A Bunny's Christmas in New York
It was sort of like being in a Hallmark movie. Just with a bunnygirl.
“Holidays are coming up.”
The non-sequitur didn’t quite break into my concentration. I’d been trying to figure out this creature some DIY idiot had brought into being for hours now – seriously, nobody should ever fifty-fifty a dog with a snake, especially not when the dog is a multi-breed stray and the snake is an anaconda. The cop who found it had shot it on sight, and none of us could blame him. Especially since it had just eaten its owner. “Yes, they always do this time of year.”
I could almost hear Pete roll his eyes. “We should do something.”
“We should,” came from Dave. “Let’s go on a trip or something.”
That surprised me. “I thought you were going to your in-laws’ house for Christmas?”
He didn’t correct me, even though he and Melissa weren’t married and he hadn’t proposed or even gotten close. They still might as well have been his in-laws. “Not this year, they’re going to visit her sister – new baby’s too small to travel.”
“And you didn’t get roped into that trip because…”
“Her sister’s husband is a deacon and they have a small house.”
Okay, that explained it. “We could try to do something,” I agreed. “It would have to be something within driving distance, though – no way are we getting Hana on a plane with bunny ears and no current ID.”
“We could charter a private plane.” That came from Pete, who audibly rolled his eyes again when Dave and I both choked on that one. “Why couldn’t we?”
“Because we aren’t…” Dave got it first, eyes widening and face lighting up. “Oh hell yes, of course we could charter a private plane! What were you thinking, maybe New York for Christmas?”
“Let’s just get a nice penthouse suite to stay in while we’re at it,” I said sarcastically. “Might as well go all-out.”
“That’s a good idea.” Dave stopped working and got online. “Let’s see, hotels, hotels…we want one on Times Square, right? Walking distance from everything so we don’t have to risk the subway…”
Joey picked up his phone. “I can call my buddy Sam, he’d be able to recommend a charter service. We should be able to reserve something since it’s still early…”
“I’ll get started on an itinerary,” Pete said, minimizing what he was doing to open a browser window. “Definitely the big tree, maybe the ice skating rink…do any of us know how to skate, or is that something you can just get out there and do?”
“It’s roller skates with steel blades on the bottom instead of wheels, ‘get out there and do’ ends up with you on your ass on the ice,” I told him; he was from Hawaii, he didn’t know. “I used to be able to skate, but I haven’t done it in years and I wasn’t very good at it to begin with. That aside, though…are any of you adding up how much this fantasy vacation would cost?”
Joey strolled over and casually smacked me on the back of the head. “Danny, did you forget we’re millionaires?”
“We’re…” The lightbulb came on. We may have to put up with a lot of shit, but modding pays really well and all of the consulting we do does too. “Well shit. Ice skating lessons, then – they have them there, and we can rent skates.”
Dave stopped browsing. “You’ve been there?”
“My family used to go for Christmas every few years.” I pulled up my browser too. “Let me see which Nutcracker is playing this year – if it’s a modern creepy version we’ll want to skip it and see something else.”
“See if anyone’s doing A Christmas Carol,” Dave suggested. “I like that one. No Little Match Girl, though.”
“I second that – that story is shitty,” Pete agreed. “I’m messaging Hana, she’s bound to have some suggestions. I’ll tell her we need to keep it quiet, though – no telling anyone but Barry. Is Barry going?”
“If he can and he wants to,” I said, “but I could have sworn he said something about having to go see his folks over the holidays because they’re having a reunion sort of thing. So six of us?”
“Melissa’s going with her parents to see the new niece, so five of us,” Dave corrected, not seeming all that unhappy about it. “How many days do we want to stay there for?”
“Let’s do five,” came from Pete. “Fly in on the twenty-third, stay over Christmas, then fly back on the twenty-seventh. Unless we want to be there for New Year’s. Do we?”
“Good luck getting a room anywhere near Times Square for those two days,” Dave told him. “I can get us reservations for the twenty-third through the twenty-seventh, though. Joey, can we get there?”
