*No spoilers! Just more Fin and Rena Christmas shenanigans. Originally written in 2022 and recently transferred to the website.
"The fire is cozy and wonderful enough without you trying to make it different colors," Fin reminded Rena as she piled strings of cranberry garland on his outstretched arms.
"Yes, but it would be way more festive if it were red and green," Rena protested. "Which is why you should let me-"
"Absolutely not." Rena pouted at his quick response. Fin rolled his eyes. "Despite what you might think, blowing up the entire house does not contribute to the Christmas spirit."
"Do you not trust me?"
"Rena, you brought an entire case of scientific instruments to bake cookies. You terrify me."
Rena wrinkled her nose at him. "Precision is very important. Which is why," she continued, "we still need to find just the right star for the tree." Although they had several options for their Christmas tree topper, none of them had met Rena's expectations. Naturally, she had no intention of settling for "good enough."
Fin patiently held the garland as she wrapped it around the tree. Now that it was the second Christmas he was spending with Rena, he had last year's experience to tell him that she took everything in the Christmas season very seriously. It was her favorite holiday, and if finding the perfect star to finish her tree was what would make her happy, he was more than willing to help. Even if her determination could be a little concerning.
A little while later, they had decorated every piece of the house... except for the final touch to the tree. Bundling up in layers of wool, they braved the snowy streets of Great Helmsford in one last effort to find a star that Rena would be happy with. The city was cast in a silvery-gray light from the cloudy sky, but pinpricks of golden light from festive decorations kept it from appearing too dreary. Thick pine garlands dotted with red ornaments draped over the doorways of most buildings. Inside the shops, fireplaces glowed with cozy warmth. The city was busy, but in more of a friendly way rather than a chaotic rush. Despite not having much luck in their search, Rena still found herself enjoying the trip. Fin's small gestures, like holding each door open or brushing the snowflakes from her hair, warmed her just as much as the shop fires did.
After nearly an hour of searching, Rena approached the clerk at the last store that could possibly have a star. "Excuse me, sir," she began. "We're looking for the perfect star for the top of our tree." Fin ducked his head and studied the floorboards to keep any of the other patrons in the store from seeing his blush. He and Rena were still in the courting stage and certainly didn't share a home, but she had referred to the tree as "ours" in each shop. He brought himself back to the present to hear Rena finish her request. "I'd love something that looks rustic, almost handmade, but still... glittery."
The clerk, an elderly man with a thick gray mustache and a broad frame, nodded thoughtfully. "It does sound like a lovely idea," he replied. "But I'm afraid we don't have anything like that. We only have simple stars, and most of those have already been sold."
Fin noted how Rena's shoulders drooped slightly at the news. Still, she smiled and thanked the clerk before they turned to leave. "I'd like to give you two some advice, if you're open to it," he called after them. They turned back towards him. "I'm not sure if you'll find your perfect star, but in my experience, it's the imperfect traditions that make the holiday." He smiled wistfully. "Each year, my wife and I dance the waltz in our sitting room as soon as we've finished decorating. Course, neither of us know how to dance, but there's still nothing that puts me in the festive spirit like that."
After thanking him again, Fin and Rena headed back out to the city streets. Just as they turned to head back home, Rena paused. Fin glanced at her, almost able to see the thoughts churning in her mind. As her gaze shifted towards the Society of Aristotelian Pursuits just a short distance away, it didn't take much to figure out what she was thinking.
Fin chuckled. "I should have seen this one coming." Rena grinned, grabbed his hand, and pulled him down the street.
With most people spending more time at home during the holiday season, the Society buildings were quiet. As Fin and Rena worked side by side, the only sound was the scrape of their tools and a soft hum of Christmas songs coming from Rena. Snow continued to fall softly outside the window, making everything feel close and cozy and muffled.
It was dark by the time they returned home with their new creation, but Rena didn't mind. The street lamps kept the cobbled streets well-lit, and golden light spilled from the windows they passed. They discarded their coats and boots just inside the door of Fin's house, shaking off the excess snow, and eagerly returned to their tree. Rena watched, a wide grin spreading across her face, as Fin reached up to place their star. Once it was firmly in place, they both stepped back to admire their handiwork.
"It's perfect!" Rena sighed. It truly was everything she had imagined. Fin's wire work made up the star shape, giving it a handmade, rustic feel. But inside, pinpricks of light shone out from the gaps in the metal, courtesy of Rena's latest stroke of inspiration. She grinned and slipped under Fin's arm to hug him. "Thank you."
Fin squeezed her shoulder in return. "You're very welcome." As they gazed at their tree, he heard the familiar notes of "Silent Night" drift from the carolers on the street outside. "You know," he began, turning Rena so she faced him, "I just recently heard about this wonderful Christmas tradition..."
"Oh, really?" Rena murmured, smiling up at him.
"May I have this dance?" Fin asked.
Rena smiled, knowing that she had just found another thing to love about Christmas. "Yes, you may."
Between the Lines
A collection of short stories related to my books (mostly Christmas stories because why not?). Just make sure to check the note at the beginning in case there are any spoilers!