Andrew: “You sure? It’s a pretty good—”

I kiss him.

Andrew: “Feel better?”

he finally asks, and it takes me a moment to figure out what he’s talking about.

Molly: “Yep,”

I croak.

Andrew: “All cleared up?”

Molly: “Uh-huh.”

Andrew: “Want to do it again?”

Molly: “Ye— No,”

I amend quickly, and just like that his smile is back, the intensity in his expression vanishing like he just flicked a switch.

Andrew: “Still confused, huh?”

He sighs.

Andrew: “I knew it wouldn’t work.”

Molly: “Then why did you suggest we do it?”

Andrew: “I wanted to see what it would be like.”

I stare at him.

Molly: “And?”

Andrew: “Yeah.”

Molly: “What do you mean, yeah?”

Andrew: “It was good,”

he says, turning to listen as another announcement blares across the terminal.

Molly: “It was more than good!”

The gooey warmth I feel curdles into annoyance as his attention shifts away from me.

Molly: “I am an excellent kisser. And that was an excellent kiss.”

Andrew: “Sure.”

Molly: “No, not sure, you—”

I break off when he turns, heading back down the corridor.

Molly: “Andrew!”

Andrew: “We’re going to miss our flight,”

he calls over his shoulder. I hurry after him, struggling to keep up with his long legs.

Andrew: “I can’t believe you scared me like that,”

he says when I do, typing something into his phone. Up ahead people are starting to get in line for boarding.

Andrew: “I thought there was something actually wrong with you, but you just have a little crush.”

Molly: “I do not!”

Andrew: “Think you do. I can tell.”

Molly: “From one kiss?”

Andrew: “Two kisses.”

He says it almost absently, reading a new message.

Molly: “The first one doesn’t count. And the second one was your idea.”

He doesn’t answer as he retrieves our cases from a cheerful young woman with giant baubles attached to her T-shirt.

Andrew: “Six out of ten,”

he says, turning back to me. My mouth drops open. I know instantly what he means.

Molly: “For our kiss?”

Andrew: “Don’t feel bad. You said so yourself, you’re tired.”

Molly: “I’m not—”

I break off before I almost shout at him.

Molly: “You’re being annoying on purpose.”

Andrew: “Yeah,”

he says as if that’s obvious.

Andrew: “Feel better?”

The line starts to shuffle forward as the doors open. I do feel better. As if he knew pissing me off would distract me above all else.

Molly: “Yes,”

I admit, trying not to fidget under his gaze.

Molly: “I do.”

I gaze up at him, eyes narrowing.

Molly: “Six out of ten?”

He smiles.

Andrew: “Seven. Anything more and I need to see some tongue.”

Molly: “That’s gross. You’re gross. Don’t kiss me again.”

Andrew: “I will try and control myself,”

he says seriously, and I huff, but it’s halfhearted.

Andrew: “Is this moment about me getting a present or about you giving me a present?”

Molly: “Me,”

I say, and he laughs.

Molly: “You’re really hard to buy for.”

Andrew: “I’m easy to buy for. Get me anything.”

Molly: “Anything is code word for hard to buy for.”

Andrew: “Okay, we’re definitely not doing this again. This is supposed to be fun, not stressful. Don’t you exchange presents with your family?”

Molly: “Of course, I do. But it’s usually money, the greatest gift of all.”

Andrew: “You’re a cold, sad woman.”

Molly: “Give me my present.”

Andrew: “It’s literally two days before Christmas,”

he says, trailing me around the racks.

Andrew: “And that’s what you want to wear.”

Molly: “Yes, because I’m an adult.”

Andrew: “An adult who said she didn’t want to be a grinch. That means embracing the meaning of Christmas.”

Molly: “The meaning of Christmas is not a T-shirt saying, ‘Pull my cracker.’”

Andrew: “Feel better?”

Molly: “Hugely. Though that could be the magic of the season coursing through my veins.”

Andrew: “Come again?”

I part my coat to reveal my last-minute purchase and Andrew’s eyes widen at my new gold-and-black-striped sweater. Joyeux Noel, it says in slanted writing, decorated with an appropriate amount of glitter.

Andrew: “Look at you, Cindy Lou Who.”

A slow smile spreads across his face.

Andrew: “I can’t believe you went to such a minimal effort for me.”

Molly: “Minimal? This is a big step! The glitter is itchy.”

Andrew: “Well, beauty is pain.

Andrew: “You keep staring at me like that, I’m going to start charging,”

he murmurs, not looking up. I flush, caught red-handed as I take a sip of my water.

Molly: “I’m just not used to your stubble.”

Andrew: “Beard. It’s an attractive and impressive beard.”

Molly: “You can’t see your dimple.”

Andrew drops the menu onto the table, leaning back as his eyes flick to mine. Uh-oh.

Andrew: “You like my dimple?”

Molly: “I didn’t say that. I just said you can’t see it.”

Andrew: “And that upsets you, does it?”

Molly: “What are you getting to eat?”

Andrew: “Come on, Moll. You have no idea what you want to do? Seriously?”

Molly: “I don’t. At least not realistically. I’ve had a look at—”

He stops me with a quiet laugh.

Andrew: “You just said it. ‘At least not realistically.’ So, you do know what you want to do.”

Molly: “Oh, sorry if I’m taking supermodel and Hollywood socialite off the table at this time.”

Andrew: “They were never on the table, to begin with. You hate any event that goes on past eleven p.m.”

Okay, fair point.

Andrew: “Can we do this later, Oli? I need to stand under running water and stare at the wall until I feel normal.”

Molly: “Then maybe after I’ll— What are you doing?”

