Daria peeked out the window and down into the Grand Canyon. The red rocks tipped with snow gave an otherworldly feel to the landscape. Trent leaned over her shoulder to take in the view, "Cool. Do you think we can take a tour of that?"
She shrugged, "I don't know. Maybe by helicopter." She put her iPod buds back in her ears.
"Helicopter." Trent mulled it over as he sank back into the seat. The plane descended slowly towards the airport and Las Vegas.
Adrian and Courtney played cards in the seats across from Joe and Jane. "I. De. Clare. WAR!" The cards flipped furiously.
"Psssst!" Jane hissed at them. "Don't be obnoxious." The kids continued in stage whispers which were mostly drowned out by the drone of the plane.
Joyce snoozed in her carrier, snuggled in Quinn's pashmina. Quinn tapped on her laptop while Mike flipped through a Sports Illustrated. "So Princess, you gonna play the slots?"
Quinn looked over at him, smiling, "I thought that craps was more my game."
"Split the difference and we'll play Blackjack." He made a move to close her computer, "I thought you were taking a vacation."
"Just finishing up some spreadsheets. I promise, once we land, this thing is staying in the hotel."
The captain came on over the loudspeaker, "In just a few moments we'll begin our final decent into Las Vegas. It's been a pleasure serving you on our flight today. From everyone on the flight deck we'd like to wish you a very, Merry Christmas."
The landing was uneventful and it took them nearly an hour to walk from their gate, through the terminal filled with slot machines and shops down to baggage claim.
"Uncle Trent, I heard that you can rent a plane and get people to handle all your baggage for you. How come you didn't do that?" Courtney asked as she shifted her backpack to her other shoulder.
"Don't be fresh," Jane admonished.
"I wasn't. I saw it on TV. Really famous people have their own airplanes and semi-famous people can rent them. They're really cool. The seats have fur on them and the stewardesses give you candy and cocktails if you're a grown-up." Courtney searched the carousel for her pink wheelie bag.
"Joe, we're canceling cable." Jane remarked reaching for her ancient hat-box as it tumbled down the ramp. "I think it might be time to touch up the skulls on this." She inspected the leather, long since worn smooth.
Joe snagged his suitcase, or rather his hockey 'locker'. "We're not canceling cable. It's the only way I can see hockey anymore."
The sun had set by the time they claimed their rental and headed towards the strip. "I'm glad we were able to check into the hotel at the airport, that way we can head straight out to your folks." Trent commented to Daria as he drove on a surprisingly empty stretch of highway. "Where is this place anyway?"
"Some new development in the foothills of something." Daria consulted her Mapquest. "Keep going another twelve miles."
The sky streaked purple and pink as their mini-van continued towards the exit. After two wrong turns and a tour of the lesser developed parts of Clark County they found the development.
Daria squinted at the street signs, "Okay, we're supposed to turn left onto Vista Verde. There it is!" She pointed as Trent swung the van into a quick Louie onto the curved street. "What is with these houses?"
"And they're all made out of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same." Jane sang under her breath.
Each house sported neutral stucco; dark wood beams jutted out of the second story to evoke adobe architecture. They pulled up to an immaculately landscaped home. Lights accentuated the sparse greenery. Ironwood trees, cacti, bougainvillea each sharing the appropriate part of the lot. "We're here." Trent pulled into the driveway behind two new vehicles. The Grand Cherokee and Lexus had been replaced with a Prius and a VW Bug.
"Mom drives a Bug?" Daria asked as the door slid open and everyone started to get out.
"That's Dad's car." Quinn said nodding towards the lime green turbo. She reached for the cat carrier and her purse.
"O. Kay." Daria said, trying to wrap her mind around Jake tooling around in a chick car. It was only slightly harder for her to imagine her mother in the ecologically friendly Prius.
Jake appeared at the front door in flip flops and baggy jeans, "Hi everyone! Come on in! We're almost ready. Helen's just finishing up in the guest room." He showed them into the living room.
The house was new and immaculate. They entered through an atrium featuring native plants and rock sculptures. The Saltillo tiles echoed as the group moved into various parts of the house.
Daria walked through the kitchen, reaching into the Jenn-Aire for water. "Dad, is it okay if I take this?" She held up a plastic bottle.
