Last Christmas

December 24, 2015

Her eyes tried to focus through a veil of tears, but the diamond beyond remained a glistening blur. The salted droplets continued to form, poised to roll joyously down her pink tinged cheeks. Tears teetered on the edge of an already smudging mascaraed lash. She lifted her eyes upward. The seasonally lit trees that surrounded them were dazzling. Their flickering patterns glowed warmly in the cold evening. She allowed her mind to wander from the bliss of the moment, hoping to stem the flood of emotion threatening her make-up. They were definitely going to be taking a lot of photos tonight. To her surprise, her thoughts leapt backward to the well-loved tree that had started it all. 

***

December 18, 2008

After two years of shuffling back and forth between several friend and family Christmas celebrations, she and Harry were finally hosting their own. She had chosen the perfect pre-lit faux tree for the occasion. It’s light filled the room with a richness that often felt missing from the minimalist space. Silhouetted before it, Harry studied the ornament selection. They shared a penchant for perfection and an appreciation for quality, so each was a recently purchased top of the line creation. 

Feeling light as the bubbles rising in her champagne, she let a subtle smile float around the room. Pride swelled within as she watched their carefully curated selection of guests caress and compliment the perfectly adorned tree. Harry caught her eye and nodded approvingly. Impressions were important to him and tonight, she had done well. 

The bliss born of their first successful Christmas did nothing to cushion the heartbreak that would follow. As insensitive as ever, Harry chose to leave her firmly in 2008 and usher in the new year alone. There was no future he saw in which they remained together. She spent the following days moving in with a friend, faux tree in tow.

Despite the blow, by the summer, her heart had begun to heal. As she sold the ornaments off in a garage sale, the lament of Harry’s many criticisms seemed to go with them. The irony that they were a testament to the superficial proclivities that defined their relationship was not lost on her. It was a lesson she vowed to never forget.

December 22, 2011

A classic carol floated from the small bluetooth speaker in the kitchen to where she stood. Its sweet melody soothed her holiday anxieties as she pondered her next move. The pristinely placed tree before her was nearly complete, but several important ornaments still remained to be placed. She swirled her cocktail – perfectly mixed within a festive heirloom glass – as she scanned the well fluffled branches. 

“How about here?” Andy asked, gesturing to a scarcely appropriate space in the branches for an antique gilded bauble. She rolled her eyes and sipped her drink. He sat down. 

***

With the holidays at their end, she carefully and purposefully wrapped each ornament for storage. Every so often she paused to wipe tears on her soaked-through sweater sleeve. Andy had been a long shot but that fact didn’t minimize the gaping wound he left in her heart. There were no holiday traditions she could repeat without a vicious gut punch reminder of his betrayal, except for taking down the tree. Their nine month whirlwind had cut short of that, at least. 

December 1, 2012

The pain of Andy was still palpable when she first crossed paths with Ty. His easy smile was both welcome and wonderfully unassuming. Through friendship, their love had grown stronger with each passing season. It pressed in on the walls she had built around her heart until a late night kiss on her front step crashed through them like water through a dam.

For the first time in years, winter came without pretense or expectation. They were settling into one another’s lives like the final pieces of a puzzle. Their love was not without its valleys, but lessons of heartbreaks past came to the forefront and she navigated them with newfound precision. It was with stunning clarity that she acknowledged those had to fail so this relationship could succeed. 

“What are you thinking about?” Ty’s gentle baritone broke her train of thought.

She blinked away the memory and smiled. “Nothing, should we start decorating?”

He nodded and sighed, clearly less invested in the process than she. They sat surrounded by bins of holiday embellishments and just beyond, the battered box of her years old artificial tree. Her gaze paused on it. “You know what? Will you do me a favor first?” 

“Sure.” 

“Haul that old thing to the dumpster behind the building please?” She gestured to the white dented tree box. “Let’s go pick a new one together.” 

He didn’t say a word, but nodded and carried it out. She passed through the apartment and to the large glass sliding door at the back of her room. He appeared after a moment, toting the seven foot box over his shoulder to the open trash bin and hauling it in without hesitation. A long breath exited her chest and with it rose a sense of relief. “Out with the old,” she whispered. 

December 24th, 2015

Ty stared at her expectantly from where he knelt on the frozen ground. She wiped the tears from her eyes, tossing any worries about the state of her mascara away with them. “Yes!” she cried out, leaping at him so excitedly they both tumbled into the freshly fallen snow. Onlookers clapped and called out their congratulations as he wrapped his arms around her coat laden frame. Ty kissed her deeply, warming her to her core, and then pulled her to her feet.

Lights glowed all around them in the city’s carefully bedecked Christmas village. Vendor’s booths lined the path encircling an ice rink. Children were wobbling and squealing with uncertainty as their parents coaxed them around the ice. She slid the ring onto her finger, it was a perfect fit. Ty stepped into the hot chocolate line as she held her hand out to admire the luminous combination of golden band and sparkling marquis. Tears welled once more. Never could she have imagined such a happy ending.

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