By Melissa Good
Kerry carefully hung the last, tiny wooden ornament on the tree, stepping back to inspect her work when she was done. “There.” She turned and faced the dark haired, long limbed woman sprawled on the couch watching her. “How’s that?”
Dar tilted her head to one side and reviewed the tree. “Is
that the last one?” She stroked the head of a cream colored
“Yep.” Kerry folded her arms across her chest.
“Good, because I think one more and we’d have an avalanche on our hands.” Dar chuckled, grinning when Kerry gave her a mock glower. “It’s perfect, Ker.” She relented, admiring the eight foot tall spruce adorned with lights, tinsel, garlands, and a plethora of twinkling ornaments. “The only thing missing is chestnuts roasting on an open fire.”
“Well, unless you want to stand in the kitchen with me and hold them over the gas burners…” Kerry walked over and sat down next to Dar. “We’ll just have to cope since we have no open fire to roast them on.”
They sat together, and watched the tree twinkle merrily. “Besides…” Kerry said. “There’s no way that tree’s toppling over. There’s too much holding it up.” She regarded the piles and piles of presents underneath the tree. “I can’t wait for tomorrow.”
“To get your presents?” Dar teased. “Or for our party?”
Kerry stuck her tongue out. “Both.” She admitted. “I love Christmas day, for a lot of reasons.”
Dar wiggled her sock covered toes contentedly. “Me, too.” She said. “So how about we go to bed, so it’ll come faster?”
“Okay.” Kerry pushed herself to her feet. “Let me just put Santa’s treat out, okay?” She disappeared into the large, well lit kitchen. A mitt was lying on the counter, and she picked it up and opened the oven with it. “Hm…. Hey, Dar?”
“Yes?” Dar’s voice sounded right behind her, and her breath tickled Kerry’s ear.
Kerry jumped. “Yipe!”
“Mmmm.” Dar ignored the motion and peered over Kerry’s shoulder. “Those smell great.”
“They’re for Santa!” Kerry pointed her mitt at Dar. “So don’t you get any ideas.” She slipped the mitt on her hand again and removed the tray full of cookies, setting it down on a divot to cool.
“Ho ho ho?” Dar set her chin on Kerry’s shoulder, sniffing hopefully.
“C’mon. There’s a dozen cookies. He won’t miss one.” Dar protested. “And besides, you know I’ll just end up eating them for breakfast.”
Kerry sighed, then picked up the last cookie on the tray, breaking it in half and offering part of it to Dar. “That’s true. Here.” She watched Dar delicately nibble the hot chocolate chip cookie, then took a bite of the other half. “Turned out pretty good, huh?”
“Perfect.” Dar assented. “Slightly crunchy outside, soft inside, nice warm chips.” She walked to the refrigerator. “Only thing it needs is…”
“Milk.” Kerry chuckled as she piled the cookies on a big plate. “Get me a glass to go with this.” She wasn’t really sure why she kept the tradition, since it was certainly true enough that Dar would make a beeline for the plate the next morning, and they both knew where the presents under that tree out in the living room came from. But it was a nice tradition – one of giving back a little for what was given, and Kerry had always taken comfort in it.
So, she carried the plate out into the living room, along with the glass of milk and set it on the dining room table next to the beautiful, fragrant centerpiece. Then she turned and held her hands out to Dar, smiling when her partner crossed over and took them. She drew Dar to her and they kissed in front of the tree, putting their arms around each other and simply enjoying the moment. “C’mon, birthday girl. Time to go… “
“Put me in my birthday suit?” Dar inquired.
Kerry grinned. “Yeah.” She plucked one of Dar’s buttons open, and hooked her finger around a second, tugging her towards the bedroom. “Another reason I love Christmas Eve.”
Dar put her arms around Kerry and they managed somehow to
make it through the bedroom door without breaking their kiss.
In the living room, the tree twinkled on, throwing colorful reflections against the sliding glass windows and mirroring the starry sky without.
struck, a soft chiming from the clock on the wall that echoed slightly in the quiet, darkened condo.
The branches of the spruce stirred, waving slightly and producing the smallest of tinkles, and the lights were dimmed as a golden mist wound amongst them. It dipped and soared, dusting the interior of the living room in a blanket of warmth before it coalesced into two distinct figures.
“Oo. I like this one, Xe.” Said the first, smaller one.
The larger drifted over. “Nice.” Came the answer. “But look at this place. Another box. Why do they all live in boxes?”
“Mm… it’s not really a box. More like a bunch of boxes. Look at the window!”
“Which ocean is that?” The figure extended a hand through the glass, then drew it back. “It’s hot outside.”
“I don’t know.” The little one drifted along the walls. “Oh, Xe, look! Look at this!”
The two gilded forms joined. “Fish.” The larger stated pragmatically.
A wisp of light touched the frame. “How did they put the fish in there? It’s flat!”
A low, soft chuckle rippled through the air. “Still asking questions after all this time, hmm?”
“Well. How else do you learn things?” The smaller darted off in a swirl of light. “Oh, Xe, isn’t that pretty?”
“What is it?”
“I don’t know, but look at all the little candles.”
“I don’t think they’re candles. No heat.”
“Whatever. This isn’t that different from our cabin, though. See?”
Two clouds of light descended and perched on the couch. “Ah.” The larger chuckled. “Definitely one of ours. Smell that leather.”
The smaller laughed softly. “I don’t think that’s inherited.”
“Sure it is. They all have it.” The larger retorted. “Leather seats, leather bags, leather clothes…”
“Hush.” The smaller whispered. “Oh, Xe…” A twirl of light spiraled up. “This is a happy place.”
The larger figure extended out along the couch, forming into a long, sleek figure resting on its side. Pinpoints of light followed the other drifting cloud. “How can you tell?”
