The Christmas Star
Justin carefully made his way down the stairs in Joan Kinney's house. He was carrying a large box and couldn't see where his feet were being placed. It was better to take it slow than do a header down the narrow stairs.
It was late November. Joan Kinney had passed away almost a month before. Brian had gone to her funeral, but he had been so quiet, so silent ever since. Claire had been to the house and taken whatever she thought she wanted or could use. Now the house had to be cleared out so it could be sold. Despite her feelings about Brian Joan had left half the house to him, the other half going to Claire. Brian said he didn't want anything from Joan. He offered the house to Claire, but she had her own house and didn't want to move. However, she would be happy to have the money from the sale of the house, half or all of the money, whichever Brian decided.
So it had fallen to Brian to clear out the place. Jennifer Taylor was ready to put it on the market, but she wasn't optimistic that it would sell quickly with winter and the holidays fast approaching. Brian just wanted to be rid of it - it and everything else that had to do with his loving mother.
"Where should I put this?" Justin asked as he finally reached the bottom of the stairs.
"Throw it in the dumpster," Brian said without even looking at the box. He had rented one of those dumpsters they put in the driveway. He had been ruthlessly pitching everything he laid his hands on.
"But you don't even know what it is," Justin protested.
"Don't care. Throw it in the dumpster.
"It's labeled 'Christmas decorations', Justin informed him.
"So! Pitch it!"
"But there could be some nice decorations in here. And you said we could get a tree this year," Justin said.
"We'll get new decorations."
"But ... sometimes old ones are so pretty. They would be different on the tree."
"Yeah ... different. Do whatever the fuck you want," Brian sighed. He grabbed the box he had been filling and carried it outside.
Justin heard the rattle and bang as it and its contents ended up in the dumpster. He wished he knew what to say to Brian, to comfort him, to just talk. Everything he tried to say just made Brian angry or worse - made him more silent. The last month had not been easy for either of them.
Justin opened the box and started sorting through the Christmas ornaments inside. He didn't find anything that was overly impressive, but he thought he could use some of the ornaments.
"What are you doing with that crap?" Brian asked as he came back inside.
"There's some nice ornaments. I'd like to go through it more thoroughly," Justin said carefully.
"Suit yourself. I'm done here."
"Okay, let's go. I'll take this with me," Justin said lifting the box of ornaments off the floor.
Brian shook his head and sucked his lips in, but he said nothing as he locked up the house and headed back to the loft.
"They should be here any minute," Justin said as he hung the last of the ornaments on the real tree that he had talked Brian into. It was just a week before Christmas.
"Yeah," Brian said taking a pull of his beer.
He studied the Christmas tree which was now the focal point in front of the bank of windows in the loft. He hadn't wanted a tree at all, but Justin had begged and bribed and fucked him into getting this huge motherfucker of a tree that he had finally agreed to. Brian had to admit that Justin had done a wonderful job decorating it. He had given his partner carte blanche to decorate, and Justin had bought some wonderful white birds that were dotted all over the tree. The glitter on their feathery tails sparkled as the tree lights blinked on and off. He had also bought some large white balls which were ringed with silver sparkles. Since the tree was so large the big ornaments were needed to make it look fully decorated. In between the purchased ornaments Justin had used many of his mother's old decorations. She had several boxes of the old fashioned glass tree ornaments in her decoration box. They provided a great contrast to all the white decorations that Justin had purchased. The other thing his mother had was about twenty little silver bells that actually rang if you shook them. They were scattered strategically around the tree and they twinkled in the light.
"What do you think?" Justin asked with an apprehensive smile as he stood back and looked at his creation.
"Not bad," Brian replied as the buzzer went off to indicate their guests had arrived.
Justin smiled at Brian's comment. Not bad usually meant that Brian was pleased with what he saw. That was something.
Brian opened the loft door as he heard the elevator ascending. When it came to a stop and the gate started to go up a little five year old whirlwind ducked under it and flung himself at his father.
"Daddy, daddy, daddy," Gus said as he clung to his father's neck. "Santa's coming."
"I know, Sonnyboy," Brian said hugging his son hard.
"Good to see you, Brian, Justin," Lindsay said.
"How was your trip?" Justin asked as he hugged both her and Melanie.
"Long car ride from Toronto," Melanie sniped.
"And who's idea was it to move there?" Brian asked pointedly.
"Screw you!" Melanie reacted.
"Mel," Lindsay pleaded. "Um, we wanted to do some shopping, so we thought you might like us to leave Gus with you while we do that."
"Sure," Justin said. Brian merely nodded as the girls got back into the elevator.
"Justin finished the Christmas tree," Brian said as he carried Gus into the loft.
"Wow!" Gus reacted as he saw the tree glittering in front of him. "Bootiful."
"Thanks, buddy," Justin said with a huge smile.
"Where's the star?" Gus asked innocently. "Grandma Debbie's tree has a star."
"Funny you should ask," Justin grinned. "I found this in the decoration box." He held up a sparkly silver star. "The box it was in was labeled 'Brian's star'," he added. He glanced at Brian to see his reaction.
"Is that yours, Daddy?" Gus asked.
"When I was a little boy about your age," Brian said tickling Gus' tummy and eliciting a giggle, "my father brought this star home and he would hold me up and let me put it on the top of the tree. That lasted a year or two," Brian added with a faraway look in his eyes. In spite of himself he was remembering how proud he was to place that star at the top of the tree.
"Why did that last only a couple of years?" Justin asked hardly above a whisper.
Brian shrugged, not wanting to mention liquor and violent tempers in front of his son. "Would you like to put the star on the top of the tree, Sonny boy?" Brian asked giving his son an affectionate squeeze.
"Way up there?" Gus asked his eyes very big.
"I'll hold you," Brian promised.
"'Kay," Gus agreed. "If you could do it, Daddy, I can too."
"That's my boy."
Justin watched as Brian lifted Gus up above his head. Father and son carefully placed the vintage star atop the tree. Now it felt like their tree, not just his tree.
"It looks great," Justin said as Brian stepped back to admire the effect.
"Yes, it does," he said after a moment. "Thanks to you."
Justin beamed one of his sunshine smiles at the unexpected compliment. "It's going to be the best Christmas," he vowed.
"Bootiful!" Gus said again, and they all agreed one hundred percent.
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