Missy recoiled as the gingerbread man bobbed toward her head. His icing smile and raisin eyes were anything but sweet. She ducked and hurried past. “How many Christmas trees do you have Merry?” Missy asked her hostess.
Merry turned, smiled, clasped her hands and shouted. “One for every room in the house! This is the first year that I’ve accomplished that goal. Every year I watch the stores and wait for the trees to be marked down. I went to Target the morning after Christmas at 4:00 a.m. last year to bring home this beauty.” Merry motioned to the tree covered with gingerbread. “Sat out in the car with a thermos of cocoa for four hours. I had run over on Christmas Eve, right before closing and it was still there, so I knew that I’d bagged it!”
“I thought you had a big Christmas party on Christmas Eve.”
“Oh, I do, I just allow that extra few minutes for my last minute spy missions. That’s where Dale and Daphne come in. They’re the greeters.” Merry slapped Dale on the back. “Aren’t you honey?” Dale smiled and rubbed his shoulder blade.
Merry slipped into the kitchen and pssted and crooked a finger for Missy to follow. Missy followed. The theme in the kitchen was sugar cookies. Missy felt a rush of air escape her mouth.
“It’s something, huh? I have worked on this theme for 15 years. Here, try the punch, I’ll go let Daphne know that you all are here.” Missy sipped the red punch from the emerald green cup.
“Daphne! They’re here! Daphne! Answer me!” Merry must have been standing at the bottom of the stairs, her voice carried, Daphne couldn’t have missed it. The steps creaked.
“Mom, please don’t scream like that, it’s so embarrassing.” Missy heard Daphne’s loud whisper.
“Well, honey, I didn’t know if you heard me. Don’t get all huffy.”
Merry entered the kitchen, led by her bright smile and handed Missy a tray full of appetizers. Some looked like little presents made with ham and asparagus, pimentos and cream cheese. Missy followed Merry into the dining room, the present themed room.
“Dale, we’re ready. Bless the food please.” Dale stood and prayed. “Okay, Missy, you sit here. Ted right here, and Jarad, you get to sit next to me.”
They moved to their places and sat. The wrapping paper on the back of the chairs was crinkly fabric. Missy rubbed the fabric between her fingers. “I made them myself. Another Christmas bargain, I bagged.” The three men dived into the appetizers. Missy took a package, and something that resembled a snowball.
“Isn’t this sweet? The kid’s first Christmas together.” Missy nodded and smiled at Merry. Dale and Ted scarfed Christmas memories. Jarad and Daphne looked at each other and shared a non-verbal secret.
“Merry, these are delicious.” Merry dimpled.
“Thank you, Missy. I invented them. My dream is to open a Christmas 24/7 shop. I’d do teas, lunches, cater and have unique decorations. I’ve been waiting for my little girl to grow up and not need me as much. I’ve been looking around town for a site for my shop. I already have a list of parties to cater every year, and people who would book the different party rooms.”
Merry stood. “Be right back. Daphne, come help.” The sound of banging filtered in from the kitchen. They returned with a roasted turkey on a platter, ringed with mashed potato clouds sprinkled with parsley and bowls of salads. Missy dug into the interesting food. Merry looked at her guests and smiled.
Merry stood. “Now, for the best part.” Daphne smiled and poked Jarad in the ribs. Ted and Dale leaned back and Ted rubbed his stomach. Missy held her breath.
Merry presented the chocolate Yule Log. As everyone stared at the masterpiece, she returned with a bowl of cherries and a lighter. She sliced the cake onto little green dessert plates. She spooned the cherries and liquid onto the dessert and lit them. Bursts of flame popped and disappeared. Daphne laughed and clapped her hands. Jarad drank in Daphne’s reaction. Dale winked at Merry. Ted smiled at Missy.
On the trip home, the family decided that maybe they could tolerate a little Merry in their Christmas, after all.
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