|I mean ya'll, I wrote this story about the Miller's Christmas party and then found this. How perfect!|
I had so many great lists of words today, that I decided to write a series of interwoven stories. A little story Christmas party if you will. Do come along. It will be fun!
Meri shoved the cookie in her mouth and chased it down with eggnog. Then nearly choked. Good gosh, how much liquor was in that stuff? She sat her glass down and brushed powdered sugar off her sweater. Sweet mercy, she'd already polished off half the cheese tray, and would make short work of the cookies if she didn't stop. She glanced around. The house was packed. There must be dozens of people here, all friends and acquaintances of the Millers.
Or household staff of the Millers, as she was.
That made it sound too formal. She was a nanny. A low regarded one. At least the Miller's kids loved her. Sure she didn't need a degree to do this, but she could kiss a boo boo or make up a lullaby better than anyone she knew. The children loved her. They'd been packed off to their grandma's this weekend, and already she missed them.
Meri watched Mrs. Miller mingle with her guests, a diamond bracelet glittering on her wrist.
Meri glanced down at her own black turtleneck. It was cute, and paired with her skirt looked elegant. But Mrs. Miller could spot a Target purchase a mile away. She probably sprayed Lysol everyday after Meri left, too afraid she had fleas or something just because she didn't shop at Neiman Marcus. Meri had cut the tags off Mrs. Miller's blouse before she ironed it this afternoon. The price was more than Meri made in a week.
Dear gosh, they had so much money. Not that Meri saw a lot of it. Mrs. Miller invited her to the party in lieu of a Christmas bonus. The grinch. Meri sighed and turned back to the buffet table, piled high with treats.
She grabbed a glass and scanned the room again. A tall, good looking guy stood right under the mistletoe, drinking champagne and listening to the man beside him. A shock of brown hair fell over his forehead. His nose was too long, and his chin really pronounced. But he was cute. Really cute. Meri smirked. How much of a scandal would it be if she got hammered and kissed him?
The girl was staring at him.
Marshall took a sip of champagne and glanced at her again. He'd noticed her as soon as he walked in and had started making his way to her, slowly mingling. She'd eaten cheese and crackers with such casualness, none of the pretension in her actions like so many others in the room. He'd been ready to make his move when Drake stopped him.
"What do you think?" Drake asked now.
Marshall paused, perplexed. What had Drake even been talking about? "I agree with you," he said, because Drake liked to argue and Marshall had to trust that an agreement to anything Drake said would satisfy him.
The girl looked up again, her face tight and her eyes clouded, as if a storm raged within her. What would someone be stressing out about at a Christmas party? He wanted to talk to her. But say what? She'd probably think him an idiot. Better not prove her right. Marshall took another sip of champagne, his feet firmly planted and offering their own validity to his cowardice.
Drake ambled on, and Marshall kept staring at the girl. He should talk to her. Christmas was the season of hope, right? And good things?
She'd given up a night of caroling for this?
Laurel traced the pattern on the white tablecloth with her finger. A throat cleared beside her. Laurel glanced up, Meg's brows drawn together in disapproval as she stared at Laurel's hand. Laurel snatched her fingers back. Don't touch anything, Meg had said earlier. Geez, as if ditching plans with your friends to fill in for the no-show server at the party your sister catered wasn't generous enough. Laurel had to put up with Meg's attitude as well. Fantastic.
She glanced away from Meg's disapproving stare. No one had seen her touch the tablecloth. No one even saw her. They were workers for crying out loud. Staff, the woman who owned the home had called them earlier. The people at this party wouldn't see them if they caught fire or dropped dead of a heart attack. There was no telling how much Meg was getting paid for this event.
Laurel fingered the embroidery on the White's Catering insignia on her jacket. Everything Meg did succeeded. Not Laurel. Never for Laurel. Meg had started her own company before her twenty fourth birthday. Meg had a diamond glittering on her finger from her perfect boyfriend. Meg could make flowers and wishes grow and would probably discover the cure for cancer.
That's what their mother certainly thought. Unlike her thoughts about Laurel who at twenty five was still in school, couldn't get a date if she paid for one, and the only thing she could make in a garden were worms and shriveled dreams.
And that's just what her mom knew about. She didn't know that Laurel couldn't afford health insurance and that she'd taken the bus all week because her car battery was dead. She didn't know about the loneliness and fear and how Laurel had nearly slept with a random guy last week just because she wanted to have someone - anyone - there with her when she woke up in the morning.
Laurel looked back at Meg. Meg had always had everything - success, approval from their parents, love. Laurel would never have anything.
Marshall gulped his champagne. What the hell? This was Christmas, right? He clapped Drake's shoulder. "Gonna get a refill."
Marshall made a beeline for the girl. He picked up a fresh glass of champagne and took a sip. Then gathered what little manhood he still had and turned to her. "Some party," he said.
