A Very Merry Murphy Christmas
“Emma.” Brody sighed. “For the fifty-seventh time, leave the tree alone.”
I peeked over the kitchen counter just in time to see Emma sit back on her knees and grin widely at Brody as he walked over and gently took an ornament out of her hand. He kissed the top of her curly-haired head and hung the ornament back toward the top of the tree. “Actually…” he said under his breath, tilting his head to the side as he stared at the tree.
“What are you doing?” I smiled to myself as I watched him take all the ornaments, one by one, from the bottom half of the tree and squeeze them into the top half.
“There.” He stepped back after putting the last ornament up and admired his work. Turning to face me, he proudly gave me the same big grin that our daughter had been blessed with. “Now she can’t take them off and eat them.” He scooped her up in his arms and walked into the kitchen.
I leaned to my right and looked at our sad-looking tree. The bottom part was bare except for the few rows of lights he hadn’t been able to move up, and the branches at the top were all weighed down by too many ornaments.
“Wow. Eat your heart out, Charlie Brown,” I teased playfully.
“Hey, it might not look like much, but at least now she’ll quit pulling ornaments off and eating them. I’m so worried she’s gonna choke.”
Emma laid her head down on Brody’s chest and smiled at me as if she knew what he’d just said.
I reached out and tucked a rebellious curl behind her ear. “You have your daddy wrapped around your little finger, don’t you?” She sat up quickly and shot her arms out, innocently leaping into my arms.
Pulling her in close, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath of her hair. She still had that baby smell that I loved so much. “Can you believe she’s already nine months old? Where did the time go?”
“I know.” Brody sounded a little sad. He planted another kiss on her chubby cheek and walked over, opening the fridge. “This baby thing takes a little getting used to. She moves faster than some of the guys on the ice.”
“She is a little stinker sometimes, huh?” I agreed.
He grabbed two bottles of water and sat down at the island, pushing one toward me. “Sometimes? Man, I used to judge those parents at the mall that had those weird backpack leashes on their kids, but now I get it!”
“You’re not putting a leash on our daughter.” I raised one eyebrow in warning.
He took a swig of his water and shook his head at me. “I don’t want to put a leash on her. It’s just as easy to carry her everywhere.”
“Oh, right…” I laughed skeptically. “That’s why you never put her down when you’re home. It has nothing to do with the fact that she completely owns you.”
Trying to hide his grin behind the water bottle, he took another drink to buy himself a few extra seconds. He knew I was right. “Maybe.” He shrugged when he moved the bottle. “I can’t help it. She smells good, and she loves to cuddle.”
“She does love to cuddle.” Like she planned it, Emma squished her little face to my chest and nuzzled in. “Ow!” I yelled.
“Ugh.” I winced, rubbing the sore spot on my chest. “She bit my boob. That’s her new thing this week.”
“Can’t say I blame her.” Brody raised an eyebrow, smirking at me before letting his eyes trail down to my breasts. “They are fantastic”
Wondering what the heck he saw in me at that exact moment, I looked down at my gray T-shirt, which was decorated with a glob of carrots by my left boob, what appeared to be a tiny pile of baby snot next to that, and an unknown stain down by my belly. “Not exactly what I would call fantastic” I sighed.
“You couldn’t be more wrong, Kacie.” He stood up and walked across the kitchen, wrapping his big arms around both me and Emma. “I’ve thought you were beautiful since I first knocked on your door and you couldn’t remember your name. Remember that?”
I rolled my eyes. “How could I forget?
“Stop it. You were adorable.” He kissed my cheek and then Emma’s head. She looked up at him and swatted at his face with her chubby little hand. “Emma,”—he turned his attention toward her—“your mommy was so hot when she answered the door. She was making chili and while she was trying to remember her name, I noticed a little spot of sauce right above her lip. It took all my self-control not to lick it off.”
“You never told me all that!”
“Oh yeah.” Reaching out, he pulled Emma into his arms and walked to the counter where the box of Cheerios was. “You were wearing jeans and had chili splatter all down the front of your T-shirt, but all I could focus on was that little spot. It taunted me.” He took a Cheerio from the box and held it up to Emma, who opened her mouth like a little bird.
“I thought you said I was beautiful?”
“You were beautiful, eventually. But right then, you were hot.” He turned to face me and shrugged. “I’m a guy, Kacie. The first thing I noticed was your pretty smile, followed by your nice ass. But I’ll never forget that chili on your lip.” A mischievous grin spread across his lips and I knew he was thinking back to our first meeting.
