Ever since Chris’s adopted parents died, he has tried to continue their Christmas traditions every year. But, year after year, family attendance dwindled until only he and his stepsister, Julie, remained. Then, last year, even she broke with tradition and spent the holidays with her new boyfriend—leaving Chris by himself.
When Christmas came around again, Chris didn’t hear from his sister, so he steeled himself for another lonely holiday. When his doorbell rang Christmas morning, he was surprised to find his stepsister at the door with a plastic container of her Christmas cookies.
“Woah, Julie, what’s wrong?” he asked the moment he saw her tear-stained face.
“He broke up with me!” She said, then awkwardly wrapped her arms around her brother, container still in hand. He guided her inside and closed the door, waiting until Julie calmed down before saying more.
“When did this happen? Why didn’t you text me?” Chris asked after she pulled away
“It was last night,” she said, head down, “I wasn’t going to visit you last minute, but I couldn’t sleep.” Her attention turned to the container she rose to advertise. “So I did some baking and headed here right after they were done.”
“Well, that explains the outfit,” Chris said, taking in her sexy Mrs. Claus costume. “Wait, you haven’t slept yet?” Chris said, then took the cookies and set them on the small table near the door. “Come on, I’ll let you use my bed.” She nodded, too upset to disagree, and followed Chris upstairs.
As Chris tucked her into bed, he said, “I’ll make you something to eat when you get up. But don’t feel rushed; take as long as you need.”
“Wait!” Julie called out as he headed for the door; he froze. “Can you…stay until I fall asleep?”
He looked over his sister, taking in her innocent expression. The pleading he found in her eyes drew him in, twisting his heart with pain. He nodded. “Of course,” he said, then stepped toward his computer chair.
“No,” she said, stopping him once more. She patted the spot on the bed beside her. “Like when we were younger?”
A small smile formed on Chris’s face, triggered by an old childhood memory. “Sure,” he said, then climbed into the bed.
Julie lifted the blanket to let Chris in and cuddled against him the moment he was within range. He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close enough to feel her warm breath on his neck….