Loving With A Heavy Heart Chapter 166
165 Christmas Eve 2
Only an hour had passed when Elle escaped to the bathroom for the first time. She leaned against the cold porcelain sink and let out a tired sigh. Her family was the same as it ever was. Loud and nosy, two qualities Elle liked least. Though she supposed there was something to be desired in being surrounded by so many people during the holidays.
After a moment a knock sounded at the door.
"I'll be out in a minute." Elle called out. She quickly splashed herself with a little cool water before heading back out to the party.
"There you are!" Abby called out as she re-entered the living room. "Where did you disappear to?"
"No where in particular." Elle said with a stiff smile, lying through her teeth to her friend.
The truth was that Elle had been doing her best to subtly avoid Abby. Not out of any sort of dislike but because this year Abby was joining the party as Jacob's girlfriend and not as Elle's old friend. She didn't mind of course, she was happy to see that at least her friend was enjoying herself. Elle just felt uncomfortable following them along as their third wheel.
"I think I'll go grab a bite to eat." Elle said, carefully excusing herself from the group once again.
"Here, we'll come with you." Abby offered.
"No that's fine, you two should continue to mingle."
"We've barely talked all night, let's go together. Come on Jacob." Abby insisted, pulling Jacob along with them.
Elle made her way to the refreshment table with Abby following close behind hanging on to Jacob's arm, who seemed to be following along reluctantly.
"Elle, there you are." A voice called out.
Elle looked to see one of her aunts approaching the group.
"Aunt Janice, it's nice to see you again." Elle said with a forced smile on her face.
"You too darling. It's a shame you weren't here when I visited a few weeks ago. I heard from your father that you're living alone now."
Her aunt said it sympathetically but Elle knew how to read the underlying judgement in those words.
"That's right, I bought my own condo." Elle said proudly.
"Where is it? In a good neighbourhood I hope."
Elle had the satisfaction of watching her aunts jaw drop slightly when she heard Elle say which condo building it was.
"How did you end up getting a condo there?"
"Have you forgotten that I'm a director at Tae? I've recently been doing some jobs on the side as well. It wasn't that hard really."
"Aunty, I don't think we've met yet," Abby interrupted suddenly in hopes of saving her friend from the uncomfortable conversation. "I'm Abby. I'm Jacob's girlfriend."
"It's nice to meet you dear. How did you guys meet?"
The conversation shifted to Abby; her work, her family, how fortunate Jacob was to have such a beautiful girlfriend, and how he should aim to be promoted soon.
"Elle you know you've been single for long enough. You should start dating soon. I can set you up with some nice young men if you want." Her aunt said excitedly.
"Oh aunt," Elle said with a laugh, "Have you already forgotten where I live? In that condo handsome and rich actors and models are only ever one floor away." She said flirtatiously, earning herself a satisfying look of mortification from her aunt and a disapproving elbow to the ribs from Abby.
"I'm only teasing. You see I'm actually already dating someone, but I thank you for your offer." Elle added after a moment, for Abby's sake.
"Oh," her aunt said with a breath of relief. "and who's the lucky man?"
"I don't think you would have ever met him before. He's in business like me. We met through work."
"How romantic. You know I met your uncle back when he..." Her aunt began telling a story that Elle had already heard a dozen times while the three listened with fake enthusiasm.
Elle was stifling a yawn when suddenly her father's wife walked up to the group.
"I hope I'm not intruding." She said.
"No, of course not. I was just blabbering on." Aunt Janice replied jokingly.
"I just need to borrow Jacob for a moment."
"Yes mother." Jacob said, clearly eager to escape.
The two left without a word or even so much as a second glance towards Elle. Just the same as it always was. No harsh words, no glares, no passive aggressiveness, no interaction at all between Elle and the person she refused to acknowledge as her step-mother. As that lady walked off Elle felt Abby's hand slip into hers.
"Don't mind that woman. I don't like her either." Abby whispered softly to her.
Elle smiled and squeezed the hand tightly. "Don't say that. You might one day call that woman your mother. It's enough support if you forgive me if I never do."
"Come on. Let's go get some fresh air."
Elle and Abby snuck out of a back door into the garden, leaving their coats and scarves behind. The cold air bit at their skin but it was a welcome sensation and felt refreshing after being in the warm and stuffy rooms of the house for so long.
"Where is your man tonight?" Abby asked.
"He's with his own family right now. He'll come rescue me soon though."
"Brag about it why don't you. I'm going to be stuck here all night." Abby teased.
"Should I kidnap you in my escape?"
The girls continued their stroll in the back garden until they were finally interrupted by Elle's phone. She answered it excitedly as soon as she saw the name that appeared.
"Hey, I'm heading over to you now. Are you ready to leave?"
"Yes! Text me when you're out front and I'll sneak out."
"Okay, I'll see you soon."
"I guess you'll be leaving me now." Abby said.
"I'm sorry." Elle apologized without being able to remove the smile from her face.
"It's fine, I'm only teasing. You better introduce me to him in the new year."
"I will. I promise. Merry Christmas Abby!"
Elle ran back inside and grabbed her coat. She only made one stop before rushing out the front door. Elle slowly opened to door to her father's study, knowing she would find him there.
"Are you leaving already?" He asked as he eyed the jacket she had on.
"Won't you stay a while longer?"
"No, thanks. I just wanted to say Merry Christmas before I left." As Elle said it she laid a small box wrapped in bright red paper on his desk and then left the room.
"All good?" Adam asked as Elle got in the car.
"Everything's perfect." Elle said with a smile.