... I have a little tale of Christmas magic for you...
Mrs Claus and their many helpers live and work. One of those helpers is Esme. Now, there’s something very magical and very special about Mr and Mrs Claus. And there’s something a little bit magical about Esme, too.
One day, early in December Mrs Claus summoned Esme to her office at the head of the vast workshop.
“Esme, I have a very important and special task for you this year. I am suspending you from all toy manufacturing duties—”
“But I haven’t fin—”
Mrs Claus held up her hand. “There will be no buts, and it was Mr Claus himself who suggested that you would be the right person for this particular assignment.”
Esme didn’t like leaving her work half-done. But as it was Mr Claus who had suggested her for this task, whatever it was, then she would do it. And she would do it willingly. Esme sat up straight on the stool and waited to hear her fate.
“Now let me see,” said Mrs Claus as she shuffled through Emse’s personnel file. “Last year you were at number 52. This year I’m sending you to number 79, and I want you to go today.
“But it’s not yet Christmas Eve, Mrs C.”
Mrs Claus peered over her spectacles and lowered her voice. “You have an especially difficult task this year, I’m afraid. Christmas has been kidnapped at number 79.” Mrs Claus pursed her lips.
“Kidnapped,” Esme frowned. “How can Christmas be kidnapped?”
Mrs Claus raised an eyebrow. “I can assure you we have a hostage situation at number 79. Now,” Mrs Claus rested her forearms on her vast desk. “I need you there within the hour Esme.”
Esme slipped off the stool and straightened her green pinafore dress.
“Leave it to me,” she said. Shoulders back Esme marched out of the office and along the workshop floor to her bench. She toed her rucksack out from under her stool and slung it over her shoulder. Her hat pulled down over her ears Esme made her way to the great ice door. A wish in her mind and the vast door opened. Esme stepped out into the snow and ice. Taking a deep breath of fresh air, she waited for a wind and stepped onto its tail.
Moments later, Esme bumped to a hard landing. When she looked around, all she could see was blackness. Nothing but blackness on all sides of her.
“Oh no, they haven’t, have they?” She reached out her hand to touch a wall. When she looked at her fingers, they were all covered in soot.
“Damn it! They’ve blocked up the chimney.” Esme reached up to the sky and wished herself elsewhere. Perched on a branch of the ornamental cherry tree in the front garden Esme looked for an open window. She spotted one on the first floor. In an instant, she found herself standing on the edge of the washbasin.
“Perfect. I can use that flannel to get rid of this awful black stuff.” Free of the soot she pulled herself up to her full two inches of height and wished herself to dust. She swirled through the house until she settled on the stone hearth.
As she turned to move to another room, she heard the sound of crying from somewhere at the back. In the kitchen, she looked out of the window. By the shed at the bottom of the garden was a little boy. Esme made a circle in the air. Pictures flashed by. A birth. Happiness. Six Christmases and birthdays. An accident. Sadness and finally, a new home.
Esme wiped a tear from her eye. She turned intending to go to the fireplace and call up the chimney but changed her mind. The messages would be too muffled. She closed her eyes and thought of Mrs C.
“You must do whatever it takes, Esme,” came the reply.
“Whatever it takes,” she said to herself. She clasped her hands together, a deep frown on her forehead. “It’s breaking the rules,” she whispered to herself. An echo of Mrs C’s voice came to her on a light breeze from the open back door. Esme took a breath, willed herself to dust and slipped under the front door and round to the quiet alley behind the house. There she willed herself to human.
From the back wall of number 79, Esme could see the little boy. He was seven years old and still sobbing.
“Hello, why are you crying?”
“Go away,” said the boy.
“No,” said Esme as she slipped off the wall and into the boy’s garden. “I want to know why you’re crying?”
The boy looked up. “My auntie Jo has kidnapped my Christmas tree and locked it in the shed. I’ve been saving my pocket money for months so I could buy it.”
Oh well that’s easy, thought Esme. I can magic… no I can’t I’m being human. She frowned at her stupidity. “I can pick locks,” she offered instead.
“Won’t matter. Auntie Jo says Santa Claus is a judgemental old man. She even tweeted about it and got hundreds and hundreds of new followers.”
The boy looked up, his face streaked with tears, his eyes red and swollen.
Esme wanted to hug him, but she’d seen all the briefings from Mr C about the parlous state of affection in the UK because of some nasty virus. She knew it wouldn’t be acceptable.
“Auntie Jo says it’s not appropriate for an old man to decide if children are naughty or nice and to reward only the nice ones. She says it’s… She says it’s, umm, oh, long division or something.”
Esme thought for a moment. “I think what your Aunt might have said was that rewarding only nice children with presents was divisive.”
The boy scraped his hands across his grubby face. “Yeah, something like that. I’m Matthew, what’s your name?”
“Esme. Look, Matthew, I can help you bring Christmas to your house if you want?”
“How? Do you do miracles or something?” He stood up, hands in his trouser pockets and stared at her.
“No,” said Esme. “But I can do magic.” She wished herself back to her real self.
“What?” Matthew spun around. “Where are you?”
“I’m right here,” said Esme as she hovered in the air the appropriate distance from Matthew’s nose. “Now, do you want me to help you with Christmas or not?”
The boy nodded. Esme swooped to the top of the wall and sat down. She pulled off her rucksack and began ferreting around inside. From her pack, she took a tiny little cotton bag.
Into it she whispered a wish and quickly tied the strings. With the tiny bag between her hands, she made another wish.
“Listen and listen very carefully. I will open my hands, and this little bag of wishes will float in the air. The minute I do that you must catch the bag in both hands and keep it safe. As soon as you can, put it under your Aunt’s pillow and leave it there. When she wakes up tomorrow morning, she will be thinking about Christmas. That’s when you must ask her about the tree and the presents. If you don’t ask, the idea will quickly fade away and be gone forever.”
Matthew nodded. A bright smile spread across his face.
“Are you ready?”
“Yes and I’ll do it exactly as you said.”
Esme smiled. “One last thing,” she said. “It’s not Santa Claus who is judgemental; it’s parents. Parents invented the naughty and nice lists as a means of controlling unruly children. SantaClaus doesn’t need a naughty or nice list. Santa is kind to everyone.”
“Really. Now are you ready, Matthew?”
Hands outstretched ready to take possession of the bag of wishes, Matthew nodded. Esme
Two weeks later, Esme took up her station at the top of Matthew and Auntie Jo’s tree. When Mr Claus appeared on Christmas Eve, he gave Esme a wink.
As Mr C made his way back up the now cleared chimney and fireplace, Esme winced. She had completely forgotten to replace the large purple Lurex patch at the back of his trousers.