Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the w-...
Minty reached down quickly and turned off the radio of her car with an almost agitated motion. This was a lovely time of year, but the radio stations sure went overboard on all the boring, ever-repeating obligatory carols. The green mouse almost regretted having a new radio installed in her car after the original radio had broken a while ago. But well, it was a Christmas special offer from the retro auto shop that specialized in new, improved versions that looked just like the original parts of classic cars from the fifties and sixties and seventies, and Minty had missed having a working radio in her car. And of course, she could just keep it turned off in order to not hear the endless repeat of the same corny carols over and over on her way to work.
And of course, it was a very lovely time of the year. The colorful lights that decorated the houses in town gave off a lovely, warm, cozy glow in the early morning darkness on her way to work, and the early evening darkness on her way back home. And there was just such a spirit of friendliness and goodwill among the people in town, people greeting each other in the streets and wishing one another happy holidays, making one wonder why it could not be like that all year round.
At the office it was just the same. The already very friendly, informal atmosphere that reigned throughout the office got enhanced even more now that Christmas was coming, sometimes even outing itself in unexpected but quite amusing manners. Minty chittered a soft giggle to herself as she let some of those manners cross her mind. Walter's office, which had a mechanical Santa standing next to the desk wishing everyone a booming "Ho ho ho! Merrrrrry Christmas!" as they came in. Cassiopeia's office, which had been transformed into a winter wonderland with fake snow along the walls from the ceiling down, and a thick layer of it covering the entire floor, with a path flanked by strings of lights running from the door to Cassiopeia's desk next to which were standing a couple of fake snowmen. Fred's office, which had the desk replaced by a sleigh complete with a full span of fake reindeer, the rear deck of the sleigh holding Fred's computer and other desk apparel so he could do his work while sitting in the sleigh wearing a Santa hat. And of course, many of the workers had put a mistletoe branch up over their desks so anyone stepping up to the desk was getting a smooch.
Thank heavens they did not play a loop of corny Christmas carols over the PA system, though.
Today was going to be a very short and cheerful day. No work, everyone was merely invited to the office for an hour or two of being together and having a bit of a Christmas celebration. Nothing big, just some nice food, some eggnog and a handing out of Christmas bonuses and cards. And in some cases, invitations.
Minty had planned big this year. She didn't usually do very much for Christmas, but now she had a reason. She had a very good friend with an adorable daughter, she had a part-time daughter now herself as well, she had an old friend being new in the town after having recently moved in, she had a new assistant with an adorable daughter and a crush on her who was also new in town after having just moved in... So, yeah, the green mouse had a lot of reason to unpack big time for Christmas this year.
To start, Minty had given the local decoration shop an amazing turnover, because she did not have very many Christmas decorations, and she wanted to make her house and yard look extra lovely. So the green mouse had bought so many strings of lights and baubles and wreaths and paper bells and angels and whatnot that she'd almost needed to put a trailer behind her car to transport it all to her house. And it had to be said, she had certainly made her place look very lovely. Along the entire edge of the front porch roof and porch beams and girders she had strung garlands of holly and mistletoe and little white and red lights, she had strung yards of light strings through the large trees that formed the copse shielding her house from the street, she had used strings of lights to mark off the front yard and the driveway and the path to her door, as well as the free space by the shed where people could park.
There was, of course, a fir tree in her front yard which Minty had also decorated fully as a Christmas tree; not just lights, but the whole package of baubles and garlands and little angels and a big star for a tree topper. There was a tree in her backyard the green mouse had done the same to. That tree happened to be a conifer, but hey, it was the thought that counted. Inside the house, Minty had also strung garlands of holly and mistletoe with little red and white lights along the walls, she had put up numerous paper bells and angels, she had hung wreaths and clusters of shiny baubles. And of course, there was a large Christmas tree in her living room, decorated as beautifully as possible.
