"Come on, Matt!" I shouted, cupping my hands around my mouth so the sulking man in the parking lot could hear me clearly. "You're going to make us late!"
Even with the distance between us, I saw him roll his eyes and sigh with something akin to frustration. "We didn't make an appointment with the tree, Summer."
"Don't Summer me," I retorted. Thank goodness Melanie and Jack were out of earshot. "Get yourself over here!"
He grudgingly peeled himself off the side of the car and shuffled up the hill where I stood at the top. The brisk December air sent my skirt whirling around my legs, and I could tell it cut right through his jacket by his stiff, straight shoulders. I realized I was smiling at him without fully knowing it--the fake-angry mask had slipped off the moment we made eye-contact. "Are you cold?"
"You know, humans these days actually use words to communicate, instead body parts. It's a revolutionary idea, I know, but you should try it. Heaven knows, you might actually like it."
My husband of four years and six months (no, I do not keep track. My mother-in-law, however... I think she sends him a text everyday stating how long we've been married to the second, just to make him go crazy. I'm surprised our family is still homicide-free) rolled his eyes at me again and shoved his hands deep into his hoodie pocket. If it'd been a black hoodie, he could've sent our own children into a wailing frenzy by how venomous he looked. Luckily, it was only a gray one, so he just looked like a dazed and weary drug dealer. A good look for him, actually.
He met my smirk and coupled it with another sigh. "What are you doing?" he murmured. "Just get this over with."
I elbowed him as we fell into step and followed the kids up another hill. "I'm pretty sure I'm not the one who was dragging this out. You were. Besides, Christmas tree shopping is fun! Remember last year?"
He gave me the "you dare to bring up past atrocities in my presence?" look--which is basically a scowl with a loving sparkle in his eyes, I guess. "Last year, I ended up in the emergency room with a dislocated shoulder and you were stuck with the holding duties for two wriggling toddlers for a whole month."
I winced. "Oh yeah. Last year wasn't fun." I leaned into him and smiled, watching Jack trip and fall on his face and Melanie pick him up--after laughing at him. "Why ever did we decide to have two kids at once?" I couldn't see him, but I knew he was giving me another look. "You're giving me the look, right?"
"What look?" Trying to play innocent.
"The "you're so stupid, we had this discussion in the emergency room 4 years ago when you decided to go into labor practically a month and half early, remember?" look. The one you give me almost everyday?"
He wrapped an arm around my shoulder and squeezed me tight. My ear, pressed against his ribcage, felt the steady tremble of his heartbeat, and when he spoke, his smile widened his words. "No, I'm giving you the "I'm pretty sure you need to go back to biology class because we sure as heck didn't DECIDE by choice to have two kids."
"But they're nice, objectively, to have around, aren't they?" I looked up at him and grinned. "For a few purposes?"
His lips pursed together as he considered this. "They're good at keeping the cat occupied elsewhere."
I nodded solemnly. "A very valid point."
"They can get into small spaces easily."
"Both a good thing and a bad thing."
He poked me in the side. "If you kept a better eye on them, we'd have less "oh my gosh I have to get the baby out from under the bed" moments."
I poked him back. "Same goes for you, mister."
He opened his mouth to add something, but a cry from Melanie cut him off. "Mommy! Daddy! Look!" All her mismatched teeth were on proud display as she smiled hugely and pointed to the tree by where Jack stood. "It's purfet!!!"
The tree was only maybe five inches taller than Jack, with a crooked top and a crooked bottom and a middle that could've used a few more needles to cover its spots. The needles themselves were their own brand of unique--they started out a greenish-brown at the base and morphed to a dull yellow at the tip, giving an overall feeling of cat vomit to the trained eye.
Matt stared at in horror.
I blinked a few times.
It was beautiful and horrendous at the same time.
As the kids grabbed each other and surveyed the tree with serious expression, discussing very important things in their own baby language, Matt pulled me aside and whispered. "We are NOT getting that tree."
I took his hand. "Think on the bright side. You won't dislocate your shoulder with this one."
He gave me a look I'd never seen before, which is impressive, because Matthew North is not a man of much variety.
I looked back at the two of them and smiled. "Have you ever seen A Peanut's Christmas, Matty?"
He stepped behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist, leaning into me to for warmth and sheltering me in the process. "No, I don't think I have."
"Really?" I twisted to see his face. "That's unfortunate. But anyway--there's a tree in it. It's called a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, and it's a pretty darn sad excuse for a tree."
I pointed at the tree my two babies picked out with such careful thought (for four year olds, at least...) and smiled as widely as I could. "That tree is waaaay better than a Charlie Brown Christmas tree."
He snorted. "Since I've never the movie, I'll trust your judgement."
He asked me why. Wise husband.
I leaned back into him, smiling again--this time a quieter and fuller smile. The smile of contentedness. "Because it's a Jack and Melanie Christmas tree."
He stayed quiet for a long time, the only sound from him the steady rush of warm breath by my ear. Then he said, "Okay."
"Okay, as in we'll get that tree. Because it's a Melanie and Jack Christmas tree." He pulled away and turned me around in a moment, and there was mischievous smirk on his lips. "And because I don't want to dislocate my arm again."
I pulled my mock-serious face again and nodded. "A very valid point, sir."