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“Don’t you just love the pine smell?” I inhale deeply as I rub my fingers over a prickly frond.
“Yeah, it’s kinda spicy, isn’t it?” He passes the boxes of decorations over and I open them up.
“So, there’s a particular way I do this.” I point as I recite the list.
“Baubles first, big at the bottom, small at the top. Then we put on the lights and then finally the tinsel.” “Okay, boss.” He stamps his foot and gives a salute.
“Ha, less cheek, more work.” I giggle. “You just can’t get the staff these days.”
I settle at the foot of the tree and begin placing the bigger baubles around the lower branches.
Jonathan stands beside me, hanging baubles from the top of the six foot spruce. I adore dressing my Christmas tree. All my decorations have stories behind them: some belonged to my mother, others to my Nanna, and a few I’ve purchased myself. I retell the tales as I pull them out.
“Oh, I made this one.” I pick up the felt stocking and smile. “I was about eight, I think. It took me ages to sew all the sequins on. There used to be more. Many have fallen off now.”
The red felt is faded and worn, the white edging closer to grey, and the sequins that are left no longer sparkle. “My mum loved it. She always said it was her favourite.”
“I can see why.” His tone is soft and tender. “You put a lot of love into it.”
I nod and hang it on the tree.
“And this one I bought last year. It’s an owl. I’ve got a thing for owls.”
“Kinky,” Jonathan quips and I slap his calf.
“Never.” He grins. “Anyway, you started it.”
“No, no. Your dirty mind started it. I meant I like owls and this one has a Santa hat on. How could I resist him?” I look up and I see mischief in the set of his mouth. I slap him again.
“Ow! I didn’t say a thing,” he protests.
“No, but you were going too.”
He doesn’t deny it and we carry on loading the branches in companionable silence.
“Ooh, Jonathan, can you check those lights for me now?” I glance up, and find his crotch just above my eye height. I drop my eyelashes and quickly bend my head down. I try to not wonder about the bulge I’m sure I just saw there. “Sure.” He steps around me, his legs rubbing against my back. “So, er, do I just plug these in then?” Obviously, Jonathan is a Christmas tree light novice.
“Yeah, and if they light up, that’s your job done. If they don’t, you need to check all the bulbs and find the one—or ones—that don’t work and replace them with those spares in that packet.” I point as I speak. He follows the direction of my finger.
“Ahh, I see.” He nods and sets to work while I move my way farther up the tree.
“Oh, now then, I need to find a good place for Fairy Mary.” I hold up a small, old, porcelain fairy, her red dress flared, the sequins lost, only the little blobs of glue to show where they once were. Her blonde hair is more fuzzy than curly, and her gold glittering halo shows mostly silver now.
“Fairy Mary?” Jonathan flicks the switch to red, and the lights come on, fizzle with a sad “plink,” then fade to black.
“There’s a bulb loose somewhere. You’ll have to fiddle with them then screw it in.” He raises a long narrow brow, and I realise how suggestive that just sounded. “And, yes, Fairy Mary,” I quickly continue, avoiding eye contact. “She’s been passed down from my Nanna’s Mum—who might even have gotten it from her mother, though we’re not sure. She always has the most comfortable branch to sit on. She’s an old lady now, you see.”
He nods and continues to turn the lights in his fingers. “So, do you have a lot of Christmas traditions?”
“Oh, a fair few: the decorations, baking my own Christmas cake from scratch, watching The Muppet Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve. After that, I go up to Tom Jenkins’s farm and look at the tree and Nativity scene before going to church for midnight mass. That’s before we even get to Christmas Day!”
“Do you have many people here on Christmas Day?”
I nod. “Yeah, a few. There’s my sister Marie, and her husband Mike, and their two teenaged girls. Aunty May comes over with her friend Queenie, and then there’ll be Uncle Charlie and his wife, their son, his wife and the newborn boy—what’s his name—oh yes, Jake.”
“They’ll all fit in here?” He has very expressive eyebrows; with the tiniest movement, he conveys great scepticism. “Well, not all at once. Charlie and his lot come over at teatime. He had a falling out with his sister some years ago, and I’ve just found it easier to have them round separately.” Just then, Jonathan tries the bulbs once more and the trailing vine lights up. Reds, greens, blues, and pink grapes shine with gaudy Christmas symbolism. I squeal in delight and clap my hands. “Just in time, too! I’ve just finished the decorations.” The lights are easily trailed through the forest of baubles, Santa’s, fairies, and hanging toys. “Right, just the tinsel now. You start at the top, and I’ll go from the bottom, and we’ll meet in the middle.” Tinsel trails through my fingertips as I twirl around the tree, stooping low, then bending at the waist, then almost standing straight with just my shoulders stooped. As I raise my head to see how Jonathan is doing, I crack against something hard.
“Oh, I am sorry.” I reach out automatically and rub my hand against Jonathan’s bumped chin, cupping his cheek in the palm of my hand, like a parent comforting an injured baby. However, the slight prickle of his end-of-the-day stubble reminds me in a powerful way that this is a grown man I’m handling so intimately. Then, there are lips: softly demanding lips pressing gently against my own. They have to be Jonathan’s as he’s the only other person in the room. They form a kiss. They don’t apologise or ask permission; they take possession of my mouth. Brooking no argument, confidently they mesh with mine, moving sensually as his hands come round me, sheltering me, cradling me close.
I want the kiss to deepen, urge Jonathan forward by stroking his cheek. I’ve forgotten everything else but him and me joining so intimately. His touch has made me a mass of tingling anticipation. His kiss makes electricity flow through my veins. I feel like an extension of the fairy lights. I must be lighting up, I’m so turned on.
But no sooner has the kiss been created than it is torn apart. We are red-cheeked, unable to meet each other’s eyes. “I’ll, erm, turn off the lights then so we can see the, er, lights.” Sentences just aren’t forming. My lips are still in kissing mode and my mind is in turmoil. Why did he pull away from me? I scurry over to the switch and flip it. “Ooh.” I gasp as the glaring main light dims and the Christmas tree comes into its own, bathing my room in festive cheer. “It looks just about perfect.” I walk back to the tree and tweak the tinsel here and there, so the lights come through a bit clearer. Jonathan says nothing, just stares into the softly glowing tackiness.
Read this story and more in my Blisemas anthology, A Blisse Christmas Collection.