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Hannah shares a visit with reindeer

“Can the reindeer talk?” Hannah asked as they arrived at a massive warehouse. She stared up at the rectangle building — a building that hardly seemed suitable for anything to live in.

“No, they can’t talk like people do,” Santa said. “But they’re excellent at communicating. You’ll see.”

They opened the door to the warehouse, and Hannah gasped.

“How?” she asked, stepping back out into the cold and looking around before stepping back into the warm warehouse. Somehow, the inside wasn’t a warehouse at all, but a small village complete with stables and fields and giant open barns.

Dozens of reindeer milled about, and elves were busily tending to them. On the field closest to them, a group of reindeer were playing what looked like a version of soccer, kicking big bouncy balls into nets. Hannah followed Santa along the brick path that led through the village, very aware that every reindeer they passed paused to stare at her.

“Come now, everyone,” Santa said loudly, “we all know it’s rude to stare.”

The reindeer immediately went back to what they were doing, and Santa grinned at her. “They all know who you are. They’ve been eager to meet you.”

She smiled at a small reindeer with a patch of white over his eye who was watching her over his shoulder, and she could swear he actually smiled back before scampering away.

A loud sneeze came from a bright red barn in the middle of the village, followed by another, then another.

“Bless you, Rudolph,” Santa laughed as they approached the barn. Butterflies fluttered in Hannah’s stomach as she stood face to face with the most famous reindeer of all.

Rudolph was small, smaller than almost all the other reindeer in the village, but he drew himself up when he saw her, raising his head proudly.

“Hi, Rudolph,” she said, and like the other reindeer, he smiled at her and nodded.

Then he sneezed again, sniffling as he crossed his eyes to look at his nose. It flickered but didn’t shine.

“Uh-oh,” Hannah said, and Santa patted Rudolph on the head.

“It’s getting better,” an elf wearing a stethoscope said. He held out his hand to her. “Dr. Ronnie Silverbell.”

“This is my granddaughter Hannah,” Santa said, putting an arm over her shoulder, and she smiled at the warm feeling in her heart at hearing him call her his granddaughter. “And Hannah, this is the best veterinarian in the North Pole.”

“Yesterday it wasn’t even flickering,” Dr. Silverbell said, examining Rudolph’s nose. “I think you’re on track to be back to your bright, glowing self by Christmas Eve.”

Rudolph let out a sigh of relief, and Hannah picked up an apple from the bin outside the door and held it out to him. As he munched, a few elves hurried over and pulled Santa away, speaking to him in hushed whispers. She watched curiously as a huge section of the ceiling at the far end of the village began to open up, revealing the night sky.

“Clear the runway, Dancer is approaching!” an elf called over a loudspeaker, and moments later a large reindeer with towering antlers flew down through the opening in the roof, gracefully running through the air until he hit the ground.

But as if seeing an actual flying reindeer wasn’t magical enough, what Dancer had brought with him made Hannah certain that Christmas miracles were absolutely real.

Her mother slid off the reindeer, hugging Dancer’s furry neck as he nuzzled her cheek.

“Mom,” she whispered, and Santa grinned.

“It seems your mother had a change of heart,” he said, and held out his arms as Charlotte came running toward them.

“Daddy,” she said, tears of joy glistening in her eyes as she hugged him tightly. She held out an arm to Hannah, pulling her into the hug, and in that moment, Hannah was certain that no moment would ever fill her with as much love and happiness as this one.

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