She had taken two days off work to go shopping for presents. It had resulted in an amazing stack of colorfully wrapped presents laying under and around the Christmas tree in her living room. And she had delivered invitations. To Dusty and Fifi of course. To Angie. To the white Angora lady Kayleigh Anderson of the Salem Bureau for Foster Care and Adoption, who had helped her and Dusty so well in getting custody over Sophia. And to her new blue squirrel assistant Phoebe Vandermeer and her daughter Lily.
They would all meet at Minty's house at noon for a wonderful large Christmas get-together. Old friends and new friends, spending their first Christmas together as friends, and some even spending their first Christmas in Amity. Some of them had already met; of course Sophia had off from school for the holidays, and it had been agreed she would spend both weekends and holidays at Minty's, so she was there when Minty went into the office for the Christmas meeting. Phoebe had brought her daughter as well, just as a number of the other employees had also brought their kits along.
Minty'd had a good giggle when Phoebe showed up. The blue squirrel had dressed for the occasion; she was wearing a pair of earrings in the shape of tiny Christmas trees, and not only that, but she had put a sort of collar around her tail with small bells on it which jingled at every step she took and every motion her tail made. Lily was wearing one of the usual red Santa hats with white fluff around the rim and a white ball of fluff at the end, but the simplicity of the outfit made her look even more adorable.
Minty was wearing a similar hat, but in green; of course red clashed with her fur too much. Sophia was wearing one of the red ones, though. The kitten was often saying she didn't want to be cute, but she did look very cute in the Santa hat. And she was even wearing it voluntarily.
The meeting at the office was a lot of fun. There were Christmas cookies and little cakes and eggnog of course, also champagne and wine, Christmas puddings, Christmas bread and a whole lot of other goodies. Minty just kept it to the eggnog together with Sophia and little Lily, however Phoebe allowed herself to be persuaded into having a glass of champagne. Just the one, though. Then again, all through the company they were keeping it light on the alcohol. They had an awesome atmosphere throughout the year already; they didn't need alcohol to make things even more fun. Which also ensured there was no wild result to the Christmas party; no naked secretaries in the elevators, no butts being photocopied or any of the usual wild things that tended to go on at office Christmas parties.
A bit before the end of the party, Minty brought Phoebe, Sophia and Lily along with her to leave a bit early. She had to be home in time again to meet the others when they arrived. Indeed, as Minty pulled up to her house with Phoebe right behind her, they were met in the turn onto the driveway by the large lightbrown metallic Ford Granada station wagon driven by Dusty, horn honking and Fifi, also wearing a red Santa hat and even a red dress with white fluffy trim along the hem and cuffs, waving madly and happily from behind the windshield.
Parking their cars, they all got out and stepped up to one another, smiling and shaking paws as Minty introduced them.
"Hello Dusty, good to see you," Minty smiled, giving Dusty a hug, then leaning over to hug Fifi as well. "Awww, and look at you, don't you look adorable, Feef!"
"Thankies!" Fifi said, happily hugging Minty back. "You look cute too! I like your hat!"
"Thanks, sweetie," Minty chittered, rising back up again and turning a bit. "Dusty, I'd like you to meet Phoebe Vandermeer, my personal assistant from work and new friend, and her daughter Lily. Pheebs, Lily, this is my best friend Dusty Nevada and her little girl Fiabella, whom we all call Fifi."
"Pleased to meetcha, luv," Dusty smiled warmly as she shook paws with the blue squirrel. "Minty's tol' me a lot 'bout ya."
"Uhm... yeah... pleased to meet you too, Ms. Nevada," Phoebe said with a light blush. "Miss... Minty had told me a lot about you too."
"All good thing I 'ope, mmh?" Dusty chuckled. "Aw, an' lookit ya, sweetie, don'tcha look jus' adorable," she smiled at Lily.
"Yeah! You're cute! I like your fur! It's all purple! It looks cool!" Fifi nodded cheerily, the fluffy white ball at the tip of her head bobbing and swaying back and forth from the little vixen's rapid nodding.
