Midnight Moon – “A Gifted Christmas” Scene One

“A Gifted Christmas”

I

Bedlam had descended, and it was armed with tinsel, turkey and stuffing.

In the kitchen of the normally calm house that Isabelle Flannery usually called home, Jessica Thomas stood frowning at the gravy she stirred with a wooden spoon. So deep she existed in her contemplation that she hardly noticed her younger brother peering over her shoulder.

Muttering under her breath about viscosity, Jessica grabbed a measuring cup full of water–just a yelp sounded from the dining room. Whirling toward the clamor, she nearly back-handed her brother and the water sloshed in the cup. Luckily, Eric’s reflexes almost matched her own–or he would have been on his way to the emergency room.

“Dammit–” Jessica began.

“Please don’t kill me,” Eric pleaded. “I was just checking on dinner. Do you need any help?”

Jessica pursed her lips together. “Let me guess. Miyori sent you in here.”

Eric shrugged. “I came on my own. You wouldn’t maim family would you?” A growl was Jessica’s response. At this point, who could be sure of anything, especially fratricide?

A crash preceded the hasty emergence of the man in question with three angry females hot on his heels. Narrowing her eyes, Jessica pulled out her cache of super-quick reflexes and did her allies a favor. Within a blink, Miyori lay on the tile, staring dumbfounded at the ceiling.

Samantha Dunne cheered. The windows rattled at the outburst of energy. “Hell fucking yeah, Jess! I knew you were always my favorite cousin.”

Beside her, Gretchen, Jessica’s little sister, pouted. “Hey, I thought I was your favorite cousin.”

“Not since you’ve got that dubstep shit stuck in my head,” Samantha retorted. This time Gretchen only fumed.

Miyori sucked in a breath before rising; his collision with the floor had been rather abrupt and highly uncomfortable. “I’ll have you know that I hardly deserve such treatment. The reports of my so-called shenanigans are highly exaggerated.”

Melanie Smith crossed her arms over her chest and cocked a hip to the side. “So says the asshole who decides to turn the tinsel into a snake while we’re putting it on the tree. I really oughta kick you right now and let you bleed!”

“I thought Mo was going to have to do CPR on poor Aurora,” Gretchen added.

Faced with the discomfort of his beloved princess, Eric punched Miyori in the shoulder. “What the hell, man?”

Miyori put his hands up in a gesture of defense. “It wasn’t poisonous. I don’t know what they’re so mad about. It wouldn’t have bitten anyone.”

“That’s hardly the point,” Gretchen said. “I don’t think it would sit well with anyone if their Christmas decorations metamorphosed into a slithery, hissing thing.”

“Real talk,” Samantha agreed.

A timer dinged; Jessica disentangled herself from the scene momentarily to extract the ham from the oven. Miyori stepped forward–only to meet with Jessica’s fist. Unlike Eric’s blow, this one had him staggering a few steps.

“What?” Jessica blinked innocently, all the while balancing the pan in one hand. “It was just a little punch.”

Glowering, Miyori’s mouth twitched; a split second later, the meat blinked up at the bemused cook and let out a distinctive oink.

Jessica’s eyes widened. She thrust the squealing dinner into her little sister’s arms and dived for the already moving Illusionist.

“What is going on in here?” Isabelle asked, looking every bit the part of the Mother with her long black curls unbound framing an expression of exasperation.

Melanie shook her head. “Miyori turned the tinsel into a snake, we chased him in here, and he turned the ham from cooked to spooked. Now Jessica’s pissed at him.”

As Samantha cheered on the beatdown and Gretchen chewed on her lip with the pan in her arms (the animated ham squirming all the while), Isabelle sighed. Why had she volunteered to host Christmas dinner at her house this year? Dios Mio!

Isabelle rubbed her temples, a tension headache beginning to form. “I think we may need to start dinner before someone dies.”

“No worries,” Melanie retorted. “If she kills him we can hide him in her wine cellar. No one will even notice he’s gone until after New Year’s. He won’t even be sober until then.”

No one is committing murder under my roof–especially not while I have one of Gracia’s finest sitting with a Guinness in my living room.” Stride full of purpose, Isabelle picked up the measuring up full of water and dashed it on the dueling duo.

Pause.

When they peered at her incredulously, fighting instincts to attack, she turned on her best hostess grin. “Time for dinner!”

Awed, Gretchen muttered, “Now why didn’t we think of that?”

