Wishes and dreams come true in this delightfully charming Christmas narrative by New York Author and librarian Wendy Belle Wilson.
Wishes Can Come True
The lights on the Christmas tree blurred then sharpened as Arista crossed and uncrossed her eyes. Her mom had told her not to cross her eyes because they might get stuck like that, but she didn’t understand what that meant. She liked the way the lights melted into each other when she fuzzed them. She blew a small breath up into the tree. The tinsel danced and swayed and made the lights sparkle even more. Another breath and the entire branch was awash with tiny capering sparks of color.
Her mom came into the room. “Arista, where are…?” Tori laughed when she saw Arista under the Christmas tree all snuggled with her special blanket and pillow. “Come on out from there, Honey. Janis and Henry are coming over in a little bit and we don’t need the tree blown down!”
Arista liked Janis, she would understand how the fairy tree needed someone to be with it. She might even join Arista under it and help the fairies leap from needle to needle. She blew another stream into the tinsel and watched the fairies lift and flit around.
She had been there for a long time. Her blanket and pillow kept her just at the right level of comfyness on the hard wood floor. Tori tried again. “Come on out Sweetie, you can’t stay in there all day.” Arista didn’t react. “You’re getting the pillow and blanket dirty, and I want you to change into your pretty dress.” Arista heard but didn’t react. The tree had her full attention.
Mom walked back into the kitchen, leaving Arista alone to continue her interaction with the tree. A wonderful scent of Tori’s special Christmas stollen wafted into the living room, competing with the sharp smell of pine. This bread was special; a recipe direct from relatives in Germany, it was full of raisins and dried fruit, best served hot from the oven with real butter on it. Arista continued helping the fairies dance.
The doorbell rang. Janis and Henry were here. Through the hustle and bustle of shaking the snow off of coats and boots and putting them away in the closet, Arista could hear them talking. Her mom seemed to always be apologizing for her. “She’s under the tree again. Maybe you can talk her out Janis.”
“I can do better than that!” And she promptly crawled under the tree and lay next to Arista. “Hmmm, I can see why you like this spot. Dreamy. And are those tiny motes of color fairies””
Arista turned her head to look at Janis. She saw the fairies too! They lay there for a few minutes gazing at the dancing lights and then Janis stretched. “I’m loving the view but my back is complaining. Gotta get up. Wanna join me?” She smiled and touched Arista gently on the shoulder.
Normally Arista didn’t like anyone touching her. Her mom was the only one in the whole world who was permitted. But she liked Janis. And Janis had seen the fairies! She climbed out after Janis and stood next to her, their bodies almost touching. Tori and Janis exchanged a look of delight. Having a daughter with autism was difficult for Tori and often made her feel isolated. But, if Arista let Janis into her world there was hope that the next step might be taken and she would interact more with outsiders.
Janis wasn’t really an outsider, she and Tori had been best friends from 7th grade English, but while Tori had married, birthed a baby and then divorced, Janis had taken the college and university route to a Masters in Library Science, and their contact had diminished to phone calls and long letters.
Even though Tori had been Maid of Honor, the pair hadn’t seen each other much at all. This past year Janis had come home with her new husband Henry and the two friends had re-kindled their relationship.
Since Arista was only a toddler when she had last seen Janis, it was understandable that she held back from her. Both of the women were hoping that Arista would warm up to Janis, but it was taking time.
“So, what’s going on in your life?” Tori asked the newlyweds.
“Henry’s job is slogging along. We haven’t heard anything about his promotion yet.”
“And what about your job hunting, Janis? Any bites yet?”
Janis evaded answering by sniffing and loudly exclaiming, “Is that your famous Christmas stollen? Smells like you just took it out of the oven.”
Tori could see that neither of her guests felt like discussing the job front so she escorted them into the kitchen. “I took it out about two hours ago. Stollen smells up the entire house and lingers.” She got down some wine glasses and poured everyone a glass of red Merlot. They clinked their glasses together. “To better times….”
