Poppy pressed her face and hands to the icy cold window and looked outside. There was no sign of anyone. Maybe, the stick man shaped like a Christmas tree had disappeared? Poppy wondered about that for a few moments, but then she saw him.
Tree-man was making his way down the pathway and even though he was tiny, the bright green colour Poppy had given him glowed against the white frost.
Poppy opened her mouth to shout to him to come back but then she thought better of it. Hurrying into her wardrobe, she put on some fleece pants, socks and a jumper. Going to her door, she crept out again. The house was quiet and as she passed her parents’ bedroom door, she thought she heard the turning pages of a book.
Downstairs she crept and in the hallway put on her coat and wellington boots. She reached for the keys next and unlocked the door with a bit of difficulty. Pulling the front door open as quietly as she could, Poppy slipped outside.
A cold wind wrapped around her and her breath misted before her. The frost sparkled on the ground looking like someone had spread sugar on the road.
‘Tree-man?’ Poppy whispered.
‘Yes?’ a distant voice called back.
‘Come back here,’ Poppy said.
‘Why? You are there and I am here now. Let’s go see the lights together,’ Tree-man spoke out.
‘You’ll be safe with me!’ Tree-man shouted.
Poppy looked behind her at the hallway. The light was on as her mum had left it lit for her dad’s return. She could feel the warmth also coming from the house and she felt torn.
Tree-man reached the gate, he stopped and waved at her.
‘Just a few minutes. That’d be okay,’ Poppy said under her breath.
Slipping the key into her pocket, she stepped out and closed the door softly. Poppy hurried down the path and bent down to look at Tree-man.
‘Can you pick me up?’ he asked.
Nodding, Poppy held out her hand and he jumped into her palm.
‘Where do we go?’ she asked.
‘Down the street,’ Tree-man directed.
Poppy opened the gate and went though. Even though it seemed the frost would crunch under her boots it didn’t nor was it slippy. Carrying Tree-man loosely, Poppy walked down the street and admired the neighbours Christmas lights.
‘Isn’t this magical?’ Tree-man spoke after a few moments.
‘Yes,’ Poppy replied.
‘Look at that deer and that wreath and that sign,’ Tree-man pointed out.
Poppy did, but she wasn’t as fascinated as he was. She was starting to feel cold and also worried. What if someone saw her and they told her mum?
‘We should go back,’ Poppy spoke up.
‘Just a little more, please! I do so love Christmas and it’s so pretty!’ Tree-man cried.
‘But I could get into trouble…’
‘Look at that!’ Tree-man cut in.
Poppy did and she saw the house at the end of the street brightly light up in blue and red flashing lights.
‘Closer! closer!’ Tree-man called.
Frowning, Poppy walked on then came to a stop before the house. The bushes that lined the front walls were divided into red or blue lights as were other plants in the garden. Two real looking but fake baby white trees were on either side of the door, decorated with shinny red baubles and white fairy lights. The walls of the house was covered with flashing stars and other Christmas themed lights.
‘Wow,’ Tree-man breathed.
‘I’ve seen it before,’ Poppy commented and then without thinking, she added, ‘there’s a house on the next street that has a family of polar bears in the garden.’
‘Oh, I’d like to see that!’ Tree-man said.
‘No. We must go back now,’ Poppy replied and she turned around.
Tree-man put his hands on the lowest triangle on his body, ‘no!’ he shouted.
‘Then you’ll have to get there yourself,’ Poppy snapped.
‘Fine!’ Tree-man shot back and he jumped from her hand.
Poppy watched him land on the pavement then walk off. Her mind fully made up, Poppy walked back to her house. Reaching the front door, she turned and looked up the street, but she couldn’t see the Tree-man.
Car headlight lit up the road and Poppy gasped. That could be her dad arriving back!
Fumbling in her coat pocket, she took out the keys and unlocked the door. Rushing in, she closed it and kicked off her boots. As she struggled out of her coat, she heard the car pull up. Tossing her coat on the hanger, she hurried upstairs and took off her clothes.
‘Hello?’ her mum’s voice called.
Poppy stopped trying to take the pants off and got quickly into bed. She pulled the duvet up and shut her eyes. She heard her bedroom door open slightly and then the front door also opened.
Keeping her eyes squeezed shut, she heard her mum go downstairs and talk quietly to her dad. Then they both went into the kitchen or the living room.
Poppy let go of the breath she had been holding and opened her eyes. She thought about Tree-man and where he might have gone. Should she have really left him out there alone? But what choice had she had?
Settling back, Poppy listened to her parents coming upstairs and going to bed. She waited a good few minutes, counting in her head then she got out of bed again. Going to the window, she opened the curtains and looked out.
Tree-man wasn’t there and it had started to snow.