Blended Family

📅 Published on November 18, 2021

“Blended Family”

Written by Chisto Healy
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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Tucker yawned, but he finished it with a smile. He had waited a long time for this day. It was his first Christmas with his new wife and stepdaughter, Tiffany. She hadn’t been hateful up to this point, but she hadn’t connected with him either. He was hoping that Christmas would be the thing to change that. Tucker’s whole life, even when his own parents hated each other but came from a time when divorce was sinful. Christmas had been a reprieve, a time of togetherness. It wasn’t all about presents. There was just something in the air, something that made even the colder Christmases like this one feel warm and cozy, like the sweater your grandma just crocheted for you. Tucker expected this Christmas to be no different.

Tiffany’s dad wasn’t even in the picture, and Tucker had been glad to fill those shoes. Even the angry grump that raised him was better than no one, or at least that’s what he told himself. Her mother, Clara, had such a big heart and a kind way about her that Tucker imagined it had to have trickled down, father or not. He imagined walking into Tiffany’s life and being accepted with loving, open arms. Life was never how you imagined it, though, was it?

When Clara had judged that they’d been together long enough for him to meet her daughter, he was nervous but excited and went into it with high expectations, only to discover that the teenager was her mother’s opposite. She was cold and aloof, distant. He felt like she wasn’t even really there. She just stared right through him and kept dialogue to a minimum.

This didn’t put Tucker off and send him running as it would have some men. In truth, it made his heart hurt for her. He felt like she was retreating into herself, coping with trauma the best way that she knew how. It brought out a sense of dedication in him, a need to stick by the girl and help her through this.

Tucker put a ring on Clara’s finger six months ago, and they decided to move in together. Her place was bigger and nicer than his, so he ditched his old starter home for a new life. Only once did Tucker question how Clara could afford such a lavish place as a single mother. She looked embarrassed and unhappy by his questions and responded with, “Tiffany’s dad got it for us. He still pays child support.”

Tucker could see that it was a sore subject for her, so he left it alone. It seemed fair to him anyway. The bastard couldn’t be there for his family. The least he could do was make sure they had a nice place to live. Tucker felt like it was a win for him. He got a beautiful house, a sweet, beautiful wife, and a daughter. If only he could connect with her somehow, he just knew life was going to be great.

Tucker had spent the last few months paying attention when Tiffany showed interest in something. She didn’t have to be vocal to speak to him, he thought. He just needed to listen and watch and get to know her. Using what he had learned, Tucker bought Christmas gifts that he knew she would love. He couldn’t wait to see her open them. It wasn’t about the money or the presents themselves. It was about the realization. She would know at that moment that he cared, that he listened and paid attention and took an interest in what mattered to her. When that clicked, he felt like some of her walls would start to fall away. At least, that was what he was hoping for.

Tucker’s heart was heavy when it came to Tiffany. She was a  good kid. She’d just turned thirteen this year. For him, that was right when the trouble started, but Tiff seemed to stay out of it still. She did well in school and never argued with her teachers or her mother. She didn’t fight with him either. She was just quiet, a little too quiet. She would randomly get up and leave the room. Maybe she just wasn’t ready for him, he often wondered. Maybe it was just too soon. Clara didn’t seem to think so, though. She said, “Just give her time.”

Tucker vowed to himself that he would, even if Christmas wasn’t the answer. He climbed out of bed and walked to the window. Even with the window closed, he could feel the biting chill of the early morning winter air. He shivered and chuckled, feeling the excitement he felt when he was a kid all over again. Having a kid of your own brought that stuff back, it seemed.

Everything outside was covered in frost, and it sparkled like it was all made of diamond. Tucker took a slow deep breath and just said, “Wow.”

He felt someone standing beside him, and he turned to see his wife. He grinned at her in her silk nightie and felt a rush of happiness. His life was perfect. He’d been blessed the day they’d grabbed each other’s drinks by accident at the coffee shop.

Clara yawned and covered her mouth with a slender hand. “It is beautiful,” she said, looking at the yard beyond the window.

“It is,” Tucker said, his eyes sparkling like the frosted scenery, “and so are you.”

“It’s 6 am,” Clara said with a laugh. “No one is beautiful at 6 am. I need coffee. You’re corny, Tucker, but I love you.”