"Hee! You cute too!" the very young lilac-furred squirrel girl chittered. "I like your hat!"
"Yay! I like yours too!" Fifi giggled.
"Alright, we established the hats are cute," Minty giggled. "Go on along and get inside already, okay? And no touching the presents yet!" she chittered.
"Hee! Promise, Minty!" Fifi nodded, taking Lily by a paw. "C'mon! Have you seen Minty's house yet? It's cool! She has such cool stuff!"
She started already pulling the tiny squirrel towards the front porch. Minty chittered softly again, giving Sophia her house keys.
"Go and let them in, dearie, we'll be right there," she smiled.
Sophia nodded with a smile and took the keys so she could unlock the front door and let the three of them into the house. Looking after them a bit, the mouse, the squirrel and the vixen smiled softly.
"Cute kit," Dusty smiled. "An' like I said, nice ta meetcha, luv. Minty tol' me we should be 'avin' a calm talk sometime soon."
Phoebe squeaked a bit and blushed, very lightly nodding. Luckily she was saved by the sound of another horn honking, a slightly nasal-sounding horn which belonged to a rusty and faded azure-blue Fiat Ritmo driven by Angie the tigress with the leopard spots.
"Hey everyone!" she said cheerily after she had parked her car and got out. "Am I late?"
"No, we just got here ourselves," Minty smiled, giving the tigress a hug. "I'm so glad you decided to come, Angie." She turned and motioned at the other two women. "This is my best friend Dusty Nevada, and this is Phoebe Vandermeer, my personal assistant from the office and a new friend of mine. Dusty, Pheebs, this is Angelique Delaney, a very good and close friend of mine back from Portland."
"Good to meet you two," Angie smiled, shaking paws with both of them. "Especially you, Dusty; Minty's been full of praise about you."
"Aww, been sugarmouthin' me, 'ave ya?" Dusty giggled with a wink at Minty.
"Only a bit," Minty giggled. "So, like, shall we go inside, or should we wait for Ms. Anderson to arrive? It is kinda chilly and all."
"Oh, but we don' 'ave to wait too long, sugar," Dusty chuckled, turning and looking around, then pointing at a silvergrey Lincoln Navigator pulling up. "There she be."
Indeed, as the large SUV parked by the other cars and the driver door opened, it let out the fluffy white Angora cat lady. She cheerily waved at Dusty and Minty while sending a smile at Phoebe and Angie. Minty introduced all of them to each other as well, and after all the obligatory 'nice to meet you's and 'how do you do's, the green mouse giggled softly and motioned at the house.
"Well, what say we went inside? It's cold out here, we should probably go see what those three little girls are getting into, and at least when we're inside we can take off these lovely but very uncomfortable clothes."
Minty's remark was met with chuckles and nods of the head of Dusty, Angie and Kayleigh, however Phoebe squeaked and blushed almost violently.
"Well, yeah, surely Minty told ya we're all nudists, di'n't she?" Dusty chuckled. "She said yer too."
"W-well... but... b-but..." Phoebe stuttered.
Minty giggled and winked.
"C'mon now Pheebs, remember what I told you about the growing up? And I did tell you, when I gave you the invitation, that we would we spending our private Christmas party in the buff, and you did accept."
"W-well... y-yeah, but..." Phoebe stuttered, pulling her tail around herself and hugging it against her chest.
"No need to worry, m'dear," Kayleigh said with a warm smile. "We're all girls here, you don't have anything any of us haven't seen before, and you haven't done anything any of us hasn't done before either." She looked in Angie's direction. "Or well, for as far as I can speak for Minty and Dusty, anyway, I don't know about Ms. Delaney of course."
"If yer talking about what I think yer talking about, then yeah, you're right, I've done that too," Angie chuckled. She rubbed her paws together. "And I agree with Miss mousie too; let's get inside out of this cold! I got some things in the car that should be put warmly inside soon."
