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Red Hot Christmas by Mara White, K. Larsen (4)

 

Amber

 

She had a huge acquisition happening the week of Thanksgiving. Amber emailed her mom and dad and her twin sisters that she wouldn’t be able to make it to their usual gathering in Westchester. Her mother left a voicemail which Amber listened to as she brushed her teeth.

“Honey, could you at least call on the phone to tell us that work is more important than your family?”

“Ha!” Amber barked as she spit toothpaste into the sink. She facetimed her mother as she ran a flatiron through her hair. Lou had made her do so much planking that her arms shook just holding up the flat iron to her hair.

“Don’t tell me your working on Thanksgiving Day, Amber Elizabeth!”

“Mom, you were the one who always told me I’d have to give one hundred and fifty percent compared to every man’s ninety,” her mother was drinking coffee and doing the Times crossword puzzle.

“What’s the post war name of Upper Volta?”

“Burkina Faso,” Amber said as she sprayed heat protectant on the other side of her strawberry blonde locks.

“So smart, love. You always were…” Her mother turned on the morning news and took a sip of her coffee. “Would you at least consider driving up after work? Julia and Devon will be here. They both love you so much.”

Julia and Devon were her niece and nephew. The truth was that all the family functions she attended were to see those two sweet kids. Everything else was too much pressure. Questions from her sisters and mother about the divorce settlement and Chase’s new dating habits. Endless work inquiry from her two brothers in law, enough to make her feel like they were competing on the job. Even though they all had a background in finance, her sister’s husbands worked for banks and Amber had sworn off banks after her internship at Bank of America which had her living sixteen hours a day inside a tiny cubicle. It felt like jail. Everyone in her family was genuinely interested and trying to connect with her, but the third degree was exhausting and she’d rather play with the kids, or even throw the football with her dad. Not to mention the feminine side of her family constantly giving dating advice, her sisters coming up with matchmaking plans with divorcees who lived in the suburbs. She was over it. They all acted like her life had ended when she and Chance split up, but in actuality Amber felt much happier single. No one to have to entertain or feed, no one to hold you accountable when you donated a large chunk of your income to charities around the world. Refugee children always tugged at her heart strings more than she could bear.

“We could have bought into the time share in St. Martin with the other guys in the firm, but you go and give your entire Christmas bonus to some damn charity for kids we don’t even know!” Chase had been drunk and had tossed one of her house plants against the wall. You could still see the scratches from the impact of the clay pot. They’d already been skating on thin ice as they say.

“You should wear a “NO DIVING” sign around your neck to warn people how shallow you are!” It hadn’t been her best moment.

“Oh Lordy, what’s the capital of this former Upper Volta, honey? Eleven letters. Starts with O and ends with U. That’s all I got,” her mother said into the phone.

“Ouagadougou. I’ll come for pie. After I put in a full day’s work. Are you making Pecan or Pumpkin?”

“Both. Spell Ougagagdou. You really do outsmart us all. Your father never gets the rebus themed answers. Honey, did you ever think of auditioning for Jeopardy? I always liked that host Trebek. Do you think he really knows all the answers or is that just for the show?”

“OUAGADOUGOU. I’ve gotta go, mom! I’ll be there for pie and coffee. What sizes are Julia and Devon now?”

“Six and eight, here’s another one, you might know-“

“Bye, mom, love you!” Amber hollered and ended the call. She had to be stealthy or her mother would make her do the whole crossword and she’d end up late for work. “Shit,” she exclaimed glancing at her watch. Her car was due to pick her up in ten minutes. She shimmied into her tailored suit and second guessed the shoes. What if Fit_and_Full_Frankie had seen her post. Chances were slim since he had half a million followers, but just the same, the idea of him realizing she was a secret fan was embarrassing. Amber didn’t have time for socializing or playing games. It was more likely than not that she wouldn’t run into him anyway. The Empire State Building was huge and busy. Even if she strutted by in her brazen red whore shoes tap dancing, he might not notice her. It was hard to stand out in the bustle of New York City, especially during the holidays.