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Jennie loved Christmas, there was no denying that. In her short life she had amassed countless magical memories which she would treasure, forever.
Christmas memories can be triggered by the tiniest of things, the sweet smell of cinnamon, the fresh scent of pine or the twinkling lights on a Christmas tree, but for Jennie, the very simple sight of ribbons and bows filled her heart with warmth and love.
The snow had been falling for several hours and as Jennie looked out of the window, it began to drift towards the cottage, nestling comfortably against its ancient stone walls. She sat quietly peering through the snow, and watched as the distant trees faded gently into a haze of crystal flakes.
It was Christmas Eve, and Jennie had spent the best part of the day waiting and hoping for any sign of a huge sleigh bursting with carefully wrapped presents of every shape and size, speeding across the treetops in a trail of sparkling gold dust.
Jennie could see the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree reflected in the small square windowpanes. Amongst the brightly coloured baubles and shimmering tinsel, tiny wooden reindeer hung from plastic hooks, and stripy peppermint candy sticks clung from the ends of every branch. She turned away from the window and glanced at the bright orange flames flickering in the fireplace. The dancing flames cast shadows across the pretty patterned walls, and the crackling sound of burning logs gently pierced the silence of the evening. The room was cosy and warm, and the walls of the cottage wrapped themselves around the quirky little hallways and beamed ceilings in a protective embrace.
A sweet spicy smell of orange and cinnamon drifted across the room as Jennie's mother removed a tray of hot mince pies from the bright blue Aga in the kitchen, and the sound of clattering pots and running water echoed around the pretty little house.
Jennie drew away from the window and studied the sparkling silver star on top of the tree. Tiny pearls and crystals were perched on its pointed ends, and its shadow cast a glistening silhouette against the wall like a delicate frosted cobweb in the moonlight. The large glass centre threw a rainbow of light across the branches of the tree, bathing it in shards of yellow, gold and green. Jennie's eyes were drawn to a bright golden reindeer, the only one hanging on the tree. Reaching out, she touched it gently. The surface was rippled, and its antlers were long and slender. Four tiny hooves were poised for flight, and its tail stood proud and straight. She toyed with the reindeer for several moments before letting it go, where it swung gently on its coiled hanger and gently tapped a glass snowflake.
"Jennie" her mother called from the kitchen "Can you help me with the mince pies? I need to put some of them away."
"But what about Santa?" Jennie replied "He might want one, and the reindeer's, have we got some carrots for them? I can't see them yet, or Santa's sleigh, and I've been waiting for ages."
"Santa has a lot to do Jennie, don't worry he'll be here. And we have plenty of mince pies and lots of carrots for the reindeer."
"And a drink too?"
"And a drink too" her mother replied.
She smiled as Jennie reached for a large cake tin covered in polar bears and Christmas penguins.
Pulling it from the top of the small fridge by the door, she carried it over to her mother.
"Will I see the gold dust this year?" she asked "I mean Santa's gold dust, the sort he brings with the reindeer? I never see it."
"That's because you're always asleep when he brings your presents; but that doesn't mean you need to stay awake all night to see him or the reindeer."
"What if he doesn't find us?"
"Of course he'll find us."
"But it's snowing so much I can hardly see out of the window!"
"Don't let a bit of snow worry you Jennie, Santa comes from the North Pole, it always snows there."
"Is it magic?"
"Is what magic, the snow?"
"The gold dust, the dust that makes Santa's sleigh fly?" Jennie asked as she carefully placed a mince pie into the cake tin.
"There's all sorts of magic Jennie, but the magic of Christmas is one of the best."
"So it is magic, it has to be because it makes him fly."
"Yes, Santa's gold dust is as magic as it ever was."
"And granddad, is he magic? He can fly too can't he? You said so, he can fly to the stars, I know he can because you told me."
The woman looked at the young girl and smiled sadly.
"Yes, yes granddad can fly."
"Good, because I haven't seen him for ages, he needs to borrow some sparkly dust and come to see us. It's Christmas, he needs to come and have his dinner."
