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Her Naughty Holiday

By:Tiffany Reisz

1

IT WAS THE best of emails. It was the worst of emails. And Clover received them both within two minutes of each other.

Clover’s emotional pendulum swung from left to right so fast upon checking her computer she had to put her head down onto her desk and breathe through the light-headedness. It was in this unusually undignified position—arms on desk, head between arms, hoodie over her head—that Clover’s assistant found her.

“Um, Clo? You okay down there?”

“Oh, I’m fine. Thanks for asking.”

“Are you sure you’re fine?”

“Sure I’m sure.”

“Are you sure you’re sure you’re sure?”

“Nope.”

“I didn’t think so.”

Clover sat up and looked across her desk where her seventeen-year-old assistant, Ruthie, stood looking at her, waiting for an explanation.

“Is your hair more purple than usual today?” Clover asked. “Or is it the light?”

“More purple. I recolored it last night.”

“Looks good.”

“Thanks.”

Clover put her head back down on her desk.

“Clover?”

“What?”

“Clove?”

“What?”

“Clo?”

“What is it, Ruthie?” Clover sat up again.

“You were moaning. Did you know that?”

“I was?”

“You were. And not the good kind of moaning.”

Clover narrowed her eyes at Ruthie.

“What would you know about the good kind of moaning?” Clover asked.

“Nothing. I know nothing about good moaning. That’s what we tell Pops, anyway. Right?”

“Right. Pops. Your father. Oh, God. My father...”

Once more her head hit her desk and this time it wasn’t coming back up until the world had ended, thus solving all of Clover’s problems.

“Clo, what’s wrong? Tell me or I’m not leaving.”

“You have to leave. You have a plane to catch.”

“The plane is taking me to LA. Trust me, I’m in no hurry to get there.”

Clover slowly rolled up and sat back in her office chair. The place was a mess, but a comfortable mess. She had ferns overflowing onto her worktable, orchids on her desk, potting soil in the wheelbarrow by the storm door and her lemon tree was getting so big it hung over her desk, making the whole office look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. She liked it here. She loved it here. Maybe she’d stay here. Forever.

“My parents’ house finally sold and my sister’s house has ants and has to be fumigated. And my brother’s house is still undergoing renovations that they were undergoing last Thanksgiving.”

“Good for your parents. Bad for your brother and sister.”

“Also, PNW Garden Supply upped their offer to five million.”

Ruthie’s blue eyes went as big as the lemons hanging off Clover’s tree.

“Five million dollars? For this place?”

“And the Portland location.”

“This is all... Wow. But I don’t get the connection between a house selling, ants, a buyout offer and...this.” Ruthie flopped over onto Clover’s desk before standing up again.

“The buyout offer is great, fantastic, fabulous,” Clover said. “And I have until Monday to decide to take it or not.”

“Tomorrow is Monday.”

“Next Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving. And with Mom and Dad out of their house and Kelly’s house being fumigated, and Hunter’s house being renovated... We know what that means.”

“We do?”

“It means lucky me gets to host Thanksgiving. By the way, they didn’t ask me if I would host Thanksgiving. No, they told me to expect them on Thanksgiving. So the week I should be deciding if I’m going to sell the company I’ve spent the last five years of my life building is the week I’ll be hosting my family, and...oh, my God, kill me, Ruthie. Please.”

Head met desk once more and they decided to spend the rest of their lives together.

“Do you need a lavender-infused wipe?” Ruthie asked.

“Yes, please.”

Ruthie put the lavender-scented moist towelette into her hand, and Clover pressed it against her face and inhaled deeply and repeatedly.

“Is it working? Calmer yet?” Ruthie asked.

“Do you have anything stronger? Like chloroform?”

“I could light some incense, maybe?” Ruthie suggested. “Or we can go out and find a yew tree.”

“Yew trees are not native to this continent. Also, they’re highly toxic, so exactly what are we supposed to do with a yew tree?” Clover asked, narrowing her eyes behind the lavender towel. “You aren’t poisoning anyone, are you?”

