Mistletoe or Mistle-Toe
I’m sitting in the back of the car as my parents drive us to Mr. and Mrs. Frank’s house. How my parents got the invite anywhere is skeptical. Dad is oblivious to normal jokes and can make people feel slightly... awkward. Mom can be too forward. One of those situations where it’s best left unsaid, but she says it, anyway.
Jackie Frank is a schoolmate of mine, and her family is a ball of fun. Her three older brothers were always the star of the school. She and I were always at the end of a prank. Jackie and I lost touch when we went off to college, but I hear she is engaged. Envious of her for that. I never could land a date and when I did, the awkwardness that was passed down from my dad would show.
The car pulls in front of their home and I push my glasses back towards my face.
“Cameron, fix your blouse. The button keeps coming undone!” She reaches back and fiddles with my buttons.
I swat her hand away. “I got it!” Reaching down and re-button my blouse. Probably should’ve worn a fresh shirt, but I was in a time crunch.
“You are going to look like you are asking for it!” My mother huffs.
“Lisa, leave the girl alone,” my dad comes to my rescue. “She wants to look like a call girl. Let her.” There it is.
“What’s wrong with my outfit?”
“A button-up shirt, stockings, and knee-high boots.” My mom points. “Like a call girl.”
I shake my head. Nothing impresses her. I could wear layers of fabric and wrap like a mummy and she wouldn’t be happy. My stockings are black to match my boots and my skirt is just above my knees. The blouse is a deep red and one of my favorites. Well, it was my favorite.
This fucking button.
“Let’s go.” my dad pushes us out of the car.
“How did we get invited to this?” I ask.
“Met them at church, they asked and we obliged. I didn’t want to cook.” my mother informs me.
I stop in my tracks. “Since when did you go to church?” I look between them, “You always said thieves who are money-driven devils ran it.”
“Shhh!” My dad swats his hands in the air. “Don’t let them hear you say that!”
I’m standing so confused. Church?
“I had a cancer scare and thought we should see what this praying stuff can do.”
“Sweet baby Jesus, what’s wrong with you?” I look between them. “Cancer?”
“It was a mark on my hand, thought it could be more ...”
“Just a beauty mark,” she says so nonchalantly.
My parents walk up to the door and knock as I’m following behind these crazies.
“For fuck’s sake,” I mumble under my breath. The door opens as I am mid-step and my shoe catches, causing me to fall forward. I catch myself before the curse word comes out “fuu.... dge.”
“Ma!!! The Jones are here!!!” a guy calls out. “Come on in.”
Gary Frank. Kid 2 of the brood. Nice and sensitive.
Gary sees me and smiles. “Holy shit, it’s Cameron! Josh, Kyle, Jackie - come quick!!” He yells busting my eardrum.
“Hi Gary,” I fix my glasses.
The rest of their family filter to the foyer. It’s a small space, and it’s feeling tight.
“Sardines!” My dad blurts out.
Everyone stares at him and laughs. Mr. Frank slaps him on the back and tells him to follow him to the living room where football is on TV. Mrs. Frank gives my mom a big hug and I giggle at how much my mom tenses up. She’s hugging her back, but it’s just all kinds of wrong. She drags her towards the kitchen and I’m left there with the Frank Four.
“Cameron! It’s so good to see you again!” Jackie says. I’m glad she broke the ice.
“Hi,” I nod to her. “Heard you were engaged, congratulations!”
“Thanks,” she looks down at her hand and then reaches out to show me.
“God damn, that’s huge!” I cover my mouth when I realize what I said.
“That’s what she said.” Kyle mocks.
I blush hard, and Jackie laughs, bringing me in for a big hug. “He couldn’t be here. He’s spending the holiday with his family,” she states, and I can see the slight disappointment in her eyes. Josh, Gary, and Kyle just wave and walk away. My mom pops her head around the corner and gives me dagger eyes. She heard every syllable. I mouth “sorry” to her.
“Come on, let’s go catch up in the study.” Jackie pulls me away.
I throw my coat on the formal living room chair and follow along. We pass the living room where all the guys are and I make eye contact with one of the Franks. I quickly avert my eyes, hoping to suppress the awkward red face.
“Here,” Jackie opens the door. “So, tell me, what have you been up to?”
