Word Count 5,120
“It came upon the Midnight Clear
That glorious song of old
From Angels bending near the Earth
To touch their harps of gold.”
Christmas Eve : Twilight…
The snow fell, and the sky rushed up to meet him – crystalline and frozen in a spinning, spiral pattern of silver as he lay on his back and looked up at the night, appreciative of it’s beauty even now…
He shifted slightly, and caught his breath, as the fiery agony in his leg was enough to dull even the most soul stealing of coldness. But it was a temporary illusion, he knew.
Lying back, he watched the heavens again. The swirling, whirling flakes of snow that settled tantalisingly on his lips like the pinpricks of icy needles and fluttered on his eyelashes like Teresa’s sugar frosting. The branches of the tree nearby him stretched into the night like witches fingers, a stark, skeletal tracery of beauty, black and blacker against the blackness of the shifting skies…
And he could not even find it in him to be bitter about his predicament, as he lay there in the deepening bank of snow, awe-struck by the magic all around him, half dreaming of the people that he loved…
Earlier : Morning…
Whistling happily through his teeth, Johnny sauntered over to the barn in search of his brother. Stopping in the doorway, he leant up against the jamb and wasted a second, fondly watching the two men inside before making his presence known with a small grin.
“Hola brother, Jelly too. There’s a bull to be brought down from the north pasture before lunchtime if I’m not mistaken, and time’s a-wastin’ fellas.”
Scott looked up and nodded. “I haven’t forgotten about old Hercules. We’ll go get him in a little while – here, help us tie up some of these bunches together.”
Scott handed him a clump of pale green foliage and a length of gold ribbon, and Johnny crouched down on his haunches next to Jelly, and turned the plant over curiously as he examined it.
“Muerdago, Mistletoe…” he grinned slyly; “who you plannin’ on ambushin’ with this tonight then, Boston?”
Scott raised an eyebrow at him, his grey-blue eyes twinkling with tolerant amusement. “As if such a thing would ever even cross my mind, little brother.”
Jelly snorted out loud, and Johnny laughed good-naturedly, deliberately toppling sideways against his brother’s legs, and nearly knocking him off the edge of the hay bale he was perched on. A slim, sinewy arm was clamped around his neck immediately, and even though he ducked reflexively out of the way, Scott held onto him fast and mussed his hair up none to gently as they both collapsed in a heap on the floor. Jelly moved quickly to one side.
“Thet’s enough of thet. Actin’ like a couple o’ kids n’ scarin’ the horses.”
Scott chuckled, releasing his brother after flipping his fringe one last time for good measure. “Sorry Jelly. Must be all the Christmas spirit in the air. It’s getting kind of infectious don’t you think?”
“Humph!” muttered Jelly grudgingly, “if’n it means a body has ter start actin’ like an idiot, then I’d rather not catch it, thank you very much!” He glared at them ferociously; “there’s still honest work to be done afore the party tonight, and if’n you two’s don’t hurry up and git yer backsides movin’, I know who’s gonna be landed with it all as usual.”
“Aw Jelly…” Johnny picked himself up and smoothed down his hair, as he made a quick grab for the old man and held the bunch of Mistletoe up above his head. “Come on, give me a kiss…”
“Git off!” Jelly stumbled backwards in alarm, and Johnny almost collapsed to the floor of the barn for a second time, laughing so hard his ribs ached.
“Relax Old Man, you really aint my type. I’d sooner kiss Barranca.”
“He’s less hairy, “grinned Scott, “less bad tempered.”
“Yeah, but he does have more teeth.” Johnny dodged out of the way just in time, as Jelly threw a handful of pony-nuts across at him, and they scattered up against the wall of the barn.
“Oh git along the both of ye, “muttered Jelly, trying desperately to retain and recover some shred of dignity, as he shook his grizzled old head at them. “Plum crazy, the two of ye.”
“Poco loco,” agreed Johnny breezily, picking up his bunch of Mistletoe again, and looping the length of ribbon around the twiggy stems. “But you still aint answered my question yet Scotty – who’s the lucky lady tonight?”
“Who says there’s only one?” Scott returned to the pile of greenery, his face a study in bland innocence. “Tis the season of giving Johnny, of goodwill toward all men – and all women.”
Johnny shook his head and sighed exaggeratedly. “Aint it always the quiet ones Jelly?”
