“I didn’t think you’d get a tree while you were out,” Rachel said to her husband, who was standing in the entryway, a tall spruce almost completely blocking her view of him and filling the small space.
Adam poked his head from behind the towering display of Christmas cheer, and smiled. “Yeah, I thought this would make things easier. Now you and your sister can go right ahead and decorate it.”
Rachel heard a muffled sneeze from the next room. “Uh, honey,” she started slowly, “there’s something you need to know.”
Megan, Rachel’s younger sister, came in from the living room, a tissue in one hand and her eyes beginning to swell. “Is that what I think it is?” she asked, pointing to the evergreen.
“It’s a tree,” Adam told her blankly.
Megan screwed up her face. “I know it’s a . . . achoo . . . tree.” She blew her nose quickly, her brown curls bouncing around her head.
“She’s allergic to trees,” Rachel supplied. “Mom used artificial ones.”
“Artificial?” Adam said the word as if it was nothing less than an atrocity.
“Yeah. I guess I should’ve said something, but I was so excited about having Megan and Jake over.”
“Did someone call my name?” Jake, Megan’s husband, asked. A moment later his entire six-foot-three frame came squeezing into the already overcrowded entryway. “Wow!” he exclaimed. “How’d you get that in the Subaru?”
“I tied it to the top,” Adam said, sounding a little grumpy.
Megan sneezed no less than five times in a row. “I’ll be okay, really,” she said, as Rachel squeezed out to get her another tissue. Megan blew her nose again. It sounded like a foghorn. “I don’t want to put you guys out.”
“We can’t make you sick like that,” Rachel said.
Adam seemed to consider.
“Can we, sweetheart,” Rachel enunciated.
“I don’t know if they take returns on live trees.” Adam began dragging the spruce back through the doorway.
“It never hurts to try,” Megan said.
Jake had enough sense to at least help Adam maneuver the tree.
“I was just trying to do you a favor,” Adam muttered in Rachel and Megan’s direction.
“Never surprise a woman without her permission,” Jake said.
“Baby, that doesn’t even make . . . achoo . . . sense.”
“How about we all go together and return the tree,” Rachel suggested, “then we can pick one out while we’re at it.”
“Oh, I want one of those white trees, like mom used to get,” Megan said.
“How about the kind with the lights already built in. Then we don’t have to fight with the bulbs.” Jake grinned with satisfaction, as if his declaration made him the smartest person there.
Adam had the tree up on the roof of the car in an amazing feat of strength—-or was that irritation. Rachel ran inside, pulled on her coat and boots, then came back quickly to help him tie it down. She caught him on the far side of the car, away from the others. “It’ll be okay,” she said. “It’s just a few days. They’re family after all.”
“But it’s Christmas and this is supposed to be . . .”
Ropes were secured and everyone slipped into the car.
“It’s perfect,” Megan declared, no longer sounding like Rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer.
“I don’t know why we had to put lights on it,” Jake said, crossing his arms over his chest crossly. “They’re already built in.”
“But stringing lights is so much fun,” Megan countered. “And I love lots of lights on a white tree.”
Rachel bumped a shoulder against Adam’s. “It’s not so bad, is it?”
“It’s artificial, white; with built in bulbs and strung bulbs in seven different colors. It has both tinsel and angel hair-”
“Don’t forget the plastic icicles,” Rachel added.
“Lest I forget.” He sighed. “Next Christmas, let’s make sure our phone’s broken.”
“At least we’re together.” As she looked up at him his face softened, but only a little. “And I’m fixing a turkey tomorrow, just because it’s our favorite.”
“What about Megan and Jake?”
“They can order takeout.” She grinned.
“I guess it’s only a few days.”
“And look how happy they are.”
The couple in question was seated at the foot of the tree, shaking wrapped boxes.
“Why did we let them get married?” Adam asked.
Rachel laughed. “Because we love them.”
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