“Move it a little to the left.” I tilted my head like it would give me a better viewpoint of the large evergreen tree. “No. Come forward a half a step. Then to the right… That’s it!”
Sam, my BFF since we were in diapers, scowled at me. “That is where I had it in the first place,” he said through his teeth. He clenched his fists and his arm muscles contracted as he shifted it again, turning it.
Flexing again, he turned the larger-than-him tree around. “I do know how important this is to you. So, keep telling me, I’ll keep moving it, but would it kill you for once to notice how much I’ve been working out?”
“Uuuuugh.” I went boneless and collapsed on the couch in mock disgust. Of course, I noticed how toned he’d gotten since the last time I saw him before I moved back to Shipton Harbor. But I sure as hell wasn’t going to tell him that. “Does this work on Olivia? I mean, she’s your wife. She has to pretend you’re hot. You do know that?”
I twirled my finger. “Just turn the tree, muscle boy.” It had to be perfect so that it could be seen from the street, which was down below the house. I wanted tasteful and noticeable décor, without going over the top. A tree through the window was a must.
This was the first Christmas I’d looked forward to celebrating since Clay, my beloved, deceased husband of twenty-one years, left this earth to find a new adventure without me. We were married for twenty-one years. He’d been dead for five. Just wanted to make sure that was clear.
I hadn’t been sure I’d decorate the house this year, but my newfound family, which included Alfred, my ghoul-butler-slash-friend-slash… he’s sort of a pet? And Snoozle, my immortal, very large Maine coon cat, as well as Owen, my needed-a-place-to-live necromancer and sort-of trainer, and Olivia, Sam’s wife—good lord, they’re a mouthful—all insisted that I at least put a tree up. They didn’t say I had to decorate. That was on them.
The sound of wild animals trampling down the stairs made me turn to investigate. Of course, there were no wild beasts in my house. Just a mini version of Sam running ahead of Alfred, who carried a large box of holiday decorations from the attic. Owen walked slower behind the ghoul with a smaller box in his arms.
Sammie rushed through the room and stopped to stare up at me. I looked back with one brow raised. I tried to keep a straight face but failed miserably when he cracked a snaggle-toothed smile. The kid was too stinkin cute.
A giggle drew my attention to the brat’s mother, Olivia, sitting on the sofa doing her best impression of a project supervisor. Of course, Olivia had told her son I could do magic, prompting months of him cutesy-ing his way into me coming up with more and more small magic tricks. I just hoped my new best frenemy didn’t tell the five-year-old that I could raise the dead.
Chuckling, I waved my finger at the box of decorations that Alfred had carried down earlier, before running up to grab the rest of the holiday loot, and made the lights wrap themselves around the tree and plug themselves in while Sammie cheered and clapped.
Ignoring Sam’s low growl, I checked my messages. My son, Wallie, was supposed to come home for the holiday break, but he was running late. He was in college at Harvard University studying to be a doctor. Wallie was a bright kid and could do anything he set his mind to. I’d used a huge chunk of Clay’s life insurance to pay for the first four years of Wallie’s higher learning in advance. The less the kid had in loans, the better off he would be.
A weather alert came up on my phone that it would snow later in the evening. Frowning, I went back to the messaging app. Wallie was driving up from Massachusetts. I tried not to worry, but I was his mom. It was part of the job.
I didn’t worry about him texting and driving. He was bringing a girl friend with him so she would reply to my text. My Wallie was a responsible driver. And he knew I’d kill him and cut off all financial help if I caught him texting and driving. About an hour away.
“Thank you, Alfred.” I bent down to open the box while Owen set his down next to it. Meeting Little Sammie’s gleeful gaze, I asked, “Which is, little man? Magic or are you going to decorate the tree?”
“Err.” Did I have a star? Yaya used to put a voodoo doll on top as a joke. The thought made me snort out a laugh. Then tears formed and rolled down my cheeks as I remembered this Christmas, in this house, would be without Yaya, who died when I was nineteen, or Aunt Winnie. She died last year, and I’d moved back here a few months ago to sell the house. But then, I ended up falling in love with my family home again and decided to stay. Plus, I had a menagerie of misfits here, all counting on me.
Holding it up for all to see, like one of Bob Barker’s ladies on the Price is Right, I explained. “So, this thing was Yaya’s favorite Christmas decoration. She liked to use it as the star on the tree.” I smiled thinking about my Yaya. She’d been gone for over twenty-four years now. Way, way too long.
Nodding, I smiled through the tears. Even after all these years, it hurt to think about her, albeit in a better way now than it had in years past. “Yaya was my mother’s mom and also an earth witch. I think she did it to annoy the coven. Yaya loved and accepted my dad, but the coven shunned him for being a necromancer. It was a different time back then.”
The latter didn’t matter to me. Some of the same witches were still part of the coven that had voted to not allow dad, or later me, into their sacred club. Hence the reason I wasn’t going to pay them any visits.