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Mia meets a new friend

Editor’s note: This is the 11th chapter of a 12-part continuing, fictional holiday tale, “The Golden Ornament” that is running daily through Christmas. Parents are encouraged to read it aloud to their children.

“Mia, are you ready? It’s time to go,” Mia’s grandma called up the stairs.

Mia finished yanking on one of her favorite fuzzy Christmas sweaters and bounded down the stairs. “I’m ready! Sorry, I couldn’t decide on a sweater.”

Her grandma laughed, picking a piece of fuzz off Mia’s shoulder. “You’ll be bundled up in a coat, nobody will get to see it.”

Mia shrugged as she pulled on her coat, hat and gloves. “I know. I just like being festive!”

If the lighting of the town Christmas tree was her favorite night of the year, this was a close second. Every year on Christmas Eve, Winter Falls held a celebration downtown in the square where townsfolk came together to sing carols and exchange small gifts.

The square was breathtakingly beautiful at night, with thousands of glittering lights and decorations filling the space. The gazebo was covered in lighted garland, and as per tradition, Mia placed a small wrapped gift on the growing pile of presents inside of it. Later, everyone would take a turn picking a gift from the pile.

Mia’s grandma went to talk to some of her gardening club friends, and Mia wandered around the square, taking in the sights. Brandon was supposed to be here, but she didn’t see him anywhere yet.

As she was checking out the hot cocoa stand, a faint vibration came from her bag. She glanced around and hurried to the edge of the square, away from the crowd, before opening the ornament.

Take the path not meant for a walk,

And purple gloves will welcome you and join you for a talk.

She turned around, scanning the merry townspeople all gathered in groups of friends and loved ones. She saw a bike leaning against a hot pretzel stand and it hit her: the bike path!

She hurried around to the east side of the square where the bike trail ran through the wooded area surrounding the river.

Picking up her pace, she rushed down the path, around the bend and over the hickory bridge. She clutched the ornament as she moved along, and it vibrated in her hands, the snowflakes swirling around inside of it glowing brighter the farther she walked.

After rounding another bend, she halted in her tracks. A woman sat on a bench, blowing into a to-go cup filled with a steaming drink. And the hands holding the cup were covered in purple wool gloves.

She looked up at Mia and smiled, her gaze falling to the ornament clutched in Mia’s hands.

“Well, there it is,” she said. “I’d forgotten how beautiful it is.”

“Wait … you know what this is? Were you here waiting for me?”

The woman nodded, and Mia recognized her as one of the women who worked inside the deli her mom liked to get their Italian meats and cheeses from.

“I’m Mary. Come sit down.” She patted the seat next to her and Mia obeyed, introducing herself as well.

“May I?” Mary held out her hand and Mia placed the ornament inside it.

“Magical, isn’t it?” Mary asked, and Mia nodded.

“Yes, it is. What is it, exactly? Do you know? How does it do what it does? Where do the messages come from?”

Mary chuckled and opened the ornament, which was now empty. She stared down into it, watching the same swirling snowflakes as Mia.

“I can’t tell you all the things you want to know, Mia. I’m just the person who picked it off the tree last year. As soon as I saw it sparkling, I knew I had to have it.”

Mia nodded, remembering her own excitement at the discovery when she’d discovered the ornament different from all the others.

“It chooses one person every year. No one knows why or how it chooses, or even where it comes from. I obeyed it each day last year, much like you did this year, I imagine. Marveled at its magic. Was amazed by its responses and followed its riddles that led me to those in need.”

“What will happen tomorrow?” Mia asked.

“Well, I suppose you’ll have another task tomorrow. I know it’s Christmas, and you’re so young, but I have a feeling that somehow it will have you in the right place at the right time.”

Mia only hoped that was right. She’d already convinced Brandon to come with her to the airport on what he thought was another task set by the ornament. Little did he know, though, it was just a ruse to get him there to pick up his dad.

“Last year, on Christmas Eve the person from the previous year waited here for me,” Mary said. “And just like me, you will wait here next year. It’s our job to pass on what little we know. And, I suspect, to let us know we’re not alone in this. That it’s real.”

“That we’re not crazy.”

Mary laughed again. “Exactly. Don’t think I didn’t wonder that myself when I had it. But it is real, and since I read in the paper how you were at the Cameron’s farm and saved those animals from the fire, I can see that it’s used you to be true Christmas blessings for those who needed hope the most.”

Mary handed the ornament back and stood up. “Tomorrow night when you go to bed, leave it on your bedside table. Its glow will be beautiful and will shine bright while you sleep.”

“And then?”

“When you wake up the next day, it will be gone. We don’t know where,” she added with a smile. “But we do know it will be back, hanging on the town tree next Christmas. So you remember to be here next year, okay? Right here at this time.”

“I promise,” Mia said, giving Mary a quick hug. “Thank you so much.”

She started jogging back toward the festival to find her mom. She glanced back once, almost expecting Mary to have vanished. But she was standing there smiling wide as she watched Mia go, waving with her purple glove.

Read the final chapter of “The Golden Ornament” in tomorrow’s newspaper.

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