Christmas music is lightly heard in the background of the Ashmore living room. Max is sitting on the couch opening gifts as Weston sits adjacent to him, holding his granddaughter, Willow. Mollie sits next to him, and Grace sits on the floor next to the tree, handing out the gifts from underneath the tree to everyone around her.
Grace looks around the room; all she sees is smiles. Smiles are on her parents’ faces, Max flashes a smile and shares a laugh with Grace’s parents when Willow does something cute. Grace feels like she’s surrounded in a world of lies’ fake smiles, fake laughs, and fake relationships just to keep the pace within the dynamic. She loves that they are all doing this for Willow; the fact that Willow doesn’t have to go to two different homes for the holiday season is the reason why she’s here on this day, with her ex-fiance, with her parents, celebrating a holiday typically around family and those you love.
There’s no doubt she loves her family, and she’s immensely grateful after years of being a separate one, they are finally together, as a family, even though her own little family is never going to be the same, which makes her sad. Angry. Confused. She thinks she’s the problem; she always has been.
Her train of thought breaks when she hears someone calling out for her name. She blinks a couple of times before her attention is now on her surroundings. Everyone is looking at her.
Mollie: Can you pass that bag to me?
Grace turns around and grabs the bag from under the tree. She hands it to her mother and the family continues to talk among themselves without Grace. She continues to look around the room, mindlessly not present, in a different world where she wants to be. She fakes her smile and her laughs foe the rest of the morning.
A little later into the day, Grace is loading the dishwasher while her parents sit in the living room taking care of Willow. As she loads the dishwasher, Max comes into the kitchen with the rest of the dishes and loads them behind Grace. She looks back and gets startles from Max’s closeness.
Max: *nervously* Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.
Grace turns around and leans against the counter away from Max.
Grace: It’s fine.
Max puts the rest of the dishes in the dishwasher as Grace watches. Dead silence. He starts the dishwasher and steps back and looks at Grace.
Max: Are you okay? You’ve been quiet since we got here.
Grace: Yeah. Just tired. That’s all.
Max crosses his arms and leans towards the fridge.
Max: Don’t lie. You know I can always sense when you’re lying about how you’re feeling.
Grace: *irritated* Yeah, well it’s none of your business, so–
Max: *softly* Grace.
Grace stops her sentence. Her face softens and she stares at Max. He looks concerned, but in a very comforting way. She remembers the nights where she would show up to Max’s apartment crying her eyes out, stressed about the case, her family life, and everything else that stresses her out in this time period. Max would hug her, reassure her that everything will be alright, and then cover her in a sea of blankets when she fell asleep on his couch out of pure exhaustion. She somewhat misses those nights when she felt like she had someone to go to when things got tough; a place she thought would always be there and never go away.
Max walks over to her and stands next to her. She looks up at Max.
Max: You know you can always come to me if something’s bothering you. You know no matter what, I’m here.
Grace: You don’t have to worry about me though. I’ll be fine.
Max’s eyes never leave Grace while she talks. Grace, in some sort of way, feels like max still knows when she’s lying or hiding how she really feels. She doesn’t even know what she feels in this moment herself. How is she supposed to tell Max that she feels absolutely unloved and forgotten and that no one ever wants to keep her in their lives? Max is one of them that ultimately left when things got too difficult; when she got too difficult for him.
Grace opens her mouth to speak, but Max quickly says something ahead of her.
Max: That’s the thing though. I’ll always worry about you and care about your well-being. Something’s not right, Grace.
“Something’s not right, Grace”. The same words he said when Grace didn’t want to tell him that she was pregnant with Willow and that she was close to getting fired from the firm if she didn’t try to end things with Max. The boss had warned Grace about relationships within the firm and told her that if she didn’t end things with the “British pretty boy”, she would let them both go. She remembers walking to Max’s apartment in the rain, not even caring that she didn’t have an umbrella on her, completely devastated at what her life has become. She was there to break up with him and to tell him to never speak to her again. But she knew something wasn’t right. She knew something didn’t feel right and when she found out, she knew that there was no easy way of getting out of this. It’s the reason why Max left the firm in the first place; to start a family with the woman he was falling in love with, without the repercussions, realizing she was worth more than the job. Apparently, Grace didn’t feel the same way.
