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Trees are free on Christams Eve

More fic - this one was for a contest - I came in second.  Bassed on my life as a PK. Don't pilfer - it's not nice.  The last line is the frist line in the Christmass Carol

Imogene sat quietly next to her father as the service started. It was Christmas Eve services, a time for family and so Imogene was not welcomed with the families of her friends; all are sitting below her perch in the upper balcony.  She and her father sat quietly in the place they always sat for Christmas Eve, just next to the organ between Imogene’s father and the family of the other minister, who were all next to the choir.  Imogene wasn’t a member of the choir, she hadn’t even tried out for the choir for fear of the shadow of favoritism, the same reason she had never tried out for the bell choir or asked to attend the alter.  She could see her boyfriend Eddy moving down in the main area of the Church: he was serving as an extra usher for the night.  The church is full and overflowing. 

Imogene looked down at her mother; it was the first time she and her mother had been in the same room for this long since Thanksgiving.  As her Mother stood to lead a prayer, Imogene imagined, as she often did, her mother leading a pagan revel: arms raised, bodies dancing in honor of the old gods.   Most would think the thought of a Minister in the woods leading a revel would be odd, going against the calling to god, but Imogene and her family had been raised in the Unitarian church, and her mother leading a group of pagans would have been as unusual as waking up to a blue sky.  And pagans don’t require clerics to work all day every holiday, Imogene thought to herself.  Of course she wasn’t really sure of that.  But it was such a lovely thought, not losing your family for the one month out of every year that the whole world spent with family.  The month that the world told you without family you were nothing. 

The congregation stood for a Hymn, Oh Come All Ye Faithful, and Imogene sang along in Latin.  She’d always loved to sing Hymns in Latin: after all, it made songs that she had sung all her life a bit different, made them interesting again.  After the hymn a moment of silence; not as long as a normal moment of silence in deference to the members of the congregation who only attend at Christmas or Easter, but still suitably long.  During the silence Imogene picked at a bit of pine tar on her skirt.  Between her Father getting off of work and the start of the service, the two of them had picked up the Christmas tree and had set it up in the living room of the small apartment they lived in.  Imogene had always wanted to decorate earlier in the season; everyone started decorating after Thanksgiving, and somehow it seemed like a waste to only have holiday decorations up between Christmas Eve and New Year.  One week of tree as opposed to the month of festivities everyone else had.  Her parents had always told her it was traditional to put up a tree on the day before Christmas, but Imogene knew that the real reason was that Christmas trees were free on Christmas Eve.  One thing Ministers families never had in large supply was money, and with all the extra expense of Christmas, paying a premium for a tree was always out of the question.

Next: the candles.  Below, the ushers gave out the candles; Eddy caught her eye and smiled.  Imogene smiled back as her father handed her a candle and leaned over to light it, soon the sanctuary was filled with the flickering light of hundreds of wicks burning.  More songs were sung and then the request to put out the candles before leaving the sanctuary.  In less safety-conscious days Imogene remembered trying to go as far as she could without her candle going out, but now no one was to leave the service with a lit candle.  It was always a bit of a disappointment for her that she couldn’t run outside with her friends and the candles.  

After the service, coffee and tea and conversation.  Imogene went quietly around making herself known and then as quickly as she could slipping away.   She went to her favorite hiding place; the stairs to the choir loft.  Once there she sat so still, so silently that she could feel herself vanishing from sight.  She felt that if she could have ever sat still for long enough she would slip from everyone’s memory as well.  She spent the rest of the coffee hour sitting on the stairs.  She sat there until Eddy came to her: he could always see her no matter how still she was. 

“Your parents are looking for you,” he said gently.

“Is it time to go?”

“Yes,” he answered taking Imogene’s hand as they walk back to the coffee room, “You are still coming to dinner tomorrow?”

“Yes, six right?”

“Yup,” Eddy said, giving Imogene a quick kiss: “I gotta get going, call me around two tomorrow.”

As Eddy walked away Imogene’s father came up to her, “Come on, kiddo; time to get home.”

The trip home was short and soon Imogene and her parents were walking through the door of their apartment.  The apartment was full of the smell of tree and Imogene’s mother moved to the box of lights.  As she strung the lights on the tree, Father and Imogene unpacked the decorations.  When Imogene’s mother was done with the lights, Imogene and her father put on the decorations.  With the tree decorated Christmas could begin.  Mother picked up the book and started.

“Marley was dead to begin with…”