Chapter One: 21 days until Christmas (Saturday)
The two boys run past Kate, almost knocking her over. Instead of telling them to slow down, she watches their mother run off after them. Turning away from the family, Kate notices a car pulling into the lot. She grimaces as she recognizes Lila’s car. She has no desire to get into a tussle with her arch enemy, especially in front of her mother. Neither does she wish to act as if Lila hadn’t just tried, unsuccessfully of course, to seal her boyfriend.
Plus under her mother’s eye, she’ll have to behave perfectly. Kate looks around and spies a family coming off the farm with their chosen tree. Kate hurries forward eager to help them. As she moves, her foot catches a piece of ice. Kate tries to balance herself, but before she can, her feet slide out from under her. She lands hard on her butt, dazed for a moment. She glances up to see Lila smirking down at her.
“Do you think you can help me, if you’re not too busy attempting to ice skate?”
Kate grits her teeth and smiles, “Of course.” She hauls herself up, taking care to brush off her butt, wincing at a tender spot. “What sort of tree are you looking for?”
“The perfect one, of course.”
“Of course you are. Now, what shape are you looking for?”
“Did I not just say the perfect tree? Maybe I need someone else to help me.” Lila looks around.
Kate catches her mother’s eye who looks at her questionly. Kate can’t afford another customer mishap. She holds in a sigh and recovers, “I meant, how tall and how wide of a tree are you looking for?”
Lila nods and thinks for a moment. “Well it has to be the focal point of the room.” Kate nods in understanding. “I’m having a party, you see, and everything must be perfect.” Kate nods again.
“What room will you be placing the tree?”
“The parlor of course.” Lila looks at Kate as if she’s stupid.
Kate fights the urge to roll her eyes. Only Lila would call their living room a parlor. “What about needles, do you want short or long?”
Lila shrugs, “Whatever’s best really.”
“Do you want to look in our lot or would you like to see our selection of pre-cut trees?”
Lila gives me a look, “I don’t think you really understand. I want you to find me the perfect tree. God is that so hard? I’ll be in my car. Don’t take too long either.”
Dumbfounded, I watch as she flounces towards her car. Rooted to the spot, my mom startles me, “What was that about?”
“That was Lila, I’m supposed to find her the perfect tree while she waits in the car.”
Not surprisingly, my mother doesn’t comment on the rudeness of Lila’s behavior or commiserate that picking out trees is not in my job description. Instead, she mutters, “We get all kinds. Your Dad just brought down some fresh cut trees and put them in barn. Why don’t you start there?”