Snow Fell in Staten Island
by L.B. Gregg
“He’ll want a big one,” I’d stupidly told the guy at the tree farm this morning, thinking—as one does— that bigger meant better. Poppy had snickered very Poppy-like beside me, her eyebrows dancing above an unsuitably delicate cashmere scarf and, as usual, she’d encouraged me with an elbow to the ribs. “Who doesn’t want a big one, right? I know I do.”
So the guy in the lumberjack coat had handed me a hacksaw, pointed toward the ‘big ones’ and, after explaining what a hacksaw was and how to use it—which I easily could have guessed by its size, shape, and name— sent us into a well ordered forest of Long Island pine trees.
I’d never bought a tree before, or cut one down, or even uttered the word ‘hacksaw’ before today’s outing with Poppy. My family had a store-bought blue spruce that collapsed into a few easy pieces and fit snuggly inside a ten-year old Macy’s box, which we then stashed in the basement—the Romano way.
Going to a tree farm and sacrificing a live tree, apparently, was the Albright way.
Five hours later and a hundred and fifty dollars poorer, it occurred to me that my lame expression of affection could have been bought, cut and delivered from the Episcopalian tree sale just down Dan’s street. I’d be in the house, feet up, with a cocktail and a plate of something hot by now.
Dan’s bountiful Christmas tree and I thumped up the next step. Big like our love, I’d said to Poppy, who rolled her eyes and ditched me on the lawn.
Snow sizzled, nipping my nose and shrouding the neighborhood. All along the quiet stretch of Staten Island, houses were hung with happy icicle lights. Christmas trees twinkled in multi-colored madness from picture windows, and fat Santas sat on lawns. In the distance, the orange hue of Manhattan glowed through the thickening snow.
Honestly, his street felt like home.
As soon as I lugged his present into the house, and fancied it with tinsel, and washed my hands, I’d pour myself the biggest Christmas cocktail ever seen. Something with flavored vodka and chocolate liqueur and peppermint schnapps. And peppermint sticks.
I heaved the tree up the last step, fueled by the promise of sugar and alcohol. I didn’t waste a second. Time was flying by, so I stuck my key in the lock—
And the front door swung open.
“Oh my God,” I yelped in surprise. Fast as ever, Dan grabbed my parka before I slipped and fell over the tree and down the steps.
Warmth spilled from his snug house and I blinked at Dan’s crooked smile. His square jaw was peppered in stubble, and powdered sugar hung above his lip. He was home, I thought stupidly, and dressed in his faded Wagner sweatpants—as if he’d been home the entire time.
“What the hell are you doing home?” I squawked.
“I’ve been watching you from the window for the last fifteen minutes, Ce. That’s a pretty big tree. You could have asked for help.”
“Help? But…it’s a surprise. And you’re not supposed to be here. You said six. It’s five thirty. I thought you were gone.” I slapped his hand away and glanced in dismay at the tree choking the front steps. It seemed ridiculously large now. Too much. Too wet. And sort of foolishly impractical.
“I said six, because I’m working on something, too. I ran into a…hitch, so I thought like a Romano and I’m having a doughnut.“ His easy voice allayed my anxiety. He shook his head ruefully and his self-depreciating smile warmed me. “Actually, I’m on my third. These are good.”
I blinked. Did he just say doughnut? A third one? I sniffed the air and what I smelled was eggnog. Either Dan had a new aftershave, or he was holding out on me. Naturally, my stomach growled. “Are there any left? I could use a little something right about now.”
“No kidding. And yes. I bought a dozen. They’re cheaper and more effective than roses.” He winked and stepped aside. Belatedly, I noticed the pine needles. They poked from his thick hair and coated his shearling slippers and stuck to his sweats.
A path of eco-debris led into the house. I shook the snow from my hair and followed pine needles like they were a trail of breadcrumbs.
“Working, you said?” I glanced in confusion to the street. “Wait Were those pine needles there already?”
“Yeah. Those are mine. You just added to the collection.” Dan shut the door. He took my coat and threw it over the painted banister as I shucked off my boots. His mouth twitched when he got a look at my new reindeer socks.
“A gift from Poppy.” I said primly and wriggled my toes. “They’re quite warm.”
“Sure. Come on. You may as well see the mess I made.”
In his homey living room, where photos of Dan’s beloved Green grandparents hung on the wall and a holiday movie flickered on the massive TV, a towering bush filled the corner. Reaching robustly to the ceiling, full and green, and clearly an evergreen, its crown had been hacked off— flat as a pancake.
“Oh. My. God.” I snorted. And then I snorted again. “Wow. That’s,”—snort— “nice. Did you…uhm…intend to behead your tree?”
“It was an accident.” Dan flipped the lid on a white bakery box. It sat in a place of honor on the coffee table. “The tree top snapped when I stood the damn thing up.” He shrugged. “I tried to salvage it.”
“By turning it into a topiary?”
“Hey. I didn’t mean for that to happen.”
I grinned at him. “Hey. You sound exactly like me.”
“Well, it was bound to happen, baby. People stay together long enough, and they pick up each other’s best traits.” Dan selected the chubbiest, most sprinkled doughnut in the box and handed it to me. My heart absolutely flipped over. “Merry Christmas, Caesar. I decapitated a tree for you.”
“My hero.” I bit into the doughnut and sweet cherry jam filled my mouth. That man loved me—no question.
Dan slipped his hand into my free one and tugged me down to the couch.
“And that’s okay with you?”
“More than okay.” He squeezed my fingers before settling deeper into the cushions.
“So we have two trees. Yours is broken and mine won’t fit in the house.”
“As long as I don’t cut the top off this one, we’re golden.” He licked the sugar from his wonderfully sweet lips, and then he pulled me close and licked the sugar from mine. “We’re golden, Ce.”
copyright 2013, l.b. gregg
… note from Barb, this coda features Ce and Dan from the Romano and Albright series – these books are amazing! LB has this knack of writing perfect comedy – it is never forced, never too much, just the perfect amount of can’t-wipe-this-smile-off-my face humour!
About the Author
L.B. Gregg (Lisabea) began writing in the spring of 2008 at the encouragement of friends and family. She never looked back.
L.B. is passionate about travel, wine, skiing, biking, visiting friends, reading, writing, and all things New England. She hates to cook; she loves to eat; and she enjoys container gardening. L.B. lives†in the rolling Connecticut hills with a lazy dog, three above-average children, and a smoking hot husband who, thank the Lord, loves to cook.