Friday, December 24, 2021

Christmas Magic


“Stop pushing me!” Lissa whispered.

Zack glared at her.

There wasn't a lot of room behind the Christmas tree and Lissa was taking up most of it. Just because she was older than him she thought she could boss him around.

He put his thumb in his mouth, then took it out again to ask, “Do you think he's really gonna come?”

“That's what we're here to find out!”

Lissa was proud of herself. Her Mum and Dad were always going on about not just believing everything you hear, and thinking things through for yourself. When she'd asked her Mum earlier that day, “Is Father Christmas real?” her Mum had asked her, “What do you think?”

Earlier in the week, there had been a big fight at school when her friend Sarah said it was all just a story, and Angie in their class had said, “Of course it isn't. I get presents from him every year,” and Sarah had called her a baby and Angie had hit her and Mrs Gregson had come over and told them both off.

Lissa hadn't joined in. She was going to find out if Santa was real by using the scientific method, which in this case meant putting out a mince pie and a glass of milk and hiding behind the tree and waiting. She hadn't wanted Zack to join in, but keeping anything a secret from him was impossible.

They'd been waiting for ages. Lissa took a chocolate coin off the tree and unwrapped it. She broke the chocolate in half and gave one piece to Zack and ate the other herself.

There was the sudden sound of bells and a flash of white that made them blink. Now floating in front of the hearth was … a fairy? Six inches of glitter and sparkles, wearing a white dress like a ballet dancer's. A scarf of fluffy white feathers fluttered up around her neck and her wings were silver and white. She was the most beautiful thing Lissa had ever seen, but she wasn't Father Christmas.

“You might as well come out of there,” the fairy said, in a surprisingly loud and grumpy voice. “I know you're there and I've come for your help.”

Lissa stepped out from behind the tree and Zack followed. “You're not Father Christmas,” Lissa said accusingly.

“Well spotted that girl,” the fairy said, then as if reciting words she had rehearsed “I have been sent on a mission to recruit--” She stopped. “Look, do you want a magical adventure, Santa Claus, North Pole, save Christmas?” she asked in a more normal tone of voice.

“Yes?” said Lissa, because what else were you supposed to say when you were offered a magical adventure.

“Come on then, we'll need to hold hands. Oh, and you'd better wrap up warm as well.”

The fairy waved her wand over them, brilliant sparkles fell all around and between one blink and the next they were dressed in their warmest clothes. “Honestly, I have to think of everything,” she muttered, then in a louder voice, “Right, grab hands, and here we go.”

This time the sparkles made the whole world go white, and it stayed white even with their eyes open wide. Snow flakes fell softly onto the snowy ground, and the house in front of them was bright with snow.

“Let's get on with it then,” the fairy said. She pushed the front door open, and they all stepped inside.

It was dark, lit only by the flickering of a wood fire. The fairy made an impatient sound, then there was a click, and everything lit up.

“You know I prefer candles,” said the old man who they could now see sitting in the chair in front of them. He wore a white t-shirt and blue stripey boxer shorts and his socks were a plain boring black. He looked like their Dad did when he was getting ready for work and hadn't put his suit on yet. There was a suit – a red one with white fur – draped over the other chair in the room. Father Christmas, because it had to be him, put his head in his hands, his white beard poking out from underneath.

“Well light the bloody candles then,” the fairy said.

“Language, Fae, there are children present,” said Father Christmas.

“Yes, children. They're here to help you on your rounds tonight, so there had better be some rounds for them to help with. Get dressed, we haven't got all night.”

Father Christmas lifted his head wearily. “It's no good, Fae. Nobody believes in me any more so I might as well give up.”

Fae put her hands on her hips. “No one believes, eh?” She turned to the children. “Do you believe in Father Christmas?”

Zack nodded solemnly, his thumb in his mouth. He was still young enough to believe without question in Santa and the Tooth Fairy and that his parents knew everything.

“What about you?” the fairy asked Lissa.

“Well, he's there,” Lissa said. “I mean, I wasn't sure if it was true or not but he's sitting there. But shouldn't he be wearing that,” she pointed to the red suit, “and flying through the sky and everything?”

“That's what I'm trying to tell him,” Fae said. “Come on, Nick, snap out of it. You've got a public to think of now. All those children round the world just waiting for you.”

“Ho blooming ho,” Father Christmas said, but he got up and pulled on his red trousers, and the red jacket with the white fur, and his big, black boots.

“Come on,” he said, “let's get the reindeer hitched up to the sleigh.”

It was a magical night. The sky was clear and the stars were out, so many stars, and a crescent moon. The four reindeer pulled the sleigh through the sky over mountains and fields and towns and lakes, stopping every so often for Father Christmas to land the sleigh on the roof of a house or block of flats and pop down the chimney, coming back up again breathless and smiling. Yes, smiling, because as the night wore on Father Christmas seemed to regain his cheer. His laugh changed from the fake “Ho, ho, ho!” they had first heard, to a genuine chuckle, and then a belly laugh.

“Why doesn't he stop at all the houses?” Lissa asked, “and where are the presents?”

“I'm stopping at houses where they need and want the Spirit of Christmas, and that's the present I'm bringing,” Father Christmas said.

“Will you stop at our house?” Lissa asked.

Father Christmas looked at Zack, whose eyelids were drooping over sleepy eyes. He nodded. “Yes,” he said, “I think it's time.”

The sleigh settled on the roof of Lissa and Zach's house and Father Christmas took them by the hand. Woosh! They were down the chimney and in front of the hearth, which was pretty amazing to Lissa seeing that there was a wood stove filling the fireplace and no way they could have got through it or round it.

A tinkle of bells made her look round at the fairy.

“So, did you get your answer then?” Fae asked.

“I guess so,” Lissa said.

Zach curled up on the rug in front of the fireplace, put his thumb in his mouth and closed his eyes. Lissa sat on the sofa and tucked up her feet. She was too tired to stay awake any longer. The last thing she heard before she fell asleep was a deep throaty laugh from Father Christmas.

“Well, look at you then!” Her Mum's voice woke Lissa from a deep sleep.

“Looks like you stayed up to see Father Christmas,” Lissa's Dad said.

Zack sat up on the mat and rubbed his eyes. “We did see him,” he said.

“Sure you did.” Dad winked at Mum.

“No really, we did!” Lissa said.

“Good for you,” Lissa's Mum said, but Lissa could tell she didn't believe them. Lissa looked round the room but there was nothing to show what had happened.

Next year, Lissa thought. Next year I'm staying up again and I'll make absolutely sure to bring some proof back with me but right now, it was time for waffles, and presents, and later there would be Wallace and Gromit on the TV.

The whole family sat down to Christmas breakfast and didn't even squabble once. Maybe that was its own kind of magic.

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