 

TBC

Advertisements

The Payback List – II, Della Uninterrupted

This is one of those scenes that I would sell my plasma to make into a real-live scene. I don’t know how good of a director I would be, though. I think it also speaks to some inner issue that my girls are always kicking people’s asses…maybe I need to take up kickboxing and tackle someone? I don’t know.

____

II

Della, uninterrupted

 

At that moment, Prince Charming looks up and sees Cinderella’s bestest friends while he’s pawing on the chambermaid.

How trite is this?

Something like shock flashes in his eyes once it dawns on him who it is. Then it fades as soon as it arrived, leaving them blank.

“Something I can help you with?” Adam has the nerve to ask.

Margo sends me a Did he just really…? look, and I glare at Adam. “Tell me, Martin, how is Emily? Have you talked to her this evening?”

Something like irritation flickers in his eyes. I guess he doesn’t like me shitting all over his question and mentioning the girl he was dating in front of his little side piece. Sorry. My mistake.

“No,” Adam responds, his voice slightly defensive. “I have not talked to her—not that it’s any of your business.”

“I disagree actually,” Margo says archly.

Ginger decides to take that moment to insert herself into the exchange. “Why don’t you go mind your own? Adam and I are busy.”

“And if you had any class, you’d see why that is a problem,” I shoot back, earning a glare from Ginger. I turn to Adam. “Could you not act like a man whore for once?”

Margo raises an eyebrow. “And yet he wonders why we have no respect for him.”

Adam manages an impish shrug. “What can I say? I’m just a flirt.”

The funny thing is, I don’t remember what it was exactly that set me off. It could have been Adam’s confident smirk or Ginger’s self-satisfied gaze. In hindsight, I realize that it was mostly the tactless comment that spilled from Adam’s lips. A feral rage takes over me and I leap forward in a flying tackle that is damn admirable for a girl my size.

Margo sucks in a breath and tries to catch me. I am way too fast. Ginger squeaks and yells something intelligible. Adam swears a blue streak and grunts with genuine pain (ha!) when he hits the ground with me on top of him.

“Goddammit, Henderson!” Adam bellows. The sound of his voice disturbs me, so I plow my fist into his cheating mouth. There. Problem solved.

Arms encircle my waist and I am lifted, kicking, threatening, and cursing, away from Adam. His mouth is bleeding and his left eye looks like it’s going to have quite the shiner in the morning. It’s no wonder he appears ready to brawl. Luckily this person who has a grip on me has restrained Adam as well or things would have escalated. However, that is not to say that I wouldn’t have been able to hold my own.

“What the bloody hell is going on here?” the person holding me demands. Shit. I’d know that accent anywhere. It’s Cameron.

“I was minding my own damn business when that crazy bitch tackled me like we were in the fucking Super Bowl,” Adam snaps, then inelegantly spits blood onto the concrete.

Minding my own business, my lily white ass!” I counter, pent-up fury making my lips loose. Behind me, Margo sighs heavily but I barrage on. “You were clearly cheating on my best friend in front of my face and had the nerve to be all smug about it. Of course I was going to kick your ass, you grubby motherfucker. You better be lucky I didn’t go for the crotch.” I would have added, Not that there’s much to hit, but Cameron speaks instead.

“All right, that’s enough,” he cautions me. “Whatever is going on between you two stops now. And if it doesn’t, you’re both suspended for a week.”

I am about to fire back with an insolent comment when Ginger speaks up instead. “Adam didn’t do anything wrong. That bitch came over here and started it.”

Margo’s blue eyes go round as Cameron admonishes Ginger for her comment. Margo knows me well enough to know how I feel about the word bitch.

Okay, real fast (before the funk hits the fan): that word is a double-edged sword, in my opinion. It has various connotations, ranging from the powerful to the submissive, and some of them I can live with. Queen Bitch? Fine with me. Head Bitch in Charge? You better believe it! However, when it’s wielded in a way I don’t like, like an insult, I might have to punch a…well, you get it.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

“…And I would say it again,” Ginger is saying. I’m guessing you know what it is.

Cameron has (stupidly, because if he were smart, he wouldn’t have) loosened his grip upon me, trying to deal with an indignant Ginger who is cursing me right and left. Listening to her, I go eerily still, and I can hear Margo murmuring to me, telling me to ignore her, wait till there’s a better time we can kick her ass without Cameron watching. I cannot. Anger fizzes in my veins. I didn’t care about her before—after all, she isn’t dating my best friend—but now that she is trying to plant herself into the middle of this…

“Besides, he can’t help it if that bitch he’s dating is a bore and he needs to come to me for excitement,” Ginger continues.

Oh, did you hear that?

That was the sound of the funk officially hitting the fan.