“Um, well, nothing exciting. I scout authors for a book headhunter.” I take in the study’s atmosphere. Dark wood is a beautiful contrast to the navy blue walls. The room is floor-to-ceiling bookshelves full of books. My dream library.
“That’s interesting,” she tries to sound optimistic.
I turn and look at her as my glasses fall down my nose.
“I’m an event supervisor at a hotel chain,”
I push my glasses up and look at her more. Pretty, smart, successful, and in charge. “Well done!”
“Thanks,” she is staring at me, well at my chest.
I look down to see that button undone. How long was it like this... I hurry to fix it and she is still smiling at me. “Are you single?”
I nod my head as I fumble with my shirt.
“FYI, our moms are trying to hook you up with Kyle,”
Who the fuck drops a bomb like that?! “Uh ...”
“Girl to girl, giving you a head up.”
Josh is walking by the door when she drops this bomb, and he backtracks to the open door. “Say what now?”
Mortified. I’m mortified.
“The Moms are trying to hook Cameron and Kyle up.”
I wish she’d stop talking.
Josh looks at me, and my fingers are on my button. I look down and drag my hands away.
“It could work.” He walks away.
I look back at her, “Stop talking!”
She laughs and her mom yells through the house that dinner is ready.
We walk together to the perfectly set dining room table. It’s beautifully decorated with red and gold everywhere. We are the last to arrive, and there are two open seats.
“Jackie! Come sit next to me, I want to hear about your wedding plans,” my mom pulls the chair out.
I look and see Kyle smiling, and he knocks the chair back. The lonely chair next to my crush.
Super. I take a seat and nod thanks to him. Everyone settles and Mr. Frank speaks over the chaos.
“Doug has offered to say grace. Let’s bow our heads.”
Who the fuck thought that was a good idea!
I bow my head, close my eyes, and pre-cringe at what he could spit out.
“Lord, we gather here to feast upon this sumptuous meal the Franks have created. Bless this food and these people,” he speaks and ok, that’s not so bad. “Please bring mounds of blessings to our families and special attention to Cameron. Maybe someone can date her.”
“Amen,” my mother finishes.
The room is quiet and they are looking back and forth between everyone.
“Well, let me grab the Ham,” Mr. Frank stands and heads to the kitchen. When he comes back, he lifts the platter of ham and sings its glory. “Bless this food ...”
He trips over the rug, causing the ham and juices to fall on my mom’s head. Everyone gasps and stares.
“Oh, my! I’m so sorry!” Mr. Frank is rushing to clean up.
Mrs. Frank reaches over to help and inadvertently knocks a glass of red wine onto my dad’s lap. He’s wearing khakis.
“Oh, my!” she squeals.
My dad grabs a napkin and dabs his crotch and looks up. “Looks like I started my period.” He tries to joke.
I slink down in my chair and cover my face. Ham juice and red wine period stains. I’m smiling and thanking God for taking the pressure off me.
“Hey, Ma!” Gary shouts. “Got backup food?”
“Oh! We could go to the Chinese buffet?!” Josh laughs.
Josh and Gary look at each other and yell at the top of their lungs, “FAR RAR RAR!”
Classic “Christmas Story” scene and I have no words.
“So this is a fun first date,” Kyle whispers to me as the chaos ensues all around us.
“I’m sorry?” I say, shocked as shit!
“Date, you know,” he subtlety gestures to the moms. “We’re almost married,”
“Counting the dates, are we?”
“Think of all this in a formal setting.” He waves.
I laugh out loud and my glasses fall down my nose. He pushes them back up, and it catches me off guard.
He coughs and turns back to the family chaos. “Save the neck for me, Clark!”
My mom is reaching over the table for another napkin and her sleeve catches on the candle flame and her sleeve puffs a tiny flame.
“Ahh!” she squeals and throws her arm, hitting the cranberry sauce bowl, which flings the entire bowl and contents in my direction.
The cranberry sauce splatters across my face and blouse. Well, any chance at love is now running down my face.
Mrs. Frank sits back in her chair, taking in the surrounding scene. Guests covered in food, and sons are recreating scenes from movies. What the hell, let’s join them.
I turn to Mr. Frank and throw my napkin, “You gonna shoot your eye out with this food.”
