On his way to the dry cleaner, in front of the town tree, Jordan overheard the story all parents tell their children when they’re old enough to understand. Roughly eighty years ago, a sapling pine tree appeared in the middle of the park. Nobody saw the planting, nor would anyone admit to placing the tree in front of the future town hall building. Everyone agreed the tree was extraordinary, and so it remained in place.
The mother clutching her child’s hand pointed toward the bench with her other gloved hand. The action was one that drew everyone’s eyes to the ten-foot-tall tree that loomed above the bench. For the time being, the bench coated with a fine sheen of snow was empty. “The way my parents told me the legend.” Her voice was bright with awe and remembrance. “Those who wanted a little magic from the tree would sit beneath it and talk about their hopes and aspirations. If their hearts were true, the tree granted their wish.”
The warmth from memories of when Jordan had made a wish flooded over him. It had been so long since he made the wish, he almost forgot about it. Ten years ago, he made it as an offhand remark to Iris. “We should go to the Holly Jolly Christmas dance together.”
Naturally, Iris didn’t believe him. “How would confirming that I have lost my mind help matters?”
Jordan couldn’t blame Iris. He had been guilty of using Iris to manipulate situations to his advantage. Iris had a spotless reputation. Jordan was known for what his father liked to call shenanigans.
Sometime around the middle of their junior year of high school, Jordan learned his friendship with Iris came with a hidden gift. If Jordan wanted to go anywhere without getting the third degree, all he needed to say was four little words. “I’m going with Iris,” changed everything. The wary glint in his father’s eye gave way to cautious relief. “She’s a nice girl.”
His mother would say, “She’s a little weird, but I like her.”
The inquisition ended with a passing of the car keys and reminders to be careful.
For all the wrong reasons, Jordan asked Iris to go to the prom with him. His plan backfired in the worst way and the timing couldn’t have been any worse. Iris’s father moved away from Paradise Hills, without his wife and daughter. Then her mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Jordan shouldn’t have betrayed her trust, but he had. If there was a bozo of the year award at graduation, Jordan would have won it hands down.
On the bench where the mother had pointed, Jordan apologized to Iris, who had every right to throw his wrongs in his face.
He remembered glancing over his shoulder. On the space where Jordan stood, on the sidewalk in front of the hardware store, Iris’s Uncle Simon glared daggers at Jordan. His expression yelled, stay away from my niece, you heart breaker.
Simon’s cold disdain wasn’t as powerful as the will in Jordan to be right with Iris. He wanted the warmth of her friendship. Unlike the other girls around town, she made him laugh and didn’t cow-tow to his charm.
“I wish there was a way I could restart the timeline of our friendship.” A gentle breeze nipped at Jordan’s cheeks. He looked over at Iris to see if it touched her as well. Her shiver confirmed his suspicions.
“As much as I wish it were possible to erase the past, we can’t. The past is etched on our future.” The understanding in Iris’s eyes softened her features reminding Jordan of the sweet girl he sat beside in elementary school. Within the deep deep hazel eyes that looked green that dayJordan saw an unconditional love. Iris would always be there for him, because she had known all along who he was and what he was about. Yet, she didn’t know how to repair the damage they caused.
“I know that,” Jordan nudged her with a shoulder. “But we can change the future.” Jordan pleaded his case, “You’ve been a good friend. It’s time I grew up and treated you like one.”
Iris’s head bobbed, showing that she was weighing her options. “What could it hurt?”
The lights on the tree glowed brighter and dimmed. If Jordan hadn’t looked up at the right time, he would have missed it. His chest expanded with the light feeling of relief, adding to Jordan’s silent celebration. Iris had given him a second chance. They’d been as thick as thieves ever since.
Jordan wanted to interrupt the mother. She forgot to tell her child the most important rule. The holiday tree grants wishes to people unaware of its casual observance. A chill tickled Jordan’s spine. He shuddered and looked up at the tree. The lights sparkled like it had every year before. Still he had a deep impression that this holiday season things would be different. Before the feeling could get a tight hold on him, Jordan continued on his way to the dry cleaner to pick up his suit.