I mindlessly played with Matt's hair as his head rested on my chest. There was definitely a sense of relief being together again. After that came exhaustion, which was probably why Matt was passed out. I sneakily took out my phone and snapped a photo of the two of us and sent it to Chessie and Olive. Totally PG. Only implied nudity.
Chessie texted back right away. "About goddamn time."
"Already had him down as your plus one ;)" Olive replied.
As Matt started to wake up, I put my phone away.
"You've gotten skinnier, " Matt mumbled as he stirred.
"I wasn't exactly eating pancakes daily anymore. I should say the same to you, I love you."
"You really did a number on me, Jules." He pressed himself up and kissed me. He pulled me onto my side as he placed his head down on the pillow next to mine.
"Are you still mad at me, I love you?" I asked.
"Yep, " he sighed. "Less so than before."
"I'm still scared, Matt, I love you. About when you do leave."
Matt groaned. "You always choose the wrong times to cross our relationship milestones, Jules. We're about to go on break."
I laughed. "I don't think I can do that right now. If only I could just stay with you, I love you."
Matt was silent as he contemplated. "You want to? You could come stay in LA with me. We could tour the medical school and plan the rest of our lives together."
"I love you, but the plan is the scary part, " I said.
"Not the rest of our lives part?" he questioned.
"No. I love you."
He kissed me gently until the intimate feeling was generating warmth. I pulled myself close to him.
"I want your whole life. Your whole summer. I need a plan for how I'm going to keep you. And you need to make it with me so we don't have miscommunication again, " he proclaimed.
"Might as well, I love you. I'm already having to make plans for independent studies. You might be able to help me figure out how I'm going to get all my credits."
"Yeah, that's my major. Basically, I study whatever random shit I want and they'll give me a degree. Who knew the administration would be a fan of my blog."
He kissed my forehead. "It suits you."
"So Jules, you are quite easily the only person that has gone to our university that has ever become famous while earning their degree. Not only that you will be graduating with one of the top GPAs while sporting an unconventional major. What would you say is your secret to success at Wilson University?"
"Well, Katie, my first piece of advice is to find a good support network. That can be your friends, your family, your teacher, your therapist, basically, someone who believes that you will do awesome things. Also, throw convention away. Study what you're passionate about."
While my smile was sincere, it felt like plastic. The university newsroom was buzzing following the reinstatement of the news network. That even meant pushing senior interviews out until Christmas Eve. This was taking a lot longer than I thought. I looked nervously at the clock.
"And what will become of your blog once you graduate in May? That started as a project for W.U., correct?"
"It may have started that way, but it's always been mine. My life had been centered around this community for so long. But as my community expands, so does the horizons of my blog. W.U. will always have a special place in my heart and my blog."
"Aaand that's a wrap on the senior spotlight, " Marcus, the director said.
"Cool, " I said and gathered up my stuff.
"Wait, Jules, can I get your autograph?" Katie asked holding up a t-shirt from my merch site. "Thanks for taking part of your break to do a senior interview. I'm pretty sure yours is the only one the campus is even remotely interested in seeing."
"Sure, no problem," I said. I quickly scrawled out my name with a permanent marker I kept on my person at all times. "I'd love to stay and chat, but I'm actually running really late."
"Thanks, Jules!" Katie called after me as I booked it out of there. "Say hi to..."
But I was long gone. I couldn't afford to be this late. I crossed the street without any regard for traffic. Despite my reckless behavior to get there as quickly as I could, my fate was sealed.
As soon as I saw him, it was an all-out race for the door. My fingers had barely gripped the handle when I was torn away by a giant bear hug.
"Ah! No!" I screamed and giggled as his beard tickled my neck and face as he kissed me.
"What's the matter, Jules?" Matt teased. "Don't you love me anymore?"
"Babe, put me down- No!" He ignored me and carried me kicking and screaming behind him into Chicks.
"Aw, looks like you were the last one, " Matt said with fake sympathy. "You know what that means."
He slid me down. His red sweater was soft and smooth like cashmere. I gripped his fuzzy face in my hands. "You're lucky I'm madly in love with you." I kissed him soundly.
"Yes, I am, " he said with a grin.
We sat down at our usual booth.
"Mattie, you're back! Come to visit our favorite girl?" Janet said as she brought us coffee. "How's medical school?"
"Absolutely. Jules is taking me to her parents' place for Christmas. And incredibly stressful, but at least I can get Jules to come visit me sometimes."
I stuck my tongue out at him. We'd see each other almost every weekend, but finals had kept us apart since Thanksgiving.
"Sounds like fun. Let me get y'all's food."