Joey held up a finger. “Yes, we want to go up on December 23 and come back on the 27th. Five adults, everybody’s over 21 but two don’t drink so the rest of us won’t be either. I know Sam explained why we aren’t using the airport…okay, good. Yes, the press are a problem and she’s had a few death threats as well. Yes…yes…perfect! Sure, just come to the lab and we’ll finalize all the arrangements. Yeah, you too, thanks.” He disconnected. “We have a private charter flight, there and back, and the owner of the charter service will be stopping by so we can pay him and he can meet Hana and check us out – he’s picky about who he lets use his service, but Sam vouched for us so we’re all good there.”
“Making the hotel reservations, then,” Dave said. “We’re getting the last suite available with a nice view of Times Square, the four of us will be doubling up just like we were back in college but Hana will have her own bedroom. The hotel has 24-hour room service, too.”
“Awesome – that means no getting up early, breakfast will come to us,” I said. “Okay, the Nutcracker that’s there is a creepy one, and A Christmas Carol is sold out. I’ll keep looking. Hana have anything to suggest?”
“Hana is still squealing – I can hear her through the wall,” Pete said, grinning widely. “She’ll be out of heat then, right?”
“Right – that’s the second week of the month.” I started to grin too. “You know what, I have an idea.”
Joey pretended horror. “Oh no, it’s that look…”
“Shut up, this is an idea to help Hana get out and do more things without people staring for the wrong reasons.” I abandoned the dogaconda and went digging through my contacts, found the one I wanted and dashed off a quick email. “I’m not telling you what the idea is unless the friend of a friend I’m contacting for this favor is interested in doing it, but if she is it’s going to be awesome.”
Two months later, all of our plans had gone off without a hitch and we were in Rockefeller Center, skating in front of the big tree on a cold, clear Christmas Eve night. I was still stiff and a little bit jerky on the skates even after the lesson, but I was good enough to go out on the ice with Hana. Who took to it a lot quicker because she was younger and had better balance, but that was okay. Pete picked it up pretty quickly too, because he’d been a surfer when he was younger. And Joey couldn’t master the skates at all, even with a lesson, so he was standing by the wall ‘helping’ Dave – mostly by pointing out all of the little kids who were out on the ice gliding around like little ice sprites while he was still hanging on to the wall. One of them heard that and went and got all their little friends and someone’s mother, and they descended on Dave in a group and got him away from the wall by informing him that ‘if you fall it’s just on your butt!’ Which he did a couple of times, but they helped him back up and after a while Pete joined them and he started to get the hang of it.
After our turn was up the music stopped and everyone cleared the ice, and I leaned against the wall and smiled up at the huge tree with its twinkling lights and at the clear, cold sky overhead with its canopy of twinkling stars. A faint sound of Christmas music was coming from somewhere nearby, the city was dusted with just enough snow to make it pristine and perfect, and everywhere around me were happy people being happy. Hana skated into me and huddled up beside me – her fur wasn’t thick enough to keep out the winter cold, and while the dress and dress-coat she was wearing were heavy and warm her tights were not in that same league. She was so happy she was all but purring, and I was really glad Pete had come up with this idea – and that my friend of a friend’s interpretation of my idea had taken off so very successfully. A Bunny’s Christmas in New York was apparently flying off the shelves, and because of that nobody had given us any trouble about Hana’s ‘disguise’. Everyone assumed or had been told that it was a publicity stunt to promote the book, which was fine by us – it meant we got to play Hana’s entourage and not her keepers, and let me tell you she was milking it for all it was worth.