I blurt the words out as Andrew pulls his sweater and T-shirt up over his head. My eyes immediately drop to his bare chest before I snap them back to his face.

Andrew: “Undressing.”

Molly: “Why!”

He looks at me like I’m crazy.

Andrew: “Because I’m going to have a shower.”

He reaches for his belt buckle, one brow raised when I just stand there.

Andrew: “I can put on a show if you—”

Molly: “I’m going!”

I say, ignoring his smirk, and I spin out of the room, slamming the door shut behind me.

Molly: “Where’s Alison?”

I ask, tearing my gaze away to look for his new girlfriend.

Andrew: “Oh, we’re not at the accompany-the-partner-to-the-airport stage of the relationship yet. Though she says if I’m good I might be able to start holding her hand by the spring, so fingers crossed.”

Molly: “Who lives here?”

A tall woman with curly black hair beams out at me, standing in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Oliver: “Lara,”

Andrew: “And who is Lara?”

Andrew asks when he doesn’t explain further. Oliver glances between us before he settles back on Andrew with a pleasant smile.

Oliver: “My Molly.”

Andrew: “Okay,”

he says as we keep walking.

Andrew: “I guess it’s more of what you don’t like rather than what you do like.”

Molly: “And what don’t I like?”

Andrew: “Picnics.”

Molly: “I like picnics. I just don’t like insects. Which picnics usually involve.”

Andrew: “You also don’t like sitting in the sun.”

Molly: “I burn.”

Andrew: “Or paper plates.”

Molly: “They’re flimsy.”

Andrew: “You don’t like picnics. You do like the cinema, so I could take you to some old fancy movie and pay crazy ticket prices, but I’ve never liked things like that for a first date. Why waste an evening sitting in silence when I could be talking to you instead?”

Molly: “So, that rules out the theater.”

Andrew: “Which is handy seeing as you also hate the theater.”

Molly: “Now, see, I don’t hate the theater. What I hate are places that don’t let you pee when you need to pee. And sometimes you’ve just got to sneeze. I mean, I’m sorry it’s your big dumb monologue, but you can’t hold something like that in. It damages your brain.”

Andrew: “No, it doesn’t.”

Molly: “Yes, it does. I read it online.”

Andrew: “No theater. Museums and galleries are tough. Everyone has their own pace and they can be tiring too. A bookshop can be romantic, but you don’t read—”

Molly: “I read!”


Andrew: “Hikes and walks, you’re back to the pace thing. Plus, the sun, the insects.”

Molly: “Plenty of places to pee though.”

Andrew: “What would you do for me?”

Molly: “On a date?”

I frown.

Molly: “I have no clue.”

Andrew: “Well, that doesn’t seem fair.”

Molly: “I’m terrible at date ideas.”

Andrew: “Then make an effort.”

I groan inwardly. I wasn’t lying. With my line of work, dating follows a predictive pattern. An alcoholic beverage after work, usually late, and then maybe a formal dinner. I haven’t done anything anyone would consider “fun” since college.

Molly: “Well, since you love picnics,”

I begin, and he laughs.

Molly: “Dinner. But not out. I would invite you over to my apartment and I’d cook.”

Andrew: “I didn’t know you could cook.”

Molly: “I can make pasta, garlic bread, and cheesy garlic bread.”

Andrew: “Ah, the three food groups.”

Molly: “I wouldn’t attempt dessert though. I’d buy that, but I’d plate it nicely and most likely lie and say I made it from scratch so you’d be impressed with me.”

Andrew: “And I would pretend to believe you because I’m nice.”

Predictably, I feel instantly self-conscious.

What do I do with my hands? How do I pose? Do I tilt my head? Do I smile? Do I jump into the river and swim far, far away?

Molly: “Think about something that makes you happy,”

I say, clicking the button again. He smirks.

Andrew: “Like you?”

Molly: “Maybe not me. Let’s try and keep this shoot PG-13.”

And there it is. His grin is instant, lighting up his whole face, and the carousel in the background is a blur of so much color and movement that it’s like the noise of it is captured alongside everything else. And with a small click of my finger, I’ve saved it forever. I don’t even need to look at it to know I did a good job and I pass the camera back to him, feeling so happy that it almost hurts.

Molly: “There. Now we’re even.”

Andrew: “Even?”

he asks, still smiling. I nod, turning back to the water as he examines the photo.

Molly: “Now I’ve got your soul too.”

Oliver: “Cousin!”

he proclaims when he sees me.

Molly: “I’m the friend,”

Oliver: “And yet you already feel like family, such is our connection.”

Oliver: “You got me a present?”

Molly: “As a thank you for letting us stay.”

Oliver: “That is almost questionably thoughtful of you, Molly, but I shall accept it in the spirit which I’m sure it’s intended.”

Molly: “…Great.”

Oliver: “Did you have a nice time?”

Molly: “We had a lovely time.”

Oliver: “You’ll come back to visit then. With or without Andrew, I have no strong feelings toward the man.”

Molly: “I’ll get up in the morning to see you off.”

Andrew: “I’m willing to bet everything in my suitcase that you won’t. And I have a giant Toblerone in there.”

Oliver looks aghast as his cousin crouches before him.

Oliver: “You’re only telling me this now?”

Andrew: “Thanks for letting us stay. Get a real job.”

Oliver: “Anytime. And absolutely not."

Molly: “It’s been three weeks since we broke up. Three weeks and they’re already on vacation. Do you know what that means?”

Andrew: “I can’t think of a single answer that would make you not yell at me.”

Molly: “That it’s been going on much longer. Mark cheated on me.”

Andrew: “You don’t know that.”

Molly: “They’re at the beach,”

I say, going to the next photo.

Molly: “Drinking out of coconuts.”