“Merry Christmas,” he said. “Coffee is definitely on the agenda. I’ll go make some.” He could hear her laugh behind him as he hurried down the stairs like he expected Santa to be there. He’d considered doing that whole thing and taking a bite out of the cookies, but he thought Tiffany was probably too old for that. The wrong thing could send her further away from him, so he had to tread carefully.

He started the pot, and the sound of the coffee percolating was like music to him. On most days, he just stood there and stared at it with bleary eyes waiting impatiently for the magical caffeine it contained. Not today. Today he danced to the rhythm as he headed back to the living room. He passed by the stockings bulging with goodies and stood before the massive tree wrapped in garland and shimmering tinsel adorned with bright colored hanging balls. Tucker smiled at the sight. The tree had been step one for him. They had a small plastic one they put up before they met him, but they didn’t do much with it. Clara said she was just too tired, and Tucker empathized with her.

He took them out with him to pick out a big gorgeous tree, and then he brought out the boxes of decorations from his own house, some of which had been passed down to him by his mother. Tiffany was quiet in the car, but it had felt like a big moment to him when she walked up next to him and pointed at an enormous tree, saying simply, “This one.”

“This one,” he agreed with a nod. He’d wanted to put his arm around her, to hug her, but he knew that they weren’t there yet, so he just smiled at her and said, “Good choice.”

Now that it was up in the living room and fully decorated with presents jutting out from under it in every direction, Tucker thought to himself, Good choice indeed.

“You did a good job,” Clara said as she stepped up beside him and handed him a steaming hot cup of black coffee. She paid attention too. She knew that he didn’t like cream, but he did like sugar. He took a sip and smiled at the fact that she had learned the perfect ratio.

“Mmm,” he said happily. “Delicious.”

“If you say so,” Clara laughed before sipping her own milk-filled beverage.

“I do,” Tucker said happily as he spun to kiss her coffee wet lips. She giggled and returned his kiss. They both caught movement out the corner of their eye and turned towards the stairs. Tiffany was there in a pink robe and giant fluffy cat slippers, looking like she hadn’t woken up yet.

“Good morning, sleepyhead,” Clara said, welcoming her.

“I thought the robe and slippers were going to be a Christmas present,” Tucker said. “They look good though, comfy. I’m a bit jealous that I didn’t get some.”

“How do you know you didn’t?” Clara said.

“Mom let me have them last night so I could wear them down this morning,” Tiffany said in a monotone, almost robotic voice.

“Sounds like your mother is a wise woman,” Tucker told her. “It’s a frigid morning, and that stuff looks warm.”

“It is,” she said, walking by him and shuffling her way into the kitchen.

“Well, she’s talking to you,” Clara said, rubbing his arm tenderly. “That’s a good start, I think.”

“Definitely,” Tucker agreed. “Is it okay for a kid to drink coffee? I don’t know about stuff like that, but it seems like it might not be good.”

Clara laughed and rubbed his back. “She’s thirteen, not three. I love your heart.”

When Tiffany made her way back into the room, Tucker’s eyes widened at the giant swirl of whipped cream towering over her coffee mug. He clapped his hands. “There ya go,” he said joyfully. “Awesome. That’s how you live it up on Christmas.”

“I always drink it like this,” Tiffany said quietly as she shuffled by in her giant slippers to sit on the couch. Tucker bit back his sigh. At least she was being responsive. It was a step. He had to focus on the positive. This was going to be a good day for them both.

He picked the remote up from the coffee table and turned the TV on, setting it to a channel with a crackling fire and Christmas music playing. “If only that were real,” Clara said, rubbing her hands together before the mock fire. Tucker almost said, “Yeah. What’s the matter? Bastard couldn’t spring for a fireplace?” but he didn’t let it leave his lips. He did his best to never talk badly about Tiffany’s father in front of her. If they ever had that kind of conversation, she would have to be the one to initiate it.

Instead, he reached under the tree and selected a present. He handed the beautifully wrapped box to her and said, “Open this one.”

Clara handed him her coffee mug so she could use two hands to tear through the paper. She let it fall to the floor at her feet and then opened the lid of the decorative box beneath. A thick, velvety soft bathrobe billowed out. “It’s wonderful,” she said, shrugging it on and latching the rope around her waist.

“I didn’t get any big cat slippers for you, though. I’m sorry.”

“You should be,” she joked. “Don’t you know how cold women’s feet get? Without slippers, I’ll have to warm them under your shirt.”

