Copyright Eden England 2015

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Cover design by Blackwater Billy


This book is a work of fiction. All the characters in this book are fictitious and any similarity to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidence.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses
permitted by copyright law.



Too often, the future seems predetermined—a giant book full of written pages, and we’re just reading through them. There was a time in my life when the pages were still blank, ready for me to pen my own story.

Five years had passed since I spent Christmas at home with my family. Five years had passed since my parents divorced. I was twenty-three when they called to tell me. I completely taken aback. There were no warning, no fighting. They seemed totally happy—totally content with one another. I guess I was wrong. I guess they were good at hiding their issues—or I was just too naïve to notice.

My father told me: “We waited until you had moved out.” My parents figured that if I was out of the house, it would have no negative impact on me, emotional or otherwise. “This way,” my mother said, “you aren’t a child of divorce. You’re an adult whose parents happened to divorce.”

After the divorce, my mother went to live in Sweden. She met a man there and never came back. We haven’t heard from her since. My dad couldn’t care less.

My mother was always an impulsive person, so her fickle disappearance did not surprise me much. Throughout my childhood, she changed careers a dozen times. When I was very young, she was a painter. When I was a teenager, she was a chef. When I turned eighteen, she was applying for aviation school. She wanted to fly stunt planes. God knows what she is up to now, in Sweden—if she even is still in Sweden.

Unlike my mother, my father surprised me. He remarried within three years. This was a surprise because my father was practically a hermit. He retired when I was very young—too young to remember. I can remember no more than a dozen times my father left the house. He was an anti-social man. He didn’t speak much. He watched baseball all day and hockey all night. The television never changed from Sportsnet.

I had not met the woman that my father married after my mother. I knew that her name was Patricia—or Pat, as my father called her. I knew she had two sons of her own from a previous marriage. Otherwise, as far as I knew, she could have been a Nigerian Princess, or maybe a Great Dane.

It was the first day of December when my father called me. He asked me to come home for the holidays—to meet his new wife, his new stepsons—his new family. Fast-forward twenty days, and there I was, sitting in a cab after a six hour flight. With me was my boyfriend James.

James and I met six months before. In a way, I have my parents to thank; if it wasn’t for their divorce, I would never have met James. I was at a bar with a friend, talking about my parents’ unexpected split. James was sitting nearby and overheard. He too was the child of an unexpected split. He was twenty when his parents filed for divorce. The peculiar coincidence got us talking. We soon realized that there was another peculiar coincidence. Like my mother, James’ mother was a fickle woman. She took off after her divorce and James never heard from her again.

James had two brother and two sister. They all hated their father. He was always drunk and occasionally abusive. James made no effort to keep in touch with his father.

James was a tall, handsome man. He was thin with short, dark hair, which he liked to wear slicked back.

“Excited to meet your new mom?” James said with a grin. Since the start of December, James had used that same like over one-hundred times.

“Oh God, just stop reminding me,” I said.

“Don’t be so nervous. It’s not like it matters. It’s not like she’s actually going to be your mom.”

“I feel sick.”

“Don’t feel sick. She’s just another lady. You’re just going to meet another lady. I’m the one who should be sick. I’m meeting your whole family for the first time,” James said.

“I’m meeting my whole family, too,” I said.

“Well you already know your dad—so it’s really like you’re just meeting his wife and her kids.”

“Oh God—What if I barf all over her? What if I barf all over her kids?”

“Please don’t barf all over your new family,” James said.

“It’s going to happen. I’m going to barf. I feel sick.”

“Don’t barf.”

I looked out the window. It was already pitch black outside and it was only five in the afternoon. There must have been three feet of snow on the ground, forcing the cab to drive far below the speed limit. I was so stressed out; it felt like we’d been in the cab for ten hours already.

“How far are we?” I asked James.

“I’m sure we’re almost there,” he replied.

The buildings in his town were all small. We drove through his ‘downtown’, which was a Wal-Mart and three little apartment buildings.

“God, the snow is so beautiful,” James said. “I miss the snow so much.”