Arista opened the fridge and took out a platter of cooked ham and cheese. She put it on the counter and went back in. She emerged again with a cooled homemade lasagna and pulled off the plastic wrap. “No, no, no, Arista.” Her mom cried. “That isn’t heated yet. Here, you can have some of the ham and cheese.”
Tori handed her some ham which fell through her lax fingers to the floor. She pointed at the lasagna. “Well, I guess we’re gonna eat dinner a bit earlier than expected. I hope Eric and Sandy get here soon.” The doorbell rang as she was putting the lasagna in the oven. “Speak of the devil! Can you get that Janis? My hands are full.”
Another round of snow shaking and coat and boat stowing and the new arrivals came into the kitchen. It’s been said that kitchens are the heart of the house and nowhere is that more true than Tori’s kitchen. A huge farm kitchen with lots of counter space to do all the creative culinary feats that she was famous for in her circle of friends. Right now, these counters were piled with platters of cookies and sweets along with the cold ham, sliced cheese and some unidentified but delicious looking treats involving an inordinate amount of sprinkles.
Tori covered these with foil before the sprinkles littered the floor. “These decorations are Arista’s. She loves colors and decorating. I love baking. We make a good team.” Arista had disappeared when the doorbell rang, and they found her spread out under the tree again. “She does this every year. Something about the colors and lights attracts her. But then again, doesn’t it do that to all of us?” The friends nodded and sipped their wine. Christmas made everyone feel a little bit young again.
Henry’s phone chimed, and he rushed to answer it. “Hello? Oh, David.” His voice fell. “Yeah, we’re at Tori’s having a pre-Christmas party.” He listened a bit. “No, not a thing. Haven’t heard. They had said I would hear by Christmas so…. I’m a bit bummed. Janis hasn’t heard anything either…. Sure come on down for a visit….. Good. Talk to ya later…. Merry Christmas to you too.” He pressed end call and looked up to see everyone trying very hard to look like they hadn’t been listening.
“I’m still waiting to hear about my promotion and raise. It’s getting a bit nerve wracking. Sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry.” Eric got up to get the wine bottle, now half empty. “We’ve been in your shoes before, that’s for sure.” He looked at Sandy who nodded companionably. “What’s this about Janis? Did she find something here?”
“Can’t say, no jinxing, remember? But it doesn’t look good.”
Tori got up and turned on her internet music and chose silly Christmas music. “Maybe some music will help the doldrums. It is Christmas after all!”
The music did help, and before long they were stepping and dancing around the room, sipping from their wine glasses. Eric told a funny kinda dirty joke about a dog and a bone and they laughed so hard they had to hold their stomachs. Janis recovered and glanced at the tree. Arista was sitting up close enough that her face was hidden by a handmade wooden Santa and elf ornament. She motioned for Janis to come over.
“What do you want, Sweetie?” Arista patted the floor next to her so Janis slid into modified Yogi pose and leaned in to hear what she wanted. “What is it?” In answer the girl pointed to the Santa and Elf ornament. “That looks like a new one. Did you just get it?” Arista nodded and pointed at it again.
There was no tinsel or gloss on it, but it glowed and sparkled just like the tree’s tinsel when breathed upon. Janis looked closer at the old, almost antique ornament, more fitting on a tree in Victorian England. She admired the careful way the artist had cut the shapes of Santa and the elf to highlight Santa’s jolly belly. The elf was holding up a holly wreath painted with such detail you could see the individual berries.
“Wow, that’s a nice ornament you have. It’s even glowing.” Arista nodded and pointed to the tree and the fairy lights dancing among the lights and tinsel.
“Wish,” Arista whispered with a breath so small it came out a breathy “whhhhish.”
“Wish? You want me to make a wish, Arista?” The young girl nodded.