“Mebbe,” Jelly regarded him slyly; “cain’t see how you ‘d know though, seein’ as you aint never quiet fer more then half a minute at a time.”
He got to his feet, and stumped across to the door. “Some of us got proper work to do. Don’t go fergettin’ old Hercules now, cos there’s a nip in the air. It’s gonna snow tonight you mark my words.”
“Jellifur Hoskins, little ray of sunshine.” grinned Johnny, as he watched him leave. “He could be right though, there’s a roll of heavy cloud across the mountains.”
“This won’t take long,” said Scott, starting on another bunch. “It’s important to hang it up in the house today.”
“Who needs Mistletoe?” said Johnny complacently, “aint never had to relay on a little piece of twig to get kissed.”
Scott looked up at him, his smile slightly more pensive. “It’s not just the obvious, Johnny. Mistletoe’s steeped in ancient legend and folklore that stretches back thousands of years. The Druids in Ancient Britain used to call it The Golden Bough. They believed it was an emanation of the sun’s fire, and a gift from the Sky God.”
Johnny whistled softly. “You learn all that at Harvard, brother?”
“Some of it. I read most of it when I was a boy though. I used to love all the tales of Norse mythology, old customs and legends from Europe. Fascinating, and so ancient.” Scott turned a sprig of the Mistletoe over in his hands, and regarded it with interest. “The Celts hung it over the entrance door of their houses as a good luck charm. The Christmas tradition of kissing under the Mistletoe is just a continuation of that. They believed it banished evil and brought good luck, protected their children against faeries and granted them fortune in the hunt. If you place a sprig under your pillow, it’s supposed to give you restful sleep, and beautiful dreams.”
Johnny froze for a moment, his eyelids dropping suddenly as he contemplated Scott’s last few words. “It helps with nightmares?”
Scott watched him keenly. He knew exactly why his little brother might be interested in that part of the plant’s lore. He’d lain awake on many a night listening helplessly in the darkness as Johnny had tossed and raged in the throes of nightmare, muttering in streams of Spanish, as the phantoms of his life before Lancer reached out to him with grasping fingers.
“So it’s said…” he tempered the sudden air of tension with a slight smile. “Careful though, little brother. It’s also supposed to increase your fertility.”
Johnny grinned back at him, tying up the last of his bundles with a flourish. “Talkin’ of which, we’d better go and pull old Hercules down from the North Pasture before it starts to snow. He gets stuck up there in the cold, and no amount of Mistletoe’ll be able to help his fertility ever again!”
Scott pulled him to his feet, noticing as he did so, that Johnny had surreptitiously tucked a small sprig of spare Mistletoe into the pocket of his jacket. Right up close against his heart.
Christmas Eve : Moonrise…
It was colder now. He was colder. And the snow was settling into deep drifts and banks all around him as it fell fast and furiously, even thicker now, in a curious, muffled silence. It sparkled like diamonds, and glistened like tears, and when he exhaled, he could see his breath in a rush of white mist as the cold hit the back of his throat like a physical shock. The sky was indigo above him, and through the snow clouds, he could see the moon as she walked the night like a shining silver dollar. The pain in his leg was lessening, but he didn’t know if that was good or bad.
Perhaps the cold was freezing his flesh and turning the blood to ice within his veins. He tried wiggling his toes, but even though he felt as if he was doing it right, he wasn’t absolutely sure. All sensation had completely vanished, and he couldn’t feel a thing. By now they might be searching for him. Barranca might have made it back to Lancer. But the snow would have covered any tracks, and he had deviated from the pathway once he’d heard the stranded lamb.
He closed his eyes again and smiled ruefully, leaning his head back against the compacted snow. A lamb of all things – and no one round here abouts even kept any darn sheep. Well, not that he knew of anyway. He was drifting once more… Off into the white silence, the world of memory and dreams. But no nightmare came to threaten him, no ghoulish spectre from his past – and his lips eased into a gentle smile as he felt the sprig of Mistletoe pressing close against his heart.
But all around him, the drifts piled deeper, and the snow continued to fall in slow and silent beauty as the moon rose higher, gliding gracefully over the sky, and he escaped into the waiting arms of sleep.
Earlier : Afternoon…
“Oh, you’re just in time…hey! Leave those mince pies alone, they’re for later. Here, could you hold the step-ladder for me?”
