Lorraine made little clusters of dry weeds, rose hips, holly berries, pine cones, baby’s breath, and some hydrangea she had hung upside down last summer and dried. She tied these to her tree and made some popcorn balls and strings of cranberries to add to the branches.

She opened another bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and poured a glass. She routed around in the fridge and found a small piece of St. Andre cheese, and fixed herself a snack to enjoy while she decorated the tree. She turned on Josh Messick’s Christmas cd, and lit some  RR Lumin candles. Life was good and she didn’t need no stinkin’ men to be happy. All she needed was her pretty apartment, her antiques, good wine, French cheese, scented candles, Eileen Fisher clothes, and big diamonds (not necessarily in that order) to be complete. Hammered dulcimer playing sweetly on the cd player, she carefully hung the ornaments on her tree, stepping back periodically to admire her handiwork.

She reflected on her life and how many blessings she had to count. First, of course, was the five carat emerald-cut diamond given to her by her first husband, and which she always wore. If you got it, flaunt it, she always said. Suki, of course, was the love of her life. That little dog snuggled beside her at night in her cold bed, and was always overjoyed to see her whenever she came into the room. Next was her thick, black shiny hair. So many of her friends found that their hair became thin and lifeless as the aged. She was so lucky to have this youthful head of hair. She was grateful for her friends, for the neighbors, and even for that weirdo: Peter, who was building a strange outpost in the backyard of 44 Cherry Street.

As she thought about Peter, she wondered about him. What was he doing out there? She went to the back window and peered through the gathering darkness to see a small figure huddled in the back yard with a campfire flickering in front of him. As far as Lorraine knew, Peter was still paying rent on his apartment across the landing from her own. At least she hadn’t observed people moving into that unit. How odd that he chose to stay outside in the cold and build that strange compound rather than just inhabit his cozy apartment. At least she thought it must be cozy, as hers was. She had never actually been inside Peter’s apartment, however, and she had no idea whether his apartment was cozy or just strange. If she were to guess, she would probably go with strange.

She imagined that Peter was a hoarder. She didn’t know why she thought that way, but it just seemed to fit. She had seen a tv show called Hoarders, and it showed the homes of people who were addicted to collecting stuff. One woman just couldn’t help buying junk from the home shopping network, and she didn’t even open or use any of it once it was delivered. A man just kept paper, any paper, that came his way. Piles of newspapers lined the walls of his house, and even the floor was covered with a thick layer of paper. And she had gone to an auction at the Tuten Penland Auction in Swannanoa where the estate of a hoarder was auctioned off. It was amazing! This elderly woman collected five of everything. There were Cuisinarts, Kiitchen Aid Mixers, expensive vacuum cleaners, all still in the box. Also, there was a huge collection of Franklin Mint Collectibles for which she had paid a fortune, but were worth almost nothing.

“How did she pay for all that stuff?” Lorraine asked herself. There was a tiny part of Lorraine that was mini-hoarder. Just a tiny part. She had her collections, after all. She had her small collection of Steuben glass figures. Waterford wine glasses. She had her jewelry. She had her silver flatware and serving pieces.  She had her Eileen Fisher sweaters, and her Calvin Klein pants. And she had been called a “Dish Whore” because of her love of dishes. She had about four complete sets of china and heavens knew how many assorted dinner plates. But, she had a place for everything in this small apartment. She wasn’t a hoarder if she had everything put away neatly. She knew friends who had storage units full of their overflow. She did not.

But if she had a credit card with no limit. What then? What would she buy? Her imagination whirred as she spent her imaginary money. She would buy piles of cashmere sweaters from Bergdorf Goodman, which carried Tse cashmere. Strings of real pearls. Diamond pins. And shoes!  She had such a slim foot and shoes in her size were so hard to find at a reasonable price. She would buy an assortment of Dior shoes, which fit her perfectly. Her uniform was a white silk blouse covered by an oversized black sweater. Probably she would also buy a stack of creamy white silk shirts.

She would need another closet then, for sure. Or an armoire. She wondered whether she could find a low-cost carpenter to build something for her. Surely she would benefit from more storage space.

With that thought she got up and moved to the bathroom to do her nightly ablutions before bedtime. She used drug store cosmetics, but her dream was to buy La Prairie skin care products. It would be a good investment, she thought, whether she had an unlimited credit card or not. She needed to keep her skin soft and supple so she would be appealing to someone special. Tomorrow, first thing, she would place an order.