“And here I thought you were a perfect gentleman.” I chuckled, shaking my head.
“I was. I am. I waited almost three years to tell you, right?” He fed Emma another Cheerio.
“That’s okay, you’re not the only one who remembers that first moment we met.”
“Oh yeah, what was the first thing you noticed about me?”
“Dimples,” I answered without hesitation. “Those damn dimples. One smile and I was hooked.”
“You were?” He sounded surprised.
“Yeah. You couldn’t tell?”
“You mean from any of the twenty times you turned me down? No, I couldn’t tell.”
I crossed my arms over my chest. “Twenty times? That’s a little dramatic, don’t you think?”
“Hell no,” he shot back playfully. “I practically had to pick you up and throw you over my shoulder to get you to go on that Ferris wheel with me, but I knew if I got you up there, you’d reward me with a kiss.”
“Oh, you did, did you?”
“Yep. I turned the Murphy charm on full force. I worked my ass off for that kiss.”
“The Murphy charm, huh?” I pursed my lips. “We’ll have to remember how good that Murphy charm works when we have a son.”
Brody winked at me. “I’ll teach him everything I know.”
The phone rang, interrupting us before I had a chance to respond.
“Hi!” Lauren squealed excitedly into my ear. “I’m so excited about tonight!”
“Hey, Lauren!” I said cheerfully. “I’ve had the table set for a week now. Brody thinks I’m nuts.”
He raised his eyebrows in curiosity and I stuck my tongue out at him.
Excited was an understatement. That evening was our third annual Christmas dinner with our friends, but this one was even more special for several reasons. Not only were we hosting it in our new house, but it was Emma’s first Christmas and it was also the first time Brody was home and not on the road.
“So.” She sighed. “What can I bring? I’m in the mood to cook. Gimmie something.”
“Um… How about your famous homemade guacamole? I know it’s not really Christmas-y but it’s so good.”
“I was hoping you’d say that! I haven’t made it in forever. Consider it done.”
“Have you talked to Alexa?” I asked.
“You mean Scrooge?” Lauren laughed. “Yeah, she said she’s coming, but only for the alcohol and dessert.”
“Figures.” I chuckled. “We’ll just have to get her drunk on martinis and sugar and force her to have a good time.”
Lauren and I chatted for a few more minutes about the food and what we got for our kids before saying good-bye. Brody came down the stairs just as I hung up the phone.
“She asleep?” I asked.
“She was wet.”
“I know, that’s why I changed her.”
“Does she have her—”
“Blankie, pacifier, and classical music,” Brody interrupted. “Check, check, and check. I got it, babe.”
I sighed and dropped my gaze to the ground, frustrated with myself for questioning him. “I’m sorry. I’m just so used to doing a lot of this on my own that sometimes I can be a control freak.”
“Sometimes?” he teased, walking over and pulling me into one of his cozy bear hugs. “I’m just kidding. I know how it is. I’m gone a lot and it all falls on you. I promise though, when I’m here, I’m here. I try. I pay attention.”
“I know you do. I’m a jerk.” I rested my head on his chest, wrapped my arms around his waist, and squeezed. “I’m sorry.”
“What time do the girls come home?”
“Huh?” I lifted my head quickly, surprised by the sudden subject change.
“What time do Lucy and Piper come home?” he repeated.
“Uh… Zach is supposed to drop them off at about two. Why?”
“It’s only eleven now…”
Brody’s tongue ran across his bottom lip and swallowed hard. “Emma was pretty tired, she’ll sleep for a while. The girls don’t come home for a longer while. Wanna show me how sorry you are?”
I batted my eyes at him a few times, staring at his mouth before looking him in the eye. “And just what did you have in mind, Murphy?”
His expression froze when I called him by our last name. “Kacie. You know what that does to me.”
“Exactly,” I cooed, taking his hand and pulling him up the stairs toward our master suite.
“Why do we have to wear this?” Piper whined, squirming on the couch.
“Yeah,” Lucy followed. “These tights are itchy.”
“You guys look adorable!” I admired their matching red dresses and cream-colored tights with little silver snowflakes on them. “I want you to look nice, at least for a little while. You can change after dinner, okay?” I giggled and swatted Lucy’s hand away gently. “Stop scratching, you’re going to rip them.”
Before she could protest, there was a knock on the door. “I’ll get it!” Piper jumped up and sprinted toward the front door with Lucy trailing right behind her.
