Christmas Town Cafe

or Marrying Merry

Prologue

Merritt Teasdale arrested! The headlines screamed. Merritt rolled her eyes. It wasn’t like that at all. At least, not the parts she could remember. She had been at another A-Lister party celebrating something, Merritt could not remember. Maybe a birthday. Anyway, she had gotten a little tipsy, again, and the bouncer tried to throw her out. Merritt not having her bodyguard with her panicked and hit the gorilla over the head with a bottle of Champagne, or was it Tequila? They threw her out and then a cop, for no reason, tried to drag her out of the back of her limo. The Officer said she threatened to kill him and Merritt guessed there was video, but you know how those things can be edited. Drunk in Public, Assault, and Assaulting an Officer were her charges. There were drugs, illegal drugs, at the party, but nope they had to pick on the most famous person there. Her. Merritt Teasdale. She was to be a made an example of and the judge sentenced her to 30 excruciating days in jail, self-help meetings and a large chunk of money.

Christmas Town Cafe

Merritt was bored. So bored. She couldn’t remember ever being this bored. She went to bed bored and woke up bored. Her hometown, Christmas Town, was too small and there was nothing going on. Come on, when she got into town last month, the big deal was the wedding of the most eligible bachelor fireman and some baker lady. That had happened in June and here it was December. To be fair, the town had grown a little bit. There was the new Flower Shop and Toy Store.

She rolled over and looked at the clock. She was supposed to go to the meeting at noon. What a stupid time to have a meeting, Merritt thought. Up until Jail Time, she couldn’t ever remember getting up before 12, now she had to get ready and be there. Merritt got out of the bed and went to find something to wear. Most of her clothes were at home in her penthouse. She found some jeans and a t-shirt that proclaimed she was a Babe and pulled them on. She dragged a comb through her pink and blue hair and went downstairs to the Cafe’s kitchen.

“Hi Merry” her dad greeted her with her childhood nickname, “have some coffee.”

Her dad owned the cafe and she had grown up living on top of the restaurant. When she inherited her money from her Mom, Merritt had tried to get her Father to give it up and come to the city with her. She had plenty of money and with her budding film career would always have money. He could live in luxury, go to every baseball game, travel the world even. He hated the idea and he said he would rather die in his kitchen than live in the City. So he stayed.

She sat at the same little table in the corner she had sat all of her growing years. It was where she ate, played with toys did her homework, or just sat and talked with Dad. He was her only parent. Her mother had left them when Merritt was just a baby. No one knew where she had gone until she died. She had gone to England, had become some Royals lover and insanely rich. She left all of her money to her only child, Merritt, who, when turning eighteen took off to the City for the glamorous life and the stardom she had craved all her life.

“What are you doing today,” her father asked as he sat down opposite her.

“Have to go to the meeting at noon. Judges orders. Self-help at its finest.”

Her father nodded. “Do you think it helps?”

“Helps what?” Merritt demanded, “It’s not like I am a drunk or anything. It was just a party. Too much tequila should have stuck with champagne. Besides, I’m famous, everyone is after me, makes headlines you know.”

Nodding again, her father got up from the table. “Hey, later on maybe you can come by city hall and help us decorate for the Christmas Dance. You never know who you might see there!”

Just what she wanted to do, be in the public, signing autographs, being hounded for pictures. She finished her coffee and went back up to her apartment to grab her bag before heading out to the meeting.

The meeting had run a little longer than usual. It was supposed to be an hour but there was always some pitiful soul who couldn’t stay sober and had to spill their guts every time they got drunk again. It was very tedious to Merritt, but she knew some people’s lives were messed up by alcohol. Thankfully she wasn’t one of them. It was also really weird to Merritt that in this small of a town she didn’t recognize anyone in the meetings, nor had anyone recognize her.

——————————-

“Hey Merry”

She turned and looked straight into a muscled chest. She looked up into a set of green eyes topped with red hair. The only person she ever knew with green eyes and red hair was Craig Maloney.

“Craig? Craig Maloney?”

“That’s me!” His voice was deep, rich and unexpected “How the hell are you doing Merry? Well, I guess not so good according to the National Rumor! Want to go get some dinner? Down at the Cafe? Your father is serving his famous meatloaf tonight!”

“Why” Merry blurted out. He was much handsomer than she remembered.

“Because even movie stars and socialites have to eat?”

Merritt knew it. He wasn’t interested in food, he just wanted to hang out with her celebrity. It was what she had dreamed of and wanted since she was little, but, honestly, it would be nice to have someone want to hang with her and not her image.