“It’s a pain in the ass,” I said back.

I hated snow. The exhaust from the cars had turned all the snow on and around the road a dirty brown colour. It looked more like frozen mud than anything. We passed a small group of very cold looking people walking on the sidewalk in the deep snow. They had thick parkas on that were tied tightly around their faces. They didn’t look like they were having any fun at all.

“Look at those poor people,” I said. “If they just moved somewhere warm, like California, then they wouldn’t be so miserable.”

“Aren’t you just so sweet,” James said.

“People weren’t meant to live in places like this; I’m telling you,” I said.

“Well, you can’t make snow angels or igloos in California.”

“Thank God for that,” I said.

We turned around a corner onto a small residential street.

“Alright, this is it,” James said.

My heart sunk into my stomach.

“I can’t remember anyone’s name,” I said, suddenly panicking more than ever.

“It’s fine; they’re going to love you.”

“You’re a lying son of a bitch,” I said.

“Alright, that’ll be thirty-eight dollars,” the cabbie told us.

James reached into his pocket and pulled out a fifty. He handed it to the driver.

“Merry Christmas,” James said.

James opened his door and hopped out excitedly. I leaned forward.

“Good luck,” the cabbie said.

James knocked on my window.

“You coming, babe?” he asked.

I looked back to the driver.

“No,” I said firmly.

James opened the door and held out his hand.

“C’mon,” he said.

I took a deep breath.

“Fine,” I said.

I stepped out of the warm cab into the freezing snow. My father’s new house was large. It looked old, but well maintained. There was a giant yard with a long shovelled driveway. James had already pulled our luggage out of the trunk.

I turned and watched the cab pull away. I wished he would have just turned his car around and drove it over my body repeatedly.

James started walking down the driveway towards the door. I stared at him for a moment and took another breath.

“You can do this, Bren,” I told myself quietly.

“You coming?” James asked.

“Yep,” I said.

I began to walk up the driveway.

“It won’t be so bad,” I reassured myself again.


The front door opened and woman waddled out. She was a short, old woman—older than my father. She was quite large and wore big, thick glasses. She pushed her glasses up her nose and squinted. She looked at me, and then she looked at James. Her eyes turned tide as her gaze locked onto my boyfriend.

I took a deep breath. Presumably, this woman was Patricia—this woman was my ‘new mother’.

“Is that…” the woman said with wide-eyes.

James froze and his face flushed.

“M—Mom?” James said.

The woman’s eyes glazed over and her face became bright. She waddled down the driveway to give her son a hug. James dropped the luggage as he remained frozen in his place.

“James!” Patricia yelled loudly as she opened the door.

“Hey, ma,” James said, embracing her. “W—What are you doing here?”

“This is my house! This is where I live now!”

“What? W—Where did you go?”

“Oh Gosh, where did I go? I’ve been everywhere.”

“Why didn’t you call?” James said.

“I wanted to call—but I didn’t have you or the other kids’ numbers. I tried to call your father, but he never picked up. The one time he did, he hung up.”

James wrapped his arms around his mother. He hugged her tight.

“How have you been?” Patricia asked. “Oh Gosh, you’re so tall!”

“I can’t believe you’re here. What are you doing here?” James said.

“I live here with my husband. This is my house,” she replied.

“Husband?” he said. “You remarried?”

My heart sank into my gut as I stood awkwardly and silently on the side lines.

“Yes, yes. He’s inside. You need to meet him,” she told him. “And who is that over there? Is she with you? That’s not your sister Julia, is it?”

“No, ma. That’s not Julia. That’s my girlfriend, Brenna.”

“A girlfriend!” she screamed as she waddled over to me.

“H—Hello,” I said.

“Hello, darling,” she said to me. “She’s beautiful, Jamie.”

I smiled.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Come on in! Come on in!” she said, turning around and waddling towards the house. “Oh Jamie, I can’t believe you came home! How did you find me?”

“I—I didn’t, ma.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m here to meet Brenna’s family,” James said.

