This is a story I wrote for a contest. I didn't win the contest but I did get a really nice comment about the story. So that made the day!
The writing prompt:
The story gave me a chuckle and I was glad to see the turn the story took at the end, even if I wasn’t expecting it.
An Unexpected Christmas
Lizzy Stevens & Steve Miller
It was Christmas Eve and the house was full of friends and family. It was her parents’ annual Christmas Eve party where everyone expected to see a smile on Amber’s face. She sat on the window bench looking out across the yard. The weeping willows that lined the long driveway to her parents’ house had ice twinkling in the branches and the tops looked like they had glass on them with all the ice. She wiped a tear trickling down her face. “How am I supposed to pretend to be happy?” Amber heard a noise and looked over to see who had walked in. A smile crossed her face as she saw her brother walk in.
“I think the answer to your question sis is that you don’t pretend to be happy you actually be happy for one night.”
Amber shook her head as the waterworks fell from her eyes. “Tommy you know I can’t be happy. Riley has been deployed for months and now there hasn’t been word from him in over a week. I’m scared. I don’t know what’s going on. How am I supposed to plaster a fake smile on and pretend I’m fine?”
Tommy nodded and then tossed her a box of chocolate covered cherries. “For starters you eat as many of these as you want. Don’t worry. They are the special Christmas ones. There are no calories in them. You can eat as many as you want.”
Amber laughed. “You are crazy. If I eat this whole box, I will not only feel like crap but I will have gained a hundred pounds.” Laughing she got up, walked over to her brother, and gave him a big hug.
Tommy gave her a squeeze and said, “Okay we have got to go. You know how mom and dad are. If we are not down there greeting their guests, they will say we are making them look bad. So, put on that fake smile.” He said with a grin. “And let’s get our butts down there.”
Amber got up and walked toward the door in her red velvet and white antique lace Christmas dress. She knew she had to go all out or her parents would be disappointed. She had her long flowing blond hair left down except for the sides were pulled up into a nice pony tail. She even took the time to run the curling iron through it to give it a little body. She walked down the long winding stair case with her brother right behind. When they go to the bottom she turned to Tommy. “Okay let’s do this.” She smiled.
Amber walked around the room hoping nobody would ask her about Riley. She knew if they did, she wouldn’t be able to stop the water works. She walked around wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. When she felt like her parents would be happy with her show of affection to the crowd, she walked over to the bar to get a drink. As she was putting ice in her cup for her rum and coke a man came over to her that she didn’t recognize. She smiled and said “Merry Christmas.”
The man said. “Merry Christmas to you too. I’m Mike. I wanted to ask you if you would marry me.”
Amber had just taken a drink. She was caught off guard and it went down the wrong way. She started coughing and spitting her drink out. She looked around quickly to see if anyone saw. Then she looked up at the stranger still confused. “I’m sorry. What?” She asked.
The stranger named Mike said with a serious face. “Yes, I wanted to ask you if you would marry me.”
Amber didn’t know if she should be scared or laugh at this. She looked at the man and said, “I’m sorry but no. I don’t even know you. I’m really confused at why you would ask me this so I really think it is best if you leave or I will need to get security.” She watched as the guy turned and left.
Amber looked around the room and found Tommy standing against the wall. She hurried to him. “Tommy. You are not going to believe what just happened to me.” She told him all about the guy.
Tommy laughed. “Maybe you just misunderstood him. It’s loud in here. Maybe he just said Merry Christmas.”
Amber shook her head. “No! He said it twice. I told him if he didn’t leave, I would call security.”
Tommy laughed. “Okay sis. It’s a crazy night, I guess. Why don’t you go and try to have a little fun? Just ignore what happened.
Amber did one of her famous fake smiles and nodded. “Yeah, you’re right. He probably just had too much to drink. I’m going to go mingle.”
She walked off and made her rounds around the room. She wanted to do her part for the annual party. She did not want to hear her parents complaining the whole next day. Her parents were what people would call old money. Money was in their family for as long as Amber knew. It was passed down from generation to generation and they owned several businesses in the town. People respected them and looked up to them. Amber had to do her part and put on the happy act for the party.
She was standing in the corner talking to a couple of the local ladies when a man walked up to her.
“Excuse me Ms. Amber can I have a word with you?”
Amber didn’t recognize this man but knew she had to do her job as she called it. Her job of keeping all the guests happy. “Of course. Let’s go over here.” She pointed to the wall across from them that appeared to have nobody leaning on it.
Amber looked up at the man. “How can I help you?”
The man looked right into her eyes. “I know we have never met. My name is Richard. I wanted to ask you if you would marry me.”
Amber thought to herself. ‘What is going on tonight? Do I have a sign pinned to my back?’ “I’m sorry. What?
“I’m sorry to catch you off guard, but I think it would be a good idea if we married.”
Amber didn’t know what to say. “I’m sorry but no. I don’t even know you. I have a boyfriend. I think it would be best if you left.”
The man turned and walked away without another word.