"Ah yes, anyone else have stuff they need to bring from their cars?" Minty smiled.
All of them nodded and stepped to their cars, taking out a couple of parcels in colorful wrapping paper. Minty led the way for them, holding the door open so they could all easily step inside, then holding the living room door open for them as well. As they stepped into the living room and put the presents down by the big tree, they all giggled at Sophia, Fifi and Lily who were scootling around the living room, the little vixen pulling along the even smaller squirrel by a paw and giving Lily a very zealous tour of Minty's living room, kitchen and dining area, and of course pointing out the rear deck with the hot tub enthusiastically.
Once they had all settled down a bit, Minty cheerily announced it was time to slip into something more natural. The announcement was met with cheers from the three kits who amazingly quickly shot out of their clothes, causing the adults to chuckle and giggle as well while they stripped down in a much calmer manner. Except for Phoebe, who merely squeaked and blushed deeply while hiding in her tail, however after Minty had pretty much told her to do it, the blue squirrel shyly stripped as well.
However, even with all of them being nude, the day progressed very calmly and normally. They sat together and had a drink or two, talking a bit about the Christmas season, the festivities, funny anecdotes of previous Christmases, and about their lives a bit since they were almost all of them still rather new to one another. The calm and friendly atmosphere helped Phoebe relax a good deal and settle down a bit more, and after a while the blue squirrel even shared some funny stories of previous Christmases on her own account.
After a couple of hours, Minty got up and walked to the open kitchen with the announcement she'd go work on the Christmas dinner.
"Need any 'elp in there, luv?" Dusty called in the direction of the kitchen.
"No, I'm fine, thank you," Minty answered with a soft giggle. "I'll be honest with you guys; I cheated. I got all this delivered by a caterer this morning. I just have to prepare it a bit."
"Well, nothing wrong with that, I think it's clever," Angie chuckled.
"Sure, take-out food can be very tasty," Kayleigh agreed. "And a caterer sounds even more upscale than take-out."
"Oh yes, this ain't no pizza or hamburgers," Minty giggled from the kitchen. "This is a full turkey dinner with all the extras; stuffing, sauces, salads, veggies, name it. I just have to..." There was a rustle of paper. "Hmmm... pop this thing in the oven for forty-five minutes at three-fifty and baste every ten minutes, according to this. Right, sounds easy enough!"
"Do you... do you need any help with the table settings, boss?" Phoebe inquired almost carefully.
"That might be handy, thank you," Minty answered. "Sophia, Dusty, would you mind lending a hand too? You two know best, after me, where everything is."
"True that," Dusty nodded with a chuckle, rising up from the couch.
She walked over to the open kitchen and dining area together with Sophia, leaving Fifi in the living room as the little vixen had found herself an amazingly comfortable cuddle spot in leaning up against Kayleigh's side and snuggling into the Angora cat's thick fluffy fur. While the pastel yellow vixen and the pink-haired beige and white kitten helped setting the table, the beguiling scents of dinner started already drifting from the open kitchen and into the living room. It was a good thing Minty's dinner table was an extendable table, because they certainly needed all the extra room, not just for all the extra people, but also for all the additional dishes that came with the dinner Minty had ordered.
Before too long, dinner was ready. And boy, was it ever delicious. While everyone was eating, they kept agreeing that it was the best Christmas dinner anyone of them had ever had. It took them almost an hour to get through the whole dinner, but it was very, very enjoyable. Of course they did try to eat relatively quickly, because they had also planned on giving out the presents to each other that evening, and they shouldn't make it too late for Sophia, Fifi and especially Lily, who was after all only five years old yet.
Besides, the three kits, and Fifi and Lily especially, were visibly bouncing in anticipation over the opening of the presents. So, after dinner, they just left the dishes on the table to deal with later and sat together in the living room for a while to let the dinner settle. But, spurred on by the cheerily, anticipatingly and somewhat impatiently bouncing and wiggling of, mostly, Fifi and Lily, they quickly moved all of themselves to the floor around the Christmas tree and began with the handing out of the presents.