Johnny grinned as he watched her bite her lip the way she always did when she was concentrating on anything that absorbed her, perching precariously on the top step of the ladder, as she tied red and gold ribbons round the prickly aromatic branches of a fir tree almost half as tall as her again. Mind you, that wasn’t all that difficult he thought, his grin widening as he looked appreciatively at her compact but perfect, pocket Venus figure.
“Here, I can do better then that,” he said between a mouthful of good mince pie, swooping down on her and lifting her high into the air, his long brown fingers spanning her tiny waist with ease.
“Johnny!” she squealed in exasperated outrage. But his good humour was infectious, and she began to giggle down at him, ticking the end of his nose with the length of gold ribbon in her hand.
“Much more of that, and I’ll have to drop you,” he warned, unable to defend himself as he hefted her even higher, and watched with interest as she began to twine the ribbon round the top of the tree. “What’s a tree doin’ inside the house, miel? Not that it aint pretty, mind,” he finished hastily.
She nodded and twinkled down at him. “It is, isn’t it? It’s an idea I read about in the Ladies Illustrated Magazine. Apparently it’s really caught on in England, because Queen Victoria began to have a decorated tree in her parlour every Christmas.”
“Why?” asked Johnny curiously, holding onto her patiently, as she tied the ribbon into a gaudy bow.
“Oh, it’s such a romantic story Johnny.” She sighed, her eyes shining like the gold leaf on the ribbons. “The Queen married Prince Albert for love. He was a German Prince, and they were very happy. Not a horrid arranged marriage at all… Anyway, in Germany apparently, it used to be a pagan Yuletide custom to go out into the forest and bring home a fir tree or some branches of an evergreen tree on Christmas Eve. It was a way of venerating the Sun god because the tree stayed green throughout the dead of winter and gave them hope that the spring would eventually come again. Prince Albert took the custom to England with him when he married the Queen, and it’s become all the rage…” her face became a little sad; “they say she was truly heartbroken when he died.”
Johnny lifted her down carefully. “So we’ve got a fir tree in our casa because some dead German Prince in England thought it was a good idea?”
She whacked his arm hard. “Men! I’ll have you know that the First Lady has a Christmas tree up at the White House now.”
“Well,” said Johnny, in all mock seriousness, “if it’s good enough for the folks at the White House…”
Brandishing the scissors threateningly at him, she began to advance with a martial look in her eye, and he retreated in pretend terror grabbing another mince pie from the dish on the table as he did so. But later on, he helped her to bring in a pile of extra cedar wood logs for the fire as the shadows had begun to lengthen throughout the hacienda. The flames danced on the walls, and the candlelight flickered in the sconces and he stood beside her before the tree, his breath catching at the sight of its sheer beauty. The piney scent was resiny and aromatic, made stronger by of the heat from the nearby fireplace, and Teresa’s gold ribbons sparkled and shone in the half-light like faery dust. The scarlet bows against the spiky green needles reminded him of something, and racking his brains, he suddenly remembered Scott’s infamous plaid pants and his smile broadened.
“Well?” whispered Teresa, her voice hushed with awe and a little uncertainty as she surveyed her inspired handiwork and leant in close to him. He placed his arm around her shoulders and they stared at the tree in rapt absorption, both of them totally enchanted by its magical spell.
“It…it’s beautiful Teresa, es bello.” His voice caught slightly, but as usual, he made a fast recovery. “Maybe Queen Victoria and that German Prince of hers had somethin’. I reckon that this here tree business might just about catch on!”
Christmas Eve : Storm’s End…
Candied peel and scent of oranges, lush fat figs and purple plums. The earthy fragrance of a myriad of spices… Nutmeg, clove and cinnamon. He awoke with a jump as the lamb kicked in his arms, and it took a moment or two for him to remember where he was and why.
The snow had stopped. Only a few, frail flakes still spun desultorily from the moon-cold sky, but other than that, there was no movement across the whole of the landscape, and it felt as if he was the only living thing.
Him and the lamb.
The snow shone silver like chips of mica, glittering like cats eyes in the hush of the darkness, the beguiling scenery of monochrome beauty.
He was marrow-cold, and he could feel the stiffness of the ice in his hair, on his eyebrows, seeping inexorably into the very fabric of his clothes as he wondered what it felt like to slowly freeze to death.
The lamb bleated feebly, struggling in his arms again. But it didn’t try to escape from him, merely snuggling closer to his body as he clutched it tightly against his chest, glad of its living warmth. Offering heartfelt thanks to Teresa for insisting he wore his gloves that evening – but even they were not enough to stay the irresistible clutch of the cold. The insidious lure of capitulation.