Amber stood there with her head spinning. What is going on? She saw Tommy standing close by so she hurried to him. “Tommy what is going on tonight? Do I have some kind of sign on my back that says ask me to marry you?”
Tommy tried not to laugh. “What are you talking about now sis. That guy left.”
“No! It was another guy. Another stranger. He just walked up and asked me to marry him. This night is getting really weird.”
Tommy chuckled. “Sis lay off the rum and coke.” He turned and walked away laughing the whole time.
Amber stood there not really knowing what to do. It had been the craziest night ever and she still had a few hours yet to go. She looked over at the buffet line and thought it would be a good time to get some food. Her parents always catered the best food in. She walked over and got a plate and started down the line. She filled her plate with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, mac n cheese and a few desserts as she walked off to find a quiet private place in the corner to eat. She was just about done with her food when a man in jeans and a t shirt walked up. She looked up at him and did the usual. “Merry Christmas. Are you enjoying the party?”
The man smiled. “Oh sorry. Where are my manners? My name is Mathew. I just wanted to say you look great and you are doing a perfect job hosting this party so with that being said will you marry me?”
Amber about fell out of her chair. “I’m sorry. What?” She said. It seemed like she was saying that a lot during the party for some reason.
Mathew nodded. “Yeah. For Christmas I thought it would be a good idea to get married and you look like a good choice. So, what do you say?”
Amber stood up almost angry now. “I say no. I think you need to leave.”
Mathew got up and walked away without a word.
Amber looked around the room to find Tommy. Again, she found him close. She had steam coming from her ears by this point. She walked up to him angrily. “What is going on? That was the third guy that I have never met ask me to marry him. Seriously dude. What is going on?”
Tommy laughed uncontrollably. “Hold on now. Why are you asking me what is going on? I don’t know. Maybe it’s the dress you picked to wear tonight. It is a pretty eye-catching dress and we are serving alcohol. I would say take a deep breath. Get you a nice cold soda and do some rounds. The night is almost over. Don’t pay these drunks any attention. None of us know any of these people really. It’s mom and dad’s gang of people. You know how these parties go. Try to not be so angry and sad. Just go around and do your party job. I’ll go right you go left.”
She couldn’t help but smile at how Tommy always made things better. She walked off to do a few final rounds. The night was almost over. She did the usual Merry Christmas and smiles to the guests as she walked around the room. Then she decided to walk over and get a couple of cookies. As she was at the cookie table, she saw a guy looking at her oddly. It creeped her out a little after the night she had gone through. She continued to put a couple cookies on her plate and then went to walk off. Before she could get away the guy stopped her.
“Excuse me Amber. Can I ask you something?”
Amber at this point didn’t know what else she could say so she said yes. “Sure. Go ahead.”
The man straightened his shirt. “Great. First let me say that my name is Fred. I wanted to know if you would consider marrying me?”
Amber almost cried now. She didn’t know what was going on. “I don’t even know you. What is going on tonight. Is somebody playing some kind of prank on me? Well, it’s not funny. No, I won’t marry you. Please leave.”
She sat her plate down and ran to the rose garden. She sat on a bench and the tears started pouring out of her eyes. She didn’t know what was going on but it had been a long crazy night. She heard a noise and looked up the walk to see Tommy walking toward her with a small blue throw.
He walked up and put it around her. “I’m so sorry sis.”
Amber confused. “Sorry for what?”
“This night.” He said. “We thought it would be funny. We shouldn’t have had those men do that. They were just paid actors. Mom and dad don’t know anything about this.”
Amber didn’t know if she should be mad at her brother or happy that she finally found out what was going on. He had been pranking her. She wiped a tear from her eyes. “Tommy. How could you? You knew this night was going to be hard on me.”
Tommy nodded. “I know and we really are sorry. We thought it would make you smile.”
Amber looked at him with a confused look on her face. “Why do you keep saying we. Who did this with you?”
At that very moment music started to play. Playing the most romantic song she had heard. Then a little girl started walking down the path to her tossing rose petals out of a basket as she walked.
Amber looked over at Tommy. “What is going on?”
Tommy pointed toward the path. “Look. See for yourself.”
Amber got up and looked in disbelief at the path. There walking toward her was Riley. She glanced at Tommy. “How is this possible? And you knew? Instead of telling me you two pranked me.” She was so happy to see Riley that she wasn’t really mad. She ran to him, jumped up in his arms, and kissed him.
“I can’t believe you are here.” She said. “This is the best Christmas present ever.”
Riley was in full dress uninform he took off his hat and looked down at her. “I’m glad you like it.” He laughed. “But me being here isn’t the only present. He pulled out a small black ring box from his pocket and got down on one knew. “Amber. I’m sorry we pranked you with all the fake proposals but this one is real. Will you make me the happiest man alive and marry me.”
Tears flowed down her face. She couldn’t believe it. “Oh my God, Riley. Yes. Of course, Yes.” She threw her arms around him. He in turn wrapped his arms around her.
Snow started to fall heavily. It was starting to look a lot like Christmas. What started out being the worst night of her life ended up being an unexpected Christmas. It was the best Christmas she had ever had.