ean heaved another world-weary sigh. Tucking a strand of shiny black hair behind her ear, she frowned at the teetering tower of Christmas cards waiting to be signed. What was the point? How could she sign only one name? A “couple” required two people, and she was just one.
The legal separation from Don had left her feeling vacant and incomplete. Maybe she would skip the cards this year. And the holiday decorating. Truthfully, even a tree felt like more than she could manage. She had canceled out of the caroling party and the church nativity pageant. Christmas was to be shared, and she had no one to share it with.
The doorbell’s insistent ring startled her. Padding to the door in her thick socks, Jean cracked it open against the frigid December night. She peered into the empty darkness of the porch. Instead of a friendly face — something she could use about now — she found only a jaunty green gift bag perched on the railing. From whom? she wondered. And why?
Under the bright kitchen light, she pulled out handfuls of shredded gold tinsel, feeling for a gift. Instead, her fingers plucked an envelope from the bottom. Tucked inside was a typed letter. It was a…story?
The little boy was new to the Denmark orphanage, and Christmas was drawing near, Jean read. Already caught up in the tale, she settled into a kitchen chair.
From the other children, he heard tales of a wondrous tree that would appear in the hall on Christmas Eve and of the scores of candles that would light its branches. He heard stories of the mysterious benefactor who made it possible each year.
The little boy’s eyes opened wide at the mere thought of all that splendor. The only Christmas tree he had ever seen was through the fogged windows of other people’s homes. There was even more, the children insisted. More? Oh, yes! Instead of the orphanage’s regular fare of gruel, they would be served fragrant stew and crusty, hot bread that special night.
Last, and best of all, the little boy learned, each of them would receive a holiday treat. He would join the line of children to get his very own….
Jean turned the page. Instead of a continuation, she was startled to read: “Everyone needs to celebrate Christmas, wouldn’t you agree? Watch for Part II.” She refolded the paper while a faint smile teased the corner of her mouth.
The next day was so busy that Jean forgot all about the story. That evening, she rushed home from work. If she hurried, she’d probably have enough time to decorate the mantle. She pulled out the box of garland, only to drop it when the doorbell rang. Opening the door, she found herself looking at a red gift bag. She reached for it eagerly and pulled out the piece of paper.
…to get his very own orange, Jean read. An orange? That’s a treat? she thought incredulously.
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