There were, almost naturally, clothes. And plenty of toys for the kits. Angie had brought presents from her store for all three of them; a small tank with guppies for Sophia and Fifi, and a fishbowl with two goldfish for Lily. There were some gift coupons and the like. Even the kits had brought some presents for each other, and Sophia, when Minty had told her she'd invited the white Angora, had even gotten a gift for Kayleigh to thank her for all the help in getting her out of the foster home she was so unhappy in and managed to make it she could live with both Minty and Dusty. Aww, how sweet.
There were also some joke gifts, of course. One or two of the presents for Sophia and Kayleigh and Angie held catnip toys, since they were felines. Phoebe and Lily both got a walnut plushie. And someone had come up with a wind-up triangle of cheese for Minty. The green mouse chittered a loud giggle over it, and winked a bit as she took one of the packages and handed it to Phoebe.
"Here's one from me to you, Pheebs."
"Aww... you shouldn't have, boss," the blue squirrel smiled softly.
"No, I probably shouldn't have," Minty giggled. "But I couldn't resist." She winked again. "Don't worry, Pheebs, it's just a bit of a gag."
The blue squirrel blinked in surprise and tilted her head a bit. Curiously, she unwrapped the package, finding a plain white box under the colorful wrapping paper. All the others looked on with curiosity as well when Phoebe lifted the lid off the box and looked inside. Almost immediately, the blue squirrel squeaked loudly and turned bright purple from a glowing blush covering her entire face, pulling her tail around herself and hiding in it while letting out a whining sound.
Lily crawled up against her mother's leg and tried to look into the box.
"Yeah, what'cha got there, luv?" Dusty asked with a soft chuckle, leaning over a bit.
Phoebe merely squeaked from inside her tail and only blushed harder. Angie also leaned over, sneaking a peek into the box and curling her lips into a wide grin.
"Oh mousie, you didn't!"
"What? What'cha got there?" Dusty grinned.
"Yeah, come on, don't keep us in suspense!" Kayleigh giggled. "Show us what you have there!"
Phoebe squeaked again and shook her head from somewhere deep inside her tail. But before she could do anything about it, Lily had crawled into her lap and taken the box, upending it and letting the content drop into Phoebe's lap. Setting the box aside, the little purple squirrel began poking at what had fallen out of the box.
"Whazzat, mom?" she asked again.
Fifi and Sophia also looked at it bit a bit of surprise, although Sophia grinned a very little bit. And Dusty, Kayleigh and Angie merely laughed softly as they could now easily see just what it was that Minty had given Phoebe.
It was a collar. With leash.
Angie grinned and pushed Minty's shoulder.
"You are evil, mousie!"
"Kinda funny though. An' kinda fittin', too, from what ya tol' me."
"Where'd you even get something like that?" Kayleigh giggled.
"Online," Minty chittered. She leaned over and pulled Phoebe into a big hug against her chest. "Hey, c'mon now, sweetie, don't read too much into it, okay? Like I said, it's just a bit of a gag, I just couldn't help teasing you a little bit."
Phoebe nodded from deep inside her tail while blushing furiously.
"Y-y-you're a m-meanie, b-boss..." She gulped a bit and ducked down so deep into her tail only her ears poked up from the thick fluffy blue fur, a very soft mumble sounding from somewhere deep down. "P-p... p-put i-it o-on... p-p-please?"
She may have said it in an almost inaudible manner, but since everyone was still leaning over to see what the present had been, they had all heard it. And they all cheerily whooped and laughed at the stuttered, shy request from the blue squirrel, applauding as Minty took the collar and gently fastened it around Phoebe's neck.
Taking their cups of eggnog, they all raised their cups into the air towards one another while wrapping their free arms around whoever was sitting next to them on the floor, speaking out in eight-voiced unison the happy wish for that specific time of the year.
"Merry Christmas to y'all!"