Joy overwhelmed by scents of new world

Editor’s note: This is the second of a 12-chapter holiday tale running daily until Christmas. Parents are encouraged to read aloud to their children.

Just a few feet in front of Joy stood a massive fountain shaped like a gingerbread man, one taller than a house, holding a giant mug out in front of his big red smile. Something that looked — and smelled — a whole lot like hot cocoa poured from the rim of the mug and down into the fountain’s base, where hundreds of marshmallows floated in the chocolatey pool.

Joy took in a deep breath, overwhelmed by the delicious scent wafting from the fountain, and slowly turned in a circle.

She wrapped her arms around herself, shivering as she took in the sight of a small town decked out for Christmas. Little shops lined the streets, all covered in dangling icicle lights, and each with a different color smoke rising from the chimneys. Her eyes widened as she read the hanging signs of the nearest ones: Candy Cane Corner, Reindeer Shoe Repair, The Gumdrop Stop.

Beyond the shops, across a field of snow, larger gingerbread houses dotted the tree line in front of a sparkling forest.

Horse-drawn carriages were parked in front of the biggest building at the end of the street. Thousands of colored lights lined the giant triangle-shaped door and all the windows and the roof. Above the door was a sign that read WORKSHOP in glowing letters.

Above the sign was a big wooden clock, and above it another, and above that yet another. At least a dozen different clocks towered on top of one of another, twisting all the way up to the tall rooftop where one massive timer stood counting down hours, minutes, and seconds.

Joy took another deep breath, inhaling the scents of the hot chocolate and freshly baked cookies coming from … somewhere. She blinked hard, positive that when she opened her eyes, she’d be back in her room, waking up from whatever weird dream she was surely having.

Nothing happened. She was still standing in the middle of a picture-perfect Christmas village.

She shivered again, hugging herself harder. The snow crunched under her slippers as she wandered down the street. She pulled the door of the first building she came to, wanting desperately to get out of the cold.

The inside smelled strongly of pine and peppermint, but most importantly, the air was toasty warm.

Joy stomped her feet, getting the snow off her slippers as she glanced around the room. Rows upon rows of elaborately decorated wreaths lined the shop, which somehow seemed way bigger on the inside than on the outside.

“Hello?” she tentatively called out, and jumped when bells suddenly jingled loudly from across the room.

A counter against the wall was empty except for a small, old-fashioned cash register on top, right next to a small statue of a snowman.

The bells jingled again, and Joy gasped as she realized the snowman was moving. He held a tiny little bell in his hand, and rang it as he gestured to a sign hanging around his neck.

Joy took a hesitant step forward, squinting at the small lettering.

“On a cookie break,” she read out loud, then her eyes widened as the letters swirled around and changed. “Be back soon.”

She slowly walked through the shop, marveling at the beautiful, intricately designed wreaths. Just as she was leaning down to look at a huge wreath decked out with what had to be pounds of candy, she thought she heard her name.

Frowning, she glanced out the window. A short figure hurried down the street, and seemed to be looking for something.

“Joy Noelle?” she heard faintly through the window.

Joy bit her lip, not sure if it would be stupid or smart to let the person know where she was. A second later, the choice was made for her as the door flung open.

“Joy Noelle! Oh, thank heavens, I’ve been looking everywhere for you! Where have you been?”

Read the next installment on Page 1B of Saturday’s Tribune Chronicle.