Sunday, December 25
The snow was falling on the ocean outside the sitting room window as Caliban sat in one of the easy chairs and sipped a cup of steaming tea. It was late, very late, and the rest of the house was fast asleep, but he hadn’t been able to doze off. Santa’s question kept playing through his mind, and he knew that the only cure was to meet the old man himself when he came in.
So he sat in the light of the simple Christmas tree that the Captain and Mrs. Hoskins had set up in the sitting room, and waited. The tree was clad in simple white lights, with sailing ships, anchors, starfish, and other nautical items swimming through the green branches. An elegant angel stood atop the tree with a seahorse cradled in her arms.
As he waited, Caliban wondered what Santa would say when he saw him there. Would he be surprised?
Did anything surprise Santa?
In the distance, the bells of St. Michael’s tolled the hour, and as the last peal died, there was a slight pop by the fireplace, and Santa Claus himself came into the room.
“Merry Christmas, Caliban,” Santa said gravely, nodding at him as he pulled gifts out of his bag. “Or should I say, Perry?”
“Perry, if you please,” Caliban said, rising to bow to the old man. “I think it’s time that Prince Caliban followed his brother into death. I’m no longer interested in participating in that world any longer.”
Santa raised an eyebrow. “That’s a big decision,” he said. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, Santa,” Caliban said. “It’s time for a new start. There’s more to life that I need to see.”
“Then it’s time to give you this,” Santa said, and pulled a small box out of his sack. “Merry Christmas, Perry.”
Caliban accepted the box, a little surprised. He hadn’t expected anything, especially since he felt he would be on the naughty list forever.
“People can change, Perry,” Santa said kindly. “And what truly matters is your heart. Remember that.” His tasks done, he laid his finger on the side of his nose, nodded, and vanished.
Sitting back down in his chair, Caliban looked at the small, gaily wrapped box. It even said, “To Perry, from Santa and Mrs. Claus” on it in neat black letters, and there was a small golden bow on the top. He pulled the ribbon, and opened the box.
A sweet, light wind came out of the box, rich with the promise of spring flowers and magic. As it rushed over him, he felt the magic work through, changing him, molding him, and sighed happily.
And then Perry put the box aside, picked up his tea cup, and said quietly, “Thank you, Santa. Thank you.”
They’ll make it, right? They’ll still come, even in the snow?
“They will,” Molly reassured Schrodinger. “Old Man Winter is coming, remember? He’s promised to stop and pick them up. I promise you, Gideon will be here to open the last window on the castle!”
Schrodinger stroked his head against her leg in thanks and ran back into the front parlor, where he, Lily, Kaylee, and Jack were anxiously awaiting Gideon’s arrival (and eating most of the goodies from their stockings, she suspected). The Advent castle had been moved in there, since there was no room under the Christmas tree.
“Is it just me, or do we seem to have more people here every year for Christmas Day?” she said to Drew, who was sitting next to her.
He chuckled. “Well, that’s what happens when you buy a big house. Holidays grow to fill it.”
Molly couldn’t argue with that. Besides her parents, her brother and sister-in-law, the kids, and herself and Drew, they were expecting Kiaya, Zeke, Gideon, Old Man Winter, and Drew’s cousin Doug, his husband Tim, and their two-year-old son Ryan, who was adorable and into everything.
“Besides, it’s not like we’ll really have to babysit the kids,” Drew continued, getting up to refill their tea mugs. Everyone else was in the living room or the parlour, so they were enjoying some quiet time alone. “We’ll just hand Ryan to Old Man Winter, and then leave. He’ll be thrilled.”
“Ryan or Old Man Winter?” Molly said.
“Yes,” Drew said, and she laughed.
Then they both heard the familiar reindeer bells, moments before the shrieks of joy erupted from the front parlour, followed by pounding feet as two children, a CrossCat, and a large dog ran out into the snow.
It was Kiaya and Zeke who appeared in the doorway, however, carrying presents and covered in snow. “That was quite the ride!” Zeke said, as he shook off the flakes. “I don’t think I knew reindeer could move that fast!”