THE SECRET WISH
Jennie lay very still as her mother tucked her into bed. The curtains on the window were closed against the bitter cold of the night, and the howling winds buffeted the driven snow against the cottage. Thick layers of powdery snow rested against the small paned windows, and the stone ledges were invisible under the white blanket.
"Are you sure Santa will find us?" Jennie asked her mother.
"Yes, of course he will, and when you wake up in the morning your presents will be under the tree."
"What if I don't go to sleep?" said Jennie
"Then Santa will know and he might not visit us at all, so you need to close your eyes very tightly."
Jennie thought for a moment and said "Mummy, if I make a wish will Santa make it come true?"
"He might do. I suppose it would depend on what it is." replied her mother.
"But he's magic and so is Christmas, so I'm going to make a wish; a secret wish."
"Wow! Is it a magic wish?" asked her mother
"It's a secret magic wish!" Jennie's eyes grew round and wide and the light from the bedside lamp made them twinkle in the shadows. "It's a secret magic wish and I'm not allowed to tell anyone." she added.
"Is that so?" said her mother.
"Yes it is."
Her mother laughed and tucked Everton, Jennies yellow Minion, beside her under the duvet.
"We have done everything properly haven't we?" Jennie asked.
"Yes, we have done everything that we should have; there's a plate for Santa's mince pie, a glass of milk and a bunch of carrots for the reindeer."
"And a wooden door for the fairies?"
Jennie's mother looked confused.
"Would you like me to sit with you while you make your secret magic wish?" she asked
"Ssshhh! No! It's a secret." whispered Jennie.
"Okay, but you need to go to sleep."
"I will after I've made my wish." Jennie replied.
"OOPS! Sorry. Okay make your wish and I'll try not to listen."
"What about the fairy door?" asked Jennie.
"Fairy doors are in the forests with the elves." she replied
"But what about Santa's elves? Won't they need a door?" queried Jennie
"No, because they're in Santa's workshop and they have their own doors."
Jennie's mother stepped out onto the landing and turned to look at her daughter. Jennie's eyes were tightly closed and her lips pursed into a half smile. Clutching the small minion, she gripped the toy tightly with her fingers, and pulled her face into a contorted twist. Her mother smiled and pulled the door, leaving it slightly ajar.
The floorboards creaked gently as Isobel Whitelock went downstairs into the cosy living room. The soft glow of the fire filled the room, and the lingering aroma of mince pies and cinnamon buns drifted from the kitchen. Seated by the fire, Isobel studied the Christmas tree. She had decided to space the decorations a little more to allow for the addition of a special homemade decoration for Jennie, and the special glass Christmas star she would hang as she always did on Christmas Eve. Isobel removed the tinsel and carefully placed the decorations on the tree until there was enough room for Jennie's new unicorn bauble. The brightly painted unicorn sparkled in the light, its golden mane and tail dancing on the branches of the tree. She opened a blue box tied with gold ribbon, and lifted out the glass star. Holding it up to the light, the tiny red heart in the centre was clearly visible and as it spun around, the colour seemed to run to the end of each pointed shard. The light from the fire gilded the edges of the star, and it shone like a jewel in the night.
Isobel hung the star carefully on the tree and stepped back. Satisfied that the decoration was complete, she hung two Christmas stockings on the fireplace and began to open the cards that had arrived that morning. There was one from Aunt Heather and Uncle Bill, two from the Vicarage of St Marys, one from each of her friends including Aimee from Frankfurt in Germany, and one from Jennie which she'd posted through the letterbox without a proper stamp. Jennie had drawn a picture of an orange prawn on the right hand side where the stamp should have been, and had written HMP WHITELOCK underneath it in angular spiky writing.
Isobel laughed and opened the envelope. A hand painted octopus in a red scarf sat in the centre of a bright pink coral reef surrounded by snowmen, and a green elf carrying a mince pie waved happily in the background. Isobel opened the card and read aloud "Happy Christmas Mummy, lots of love Jennie."