“Brenna’s family? Your family lives around here too?” she asked me.

“Um,” I said. I moved my mouth to speak, but no words came out.

James looked back at me. His eyes were glued wide. Mine were glued wide.

“Frank arrived late last night,” Patricia said.

“Frank’s here?” James asked.

“Yes. He tracked me down, just like you,” Patricia said.

“I didn’t track you down, ma,” James said.

“Charlie was supposed to be here but didn’t show up. Nearly gave me a heart attack for Pete sakes. Didn’t call or anything. I finally got a hold of him. He should be here tonight now.”

We walked into the house. It was warm. There was a giant staircase immediately in front of the doorway, which led up into a big, open living room area.

“Take off your shoes. I just cleaned the floors,” Patricia said.

I bent over and began to untie my shoes.

“What did you say your name was again, my dear?” Patricia asked me.

“Brenna,” I replied.

“Brenna. As in, short for Brenda?” she asked.

“No, just Brenna,” I said.

“What an odd name,” she said. “You’re so skinny,” she said.

I opened my mouth to speak.

“Ma—” James said.

“What? Someone needs to tell her,” Patricia said.

“You can’t just say things like that,” James said.

“James, be a gentleman. Come and take Brenna’s coat,” Pat said, changing the subject.

“Hold on, ma. I’m still taking off my shoes,” James said.

“Walter!” Patricia began to yell. “My other son is here! And he brought a girlfriend!”

James looked over at me. Still, neither of us could muster up any words for one another.

“That Charlie?” a familiar voice called out.

“No, not Charlie—James!” Pat yelled back.

“James? I thought James wasn’t coming.”

“The other boys must have tracked him down!” Patricia was still oblivious. She hadn’t caught on yet.  “And he’s got a girlfriend with him!”

“He’s got a what?” Walter yelled back, still out of sight.

“A girlfriend, Walt. He brought home a lady!” She yelled.

“A lady?” Walter yelled back.

“A real lady. Come and see my son!” she yelled.

Walter—my father—a small, fat old man emerged from around the upstairs corner and leaned over the railing. He was only five years older than when I last saw him, but he looked fifteen years older. He had heavy bags under his sunken eyes, and his spine was permanently concave from slouching on a couch all day long.

“Hello there!” he said to James.

“Hey, Walter,” James said.

“Who’s the lady?” Walter asked.

“This is his girlfriend, Brenna,” Pat responded.

My father froze, immediately recognizing me. Unlike his slow wife, he put the pieces together. He married my boyfriend’s mother.

“What? What is it?” Patricia asked.

“Brenna?” Walter said to me.


“You look so—so—so mature.”

“Um, thanks,” I said.

“This your boyfriend?”

“Dad?” Patricia said.

There was a long, awkward silence. Two broken, misplaced families had become one, forced together by sheer coincidence and total accident.

“Walt!” an unfamiliar male voice called out. “You’re going to miss the puck drop!”

My dad looked at me and then opened his mouth. “W—We’ll catch up later?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Great,” Walter said as he turned away and disappeared towards his television.

“I’m sorry, am I missing something?” Patricia asked. She was an especially slow woman.

“Walter is Brenna’s father, ma. She brought me here to meet him,” James said.

Patricia had a dumb, confused look on her face. “You mean… Like a stepfather? Are you two married?”

James shook his head at him mother’s questionably slow intelligence. James had to walk up to her and explain the situation in detail. The look on Patricia’s face surprised me; it was not surprise, but instead disappointment—disappointment in the fact James had not intended to see his mother at all.

Patricia forced a smile. “Come on upstairs,” she said.

We came into a big kitchen with big windows, looking out into a field of snow. The room was bright with orange light from the setting sun. Patricia waddled directly towards the refrigerator. “Can I get you two something to drink?” she asked.

The stove had four burners, all occupied by large pots for the night’s feast. The counter was mostly invisible, covered by food platters and salad bowls. Patricia insisted that we sit down at the kitchen table while she “fixed up a snack.”