He starts to nod before shaking his head when I just glare at him.

Andrew: “Moll, I won’t lie to you; I am extremely bad at girl talk so this entire conversation is just making me nervous that I’ll say the wrong thing.”

Molly: “Well, tough. Because you’re sitting next to me for seven hours, which means you have to contribute to my breakdown. That’s the friendship rule.”

Andrew: “But is it a plane rule,”

Molly: “I think you should get dumped too so we can be miserable together,”

Andrew: “That was part of our contract.”

Contract. Ugh. I was still waiting to hear back from one of my clients about—

Andrew: “Stop thinking about him,”

Molly: “I’m not. I’m thinking about work.”

Andrew: “Just as bad. Why don’t you think about Home Alone 2 colon Lost in New York?”

Molly: “Nobody says the title like that.”

Andrew: “Because they don’t have the proper respect for Home Alone 2 colon—”

I cut him off with a groan as he starts flicking through the options on my screen. He’s already loaded up the movie on his.

Molly: “You’re going to marry Alison,”

I say as he plugs the headphones in.

Molly: “You’re going to marry Alison and I am going to have to hook up with someone at your wedding. Is your brother still single?”

Andrew: “You’re not hooking up with my brother.”

I huff at the clear dismissal in his voice.

Molly: “Why not? I’m a delight. You don’t want me in your family?”

Andrew: “Not like that, no.”

Molly: “I’d settle for a third cousin,”

I say, but that only seems to make him madder.

Andrew: “No settling at all.”

Andrew: “Mark doesn’t deserve you. And I don’t care if he’s found his soulmate or if he spends his weekend rescuing stray dogs. He hurt you, so I hate him. And I would very much like to punch him for breaking your heart. In fact, if anyone ever makes you think you are less than what you are, or that you don’t deserve everything that you reach for, I will make their lives as miserable as you want me to. Prank phone calls. Stones in their shoes. Whatever you ask me to do, I will do it. You are hardworking and passionate and kind and one day… one day you are going to find someone who lights you up even more than you already do. And they’ll be lucky to have you.”

Andrew: “Three-fifty for a croissant,”

Andrew announces as he appears through the crowd with our breakfast.

Andrew: “There’s London prices and then there’s just daylight robbery.”

Molly: “So you didn’t get any?”

Andrew: “No, I got two. I’ve seen you when you’re hungry, no one wants that.”

Andrew: “You know you make these faces when you’re thinking really hard about something?”

I start, spilling my coffee over the lid as I squeeze the cup too tightly.

Molly: “Huh?”

Andrew: “Like you’re having an internal conversation,”

Andrew continues, watching me curiously.

Andrew: “You start making these expressions. Did you know that?”

I did not.

Molly: “What are you talking to yourself about?”

Andrew: “You.”

His eyebrows rise, a smile beginning before I shut it down.

Andrew: “You’ve got crumbs all down the front of your coat.”

His smile drops as he brushes them off and I turn, a little primly it must be said, back to the concourse. Maybe he’s waiting for me to bring up last night. And that’s fine. That’s totally fine, I have after all initiated the majority of non-platonic friendship events between us. I know he doesn’t regret it because he’s acting completely normal just like he promised he would, so maybe he’s just waiting. For me. For a Hey, remember when we almost had sex a few hours ago? Remember when we made out for a good several minutes and felt each other up and—

Andrew: “I will give you one hundred dollars if you tell me what you’re thinking about right now.”

Molly: “Just don’t look at me!”

Zoe: “Meet Logan,”

Molly: “I thought it was Patrick.”

Zoe: “Patrick was last week. Now it’s Logan.”

I smirk.

Molly: “And next week it will be?”

Zoe: “I met a really nice Ryan the other day,”

she says as her eyes flick behind me.

Molly: “Meet Andrew,”

I say, welcoming him into the family reunion. Zoe holds out a hand as though she expects him to kiss it.

Zoe: “Charmed.”

Molly: “Would you stop?”

Zoe: “What? My child needs a father.”

She says this while shaking Andrew’s hand, Andrew who isn’t quick enough to mask his confusion. Her expression turns serious.

Zoe: “He left me when he found out.”

And here we go.

Molly: “Zoe—”

Zoe: “I thought I meant something to him, you know? But he left me. Penniless and alone and—”

Molly: “She went through a donor. And she earns more than I do.”

Zoe huffs.

Zoe: “Spoilsport. I paid a stupid amount of money for a small bit of semen,”

she tells him, pinching her fingers together.

Zoe: “A complete rip-off. I was perfectly fine chancing it with a couple of one-night stands but Molly was like ‘Noooo, that’s unethical.’”

Zoe: "She’s thrilled about finally getting to meet this guy, by the way. The famous Andrew in the flesh.”

He smiles.

Andrew: “Famous, huh? No pressure, then.”

Zoe: “We also expect our guests to repay our hospitality with solid gold? Molly, I don’t know if you told him the rules?”

Andrew: “There’s a giant tube of M&Ms in here if you play your cards right,”

he says, hefting his case inside. Zoe plants a hand over her heart.

Zoe: “And there we go. Andrew is at the top of the list. Goodbye, Logan! We barely knew you.”

She glances at me.

Zoe: “He gets shotgun.”

Molly: “But I’m your sister!”

Zoe: “And he’s the guest. Get in before I make you walk, my baby’s cold.”

And with that, we get into the car.

Andrew: “You must miss it, knowing everyone on the street.”

Molly: “Are you kidding me? Do you know how nosy people can get? The woman four doors down baked me a cake the day I first started my period. I don’t even know how she knew.”

He laughs.

Andrew: “I still think that sounds nice.”