Silence fills the room, then erupts in laughter. I laugh a relief and am stunned when Kyle reaches over and takes my glasses off. He takes a clean napkin and dabs it in water, cleaning my glasses. He lifts the bottom of his shirt to dry them off and sweet baby Jesus, I can see the top of his boxers. Calvin Kline, I like it.
He hands them back with a spare napkin and I clean up.
“Is this all you imagined on a first date?” I let out a laugh.
“No one has died yet, so it’s still a success in my book.” He says.
Pride, my pride, has died. Does he not see this?
Food was a disaster, and they ordered pizzas. Mrs. Frank instructs us “kids” to clean up. I stand and start grabbing items to take to the kitchen. I head to the sink and clean different plates and utensils. Kyle takes a place next to me and helps dry while I wash. Gary and Josh are flicking food at each other and Jackie is fighting with them about who’s more immature.
I laugh as Kyle shakes his head. “Being an only child sounds good at this moment.”
“Are you kidding? This is the best,”
“Maybe,” he smiles at me.
He’s just being nice, right? This is all for the mom show.
I turn to see Gary and Josh kneeling at opposite ends of the table and they are flicking peas at each other. Horrible aim as they are splattering against the wall. I see Mrs. Frank walking up and I quickly run and stand in front of her, blocking her from entering the dining room. Kyle bolts behind me as I stutter.
“I... uh... I like your socks.”
She looks down at her bare feet, and I cringe. Socks?! That’s the best I could come up with.
“I mean, I like wool socks?”
“Cameron, is that a question or statement?” She asks.
“You are covering for those adult children, aren’t you?”
“Psh,” I wave my hand.
She turns around and walks away.
“Wool socks?” Kyle whispers behind me.
I turn to see the Frank four standing and trying to cover their giggles. “Excellent stocking stuffers.”
“I’d like to stuff someone’s stocking,” Gary mocks. “Betty White, can’t let her feet get cold.”
What is wrong with this family!
The pizza arrives, and we sit around the living room. The moms sit in the kitchen planning our lives and I’m enjoying this small freedom of fun. Jackie and I sit next to each other on the floor, and she smiles sweetly at me.
“I’m sorry we lost touch,” Jackie says to me.
“It’s ok, I mean college was a lot to deal with.”
“Yeah, but still. I miss you.”
“I definitely miss you. And all this,” I wave to the guys. “Hey, remember when Gary recoded the scans to get into school. It no longer had the ding sound, but did a whoop sound,”
“Or when we played hide and seek, and Kyle helped find us a hiding place on top of the shed,” Jackie laughs. “That monkey took the ladder away, he stuck us there for an hour!”
I laughed along with her and leaned into her shoulder. “That was good!”
We took a deep breath and wiped our tears away.
“Come on Brady! Like this, Gary, go long!” Josh yells, standing up.
Gary stands to move like he played any kind of sport and Josh throws a pretend ball toward him. Gary trips and falls right into my dad, whose “oofs” cause panic from Mr. Frank.
“Gary, you special kind of stupid!” Mr. Frank huffs. “You can’t be serious.”
My dad huffs and throws his hands up. “It’s good, I’m ok.”
Gary goes to back up and runs into Kyle, who falls on top of me. His hand hits my blouse and rips the buttons and my lacey bra is on display for everyone to see.
“Oh, my god!” Kyle screams as he is on top of me.
My mom looks over, mortified by what she sees. Well, she accused me of looking like a call girl. Kyle is trying to pull my shirt closed, and he ends up ripping the sleeve from the shoulder.
“Oh Fuck!” He continues.
I am so shocked by everything. It’s like I am watching it all in the third person.
“Cameron, cover yourself up!” My mom tries to sound concerned, but it’s the devil eyes that give it away.
Kyle stands and grabs my hands, pulling me up to him. I’m momentarily astonished by this before he drags me to his room.
“Door open!” Mrs. Frank teases as we walk by them.
“Stop!” Kyle yells back.
He pulls me into his room and shuts the door behind me. Grabbing a shirt from his drawer and looks everywhere but at me, trying to pass over his shirt. I grab it and turn around. Unbuttoning the rest of the maimed shirt and dropping it to the ground, I pull his shirt over my head and down my body. Tucking the side in so it’s not so long.
