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Wrapped Up In You
Lucy Whedon
Wrapped Up in You
on the door, juggling a couple of bags and
boxes. He could hear voices inside, but no one came to the
door. “Hey,” he called out, jabbing the doorbell, which was
almost invisible under an exuberant swath of ivy and red
satin bows. Michelle was out of control as usual.
The door swung open, revealing a slender redhead in a
green dress, with an antler headband. “Did you bring the
“Would you even invite me, Michelle, if I wasn’t bringing
my mother’s Christmas cookies?” Norris pushed the biggest
box at her. “Here, greedy.”
“Eric,” she yelled. “Norris finally made it.”
“Norris and his cookies.” Norris shook snow out of his
brown hair.
Another Christmas,
he thought.
Big whoop.
“Everyone else is here already.” Michelle took his hand
and pulled him toward the living room, which was ablaze
with hundreds of Christmas lights, their strings festooned
not only on the big tree that stood by the front windows, but
from every piece of furniture, as well as high on the walls
and around the doorways. The room seemed crowded, full of
people dancing to Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper,” while two
dogs barked and dashed around. Another redhead pulled out
of the dance and came up to hug Norris. “You’re here,” he
said, and then turned to the room. “Norris is here. The Not-
Your-Family Christmas Party can officially begin.”
Wrapped Up In You
Lucy Whedon
An answering shout went up, but no one stopped
dancing. “You people are ridiculous,” Norris said. “Now,
where can I put all this stuff?”
“Come on,” Eric said. “I’ll help you with that. Michelle is
bartender, and I’m on kitchen duty.” Eric and Michelle were
married, the first ones of their group who had taken the
plunge. Norris loved both of them, and had ever since they’d
met at graduate student orientation nine years ago. That was
how they’d all met—they’d been fellow grad students in
English, bonding hard over hundred-book reading lists and
the long slog of their dissertations.
In the kitchen, Norris put what he’d been carrying on
the table with relief. “Mm, cookies,” Eric said, grabbing for a
gingerbread man.
“Wait until they’re on a platter, barbarian.”
“Fine,” Eric said. “It’s good to see you. You’ve been busy
lately. How’s the job, Herr Professor?” He opened the
refrigerator and got out a tray of stuffed mushrooms. “It’s
really good to have everyone here for a change.” He stuck the
tray in the oven and checked the temperature. “Hey, Danny
is here. Did you know he was in town?”
Norris felt the platter of cookies sliding out of his
suddenly numb fingers. “What?” He caught the platter before
it went on the floor. “What did you say?”
“Danny Falk. He’s here.” Eric was stacking plates, and
sound of them seemed to be hitting some
tender spot in Norris’s head.
“Danny. Here.” Norris sat down suddenly. “Right.” He
put his hands to his face, which he was sure was pale. “Why
didn’t you warn me?”
Wrapped Up In You
Lucy Whedon
Eric turned to look at him. “Warn you?”
“Yes. Warning. What a friend would do when a friend
invited someone’s ex to a party where someone was going to
show up all unsuspecting and—” Norris waved his hands
around a little, unable to express the wrongness.
Eric sat down across from him. “Norris, I didn’t think it
was a big deal. It was two years ago.”
Norris felt as if his head was expanding and getting
ready to combust. “Right. No big deal. It’s fine really. But it
would have been nice to know ahead, to have just a little”—
he exhaled—“warning.” Eric was looking at him, and Norris
didn’t want to know what his face looked like. “Danny’s here.
That’s”—he exhaled sharply—“good. It’s good.”
“Norris.” Eric had his fix-it look on his face. He was their
camp counselor, father confessor, the group mom. He
couldn’t stand it if anyone was mad at anyone else.
Norris steeled himself to resist whatever mad plan Eric
had for fixing this, but luckily, Michelle came into the
kitchen just then, her arm around a round-faced woman
wearing Christmas ornament earrings and a sparkly reindeer
pin on her red sweater. “Hey, Judy,” Norris said.
“Judy and Vic want hot buttered rum,” Michelle
Eric groaned. “But it’s so disgusting. Can’t you just have
eggnog if you want to Christmas yourself out?” The idea of
the party was to go to some kind of Christmas extreme,
taking it so far that it became the anti-Christmas. Or that
was the idea it had started with, in the second year of their
PhDs, when some of them couldn’t afford to go home for the
holidays, and some of them weren’t sure where home was
anymore. The Not-Your-Family Christmas Party involved
Wrapped Up In You
Lucy Whedon
more of everything—more lights, a ton of tinsel, the most
sentimental or campy music. And poker. No one knew why
there had to be poker, except that they had played five-card
stud at the first party, and it became an unbreakable
Judy shook her head. “Nope. Butter me up some rum,
baby.” She came around the table and hugged Norris.
“Danny’s here,” she whispered in his ear.
At least someone had a modicum of empathy, Norris
thought. He nodded to let her know he knew and squeezed
her hips.
“Did you bring your antipresents?” Judy asked.
The antipresents were a tradition as well. Instead of
having a regular gift exchange, they stole or borrowed things
from each other during the year and then wrapped them up
extravagantly and gave them back at the party. “I’ve got
them,” Norris said.
“Come on, Norris,” Michelle said. “Get a drink and join
the party. No hiding in the kitchen with Eric, otherwise
known as the Christmas Kitchen Slave.”
Eric pretended to bow and scrape, Uriah Heep–like, and
Norris found himself being chivvied out of the kitchen
between Michelle and Judy. Nervously, he looked around the
living room, thinking he might have missed Danny when he
came in. But he wasn’t one of the dancers energetically
bobbing to “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”
Norris waved to Scott and Colleen. Judy had gone to
pull Vic off the couch, and they did a three-way with
Michelle, swaying and hopping to the music. Norris sat down
by the tree, trying to calm down. Where was Danny? Norris
looked through the arch that led to the dining room, but no
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