“The legend says, if you put a star on the top of your tree, it will bring you luck and fulfill your deepest wish,” he said, presenting her with a gleaming, gold star.

“Kent, in the first place, I don’t believe in that crap,” she said pushing him backwards, “and second, I don’t even have a tree.”

“You do now!” he shouted, pulling a large tree through the door.

“I don’t want a tree!” She shouted, stomping a foot.

“Too bad, it’s going down Ms. Linda Brown,” he grinned, dropping a plastic tree stand on the floor.

Now she hadn’t had much use for Santa Claus, or Christmas since foster home number 3, or was it number 4? Living in the system had taught her long ago that they were no such things as magic and miracles. But she did believe in Kent, he just may be the man she wanted to spend her life with, and this seemed important to him.

When the tree was leveled in the stand, and all 9 of the ornaments he brought were hung, she collapsed on the couch, smiling at his goofy grin. Dropping to join her, he uncorked a bottle of wine, filling two glasses before raising one in a toast.

“To us,” he said.

“To us,” she replied, clinking glasses.

They sat in a comfortable silence for a few minutes before she felt a giggle ready to erupt.

“That’s a pretty sad-looking tree ya know,” she laughed.

“Minimalism at it’s best!” he replied, “Wait, you have to put the star on!”

“You do it, I’m tired,” she yawned.

“No, no, no! You have to put it on or you wish won’t come true.”

“What a load of crap!” She snorted, instantly regretting her words as she watched his face fall.

“I’m sorry,” he said avoiding her gaze, “it’s a family tradition I thought you might get a kick out of it. You don’t have to,” he said, kissing her forehead.

Feeling like the world’s biggest ass, she blinked back a tear. “You know what? You’re right! Give me that star!” It took a kitchen chair to stand on and his fingers through a belt loop to keep her from falling, but she nestled it atop the tree.

“Now what” she asked.

“Nothing, if you need something bad enough, the star will know,” he said helping her to the floor. “Grandma said you can’t ask for anything stupid or selfish, it has to really mean something.”

They spent the next few hours snuggling on the couch, munching popcorn and watching movies. Nestling her head against his chest, she gazed at the tree as sleep tugged at her eyelids. A wish granting star, what a silly tradition. There was only one thing in the world she craved, a single object, a piece of her mother that had been lost. If that star could fulfill that wish, she would believe in Santa, miracles and Kent’s grandma!

She woke the next morning with Kent stroking her face.

“Hey sleepy head, time to wake up, it’s Christmas!”

Her tongue searched for moisture as she rose on an elbow. “What? Oh, Christmas. Just another day, I didn’t buy any gifts.” she mumbled.

“Well, someone did,” he said, pointing at the tree.

“Why did you get me a gift? I don’t have anything for you!”

“Linda, I brought the tree, but I didn’t bring a gift.”

“Liar, Liar pants on fire,” she lilted to lighten the mood.

“I mean it Lin, I didn’t bring that.”

Determined not to ruin his day she rolled off the couch, snatched up the package and tore it open. Puzzled by the plain, white cardboard she peered over her shoulder, “Gonna keep me guessing as long as you can, eh?”

“Linda, I did NOT put that package under the tree!” He insisted, scooting to the edge of the couch.

Unable to identify the heavy object pulled from the box she searched for a booklet, or anything that told her what it was. The heavy metal object turned out to be a garbage disposal unit.

“Oh my god! I never told you I wanted this! My landlord promised to put one in a year ago, but I never got one.

“I didn’t buy that!” He insisted.

“Nice try,” she grinned, pulling him from the couch, “let’s go put in it.”

Her unwilling partner grabbed a few tools from the closet and wedged his way under the sink. With a turn of his wrench he freed the trap from the drain pipe, freezing when something bounced off his forehead to roll onto the floor. He would never forget the moment she screamed.

“Oh my god! It’s mom’s ring! It must have fallen down the drain,” she squealed as tears slid from her eyes. “My uncle gave me mom’s wedding ring after her funeral. I cried for a month when I lost it. I tore every inch of this place apart, but I never dreamed it had fallen down the drain. Slipping the ring on her finger she cried, clinging to Kent until the sobs subsided. Glancing at the tree, she vowed to give the star a place of prominence as long as she lived.

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