Molly: “It was red velvet.”

Andrew: “You really did nothing?”

Molly: “I guess we used to decorate the pine tree outside when we were younger. Dad pretended there were fairies inside.”

Andrew: “Okay, well, that’s completely charming.”

Andrew: “Does it feel wrong to you?”

I shake my head. Because that’s the problem, it doesn’t feel wrong at all. It feels right.

Andrew: “Because if Oliver hadn’t interrupted us…”

Molly: “I know.”

Andrew: “I was ready to use some of my best moves, that’s all I’m saying.”

Molly: “Shut up,”

I groan, sitting on the edge of the bed. I catch a brief glimpse of his smirk before I drop my head into my hands.

Molly: “Zoe? Hospital?”

Zoe just rolls her eyes, or as much as she can roll her eyes while her uterus is gripping itself like a stress ball.

Zoe: “I’m not going to labor,”

she says, irritation winning out over confusion.

Zoe: “Don’t be stupid. You’re stupid.”

Molly: “Zoe—”

Zoe: “I’m not due for three weeks.”

Molly: “It’s not like the baby is checking its calendar!”

Molly: “Look, if they’re fake, then they’re fake. No problem. But it won’t hurt to hear it from someone who didn’t learn their medical knowledge from Grey’s Anatomy.

Zoe: “This can’t be happening,”

Zoe repeats for the twelfth time. She passes the clipboard back and turns her wild gaze to me.

Zoe: “I can’t have a December Capricorn.”

Molly: “It turned out okay for Jesus.”

Zoe: “The man was crucified, Molly!”

Andrew: “I’m not the father,”

Nurse: “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought—”

Zoe: “I’m a single mother,”

Zoe interrupts, texting furiously into her phone.

Zoe: “Modern and strong and brave. Can we wait for my mam?”

Andrew: “He also dropped that in. Said he assumed it’s for your sister.”

Molly: “It is,”

I say, taking out the tissue-wrapped package. It feels like years since I bought it.

Molly: “It’s her terrible Christmas present.”

Andrew: “I’m sure you can get her something else. The shops are still open.”

I can only smile.

Molly: “It’s an on-purpose terrible Christmas present. It’s tradition to get each other bad gifts.”

Andrew: “It’s tradition to get each other presents neither of you wants?”

He sounds understandably confused.

Molly: “It’s the thought that counts.”

Andrew: “Have you thought about getting each other something you’d actually like? Maybe you could start a new tradition. A, dare I say, much better one?”

Molly: “I know how it sounds,”

I laugh.

Molly: “But it’s something we’ve done since we were kids. We don’t know why we do it except that we’ve always done it. And I don’t know…”

I shrug.

Molly: “It’s fun. I always get her perfume. The worst perfume I can find.”

Andrew: “What does she get you?”

Molly: “Food. Usually some disgusting, novelty snack that I can only take one bite of. It then spends a month in the back of the cupboard before Dad finds it and eats it.”

Andrew: “Perfume,”

Andrew says slowly, realization dawning.

Andrew: “That’s why you always smell awful on our flights. It’s true!”

he adds when I whack his leg.

Andrew: “I thought you were just an eccentric. I’ve got to say I’m a little relieved. Though I still don’t get it.”

Molly: “Do you know how hard it is to get something someone will hate? Do you know how much thought I put into that gift? I think harder about her present than I do anyone else’s.”

Andrew: “I know you’re trying to make it seem like this is a logical thing, but it’s really not.”

I smirk, smoothing the bag against my lap.

Molly: “It’s tradition. It doesn’t have to be logical.”

Andrew: “And you said you guys didn’t know how to do Christmas.”

Mom: “The doctors are with your sister, who sent me away because apparently I was looking at her too much.”

Molly: “You’ll like him,”

I say truthfully, and a warm smile breaks over her face as her phone chimes.

Mom: “Your sister wants me back,”

she says, getting up with a groan.

Mom: “I’ll try not to look her in the eye this time.”

Molly: “Distract me,”

Andrew: “Sexy distraction or card trick distraction? Not that they’re mutually exclusive, of course.”

Molly: “Better go meet the newest Kinsella,”

I say, and think about leaning down to kiss him, the way couples do, but chicken out and do an incredibly corny finger-gun motion instead that makes him smile and me want to die.

Zoe: “You’re not crying already,”

Zoe grumbles from the bed.

Molly: “It’s okay to cry now, Zoe. All the cool kids are doing it.”

I lean over the crib, pressing my finger to the tip of his nose.

Molly: “You are very small,”

Zoe: “He didn’t feel small when I was pushing him out.”

Molly: “I’m trying to have a private moment with my nephew.”

Zoe: “Well, do it while passing me my juice. Ow.”

Molly: “Hey,”

I whisper, setting her present on her lap.

Molly: “Happy Christmas.”

 Zoe: “Oh no.”

She grimaces, poking it with one finger.

 Zoe: “Perfume?”

I nod.

 Zoe: “Yours is at the house. Ugh.”

She lets the tissue paper fall to the bed as she turns the glittering pink bottle in her hands. It looks even worse than it did at the airport.

 Zoe: “I can smell it already.”

Molly: “No sniffing,”

I say as she brings it to her nose.

Molly: “That’s cheating.”

 Zoe: “Alright. Alright.”

I watch with a smile as Zoe scrunches her eyes shut and sprays it a few inches from her chest. She immediately starts coughing.

 Zoe: “Oh my God.”

Molly: “It’s good, right?”

 Zoe: “This can’t be healthy for the baby. I smell like a twelve-year-old girls’ magazine. From 2004.”

Molly: “A vintage bouquet.”

 Zoe: “Dating?”

She looks appalled.