“Most can’t,” Nathan said, appearing behind his sister and taking the packages from Zeke’s hands. “Old Man Winter doesn’t believe in things like the laws of physics.”
“Laws like that were meant to be broken,” Old Man Winter said, coming in behind them with Gideon in one arm, Kaylee in the other, and Lily on his shoulders. “Human constructs are just suggestions, aren’t they?”
“We have to do the calendar!” Gideon shouted happily. “It’s the last day!”
“He’s been saying that since eight this morning,” Kiaya said to Molly. “I don’t know what we’re going to do tomorrow morning.”
Old Man Winter set the two in his arms down, and then tumbled Lily over his shoulders. “Go on,” he said gruffly. “I need some tea.”
“The water’s hot,” Molly said, and guided everyone in to the kitchen.
As she passed Old Man Winter a cup, he said quietly, “Jade said to tell you everything is all set. And thank you.”
“Good,” Molly said, and felt the knot of concern start to loosen. “That’s very good.”
Drew, however, was looking strangely at Old Man Winter. “Did you forget something?” he said, and everyone turned to look at him.
Old Man Winter frowned, then brightened. “Oh, that’s right! Molly’s present!” He put his tea cup down and, to Molly’s surprise, went back outside.
“And why is Old Man Winter bringing my…” The words died as Molly saw who was coming back in with him.
“Molly, darling!” Phoebe came floating into the kitchen and enfolded Molly in her arms. “Merry Christmas!”
“But I thought you couldn’t come?” Molly said, confused. “Drew said you couldn’t make it!”
Drew’s grandmother winked at her. “Because I told him to. We wanted to make it a surprise.” She held Molly at arm’s length and looked at her. “You are happy, aren’t you?”
“I am!” Molly threw her arms around Phoebe and hugged her back. “I’m just surprised! This is the best Christmas present ever!”
“Now, where are the children?” Phoebe said, looking around.
“In the front parlour, with the Advent castle.” Molly led her down the hall and into the room where the Snow Queen’s palace sat on a low table.
“Gramma Phoebe!” Kaylee shrieked when the faery came in. “Molly, were you surprised??!”
“Molly didn’t know what to say, Kaylee-love!” Phoebe said, gathering her for a big hug. “But what is this lovely thing? Is this the castle you were telling me about, Gideon?”
“Yes! Come help us find the last number!”
Phoebe joined them in looking, and she was the one who noticed the number 25 climbing up the side of the main door. “Now what?” she said.
Touch it with your fingertip, Schrodinger said.
She did, and the front doors opened to show the grand hall of the Snow Queen.
In the center of the room stood Jade and Jack, clad in all dark green, with crowns of holly and ivy on their heads. “Thank you so much for all your help this year,” Jade said, looking out at them. “I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you have a Merry Christmas!”
“This is the time to enjoy your families,” Jack added. “And one last gift. Take this castle outside into Molly and Drew’s back yard.”
The door closed and they all looked at Molly, who shrugged. “You heard the man. Get your coats this time, please, and we’ll bring it outside.”
Soon, everyone was out back, wearing coats and boots. Drew took the castle out with him and set it down in the snow at the edge of the woods. Then he backed up.
At first, nothing happened. Then the castle began to glow. It got brighter, and brighter, until everyone had to look away. When the light finally dimmed and they looked back…
“We have a play house!” Lily shouted in glee. “It became a play house!”
It had. The castle had grown, shifted, and now was a castle the size of a large shed. The children ran inside, and Molly could hear their happy shouts as they explored.
“Well, that’s that,” Zeke said, clapping Drew on the shoulder. “I assume we’ll see him when he’s 18 or so?”
They all laughed at that, and went back inside, leaving the children to explore this final present.
>Activity: Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you enjoyed this year’s Advent story. Today’s activity is easy – enjoy the day! May it be as magical as one in Carter’s Cove!
Originally published at The words of Valerie Griswold-Ford. You can comment here or there.