SURE AS THE STARS SHINE ABOVE
Kyle Langford & Mara Harper
The sound of paper tearing had been non-stop for well over an hour now, just like the free and clear bursts of laughter and cheering that following each new rip to reveal all kinds of gifts that were being passed around from beneath the tree that could only really be described as monstrous. Kyle had been present when they’d manoeuvred the enormous thing through the lobby and into the TV lounge, convinced that it wouldn’t fit.
It did. Just barely. Once the final ornament -- a handmade crescent moon covered in glitter that had been a secret project by the youngsters in the pack, from the actual children like Susie to those who still possessed childlike mind-sets -- had been nestled at the very top the thing filled one side of the room from floor to ceiling. It was good thing too, he’d come to realise, given how many presents and parcels ended up stuffed underneath the lower branches. Some of the pack had resorted to setting little gifts snuggly between the higher branches, and from where he sat in one of the window seats on the opposite side of the room Kyle could see several of those little parcels waiting to be discovered.
Someone sat down beside him, offering a mug to him in one hand, a twin held in their other. Kyle glanced down at the contents, noting silently that the beverage had been made exactly how he liked it. With a small nod of gratitude he accepted the offering. Mara smiled. “How long does this usually go on for?” she asked before taking a sip from her mug.
“Hours,” Kyle returned, lifting his mug to smell the contents. He thought he picked up a touch of hazelnut in the scent. That didn’t surprise him, the contents of the cupboards in the kitchen tended to get progressively more festive during December. “See there?” He pointed to those little parcels he had been eyeing a few moments beforehand. He heard her small and interested murmur of acknowledgement. “It usually takes a good hour to get through those alone.” He sipped the coffee. “And there are still plenty underneath. They always leave the ones in the branches until last.”
Mara laughed softly, shaking her head. Her hair had been pulled over one shoulder in a simple tie, keeping it out of the way. It suited her. “Everyone gets gifts?”
Kyle made a small noise of consent. “Everyone.”
“Even the newbies like me?” Mara smiled in a manner he assumed was intended to be cheeky.
“Even you.” If it had been in his nature he would have smiled back at her but instead he turned he gaze just as Jeremy came to a halt in front of them, filled with excited, restless energy. In that moment he reminded Kyle of a small dog, fit to burst and close to trembling he was so beside himself with enthusiasm. Thrusting his hands forward he presented Mara with a small square parcel wrapped in bright festive paper, wrapped with gold ribbon, topped with a matching bow.
“It almost fell out of one of the branches,” Jeremy said in a rush, “but I caught it.” He sounded so proud of himself. As soon as Mara had taken the little gift from the historian’s hands he was off again, bounding clean over an armchair to spring off the cushion to re-join the others around the tree. Mara laughed in a mixture of disbelief and amusement before looking down at the little box.
“Who is this—” She had turned to find Kyle watching her. “You?”
“Everyone gets gifts,” he said, lifting his mug to take another sip of the hazelnut coffee within. “Even newbies like you.”