Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Christmas Miracle

I ignore the Christmas trees leaning against the front window of Handy Hank's Hardware Store. The lovely green trees are for families. Not for me, a childless forty-year-old divorcee. Inside the store, Hank beams his megawatt smile—I love that smile. "Christmas Eve," he says, "and I've still got a few trees left.
Pick one. I'll deliver."
Hank McGrath's smile and his friendly, helpful attitude always warm my heart. If my divorce two years ago, after ten years of marriage, hadn't been so brutal, I don't know...maybe. Just maybe I could be interested in Hank.
But I shake all romantic thoughts from my brain and say, "Can't be bothered. I've got real problems—the water's running continuously in my toilet. I've shut the water off at the meter, but is there something else I can do?  A part I can buy?"
Hank's helped me with tons of problems I've had with the old but charming Victorian house I was awarded in my divorce settlement, so I'm not surprised when he says, "Probably needs a new flushing unit." He scratches his head of tousled, sandy hair. "Got several models in stock. We're closing early. I'll be over after work."
"I can't ask you to do that, Hank. It's Christmas Eve."
"You want to pay a plumber double time on a holiday? If you're lucky enough to find one." His blue eyes lock on mine. "Let me help."
I stopped for advice only, but I realize I'd be foolish to turn down Hank's offer. Perhaps after he finishes, by way of gratitude, I might talk him into sharing homemade pizza and a bit of red wine with me.
"All right," I say, but I'm thinking, Kimberly Stafford, is this really what you want?
On my way home, driving though a light snow, I mull over my situation. After my divorce, it took me nearly a year to realize the emotional roller coaster I was on with my husband was over, and now I'm happier than ever. I love my house. Love my freedom. Love my job as a second-grade schoolteacher. Why would I jeopardize my tremendous, newly found feeling of well being on another relationship?
In the kitchen, I use a bit of water from the jug in the fridge for making pizza dough, and I fry Italian sausage. All, just in case I have the nerve to ask Hank to stay.
While waiting, I'm biting my bottom lip. I'm sure he likes me. When we first met nearly a year ago, I spotted a wedding ring on his left hand. It wasn't until months later that he rather causally mentioned he was a widower. His wife died of cancer. I realized he probably wore the ring in memory of his wife, which I thought was a wonderful gesture. The next time I saw him at the store, though, the ring was gone, a pale white stripe replacing it on his finger.
Hank arrives at four-thirty in the afternoon, snow falling heavily now, the wind outside cold and bitter. He carries two small boxes in a plastic bag along with a couple of tools. "One of these units will surely work," he says. "Where's the bathroom?"
I point up the stairs. "First door on the left. I can't tell you how grateful I am."
"My pleasure," he says, beaming that megawatt smile again. My heart rate spikes, and I say a little breathlessly, "Would you like to stay for pizza after you finish?"
"Love to—thought I smelled something great cooking."
Hank finishes in the bathroom in no time and then strolls into the kitchen. "I'm going out to my truck. You can turn the water on, but wait a second before you put the pizza in."
I nearly fall over when Hank carries a five-foot Christmas tree into my living room, filling the room instantly with a delightful pine scent. "Figured you didn't have a tree," he says.  "And this little guy would've gone to waste." With a hopeful note in his voice, he asks, "You have ornaments? Lights?"
I gulp and feel tears creeping into my eyes. "Yes, stuffed away in a closet."
Laughing and jabbering like school kids, Hank and I trim the tree with brightly colored lights and ornaments—lights and ornaments I thought I might never use again. Like I thought I might never again have feelings for a man again.

But while Hank and I sit on the floor shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the tree, eating pizza, sipping wine, and admiring our work, a warm glow surges through me. I never thought I'd be part of a Christmas miracle.
I look at Hank and ask, "Do you believe in miracles?"
 This time his smile is shy, as is mine. His warm hand slipping into mine, he says, "Yes, I do."

The End
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