“Tyler Christmas Trees,” Chris read the sign as Zach pulled up in front of the tree lot.
It was a tree farm, really, and outside of Manhattan, of course, because there was hardly room for a farm there. Sure they had lots here and there dotting the streets of New York City, but Zach had wanted to go to the farm.
“I went here a few years back, first year I moved to New York,” Zach explained as he pulled into a parking space. “They have Santa and peppermint mocha in the barn over there.”
Chris smiled. He sounded kind of excited at the prospect. Zach had a sort of infectious excitement. He got out of the car and followed the other man through the gates of the farm.
“Is this the kind of place where you chop down your own tree?”
“Yeah you can do that kind of thing, if you’re into playing Paul Bunyan.”
Chris laughed. “You’re not I guess.”
Zach gave him a look. “I like real trees and all, but I like convenience.”
Chris walked into the barn after him. It was decorated with garlands and glitter and Santa and reindeer. Mrs. Claus too. Children sat on the lap of Santa, ushered there by elves.
“Cute. Did you have real trees growing up?”
“When Dad was alive, yeah, but once he passed Ma got artificial. It was easier for her with two boys to raise by herself. But since I went out on my own, I’ve been getting real. When I get a tree at all. Sometimes I didn’t bother because I was too busy.”
Zach walked up to the counter where a pretty elf stood manning the peppermint mochas. “Two please.” He took out his wallet and paid, handing one to Chris.
The “elf” was staring openly at Chris, giggling as she did.
Zach rolled his eyes as he put his hand on Chris’ arm and led him away. “Bet she’s seen Wonder Woman.”
“Let’s go check out the trees.”
They walked out of the barn and out to the pre-cut trees.
“Flocked or not flocked?”
“Not flocked. I get enough snow without having it in my apartment.”
Zach glanced at him. “What about you? Did you guys do Christmas trees?”
“Yeah, we did. Neither of my parents were particularly religious, though I guess they were as kids. But we kind of paid attention to holidays from a secular point of view.. So, yeah, we had a tree. And they were usually real ones.”
Zach smiled. “Well, thanks for being here to help me pick out my tree. It’s great to have you here in New York right now.”
They went up and down aisle after aisle until finally Zach stopped by a six and a half foot leafy tree.
“This is the one,” he announced. “Let me get someone to help us.”
They ended up scheduling it to be delivered to Zach’s apartment rather than them dealing with it themselves.
After it had been set up, Zach stood back and surveyed the tree. “What do you think, Pine?”
He put a deliberate stress on Chris’ last name that had him rolling his eyes. “Yeah, it looks great.”
Zach moved close to him and put his hand on Chris’ arm. “Ready to help me decorate?”
“Sure am.” He covered Zach’s hand with his. Then with his other hand he held up some mistletoe. He leaned over and kissed Zach softly. “Merry Christmas, babe.”
“Speaking of…” Zach murmured against his lips. “Is there anyway…?”
“I can stay in New York for Christmas?”
Zach sighed. “Sorry. I know I shouldn’t ask. Your family…never mind.”
“Zach, I didn’t say no.”
Zach’s gaze rose. “But?”
“But nothing.” Chris grinned. “I can stay.”
“Are you sure?”
Chris’ smile gentled and he kissed Zach again, longer, softer. “I’m sure.” He turned toward the tree. “Got your banjo?”
“Just get it.”
Zach walked away and returned with his banjo, a question in his eyes.
“Do you know ‘O Christmas Tree?”
Zach laughed. “Oddly enough, yeah.” He began to strum it.
“O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, How Lovely Are Thy Branches.”