“TOMORROW IS DECEMBER 1,” Leanne blurted out when they woke the next morning. Her eyes were dancing with delight.
“And today’s November 30.” Jay played dumb. He knew full well what the first day of December meant to Leanne, but he couldn’t resist hearing her describe it to him again.
“As if you don’t remember. It’s tree day!” Leanne was bubbling over with excitement. “And the official start to the Christmas season. You have go out first thing and look at absolutely a ton of trees, picking your favourite shape for the year. It could be dense and strong to hold the heavier ornaments you can’t always use. Or it could the more open and delicate kind for the Charlie Brown years. But whatever the size and type, you’ve got to smell every one. And shake them all for loose needles. And the final test? Tasting a needle or two to make sure it’s nice and piney, really Christmassy.” Leanne’s face lit up like a child on Christmas morning. And this was from only thinking about it. “The tree’s the best part. It feels like Christmas itself gets brought right inside your home, to see, smell, touch—”
“Taste.” Jay laughed. “I never thought I’d be looking forward to eating a tree, but you’ve got me curious. It still seems a little early to me, though. Won’t all the needles be on the ground by Christmas?”
“That’s why you do the taste test and all the other stuff,” Leanne explained. “And you only buy from a lot where you know all the trees are freshly cut. None of that ‘cut a month or two before’ nonsense.” Leanne took Christmas trees very seriously.
“So where do you want to put this magic tree? Your place or mine?”
“I’ve been thinking about that, Jay, and I think at yours. You have that terrific space opposite the fireplace that would be perfect. And since it’d be nice not going back and forth over the holidays, if we stayed there, it would save you having to pack up a bunch of meds for here.”
“I like your thinking. You wouldn’t mind not having a tree at home, though?”
“I will be having that,” Leanne said as she squeezed his hand. Home was fast becoming wherever they both were.
They had casually tossed around the idea of moving in together, but intellectually it seemed too soon. Maybe they’d do something about it in the new year.
A few days before Christmas, they were at the market to gather what they needed to cook their feast for two. There had been invitations from friends, but this was their first Christmas together, and they wanted it to be just the two of them. That was actually how they usually preferred it. Not that they didn’t enjoy hanging out with other people, but they often ended up spending most of that time looking forward to being alone with each other again.
Leanne commented on their rather secluded lifestyle as she pulled out a cart. “Do you think we’re too shut off from other people?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. Probably. But do you really want to get unsecluded?” Jay asked with a laugh, which was quickly contagious.
And for them, that was the last that needed to be said on the subject of needing more people in the forefront of their lives. They were happy.
As they wandered the grocery aisles, Jay tossed in a package of corn tortillas.
“I still can’t believe what we’re going to have for our Christmas dinner,” she said.
“What’s wrong with tacos and beans?” Jay tried to look innocent as he picked out his favourite hot salsa.
“Not a thing. I love ’em. But I’ve never had them on December 25 before.” Leanne had been surprised to learn of the Hanson family tradition of having the cheapest meal they could think of on the day much of the world voted for the most extravagant. “I like it. It’s a nice idea. But can we have turkey on the twenty-sixth then?”
“Sort of defeats the purpose.” He added some beans to the cart. “How about we do turkey when we get our own place, to sort of christen it.”
“Won’t we be doing something else to christen that?” Leanne teased.
“Don’t know if I can wait that long, Lee,” Jay let slip without overthinking it this time.
“Good to know, Jay. Good to know.”
While the subject of sex had been broached on a number of occasions, it had always been spoken of as off in the future, not as something imminent, even though they had done just about everything except have intercourse.
Leanne hadn’t wanted to push the issue since it was the last step before Jay completely gave away all control. After they went all the way, there would be no going back and undoing it. She would have had sex with someone who had AIDS. Safer sex, but still sex. It was the last vestige of his fear that he would hurt her…