Margo says it before I can: “Oh surely she just didn’t.”

My eyes narrow.  “Oh yeah. She did.” I crack my knuckles. This time, Margo doesn’t stop me. I elbow Cameron in the stomach, leaving him to scramble after me. Margo “accidentally” plants herself in Sir Skeeze’s way. I storm toward Ginger, a different sort of fury overtaking me now. It is the cold kind of fury that probably made Beatrix Kiddo start chopping people’s limbs off.

Ginger sees me coming. “What the hell do you want, bitch?”

“I hope you know the number of a good plastic surgeon” is the curt prelude to me knocking Ginger out.

And after that it was pretty much over. Honest.

 

*      *              *

 

“You cannot tell her, Della,” Vanessa says firmly.

Margo, Vanessa, Elizabeth and I sit in the office after close, waiting for Vanessa to figure out my and Margo’s share of the tips that evening. She sits behind the desk with a pair of reading glasses on the edge of her elegant nose, the picture of intellectual beauty. The adding machine is printing crazily, and Vanessa’s well-tended nails tap furiously over the keys with the ease of practice. (Believe it or not, Cousin Ness has her MBA…and she’s playing second string? Yeah, I think that’s ridiculous, too. But back to the situation at hand.)

My hand throbs despite the ice pack, but my attention wanders from the pain. I have a bigger dilemma at hand. Margo, Nick, and I have a gig tonight, and I would usually be thinking of that (and the fact that I have injured my hand—dammit!), but anxiety fills my head. Emily, Emily, Emily.

I want to tell her. Part of me is cursing Vanessa for telling me not to tell Emily about Adam. I am duty-bound to tell her. It’s in a rule book, somewhere. It’s gotta be. You might find one at Barnes and Noble.

Here’s the thing, however: I kinda promised I’d stay out of it.

When Adam and Emily started dating, their pairing caught everyone off-guard. Adam, as you saw, has the sensitivity of a rattlesnake and the reputation of a lothario; Emily should have turned him down on the mere basis of his living and breathing. But somehow she was convinced that turning him down would incite some sort of cosmic wrath toward her, so she went out with him.

First date? It went swimmingly.  She admitted they had great conversation and he was the consummate gentleman. Unfortunately for my naïve friend, it only went downhill from the top.

But she was happy with him. Or she seemed happy, at least. And if she was happy, well, what did it matter if I didn’t approve of the guy? In romantic relationships, it should be between you and the other person; it hardly matters what others think…to an extent. In a case like this, when the guy you’re dating has a personal goal to eye-fuck every female he lays eyes upon, well, you might have to make exception.

At that moment, Cameron strides into the office, light eyes filled with frustration. He has cast-off his black jacket somewhere, and his sleeves are rolled up. He stands there for a moment, taking in the occupants of the room, and then his gaze rests upon me.

“We need to talk, Della,” he says sternly.

“Unlikely,” I disagree promptly.

“You got into an altercation with two of my servers—”

“You say that like I’m an interloper!” I exclaim, irritated. “I work here, too, and fine—that wasn’t the best way to handle that situation. But what the hell would you have done? He was tugging on my chain, all but daring me to kick his ass. And we’re not even gonna talk about Miss Easy-As-One-Two-Three.”

Convinced I was spouting drivel (so what else is new?), Cameron raises his olive gaze to Margo. “She’s exaggerating isn’t she?”

Margo shifts in her chair at the scrutiny and lifts a shoulder. “He did seem extraordinarily smug, Cameron. In that way I can kinda see where Della is coming from. Besides, you’ve met Emily. Even if you have a penis, you have to admit she is too sweet for that bull.”

Cameron raises an eyebrow. “Even if I have a penis?”

“Well, you guys do like to stick together,” Elizabeth points out.

Cameron turns to Elizabeth. “Oh, so you’re going to turn this into some battle of the sexes now?”

“What else can it be?” Elizabeth shoots back. “Especially when most of you make it your life’s goal to hit on every woman within seeing distance.”

Cameron fumes and turns an unhealthy shade of red. Truthfully I wouldn’t be too bereaved if he dropped dead. He appears as if he wants to retort to Elizabeth’s comment, but instead he turns to me.

“You are lucky that I talked Ginger and Adam out of prosecuting you,” he tells me as his voice crescendos. His face is still that livid red. “Or else you would be sitting in a jail cell and I assure you Miss Henderson, you would not like singing ‘Faster’ to a room full of hookers!”

