Please read before you start. Christmas story - will post daily for 10 days. Some chapters short, some long. Sad, angsty. Contains triggers, and subject matter some may find upsetting. Nothing graphic, but still sad. Consider yourself warned. HEA will happen, though.

I own nothing - it all belongs to SM. Thanks to Midnight Cougar for her work on this.

Now if you are still with me, let us begin.

My headlights cut a swath of light across the front of my house. I pulled into the driveway, noticing that, once again, the snow had been cleared from the drive and walkway. It happened every time it snowed. I had no idea who was doing it. I didn't know my neighbors at all, but I assumed one of them was the Good Samaritan. I would have to find out whom it was and make sure I thanked them with some wine and a gift certificate for Christmas.

I shut off the engine and sat in the cooling car, trying to find the energy to climb out and walk into the empty house.

I still hated that moment of walking in the door of my small rented house, knowing only silence and darkness would greet me. Before, he would often still be at work, when I walked into our home, but I knew he would be there soon. If he got home before I did, there were always warm hugs, passionate kisses, and a glass of wine waiting for me.

Not anymore.

I especially hated it now—at this time of year—so last night, I stopped at the corner lot and brought home a Christmas tree. It was small, barely three feet high, and sat in a little bucket of sand. I had no idea how to put a big tree in a stand. That had always been his job.

From behind the blind, I could see the dim glow of the lights I had strung on the branches. I didn't add any decorations, not having the need or want for them. I only wanted the light. I had plugged them into a timer, so when I walked in, there was a small beacon of warmth to greet me in the darkness—at least for the next few weeks.

We both loved Christmas. It was our time. We decorated the entire house and listened to carols. I baked endless trays of cookies, slapping his long fingers as he stole one to taste for "quality control purposes." We would drop them at the homes of friends, family, and those we knew had no one. Christmas dinner was always at our house, and we never knew how many there would be. It didn't matter. The scents of pine and cinnamon hung in the air, making it festive. The house was filled with people, and the sounds of laughter. The aroma of the turkey cooking made everyone ravenous.

I pushed open the car door, my keys in hand. None of that would be happening this year. My steps felt heavy as I walked to the front door and turned the key. There was a tiny modicum of relief at the glow of dim holiday light coming from the living room. I inhaled the scent of the tree that hung in the air, trying to push down the sadness that swamped me.

I hung my coat up and approached the tree. It looked pretty in the corner. I didn't have a tree skirt, but I tucked a white towel around the bucket, making it look as if it was in the snow.

Under the tree was a small box, wrapped in simple red paper. There was no bow or card. I had bought it months ago. Back when life was good, and I remembered how to smile. I saw it on an auction site, and I knew I had to have it for him. I had even wrapped it, then stashed it away so he wouldn't find it. He was impossible, like a sneaky child, when it came to gifts. If he found something I'd hidden—and he always seemed to find it—and it wasn't wrapped, he would flee with it. But if it was wrapped, he left it alone with a defeated sigh. After shaking, smelling and investigating, then shouting out guesses until I took it away.

I discovered the small package a couple weeks ago when I unpacked some boxes, looking for a warm sweater. It seemed right to put it under the tree, even if it would never be unwrapped.

It was an autographed baseball from the World Series, when his favorite team had won the final game. He had been there, his voice rough and hoarse days later from cheering.

He loved baseball. Almost, he used to tease, as much as he loved me.

My finger drifted over the red paper. I supposed there was no competition any longer.

I didn't have his love.

Edward had left me.

And I was alone.

Thank you for reading. Updates tomorrow.