...Lifting her head Esme sniffed the air and stepped onto the tail of a wind. Moments later her tiny form hovered above the hearth of number 52.
“Hmm, it's very quiet here,” murmured Esme as she let herself drift gently onto the brass fire surround. She glanced around the room. In the large bay window was an empty pot, but no tree or lights. The boxes of decorations were stacked unopened on the floor around it. Raising herself and hovering above the coffee table she saw some cards haphazardly discarded. She turned and looked up, the corners of the room held no decorations. The only display of Christmas was the red and white shine of the foil uniforms of a few of the chocolate soldiers that had spilled from the open box on the windowsill. Esme frowned and decided to investigate further.
Wishing herself dust she disappeared under the door and into the hallway. There were no signs of Christmas there either, just the sobbing of the mother in the kitchen and disregarded mail on the doormat. Esme caught a draught of air from the front door that took her upstairs. Crouched outside the child's bedroom door was the fully-grown Labrador. The dog opened one eye and stared. Esme retreated to the room downstairs.
“Mrs Claus,” she whispered up the chimney. “Mrs Claus, there's something so very wrong here.”
“Look to the future, Esme,” came the echo of the reply.
Esme circled her finger in the air and watched as images moved across the space. At the final picture tears welled in her eyes and she batted the circle away. As dust she willed herself out of the room, the house and on to the forests of Norway.
“I need one of you to sacrifice yourselves for a little girl who is very ill.” On again to a goose farm. “I need your feathers,” she said. “For a very good cause.” On and on she travelled until she arrived safely at number 52 and slipped down the chimney again.
Exhausted, Esme rested for a few moments on the cold marble of the hearth. The clock on the mantelpiece struck four. Esme started at the sound.
“Oh no!” She jumped up. “There's so little time!” She upended her rucksack and emptied the contents. A wave of her finger and the Norwegian spruce settled itself in the container in the centre of the bay window.
“Lieutenant Sweeting,” she shouted. “Get all of your men out of that box and get that tree decorated. I've got Santa's trousers to mend.” A rustle of card and a soldier hopped down.
Raising his hand to his forehead, “Yes Ma’m,” he said. “Platoon, arise!” The small army of red and white clad soldiers marched out of the box, down the wall and across to the pile of decorations. Esme smiled. They'll be done in no time, she thought.
With a sigh she pulled out Santa's trousers and looked at the damage. “If it was just the seam, this would be easy.” Her brow furrowed as she examined the extent of the damage to the torn material. “I’m going to need a rather large patch to cover that!” A wave of her finger and her workbox slid across the marble to her side and opened. Esme searched through the contents. Sequins were chucked onto the hearth, red material, green ribbons, white lace, pink chiffon… soon the white marble hearth was a rainbow of colour and Esme was intent on her task to repair Santa's trousers.
“Excuse me Ma’m,” said Lieutenant Sweeting as he saluted and presented the fairy for Esme to see. “I think this is a problem that needs your expertise.”
Esme took the doll from him. “Oh yes,” she said as she fingered the clumsily attached crepe paper that had been used as a replacement skirt the year before. “That will never do.” Esme ripped the crumpled paper from the fairy's body and threw it into the cold and lifeless fireplace.
“And that's something else we need, Lieutenant Sweeting,” she nodded at the empty grate. “Wood and a warm fire.” The soldier saluted, turned and marshalled his men.
Alone with her task Esme cut away great swathes of red cloth, fixed the patch and, completed the repair. Satisfied with her handiwork she then began sorting through the pile of fabrics and haberdashery on the hearth.
“Perfect! That is absolutely perfect,” she said handling a piece of white satin which she set against some gold coloured lace and the red cloth cut from Santa’s trousers. Grabbing some white netting she laid everything out on the floor. A wave of her finger and the scissors began cutting and shaping as Esme threaded her needle with gold coloured cotton and started to sew.
In the twinkle of the lights on the tree and the warm orange glow of the last embers of the fire Esme heard the rustle of a fall of soot onto the hearth. A moment later a large red sack landed followed by Santa still sporting his hairy legs. Esme let the wings she had made from the goose feathers carry her from the top of the tree to the hearth.
“My trousers, are they ready?”
“Yes,” said Esme pulling the garment from behind the fire irons where she had hidden it from human view.
“Marvellous!” Santa grabbed the trousers and turned them round. His face fell as he saw the repair. “What is the meaning of this?”
Esme hung her head. At that moment, her newly stitched white satin slippers peeping out from under the gold lace edge of her newly created fairy dress were of more interest.
“Esme,” bellowed Santa.
Esme straightened her shoulders and ran her hands down the soft bright red overdress she had made. “I’m sorry Santa,” she said. “But making Christmas the best ever here at number 52 was my only thought,” she blurted out the flurry of words. “And the gash in your trousers was so big and ragged I had to cut away more to make a patch possible and it seemed such a shame not to use the extra material and the fairy for the tree was in such a state and—”
“Enough,” said Santa. The old man pulled at his beard as he cast his eyes over the patch. “The stitching is of your finest, Esme. As I would expect, but Lurex? Did you really have to use purple Lurex for the patch?”
“It was the only piece I had that was big enough.”
Santa, hands behind his back, paced the hearth. “I see,” he said. “Misappropriating company property for your own personal use is a very serious matter, Esme. I shall have to consult Mrs C about this.”
“But the little girl—”
Santa held up his hand. “I know you did this with the best of intentions, but misappropriation is still misappropriation. I cannot ignore it. As for the little girl, she needs a miracle of medical science. We can’t help with that, so you must make sure tomorrow is a very special time for this family.”
“Yes, Mr C.”Santa nodded and stacked the presents under the tree. Still in his shorts, but wearing his displeasure on his face, the old man disappeared up the chimney. Esme smiled and took her place at the top of the tree with her heart torn and a tear in her eye.