Emma hustled to crawl after them, but once they were out of sight, she sat up and clapped. I walked over and picked her up, resting her on my hip as I straightened her red dress. “How long ’til you’re up and running right along behind them, huh?” I kissed her chubby cheek.
“Kacie! Wow!” Lauren exclaimed as she looked around. “Your house looks fantastic!”
“Thanks,” I said proudly. Looking around my family room, I was overjoyed with the way everything had come together. Lights and garland and bows decorated every nook and cranny in the house, making everything festive.
“Whoa.” Alexa walked into the room, stopping in her tracks. “This is…a lot. It looks like Santa threw up in here.”
“Oh, hush, you Grinch.” Lauren nudged her playfully.
“Maybe I did go a little overboard.” I shrugged, smiling widely. “But I don’t care. I was so excited to have our own house this year.”
Lauren’s son Max pushed his way through the group and ran straight for me, wrapping his arms around my leg.
“Hey, buddy!” I squatted down and hugged him with my free arm.
“Emma cute.” He grinned, poking her in the chest. She smiled back at him and held her hands out toward his face. He moved closer and she squeezed his cheeks, making him howl in pain.
“Emma! No, no!” I pried her hands from his red cheeks as he stuck his bottom lip out. “Sorry, big guy,” I said, rubbing his cheeks gently with the back of my fingers. “Sometimes she doesn’t know she’s being mean. She loves you a lot and wanted to hug you.”
Still pouting, Max walked over and buried his face in Lauren’s chest.
“You’re okay.” Lauren hugged him. “Kacie, how can these two possibly get married if Emma keeps abusing him?”
“Uh… Wait a minute,” Alexa protested, “I don’t believe any decision has been made yet as to whether Emma wants to marry Max or Joey. He’s still in the running as far as I’m concerned.”
Derek walked up behind her carrying their dark-haired son, who was a spitting image of his mother all the way down to his haunting blue eyes. “Who’s getting married?” Derek asked.
“Joey. To Emma,” Alexa answered confidently. “I mean, she hasn’t officially announced it yet or anything, and Max is really good competition, but I’m pretty sure we have it in the bag.”
“Brody!” Tommy bellowed as Brody came down the stairs.
Brody and I had been together for nearly three years, yet Tommy still acted like a giddy schoolboy every time he saw him. Brody walked over and shook Tommy’s hand, then Derek’s before hugging Lauren and Alexa.
“What can I get you guys to drink?” he asked.
“I’ll take Scotch, make it a double,” a voice called from the front door.
“Andy!” Brody said excitedly, walking to meet his best friend. They stood at the door, talking for a minute, while Becca and Logan hurried in to find the other kids.
Finally, they appeared. Brody clapped his hands together. “Okay, what was everyone drinking now?”
“Anything with alcohol in it,” Alexa answered smugly.
Derek nodded his head toward her. “Make hers a double too.”
Alexa reached over and smacked his arm before taking Joey from him. She followed Lauren and me into the family room while the men went to the kitchen to start making drinks. Lucy and Piper led Joey, Max, Becca and Logan to the play area just off the family room where they immediately dug into the toys.
“What’s up with that?” Alexa asked, staring at our half naked tree.
I sat in the oversized leather chair and set Emma down, who immediately headed straight for the tree. “That’s what’s up with it.” I gestured. “She likes to eat ornaments so we moved them all up.”
“Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!” a very loud, deep voice bellowed. We all turned around to see Santa standing by the front door, carrying a big black bag. “Do we have any good girls and boys here?”
Alexa and Lauren looked at me and I shrugged, clueless as to who it really was. All the kids ran to the front door and Joey toddled right along behind them. Santa pulled various wrapped packages out of the bag and started handing them out. I cleared my throat, trying to get Brody’s attention. After two more times, he finally looked my way as I frowned and nodded toward Santa. Brody just winked at me.
A couple minutes later, the kids had opened their new presents and were back in the playroom.
Santa took his hat off and pulled his beard down around his neck. “Holy shit this thing is hot,” Viper huffed.
“Oh my God!” I laughed. “I had no idea that was you! You did a really good job.” I walked over and hugged him. “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas to you.” He kissed my cheek and undid the first button of his red coat before turning his attention to the guys. “Dude, this thing is great. I wore it to the bar and chicks were dying to sit on my lap. A few of them were really hot too.” He turned and winked at me. “Made Santa a little chubbier than he normally is, if you know what I mean?”
