She looked out the window, her fingers gently resting on the green drape. For once, this drab December, it was sunny. She sighed in pleasure at the look of the garden, brown except where a few patches of snow remained in the shade. Too many gray days in a row always made her sad and withdrawn, and this year, December had brought more drab days than normal.
Soft footsteps drew near her, and she turned for a moment, gave her husband a small smile, and turned back to the sunlight and winter garden before her. He smiled in return, well aware of the dark tinge in her mood lately, pleased with the effect of the day on her.
Putting his arm around her, he kissed the top of her head. "What's so interesting?" he asked.
"I'm just watching the birds," she replied.
He looked up and saw a small group of songbirds, sparrows or chickadees, he decided, darting in and out of what was left in the flowerbed after the just melted snow had browned everything out. “They look busy,” he said.
She nodded. "And cold, too. Maybe we ought to get some birdseed. Can't be too much for them out there."
"We could," he said, resting his chin on her shoulder. A chickadee chased a house finch out of the shelter of a rose bush and onto the fence. "It's kind of fun to watch them hang around."
"We need a new bird feeder, too," she said. "I wonder if the garden center has anything nice. I don't want something that makes our garden look junkie."
"Hmm. You planning to give the birds a nice Christmas, are you?" he asked, nuzzling the back of her neck. She did not object. "New bird feeder, new bird seed. Anything else?"
"Well, we could put up the Christmas tree. I know it's just going to be me and you this year, but it just doesn't feel right if we don't do something." She sighed.
He turned her around. "I knew there was something else bothering you," he commented. "I'm sorry we can't get away to see your family this year."
She leaned against him. "It's not your fault. Work is work."
"Yeah, I couldn’t get out of it." He stroked her hair, and let one hand slip down to the small of her back, then smiled down on her, almost a smirk. "I didn’t know you were going to blame my job though. I thought you were going to say something about the real reason you think we’re not going - because I don't like your father's Christmas punch."
She looked up at him and gave him a hard look. "Don’t pull that one on me, Mister," she said. “I think you like it way more than you pretend. Drank enough of it last year."
He rubbed his head as if remembering the hangover he had, then kissed her forehead. "Yeah, well it is a sneaky thing, that punch. Your dad knows how to make a drink with a kick.”
She laughed a little, then leaned her head against his shoulder, smiling a wicked little grin. "But I know the real reason. You don't want to eat any more of my mother's Christmas cake."
"Now I know you're being silly," he said. "Look how much I ate last year."
She laughed. "Yeah, I remember you had to wear your sweatpants home; your jeans were just a little too snug. A whole week of living off the fat of the land, two months of living in the gym."
He laughed. "Don't remind me."
"I have that recipe, you know. I could fix it for you." She ran a hand across his chest and up to his neck, then tiptoed up and pecked him on the cheek. "We could get the ingredients when we go out."
"Go out?" he asked. “I didn’t know we were going anywhere.”
"To buy the birdfeeder," she answered, and then slipped out of his hold. "Just let me go pull the recipe card so we know what to get." She looked over his shoulder. "I think we should do that before we put up the tree."
Giving in to the inevitable, he just smiled at her. It was much better to see her smile than look as sad as she had been doing the last three weeks. "I better dig up my sweats then," he replied, and went off to get ready.