When Grace does say anything, Max puts his arms around Grace and hugs her. She’s shocked, surprised even, that Max would show some level of affection like this to her. It’s definitely been awhile, especially something as gentle and reassuring as this hug. Grace’s eyes get watery; she missed this.
Max: Whatever is getting to you, it will all be okay in the end. I’m sure of that.
Max releases her and Grace tries to hold back the forming tears in her eyes. Se does not want to cry in this moment; she doesn’t want to show Max any form of weakness in this moment. She looks up at him; the last year and a half just flashes before her eyes. She remembers the first time she saw max back at the firm; he was mostly clean shaven and bright. Youthful. These days, he’s grown; his hair is a little longer, his beard is scruffy-looking, and these days he’s definitely tired from being a full-time dad to Willow. This is the closest she’s been to Max since she left a almost a year ago. She missed being this close to them; feeling this close to him.
Without thinking, she immediately gets on her tip-toes and places her hand on the nape of his neck, leaning him down just enough for her to kiss him. She kisses him without no warning. His first reaction is to kiss her back, but he immediately pulls back and takes a step away from Grace. Grace immediately looks horrified; she’s completely speechless.
Grace tries to flee the kitchen, but Max unintentionally blocks most of the exit from her.
Max: Hey, Grace?
Grace: We should get back to Wil–
Max: *interrupts* Are you okay?
The question makes Grace mad. She scrunches her eyebrows and crosses her arms across her chest.
Grace: Can you stop asking me that? It was nothing. Don’t worry about it.
Grace: *annoyed* What?!
Max stands there, looking concerned, a little defensive, and slightly annoyed. He feels far away and disconnected; just how Grace knows Max these days.
Max: What was that about? *sighs* Grace, I–
Grace: No, it’s fine. I already know what you’re going to say. You want to complicate things, complicate things for Willow, blah-blah-blah. You don’t want me anymore, which I mean I should’ve just assumed from the start.
Max: *confused* What is going on with you?
Grace doesn’t say anything. She’s embarrassed, she feels dirty, and she feels desperate. She doesn’t want to be here anymore. She wants to go home, hide under her blankets, and never come back out. She wants nothing more to just hide away from the world, and have Jamie come over and just hold her. She wants nothing more than to her Jamie’s soothing voice talking to her when she doesn’t want to. She wants nothing more than for Jamie to bring her a coffee and her favorite dessert from their cafe and just sit with her. Say nothing even, like he would do with her on her worst possible days. She wants Jamie. She wants Jamie to stay. SHe wants Jamie to comfort her, hold her, kiss her, and be the one reassuring her that everything is going to be alright.
But she knows that’s not possible. In six days, Jamie leaves the country and will probably forget about her. He will go back to his country and live his normal life and do whatever he did before coming to the states, before meeting her and before his life became what is it now. She doesn’t even remember what her daily life was like before Jamie came into it. She doesn’t remember how she used to spend her days without going over to Jamie’s, working on her case and eating snacks and on their free time have him tell her stories and teach her some Korean vocabulary. She doesn’t remember who she used to talk to before Jamie became the one person she talks to about anything and everything happening in her life. She doesn’t remember much about how her life was before Jamie came into it, and now he’s living it.
Grace shakes her head, trying really hard to not cry in front of Max. She nudges Max hard enough to send her out of the room, and he looks back at Grace getting her coat from the spare bedroom.
Max: Where are you going? It’s Christmas, Grace. We’re here for Willow.
Grace: Don’t worry about it. Willow won’t even know I’m gone. She already knows how much I’m not in her life anyway.
Grace puts on her coat and walks past Max towards the front door. Weston and Mollie are in the living room, looking at Grace open the front door in a hurry.
Nothing. Grace walks out the front door and closes the door behind her. Max looks at Grace’s parents, not knowing what to tell them.