A Paper-Tree Christmas

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As Ashley Snow stood before the swank Heavenly Jewelry store in New York City, she wondered about going inside. Sure, she had their holiday-celebration pizza delivery, but could she really just drop off the three pies and leave? After all, Heavenly Jewelry was the finest store of its kind in Manhattan. What woman in her right mind would only enter the establishment and leave, before looking around—especially at Christmastime?

Get real, thought Ashley, as she neared the ornate façade of the golden-framed doorway. Nothing in there is anything that you can afford.

At twenty-six, Ashley's umpteenth minimum-waged job had afforded her only so much. As a high-school dropout, she'd been left with very few—what she considered—worthwhile employment opportunities. That was one reason why golden trinkets and jewels of any kind were strictly off limits to her.

It wasn't that Ashley had desired such things—she didn't. She had left home at the age of eighteen, "because" of her superficial upbringing. Her father had been a big movie producer in California, and her mother had been his perfect Stepford wife.

But while gold and elegance had been the norm for her parents, their phony lifestyle had never sat well with Ashley.

Perhaps that was why neither of her parents had objected to her decision to leave home—they had, secretly, wanted her out of their house. Ashley's parents knew that she had objected to their way of life. Trying to prod their daughter to change, though, they had felt, required just too much energy on their part. So, when Ashley had informed them that she had wanted to leave, her mother had helped to pack her daughter's bags. 

Ashley never, really, knew why her parents had let her leave home, though—because she never had asked them. 

An even trade-off, Ashley believed. After all, her parents had never asked her anything. For that reason, they had never known about her having quit high school. 

Still, that had been because her parents had both passed away by the time she had done so—killed in a car crash, Christmas Eve, on their way home from the airport, after having dropped off Ashley, the day she had left home to make a life for herself on the east coast—and not because they hadn't asked her about school.

Ashley's parents had willed her a large sum of money. But it remained in her bank account, untouched, for years.

It's a salary plus tips, Ashley now mused, inwardly, as she gawked at Heavenly Jewelry through the budding winter snow storm.

That's what her boss, Mr. Morgan, had told her about money, anyway—when she had applied for the delivery job. At the time, his amusement had made no sense to Ashley, but now she knew better.

Yeah, she joked, inwardly, recalling her exchange with him, as she pushed the front-door buzzer of the jewelry store again. Ashley had been a delivery girl for one week, and already she knew that whoever could afford to give the biggest tips, stiffed her the most.

  Ashley had been a delivery girl for one week, and already she knew that whoever could afford to give the biggest tips, stiffed her the most

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