Editor’s note: This is the first chapter of a 12-part Christmas fairy tale. Parents are encouraged to read aloud with their children.
The day that changed Anna’s life forever began in her favorite setting: the mystery of the book. It was the first day of Christmas vacation, and she was eager to find some other books to put on her Christmas list.
As always, the first thing she did when she entered the little bookstore with the smaller bakery was to let her nose carry her towards the delicious aromas of freshly baked bread and mint cocoa.
“Hi Anna!” The shopkeeper and super baker smiled at her. “How is my favorite client?”
Wonderful, Mr. Hinckley. What are you doing here today? He usually comes at dawn to start baking but runs the bookstore register during shop hours.
“Well, Jesse is sick today, so I’m doing double duty.”
“I wish I could work here for you and help you!” Anna shouted. “Just three more years until I’m 15. I know Dad will hire me at the shop, but I really dream you’ll want to hire me here.”
“I can’t think of a better person to help me run this place, Anna.” Mr. Hinckley smiled at her as he handed his usual cake order before starting to take the hot cocoa. “I expect your boyfriend today?”
“Yes, he should be here any minute.” Anna blew off her cocoa cap before taking a small sip. Immediately after, the doorbells jingle and Anna’s best friend Tyler enters. He was a year older than Anna, but they had been best friends since the day his family moved next door when she was in first grade.
“It’s snowing,” Tyler grumbled. He snatched Anna’s cup from her hands and took a big swallow.
Anna laughed and reached for the other cup Mr. Hinckley had put on the table. She was used to Tyler’s Seasonal Anger. He didn’t love Christmas as much as I did, but he always put on a good show for his mom and his 7-year-old twin sister.
Five years ago, his father died in an accident, and Tyler hasn’t been the same since. He took being the man of the house very seriously, and not once did he complain about his mother’s help. He also stuck by Anna’s side, insisting that she never walk home alone and always attended joint family Christmas celebrations with a smile.
“Get ready - we’re supposed to get 6 inches by Saturday night!” said Mr. Hinckley as he loaded more fresh cookies into the display case.
Anna smiled as she did an excited little dance, while Tyler wore his signature frown.
“Do you know what’s so wonderful about a lot of snow?” she asked.
“The fact that I’ll be shoveling the hallways for hours and hours?”
Giggling, Anna pushed his arm, causing him to pour hot cocoa on his chin.
“No silliness. It’s magic. The first time snow covers the ground, it covers the entire city with Christmas magic!”
Tyler snorted and shook his head at her. “When Misty Creek is full of magic, the pigs will grow wings and fly.”
“You’ll see, Ty. You’ll see.”
Misty Creek has always been a charming little town, but it’s especially charming this time of year. Anna loved a lot of things about the holidays. Her parents were great at making sure the season was filled with old traditions like sleigh rides, cookie baking, and Christmas movie nights. But they also made sure Anna knew the truth of the season - helping others. Every year, they volunteered at children’s play rides or food banks, and when they went to the Carolines they always brought cookies to leave with the families.
It was a wonderful place to live, and Anna always knew how lucky she was. Plus, on top of her usual holiday excitement, she just couldn’t shake the certainty that something extra special was coming this Christmas.
Read the second chapter in the Thursday newspaper.