Epilogue – Christmas at the Johnson house

I was at the door greeting our extended family. Not the aunts and uncles or streams of cousins, but the family lacking the Johnson family genetic code. This was the day reserved for the Duvall's and Davidson's and Ingvall's to gather at the Johnson house. It was usually a few days before or after Christmas. The moms of each family shopped together, and the dads still congregated disturbing the local bar scene.

This was the first year Peter would be attending the dinner. While I stood at the door hugging people, Peter was in the kitchen with my mom learning above and beyond his fill about herbs and herb gardening. Every once and a while he'd look up and wink. I'd wink back and then hug people still streaming through the door.

It was a shock when the Davidson's showed up at the door. Kameron stood at the forefront, undoubted pushed there by his mom. His stepfather, Howard, stood with his arm around Kam's mom, Jennifer's, shoulders. Kameron's younger sister, Alicia, stood just behind him looking bored while constantly checking her cell phone. My smile faltered for a second when I opened the door.

I took a deep breath as Kameron smiled sheepishly.

"Merry Christmas you guys, come on in." I gave all of them a hug, except Alicia.

Kameron had apologized properly shortly after the beginning of the new school year. I had accepted skeptically. Carter had begged me to let him punch him. Erinne who had to be filled in over IM and webcam had been spared the details and was just pleased I had ended up with Peter.

"Duvall and dad are in the living room, Howard." He smiled and lifted up a case of eggnog and a brown paper sack. Jennifer kissed my cheek and headed to the kitchen. Alicia followed Howard, leaving Kam and I at the door.

"Peter's in the kitchen," I told him. "Mom is talking about herbs. Erinne still hasn't gotten here."

"You look good." Kameron said. "Thanks for not shutting me out."

"It's Christmas; that means no promises for New Years." I pushed him towards the kitchen.

Kameron laughed just as Erinne walked up. I hugged her and she made excuses for her parents. I shrugged and said "We'll send you home with a goody bag."

We walked through saying hellos to our makeshift family. I dragged Erinne off to my old room to give her the details of everything that had happened in Georgia. I skipped the part about Kameron showing up, but shared every gory detail.

"Man," she sighed. "Maybe I should move to California. I miss out on all of this."

"You won't have to," I said.

"Dinner's ready," the moms called simultaneously through the house.

It was more of a late lunch. And since it was always at our house my mom always came up with a different meal plan. The first year we had traditional and everyone became too full. One year it was sandwiches with every kind of bread. Two years after sandwiches we had an all basil meal. This year the table was stacked with six different kinds of meat, loaves upon loaves of home made bread and every kind of cheese. It was scattered with bowls of olive oil and home grown herbs.

Peter sat on one side of me and Erinne was seated on my other. There was champagne, the eggnog (spiked and non-spiked), and sparkling cider. Everyone poured a glass of something and I stood up.

"This is our tenth year or something close to that," I laughed. "Whoever is keeping track feel free to interject, and I just want to say God bless those who are here, those new to this multiple house tradition and those who aren't here. And Peter and I are moving back to Texas after graduation. Merry Christmas! Dig in!"

Kameron and I were on the path to friendship. Erinne and I would be spending more time together after graduation. Peter and I would be living together. Carter was offered a job in California in a huge firm; he'd be buying my apartment and keeping Ears.

I held Peter's hand for second under the table before following my own advice and eating. This was my life and everyone I loved, now that I knew what it meant.