Lauren groaned and I tried not to giggle. He really was a lovable hornball.
“Where’s Fred?” Viper asked, noticing he wasn’t there.
“Not coming.” I sighed. “Brody’s parents couldn’t make it because they are spending Christmas at Shae’s so my mom is being difficult. She said that she’s going to stay home, that us young people don’t need her and Fred ruining our evening.” I rolled my eyes. “I tried to talk her into it, Brody did too, but she wouldn’t budge.”
Viper’s eyes lit up. “I’m on it!” He swung the front door open. “No one can say no to Santa.” He grinned and disappeared out the front door.
“Awww, I hope they come.” Lauren stuck her bottom lip out. “I love your mom.”
Brody leaned over and peeked out the kitchen window. “Well, if a deranged Santa running through the woods toward your house isn’t gonna get someone off their couch, nothing will.”
“Where’s Darla?” Alexa asked.
“She had to work,” I said sadly.
Lauren chimed in, “Bummer. She’s a hoot.”
The front door opened again and a large figure carrying a stack of packages so high it covered his face appeared. Big Mike’s head popped off to the side of the stack and grinned at us. “Merry Christmas!” he said, just as the presents tumbled to the ground. Michelle stepped in behind him with Michael in her arms and sighed.
“Woops.” Big Mike stared at the ground. “Was any of that breakable?”
“I hope not.” Andy laughed as he walked over and started picking up red and green boxes with the most beautiful bows I’ve ever seen.
“Michelle, did you wrap all those? They’re beautiful!” I pulled her in for a quick hug.
“Seriously. We’re going to have to start calling you Martha Stewart,” Alexa teased.
“Pinterest.” Michelle smiled. “I get all my ideas off Pinterest.”
Big Mike and Michelle came in and took their coats off. Everyone was just getting settled in as the door opened one more time. Santa Viper was pulling my mom and Fred by their hands.
“Yay!” Lauren cheered.
I got up and walked over, squeezing my mom hard. “See! I told you everyone wanted you here.”
My mom’s eyes were red-rimmed with emotion.
Fred scratched his head. “Well, the back door flew open and in walked this lunatic,” he nodded toward Viper. “It was hard to say no.”
“Boom! I was right!” Brody whooped.
Everyone filed into the family room and got comfortable while Brody finished filling and refilling drink orders. Kids were giggling and playing, our friends were hugging and chatting, and my heart was overflowing with happiness watching it all.
Off to the side, I noticed Michelle and Lauren close together, talking intimately with tears in their eyes. Lauren did a double take when she caught me staring at them and she whispered one last thing to Michelle before they both walked over to me.
“What’s going on? Is everything okay?” I tried not to sound worried.
They looked at each other and smiled, then looked back at me. “We’re pregnant!” Michelle said proudly.
I was confused. “Wait. What? Who?”
“Both of us!” Lauren exclaimed. “She was just telling me that she wasn’t drinking tonight and I told her neither was I and there was a moment between us and we both just knew.”
“You’re both pregnant?!” I exclaimed, louder than I meant to.
“Yes, we’re due two weeks apart.” Lauren’s eyes filled with tears. Michelle wrapped her arm around Lauren’s shoulders.
“Ah!” I yelled again, pulling them both in for a giant hug. “I’m so, so happy for you guys!”
Alexa and my mom came over to join our hugfest as the men shook hands and clinked their beers in congrats.
A little bit later, we all sat around my huge dining room table for one hell of a feast, but before anyone could start digging in, Brody stood up. “I just want to say something real quick.” He cleared his throat. “It’s no secret that Kacie and I have been very blessed this year with our new home and the addition of Emma to our family, but I think I speak for both of us when I say that perhaps our greatest blessing is having every single person sitting around this table in our lives. You all are more than friends, you’re family, and we love you and are so thankful that you’re here to celebrate with us.”
“Here, here!” Andy picked up his beer and nodded in agreement. Everyone else raised their glasses and joined them together in the middle.
The next morning, Lucy and Piper ran into our room and dove into our bed before the sun was even up.
“Can we see if Santa came?” Lucy squealed.
Piper jumped on the bed, clapping her hands. “Santa, Santa, Santa,” she chanted.
Brody rolled over and covered his head with the pillow. “How about in a few hours?”
“Nooooo,” Lucy whined. “Nowwwww.”
Together they each grabbed an end of the pillow and pulled it off of his head. Just then, we heard Emma babbling through the monitor. “Emma’s up too!” Piper cheered before jumping off our bed and running out of the room. Lucy followed her.