Jake gazed at her strangely. In ways he didn't really know her now. Her face had lost some of its hard edge. She seemed softer, more approachable. "Of course." He turned towards the quickly dispersing group, "Anyone else want anything?"
Helen came out of the master bedroom, "You're all here!" She hugged Quinn and moved towards Daria, who hugged back while trying to keep from spilling water on the floor. She motioned towards Courtney and Adrian, "Kids, come back here with Joyce, we've got your room all set up for you."
Courtney picked up the carrier comforting the cat as she walked, "Joyce, don't worry, you'll like it here." Joyce muttered and moaned, pawing at the door of the carrier. "Is it okay for me to let her out?"
"Sure." Quinn nodded. "Let her check the place out."
"What's the story with these walls?" Daria ran her hand along the Navajo White plaster, applied in thick, rounded coats to mimic the interiors of an old Mexican mission.
"Oh, that's a nice touch don't you think?" Helen moved everyone out of the kitchen and towards the living room.
"A bit Disneyesque." Daria commented.
Wood beams lined the ceiling and a row of small windows nearly ten feet above them let in the last glimmers of sunset. The Kiva-style fireplace stood poised to host a crackling fire while a tastefully decorated Christmas tree twinkled with lights and glass ornaments.
Quinn sat on the curving, beige sofa, "This is really comfortable. Do you use this room often?"
Jake sat next to her and grabbed a remote off of the rustic coffee table. He tapped a few buttons and the picture over the fireplace slid away, revealing a flat panel television. "All the time! Check this out!" A Russian news team appeared on screen. "Satellite. REAL satellite. I even get Al Jazeera!" He changed the channel to prove it.
Trent smiled in approval. "Cool. Get anything in Spanish?" He sat down and Jake showed him the controls. He changed it to a Spanish language channel where a novella was on. "Check it out, Otro Clavo!" He called to Daria.
She turned to watch and Jesse appeared, wearing glasses and exposing the vast expanse of his chest. A dark haired woman with a thick application of make-up implored him to do something, either to be quiet or to mow the lawn. Daria didn't really understand too much Spanish. "Does he still have a career?"
"He's as big as Luis Miguel. Bigger even." Trent replied cryptically. You'd have to know who Luis Miguel was to appreciate the comment.
Daria shrugged. "Are we eating somewhere or should we go straight to the hotel?"
They piled back into cars and headed over to the Strip. Once at their hotel, themed after Naples, complete with regular eruptions of a 1/3 scale Vesuvius, they contemplated their dining options.
Jane thumbed through a brochure given to her by the concierge, "We can do the Sorrento Buffet, 'an array of delicious specialties from around the world." She read, "they have fried chicken and macaroni salad." She showed them the picture.
"Isn't there a five-star restaurant here?" Helen asked, "I think they have the largest collection of Italian wines in the country."
"I'm thinking pizza." Daria offered.
"We can eat pizza anytime. Let's live dangerously, let's try Pescatore! They have fish!" Jake guided them towards a quiet spot around the casino, in the back of the hotel.
Helen slipped the maitre'd a twenty and their party of ten was seated in the corner of the room. "This is nice." She picked over a relish tray, settling on a large, green olive before opening the wine list. She indicated the bottles she wanted and the waiter left to retrieve them from the wine caves they passed through on their way to their table.
The menu was family-style, meaning that rather than each person ordering something separate, large plates were ordered for the table.
Courtney poked Adrian, "Isn't it cool? We don't have to order off a kids menu!" She speared a cherry pepper and bit into it, smiling. "Yum!"
"So everyone, tell me what you're all up to!" Helen encouraged, as the waiter poured a Pinot Grigio into glasses. "Quinn?"
"Nothing much Mom, still selling haircare on shopping channels, getting ready for finals when we get back. Working, studying, the usual." She sipped the wine and nodded approvingly.
"Oh." Helen seemed disappointed. "Daria? Trent?" she turned to them expectantly.
Daria looked behind her, then at Trent. "Like what? Did you have something specific in mind?"
"Noo-oo-o, not exactly." Helen dipped a piece of bread into a plate of oil. "Jane, tell me about this young man here." She indicated Joe, who was busy putting one of everything on the antipasti platter onto plates for the kids.
