Sleeping on the plane was easy after sleeping on wet rocks for three months. Liam didn’t feel refreshed, but between the sleep on the plane and the brisk walk from the bus stop to the family restaurant, he thought he could manage the magic. The restaurant windows were festooned with lights and artistic murals of poinsettias and snowflakes. The interior was dark of the restaurant was dark, but the tree gleamed in a window of the upstairs apartment. He had to take his hand out of his glove to hunt for the spare key. He found it and was glad, a man of his appearance toting a large leather duffel bag and a battered hard roller case fumbling around in the dark at a restaurant side door was usually not the stuff of holiday miracles.
He stepped into the warmth of the entry way and admired the garland on the railing. Plastic candles centered a few arrangements with real pine boughs on the console table. Stockings hung from the wooden mantle, his tacked up there hopefully next to his father and sister’s stockings. Moving quietly despite his luggage, he tucked the roller case into the closet and sat the duffel on the living room floor. He only had an hour or two before his sister woke up, bakers hours started early and customs always took too long. He shrugged away the black feelings and focused on playing saint nicholas. Candied orange peels, spices, and rich chocolates went into stockings. A cross he’d carved from rose wood was tucked into his sister’s. His father got a wooden spoon for his collection, carved with decorative leaves on the handle. He tucked a few gifts wrapped in folded cloth under the traditional tree and moved to the kitchen. Smiled at the prepped station for cinnamon rolls and sweet bread. He was draping a garland of dried chilies around the kitchen window when something warm bumped up against his elbow. He almost stabbed his arm into the festively decorated agave plants in the window. Death by sparkling pointy flora was not exactly the way things were expected to go. Though the fairy light bedecked and santa hat wearing kitchen plants would be happy to change that.
Liam looked down into the orange-yellow eyes of a fat three legged and aggressively friendly cat. He looked at the cat. The cat looked at him. The cat bumped its head into his arm again. Slowly, Liam extricated himself from the plants, and looked into the cupboards near the cat until a bag with a paw and a fish on it caught his eye. The cat meowed at him. He held up a finger. “Don’t blow this for me, okay?” he said to the cat and gently offered it a few of the treats. The cat blinked and then ignored him in preference for the food. He shook his head and finished setting out the decorations, gifts, and lastly, as he checked his watch, starting the process of melting chocolate for a truly decadent brew. He was adding the cinnamon and dash of chilis when Nora came down the stairs and saw the cat on the counter. Her eyes narrowed and she reached for a spray bottle on the end of the counter that Liam hadn’t even seen, then aborted the movement. “Liam!” She hurled herself at her brother, who for his part, grinned and opened his arms to catch her. They hugged, hard. Then Nora pulled back. “Mr. Tubbs isn’t allowed on the counters.” Mr. Tubbs, having finished his bribe, had retreated to the floor when Nora had entered, and remained, sitting on the kitchen floor like a ham bone as he cleaned himself. Liam decided not to tell his sister that not only had he fed the cat on the counter top, the cat had nearly toppled him into her plants. Which would probably have led to her coming down the stairs and throwing a pot at his head, or something. “Sorry,” he said and hugged her again. The hot chocolate need his attention, and by the time he’d settled it, Nora had gotten down the mugs and was throwing questions at him. And the bone tired he’d been carrying with him all through the flight, through customs, and through the snow, vanished in the scents of cinnamon, chocolate and dough.
A few other people may have had encounters with dangerous sparkly flora…….