“Okay. Who’s to say it won’t work, right?” Janis smiled at Arista. “Ok. Here goes.” Janis closed her eyes tightly and made her wish. She wished that Henry got his promotion and she got the perfect job that she had interviewed for a few weeks earlier. A tiny breeze tickled her forehead. Not even enough to stir her hair, it was as though a hand had brushed her head in a loving touch. It was gone before she could open and focus her eyes. Was it Arista?
Janis crawled out from under the tree and joined her friends to get dinner ready and on the table. Tori had made much too much food as usual. “I’ll give what we don’t eat to the homeless shelter. I just love to cook for friends.”
Janis raised her glass for a toast. “To all my friends, near and far away. May your homes have as much love and as much food as Tori’s kitchen…” They all chuckled.
Sandy took up the torch. “May all our loved ones’ lives be filled with friends as good as those gathered here in Tori’s home.”
Eric broke in. “Good friends, good food, good god let’s eat!” And they did.
Later, after the dinner had been eaten and the dishes washed and put away, the friends enjoyed their food coma by sprawling on the sofa and easy chairs.
Janis remembered the new ornament. “Tori, where did you get that lovely ornament?”
“Which one? I didn’t get any new ones this year.”
“It has to be new. I’d a noticed it if it was there last year.” Janis pointed to the wooden Santa and Elf ornament. It didn’t glow or glisten as before but then, the lighting was different too. “That one, the wooden Santa one. It looks like an antique.”
Tori examined the ornament. “Nope, didn’t get this one this year. Can’t say I ever saw it before. Wonder where it came from.”
The friends went back to reminiscing about their childhood Christmases and how they seemed to have had more magic back in the day. Nowadays Christmas was shopping with precious little else.
Two phones rang at once. Henry and Janis received twin “hellos” at the exact same time and smiled in unison. Both said “Yes” “Really?” then, “Fantastic, wonderful,” at the same time. They were in synchronicity. Huge smiles emerged from both and spread across their faces. Both responded, “Thank You and Merry Christmas to you,” before hanging up.
Sandy blurted it out first. “So? What was that all about? Obviously it was good news.”
“I got the pro-.”
“I got the j-”
Janis gestured for Henry to go first. “I got the promotion! And a nice raise to go with it! Yeeha!”
“I got the job I interviewed for.” She looked at Tori. “Don’t get mad that I didn’t tell you this but I am going to be the new head Librarian at the elementary school!”
“You mean the school Arista goes to?”
Yes! Isn’t that great!”
“Better than great! It’s…” Tori searched for the right word to express her joy at the news. “…it’s fantabulous!” She ran back into the kitchen. “This calls for champagne.” She came out with five flutes and a cold bottle of champagne.
“Is that the champagne you had in the fridge for so long?” Janis asked.
“Yup. Waiting for a special occasion. And my best friend and her husband getting such good news qualifies.” She popped the cork and they all sipped at the well-aged champagne.
As all things must, even good times come to an end, and eventually the group donned their coats and boots to go to their homes. They lingered at the door, happily recalling the evening events and cautioning each other about the snowy roads, when Janis noticed Arista standing next to the Christmas tree. In her hands was the old wooden Santa and elf ornament. A rare smile played on her lips.
The ornament seemed to have a dance of fairy lights hovering about it. The elf held the wreath up just a little bit higher, and Santa seemed just a little bit merrier. Then the Santa winked. Janis shook her head, blinked and looked again. It was just Arista holding an old wooden ornament. Janis frowned in concentration. Yep. No glitter or lights. She looked at Arista with a question in her eyes. “Did you see that? Did Santa just wink at me?” Arista just smiled. And nodded….
Wendy B Wilson
Born and raised on Long Island, New York, Wendy Wilson left the flatlands of the suburbs for the mountains of Appalachia. There she raised three children and a rotating cast of goats, sheep and dairy cows. She rediscovered her love of books again in the local library and eventually started working there. ‘Perfect job’, people who knew her said. Continuing her work as both librarian and writer, Wendy completed her first work and has begun her second. She is retired and living in the mountains of western North Carolina.