This is a work of fiction.
The tree was at least twenty feet tall.
How such a gigantic pine had been uprooted, transported, and set up there without any apparent damage, I had no idea.
Every branch was hung with strings of great big red, green, and white lights.
At the top, there was a brilliant gold star, and I don’t mean it was gold-colored, I mean it was made of real gold. Either that, or it was made of pyrite, but I was pretty sure this was no fool’s gold.
The tree was so full of lights that nothing else could be suspended from its brances.
Below it, surrounding the enormous wooden container that it was in, there was a veritable mountain of gifts wrapped in various shades of glossy wrapping papers.
On the other side of the room, there was a fireplace with logs and kindling carefully prepared. I even saw a box of matches.
On one side of the fireplace, there was a long row of wooden pegs.
Other than the tree, presents, and fireplace, the room was empty. The floor here was made of white marble, unlike the wood, vinyl, or carpeted floors in the rest of the house. The walls were white, and so were the curtains, which were closed.
I looked up, but there was no light fixture. The only electrical outlet was on the wall beside the tree.
I heard footsteps, and turned to see Dylan, my boyfriend, standing in the doorway.
“Merry Christmas, Elaine,” he said. “What do you think?”
Before I could even try to formulate an answer to that, his mom came up behind him, pushing a cart laden with yet more gaily-wrapped packages.
Dylan came fully into the room, and she pushed the cart inside.
“Wow,” Dylan said. “I think this is the most presents I’ve ever seen in one place.”
“Yeah,” his mom said.
She smiled at me.
“Have you put yours out yet?”
I shook my head.
“I think this room has made her a little bit speechless,” Dylan said.
“Yes, I think you’re right.”
She pushed the cart up to the edge of the pile of presents and started stacking the new ones carefully, as if she were setting up an enormous game of Jenga.
I wanted that game after playing it at school, but Mom just gave me one of her sad smiles, and I knew we couldn’t afford it.
“Can I help you?” Dylan asked his mom.
“I’ve got it, thanks,” she said.
“Awesome. To be honest, I’m beat, but I wanted to be here when Elaine saw this place.”
“It’s amazing,” I said.
That, at least, was true.
“I’m glad you like it,” he said.
I decided not to tell him that wasn’t what I had said.
He leaned in for a kiss, and I gave him one, not because I was feeling romantic, but because I didn’t know how I felt.
“Night, Eline,” he said. “I hope Mom lets you get some sleep.”
“Oh, I will,” his mom said. “I’m just going to hang up the stockings, and then I’m off to bed.”
She and Dylan said goodnight, and he left the room.
I was happy she didn’t seem to feel the need to chat as she hung the stockings on the pegs beside the fireplace.
I knew about stockings from kids at school, but we’d never had them at home.
She hung the last overstuffed stocking and smiled at me.
“Well, that’s all of them, so if you’re comfy here alone, I’m going to go crawl into bed.”
“Yes, I’m fine. Goodnight.”