"Huh?" He looked up a moment but Adrian insisted on having an artichoke heart, so he went back to his task.
"Joe? He's a hockey coach at Raft, his blood type is O positive and he only has one point on his license." Jane recited, "Is there something specific you wanted to know?"
Helen sighed, "I just took a job at the Marseilles as a wedding coordinator and I was hoping to convince one of you couples to take advantage of my discount."
"A wedding coordinator?" Daria questioned. "What on earth made you do that?"
Quinn considered it for a moment, "That's a great job for you Mom! You get to plan and execute events. I can see you doing that."
"Sorry Helen," Jane added, "it's a nice idea, but Joe and I are getting married in church in the spring. You're invited," she added, to stem the disappointment.
"Daria? Trent? How about you guys? You've been together a while, how'd you like to get married?"
Trent smiled and looked at Daria, "What? We'll let you know when we're ready to take that step. Besides, you'd want us to have a beautiful, tasteful wedding. I'm envisioning Elvis from his 'Blue Hawaii' period."
"Come on Daria, it could be fun." Trent wheedled.
"You want to get married?" Daria looked at him as she chewed a marinated mushroom.
"Sure. Don't you?"
Helen leaned closer, hoping that he could convince her. "We can get you a gown and shoes, the kids can be in the wedding…" She started.
Daria gave Helen a sour look, "Yes, I'll marry you. But not here and not now. Mom, you have to find another victim."
Quinn pinched her mother under the table as Helen started to turn to Mike. "So Mom, I guess you're kind of stymied there. Sorry."
Helen pouted slightly, and shrugged. "Well damn it, someone is getting married and the sooner the better." She sipped the last of her wine and indicated to Jake that he should refill her glass.
Daria unpacked in the massive hotel room. Hanging up clothing in the walk in closet and displaying the few toiletries she brought with her on the marble vanity, she called out to Trent, who was splayed out on the sofa in the living area. "Were you serious?"
"Huh?" He paused on the Vegas channel, watching a montage of showgirls, roulette wheels and buffets.
"About getting married?" She smoothed a pair of jeans and clipped them to a hanger.
"Sure. Weren't you?" He stretched and listened for the various cracks and snaps in his joints.
"I guess, I suppose I expected something a bit more formal than my Mom nudging us with a free Vegas wedding though." She sat down on the other part of the sectional and reached for the remote.
Trent surrendered it to her. He got down on one knee, grunting with the effort. "Daria, will you marry me?"
She rolled her eyes. "Is that it?"
"S' all I got right now. How much more do you want?" He stared up at her from under the fringe of curly hair on his brow.
"Actually, that's as much as I want. I guess I'll never be like normal people." She sighed and indicated that he should get up.
"Good. Normal is boring. How about The Daily Show?" He said as she paused on the channel.
"Fine by me."
The young adults met for a late breakfast in the coffee shop of the hotel to discuss their day.
Quinn consulted her iPhone, "I can't find anything to do around here that isn't kitch."
Jane spread a slice of toast with jam, "Good. I'm all about kitch. Liberace museum, Atomic Energy museum, a tour of Caesar's Palace; all of it sounds good to me.
"I want to play some table games," gambling is fun. Quinn peered at the screen of her phone, "Oh! Some place called Slots of Fun has quarter tables!"
Daria quirked an eyebrow, "Slots of Fun? High class stuff."
"I hear there's a place where you can get fried Twinkies," Jane suggested.
Mike leaned in, "How about we start with Liberace, then hit the casino?"
The day was spent driving to various venues to soak up the Vegas charm, and grease from the Twinkies. Slots of Fun turned out to be a small, dodgy casino next door to Circus, Circus. A sign indicated that this was the place to get the .99 cent Shrimp Cocktail.
"I don't care if Vegas has the freshest fish in the world, based on the volume of turnover, I'm not buying shrimp from Bozo." She emphatically declined Jane's offer to treat her.
"You don't know what you're missing." Jane tipped the small cup back and swallowed the contents. "Mmmm," she chewed happily.
"I think I do. I have Tums if you need them later."
They returned to their hotel and Daria, Jane and Quinn stationed themselves at a penny slot machine fashioned after a goldfish bowl.
