December has arrived. With the holidays in sight, it also stirs up some favorites stories from friends and families about traditions, festive meals to football games in the snow. After recently helping an elderly neighbor with their decorations, this tale came to mind.
Years ago, Brian, a college buddy, shared this tale. He was divorced and had two young children who were frequent visitors to his two-bedroom apartment. Gearing up for his first Christmas there, he’d bought an artificial tree. The idea of putting this together for a few weeks’ time, then taking it apart and stowing it away for eleven months or more annoyed him.
After he measured the closet in the spare bedroom, he raced to the local hardware store where he bought a set of four sturdy casters that could be locked in place. Back home, he bolted these to the base of the tree stand. With the tree assembled, he awaited the arrival of his young kids. They spent several hours, stringing lights and hanging ornaments while carols played in the background.
When the holidays were over, Brian unplugged the lights, unlocked the casters and rolled the tree down the hall to the closet. He tossed an old sheet over it and slammed the door.
Flash forward to the following December 1. Brian’s daughter called to make sure he was going to be home so they could come decorate the tree. Brian explained he’d been hard at work getting it ready. Ending the call, he ran to the spare room’s closet, pull off the sheet and rolled the tree back to the living room. Locking the casters in place, he plugged in the lights and rearranged a few of ornaments. When the kids arrived, they marveled at his efforts.
Here’s an excerpt from “Devious” the first Jamie Richmond novel. In this scene, Jamie has plans for a memorable Christmas with Malone and has more than a few surprises up her sleeve.
Christmas Eve and Malone was scheduled to work a sixteen-hour shift. Some of the guys traded duty, to fit in with their family plans. Malone worked from noon until four the next morning. We would spend Christmas Day together, and he would go back on duty the following afternoon. It was tough, but I managed to wait for him to come home. He slipped into the apartment quietly and almost walked past me. I was curled up on the Jewish Aunt, only my nose visible.
"Hey,” I whispered.
He jumped. "Hey, Jamie."
Malone slid beside me and covered my face with kisses. After a while he sat up and started to unzip his jacket.
"Keep it on." I struggled out of the aunt.
"Because we're leaving, that's why."
"Where are we going?" His eyes were barely visible in the dim light from the window.
"It's a surprise. Trust me?"
There was a moment’s hesitation. “Mostly.”
Can you believe it? The guy was using my own line on me again. "Then shut up and follow me."
"There’s nothing quite like a demanding woman."
In the car I handed him a blindfold and wouldn't start the motor until he'd slipped it on. After a little grumbling, he did as I asked.
"Kidnapping is against the law."
"You're too old to be a kid. I’ll let you take the blindfold off soon, if you’re good."
He sat there patiently while I drove to the house. It was only a few miles away and traffic was nonexistent. A light dusting of snow had fallen earlier, making everything sparkle. I parked by the curb and helped him from the car. He held my arm gingerly and followed me up the walk and the two short steps to the front entrance. Inside I made him stand by the door and wait. Only after I lit the fire in the hearth and turned a couple of switches on did I let him take the blindfold off.
"What's going on?" Malone blinked as his eyes swept the room.
"Welcome home." I patted the sleeping bag beside me. I was sprawled on top of another one, clutching my long, wool winter coat around me. A queen-sized air mattress was beneath them, giving the nest a bed-like quality.
"It's my new place. I rented it last week."
"Room for two, Malone, if you're interested."
He stood there by the door, staring. I couldn't read his reaction from here and started getting nervous.
"Aren't you going to come in?" I pleaded. "Take the chill off, get cozy."
In front of the picture window was our tree, five feet of Blue Spruce, trimmed with little lights, ornaments and strings of popcorn. Outside I'd wrapped the railing in tinfoil and red ribbons. The fire was burning strongly, throwing heat toward the sleeping bag nest. Beneath the tree were a dozen packages for Malone.
"I don't know what to say, Jay." He spoke so softly it hurt my ears.
"Don't say anything. Just haul your ass over here. "
He peeled off his jacket and came to me. I tried to convince myself I was trembling because of the cold but even I didn't believe it.
"Aren't you going to take your coat off? It's warm in here." Malone knelt beside me and took my face in his hands.
I shook my head. "You do it. First present on Christmas Day."
Malone laughed when he realized what I was wearing beneath the coat. There was just a black satin negligee and my little Santa Claus earrings. Tenderly he peeled off my coat and boots and helped me slide beneath the warmth of the sleeping bag. I'd zipped the two of them together so we'd have plenty of room. I was surprised at how quickly Malone could get out of his clothes. It must have been the proper motivation.
"Jay, about this house..."
"Hush. Let's not talk about it until after the holiday. I want this to be a happy time. A day filled with lots of smiles and love and warmth. Okay?"
He moved against me and my body automatically reacted with his. It was as if someone had thrown a secret switch.
"Wanna start with the love and warmth?"
Some radio stations were playing holiday tunes at the start of November. Here’s a great one from the Eagles that popped up a few times.