Kezia’s been harboring feelings for Magdalena for what feels like an eternity. She’s made peace with that. But when her happily committed best friend is suddenly single, that peace is disturbed. Especially when Magdalena comes to Kezia asking for a huge, unreasonable favor. Kezia doesn’t know how to say no, even though she knows she should. Will she be able to maintain her composure while helping the broken-hearted Magdalena? Or will pretending to have the girl of her dreams only lead to a broken heart of her own?
A Holiday Ruse
by Stephanie Hoyt
Author: Stephanie Hoyt
Release Date: November 20, 2017
Format: ePub, Mobi
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
Word Count: 11500
Sex Content: N/A
A Holiday Ruse
Stephanie Hoyt © 2017
All Rights Reserved
November 22nd: 38 DAYS until Mariela’s wedding
“Kezia, please call me back when you get a moment. Sonya’s gone and ruined my whole entire life! And even worse—because of course it wasn’t bad enough as is—she’s gone and ruined Christmas of all things, too! And look, I know it’s late and that tomorrow’s Thanksgiving and you’re probably super busy, but I really need to talk to someone. And honestly, I just want that someone to be you. Please. Just call me when you can, okay?”
November 23rd: 37 DAYS until the wedding
Kezia wakes up to thirteen missed calls, a string of text messages that altogether read: sorry for the dramatics but Sonya went and BROKE UP WITH ME and idk if that was clear or not, and one frantic voicemail from a sniffling Magdalena.
The series of thoughts that go through Kezia’s sleep-addled mind are: thank God; shit, I’m a terrible friend; and Jesus Christ, I thought they were going to get married. She doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t know what to say. She doesn’t know how to comfort her when all she really feels is relieved about the fact that she’ll never again have to witness the sickeningly sweet smile that crosses Magdalena’s face any time she talks about Sonya. That makes her feel horrible because what kind of friend feels relieved when one of their closest friends gets dumped by the girl of her dreams?
A shitty friend. Or—
The kind that’s in love.
Unfortunately for Kezia, it’s the latter of the two and it has been for quite some time now.
She’s not up to masking her relief just yet, but she doesn’t want to leave the messages unanswered—that would crush Magdalena. She’s not going to miss Magdalena’s relationship with Sonya, but she doesn’t want to be uncaring, especially when Magdalena is feeling vulnerable, so she texts back well, fuck her.
She panics right after pressing send that it was too brash of a response for such a delicate situation and elaborates: I’m here for you and I’ll call as soon as I get a moment alone but I promised Zeke I’d help with the cooking and you know how he gets when people don’t follow through with promises.
Kezia’s oldest and only brother, Ezekiel would get over it. She knows he would. But she also knows if she were to excuse herself from the morning’s activities for long enough to talk to Magdalena that she’d have to explain what happened. Any sort of explanation she could give would result in her being on the other end of that look Zeke gets, the one he reserves just for Kezia when Magdalena comes up, and if possible, she’d like to avoid that at all costs.
Since Zeke does get worked up about broken promises and this is his first Thanksgiving in his and Max’s new home, she doesn’t feel too bad or like too much of a liar for using it as an excuse.
It’s not until the turkey is halfway to done that Kezia gets the nerve up to call Magdalena back. Even still, she hangs up on the first ring through and doesn’t try again for another five minutes.
Magdalena picks up on the third ring, and all Kezia’s worries about accidentally confessing her love by blurting out something ridiculous like let me mend your broken heart vanishes the moment Magdalena speaks.
Her voice is tired and heavy. The usual joyous lilt of her voice has been replaced by a rough, tearful edge, and Kezia wishes for nothing more than to be by Magdalena’s side instead of miles away picking uselessly at the comforter on a bed that is not even her own.
Kezia still doesn’t know what to say, but then Magdalena says, “I was supposed to introduce her to my family next month, Kez,” and she knows that this isn’t about her. She knows that this is not the time to be thinking of herself or her unrequited feelings for one of her closest friends because that friend needs her and she’d do anything to help. She needs to stop worrying about how to comfort the girl she loves over her broken heart and start being the friend she’s always been to her.
“Tell me what happened.”
And Magdalena does.