“Yea no. If you want to be seen with Merritt Teasdale you will have to call my agent for a date. She can go over the price and contract with you.”

The handsome redhead laughed. “Is that what you think? I want to be seen with the great Merritt Teasdale?” he laughed again. “No, Honey, I wanted to have dinner with Merry Teasdale, Christmas Towns most beautiful girl.”

Merritt stared at him. He didn’t want to been seen with a celebrity but a hometown girl. Finally, she stammered out an apology.

“It’s just everyone wants to be seen with me and I want to lay low. Sorry.”

Craig Maloney laughed again. “You might want to change your hair color then.”

Merritt put a hand to her hair. She had forgotten about her hair. Looking at him, she nodded. She hadn’t had anyone make her feel so much like a school girl again. She remembered Craig as a tall skinny pimply-faced kid who had asked her to Prom. She was holding out for Mark to ask her though and had cruelly told him no. Well actually she said, “never in this lifetime creep” or “nerd” or something equally rude.

“Well?” he interrupted her thoughts.

“Um,” Merritt didn’t quite know how to answer. Would it be weird to eat at her fathers diner with him, in the public, out in the open? Merritt could not remember the last time she actually ate in public. Lots of dinners, but little actual eating. She did that behind closed doors, alone. She never wanted a picture of her taking a bite and you never knew who was taking pictures these days.

“I don’t know” she finally replied.

“You don’t know. You don’t know what? If you eat or if you want to eat with me?” He asked

Merritt remembered the Christmas Dance her dad had mentioned. That was her out. This guy was making her feel very unsure and she didn’t like that.

“I told my dad I would help with the Christmas dance decorations, so….”

“So what? I’ll be there too! We can eat afterward.”

She sighed. “OK then”. She would just duck out early and hide in her apartment claiming fatigue if asked. She would not be going to dinner with Craig or any other person while she was stuck in the this town.

—————————————————————-

Merritt couldn’t remember the last time she had so laughed so much. Craig was a funny guy and her Dad was the perfect straight man. After her Father left to attend to the Diner, Craig continued to regale Merritt with jokes and stories. She wasn’t sure how much help she had actually been, the others there in the Christmas Town Christmas Dance Booster Club and Decorating Committee, probably did most of the work. Merritt had had fun. So much, that before she could put her plan into motion and hide, it was time for dinner and Merritt was actually hungry. It seemed natural to go to the diner and sit down in a booth with Craig. It was so easy to be with him that she even forgot to look around to see if anyone had their phones out or maybe someone in the parking lot taking pictures. Craig was right, her Father’s meatloaf was world famous and Merritt shoved into her mouth like a starving person. Just as she was about to take another bite she heard the dreaded sound of a camera taking multiple pictures.

“Merritt Teasdale! How good is that food? Can you look at the camera just once? When is your next court date?”

She turned her head and there, in her fathers diner was the most hated man in her existence, Gus Simon, photographer extraordinaire for the National Rumor. She loathed the guy, he had never taken a flattering picture of her yet and she was extremely photogenic!. Now he got her eating! she knew she should have said no. She put her napkin up to her face and just as her father came running from the kitchen and Craig got up to stand in front of the photographer, Merritt ran into the kitchen, up the back stairs not stopping until she locked her bedroom door behind her behind her. She fell into a pile of tears on the floor.

“How could she have been so stupid as to think she could hide out anywhere?” Merritt scolded herself.

She was just starting to feel like maybe she was getting better and, well, normal again. Not city normal, small town normal. Christmas Town normal. She was tired of always being followed, having to watch her every move. Maybe she did drink too much, but she had not had a drop of alcohol or drugs, not even her sleeping pills since she went to jail. Some would say she got off easy, but Merritt didn’t think so. Jail was a scary place and she didn’t think a $50,000 fine was chump change either. What was it she heard in the Meeting today, something about letting stuff go and giving it to God. Merritt sighed.

“Fine. I will try it.” She declared. “OK God if you even exist, help me out of this one. Help me to just have a normal time here. Make the stupid photographers not find me. Please.”

Merritt wiped the tears from her eyes and got up. She walked over to the makeup desk that she had gotten for Christmas when she was ten. Merritt smiled as she sat down. It was the best gift ever even she had no clue how to put makeup on. Ten-year-old Merry had dreamed of being famous and having a whole crew of people to do her hair and her makeup. That dream came true. She was famous or infamous. Merritt looked at herself in the mirror.

