The Grotto (Part 4)

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I took a shower when I got back home and as I stood under the hot water, I tried to clear my head. Still though the idea that my little niece was growing up and losing her believe in Christmas bugged me. How could I make things better?

My own childhood hadn’t been merry and bright. I knew around Willow’s age that there was no Santa, because nothing would bring my parents back to life. Alex and I had kept up the pretense for my grandparents a little long but then we had all gotten tried of it. We had grown up before we should have done and that was why Alex wanted his children to experience everything for a longer time.

Washing my hair, I wondered if I could write a letter to Willow pretending to be from Santa. As long as I was careful, it might just work. I could do some internet searching and see how to get it right. No one else would have to know about it.

I set to that plan after getting dressed and having something to eat. My granddad normally went out to the pub tonight but with the bad weather he was staying in. Leaving my grandparents to wrap presents, I went upstairs and loaded up my laptop. Making up a letter from Santa was easier then I thought. Only a few times did I wondered if it was the right thing to do and if I should check with Alex. I was done before I could do anything else though.

The next day when I saw Alex leaving early for work as I headed out myself, I called over the road to him.

‘I have this…’ I said fishing the envelope out of handbag, ‘can you put it under the tree on Christmas eve?’

‘Why?’ he asked, accepting the letter.

‘It’s for Willow. Just thought it might help her believing for a bit longer.’

Alex looked at the large cream envelope before replying, ‘I think we’re going to have to tell her. Jo is getting tried of all the questions and with Luke still being ill….’

‘But Christmas is so soon!’ I pointed out, ‘No, you can’t! Next year, maybe. Just give her the letter.’

I shoved his hand and the letter up and did my best sister pleading eyes.

‘Okay,’ he signed.

‘Good. See you later,’

I hurried away and went to catch my bus. On the ride into work, I wondered how Willow would take it. Would she know it was a fake or would it inspire her to carry on believing? Had I done a good thing or not? It was up to the Spirit of Christmas now.

Working at the college library was a bore most days but at least it paid and forced me to carry on looking for other job. Some days, I was able to leave early and go pick Willow up from school which was close by. She finished in three days now which meant Christmas eve was so close! The college had finished last week but the library was still open for those bookworms and panic studying students.

I finished early and since it was too soon to pick Willow up, I went home. The next few days past far too fast, so I didn’t get a chance to tell Alex about my plan. On Christmas eve, I went out with some friends and finally had some downtime. It was good to just forget about Christmas and Santa and believing for a few hours.

Late on Christmas morning, my grandparents and I went went over to Alex’s. We each had a pot or tray of something homemade that my gran had cooked or baked. Jo opened the door and seemed glad to see us. I had not seen her in a few days and she really looked tried.

‘My parents are running late, come in,’ she added.

Willow dashed out of the front room, something in her hand, ‘Auntie Angel! Dad said I could couldn’t open this till you got here!’

Giving Jo the bowl of stuffing I was holding, I went over to Willow and saw the envelope in her hand. She was still in her pajamas which were pink and the top read Princess whilst the bottoms had crowns and hearts on them.

‘What is it?’ I asked.

Willow shrugged and opened it.

I held my breath and bit my lip.

‘It’s a letter…’ Willow trailed.

I hummed and waited. In the background her baby brother Luke started crying and I heard Alex trying to shush him.

‘From…Santa!’ Willow gasped, ‘Angel! He really wrote to me!’

‘What does it say?’ I pressed, trying to keep the smile from my face.

‘He said; I’m sorry I can’t see you in person but I’ve been really busy. My elves and I are finishing up making toys packing the sleigh today. The reindeer are almost ready to fly and I have so many deliveries to make this year. My cousins have been telling me all about you and so have the elves,’ Willow read excitedly.

‘Well that’s good!’

Willow nodded and carried on, ‘it can be hard for me to write to each child, but I do try and will always take the time for those that have been really good. I hope you love the pink unicorn you asked for, it was made just for you.’

She dropped the letter and turned to the front room, ‘you should see her, Aunt, she’s huge!’ Willow cried.

I laughed, ‘what else does the letter say?’

‘That; I hope like the other presents you got too. Have a good Christmas and it’s a special time to be with your family. Thanks for believing in me. Santa,’ Willow took a deep breath, ‘he’s real! He’s real!’ she cried.

I laughed and hugged her, ‘he really is if you believe hard enough,’ I whispered.

Letters To Santa

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Meka sink down into the sofa, it was the first time in days she’d had some time for herself. Taking a sip from her wine glass, she placed it down and opened the two envelopes in her lap. It was the first chance she had gotten to read the letters the kids had wrote to Santa.

