Marlin is at work, cleaning one of the dining spaces. The cleaning staff is short-handed, so the servers are pitching in to help so she can get it ready for the next event in the room.
Marlin (laughing): Well, that sounds good. You can leave it and I'll get to the chairs in a minute.
Brett: Oh, I meant it when I said I was here to bust some dust. I'm going to help you. I can't wait until we get more people on the cleaning crew. It's been a little hard to keep people. But I'll help you so you can get things ready faster.
Marlin: That is very considerate of you. Thanks.
Brett starts vacuuming the seats.
Marlin: Yes, I've heard. That's so nice of him.
Brett: Yep. It should be fun. Are you coming? I could pick you up.
Marlin (hesitating): I'm not sure.
Brett: Think of it this way. You'll have your own chauffeur, you can drink, I won't. I'll be the designated driver. Plus, there's going to be a gift exchange and I hear Dominic is giving gifts too. Wouldn't that be fun?
Marlin: Well, when you put it that way, it does sound like fun. Plus, I barely have anyone to buy gifts for, so it would be nice to exchange with someone else.
Brett: We could exchange gifts if you'd like.
Marlin: Bryce too? You know we're like the Three Musketeers around here.
Brett: Sure. Of course. Bryce too.
Marlin: Okay, I'm in. Good idea. Thanks!
Brett: You're welcome.
Marisol: I think it's a great idea. I also think I don't want to talk about business any longer. We work hard all day, all week. We're out. I'm glad to be out of the house, taking a break. Let's just enjoy the evening talking about completely senseless things.
Rowan: Well, I guess. I just thought we could brainstorm a little.
Marisol: Nope. We can brainstorm later. Let's talk about clothes, our favorite television show. Anything, but work.
Rowan: Okay. Well, I did manage to watch a movie last weekend, it was pretty interesting.
Marisol: Cool. Tell me about it.
At the next table, Parker is waiting for Ember to arrive. He wanted to pick her up, but she had meetings and told him it would be better if she met him there.
After a few minutes, Ember is escorted to the table where Parker is sitting. As she approaches she notices Rowan and Marisol from The Flavor Café. She decides she wants to say hello and tells the hostess she's fine and thanks her. The hostess goes on her way. Parker stands up to greet her.
Ember: Hi. I don't know if you recognize me, but I'm always stopping by to get something to eat or some coffee. It's nice to see you.Rowan: Hi, I recognize you. How are you?
Marisol: I recognize you too. You are always there, a great customer. Sometimes you come with your daughter, right? Your little helper?
Ember (laughing): Yes, that's us. Well, I don't want to keep you. I just wanted to say, hi.
Rowan (looking over at Parker): What a small world. This gentleman stops in sometimes too. He also made sure to say 'hello.' I feel like a celebrity.
Marisol: If only. (to Parker and Ember) I hope you both enjoy your dinner and thank you for being so nice.
Rowan: Yes, thank you.
After both saying 'you're welcome', Parker and Ember head over to their table. Parker wants to be make sure Ember is seated, but he also gives her a kiss.
Ember (smiling): Yes, it has been a little while. But, at least we've been able to talk. It's just been a little busy for us both. I have business stuff and then my mother's here and the holiday shopping. I'm sorry. Things should die down a little.
Parker: It's okay. No rush, I have just been enjoying talking to you, which makes me want to see you. Let's have a seat and catch up.
Ember: Good, because I'm hungry.
They both sit down and as soon as they do, the server comes over to get their drink order.
Ember: Well, as a matter of fact, Erwyn will be taking her trip with my mother to New York this weekend, so I'll be free to help you shop. We should probably get started very early to avoid as much of the crowd as possible.
Parker: Okay. That should work. I do have an appointment for photos Saturday, but that's not until that evening.
Rowan: Oh, yeah. I remember.
Marisol: I think you told me you don't have any plans. So since I have officially decided to go ahead and do that, are you coming?
Rowan: Sure. Why not? Just tell me what to bring.
Marisol: Okay. I'm going to work on a menu this weekend. I'll let you know.
Rowan: Works for me.
Parker: Family photos. Avery set everything up. My father will be here by then, so she thought it would be a nice idea.
Ember: It is. What a coincidence, we're taking photos too this year. It must be the year of family holiday photos.
Parker (laughing): It must be. (pauses and stops smiling) Unfortunately, my mother may show up too. Avery is hoping she does so she can be included. I'm not so thrilled, but Avery made me promise to take the photos before she said she was including her.
Parker: I guess you're right. I just don't want to have any 'pretend we're close' photos with her.
Ember: I think I get it. If you're going to give it a try, perhaps you can just ask not to have that type of photo taken. Maybe you can ask that you not be included in any photos you'd prefer not to take. I'm sure the photographer will work with you and your family will respect your wishes. I'm also sure Avery will appreciate your being in whatever photos you decide to take.
They pause for a minute when the server approaches the table to deliver their drinks, non-alcoholic frozen drinks. They tell the server they need a little more time to decide what food they will order.
Ember: I understand that. No judgment here.
Parker: I know that, but I still want you to know why. My mother left us when we were young. I guess Avery tried to get over it because she doesn't remember much about her or because she always wished she was in our lives growing up. But our mother didn't want to be a mother anymore. She decided we were not important enough in her life. So I find it hard to forgive her. Maybe it's because I remember more about her and then she took it away, or maybe it's because I just don't think a mother would do that to her children. That's why I don't want to see her. Anyway, I don't want to talk about her any longer. So, what else are you doing for the holidays?
After looking at Parker with empathy for a few seconds, Ember decides she will answer his question and maybe it will take his mind off what he just shared with her. She can tell it's painful.
Ember: We're planning a holiday get together. It should be festive. My family is coming, which is always fun.
Parker: Avery sent me a text about a holiday party, but she didn't go into detail. Maybe that's what she was talking about. I'd like to see your family. They're nice people.
Ember remembers what Avery said about inviting her parents.
Parker: They are.
Ember: Most importantly, for me, I would truly like for you to come. I know we aren't being very open right now about seeing each other for Erwyn's sake, but we'll be in the same room together, able to socialize and still spending time together.
Parker (smiling): You're right.
Ember: Good. So, are you coming?
Parker: Yes. I'll come, because you asked me to.
Ember: I'm glad. Thank you.
Parker (admiring her): Yes...I have.
Well, it looks like people are making holiday plans to spend time with family and friends.
Happy Holidays! ~ Jaye