(advent) Tuesday, December 18

The cold persisted through the night and the next day, making it very difficult for Molly to find the enthusiasm to get out of bed. It was her day off, after all, and the bed was warm. Schrodinger had snuggled in next to her when Drew had gotten up, putting his head on the pillow and purring in his sleep. Molly lay in the semi-darkness of the bedroom, content to simply be.

In the end, though, her bladder demanded that she get up. Her slippers were icy when she slid her feet into them, despite the warmth of the room, and she was shivering by the time she got downstairs. Even the warm kitchen seemed cold.

Oh man, I can’t be sick, she thought, leaning against the counter as she waited for the tea water to boil. Molly could have heated the water with a thought, but that seemed like way too much work. I have too much to do to be sick now.

She took her tea into the living room, sitting on the couch with a blanket around her, her mug cupped in her hands. Outside the window, it was snowing fitfully, little spurts of flakes that came and went, but inside, the tea and the blanket began to seep through the chill. Molly snuggled back on to the couch and contemplated what they would do today.

Before he’d left for work, Drew had brought out the red and green Christmas tree stand from the basement, along with the three boxes of ornaments that they had collected. This afternoon, on his way home, he’d stop at the tree farm and get the tree they’d picked out a few weeks ago. He’d left early so that he could be here to decorate it with them.

Are you okay?

Schrodinger had come in and was looking at her oddly, his head cocked to one side, and for a moment, she couldn’t figure out why he looked weird, almost sideways. Then Molly realized that at some point, she’d slid down to lie on the couch, her mug on its side on the floor, dangling limply from her fingers.

“I must have fallen asleep again,” she murmured, trying to sit up. “What time is it?”

Schrodinger looked over at the clock on the mantle. Almost noon, he said, jumping up onto the couch next to her as she pulled herself into a sitting position. I woke up and realized I didn’t hear anything, so I came looking. Are you okay?

Molly put her hand to her forehead, and sighed in relief when it came back normal. “I’m okay, just sleepy, apparently,” she said. “Would you like some lunch, since we both slept through breakfast?”

After a hearty omelet and another cup of tea, Molly actually felt better, although she decided a quiet afternoon was what she needed. She and Schrodinger hung out on the couch and watched several Christmas movies until she heard Drew’s truck come into the yard.

And right behind him was Kiaya’s big SUV with the kids. Molly was glad she’d gotten the sleep she had.

“Who’s hungry?” she asked, as they all trooped into the kitchen.

“We can’t eat now, we need to help Drew set up the tree!” Gideon said excitedly. “And then we get to do the Advent calendar! We stopped at the bookstore to get it!”

Molly laughed. “Okay, you guys do that, and I’ll make tea!”

When she brought in the tray of tea and hot cocoa mugs and plates of shortbread cookies, they had set up the magnificent Douglas Fir in front of the window. Drew was holding up two separate strands of lights, one clear and one colored. “What should we do this year?” he asked.

“Colors!” the kids said, and Lily added, “You did white last year. And the year before.”

“Well, then we can’t repeat it again,” Drew said, winking at Molly and Kiaya. “The last thing we need to be is predictable.” He wound the strands of lights carefully around the tree.

“Before we decorate, let’s do the calendar!” Kaylee said, bouncing until Molly handed her a cup full of hot cocoa and homemade marshmallows. Then she sat carefully, and added, “The kitten needs to see the tree decorating too!”

Once everyone had a mug, Drew opened the tube that they’d brought the calendar in and hung it on the mantel. The little cat was still in the back parlor, looking at the birds, but when he realized that they were looking at him, he hopped off the chair he’d been on and sauntered into the next room. This was also a parlor, but they could see neat box flowerbeds covered in snow, and a driveway leading off into the distance. In this room, there was a small tree set up on a table, and a large fireplace that held a battalion of nutcrackers dominated one wall. Instead of flames in the fireplace, there was a pile of presents.

The kitten went into the fireplace and pulled out a box, and then opened it. The smoke puffed out and formed the words, “New traditions are as good as old ones if they are done with love.” Then it swirled out of the calendar and went, not to the children waiting, but to the top of the Christmas tree.

It coalesced into a tight ball, growing brighter and brighter, until Molly had to avert her eyes. Then it flashed, and when the after-glow cleared, they saw a beautiful star atop the tree.

“Well, I guess we’re not doing the angel,” she said, a little awed.

Drew smiled at her. “Time for a new tradition?”

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