Starting with her son’s one, she read it quickly. He had asked for a new bike. A bright blue one. She’d got him a helmet too and the new coat he’d seen last week. Folding the paper back up and slotting it into the envelope, Meka picked up the pink one.

Pulling out and unfolding the paper, she read what her daughter wanted.

Dear Santa,

I have been really good this year. I only want one thing and that’s a unicorn! 

Love Ginny. 

‘A unicorn?’ Meka cried, ‘that wasn’t what she said. She wanted a doll’s house.’

Re-reading the letter, just to double check there had been no mistake, Meka put it back in the envelope then placed both letters on the table. Having a mouthful of wine, she grabbed her laptop and began looking for a unicorn soft toy.

Pegasus

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Molly gazed into the button eyes of the felt pegasus and officially decided that she didn’t like him. Sighing, she placed him on her desk and began to scrutinise him from every angle. The matching black wings were slightly lopsided- though that should be an easy fix- the muzzle looked hooked at the end and the legs seemed too thin to hold up him up. As if to prove that, he began to do the splits and almost became spread-eagle.

She was reminded of Bambi as she straightened him up. Rubbing the soft black felt under her fingertips, she decided that the there was nothing wrong with the felt or the colour. The mane and tail, which were made of some black fur she had found, looked suitable enough. It was definitely the pattern, she thought, and he really won’t do for my niece’s birthday.

Placing the pegasus on her printer beside the red dragon with the missing eyes and the blue teddy bear with a knitted scarf, Molly scrolled through her Pinterest crafts-to-try board. She had gathered a number of different patterns and images of pegasus and unicorns on there during her research. After a few minutes, she decided to have a go at making the second pattern of her choice, which was actually just a simple horse with attachable wings and horn.

Turning on the printer, she sorted the pattern out before printing it and whilst picking up the sheet of paper she muttered to the pegasus, who now seemed to be glaring at her, ‘I’m sorry, but you’ll just have to stay there for now.’

Leaving the print out on her desk, she went into the kitchen to make some dinner. Her boyfriend, who she shared her uncle’s old house with, was working away in London, so she was alone for the next few days. Not that it bothered her as she had Jet to keep her company and also plenty to keep her busy; there were articles to be written for two magazines and one online, a house to keep tidy, a Halloween party to plan, Jet to be walked, feed and brushed as his winter coat was coming through and another pegasus to now make.

After dinner and watching the news, Molly took Jet out. The black Labrador had springs for legs and was constantly jumping about everywhere. Also, he believed that games of fetch should last forever and Molly struggled to convince him it was home time after an hour. Finally, they left the woods and it had grown very dark. Checking her phone, she saw it was past nine.

‘That’s your fault that,’ she scolded the dog.

Jet stared up at her with dopy eyes full of love and excitement.

Molly laughed and patted his head, ‘don’t look at me like that. Come on, its bedtime when we get back.’

After she had turned on the lights and dried Jet’s muddy paws, Molly curled up on the sofa with a mug of hot chocolate. Jet-seemly tried for once- curled up in his basket and began to snore. She watched Film4’s nine o’clock movie; Knight and Day, then went to bed.

Waking up in the morning from a strange almost bordering on nightmarish dream, Molly felt like she was being watched. Turning the ringing alarm off, she turned on the bedside lamp and looked around the dim room. She couldn’t see anything. Getting up, she opened the curtains and let in the weak autumn light. Nothing seemed out of place. Running her hands through her wicked witch like black hair, she walked out of the bedroom and into the bathroom. It was probably an effect of that dream, she thought.

Jet was waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs. His tail was thumbing against the wooden stairs banister like a fast drum beat. Molly rubbed his head, then put on her shoes and coat. Jet yawed and started barking.

‘Give me a second,’ she told him, but he carried on. Putting on his lead and opening the door, caused Jet to yank her outside. She tried to pull him back, but he was stronger than her and had very little patient in the morning. She took him on to the playing fields, which were in the opposite direction the woods. There he would be less districted from chasing squirrels or rabbits and hopefully, she’d get home sooner.

Arriving back, Molly dumped her stuff in the hallway, dried Jet’s paws and made them both breakfast. As she sat down in the lounge, she spotted something odd sticking out from behind the armchair. Abandoning breakfast, she went over and pulled it out. The black pegasus danged in the air. One of its back legs was ripped off and stuffing was poking out.

‘What? How did you get there?’ she asked.

