Trim­ming The Tree

An im­por­tant ques­tion is posed in this fes­tive short story by He­len Yen­dall.

The People's Friend Special - - COOKERY -

Ryan filled up the ket­tle and searched the cup­boards for tea. He put in two teabags for good mea­sure, and squeezed them so the tea turned dark brown.

He took their mugs into the lounge, where a huge fir tree stood in a bucket, its top branches al­most graz­ing the ceil­ing.

Boxes of tin­sel and baubles were scat­tered around, and there was a tan­gle of fairy lights near the fire­place.

“Erm, Mr Davies,” Ryan started, hand­ing over the tea.

“First things first,” Ge­off in­ter­rupted. “Th­ese lights need sort­ing. There are two sets in there, all mixed up, and I’m not sure whether they work.”

Ryan nod­ded. Per­haps while they un­tan­gled them they could chat.

Up un­til now, he and Ge­off had never had much to say to each other. Al­though they both liked foot­ball, it was some­thing of a sore point as they sup­ported op­pos­ing sides.

Ryan sat on the car­pet to start un­rav­el­ling the lights, ex­pect­ing Ge­off to do the same, but when he looked round, he’d dis­ap­peared.

He didn’t come back un­til Ryan had sep­a­rated both sets of lights and found the rea­son that nei­ther set had worked – a miss­ing bulb – and used spare bulbs from the box to fix them.

“Now,” Ge­off said, “lights on first. I’ll hold the lad­der, while you climb up and start from the top.”

Ryan hes­i­tated. He wasn’t great with heights, and this was a pretty tall tree. But Ge­off was wait­ing. He’d bet­ter give it a go. De­spite his shak­ing hands and knees, he man­aged to fix the lights so they trailed around the tree from the very high­est branches. When Ge­off passed it up to him, he added the an­gel, too.

It was a re­lief to get down.

Ge­off handed him a box of baubles.

“You make a start with th­ese. I’ll fetch some more tin­sel. Be care­ful: they’re fam­ily heir­looms.”

The third bauble seemed to come apart in Ryan’s hands. He stared at the pieces of blue glass in hor­ror.

This was – or had been – an heir­loom!

He could hear Ge­off com­ing back. He could al­ways hide the bro­ken pieces at the bot­tom of the box and act sur­prised when they were spot­ted . . .

But, no, he couldn’t.

“I’m so sorry. I seem to have bro­ken one of the baubles,” he blurted out, hold­ing out the pieces and winc­ing.

Ge­off pursed his lips and nod­ded. He took the pieces from Ryan’s hand and told him to sit down. He took the seat op­po­site, and thought for a se­cond be­fore he spoke.

“When Cassie told me you wanted to have a chat this af­ter­noon, I guessed you didn’t want to bor­row my chain­saw or steplad­der. Am I right?”

Ryan’s heart sank into his boots. He’d blown it.

“No. I wanted to ask you some­thing im­por­tant.”

Ge­off looked stern.

“Come on, then. What is it?”

Ryan stood up. He took a deep breath and tried not to stum­ble over the words.

“Mr Davies, I’d like to ask if you would agree to me ask­ing Cassie to make me the hap­pi­est man in the world.” He took an­other breath. “And marry me.” Ge­off rubbed his chin. “Well, let’s see.” He nod­ded. “You make a per­fect cup of tea; you’ve got the pa­tience of a saint; you sorted out those fairy lights with­out a mur­mur; you over­came your fear of heights to go up that tree and –” he held out the pieces of bro­ken bauble “– you’re hon­est.”

Ryan’s head was spin­ning. He hadn’t ex­pected this.

Ge­off stood up.

“That was quite a speech, lad. And I thought you didn’t have a lot to say for your­self.

“I’ve only got one daugh­ter and I love her very much. But I can see that you do, too, and that you make her very happy.

“Yes, if she’ll have you, that’s more than all right by me. Just one thing.” He hes­i­tated and put his fin­ger in the air.

“From now on,” he con­tin­ued, “I think you’d bet­ter call me Ge­off.”

Ryan had come here for a rea­son – and it wasn’t to fix the fairy lights!

The End.

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