She tells Kezia about how she and Sonya were supposed to be doing Thanksgiving with Sonya’s family. How she’d made her family’s signature cherry pie and bought a new dress just for the occasion. How she’d gotten a little tipsy off the wine she had while baking and told Sonya I don’t know if I could do a winter wedding like Mariella is doing. I love the holidays, but I think I’d want our wedding to be its own occasion, y’know? No sharing the joy with the new year. I just want it to be about us.
She tells Kezia about the nervous butterflies that built up inside her as she waited for Sonya to respond. How she was maybe expecting an awkward conversation of sorts because they had never actually talked about marriage before but how she hadn’t expected for Sonya to say, after an agonizing silence, that she never really thought they were that serious. How Magdalena had said but I’m meeting your family tomorrow just to be crushed as Sonya replied but everyone meets my family! It’s really not a big deal.
She tells Kezia through increasing sobs how they talked in circles for so long until finally Magdalena had enough and asked, desperate and hurt: Do you even see a future with me? For us? And how after all the time Magdalena had spent planning and dreaming of a future with her, it didn’t even take Sonya but a breath to crush all those hopes for a fairy-tale wedding like the two of her sisters. How Sonya just shrugged and said, mouth pulled down in an apologetic frown: No, I just thought we were having a little bit of fun.
“Just having fun?” Kezia doesn’t understand. They always seemed so serious, and she can’t fathom viewing a relationship with Magdalena as just a bit of fun. “Weren’t you two talking about signing a lease together not too long ago? I thought. Isn’t that usually a sign things are at least a little serious?”
Magdalena laughs, but it’s a short, abrasive sound that Kezia doesn’t hear often. “You would think! But apparently my whole life is a lie and I’m incapable of seeing when something isn’t actually going anywhere and is just a bit of fun.”
The last words come out sharp and unkind, and Kezia recoils at the sound because Magdalena is one of most positive people she knows and it’s strange to hear her sound so upset and defeated. It’s not right. She should always be happy. She deserves to be happy. Kezia wants her to be happy.
“Where are you now?”
It’s a terrible segue, but Magdalena laughs and it sounds closer to her regular one than before, so Kezia doesn’t feel like she’s doing too bad a job at comforting her. “Well, as I couldn’t possibly go to her parents’ for Thanksgiving after that and it’s way too late to book a flight back to Texas for my parents’, I’m in my apartment eating my weight in cheese and washing it down with a four-dollar bottle of wine. I might eat the pie as my main course. Or I might throw it out the window to symbolize the death of my relationship. I haven’t quite decided yet.”
Kezia smiles to herself. “Well, at least you haven’t lost your dramatic flair in all this.” And then before she can even think it through, she says, “Take the next bus up here. You could make it in before the end of the night and then drive back down with me. I’m sure Max and Zeke won’t mind. Hell, Zeke’ll get to show off all his decorating to someone who actually cares about that stuff. He’s gonna love it.”
“What? Really? I don’t wanna put y’all out. I had plans to FaceTime with my family later, and I do have this pie so it’s not like I’m completely alone. Plus, it might not be as bad as it seems. Maybe there’ll be a Thanksgiving Day miracle and she’ll call me telling me ‘Magdalena! How could I be so stupid! I’m sorry I walked out on you like that. A day is all the time I needed to think about it. Of course I see a future for us.’ Or something a little better said. I know it’s probably wishful thinking, but maybe it’s not actually over.”
Kezia can hear the hope creeping into her voice, and for her sake, she hopes that’s true. She’d sit through a thousand more Sunday brunches with Sonya just to never hear Magdalena this upset again. But she also knows there’s no reason for her to stay at home by herself waiting and agonizing on what-ifs when she could join them for a distraction.
“Yeah, hopefully so. But your phone works here, so there’s no need to sit around waiting for her to call all alone if you don’t want to. The offer still stands.”
After a moment, in which Kezia runs through all the possible ways a person could say don’t be so pushy, Magdalena says, “Yeah, alright. You drive a hard bargain, Miss Bloom. I’ll be there soon. The buses be willing.”
So much for avoiding that look of Zeke’s, Kezia thinks as she hangs up the phone. That look is now a guarantee at this point. She’ll be lucky if she doesn’t get a talking to along with it about thinking with her brain and not her heart.