 Zoe: “You don’t need to date. You basically know everything about each other.”

Molly: “Not like that.”

 Zoe: “Yes, like that. You’re just adding in boning.”

Molly: “Zoe!”

 Zoe: “I’m joking,”

 Zoe: “So, fun new thing about me,”

Zoe says as we stare at him.

 Zoe: “I don’t think I’ve ever loved or will ever love anyone as much as I love him. Even if he turns out to be a dick. Which with me as his mother is a real possibility.”

Molly: “I kind of want to eat him. That’s a thing, right? Like, I see his little fists and I just want to… eat him.”

Zoe: “How about you hold him instead?”

I make a face.

Molly: “No.”

 Zoe: “Why not?”

Molly: “You know me and babies,”

I say, even as I find it difficult to tear my eyes away from him.

 Zoe: “Yes, but this one is my baby. I expect you to show him more love and attention than this.”

Molly: “Well, I expected to be a godmother.”

 Zoe: “Would you get over that?”

Mam: “Just keep me updated,”

Mam says, cupping my cheek briefly as she follows the nurse back inside.

Mam: “And best behavior.”

Molly: “Why wouldn’t I—”

Mam: “Pleases and thank yous.”

Molly: “I’m not nine.”

Molly: “Don’t look at me. I look gross.”

Andrew: “You’ve looked worse,”

he says, smiling when I glare at him.

Andrew: “You’re sick. Let me look after you. I’ll always look after you.”

Molly: “Am I being punished?”

Andrew: “What do you mean?”

Molly: “I’m freezing my ass off.”

Andrew: “Want me to warm it?”

Molly: “Do you want help with your suitcase?”

Andrew: “Do you actually want to help?”

Molly: “No,”

I say, eyeing the thing.

Molly: “But I don’t have any sympathy for you. It was your idea to walk.”

Andrew: "It was. I was hoping to be romantic.”

I blink at him.

Molly: “Okay, we’re going to need to have a serious conversation about what is and is not romantic, because if you think—”

Andrew: “Just look over the hill, you idiot.”

And then muttering to himself,

Andrew: “Before I push you down it.”

Molly: “You live on a farm,”

I say, unable to hide my surprise.

Andrew: “I do.”

Molly: “With animals?”

He looks like he’s trying very hard not to laugh.

Andrew: “We have cows.”

Molly: “How many cows?”

Andrew: “Fifty.”

My eyes go wide.

Molly: “That’s so many!”

This time he does laugh at me, but I’m too charmed to care.

Molly: “And to think you were going to spend today in Chicago, with no cows at all.”

Andrew: “I was going to spend it with you. And I still am.”

Andrew: “There’s a couch downstairs I can—”

Molly: “Andrew. Please take this literally, I want you to sleep with me.”

Colleen: “Hannah, get dressed. You’re peeling potatoes.”

Hannah: “It’s Christian’s turn to peel potatoes.”

Colleen: “He’s bad at it,”

Hannah: “He’s bad at it purposefully so he doesn’t have to do it!”

Andrew: “Don’t worry about it. We have plenty of clean clothes. Hannah will give you something. And Mam has a lot of… lipstick.”

I try not to smile.

Molly: “Lipstick?”

Andrew: “Hairspray?”

Molly: “You need to get a girlfriend,”

Hannah: “So are you dating my brother?”

Molly: “I—what?”

I blink as she bounces onto the bed.

Hannah: “He hasn’t brought a girl home in years,”

she says innocently, stretching her long legs out before her. Andrew brought someone home with him? A spike of jealousy runs through me as I think through his last couple of girlfriends and who was the most likely candidate. He definitely let that little detail slip by.

Hannah: “Mam hated her,”

Hannah continues, smiling when I stare at her.

Hannah: “But she likes you. I can tell.”

Molly: “You can?”

Hannah: “She gave you the good towels.”

Andrew: “Get out of my room.”

Hannah: “This is Liam’s room.”

Andrew: “Then get out of Liam’s room.”

Hannah: “I was just talking to—”

Andrew: “Out,”

he says, grabbing her arm.

Hannah: “But I’m helping.”

He pushes her into the hallway, shutting the door on her raised middle finger.

Hannah: “Are you going to have sex?”

she calls through the wood, and he bangs on the wall until her footsteps sound, moving toward the stairs.

Molly: “She’s sweet,”

I say when he turns back to me.

Andrew: “When she wants to be.”

Zoe: “Christmas in the hospital,”

she says by way of greeting.

Zoe: “Can’t wait to hold this over my firstborn for the rest of his life.”

Molly: “How are you feeling?”

Zoe: “My vagina is sore and they’ve stopped giving me drugs.

Zoe: “Are you sleeping on the couch?”

Molly: “We’re sharing a bed.”

It takes a full twenty seconds for her to stop cackling.

Molly: “We haven’t done anything,”

I protest in the middle of it.

Molly: “We haven’t even kissed.”

Zoe: “Alright, Virgin Mary, I believe you.

Molly: “Do you have a name yet?”

Zoe: “No,. And do you know what could be great? If everyone could stop asking me. Maybe I’ll be one of those trendy people who lets their kid pick their own name.”

Molly: “I don’t think the birth certificate people are going to wait that long.”

Zoe: “And that’s bureaucracy for you.”

Andrew: “If you want to know something about me, just ask me.”

Molly: “But you’re biased. I want to know the shady things too.”

Andrew: “I would really appreciate it if you could now move away from the fridge,”

Molly: “But you’re so cute,”

I coo, peering at a photo of him as a toddler.

Molly: “Though I have to ask…”

Andrew: “Please don’t.”

Molly: “Why are you naked in every picture?”