“Where’s Frank?” James asked.

“Walter! Where’s Frank?” She yelled across the house.

“He went to the liquor store to get some wine,” Walter yelled back.

“He’s at the liquor store, dear,” Patricia said to James.

“You have a very lovely house,” I said, awkwardly.

“Oh, you’re too sweet,” Patricia said. “We’ve lived here for—oh, three years now.”

“Wow,” I said.

James’ mother gave us the tour of the house.

We walked across the living room. Walter sat at the far end of the room on a large, comfy looking chair, watching a hockey game. He was too consumed by the dying minutes of the sporting event to look over at us. We had not seen one another for five whole years, and he couldn’t be bothered to miss the hockey game to catch up.

There was a large stone fireplace on the wall that was burning a beautiful, warm fire. There was a table that had been meticulously set for dinner near the kitchenette.

I walked into the room. There was an old family portrait over the fireplace. James was sitting on the floor, under his parents. Both of his sisters and both of his brothers sat on either side of him. He was barely a teenager, covered in acne, with a mouth full of shiny metal braces.

I smiled.

“Embarrassing, hey?” James said to me.

“It’s cute,” I laughed.

I looked down at the mantle. Between masses of Christmas cards were small, framed pictures of James and his two brothers as young children. Frank was the older of the siblings. He was a classic jock type—even as a teenager, he was thick—well-developed muscularly from an early age. James was wearing a pair of nerdy, Harry Potter-esque glasses in all his photos.

“You wore glasses?” I asked.

“Yeah. It was a dark time in my life,” James said. He laughed.

Charlie was James’s younger brother—a smaller kid. He had short, messy hair and wore clothes that were clearly too big for him. I looked down the mantle. There was a photo of the three boys as adults. I picked it up and looked at it closer.

As an adult, Frank was even thicker—even more toned and muscular, still sporting that classic a jock look. Charlie had grown into his clothes, but was still a smaller guy. He was wearing an un-tucked and open button down shirt and he had a cigarette in his mouth. He stood next to a motorcycle. He looked like a bit of a badass, to be honest—like a young Mick Jagger. He sported the confidence of then Mick Jaggers in all of his photos—a different skimpy girlfriend hanging off his body in each photo on the crowded mantle.

“Let me show you to your room,” Patricia said. “You’ll be in the upstairs guestroom. There are lots of soaps and shampoos in there.”

Patricia began to waddle away as I put down the photo.

“You coming?” James said to me.

“Yeah,” I said.

I took one final glance at all the photos, and then followed James towards the guest room.

The room was small, just barely fitting a bed, a nightstand and a wooden dresser. There was an open door on the side of the room that led into a small bathroom.

“As soon as Frank is home, we’ll have dinner,” Patricia said to us.

She looked at me and smiled.

“Gee, you sure don’t talk much, do you?” she said.

I smiled.

“Thank you, Mrs Kallo,” I said.

“That’s Mrs. Wilkinson now!” she said. “Oh, but you can call me Patricia,” she said back to me.

She waddled out of the room.

“This is my nightmare,” I said.

“You’re telling me,” James said.

“I guess that makes us—”

“—Don’t say it.” James interrupted.

“Brother and sister,” I said.

“We aren’t brother and sister,” James said. “Not any more than they are brother and sister. They just beat us to the wedding.”

“It’s kind of fucked up,” I said.


“What? It is. Not to mention, your mom hates me.”

“God, Bren. She doesn’t hate you.”

“Your mom definitely hates me,” I said.

“She doesn’t hate you.”

“She thinks I’m retarded,”

“Brenna, I need you to just calm down, okay?” James said to me. “I want to try and have fun this week.”

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

“That’s my girl,” he said as he placed down our luggage.

“I’m fine. I’m totally fine,” I said.

“You’re totally fine.”

He walked up to me and looked me in the eye.

“I’m totally fine.” I said again.

He smiled and looked down at me. He placed his hands on my hips.

“We’re going to have fun,” he said again. “You’re going to have fun.”

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