A string of purple kisses filled the bottom of the card, along with a small yellow thumbprint with a smiley face.
Isobel placed the cards on the mantelpiece. As she turned, a shiny white envelope lay on the floor.
"Oh, I must have dropped it" she said, bending down to pick it up.
She turned the envelope over and read the handwriting on the front. There was no address on it and it was not date stamped or postmarked, it simply read ISOBEL in large gold letters. Intrigued, she opened it and read the card inside. To her surprise, the card was not a Christmas card or a New Year card, but a plain silver edged card with something written in the middle. The text was very decorative, and Isobel had some difficulty reading the words in the soft light so she stepped into the brighter light in the kitchen. The card looked handwritten, and for a brief moment she wondered if Jennie had managed to conjure it up at school
If you could have one single wish
Tell me, what would it be?
A simple thought is all you need
And the magic you will see
Isobel raised an eyebrow and walked back into the lounge. The gentle roar of the flames and the cracking logs subsided as the wind eased its way towards the distant forests, leaving behind a silent snowy world. She sighed and placed the card alongside the others above the fireplace, before standing at the bottom of the stairs listening for sounds of movement from Jennie's room. Upstairs was silent, and Isobel returned to the kitchen to make the final preparations for Christmas day.
It was almost midnight when Isobel finally climbed into bed. The mince pies and cinnamon buns were tucked away in neatly stacked tins in the kitchen. The Christmas turkey was prepared for cooking along with the vegetables, and freshly baked gingerbread men sat in orderly rows on an oblong plate. Isobel had hung several presents on the tree and after a final check; she carefully climbed the stairs to bed. The mysterious card was propped up on the mantelpiece next to a penguin. Isobel had barely given it a thought as she laid down her head and drifted off to sleep.
As the snow fell gently from the sky, a ripple of tiny bells danced on the breeze, and a sparkling haze of dust swirled above the rooftops. Hovering momentarily, it moved across the snowbound landscape touching frozen flakes and pointed icicles. In the lounge of Moorhen Cottage, a shiny glass star swayed gently on the branch of the Christmas tree.
The large winter moon shone like a diamond in the sky, and a fresh blanket of snow covered the rolling landscape. Christmas Eve was full of magic, and the new moon was poised to reveal secrets when dearest wishes would be granted.
Moorhen Cottage was in darkness, and the outside world was silent. Jennie had fallen into a deep sleep, and the Secret Magical Wish was tucked away under the warmth of the duvet. Tiny flakes of gold dust swirled across the roofs and treetops, before falling in spirals to the ground below. The creatures of the forest began to stir as the light pierced the snow covered branches. High above the treetops, a cluster of stars spun in tiny circles. Rising and falling with the breeze, it moved across fields and barns like a beacon in the night sky. The glistening ball disappeared momentarily into the belching grey smoke of red bricked chimneys, and then exploded sending a flurry of stars and billowing dust across the sleeping world below. The bright golden light fell against the windows of Moorhen Cottage and the silence was broken by the gentle sound of Christmas bells.
Jennie lazily opened an eye. Everton was squashed into the corner of the duvet, his face partly covered by the edge of the pillow. A warm white glow filtered through the bedroom curtains framing Jennies face as she lay snuggled in bed. Her eyes were heavy with sleep, and as she slowly became accustomed to the strange light, she sat up with a start.
"Santa!" she whispered, and leapt out of bed. She threw open the curtains and gazed out into the garden. The neat hedgerows were touched with gold, and the night sky glistened in a rainbow of colour. Jennie gasped in surprise.
"The secret! The magic wish! It came true!"
Jennie's eyes widened and she watched as a trail of gold dashed across the sky towards the rainbow light, amidst the sound of jingling bells. Hurriedly, Jennie pulled on a fluffy pink jumper and matching socks and began to rummage in the wardrobe for a pair of jeans. The creaking stairs were silent as she carefully made her way to the front door. She pushed her feet into her purple snow boots and stepped outside.