Colleen:: “Because he refused to wear clothes,”

Andrew: “Mam,”

Colleen: “Flat out refused until he was five. I’d dress him, turn my back and he’d have them whipped off in an instant. One time when he was three, he started stripping in the middle of the supermarket. I’ll never forget chasing him around the frozen aisle. Screaming his head off, grabbing hold of his—”

Andrew: “Hannah!”

Andrew roars.

Andrew: “Hurry up!”

Hannah: “I’m coming. Keep your pants on.”

Molly: “Yeah, Andrew. Keep your pants on.”

The look he gives me is one of huge betrayal.

Andrew: “You’re dating someone?”

Hannah: “Maybe,”

Andrew: “Since when?”

Hannah: “None of your business.”

Andrew: “It is my business, you’re sixteen.”

Hannah: “I can read and write too,”

she says, and takes off down the lane in a light jog that has the dogs running after her in excitement.

Andrew: “Ta-da,”

Andrew says as we stand in the center of it. I wait.

Molly: “This is it?”

Andrew: “This is it.”

Molly: “I don’t get a history lesson?”

He makes a face, turning in a small circle as though looking for a place of significance.

Andrew: “I had my first kiss over there,”

he says, pointing to an unremarkable patch of dirt glistening in the melting frost.

Molly: “I meant about the monks.”

Andrew: “I don’t think the monks were really into kissing back then. Or now for that matter.”

Molly: “Oh, he’s so funny.”

Andrew: “You know, I was really, really looking forward to seeing my family and being a good second son, and yet ever since I’ve come home, all I am is annoyed that I can’t spend every second alone with you.”

Molly: “Are you telling me I’ve ruined your Christmas and that I should have stayed in Dublin?”

Andrew: “It was pretty selfish of you to come, and take up my precious time with thoughts of you.”

Molly: “Thoughts of me?”

I like the sound of that.

Molly: “Indecent thoughts?”

Andrew: “God no.”

He reaches for the zipper of my coat, flicking it once before pulling it down.

Andrew: “I’m a gentleman.”

Andrew: “Now who’s hot and bothered?”

Molly: “I’m just not used to this yet. I still feel sometimes like I’ll wake up and we’ll be on a plane. That none of it will have happened.”

Andrew: “It was always going to happen. But trust you to choose the most stressful three days ever to do it.”

Molly: “Hey!”

Andrew: “It’s true.”

Disappointment fills me as he moves his leg away and I’m about to protest when he suddenly grabs the back of my thighs, hoisting me up. I panic, my ankles locking around his waist as I scramble to get a hold on him.

Molly: “Andrew!”

Andrew: “Much better,”

he says as we become eye level with each other.

Molly: “If you drop me, I’m going to kill you.”

Andrew: “I’m not going to drop you. I’m incredibly strong.”

I huff, clutching him close as his hands move from my thighs to my ass.

Molly: “Seriously?”

Andrew: “I might have had some indecent thoughts,”

he admits, and when I don’t protest, he leans in, pressing a hot kiss to my lips that the monks would not have approved of.

Hannah: "Oh.”

Hannah rounds the corner, stopping abruptly when she catches sight of us. Her sudden grin reminds me so much of Andrew that I’m a little spooked.

Hannah: “You guys smooching?”

she asks, sounding delighted by the thought.

Andrew: “Don’t say smooching,”

Andrew grumbles, stepping away from me. He grabs my hand as he goes, tugging me once more into his side.

Hannah: “Making out? Swapping spit?”

Andrew: “Would you shut up?”

Hannah: “Tangling tongues?”

Andrew: “Hannah—”

Hannah: “Let me guess,”

she interrupts, rubbing her nose absently in the cold.

Hannah: “I’m too young to know what kissing is.”

Andrew: “You are.”

Hannah: “When did you have your first kiss?”

Andrew: “That’s none of your business,”

Andrew huffs, walking us back toward the village. Hannah latches onto my other side, not letting up.

Andrew: “Didn’t you have it in the castle? You did!”

Her eyes light up at whatever expression she sees on his face.

Hannah: “Is that why you brought Molly here? That is so corny.”

Andrew: “Don’t you have somewhere to be? Down the well, maybe?”

Hannah: “Andrew can be very sentimental,”

she tells me, looping her arm through mine so I have a Fitzpatrick on either side of me.

Hannah: “It’s kind of cute.”

Andrew: “I’m not cute. I’m a grown man.”

Colleen: “Well,”

she says abruptly, and, before anyone can stop her, grabs two bottles of half-finished wine from the table.

Christian: “Hey,”

Christian complains as she takes the glass from his hand next.

Colleen: “Support your brother,”

she snaps, bringing them to the sideboard before heading back for more.

Christian: “I am! I’m getting rid of his temptation!”

Colleen: “Did you join one of those clubs? Triple A?”

Andrew: “It’s just AA. And no, but I’ve joined another program that—”

Colleen: “Your uncle Kevin has been told he has a gluten intolerance. Maybe you should talk with him.”

Christian: “Mother of God,”

Christian mutters, dropping his head to the table.

Colleen: “I know it’s not the same, but he’s had to give up a lot. You know how that man likes his bread.”

Hannah: “There’s gluten in beer too,”

Hannah pipes up, and Colleen gestures toward her with a see motion.

Christian: “You alright, Mam?”

Christian asks as she starts folding her napkin into a tiny square.

Colleen: “I’m fine.”

Christian: “Want a glass of wine?”

Colleen: “Yes, I think— No,”

she amends, horrified as Christian starts to laugh.

Molly: “I’m sure. I am very, very sure.”

He steps closer, vanquishing the space between us.

