Chapter Four

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After church on Sunday morning, we go back home for a lunch of leftovers. Gil passes out on the couch in the living room and snores enough to be comparable to Dad.

"I don't snore like that." Dad pushes his chair back from the table. "It's all lies."

"Of course they are, honey." Mom shakes her head. "Natalie, could you hand me another roll please?"

"Me too." I scoop a little bit of honey butter on the corner of my plate an dip the bread in it. "Does anyone need anything from the store? I need to run out and grab some more ornament hooks."

A chorus of negatives from the three people awake, and a snore from the one asleep. I wipe the last of the sticky butter from my hands with a napkin and take my plate and utensils to the trash can.

"I'll be back in a little while then."

I head upstairs to my room to grab my coat and wallet from my desk. The little pink tree shimmers and sparkles in the corner. The ornaments still to hang on it are stored in a box underneath. It shouldn't take long to decorate once I get back from the store.

Downstairs, I grab my keys from the hook beside the door and head out into the chilly air. Porches and front yards are empty of all but Christmas decorations in this weather. A few inflatable decorations stand at attention as I drive by; through windows, Christmas trees glow.

Except for the Kingston house. Merritt's truck is in the driveway, since he doesn't work on Sundays. The lights are on inside the house, shining through the edges of the curtains. I wonder when they usually put up their tree?

Ever since talking to Gil last night, I've been trying to think of ways to be a friend. I don't want to just go out and buy a bunch of stuff, though a few small gifts might be nice. And I don't want to make them feel like I just feel sorry for them—which I guess is the truth in some ways, but not all—or like I'm trying to force them to do something they don't want to do.

I just want to make people smile.

But what can I do to brighten their day? I don't know them that well at all...

Town is mostly empty this afternoon. Most people are probably at home, still recovering from Thanksgiving and trying to avoid the rain the radars keep predicting. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

The dollar store isn't crowded either when I step inside. I grab a basket and find the aisle of snack food, tossing in a box of brownies and a bag of chocolate-covered pretzels. Everything in this store is decked out in displays of red and green, from the snack boxes on the shelves to the sale signs. A Rosemary Clooney song plays over the speakers.

I wonder if Nash has a favorite Christmas song? He hummed along with most of the ones we heard on the radio during the drive home the other day, but I don't know if one stood out as a favorite.

The Christmas aisles are dwindling in their variety and stock. By now, it's already time to start bringing out New Year's and Valentine's Day decorations too, so what was a week ago full of Christmas ornaments and decorations is now a cluttered mess of what is left for clearance sales. I grab a couple of packs of ornament hooks and drop them in to the basket.

There's a clay ornament of a cartoonish dog wearing an elf hat staring at me.

An ornament isn't too weird of a gift, is it?

I grab the ornament and a small gift bag and go to the register. Maybe this is a stupid idea. Maybe it isn't. I should just tell the cashier to put the ornament back, that I don't really want it—

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