That part perks up Elizabeth’s ears. She eyes me sternly. “Adelaide—”

As I groan at the use of Adelaide from my big sis, Vanessa stops calculating. “Did you actually get into a fight with Ginger and Adam?”

I shrug. “So I punched them both in the face. Big deal.”

After a humming moment, Cameron growls, kicks the desk violently and stalks out of the room. Vanessa barely saves her jostled coffee from spilling all over her paperwork. Elizabeth pinches the bridge of her nose. Margo sends me a sympathetic look.

“Okay,” Elizabeth begins in that voice she uses when she is clearly not trying to lose her shit on you, “what happened exactly, Adelaide?” I open my mouth and she adds, “No lying either.”

“Dammit,” I mutter. Louder, I say, “Okay fine. Margo and I were walking outside when we caught Adam kissing Ginger. And because of Emily, I suppose things got a bit heated—”

“Heated?” Margo snorts. “She tackled Adam like she was trying to break his freaking spine. It was effing awesome. John Madden would’ve had an orgasm and killed himself.”

I glare at my cousin. “Margo!” I hissed. She gives me an innocuous look.

“This battle is not for you to wage,” Vanessa says. “This relationship is between Emily and Adam and is not your business.”

“Like you and Cameron?” Elizabeth mutters. Vanessa gives her a hard stare that Elizabeth meets dead-on. For a few seconds that hovers between them (phew, scary moment that), and then Vanessa turns back to me.

“Whatever you think, whatever others might think”—her others is so pointed that Elizabeth quirks an eyebrow—“you risk harming your friendship with Emily by sticking your nose in this.”

“Emily hardly deserves this,” I point out. “She is too nice to have to deal with an asshole like Adam Martin. And quite frankly she doesn’t know how to deal with him.”

“And you do?” Elizabeth questions.

“He deserved the punch in the mouth just as much as Ginger needed that broken nose,” I reason. Vanessa smacks her forehead in frustration. “It’s much better than running off at the mouth trying to push some logic and rational thought into a brain that probably hasn’t experienced either one. The physical is much easier for them to understand.”

Margo snorts again. “I mean, obviously.”

When Cameron returns at that moment, the red in his face has subsided, and he has calmed down a bit. He stands over me with his hands on his hips.

I roll my eyes at his attempt to appear menacing. “Cameron, slink back to whatever wormhole you came from.”

Vanessa sends me a baleful look that I ignore. I hear Cameron suck in a breath and steel himself. Gathering patience? Whatever.

“I am suspending you for a week,” Cameron tells me. “You deserve punishment for this. You should know better than allow for your base instincts to take over.”

My mouth opens, ready to let loose a stream of protest, when Elizabeth says, “I think a week is a bit much.”

Cameron looks at her pointedly. “And who owns this restaurant, hmm, Elizabeth? Who makes the rules?”

Elizabeth meets his pointed gaze. “Gee, I don’t know, Cameron. But I know that a restaurant wouldn’t be shit unless it had a decent cook.”

Margo makes a sound that reminds me of that random background cat from the Puss in Boots movie. I have to stifle a snort. Cameron’s nostrils flare. I won’t be shocked if he kicks the desk again.

“Two days,” Cameron snaps. I fume as Elizabeth remains silent. It’s better than a week. He storms out of the room again, leaving us girls alone.

Vanessa sighs, and takes off her reading glasses. She rubs her temples in a sign of stress. “I hope you are planning to go to your show and forget this all happened.”

I scoff. “Are you kidding? As soon as I leave here, I am going to see Emily! Like hell I am gonna let that asshole get away with this.” Tired of being in the chair, I rise and throw the ice pack where my ass was. Without a goodbye, I stride out of the room.

I don’t even have to look back to know Margo is behind me. “We have to think about this, Del. We can’t just bust into her apartment with smack her in the face with this. There’s a chance she won’t believe us.”

I smack my forehead. “You think she’d believe that prick over her best friends? Gah!”

Margo placed her hands on my shoulders. “Emily is a smart girl, and you know her—she’s gonna think too much, question what your motivation is. It’s not that she means to or would believe him over us…exactly.” I groan in frustration. “You know what I mean.”

None of it matters. Not a damn bit of it. I don’t care if Emily starts quoting Nietzsche to justify Adam’s scurrilous behavior. I stand up for my friends no matter what it takes. I just got suspended for two days (a minor setback, but still). Do you think I am not going to see this through? Pshaw! Watch and learn!

I stare at her, resolute. “I am going to tell her. You’re coming too.”

Margo shakes her head. “Just promise me my hand won’t end up down a sewer drain.”

My mouth twitches. “No promises.”