Christmas Eve, it was Christmas Eve.
And by now, Teresa’s party would be underway. The guests arriving to drink her famed eggnog, to exclaim at her wonderful tree and eat all the food she and Maria had spent the last few weeks preparing.
He wished he were there too.
But he was alone here on the hillside, and nobody knew where he was. Only the flinty night, only the frosty silence. Just him, the lamb, and the valleys of snow. The implacable moon, and the silver-bright stars.
Earlier : Dusk…
“Don’t forget your gloves. It’s already frosty out there. And Johnny, back before seven on pain of slow and definite death!”
Blowing Teresa a cheeky kiss, he watched as she whirled away in a cyclone of activity, briefly regretting that she hadn’t been standing a fraction closer to the doorway under Scott’s mistletoe. Later…
On his way to the stables, he met Murdoch leaving the outhouse.
“Where are you off to so late? I thought you’d be getting ready for the party.”
“Scott and I spotted a heifer in the hollow off the North pasture when we brought Hercules down earlier. Couldn’t bring her in then as Old Herc was bein’ so ‘ornery, but we drew straws for it, and I lost.”
“Bad luck,” commiserated Murdoch, patting him sympathetically on the shoulder. “Don’t take too long about it, the sky’s loaded with snow. Reckon we’ll have a white Christmas for sure.”
Johnny nodded, looking curiously at the piece of hessian sacking in his fathers arms. “What you got there?”
Murdoch reddened slightly. “Oh nothing much. Just an old superstition I like to observe.”
Johnny grinned. “Another one.”
“What do you mean son?” asked Murdoch questioningly, as they began to walk across the courtyard together.
“I’m just a mine of customs and superstitions today,” said Johnny solemnly. “German Princes and ancient Druids – there aint nuthin’ I don’t know about Christmas traditions.”
Murdoch raised an eyebrow and shook his head in bemusement, as he regarded his ebullient younger son. Would the day ever come when Johnny would cease to amaze him? He doubted it somehow, and his heart swelled with a sudden burst of love and pride. He smiled.
“Well, you’ll like this one then.”
“You can add it to your mine of Christmas knowledge. Here…” He pulled the hessian aside so that Johnny could see just what it was he carried so carefully.
“An old burned log?”
“Not just any old log,” said Murdoch, a hint of reverence in his voice. “This is a Yule log. Part of last years Yule fire, which was part of the years before, which was part of the year’s before that…”
I get the picture,” said Johnny dryly. “Come on then, what’s the story?”
Murdoch looked down at the log again. “As you can probably guess, it’s an old British custom, and I brought it across the Atlantic with me. The log symbolises warmth, friendship and good fortune. It confers a blessing on the house.” He paused, a huge hand resting on the blackened wood he carried. “It also represents eternal life – the family name going on forever. Something I wasn’t all that sure of until three years ago. The day that you and Scott came home.”
Johnny swallowed hard. “But you kept burning it?”
“Yes,” said Murdoch quietly. “I kept burning it. I never gave up hoping that one-day, I’d have my entire family gathered round at Christmas time. That the Yule log would have served its purpose.”
Their eyes met in a moment of painful recognition and recollection. A shared sadness as the memory of loss hovered between them like a ghost, and Murdoch hastily cleared his throat.
“There is a proviso of course. For the cycle to remain unbroken, the new log must always rest upon and be lighted by the old one, which should be saved and carefully stored away for a whole year until the following Christmas Eve. That’s why it’s always a good idea to choose a green log, and to bless it with a glass of apple cider once it’s set alight.”
Johnny nodded slowly. “You know Murdoch, out of all the Christmas customs and traditions that I’ve heard today, this is the one I like best. The family going on forever, a blessing on the house – it…its kinda special.”
“Yes son, “ agreed Murdoch softly. “It’s very special indeed.”
Christmas Eve : Midnight…
Somewhere there was music.
The night was gentle with soft aerial sounds that floated in the thin, cold air and filled him with a bitter sweetness, an almost unbearable elation in the depth of his soul.
But it couldn’t be. He knew it couldn’t be. Not out here in the middle of nowhere. At the bottom of a gully surrounded by a deep, shining mantle of snow. The sky was completely clear now. and it must be close to midnight.
