On Christmas, it was decided they would spend the day at his parents' house. They would arrive for breakfast and then she would go to her house for dinner while he went to his grandparents. His grandparents pretended to not know that they were living together. She suspected they found it rather low class, this living together stuff but she never mentioned this to him. He didn't like to think about these things.
At the breakfast, she felt conscious of her every move. Of every bite that went into her mouth. She knew she chewed too loud and yet could not figure out how one chewed in such silence. She had learned to nibble at his house, knowing she could eat later in private with no one to point out her loudness or her elbows on the table. Eating here was a tiny form of torture. A public moment where every move was scrutinized. She convinced herself it was good for her to be learning these things. Some day she would be in this social class and she needed to belong.
After dinner, came the stocking and gift opening. She was touched and surprised at the bag she was given. She had not expected to be included. His mother had smiled a bit painfully and said "Well I've always wanted a daughter." It was a nice gesture but she knew that she was not the daughter in mind. But she tried and she suspected that this attempt was appreciated. Inside the bag were tiny expensive treasures. Things she doubted she would ever use as they were so fine. She exclaimed over each thing and hoped she sounded genuine. His mother looked pleased. What she really would have enjoyed was a book and some chocolate. Something he had given her the night before. She knew that the gifts in the bag reflected what his mother thought she should want.
The whole gift opening was very orderly. The presents were wrapped perfectly like the show presents in a Christmas catalog. Everyone waited quietly while someone else opened their gift, and then there were quiet thanks. No laughing, no giddy excitement. Nothing very meaningful was exchanged. She sat the whole time her hands clenched. The tension arching through her. At these times she wondered how she could endure a life of quiet exclamations and silent chewing. Of gifts that meant so little and cost so much.