Some party? Gosh, his dweeb flag was flying. He'd dated women before. One for ten months. Surely that should have served as some sort of graduation into a more mature way to interact with women. But no.
He glanced at the girl, who smiled at him. "It certainly is fancy," she said.
"Yeah," Marshall said. "Never anything less for Donna." Gosh, he sounded like a prick. He cleared his throat. "How do you know the Millers?"
The girl glanced around then dipped her head and whispered. "I actually snuck in."
Marshall chuckled. Near giggled like a darned idiot. He should lay off the champagne. The girl laughed though, and relief flooded through him. He held out his hand. "I'm Marshall."
"Meri." She shook his hands. Man, her hands were soft.
"Meri. Do you change your name for all the seasons?"
The girl - Meri - laughed again. "Spelled a different way," she said. She took a swig of her own drink then set her glass down. "You know the Millers well?"
"I'm Bruce's younger brother."
Her eyes widened, like she'd just flunked some final exam he'd given her. He put a hand on her arm. "Gah, don't tell anyone we're related. Our DNA is the only thing we have in common." Meri's face relaxed. "You guys aren't close?"
"I'm just here to appease our mother," Marshall said.
"Ah." Meri smiled.
Man, she was cute. Marshall brought his glass to his lips then thought better of it. "How do you know my brother and his oh so charming wife?"
The corner of her lip tipped up. "I'm the nanny."
"Oh." Meri. The kids talked about her all the time. He should have realized the connection when she told him her name. "The kids can't shut up about you," he said. "Mason says you make better blanket forts than anyone else he knows."
She blushed. Actually blushed, and she looked so darn cute Marshall wanted to propose right then and there. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "It's just til I finish nursing school."
Marshall grinned. She was adorable. It was now or never. He summoned every ounce of courage he had and opened his mouth.
Meg swallowed down her rising nausea. Her stomach felt like dead weight inside of her. Mrs. Miller fluttered through the crowd like a butterfly. She'd see if Meg went to the bathroom on this floor, and there was no way she could go upstairs. Like that would go over well. Mrs. Miller would call the cops if she caught her caterer roaming around in their bedrooms.
A tremor of anxiety tore through her and Meg shivered. Laurel looked over at her. Great. The last thing she needed was for someone to find out. Sweet Laurel. She had bailed Meg out big time by showing tonight. "Anything for my sister," she had said.
Sister indeed. Meg dug her fingernails into her palm. She was a failure and a jerk. And Laurel deserved better than her for a sister.
A bathroom. She needed one now. Do the deed and be done with it. No one would know. No one would ever know. The truffles she'd binged on earlier needed to come out. She turned to Laurel. "Stay out here and make sure the glasses stay full."
Before Laurel could even respond, Meg darted down the hall. If Mrs. Miller caught her she would lie. She was washing her hands.
Not puking out the deadened mess that was her life. That was her. Meg pushed past a guest in the hallway and ran into the open bathroom, slamming the door behind her.
Perfect Meg, her mom always said.
The deep feeling of failure rushed up inside of her. Meg darted to the toilet as tears streamed down her face.
What would they all think if they knew?
Meri blinked once and thought for sure she must be drunk.
This guy had just asked her out? It must be a glitch. Gosh, maybe they both were drunk. But he smiled at her, and oh gosh, he had a dimple. How can you refuse a man who has a dimple? It was just coffee. She glanced at her shoes and back to him. "That would be fun."
Marshall smiled. "Great. Let's leave now."
"Sure, unless you wanna rub elbows with someone high and mighty." He grinned again, those dimples flashing.
Heaven help her.
"Ok," she said. "let me get my coat."
Marshall came with her. Nancy, the housekeeper eyed Meri up and down as she passed them their coats. Crap. Nancy would probably tell Mrs. Miller. The snitch. And then Meri would lose her job because she dared go to coffee with Mr. Miller's brother and surely that would not be tolerated.
Unease worked it's way through her as she jammed her arms into her coat. Even if Marshall was different from his brother, they came from the same family. And they were rich. Dripping-with-money rich. And though her job was only temporary, she adored these kids and Mrs. Miller's stupid snobbery might uproot Meri from her beloved little niche of a job quicker than she could say "Merry Christmas."
Marshall ushered her past the front door. She shouldn't do this. No way. She opened her mouth and looked up.
"You know," Marshall said, "I had been staring at you all night, trying to work up the nerve to come talk to you." He walked to his car.
Bewitching. He was bewitching. And he had dimples and had talked to her like she was a human and not just the help.
Meri smiled and warmth crept to her cheeks. "I had been staring at you all night, too."
Marshall grinned and held his door open for her. He offered his hand and when her fingers touched his a sweet thrill pulsed through her. Merry Christmas indeed. This was going to be a great night. Who needed mistletoe?