A Midnight Clear…
The words came back to him on a filament from his past, a drifting thread of memory like a graceful dancing girl, a blossom on the breeze. A Christmas carol learned as a child during one of the short spells he’d actually attended school for a while in a small border town. A small border town with an English Schoolmarm. And for one of those strange reasons, she’d actually liked him. A strict starchy Schoolmarm a thousand miles from home. A small half-caste ragamuffin, no place to call his home. Two lost souls, two kindred spirits. And tonight, he remembered the words of the carol she’d taught him all those years ago.
“It came upon a Midnight Clear
That glorious song of old,
From Angels bending near the Earth
To touch their harps of gold.”
The lamb curled against his chest. The one small patch of warmth left to him, as the rest of his body succumbed to the bitter numbing cold, and he began to float and drift like the snow.
So easy – so easy to let go now.
To close his eyes and fall asleep again. To surrender without a whisper and gently slip away…
And he knew peace then.
A deep and profound serenity that stroked his soul like balm, like the benison of Angels as they bent down near the Earth. He looked up wonderingly at the heavens, and the moonlight kissed his face. Stately and unassailable in her glacial beauty, as she shone down on the frost-silvered landscape.
There it was again.
The sweet sound of music like a sigh on the air. A soft remembered voice that called his name through time and space on a shimmer of gold. But he knew it could not be.
The cold was making him hallucinate, teasing his thoughts and sending him visions. He was alone out here. Alone with the night. Above him in the winter tree, the laden branches cracked and groaned with cold, and somewhere he heard the soft flutter of wings and felt the brush of feathers.
The music again. Lifting him up on a cloud of warmth, as he yearned and struggled to seek it’s source, dreaming he felt sweet breath on his face and a radiance of kindness that enveloped his soul.
Golden – everything was golden, and suddenly the nightmares deserted him, the pain left him, and he desired nothing more than to go. To relinquish his tenuous hold on the Earth and yield to the ecstasy of the sound in the night…
“Stay Johnny, stay…”
The voice like a dream at the back of his consciousness, drifting through the fragments of his life like a wraith. He was safe here, secure. The all-defining loneliness that had lived inside him forever, that had dwelt so long at the heart of his being, was leaving him now. He reached out to chase it with dancing delight, the years fell away, and he was transported to a place full of freedom and light, achingly familiar, yet somehow unknown.
“Stay Johnny, stay…”
The words again, but different now. Another voice, but one he knew. The light was fading, and he reached for it blindly. Desperate to hold it, to recapture its bliss…but the golden warmth receded, and left him there bereft.
“It’s alright now son. We have you. Cipriano – more blankets. He’s nearly blue!”
“A lamb, Murdoch. Where in God’s name did it come from? Nobody round here has sheep.”
He opened his eyes sleepily, and the cold surged swiftly back at him. The cold and the dark and the night. But he wasn’t alone anymore. His father’s face blocked the sight of the moon, his brother’s hands tucked him into thick, warm woollen blankets and Jelly hovered beside him with the Lamb in his arms. He sank down into their warmth, content to let them take him. To do with him as they wished.
Christmas Day : Twilight…
Johnny stirred sleepily in the nest of blankets, wincing as his leg shifted awkwardly on the sofa.
“Sure is a hungry little critter…” The softness in Jelly’s voice made Johnny smile drowsily, as he listened in on the conversation.
“You would be too if you’d been stranded out there in the cold for hours,” said Teresa cuddling the lamb, and prising the empty feeding bottle from it’s protesting mouth. “But thank heavens she was.”
“Yes, “ said Scott soberly. “The two of them probably kept each other alive. Any longer. . .”
“It’s a miracle,” said Jelly stoutly. “A Christmas miracle.”
“That it is Jelly, that it is.” Murdoch smiled in agreement, the warmth evident in his voice, as his gaze lingered for a moment on his younger son. “Hello Johnny. Nice to see you awake again.”
Johnny opened his eyes properly, not a bit abashed to be caught eavesdropping, as he grinned and grimaced all at once. The pain in his leg and the heavy wooden splint were uncomfortable to say the least, and they took him unawares for a second.
Leaving his armchair, Scott was beside him at once, lifting him forwards whilst Teresa relinquished the lamb to Jelly, and popped some extra cushions behind his back.
“There you go,” she looked at him anxiously. “Is that comfortable? Are you sure you wouldn’t rather be in bed?”