“Gross,” Tiffany said quietly from her place on the couch. Tucker burst out laughing, and Clara joined him.

“Alright, listen. I’m going to go get a trash bag so we don’t end up drowning in wrapping paper, and then we can open the rest of these,” Tucker said before hurrying off to do as he said. When he got back, Clara was sitting on the floor by the presents with her legs tucked beneath her, sipping on her coffee. As Tucker shoveled the mess into the bag he had just brought in, he said, “You need a refill before we get started?”

“I’m good,” she said.

He turned his head towards his stepdaughter. “Tiffany?”

She just shook her head and wiped whipped cream off of her face with the sleeve of her brand new robe. Tucker forced himself not to cringe. “Okay. Present time,” he said with excitement.

Tucker sat on the ground across from his wife and began handing out presents to the appropriate person and building piles. He was surprised to see how many were for him. “Wow, I can’t believe this. I feel spoiled,” he said.

Clara looked at him with wide eyes and merely gestured to everything around them. Tucker gave a small laugh, his cheeks flushing pink.

“One of them is from me,” Tiffany said.

Tucker’s mouth fell open. He closed it quickly, but he couldn’t stop it from happening. He had never imagined she would get him a Christmas present. It felt like a huge step. Tears wet the corners of his eyes, but he wiped them away and smiled at her. When he was sure that he wouldn’t sound choked up, he said, “Thank you, honey. That’s very kind of you. That means a lot to me. I’m sure I’ll love it.”

Tucker looked over at Clara to silently say, Isn’t this great?!, but she didn’t seem to share the excitement he was feeling. In fact, she looked nervous. He couldn’t possibly imagine why. What could she be worried about? Had a previous man been disappointed with Tiffany’s presents? Was that how her father was? Did he have some kind of standard she was expected to reach with gifts for him? Tucker couldn’t imagine ever treating a child that way. He didn’t care if it was literal garbage. If she wrapped it and gave it to him, he would smile and tell her it was beautiful.

Tucker never had the pleasure of meeting Tiffany’s birth father, and neither female seemed to like speaking of him. Probably with good reason, he realized more and more each day. Tucker didn’t have to know the guy to dislike him. He looked over at Clara and smiled supportively, and backed it up by reaching over to squeeze her hand. He met her eyes and did his best to say, ‘It’s okay, I’m not him.’

Clara let out a big exhale and said, “Tiffany, why don’t you start?”

The girl on the couch shrugged her shoulders and then unwrapped a present from the pile beside her. Tucker took the paper and smashed it down into the garbage bag. The girl was looking at the book in her hands, her face glowing with amazement. It was a leather-bound journal made to look like flesh with screaming human faces protruding from its stitched together surface. “How did you know I wanted this?” she asked quietly.

Tucker flashed her a smile. “I saw the way you looked at it in the book store. You traced the cover with your fingertips and hugged it to your chest. You didn’t seem to want to put it down, but eventually, you did, and I picked it up.”

“Thank you,” she said with a half-smile, her eyes meeting his for what felt like the first time. It was working. She had actually acknowledged him. After today everything was going to be different. They were going to work on being a family. Tucker could feel it. “You’re very welcome,” he said with a smile. “Merry Christmas.”

“Happy holidays,” she said back, and he laughed.

Tucker picked up a small box that had fallen to rest by his knee. “I think I’m going to open this one,” he said. “It seems intriguing.”

“That’s the one from me,” Tiffany told him.

Clara gave a forced smile that seemed strange to him. He couldn’t figure out why her demeanor had changed so suddenly. She reached over and touched his knee. “Why don’t you wait on that one then and open some of the others first?” she asked him. It sounded to him like she was actually pleading. He was a moment away from asking her what the hell was going on, but he felt her fingers lightly moving across his knee, and he looked down. She was trying to take the present away gently. Tucker shot her a look and pulled it up and away from her.

“Hey, this is very special to me,” he said, winking at the girl on the couch, scratching between the ears of her cat slippers. “I’m going to open it now.”

Clara sighed and retracted her hand. Tiffany put her book down beside her and leaned forward, looking at him with interest. She must have been excited. It warmed his heart to see that she cared what he thought. He opened it slowly. “It’s wrapped beautifully,” he said.