Carrying the toy into the study, she looked at her computer and printer. The pegasus was missing. Frowning, she sat down and wondered what had happened. Nothing else seemed out of place and through she wouldn’t have put it passed Jet to have done something like that, surely things like her keyboard and chair would have been disturbed by the large dog though?

She felt Jet press a wet nose to her leg. She turned to the dog, ‘did you do that?’ she asked, holding out the pegasus. He dropped his head, eyes on the floor and tail sinking between his legs. ‘Bad dog. Don’t do that again.’ He whined and padded away to his bed.

Turning the pegasus around her hands, she looked at the ripped off leg. She’d have to try and make another one later, but for now, she drew a needle and thread and put a few stitches in. Placing him back on the printer, Molly stood up, rested her hands on her hips and then turned back. The pegasus seemed to be watching her. Rubbing her forehead, she turned the soft toy around and switched on her computer.

After finishing off her breakfast, she worked on her first article for the rest of the morning. At lunchtime, she took a still sulking Jet out for a walk. On coming back, just having raced a sudden down pour of rain, they found the pegasus laying in the hallway.

‘How is that possible?’ Molly whispered.

Jet growled softly, baring his teeth at the toy. Molly eased him back and went to pick up the pegasus. She walked into the study, Jet following behind her on muddy paws and his lead trailing behind him. There was a gap on the printer just like before. Placing him back there, Molly turned to Jet. There was no way the dog could have done that this time. She patted his head, then went and dried his paws.

For the rest of the afternoon she kept an eye on the pegasus. Once again, she had to turn him around, so her eye was on his long flowing tail and remaining back leg. Somehow she managed to get another article written and both sent off. She had dinner early and took Jet out afterwards. She felt apprehensive on returning home, what if it had moved again? Unlocking and opening the front door, she and Jet walked into a darkening hallway. Turning on the light, she saw nothing on the floor.

Letting go of the breath she had been holding, she took off her boots and coat, dried Jet and let him loose, before walking into the study. The pegasus was sitting on an empty printer. The dragon and teddy were laying on the floor, paper was scattered across her desk and the pattern for the new pegasus was in the bin.

‘Oh my God! What is this? Why is this happening?’ Molly cried.

Jet came to her side, nuzzling her leg and trying to calm her. Molly hugged herself then stroked him. ‘Good dog. Good boy,’ she added. Scrubbing his ears, she moved and began to tidy up. Her hands were shaking and her mind couldn’t come up with any explanation for this. After, she made herself a cup of tea and decided to start the new pegasus. She wasn’t sure what would happen next, but making the toy would take her thoughts off things.

Slipping on her headphones and finding some calming indie music, she began to cut out the shapes of the new pegasus from the spare black felt she had. Once that was done, she followed the instructions and carefully began putting it together. She was halfway through when she stopped for the night. Looking at the half made horse, she decided that she needed to keep it safe, so she took up to bed with her.

Molly finished the winged unicorn the next night and she was very happy with it. Placing it beside the other one, which for whatever reason, hadn’t caused any trouble that day, she felt even more pleased with her work. She left them both her desk and went to bed, exhausted. However, in the early hours of the morning, she heard Jet growling and barking. Waking up fully, she lay still hoping he’d settle back down. Maybe he was having a bad dream? Or he’d heard a cat outside? She thought.

When he didn’t stop though, she got out of bed and went downstairs. The thick carpet quietened her bare feet and halfway, she heard the wild neighing of a horse. Pausing, she checked to see if she heard that right. Yet in her mind, she knew she couldn’t have done.

Peering over the handrail and straight into the open door of the study, she saw Jet standing slightly away from her desk and chair. His body was hunched up, his tail and ears flat and his eyes fixated on the scene before him. Molly gasped; the felt horses were fighting each other! Their wings were flipping madly, their front legs were locked together and they were dancing in a circle across her desk.

Molly wanted to fly down the stairs and get a closer look, but the other part of her wanted to retreat back to the bedroom. A voice kicked into her mind and made her began chanting that it was all just a bad dream. However, she couldn’t convince herself and had to continue to watch the fight.

The original pegasus, who was only balancing on one back leg was on the left side and seemed stronger than the second pegasus. However, as they clashed heads, the horn of the second tore off one of the other’s button eyes. The original neighed in pain and stumbled back. The second, put down its head and a white spark shot out of the horn and into the chest of the other. The pegasus fall off the desk and into the jaws of Jet.

The black lab grabbed the toy and shook it wildly. Stuffing flew across the room and then Jet began shredding the felt. Molly cried out and ran towards him. She snatched the pegasus from the dog’s mouth, but it was too late to save it and she held only tatters in her hands.