I look up and realized that I had faced a full-length mirror and Kyle watched everything I did. He saw everything.
“I ... uh ... you’re drooling.” I point to him.
A quick slurp and he turns and walks out the door. I quietly follow, wishing I could fade away in the background.
We walk back to the living room and everyone stares at my shirt... I look down and see it’s a Star Wars storm trooper sitting on a toilet and it says storm pooper.
Curse your holiday season!
Accepting that with no proper chance at a good night, I take a slice of pizza and sit next to Jackie. Kyle takes a seat next to me on the floor.
Gary smiles at me and lifts his foot onto the coffee table. Causing a loud bang, we all take in that he has wrapped mistletoe around his big toe ... “Look Ma! Mistle-Toe!” He laughs. “Get it?”
He doesn’t phase her. “That’s nice Gary, close the barn door.”
He looks down and we all realize his fly is down. His boxers are hanging out of his zipper.
Everyone is holding their stomachs from laughing, and he gives me a wink.
I realize he did that on purpose. “Thanks, Mistle-Toe.”
He gives a nod and we focus back on the tv. The moms are in the kitchen and Josh walks into the pantry to grab a snack. My mom stands to put her cup in the sink and on her way back, Josh swings the door open and it hits her in the face, or boobs ... arms? I don’t know where we just heard the smack.
“Josh!” Mrs. Frank says.
My mom covers her face, and I concede the door hit her in the face. I am suppressing any laugh. Wrath I am not willing to risk.
“I am so sorry!” Josh apologizes repeatedly.
“Well, it’s late, I think we should go.” My dad tried to hurry us out.
“Yeah, thank you for a lovely evening.” My mom says, running her face.
Her face took a hit tonight. She took it like a champ.
I get up as everyone starts for the door. Feeling someone take my hand and pull me back, I turn to see Kyle standing there looking awkward, holding my hand.
“Hey, “I start.
“I want to take you to breakfast,” he blurts out. I almost missed it.
I look behind me and all around.
“What are you looking for?” He asks, confused.
“Who the fuck you are talking to.” I push my glasses back on my face.
“You numb nuts!” He laughs.
“Oh ...” I really cannot believe what I heard.
“So... will you let me take you? Promise no family or whatever this was tonight.”
“Awh, I kinda liked the Mistle-Toe action,” I laugh.
He rolls his eyes and giggles along with me. He pauses as he’s looking above us. I match his eyesight and there is a small bunch of mistletoe above our heads.
You’ve got to be a monkey’s uncle.
He looks down at me, gauging my reaction. He leans in and I don’t stop him. Gently presses his lips to mine and I close my eyes.
His lips are soft.
When he pulls away, I give in. Figuring what the hell can’t be worse than what happened tonight. “Ok, you can take me to breakfast.”
He lowers his voice and whispers, “Your glasses fogged.”
I push his shoulder away and walk toward the door. “Bring the Mistle-Toe!” I say over my shoulder.
He laughs and nods.
Everyone is walking to the front door, and we stop at the sound of Mrs. Frank. “What the hell happened to my wall?! How old are you all?!”
I giggle, grabbing my coat, and hustle outside.
We say goodbye as Mr. and Mrs. Frank keep apologizing for everything.
My dad is waving and my mom just runs to the car. I climb in the back of the car and as soon as the door shuts, my mom finally releases her inner judgemental self.
“What the actual fuck is wrong with that family!” she groans.
“This won’t happen again!” My dad adds.
I giggle uncontrollably, reminding myself of ham juices and red wine period stains.
“You will not see that, Kyle Frank!” My mom folds her hands across her chest and huffs.
“Right.” respond sarcastically.
My phone dings from a text and it’s Jackie, “This is going to be so much fun.”
I text back, “Can’t keep me away.”
My face warms up, thinking of breakfast with my crush and the most perfect first kiss known to a nerd.
I turn and look out the back window. As the Franks stand on the porch waving goodbye, I catch sight of Kyle. He is smiling and Gary stands next to him talking. Gary’s boxers still falling out of his zipper and he still has mistletoe tied to his toe.
I shake my head, for fuck’s sake - the Frank four.