“Or maybe I am just rich enough I can buy my fame” She told her image. “Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I just need to be Merry again and not Merritt Teasdale.”

——-

Everything seemed to be brighter when Merritt woke up. It had snowed during the night and the sun shined diamonds in the fresh snow. Merritt looked at her phone, it was already 9 o’clock and Merritt had a lot to do today. She ignored the notifications of missed calls messages and social media alerts and dialed the number of an old friend.

“Marjorie. It’s Merry. Yep its really me. Look I need some help” Merry went on to explain and hung up the phone.

She ran downstairs and gave her dad a quick kiss on the cheek.

“I’m going to need coffee.” She declared.

As her dad grabbed a mug to pour her a cup she said “No ‘I’m going to need a lot of coffee”

She grabbed mugs, a carafe of coffee, gave her dad another kiss on his cheek and ran back upstairs., leaving him smiling at her back.

Merritt missed her meeting. Marjorie had told her there were actually other meetings including one tonight, so she was okay. What she was doing was important too. It took quite a while, Merritt had no idea that it was such a process. She was usually drinking wine or champagne during these things. It was talking with Marjorie that Merritt realized that she did drink a lot. Like a lot. Almost everything Merritt did she had alcohol in her hand. Happy, sad, working relaxing, yep alcohol. It was a revelation for Merritt. She also realized that she had not had anything for almost four months now and she didn’t really miss it much. Even when that idiot Gus Simon ruined her dinner last night, she was upset but never thought of getting a drink. By the time Merritt and Marjorie were done She had missed another meeting. Merritt was OK with it though.

“YOU ready?” Marjorie asked?

“So ready!” Merritt exclaimed

‘OK then turn around!’

Merritt turned slowly. When she saw her self in the mirror, she gasped. Merritt had not seen that girl in a long time. Gone was the pink and blue spiked hair, fake tattoos, purple-tinted contacts, and fake nails. Staring back at her was just Merry, the small town, the blond-haired, blue-eyed girl who had lost her way.

“Merritt Teasdale meet Merry Teasdale.” turning back to Marjorie she said “how much do I owe you?

“Oh honey not a thing. It is good to see my friend, I am glad you finally made it back to town Merry.”

They hugged and Marjorie gathered her things and left. Merry looked around her room. There were bowls and plates of half-eaten food her dad had brought up. Her dad! He had not been allowed into her room. He had not yet seen her. Excited to show off the new look, she grabbed her phone and ran downstairs.

All the lights were out in the cafe. Merry looked down at her phone. It was already 9pm. The cafe had closed over on hour ago. Merry sighed. She was restless. She was feeling new and had so much energy. She wanted to tell the whole world that Merry was back. It WAS Christmas town though. About the only thing opened would be the Railroad depot where the trains ran all night or Crowns Crossing. She went out the back of the cafe. Might as well go to the Crossing. Listen to some music for a while.

Merry sat at the bar. John, the bartender, was nowhere to be seen. Some guy who had had too much Christmas cheer slurred something about him changing the keg. Merry decided to go ahead and finally check her phone. She had ignored it all day and now she had a million notifications. Most of them were from her social media accounts, likes, inane comments and such. There were texts from her agent about possible movie deals and public appearances. Text from people Merry thought were friends, but now not so sure. Some wanting to know where she was and if she she had seen the new articles or gossip about other people. Her missed calls were off the hook. About 30 from her agent which she ignored. She listened to one from her lawyer. Good news. She had one more court date and then she would be officially a free woman IF she had attended meetings and followed judge’s orders. She would call the lawyer tomorrow. The message she was not sure if she wanted to listen to was from Craig. She had messed up their date, with the photographer and her running away. She was sure the message would say that he had made a mistake and make polite noises about how it won’t work.

John interrupted her thoughts with a request for an order. Merry asked for her drink then went to sit in a corner booth where she could see the door. Just in case a, THE photographer came in. It wasn’t the camera leech that came in but Craig. He spotted her right away and came over to her booth.

“May I sit?”

Merry nodded, “How did you recognize me”

“Please, Merry you look like the girl who left. I actually prefer you this way.” His eyes narrowed as he looked at Merry glass. “What ya drinking?”

Merry laughed, “It’s just a coke.” A fleeting look of relief flew over Craig’s face. “Oh, you thought I was drinking, drinking! Nah. I have a few more weeks on the court order and you know maybe it wouldn’t hurt to not drink. Maybe I won’t get into trouble anymore.”

