twenty four

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Chapter Twenty-Four

Dedicated to @Sasyacchedaka for being a super great and supportive reader. Thanks dude. :)

Makoto, still stewing in his own anger and seemingly unsolvable problems, arrives home later that afternoon to see a surprising amount of commotion going on in the house.

He has to sidestep his way into the living room due to the amount of boxes stacked in the house, and when he makes his way around the corner, his eyes immediately go to the gigantic fir tree that sits in the center of their den.

"Isn't it beautiful, Onii-chan?" His sister, Ran, squeals excitedly.

"Papa got it for us!" Ren chips in with a cheerful grin on his face as he looks between the tree and Makoto.

Makoto's jaw clenches at the mention of his father, especially after talking about his hatred for his father only mere minutes ago. "Well, why isn't he here to help us decorate it, then?" He mutters under his breath, his cheerful façade around his siblings breaking momentarily. From his peripheral vision, he sees his mother narrow her eyes at him. "Did he now?" He tries again, louder, all too sweetly. The twins are all smiles, practically salivating at the boxes of ornaments and fairy lights that would soon make the tree gorgeous.

His mother is by his side now. "He's trying his best to do good, Makoto," She whispers to him, quiet enough so the kids don't hear. When he refuses to respond, she sighs quietly. "Come on, help me unpack these boxes," She tells him. "It's about time we got this house looking more festive."

She crosses the room and removes the lid off of a giant Tupperware bin with the word Christmas written on the top. Inside is a neatly folded, velvety tree skirt, multi-colored LED lights, and a giant spool of sparkly silver garland.

Ren and Ran insist that they will do the ornaments and oversee Makoto's work on the lights to make sure he "does them correctly". Makoto is quickly reminded of his younger sister's perfectionist tendencies as she keeps telling him to adjust the lights.

"Onii-chan, you have to thread the lights in and out! Otherwise there will be dark holes when it's dark," Ran complains. "Here, do it like this."

Makoto holds up his hands passively, allowing her to work the cord through one of the branches to fill up the dark spaces closer to the trunk. Eventually, she just takes control of the lights - Makoto doesn't expect anything different - but as the tallest member of the family, Makoto is recruited to decorate the top.

When the hanging of the lights is complete, Makoto is already tired, but the fun has just started. Next comes the garland, where he and Ren loop them in evenly-spaced swags across the perimeter of the tree while Ran gives them guidance. While they work, the twins banter endlessly about the tree; whereas Ren wants to have fun, Ran wants it to look perfect. Makoto just wants to crawl into his bed and sleep.

Finally, about an hour later, the tree is decked from base to top in beautiful twinkling lights, sparkling garland, and ornaments of all colors and shapes. They also have personal ornaments on the tree, old art projects and crafts made in school during the holiday season; one of which is a felt snowman shaped ornament with a second-grade Makoto's face plastered on the stomach. (Makoto wanted to throw it out, deeming it embarrassing, but Ran insisted they kept it. "It's a memory, Onii-chan!" She had said. "We have to keep it forever!")

When it's finished, the twins are arguing about who gets to put the star on the top. Eventually, to shut them up, Makoto offers to pick them up at the same time and they both scramble into his arms, each having a hand on the star as they situate it at the top of the tree.

After the tree is finished, they hang up their stockings and decorate the mantle with the extra silver tinsel and ornaments they have left over. Various Christmas-themed trinkets are placed here and there, and Ren and Ran busy themselves with safety scissors and a stack of printing paper, cutting out paper snowflakes. As they stick them to the windows and walls with scotch tape, Makoto watches contently until he hears his mother.

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