Andrew: “Feels strange though. To give in after all this time. I feel like I’ve been hiding it from both of us for so long. And now I’m just… not.”

Molly: “Hiding what?”

I ask, thoughts scattering as his fingers circle my wrists, clasping them gently.

Andrew: “How much I’ve thought about this moment.”

Molly: “You. I want you. All of you.”

Heat fills his gaze, as though charged by the same electricity I feel running through my own body.

Andrew: “You have me, Moll. You’ve had me for years.”

I can only lie there, my breathing ragged as he waits for me to still before licking his way back up to my mouth.

Molly: “Okay, good job,”

I say, patting the side of his face.

Molly: “Night night.”

Molly: “We don’t know what this is yet,”

I say, trying to get him to understand. One look at his face and I know he doesn’t. If anything, he looks pissed off.

Andrew: “I don’t know what this is? Really?”

Molly: “We haven’t even—”

Andrew: “Flight one,”

he interrupts, placing the packet of Rice Krispies to the side as he moves on to the Coco Pops.

Andrew: “When you didn’t even know me and you tried to protect me. You literally stole my phone to stop me from getting hurt. Flight two, I stared at the back of your head the entire time, waiting for you to turn around. I know you thought I was mad then, but I wasn’t, I was embarrassed. I wanted to talk to you, but for the first time in my life I didn’t know how. Flight three. Our first real flight. It was the quickest that journey has ever been for me. I was going to ask you out, but you said you had a boyfriend.”

Molly: “Andrew—”

Andrew: “Flight four.”

He moves onto the cornflakes.

Andrew: “When we got drunk on champagne and talked the whole way home. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun in my life. Flight five, when you bought me that sweater. I didn’t wash it for a week because it smelled of you. I carried that old food guide around with me for weeks, wondering if I should give it to you or not, and the look on your face when you opened it… I’d never been so happy to see someone smile. Flight six when I saw you saying goodbye to your boyfriend. You wanted to know if I was jealous of your exes, Molly? I put it down at the time to not wanting you to date an asshole, but seeing you together felt like I was being ripped in two. I was with someone else at the time and just standing there looking at you felt like cheating.”

He waits for me to interrupt again, but I don’t. I just stare at him, feeling ridiculously close to crying.

Andrew: “I lied when I said I wanted to kiss you once before. Flight seven is the second time I wanted to. I don’t know why. Nothing special happened. I just came up the escalator and you were sitting by the gate and I felt like I was home already. I hated parting that time. I hated it, but I didn’t know why. Flight eight, you were basically dying from your period. You fell asleep on my shoulder and I could have pushed you to the side, but I didn’t. My arm went dead, but I didn’t move because I liked you touching me and I wanted to look after you. Sometimes I think it’s what I was born to do. Flight nine is when we were delayed and you started crying because they were out of cheese fries. I’m pretty sure I would have sold all of my belongings just to get you some and I was so close to telling you how I felt. So close to figuring this out, but you were exhausted and I didn’t want to stress you out even more. By the time I got back after Christmas you’d already met Brandon and I was too late.”

He moves then, rounding the table, and only stops when I take a step back, bumping into the stovetop.

Andrew: “I was going to tell you about moving home. I swear to God I was. But not yet. Because more than anything, I wanted you to give me a reason to stay. I was going to flirt, test the waters, maybe ask you out on a proper date, but you were so busy with work and then the storm happened and ..."

He shakes his head, almost scowling at me now.

Andrew: "The storm happened and you dropped everything to get me home for Christmas because you knew that was what would make me happy. So, flight ten, Molly. Flight ten when you kissed me under the mistletoe and became the only girl I've ever truly wanted. Don't tell me I don't know what this is. Don't tell me I don't know what I want."

Molly: "This whole thing has happened way too quickly. Usually, you meet a guy, you hit it off and you try each other on for a while. See if you fit. This feels like we were moving along at this snail’s pace for ten years and suddenly, bam.”

Christian: “Bam? Did someone step on the snail?”

Molly: “No, the snail… No, I meant now it’s going too fast.”

He gives me a confused look.

Molly: “Okay. What I mean is he’s spent the last three days trying to get home to you guys. And watching you all together… He loves you. He loves this place. He’s always said that. And now he’s just going to throw that away for me?”

Christian:“See, now I think you’re giving yourself too much credit. It’s a difficult balance, I’ll give you that.”

Molly: “Christian—”

Christian:“He likes Chicago. He’s spent all his adult life there, just like you. And just like you, he moved there before he knew you even existed. I’m sure sitting next to you on an airplane once a year was thrilling, but I’m also going to take a wild guess that he didn’t stay there because of that. He has a life over there. He has friends, he has memories, he has his roommate's dog that he won’t stop sending pictures of to the family group chat. To be clear, the easiest option is for him to stay. And as to your weird snail analogy…”

He stares out at the road, exasperated.

Christian: “Yeah, fine, if you two just met three days ago, but you didn’t. You’ve known the guy for ten years. And I think he’s been a bit in love with you for ten years and he was just too stupid to see it. Why would you want to take it slow? I wouldn’t take it slow.”

Christian: "it sounds like you’re so worried about losing him that you’re not even going to try for something better with him and if I’d known talking to you this morning would have sent you into this spiral then I wouldn’t have done it. I would have kept my mouth shut, flirted with you to piss him off, and stolen some money from his wallet on the way out.”

I blink.

Molly: “Flirted with me?”

Christian: “I’ve been threatening to flirt with you for years, because I knew it would rile him up. Because you rile him up. I’m telling you, Molly, you’ve been it for him for a very long time. And I think he’s been the same for you.”

Christian:“Are you…”

He trails off, horrified.

Christian:“Are you crying?”