"Come on fishy! Mama needs a new air-brush nozzle." Jane stroked her machine and chanted. "Alright! Bonus!" A fish swam into the bowl on the top of the machine and bubbles popped around him, each with an amount.
After a few hours they weren't any worse off than when they started, "Guys, I think we should get ready for dinner," Daria said, as she gathered her winnings ticket. "I'll bet chips were more fun."
Trent napped on the sofa with Oprah on in the background. Daria thought about changing the channel, but feared waking him so she decided to read for a bit before dressing.
At eight they all met at the Morgendorffer's. The kids played with Joyce as Helen put the finishing touches on a lasagna.
"Quinn, can you dress the salad? Daria, please put ice in glasses." The girls did as told.
"Are you kidding? Lasagna?" Daria sighed as she pushed water glasses against the lever in the fridge.
Jake laughed, "No, this one's homemade. Lasagna Bolognaise! I got the recipe from Emeril!"
"No kidding," Daria placed glasses at place-settings, skeptical. The kids had made place-cards with bits of tinsel and small glass ornaments. Daria picked one up, "Hey, these are nice."
Courtney held up ribbon as Joyce grabbed at it, "Thanks!"
After doing her part in setting the table, Daria looked out the windows and onto the desert landscape. "You know, not that I'm sad to leave the snow, but it just doesn't seem like Christmas without it."
Helen set the hot lasagna pan on a trivet and walked over. "Christmas is anywhere my family is."
"GACK!" Daria recoiled from the attempt at a tender moment, "You're joking right?"
"Only a little bit, I'm so glad you all could make it out for the holiday." She turned suddenly. "To the table everyone!"
After dinner, and the opening of the requisite ONE present, the kids and the cat were mellowing out after a day of excitement. The adults sat around the living room in a holiday stupor.
"You know, in Las Vegas you can get a license any day of the year. Even Christmas." Helen offered.
"Give it a rest!" Both Quinn and Daria howled. "Jinx!" Then laughed.
"Mo-oo-m! Really. When any of us wants to get married on the spur of the moment in Vegas, we'll let you know!" Quinn flailed her arms for emphasis. "What is with this wedding fever all of a sudden. Weren't you the one who told us to wait?"
"Yes, wait, until you're ready. But aren't you ready yet?"
Daria rolled her eyes. "We'll let you know. But I don't think I want a Vegas wedding."
"Why not? It's so easy to organize and it's really nice." Helen brought a binder down from the bookshelf. "Look, isn't this nice?" She flipped it open to glossy pictures of what appeared to be a chapel in the French country-side. Rough-hewn pews, delicate lace curtains over trompe l'oeil curtains and a non-denominational officient ready to perform any ceremony.
Jane peered over Daria's shoulder, "Check it out, she'll marry anything to anything!"
Daria giggled, "Next best thing to being in France, you know, the France at Epcot."
Everyone started laughing and instead of joining in, Helen became angry, "Don't laugh, it's really very nice!" Helen
"Sure, for people with no imagination!" Daria crowed
"Or taste!" Quinn added.
Daria doubled over, "Oh! I know; for an extra fee can we burn Joan of Arc?"
Quinn squealed, "Daria! Stop! I'm going to wet myself!"
Helen looked hurt.
Trent smacked Daria on the arm, "Your mom is getting upset."
"Oh." No one should feel bad on Christmas. "I have an idea."
The Wedding March played in the background and the ceremony started. First Courtney and Adrian walked down the aisle. A bit old to be a flower girl and ring bearer, but they wanted to be part of the ceremony.
Next Jane, in a short lace dress in a flattering shade of gold walked down the aisle carrying a small bouquet of tea roses and escorted by Joe. Quinn followed behind with Mike.
Daria was next, marching solemnly with Trent on her arm. Finally, the fanfare started and the bride began her decent down the aisle. The groom eagerly waited for her to get to the altar.
Helen beamed her delight at the lovely wedding that she had planned.
The officient addressed the party, Friends we are gathered here to unite this couple in matrimony, Kevin, will you please take Melissa's hand and repeat after me?
After the ceremony and the requisite pictures, Melissa pulled Daria to the side, "You are a life-saver! Now I can wait for our church wedding, without having to wait for our wedding night!"
Daria blushed, "You're this close to an over-share. Let's just say it's an elegant solution to a delicate problem."