The icy wind brushed against her skin and her cheeks tingled as the biting cold ripped through her clothes.
Jennie shivered. The outside world was glistening and beautiful. She gazed in awe at the brightly coloured sky and the twinkling golden landscape, gasping as a trail of gold dashed towards the rainbow light. A large snowflake danced above her head, and she tingled from head to toe as it moved in the breeze. The snow covered path crunched beneath her feet as she made her way to the bottom of the garden. In the meadow beyond, a pair of sapphire blue eyes peered through the sparkling haze and they watched as Jennie climbed the wooden gate and perched on a strut in the center. Jennie gazed at the stars as they rose and fell, changing colour in the moonlight. Another large snowflake fell on Jennie's nose and she tingled from head to toe as it slowly melted in tiny droplets. She no longer felt the cold. The bitterness of the night had disappeared as she stepped into the garden, and the world was full of warmth and the magic of Christmas.
"Please, please, please, let me see him." Jennie whispered.
She could hear the distant sound of silver bells and the gentle rush of the wind as it touched the trees and hedgerows.
Distracted momentarily, Jennie thought she saw something moving in the meadow. It was difficult to see what it was, as the shape of it blended into the landscape. Jennie watched as it made its way through the snow.
"It's him!" she cried "It's him!"
Shards of silver light covered the ground as a pure white creature with sapphire blue eyes slowly emerged under the moonlight. His long tail gently brushed the ground, and his small pointed ears were alert to every sound. His expression was kind, yet inquisitive and his nose drew in the crisp cold air with every breath. The creature left no trail across the fallen snow, and the world became still as it moved purposely towards the garden of Moorhen Cottage.
Isobel Whitelock stirred in her bed. Somewhere in the distance she had heard the door open and close, and had drifted into a deep sleep. Her dreams were disturbed by childhood visions of her father, and the tale of a Christmas Fox who appeared on the grant of a wish. Her mind raced through memories of her childhood from seaside holidays to Jennies first day at school, and in between, the words on the mystery card appeared like burnished gold letters written across the night sky. She awoke with a start. The cottage was bathed in a golden glow, and as she climbed out of bed, she realised that the light was coming from outside. The air was still, and not a sound could be heard. The words on the card were dancing around her head as she carefully made her way downstairs to the living room. She halted briefly outside Jennie's bedroom, and then stepped onto the creaking staircase.
The light was softer downstairs, and she could see the silhouette of the Christmas tree and the armchair as she entered the room. Running her fingers across the mantelpiece, she found the card next to the penguin and carried it into the kitchen. She switched on the light and began to read the card once more. Isobel tingled from head to toe, and she was sure that she heard the sound of Christmas bells as she turned the card over.
Her dreams had been deep and vivid, and the images of her childhood were as real as though they were happening at that very moment. A feeling of warmth and love filled her with happiness as the memory of her dearest wish came flooding back. She held the card tightly in her hands and closed her eyes.
THE CHRISTMAS VISITOR
The night was full of magic as the Christmas visitor moved silently towards the quaint little cottage. No sound or trail was left behind as he made his way across the meadow. Jennie clasped her hands in delight as the strange creature appeared before her in a halo of silver light. Bowing gracefully, it studied Jennie with kindness and wisdom. He tilted his head from side to side, and his nostrils twitched gently as Jennie leaned over the garden gate. She reached out her hands to touch the soft white fur and smiled as her fingers glowed under his winter coat.
"It's you; the Christmas fox" she said quietly "Grandpa said you'd come one day. You're the secret magical wish!"
The fox turned his head. Jennie was sure that he smiled and when she looked into his eyes, there was a glimpse of recognition. She began to climb over the gate and as her feet touched the ground, she saw that the fox had a pair of delicate wings nestling against its body. The wings unfolded and then gently returned to their resting place. Jennie wrapped her arms around the fox, feeling the softness of his fur against her skin. Although cold to the touch, she felt warmth and happiness as she held him close under the starlit sky.