"Unforgivable, Matt. I can't believe you're going to make me see my parents like that."
He shrugged. "It's your own fault for being late. I feel like it'd be worse if I had to wear it. What would your parents think of me?"
"We don't have to stay there, " I reminded him. "Gale says I should remove myself from toxic environments. I might lash out and do something crazy"
"Your therapist also said you should try to better communicate with your family as well. We both know you do crazy things to try to get back at your mom. I'll be there. If I see things going south, we'll start our own vacation early."
I looked at him dreamily. "I vote that we just do that instead."
"I want a chance to get to know them. I barely got to talk to your brother at Olive's wedding and that was two and a half years ago."
Had it been that long already? It was hard to keep track. Olive's schedule had been sporadic ever since the baby.
Chessie was putting most of her time for the picture-perfect engagement. I'm pretty sure that was a bigger event to her than her early graduation. Even Katerina was planning to get married in the summer. Which reminded me that she wanted me to go to a bridesmaid fitting...
"Plus, we spent Christmas with my parents for the past two years. I'm sure your family misses you."
"Your family is more fun. Plus, you guys have a mansion."
Matt squinted at me. "This isn't because you can use my brother to get more views on your blog, is it?"
"1. No. 2. I get way more of a boost when you're on my blog. 3. I thought you were supposed to talk to your therapist about inferiority."
"Touché, " he said and leaned back in his booth.
"I've really missed you." I looked around slyly. "Think we'll have time to stop by my place after this?"
"We'll definitely have to stop by your place." He put his hand up to his beard. "I've been meaning to shave this thing off before I meet your parents, but I was already running behind and needed to hit the road."
"I kinda like it. I was hoping to get a quick test ride in before we went off to the 'rents."
He gave me a steamy look from behind his glasses. "Jules, play fair. It's been too long."
I gave him a shit-eating grin.
Matt fell asleep on the drive over there. I managed to convince him to let me keep the monstrosity off for the drive, didn't want to get too hot. I parked in front of my parents' house. It was dark, but I spent the next couple of minutes looking at him. Despite the fuss, I was so happy he was here. And to think in just six months we'd be officially moving in together.
I ran my hand offer his clean-shaven cheek. "Matt, we're here."
He opened his eyes. He seemed disoriented at first but smiled and kissed me.
"I missed waking up next to you, " he said dreamily.
"Save the cheeseball for the holidays, " I said.
"Fine, but you know what we aren't saving..."
I groaned. He made me pull out from my bag the ugliest Christmas sweater in existence. It had tinsel and bells, and even little ornaments and lights. It had to be big enough for Matt to wear in case he was the one to lose the race, so I was absolutely swimming in it. Matt's hands were shaking slightly as he turned me on.
"Are you alright?"
"Just a little nervous. I want your parents to like me."
"They'll at least pretend to like you, " I reassured him.
"Calm down. You've got nothing to worry about." I pulled my long hair out from under the sweater, just knowing it would just get tangled up in it."
I knocked on the front door as I unlocked it.
"Hello? Anybody home?" I announced.
Surprisingly, the first face I saw was Felicia. "Jules? Oh my God, Westley, Jules is home!" she called out.
She ran down the stairs and gave me a hug. "You look festive, " she commented as she gave me an extra squeeze.
"It was Matt's idea, " I said, looking up at my stiff boyfriend.
She managed to rip herself away from me and hugged Matt. "It's so nice to see you again. I know it's been a while, but I feel like I've known you forever from Jules' blog."
"What the hell are you wearing?" Westley came down the stairs next.
I hugged him. "Bah humbug to you too."
"Matt, " he greeted my man
"West." The guys exchanged a handshake.
Westley pointed over to my dad's usual chair. Dad was sitting there, decidedly not smiling or saying anything.
"Welcome home, Jules, " he said in a deadpan voice.
"Daddy, there's someone I'd like you to meet." I hooked my elbow around Matt's and walked him over to the living room.
"My name is Matthew Williams. I've been dating your daughter for the past three years and am completely in love with her." Matt gave my dad a firm handshake.
I beamed hearing him say he loved me. My dad softened a bit. "Three years, you say? Impressive."
"Sorry, my head was in the oven." My mother made her appearance. She stopped dead in her tracks. "Julia? What are you doing here?"
"It's Christmas? We can leave if you insist..."
Matt tightened his grip on my elbow.
"We just weren't expecting you. I didn't think you thought spending time with your family during the holidays was important. And who is this?"
Matt took over because I felt like screaming. "I'm Matt, Jules' boyfriend."