Molly: “No,”

I lie, pressing my hands to my cheeks.

Christian:“Ah here, Andrew’s going to kill me if you tell him I made you cry.”

Molly: “It’s not you. This happens a lot.”

Christian:“That doesn’t make it better.”

Molly: “I’m just realizing I was an idiot.”

I wipe a tear and then two away, blinking to make sure no more will follow.

Molly: “I suppose asking you to turn the car around would be too much?”

Christian:“We’d need some serious sobbing for me to do that.”

But he glances at me as though afraid I’m about to do just that.

Molly: “I think I’m in love with your brother. And I think I need to fix what happened this morning.”

Christian:“Good for him and yes, you do, but I’ve got an airport pint with my name on it and I’m not turning this car around.”

Molly: “I’m not above bribing you.”

He laughs.

Christian: “And I’m not above being bribed.”

Molly: “I’m just saying, I’ve done it before. I’m very good at it.”

Zoe: “Who’s that tall glass of water?”

Molly: “Andrew’s younger brother.”

Zoe: “You little—”

Molly: “Don’t be gross,”

I complain, already knowing what she’s going to say.

Zoe: “How is that gross? I’m impressed.”

Molly: “Shut up. Should you be on your feet right now?”

Zoe: “Yes, Mother. If I can birth a human, I can walk the two doors down to the neighbor to show it off.”

Zoe: “I like your hair,”

Hannah: “I like your baby.”

Andrew: “I know you’re scared that I’ll flake out on you. But I’m not going to lie and say I’m not staying in Chicago for you. Because I am. For you, Molly. I don’t want to do long-distance. And I don’t want to just be friends. I thought I could do it once if that was how you felt, but not now. Not anymore. I don’t want to not see you for months until we meet for a hasty lunch. I don’t want to wonder how you are. I definitely don’t want to meet your boyfriends. I want you, I want us, and I think we could make it work.”

Molly: “Andrew—”

Andrew: “I love you.”

He takes a breath once he’s said the words, as though he had to race through everything else just so he could get to them.

Andrew: “I’m in love with you and I’m sorry it took me so long to figure it out. I’m sorry I wasted so many years trying to find someone else, when the only one I wanted was you.”

Molly: “I want you to stay in Chicago with me. I want us to be together and I want to kiss you all the time. I don’t want to wait or go slow or start at the beginning. I want you too. I want us too.”

Molly: “I’m in love with you,”

I say, because I need him to hear this. I need him to understand what I suddenly, overwhelmingly do.

Molly: “In an extremely non-platonic, never-leave-me way.”

Andrew: “I won’t,”

His gaze softens as he wipes a snowflake from my cheek.

Andrew: “For as long you’ll have me.”


Andrew: “You’re cold,”

he murmurs after a moment of us just gazing at each other like two love-struck kids.

Molly: “I’m fine.”

He grimaces.

Andrew: “Okay, that was just me being macho, I’m the one who’s cold.”

Molly: : “This is a mistake.”

Andrew: “The panettone?”

Molly: : “No,”

I huff. Although… I glance at Andrew, suddenly nervous.

Molly: “Why? Do you think we should have gone with the tiramisu? Because—”

Andrew: “It was a joke. A cruel joke that I’ll spend the rest of the day making up for.”

Molly: “Andrew.”

Andrew: “That I’ll pan-atone for it."

Molly: "Don't."

I warn, but it's already smiling, delighted with his pun.

Molly: “I hope it’s a letter explaining why you keep using my expensive shampoo when you have your own shampoo.”

Andrew: “It makes my hair shiny.”

He shrugs.

Andrew: “And it smells like you."

Molly: "That's creepy."

Andrew: "Please. You love it."

Andrew: “I am, as always, extremely proud of you, Moll. Even if you did pick a panettone over the tiramisu.”

Molly: “Stop it.”

Andrew: “Probably should have told you that Mam hates panettone."

Zoe: “Auntie Molly!”

I hear her say as she approaches us.

Zoe: “Remember your Auntie Molly? Auntie— Yeah, he doesn’t care.”

I smirk, kissing him on the head.

Molly: “I’ll win him over.”

Zoe: “I don’t know. He only likes talking animals at the moment. Also spoons? Weirdly into holding spoons all day. I'm hoping it means he's a genius."

Molly: “Zoe?”

Zoe: “Hmmm?”

Molly: “What the hell is Mam wearing?”

Mam: “I thought I’d make an effort this year,”

Mam announces as she reaches us. She looks a little flustered, probably due to the oversized, bright red sweater she’s wearing. Granny Clause is written in block letters across the front.

Mam: “Your father and I wanted to mark the occasion.”

Molly: “Then why isn’t Dad wearing one?”

Zoe: “Because he respects himself,”

Zoe mutters, ignoring the look our mother gives her.

Mam: “The girl at the shop said the whole point of a Christmas jumper is that it’s ugly,”

Mam says worriedly, and I smile reassuringly.

Molly: “It’s not ugly.”

Zoe: “It’s a little ugly,”

Andrew: “I think you look brilliant,”

Andrew says to Mam as he joins us.

Andrew: “And it’s the exact shade of the one I got for Molly and me, so you’ll fit right in.”

My head whips toward him.

Molly: “Excuse me?”

Andrew: “Two-part present. Since you loved that so much last year.”

Molly: “You’re joking.”

Andrew: “Am I?”

Zoe: “We should get this show on the road,”

Zoe says, extracting Hannah's hair from Tiernan's grasp as she lifts him back into her arms.

Zoe: "And then I need some sugar. If you're making us do Christmas that means I get sugar."

Molly: "We're not wearing matching sweaters."

Andrew: "We'll see."


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