The door to the cottage opened, and Jennie's mother appeared in the doorway. She peered out into the night as the Christmas fox ruffled his wings. The glistening hedgerows guided her along the path to the gate where she stopped abruptly, watching in amazement as the fox shielded Jennie in a tight embrace. Isobel slowly opened the gate to the meadow. Her thin pyjamas did little to keep out the cold, but as she approached the fox, she felt incredible warmth and an overwhelming feeling of peace and love.
"Jennie, Jennie, What on earth?" she called out into the night.
Jennie turned to face her mother.
"Can you see him mummy? Can you really see him?" she asked
Isobel stared in disbelief.
"Yes I can see him, I don't understand; is this real?" she replied.
"It's real mummy, it's really happening, my wish came true."
Isobel was silent for a moment "Your wish?" she asked
"Yes" replied Jennie "the secret magic wish. It came true."
Isobel gasped in surprise. The magical wish had been the same as the one she had craved as a child, a wish that had never come true.
"Mummy touch his fur, it's so soft and he has beautiful wings like an angel. And look mummy; he knows us! Look at his eyes. He knows us mummy, please look!"
Isobel reached out her arms, and as she did so the fox lay his head in her hands. His soft fur shone like silken thread and his ears felt like crushed velvet. As she ran her hands along his narrow face, their eyes met, becoming locked in a gaze which she had known since she was a child. A hint of a smile appeared on her face as she softly kissed the fox on top of his head. The fox gently raised his paw and as she held it in her hand, she noticed there was no trail or footprints in the snow.
Time stood still in the wintery world, and as the evening skies gave way to the morning light, the distant sound of bells slowly disappeared with the breaking clouds. The golden light melted away, and the fox slowly faded from the world without a trace
THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS
It was Christmas day. Inside Moorhen cottage Jennie and her mother were safely snuggled together beside the fire. They sat in silence, quietly reliving the events of Christmas Eve with excitement and wonder. When Jennie finally spoke, she had wanted so much to see Santa and his sleigh full of presents flying above the rooftops, but the granting of her secret wish was the most magical thing that could ever have happened. She would always remember the night before Christmas when the Christmas fox visited them at Moorhen Cottage.
The presents were under the tree as Isobel had promised and as she casually glanced at their pretty bows and colourful wrapping, she noticed a very bright box sitting right at the front beneath a candy stick.
"I think it's time to open our presents" she said
"Can we mummy? I can't wait to see what Santa has left for me under the tree. I must have missed him when I was with the Christmas fox, but I did see some sparkly dust!"
"Well, he must have climbed down the chimney when nobody was looking." her mother replied picking up the brightly coloured box. "Happy Christmas Jennie."
Jennie eagerly untied the ribbon from the top of the box and tore open the packaging. Her eyes were wide with anticipation as she pulled out a sheet of white tissue paper from the inside of the box.
"Mummy" she gasped "Look!"
Isobel knelt down on the floor beside the tree.
"What is it?" she asked
Jennie handed the package to her mother, almost in disbelief.
"Oh my word!"
Inside the purple velvet lined box laid a Christmas Fox with sapphire blue eyes and a long bushy tail. The crystal figure was surrounded by a mass of tiny white snowy balls. Isobel lifted it up to the morning light.
"Mummy there's a note too, look!"
Jennie handed a small silver edged note card to her mother.
"What does it say? Is it from Santa?" she asked clapping her hands together excitedly.
Isobel felt a tinge of sadness, and then her heart filled with joy as she quietly read the words on the card.
You're never alone
When it's magic we have
Just look to the stars
And you'll never be sad
"Do you believe in Christmas magic mummy?" Jennie asked gazing at the crystal fox.
Isobel was silent for a moment before replying "I believe in secret magical wishes."
"And do you believe in angels? I'll always believe mummy, because our secret wishes came true."
And above their heads, the shiny glass star swayed gently on the Christmas tree.
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