“Trees are ancient sacred beings, and yew trees are symbols of renewal. We should stand in front of one and ask Mother Nature for Her wisdom.”

“I have this lemon tree right here.” Clover pointed at the tree hanging over her head. “Is that not good enough for the Mother?”

“Fruit trees are fertility symbols. If we pray under that one you might get pregnant. Or worse, I might get pregnant.”

“Okay, we’ll skip the lemon tree, then. Although if I got pregnant that would shut my family up.”

“Your family wants you to get pregnant?”

“They want me to be happy. It’s awful.”

“Yeah, sounds absolutely horrible,” Ruthie said in her glorious teenage deadpan. “Screw them.”

“No, it’s not that. Well, it is. My brother will come to Thanksgiving and he will bring his wife, Lisa, and their three kids. My sister will bring her handsome husband and their four kids. Mom and Dad will come to Thanksgiving and cry with joy because all their children and grandchildren are under the same roof. And I will be there. Alone. In the house. Thirty years old. No husband. No boyfriend. No kids. I haven’t even been on a date in years. And they will let me know over and over again, and in no uncertain terms, that I’m not getting any younger, and if I’m ever going to be happy that magical way they are happy with their beautiful spouses and their perfect children, I have to get a move on it. And I will sit there and I will listen to all of this. And...”

“And?”

“And I will smile and nod while I mentally stab them all with the carving knife.”

“Why only mentally?”

Clover looked up from the nest she’d made with her hoodie on the desk.

“You’re a creepy kid, Ruthie. Just a little creepy.” She held up her fingers an inch apart.

“Thank you.” Ruthie curtsied.

“I knew you’d like that. So...that’s what’s wrong. Nothing and everything.”

“Can’t you just tell your family to shut up and mind their own business? It’s your body, your womb.”

“Why don’t you just tell your dad to shut up and mind his own business when he asks you about your homework or your grades or your boyfriend?”

“I do.”

“Does it work?”

“All right, you got me there. Maybe next time your mom tells you to have kids you can say you’ve dedicated your womb to Mother Earth.”

“What does that entail exactly?”

“I don’t know, but I said it at school once and it got me out of PE that day so you should try it.”

“That would not go over very well with my Presbyterian mother.”

“You need a new family,” Ruthie said. “You can join my coven.”

Clover sat up for the last time, abandoning her desk nest for good. She was a grown-up, after all. She needed to be setting a better example for Ruthie. Adults face their problems. They do not hide from them inside hooded sweatshirts.

“I love my family. I just also, sort of, hate them. Listen to this email from my sister.”

Clover pulled it up and read in her best fake sweet voice.

Clo! OMG, thank you for letting us do Thanksgiving at your place. It must be so great not having kids so you have all that free time. It’s a good thing I love these kids because, I swear, they are the biggest handful on earth. It must be nice only having to deal with plants. If they die nobody cares, right? I have to keep these critters alive and that is a full-time job. Speaking of the kids, I posted about fifty new pics in the family photo album. Can’t wait to hear what you think of Gus’s class picture. He’s really the cutest kid in the class but I’m probably biased. Love you! See you Thursday!

Ruthie stared at her, wide-eyed with horror.

“I hate your family. Even Gus,” Ruthie said. “Goddess forgive me.”

“Fifty new pictures of the kids? She just put in two dozen last weekend! And I have to comment on every last one of them or she’ll bug me until I do.”

“Children are parasites,” Ruthie said.

“So I’m guessing you’re not planning on having kids when you’re older?”

“What do you have against parasites?” Ruthie rolled her eyes.

Clover wisely chose to ask no follow-up questions.

“Nobody cares if my plants die?” Clover said with a sigh. “Does she not understand that I sell plants and I can’t sell dead plants?”

“Has she met any of your customers? She should come answer the phone for a week here, and then she can say nobody cares if your plants die,” Ruthie said. “Does she not know if the plants die, your business dies?”

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