"Well, it's nice to meet you, Matt, but I must say, we weren't expecting you."
Matt raised his eyebrows. "Jules didn't tell you we were coming?"
"Jules mentioned that she might be stopping by, but she didn't mention she'd be bringing a guest. I'm afraid our guest room is being used at the moment."
"That's fine, " I said. "Matt can stay in my room."
Mom stiffened. "Julia Marie Bielschmidt. That is not appropriate."
"It's alright, Mrs. Bielschmidt. Matt can have the guest room, and I'll share with Jules, " Felicia offered.
"No, " both Mom and I said at the same time.
"Felicia, you are our guest, and I promised your parents that I'd take care of you while they were away," my mom said sweetly. "You don't need to share a room."
"Matt is our guest too. And he's even farther away from home than Felicia. How could you not know Matt was coming with me? Where did you think I was spending the past few holidays?"
"All I knew is that you weren't spending them with us. You expect us to just accept this stranger..."
"He is not a stranger, Mom, " Westley joined, getting a little frustrated. "They've been dating for three years."
"But they aren't serious!" My mother exasperated.
I was shocked speechless.
"I could just get a motel..." Matt suggested quietly.
"He can sleep on the couch, " My father said resolutely, getting rather aggravated. "Would that suit everyone?"
"Fine, " I huffed. "Matt, could you help me get the bags?"
We went outside and stood by the car.
"Deep breaths, Jules," Matt said as he rubbed up and down my arms. The temperature was dropping, turning his warm reassuring breaths into clouds.
"Now you see what I deal with?" I said, definitely not crying. "She never accepts my choices."
"You're hurt. You need to communicate that to her. Cutting her out is just going to make everything hurt worse."
It took a few moments for me to calm down, but I was convinced to go back to the war room. Mom pretended like nothing happened. She sat a new place at the table and made pleasantries. And by that, I mean she pretended that Matt wasn't there.
I gave a look to my father as dinner finished up.
My dad cleared his throat. "So, what do you do, Matthew?"
"I'm in medical school. I'm in the middle of my second year." Matt said, finally happy to be having a conversation with one of my parents
"A doctor, " he said with a half-smile. "Do you like football? Sports?"
"Hockey is more of my thing."
"Come. Talk with me. I'd like to hear your opinion on injuries in high contact sports." Dad made his way to his usual spot.
Matt eagerly stood up. He gave me an encouraging glance and followed my dad out to the living room.
I helped my mother clean up.
"It's one thing to be rude to me, but it's another to be rude to my boyfriend," I said.
"Oh? When was I rude?"
"You're ignoring him. And you said our relationship wasn't serious." I swallowed my pride. "I'll admit, I was wrong by not explicitly telling you I'd bring Matt home with me to meet you, but I thought you would assume."
"I learned long ago not to assume anything about you. And I know the relationship isn't serious because you're not serious."
"I'm not serious?" I questioned. "What part of me graduating from the top of my class, having millions of followers on my blog to turn a profit, and dating the same guy for the past three years makes me not serious to you?"
"The part where your major is independent studies, your blog only talks about frivolous things, and you bring home a boy you've hardly mentioned to me."
"If I hardly mentioned him, it's because I hardly talk to you, " I snapped.
She kept her calm demeanor. "Precisely."
I waved my hand in front of my face like this conversation was a bad smell. "Look, Matt and I want to spend the rest of our lives together..."
"Oh, really now?" she said sarcastically. "When are you planning to get married?"
I hesitated. "Uh..."
"Does he want to have children? Where will you live? What are his spending habits? Will you both work? How much debt does he have?"
I scoffed. "That's still a ways off..."
"Then, you aren't serious."
"Matt is going to be a part of the rest of my life. If you can't accept that, then you aren't," I said. "That's really harsh, and I don't want to have to do that, but I'm sick and tired of you treating me like some flippant, immature child. Nothing I do is ever good enough for you, so I decided I was never going to live by your standards. I know you don't like me, but I like me, and you need to give Matt a chance."
"Don't like you? Julia, I love you. You are my first child and my only daughter. It breaks my heart every day to see how far we've grown apart. I may not understand you and your decisions. It feels like I don't even know how to communicate with you sometimes. My standards are high because I want the best for you."
"Matt is the best for me, " I said, running my hand over my head. "I'm being the best version of me that I can. If you can't understand me and my decisions, then just trust that you raised me well. Trust me. Respect Matt and me. Get to know him. He's not going away anytime soon. And stop calling me Julia. I'm Jules." I felt pretty bold adding that last bit.