“No,” he said hastily, “I’m fine here. Please don’t take me up there yet. I like it here – by the fire with all of you.”
She smiled at him gently. “Then here by the fire you shall stay. Murdoch’s burning the Yule log; we waited and waited for you last night, and then when Barranca came home alone. . .”
She shuddered at the memory, and he reached for her hand. “I’m sorry querida. I ruined your party.”
She shook her head quickly. “I don’t care about that Johnny. In fact, it was lucky we had so many people here to form the search parties. That Sam was staying with us for Christmas Day.”
Sam Jenkins raised his glass of brandy at Johnny and smiled. “Not the Christmas Eve I’d envisaged.”
Jenkins chuckled. “Merry Christmas Johnny.”
Johnny looked back over at Murdoch. “So this is the Yule log huh?”
“It is. “ Murdoch watched his face carefully. “Warmth, good fortune, and a blessing on the house. . . “
“Eternal life, “ muttered Johnny, “the name of the family going on forever.”
“There were times last night when I wondered,” finished Murdoch softly. “But the tradition appears to have held fast.”
Both men became silent for a moment, gazing ruminatively into the fire and watching as the flames licked and crackled round the wood, filling the room with a warm red glow. The muted light danced off the gold on Teresa’s Christmas tree, turning the library into a place of wonder. A magical festive grotto.
Johnny swallowed, and looked across at Scott a little too quickly. “And what about you Boston. D’you get a chance to use that Mistletoe of yours?”
“No, “ said Scott with mock ferocity. “Thanks to you I did not!”
Johnny shook his head sorrowfully. “All that seasonal goodwill gone a-wastin’. There’ll be a few ruined Christmas’s in the district this year.”
Teresa got to her feet, eyes dancing merrily in the candlelight as she reached into her pocket and withdrew a small green sprig. “I found this in your jacket, Johnny. Guess you planned on spreading some goodwill of your own?”
And so saying, she took him by surprise and kissed him softly on the lips, before twirling over to Scott and treating him in kind.
Christmas Day : Midnight. . .
Murdoch Lancer stared out across the silent, snow-covered valley, and gave thanks to God in his heart. From here in Johnny’s bedroom, he could see clear across to the dark rise of mountains. The distant crags of jutting blackness against the indigo of sky. Absentmindedly fingering the small object in his hand, he stroked it’s softness with the tip of his thumb, and turned back to face the man in the bed.
“It looks so beautiful from here inside the house. The snow’s almost silver, the sky’s so clear – it reminds me of an old Christmas carol we used to sing back in the Old Country. It came upon a Midnight Clear, that glorious song of old. . . “
“From Angels bending near the Earth To touch their harps of gold.”
Johnny’s voice was so quiet, that Murdoch had to strain to hear him. He should have been surprised his son even knew the sweet, old words, but for some reason he was not and he moved closer to the bed looking down at Johnny’s face in the moonlight.
“Do you believe in Angels?” Johnny asked hesitantly, his hair like a shadow on the pillow.
Whatever Murdoch had expected, it certainly wasn’t this. But suddenly, a small frisson of pre-recognition shivered through him as he carefully considered his answer.
“There have been so many stories in so many cultures of encounters with Angels. It’s hard to discount anything in this wonderful world of ours, Johnny.”
“But do you believe in them Murdoch?” he asked stubbornly, the perturbation rising in his tone. Murdoch sat carefully on the edge of the bed. The last thing he wanted was for Johnny to become distressed., They had so nearly lost him. . . Uncurling his fingers, he looked long and hard at the object resting on his palm before placing it tenderly into Johnny’s hand.
“We would never have found you last night if Scott hadn’t heard the lamb bleating. Yet nobody keeps sheep for miles round here. When we pulled you out of that drift – I found this clutched tightly in your hand. I’d forgotten all about it until now.” He paused, and took a breath. “I think you have my answer son.”
The feather in his hand was white as snow. Looking down at it with wonderment, Johnny could have sworn he heard the faintest musical refrain. A distant fluting echo in the sparkling Christmas air. . . .
Lisa Paris 2002
***********Merry Christmas * Gud Yule * Feliz Navidad * Joyeux Noel * Nadolig Llawen * Frohliche Weihnachten * Ghaedelig Jul * Buon Natale * Hauskaa Joulua * Boas Festas * Vrolyk Kerstfeest * Nollang Shonna * Happy Hanukkah * Blessed Be************
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