By Suzanne Lazinsky.
“Silver bells, silver bells”. She cranked off the radio before the rest of the song could continue and bring Christmas to her mind. This was the fourth holiday season since her husband had told her that in his view, their marriage was over and he had found a new partner. Christmas had always been their big celebration time and she was still struggling, trying to find a new way to celebrate the holidays or ignore them. She was quickly sliding into a “bah humbug” mood. Yes, she could feel her Dickens’s/Scrooge face falling into place. The ringing of the phone broke into her dark thoughts; she cleared the tears from her throat and found her pleasant voice.
A deep male voice on the line greeted her. “Hi Lucinda, its Stefan and I really need your help. Are you busy today?” Stefan was a fling who remained an occasional intimate friend. Tall with a sturdy muscular build, locks of shaggy black hair and crystal blue eyes, he was reminiscent of a rugged Prince Charming or at least a knight. She cheered up a little.
“Sure Stefan. I can be free. What do you need?” she answered honestly, but a little apprehensively.
“I need to get three Christmas trees and wondered if you would like to come with me to the tree farm. We could stop for lunch and I’ll get to show off my new pickup truck. Can you be ready in a half hour? It’ll be a great drive and nice day to be out in the country.” He rhymed off all the good points and she had to agree, although the Christmas part still sort of rankled. However spending time with Stefan might just take her mind off of the nagging hurt and confusion.
Within the half hour she was safely buckled into the cab of his new forest green truck and they were headed for the country. It was a bright sunny day, crisp cold air and a dusting of snow. Stefan had adopted a lumberjack look, sporting a green and black plaid flannel shirt jacket with a red wool scarf around his neck. He had some great rock tunes playing on the radio and with his wide appreciative smile she was set to enjoy the day. She was bundled in layers of a sweater, sheepskin vest and hiking boots. All they needed was a golden Labrador dog to complete the happy picture she thought.
The tree farm was busy with families, hayrides, hot chocolate and doughnuts and of course Christmas songs over the loudspeaker. Stefan grabbed a small hatchet and hacksaw from his tool chest, threw his free arm around her shoulders and they chose a trail to hike in order to find his three trees.
“Why do you need three trees?” Lucinda asked as she drew on her gloves and tried to match his stride with her shorter legs.
“Well” he mused. “One for my mother’s house, one for my own place and one for my workplace” he counted off. “And I’ve seen pictures of trees you have had in the past and it occurred to me that you were just the right person with the right eye to help me choose.”
“Alright “she said. “Let’s see what we can find.”
They wandered among the lines of trees discussing the pros and cons of spruce versus pine. The air was forest fresh and soon their cheeks were blushed with the cold and the exertion of hiking around the fields. They tried not to stray too far, keeping in mind they would have three trees to haul back to the truck.
They found two perfect trees in good time and dragged them back to the parking lot to be tagged. They purchased mugs of steaming hot chocolate and some doughnuts, joked, laughed, held hands, threw snow at each other and stole kisses behind trees when no one was looking. It was frivolous fun and she was thoroughly enjoying herself and as always Stefan’s company.
She was becoming very tired and sat on a rock to watch him cut down the last and largest tree. After yelling “Timber” while the tree toppled, they began the final trek back to the lot. She started to go down one trail but he pulled over to another.
“Look Lucinda! What a cute little tree”. And it was, a perfect little four foot spruce, in a perfect Christmas tree triangle shape. “Here, it’s about your size, you chop it down” he said as he handed her the hatchet and hack saw.
“Why do you need a fourth tree?” she was perplexed. He gathered her in his arms, pulled his fingers through her red softly waved hair and forced her to tilt her face back. His lips captured hers in a deep long, breath sucking kiss. When he stopped kissing her, she was more than a little dizzy and it nothing to do with hiking and tree chopping all day in the fading winter sunshine. All she could mutter was “What…”
“This tree will be for you. It’s really why I asked you out today. I wanted you to have a tree, to have a reason to sort through your decorations and rediscover the pleasure of the season. It’s time you reconnected to being loved.” He kissed her again, tasting the hint of chocolate on her lips and then looked deep into her green eyes and kissed away a little frozen tear forming on her cheek.
“Let’s get this done” he ordered when she tried to protest and find reasons to refuse. But he pushed her over towards the perfect tree, tools in hand. Her eyes were too blurred with soft tears to actually use the tools so he chopped it with the hatchet while she held the trunk in her hand until the tree fell free and snuggled against her, almost toppling her over in a spruce needle hug.
The afternoon was waning into dusk and he looked over at her, relishing the sight of rosy red cheeks, her shining eyes and her nose breathing in the delicious scent of the freshly harvested tree. He could sense the healing that nature was providing for her. He could almost actually see the pain leave her as her shoulders and entire body seemed to relax, reconnect to itself and he smiled within himself, his own heart telling him that this had been the perfect idea.
He hoisted the little tree up onto his shoulder, dragged the larger tree behind looking very much like the fabled Paul Bunyan. She laughingly grabbed the tail of his jacket and they took the trees to be tagged and purchased.
The drive back to the city was a little more subdued and thoughtful and every so often he reached for her hand. It had started to snow lightly and outside the windshield the world began to look like a shimmering snow globe. Once back at her place, he hauled the tree into her parlor, kissed her again and then was off shouting to her as her bounded down the steps. “I’ll be by tomorrow night around ten.”
She spent the next day sorting through her decorations and then situating the little tree on a side table in a corner. She fiddled and fussed with it. She rooted around for her Christmas carol music and filled her apartment with seasonal songs and sounds.
As evening fell she switched on the tree lights and the room took on a magical glow. She felt herself take on a magical glow also. Men had given her floral bouquets before, corsages, arrangements but never had anyone given her a live Christmas tree. What a perfect gift! What a novel idea!
Her door bell buzzed at ten o’clock. It was Stefan wearing a cock-eyed red velvet Santa hat and a quizzical grin. She pulled him into the apartment, into the aroma of mincemeat pies and rum spiced eggnog and the gentle refrains of “Silver Bells”.
He glanced into the parlor and could not believe how beautifully she had transformed the little tree. It was regal, glittering, as if a jewelry box had tumbled onto it and each jewel had found its rightful advantage.
“It is the best present Stefan, thank you” she whispered.
“It looks beautiful” he said “but something else is missing around here”. He reached into his jacket pocket and produced a sprig of fresh mistletoe which he held over her head, kissing her all the way down the hallway to the bedroom.
Lucinda did not protest as she returned his kisses and pulled him along by the lapels. There was not an indication of her “bah humbug” face. Stefan had not only given her a Christmas tree, but he had gifted her with the return of the magic, the peace and goodwill of the season that she had been missing.
Most of all he had gifted her with the possibility of once again being in love.