A few reporters had spotted us, in fact, and the act had apparently flabbergasted them to the point that they didn’t know what to write about it or whether they should write about it at all. Their reporting about Hana had all centered on the guys and I being lying villains keeping one of our poor little victims caged up in our lab, so the sight of her squealing over things and texting and taking pictures and making us carry her stuff – and oh my god, was there ever stuff, although not all of it was hers – seemed to just be mind-blowing for them. Only one of them managed to recover enough brain function to approach us, and he was smart enough to approach Hana directly and ask what she thought of New York – he’d apparently decided he was going to get what he could out of this, even if it was just a piece for the entertainment fluff page that they probably wouldn’t print. So she squealed for him and type-talked from her tablet and showed him pictures from her phone and all of the comments she was getting from her fans in response to the constant updates and the Bunny’s Christmas book. She also had videos up on her YouTube channel of her adventures, including a few clips she’d just streamed of me and the guys trying to skate apparently, and I was surprised by the reporter’s reaction to the one she showed him. He looked from the video to me and back, and then he shook his head. “No wonder it’s already got almost a million hits,” he told her. “Miss Kim, I’ll let you get back to having fun now, thanks for taking the time to talk to me.” He nodded to the rest of us. “Merry Christmas, guys. And for what it’s worth…well, I’m sure you know what I can’t say, right?”
“Yeah, we get it.” Joey clapped him on the shoulder. “Merry Christmas to you too.”
On Christmas Day, we stayed in and ate and lazily watched the parade on television and the snow falling outside. Hana had little presents for every member of the hotel staff working that day that we encountered, and they made sure to let us know that we were all welcome at the Christmas party the hotel was having for its guests in the lounge and lobby that evening – the concierge made sure to let me know, privately, that they would be keeping an eye out to make sure nobody bothered Hana, and that the staff all hoped we’d eventually find a way to get her voice back. So we did go, and everybody had fun, and there were a handful of little kids there who all knew about the book – I had a feeling someone might have made sure of that, like the concierge – so Hana was covered with squealing little kids for the entire night and she helped the hotel’s designated child-wranglers keep them entertained by playing games and doing little craft projects. Only one of the parents seemed nervous about their kid being around Hana, but Dave approached the woman and talked to her and she was fine after that.
We slept in on the 26th, then went out to see a few more things and do more shopping, and since our new reporter friend had dropped off comped reservations for high tea at Wonderland Market, we all got dressed up and went to that. The reporter had let them know who was coming, so they greeted Hana by name at the door, squealed over her outfit – it’s Wonderland Market, they make dolls, of course there was squealing – and then one of their people joined us for tea to talk to Hana about a possible tie-in doll for the Bunny books. They’d apparently already talked to the book’s author and she’d said she planned to make it a series and loved the idea of a tie-in, so our next stop after tea was the corporate offices upstairs so Hana could meet the hastily called-in design team and there could be more squealing over the coat and dress. And the gloves and the hat and the little boots and matching bag, because again, this is a company that makes dolls and Hana was their kind of people. We left them to it and played with our phones, and finally they were all done and Hana was officially part of their design team for the Bunny doll’s clothes and accessories, and everyone was tired so we went back to the hotel and had dinner in our room and called it an early night.
The next morning after breakfast the hotel whisked us back to the private airfield in a limo, and our pilot had hot cocoa and sugar cookies waiting for us – it was pretty cold – to warm up with before takeoff and Hana had a little present for him and some things for the kids he’d mentioned having on our flight out. A lot of hugging went on, too. It was sort of like being in a Hallmark movie – the whole vacation had been, really.
Returning to the lab was kind of a relief; the fancy life is fun, but only in small doses. We got the computers and things out of hiding – of course we hid them, you think nobody tried to break in while we were gone? We had five people caught just by the front-door camera – and unpacked all of our new toys, and got back to work. Science doesn’t advance itself, you know.
Practically overnight, Hana’s fan following went from thousands to well over a million and counting, and she was one busy bunnygirl. I didn’t find out until later what had startled the reporter about that video she’d shown him: She’d been filming me while I was looking up at the big tree. I suppose that was because whenever the reporters usually see me they’re being nasty and accusing and I’m trying to be polite and not strangle them, so maybe they’d thought I looked like a miserable angry bastard all the time.