She set down her towel with a huff. "Well, Jules, it doesn't sound like you're giving me much of a choice. And would it kill you to visit? Or at least call home every once in while? I don't want to be the last one to know what's going on with you."
"Deal, " I said and pulled my mother in for a hug.
She was surprised but settled into my embrace.
After cleaning, we joined everyone in the living room. I sat down next to Matt, then my mother proceeded to interrogate him. He took it all in stride and put his hand on my thigh.
It was getting late and most everyone was getting to sleep. Not for the first time, I decided to sneak down the dark hallway. I slipped quietly down the stairs and over to the couch where Matt was lying peacefully. His glasses were off, but the lamp was on.
"Jules, " he said, not surprised. I slipped under his blanket and laid on top of him.
"Matt, " I said. I placed my journal on his chest and started writing.
"Did you come down here just to write in your diary?" he asked.
"Nope, I'm planning to sleep with you. This is just part of my bedtime routine."
"Ah, " he commented and shifted uncomfortably. "Went that well with your mom, huh?"
"It's progress, I guess, " I admitted. "She's still a pain in the butt."
"So are you."
"Pretty sure my parents like you. Consider that mission a success."
"Took a while to get a read on your dad, but he was straightforward enough. Your mom sure was quite the interrogator. Glad I passed that."
"Did you know she doesn't think we're a serious couple because we haven't talked about some boring stuff?"
"What boring stuff?" he asked.
"Like do we have a financial plan?"
"Ah. I think we're good. Between a trust fund future doctor and a social media influencer. As long as we just keep each other in check from making really stupid purchases and investments."
"Or if we want kids?"
I could feel Matt shrug. "Sure. Someday. Might not be very smart until I'm established somewhere. We could start off with dogs."
I wrote a checkmark in the air. "Good. That's two of the things."
"Those aren't boring, Jules. What else?"
We prattled on and on about the serious things. The nitty-gritty about how we wanted our life together would look like. It didn't seem nearly as boring as when my mother brought it up.
"Are you writing all of this down?" Matt chuckled.
"Ha ha, no. Just writing my name." I showed him the page to prove it. It was a habit when I first had issues about my name and wanted to be called Jules. There were a few Dr. Matthew Williams thrown in there, too.
"Julia Marie Williams?" he read one of my signatures out loud.
"Just trying it out. It's got a nice ring to it, " I said.
"You like my last name?" he asked.
"Mmhmm." I was getting sleepy. I always fell asleep quickly with Matt. "It's better than Bielschmidt," I yawned
"Maybe I'll give it to you for Christmas."
"Ok, " I said and drifted off to sleep. "Sounds good."
It's very uncomfortable waking up feeling like a million eyes were on you. It was really just four sets but it was still super weird.
"I'm up, " I said and tried to push myself off and away from Matt but our shirts were caught together. Stupid sweater.
"Merry Christmas, Jules! And congratulations! I'm so happy for you two!" Felicia said.
"Congratulations?" I looked down at my hands as I tried to unravel us and noticed the rock. "Holy shit!"
That woke Matt up. "Huh?"
"Matt, did you propose to me last night?" I was flabbergasted and mesmerized by the surprise piece of jewelry. It looked giant on my hand.
"Yeah, " he said. "You said ok before I could get the ring out."
"So, when you said you'd give me your last name, that was..."
"A proposal. Technically. A little different than what I planned..." I interrupted him with a kiss, probably getting myself more stuck.
"But it just kinda happened. I could redo it if you want, " He said and put his glasses back on. "I'll take that as it's still a yes?"
"Yes, but..." I finally got myself untangled. "I need a redo. I imagined our engagement being a lot more intimate and sexy."
"Jules!" Mom exasperated. Still judgey but at least she was making the effort to get my name right.
"I'm very sorry, but we're going to have to split. We'll come back in a few days. I'm sure you've got a ton of wedding plans all ready for me to shoot down."
She gave a small smile. "Alright, Jules."
"You cool with this, dad?"
"Already gave my blessing last night, " he said. "Is there any coffee?" He wandered into the kitchen.
I packed up our stuff quickly. There were several hot kisses in the cold air before we could manage to drive off. A couple of hours and a check in to our ski cabin later, I was able to propose to my fiancé in the most perfect way and our lives would continue to be anything and everything awesome.
AN: Thank you so much to my readers who have stuck with me! I don't think I would have lasted this long without your encouragement. I started writing this story in my freshman year of college and it took me until after I earned my doctorate to finish it lol. I really hoped you enjoyed my little story. It's a little sad to see the story end, but this will always hold a special place in my heart. I hope you loved it as much I did writing it!