The front doorbell sang a christmas tune and echoed throughout the modest family home. Joseph Murphy quickened his pace to greet his guests, stopping in the kitchen to kiss his wife on the cheek. They exchanged a smile and Mary returned to her preparations.
Three silouhettes outlined the glass door and Joseph recognized them as Mary's brothers. He cleared his throat and swung the door open.
"If it isn't the three wisemen!" He laughed as he shared hug and handshake with his brothers-in-law.
Joseph greeted them inside and took their coats. Michael, the eldest brother, looked like Mary in every way. He had the same dirty blonde locks, piercing blue eyes, and a smile that could charm the crudest of hags. He removed his top coat and handed it gracefully to Joseph.
Martin, the cadet, bore striking ressembles to his father. He had curly black hair and dark eyes that accentuated his sombre looks. He insisted on boosting his creep factor by sporting a rather lenghty trench coat and studying to become an embalmer. He neither smiled nor grinned when Joseph joked about his moody fashion.
They made their way towards the kitchen to see Mary. Malcom, the youngest of the brothers, was being himself by scanning the art that accentuated the home. He was the artist of the family and his fashion style betrayed that. Unlike his brothers, he kept his fair hair short and tailored. He often had odd objects hanging from his neck paired with eccentric t-shirts. Today, dried snake skin with a neon pink shirt with the logo of some emo band.
Malcom's eyes lit up when he stepped in the kitchen. "Mary!" He squealed and gave her a extended hug.
"Mal, how are you? Oh Tintin!" She smiled and hugged her brothers. Between them she saw Michael, lingering in the hall. She knew there would be tension and she had been ready for the eventuality.
"Joe, give them some wine" She said and kissed her husband. He understood what she meant and distracted his brothers-in-law. They quickly began a conversation about Malcom's first year at college.
Michael attempted a smile as his sister walked up towards him. He ran his hand through his hair and cleared his throat. Mary stopped a few feet from him and extended her arm. She waved her fingers, gesturing for him to accept the hug.
"You can't stay mad forever" Mary said, dropping her arms when she realised Michael wasn't going to embrace her back. She sighed. "Goddamnit Michael, are you ever going to get over it?"
He exhaled deeply and looked his sister in the eyes. She always hated when he did that. It reminded her too much about her father. Michael was fourty years old, fourteen years older then she was, and his stern expression often spoke of authority. Mary looked away as he spoke.
"I accepted the marriage, Mary. And I came here because it is christmas. But how can you do that?" He spat out, pointing at her round belly. "He's a carpenter, Mary, and has no income and no assets under his name. How can you -"
"Shut it, Mike." She whispered, interupting her brother. "You listen to me. This is my house. My home. I love that man and he loves me. We built a life for ourselves, you should be happy."
"I am and -"
"I wasn't finished." She continued, brushing her rebel strands of hair behind her ear. "If you can't respect Joe and I, you are not welcomed here." She said, finally looking back into his eyes. And for once, it was he that looked away.
"Maybe I should go look for a hotel room, then" He said, somewhat sadly.
"Maybe you should" Mary answered matter-of-factly.
He grabbed his jacket from the closet and walked out of the house. Mary sighed and lingered in the hallway for a few minutes before returning to her kitchen. When she walked in, the boys were laughing togheter around a bottle of wine. It made her smile. She rubbed her belly with affection and was about to sit down with her family when she felt a throbbing pain in her abdomen.
"Are you okay, hun?" Malcom asked, getting up from his chair as Mary bent over, clutching at her belly.
The pain came again. Then again. Mary let out a cry of horror as blood began dripping down her canary-yellow dress.
"OH GOD! CALL 9-1-1!" Joseph screamed as he cradled his wife into his arms.
She was screaming and trashing in her husband's arms, unable to remain still. He told Martin to get the keys to the truck as he ran towards the door. Mary called for God and her bloody hand streaked the wall as they passed. She knocked over the wreath that hung on the door and the last thing she saw before blacking out was the blinking christmas lights.