The smaller cloud expanded, throwing tendrils across the space. “I can feel the love.” It drifted back over to the side of the room. “Oh!”
“Now what?” The larger swirled over, wrapping itself around the smaller with sinuous grace. “More fish?”
“Them.” A tiny tendril pointed at a square.
“Us.” A deeper voice answered.
“Mm.” A moment of silence. “Boy, that’s weird.”
“Yeah.” The larger separated, and drifted slowly towards the window. It passed over the table, and stopped. “Hm.”
“What have we here?” The larger figure solidified on the table, perching on it. “Ah hah.”
A small giggle. “Figures if there were cookies somewhere, you’d find them.”
“Does that mean you don’t want any? Good.”
“Xena.” The smaller figure swirled over. “You can’t eat their cookies.”
“Sure I can. Watch.” A cookie disappeared into a golden curl. “Mmmmm…” Another one vanished.
“How did you do that?” The smaller twined with the larger curiously. “Oh.”
“See? Easy.” A dusting of crumbs rained down.
“Mm.” A light laugh. “Still learning things from you after all this time. You’re right. They’re great. But isn’t this stealing?”
“Cookies don’t count.” A soft slurping sound followed. “Cow’s milk. Been a while.”
“I like the little brown things in the cookie. What do you think those are?”
“You’re the cook in the family, not me, Gabrielle.” Another cookie vanished. “I think it’s chocolate.”
“Hm. I’ll have to go find some when we get back. There’s got to be some of this stuff in the Elysian Fields *somewhere*.”
The plate shone empty in no time. The smaller figure drifted back to the tree. “Time to do what we came for.” Gold swirls trickled around the tree, and the presents underneath it. “You think they need a gift from us? Looks like they have a lot.”
The larger cloud surrounded the smaller. “Presents are always good.”
“You know what I’d give them if I could, Xe?”
“A life together that is as long, and as happy as yours and mine was.”
“Mm.” The golden light intensified. “Never thought we’d end up being able to say that.”
A light, delighted laugh. “Life’s so weird.” A brilliant swirl suddenly arced out. “Oh, Xena. Look.”
The larger figure drifted to the wall, and hung there in front of a piece of hardwood with a twisted bit of metal mounted to it. Hesitantly, a golden hand formed and reached up to brush the battered relic, fingers fitting themselves around what was barely recognizable as the hilt of a sword. “By the gods I miss this.”
The smaller figure floated over, and tucked itself around the larger. “Wow. I can’t believe it lasted all this time.”
Slowly, the golden light extended over the old sword, wreathing it in radiance. Then the tendril withdrew. “A gift.” Xena’s low whisper echoed.
“And I’ll add mine.” Gabrielle replied, forming a bit of her soul into reality and gently laying it over the sword.
For a moment, the golden light spread out, dusting everything with radiance, then it faded back to two single points. “Time to go.” Xena said.
“I know.” Gabrielle said. “Gods be with you, far off children of ours.” The points joined, and then arced up towards the stars. “Good luck.” A deeper voice trailed after them. “You’re gonna need it.”
A low, musical laugh dissipated into the night.
Kerry rubbed her eyes as she trudged across the living room,
She smiled at the dawn, and then she turned and reached over to flip the switch on the coffee maker before she ambled back into the living room to watch her tree twinkle. After she studied it for a moment, sensing something a tad different but unable to discern what, she found her eyes drawn to the table.
One eyebrow lifted. “Jesus, Dar.” She started laughing. “Couldn’t you even wait for breakfast?”
“Wait for what?” Dar inquired, sticking her head out of the bedroom. She had a toothbrush poking out of her mouth.
“To eat those damn cookies.” Kerry continued laughing. “Good grief.”
Dar looked at her, then at the table, then back at her. “I didn’t.” She removed the toothbrush and wiped her lips. “I didn’t touch them.”
“C’mon.” Kerry put her hands on her hips. “Give me a break,
Dar. Are you telling me
Dar walked over and stared at the plate, her brows creased. “Kerry, I’m telling you, I didn’t touch them.” She said in a curious voice.
Kerry regarded her. “Really?”
Dar touched a crumb lying inside one of the flowers in the
arrangement. “Really.” She held up the crumb.” I hope
“Yikes.” Kerry winced.
“Yeah. I didn’t get any cookies.” Dar pouted.
Kerry chuckled, and gave her a one armed hug. “I’ll make you some later, I promise.” She turned and headed back towards the kitchen, only to be stopped by Dar’s voice.
Kerry turned, to see Dar staring at the wall. “Hm? What is it swee…. Jesus.” She walked back to Dar’s side and stood next to her. “How did that happen?”
On the wall, mounted on its hardwood backing, what was once a twisted remnant of an old sword now shone whole, its metal blade gently reflecting the morning light of the sun.
Dar just blinked at it.
“Oh.” Kerry slapped her head. “I bet I know.” She said. “Your dad. He was asking me about getting that thing restored... I wasn’t sure if you…”
“Dad.” Dar’s voice sounded relieved. “Yeah, and that would explain the damn cookies, too.” She laughed, and rubbed her brows. “Wow. He got me there for a minute. I wasn’t sure what was going on.”
“Yeah, me too. Sneaky guy.” They smiled at each other, and then Dar gave Kerry a pat on the side as she turned and headed for the coffee, leaving Kerry to regard their new adornment.
“Wait a minute.” Kerry walked over and removed something hanging from the sword, unrolling it and examining it with curious eyes. “Hey, Dar?”
“Hm?” Dar glanced up from her task.
“Does Dad speak Greek?”
A breeze blew through the open door, bringing with it the scent of the past, and a soft, mingled chuckle.