Things were running smooth at the 2015 Kingsway Neighbourhood Kid’s Christmas Party. The annual afternoon drop-in had its share of ups and downs over the years but when Regina signed up to host the party this year she promised herself nothing would be amiss. She had spent the previous month making detailed plans of how this year there would be no hiccups, literally or figuratively.
Regina stood in the kitchen of their house on King George’s taking in the results of her plans. The party was at its peak attendance and she was just waiting on Hank, her husband, to return in the Santa outfit they had reserved from the costume store. The kids were enjoying the various activities she had set up. The cookie station and the gingerbread house were particular hits. The photo booth was also being enjoyed by parents and kids alike.
The best part was that Spike, her brother-in-law, had not appeared from the basement where Hank and Regina had reluctantly rented him the space to help him get back on his feet. Regina was more reluctant than Hank with the respect to the rental situation. Things between Spike – real name Glen – had never been the best but they hadn’t had any major blowouts since he moved in and Regina was glad that he agreed to stay out of the way for the party. It didn’t help that some of the parents in the area were of the “suburban snob” variety and the last thing Regina wanted to deal with was catty, dramatic, bullshit, especially the kind Spike was known to cause.
“Things seem to be going well,” Spike said.
Regina spun around to see him filling up a cup with coffee from the percolator.
“I thought we agreed you would stay down in your place?” Regina whispered with a coating of ire.
“I believe I just nodded,” he said, turning to face her.
“Two more hours Glen, please,” Regina said.
He smirked and nodded and winked at someone behind her.
“Trina, how goes it?” Spike said.
“Hey,” Trina said, with her own smirk as she walked into the adjoining living room.
Regina turned to witness Trina also wink at Spike.
“Did you…do something with her?” Regina said.
“Um, more what she did to me,” Spike said.
“She is married and has three kids. Her family is standing right over there,” Regina whispered with anger.
“And they were right in their home two days ago when she was downstairs with me,” Spike said with a grin.
“I just can’t,” Regina said, and walked into the living room.
Before she had a chance to cool, Regina was face to face with the queen of the Kingsway book club, Penelope Jurgenson. The book club was actually just a wine drinking, gossip session that Regina had attended once and told Hank that it would be the first and last time. She had never met a bunch of people more concerned with tearing their friends and neighbours to bits, than the “book” club assholes.
“Excellent soirée Regina,” Penelope said, kissing the air on either side of Regina’s cheeks. “It almost compares to the one Roger and I hosted last year.”
“Thanks Pen, everyone seems to be enjoying themselves,” Regina said. When Penelope took a sip of her wine, Regina wanted to knock the glass out of her hand. “I’ve just got to check on something.”
She walked back into the kitchen and thankfully Spike was gone. Regina sent Hank a quick text wondering on his whereabouts and then decided on a glass of punch. She would enjoy some wine of her own after the party had cleared out.
The first sip tasted a little off, and Regina took another to make sure her senses were not failing her. She grabbed her phone and texted Spike, fearing that if her worst suspicions were confirmed and she saw him, the party would only be remembered for his murder at her hands.
His response when she asked if he tampered with the punch was that he spiked it and in the spirit of goodwill, she should also look out for the brownies. She looked down at the brownie tin which was half empty and brought her nose down to give it a big sniff.
Regina rushed to edge of the living room and looked around it and the dining room beyond. The parents were enjoying wine or beer, but nearly every kid, even her own, had a glass of punch within reach, some even taking sips while she watched. There was also a plate of brownies by the cookie decorating station on the dining room table, with only a couple remaining on the platter.
She felt a tug at her pant leg and looked down to see her five-year-old daughter Sandy looking worse for wear. She had brownie smeared on her cheek, her eyes were glossy and unfocused, and she was hiccuping.
“Mommy, I don’t feel so good,” Sandy said, as Regina scooped her up in her arms.
She took Sandy into the family room off the other side of the kitchen and laid her on the couch. Regina rushed back to the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge, and flew back to Sandy.
“Drink this sweetie,” Regina said, running her fingers over Sandy’s forehead. “Stay here and I’ll be right back.”
As she made her way to collect the punch glasses and brownies, the front door opened with a flourish, gathering everyone’s attention and Regina was horrified to see Hank dressed not as Santa Claus, but as a life-sized armadillo.
“Hey kids! It’s the holiday – ” Hank started, but when he caught Regina’s death glare he stopped and made his way toward her and into the kitchen.
“What the fuck is this?” Regina said, back in her whispered anger.
“They screwed up our reservation,” Hank whispered.
“The holiday armadillo though? This isn’t Friends!” she said.
“I panicked and it just came to me,” Hank said.
“Take it off and go and tend to your drunk and stoned daughter in the family room,” Regina whispered again, hoping beyond hope Penelope’s ears were not within range.
Hank looked at her with concern at her statement, but she had no time to explain. She whizzed through the living and dining rooms collecting as many cups as she could and she also managed to grab the remaining brownies as well.
“Just freshening things up,” she said as she quick stepped through the rooms.
She returned to the kitchen and tossed everything into the trash and though she wanted to hold back, it was time to deal with Spike, or Glen, or as he would become known, “the guy Regina beat the crap out of at Christmas.”
It turns out it wasn’t Regina that did the beating. When she opened the door to the basement, she was greeted with the sight of Trina and Spike making every kind of out with the other. Those within eye-shot of the scene stopped their conversations and took it all in. Regina slumped her shoulders and was just about to commence the beating when Trina’s husband rushed past her and did the dirty work himself.
Regina stepped out the way and to the edge of the living room to let the tussle happen. She wished she was a part of it herself but didn’t have the energy to intervene. A couple of the other parents stepped in and Hank also helped out, but both men threw and took more than a few big hits.
She thought the worst of it was over, and then she heard the first wretch behind her. She turned and two more accompanied the first as the children began to feel the after effects of Spike’s drugs and alcohol.
Frozen in panic and horror, Regina wished she could literally disappear as the party dissolved into a blood and vomit ladened mess. Then she locked eyes with Penelope, who still had her glass of wine in hand while she tended to her ill daughter.
“Excellent soirée Regina,” Penelope said.