“Emma! Merry Christmas!” we heard Lucy say sweetly to her baby sister.
“You wanna go see if Santa brought you a present?” Piper cooed softly.
“This is my favorite part.” Brody smiled.
“Listening to them talk to Emma like that. They’re so crazy about her.” He rolled back toward me and nudged me to lift my head so he cold tuck his arm under it.
I curled up as close to him as I could get. “I know, and she’s pretty crazy about them.”
“We make a good team, Mrs. Murphy.”
I closed my eyes and sighed happily. “We sure do, Mr. Murphy.”
“Let’s go put them out of their misery and open presents.”
“Sounds good.” I sat up and stretched my arms out, still a little tired from the party the night before. “I hope they like everything we got, but I am glad we didn’t go overboard. They’ve been so lucky this year, they don’t need a hundred presents.”
“Mmhmm,” Brody mumbled suspiciously, avoiding my eyes.
“What?” I glared at him.
He shrugged innocently. “Nothing.”
A hearty laugh escaped him as he walked toward the door. “Nothing, just don’t be mad at me, okay?”
“Wait. What’s going on?”
He winked at me and stepped into the hallway. “Girls! Come on, let’s open presents!”
Crap. What did he do now?
An hour later, the family room was littered with wrapping paper. So far, nothing had been opened that would make me mad at Brody. I was on pins and needles trying to figure out what he was talking about. My mom and Fred sat on the couch opposite us, still in their jammies and slippers, as they sipped their coffee. Building this house was the best gift Brody could have ever given me, other than Emma. We had our own separate space, but Mom and Fred were close enough that they could be there for moments like present opening.
“I think that’s about it.” I reached over and pulled a piece of silver wrapping paper out of Emma’s mouth. She rewarded me with a big smile.
“Can I open my Barbie?” Lucy asked.
“Wait, I think there’s one more thing,” Brody said, walking around behind the tree. He picked up a large bag and pulled three small pink boxes out of it, handing one each to Lucy, Piper, and myself.
“What’s this?” I asked, looking at the wooden box that was decorated with different colored gems.
“That’s actually Emma’s, but she doesn’t really get it, so…”
Lucy and Piper opened their boxes at the same time. Inside each box was a simple, small diamond tiara. Their eyes lit up as they took them out and put them on their heads.
“You bought them diamond tiaras?”
“Well, they’re not real diamonds. What do you think, I’m an idiot?” He laughed. “But they do signify something bigger, something I couldn’t wrap.”
Lucy and Piper looked up at him, their eyes wide.
“Next summer, after my season is over, I’ve booked us a huge family trip…to Disney World!” he cheered. “And we’re all going—Mommy, me, Emma. Gigi and Grandpa Fred too!”
The girls screamed and stood up, hugging each other and dancing around the room. Both my mom’s and Fred’s mouths fell open in shock.
“And that’s not even the best part!” Brody continued.
“It’s not?” Lucy started to cry happy tears.
“Nope.” He shook his head. “The best part is we are staying in a very special hotel room at the very tippy top of Cinderella’s castle!”
I gasped as Lucy and Piper hugged each other again and hopped around the room with their tiaras barely balancing on their messy little bed heads.
“I’ve heard about that room,” I said, finally regaining my composure. “You can’t book that room— ever. How did you do that?”
Brody sat down on the couch next to me as the girls continued their celebration. “Andy was the president of his fraternity in college and one of the guys he’s stayed friends with has connections. Apparently, his grandfather was the manager of guest relations for Magic Kingdom for a long time. He’s retired now but still has some pull over there. He also happens to be a huge Minnesota Wild fan, so a dozen signed jerseys, a whole season of tickets on the glass, and there you go.”
My mom got up and grabbed a tissue off the end table. “You didn’t have to do this, Brody. It’s really too much.” She wiped the corner of her eye.
“I know I didn’t have to. I wanted to.” He smiled.
“I can’t believe you did this.” I shook my head slowly, still in awe of what had just happened.
“Meh.” He waved me off. “Our princesses needed to see a real castle, not some wooden shack in their backyard.”
“Wooden shack?” I laughed incredulously. “You know this is it, right? This. That trip. That hotel room. You’ll never be able to top that.”
“Challenge accepted.” A deep laugh vibrated in his chest as he pulled me toward him, kissing the side of my head. “Merry Christmas, Kacie.”
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