Craig nodded and ordered two cokes. The two of them sat in easy conversation for another hour before Craig asked Merry to go to the Christmas Dance with him

“Are you sure? You saw what happened when I go in public and now that they know I am here it will be ten times worse. I can promise you that.”

When he mentioned her transformation, she laughed. “No this was for me, it won’t fool any of those vultures. It is strange though, She continued, that for the first time since I was eighteen I am trying not to be seen. It is different. “

Craig winked at her, “You will always be noticed, Merry. So that is a yes, you will go with me?”

Without giving her time to respond, Craig stood up, “That’s great! I will pick you up at 6 then! I’ll have John call you a cab. And I love the way you look Merry.”

——–

Merry wasn’t quite sure why she was going to this dance. She had had her sectary next day her a dress and had thought about having her makeup and hair people come, but decided against it. She was trying to keep a low profile and that group was not anywhere close to low profile. Merry was already nervous about the paparazzi sowing up and ruining this dance. She had decided in the cab ride the other day that he knew the risks she might as well go, besides he was really cute and it was easy to be with him.

“You are falling in love, Miss Merry, Merritt Teasdale” She told her reflection.

The red dress was quite demure for her, but it was silky soft and made her feel like a Christmas princess. A silver and diamond pin held her hair back and matched her silver and rhinestone heels. Little diamond drops earrings hung like icicles from her ears. When her dad yelled for her she gave her self one final looked and went downstairs. There was Craig looking quite handsome in his black suit and green Christmas tie. He looked really good, actually he was quite muscular. She wondered why no one had snatched him up and why she was so mean to him in high school.

A low wolf whistle brought her back.

“You look amazing!” Craig’s eyes devoured her.

“You too. You sure you want to go with me. Paparazzi will show up if I am there.”

“Craig grinned “Don’t you worry. I have taken care of it.

Before she could ask her whisked her outside where a Horse drawn carriage was waiting. She smiled at him as he helped her up. Now she really felt like a princess going to the ball with her handsome prince.

“Take that Cinderella,” she thought.

The carriage was enclosed and the windows had little curtains that were closed making it impossible to see in or out. Merry thought it was cute, he was trying to keep her from being seen. He really didn’t understand these people, they would do anything for a story and her story was always front page. The carriage came to a stop. Craig was still grinning at her when the door opened. A gloved hand helped Merry out and she found herself on a red carpet lined with men dressed as toy soldiers. They were shoulder to shoulder, forming a barrier so tight that Merry couldn’t see past them. She looked at Craig who was still grinning.

The pair made their way through down the red carpet. At the end was the town center which had been completely enclosed by another ring of toy soldiers and large tents were set up in front of the town hall where the dance was connected by enclosed paths. There was no way unless they had a ticket that any photographer or reporter could see inside.

“See told you I would take care of it.

Merry smile, but you dint have to all this. It must have cost a fortune. I usually just put a coat over my head or put my head down. I will pay you back”

“Merry Teasdale Don’t you even think of it. I told you I would take care of it and I did. Now let’s go dance!”

They danced until Craig declared he was hungry and they went into Christmas Town City Hall where a large potluck buffet had been set up.

“Why Mr. Malone how good to see you here in town!”

The ladies of the Christmas town booster club potluck committee fawned over Craig the moment he stepped to the food-laden tables.

“How’s that ranch doing? I hear you won another award for your beef. When you going to settle down and marry, maybe Merry?” Mrs. Lange, who Merry recognized as her old lunchroom lady, cackled setting all the other ladies to laughing.

“You know that is a good idea”, Craig said as he polished off a piece of pie, “Marrying Merry that is.”

Merry stared at him. She had found out earlier in the ladies’ room that Craig Maloney was the owner of the Rocking C Ranch where he was raising world-renowned premiere Beef cattle. She had also found out that he was a confirmed bachelor and that all of the single ladies had tried their hand at tying him down.

“Um well.” Merry wasn’t sure what to say. She should say yes, she thought, but there were so many things to work out and her agent had told her there was a new movie for her. She would have to leave and, heck, she wanted to. Marry Craig.

“Um well, I can afford you you know” Craig stated. “Besides, I love you. Always have.”

“You love me? But I am just a broken drunk movie star socialite. And I have to make another movie and…”

Craig leaned over and kissed her. Then he kissed her again.

“OK,” Merry breathed, “Yes I will Marry you.”

Craig let out a whoop and yelled across the room. “Hey Mrs. Lange! I AM going to marry Merry!”

Christmas town Cafe

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