Tiffany didn’t say anything, but she nodded. Her eyes were moving between the present in his hands and his face. She seemed to really want to see his reaction. This felt like such a milestone. Tucker couldn’t believe that Clara wasn’t smiling or sharing in the happiness of this magical moment. Where was her Christmas spirit, he thought?

When Tucker uncovered the small box, he removed the lid and saw a sterling silver bracelet inside. He gave a small gasp. “Oh Tiffany, it’s beautiful, honey. Thank you so much,” he said as he took it from the box. He held it before him and gazed at it. “I love it.”

“It’s gorgeous, honey,” Clara said. “Now why don’t we put it away so we don’t lose it and we can get to opening the rest of the presents?”

She reached for the bracelet, and Tucker moved it, looking at her like she’d gone mad. What was going on with her? He considered asking her to go into the other room to speak with him privately so he could get to the bottom of it, but he decided against it. He was having a moment with Tiffany, and he didn’t want to interrupt it. They could talk about whatever this was later. He clamped the silver ring onto his left wrist and held his arm up for everyone to look at.

“How does it fit?” Tiffany asked. Before he could answer, the bracelet tightened. He flinched and looked at it, wondering what had happened. He grimaced then when it felt like something under the bracelet pierced his skin. He didn’t want to discourage his daughter, though, so he forced a smile as the pain intensified. “I think I am going to put it away for now,” he said, hoping his tone didn’t give away his displeasure. “I don’t want anything to happen to it.”

Tucker tried to pull the bracelet off, but it wouldn’t come loose. It felt like it was attached. “Ow,” he said, instantly regretting it. He looked over at Tiffany to see if he had offended her. She was watching him with fascination, though, her eyes like lasers and her smile wide.

“Alright, enough,” Clara said then. “Tiffany, help him take it off.”

Tiffany just waved her mother off with disinterest. Tucker tried to pry the bracelet free, but it was of no use. Then it started to move. It constricted further, what was on the inside puncturing the meat of his arm. It began to spin then, shredding its way through muscle, ligament and tendon as it worked its way up towards his shoulder. Tucker looked at the girl watching him. She was still looking on with keen interest. His mouth fell open, his pain marrying his shock and turning his face into one similar to those on her journal cover. His lips moved, and he tried to speak, but he couldn’t. He was in such terrible pain. He glanced at his massacred arm and quickly looked away. The bracelet must have torn through veins and arteries. There was so much blood. It was oozing out and spraying onto the remaining Christmas presents.

Clara growled and got to her feet. She glared at Tiffany. Tucker collapsed. He was fading from consciousness as the blood left his body. All he could do was blink and watch as his wife pointed an angry finger at her daughter. “Why must you always do this? He was good, and he loved you. How many more do we have to go through before you stop?”

Tucker blinked. He couldn’t put together what those words meant. He was just so tired now. Then the bracelet spun again, shaving its way through the bone of his shoulder, and it woke him some. The intensity of the pain was like a rush of adrenaline. He watched as Tiffany returned her mother’s glare.

“Oh hush, mother,” she said. “You were just the vessel father needed to create me. We don’t need you anymore.”

The girl snapped her fingers, and the garland wrapping the tree snaked off to grab Clara. It coiled around her tightly and pulled her into the tree. She went to yell at her daughter, but the girl snapped again, and the lights joined in, pulling themselves tightly across her mouth. They continued to blink between her lips, and her pale cheeks lit up with the colors of Christmas. The decorations tightened on her throat, and she struggled against them, tears in her bulging eyes. The ornaments moved to pierce her flesh and hang from her.

Tucker knew he was dying. He was dying, and there wasn’t anything he could do about it. He just watched as the girl he tried so hard to connect with stood from the couch. She looked at the blood-soaked scene and watched as her mother finally stopped struggling, and she gazed upon it all the way Tucker and Clara had looked upon the winter wonderland outside.

Then Tucker watched as she opened the front door. Where was she going? It was freezing outside. Even as he was fading from the world, he still worried for her. She kicked off her slippers then, displaying her bare hooves, the one thing she had physically that connected her to her birth father, Tucker assumed. He knew what she was then, and his heart broke as she stepped out the door into the world. One last rush of air escaped his pallid lips, and Tucker fell still. The last thing he heard was screams.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Chisto Healy
Edited by Craig Groshek and Seth Paul
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Chisto Healy

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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