In just three days, it will be Christmas. Despite the bright and cheery decorations twinkling in the streets, wreaths on doors, and Christmas trees peeking through windows, Hector doesn't feel one... [+]
Glittering snowflakes drifted gently from the grey skies like colorless confetti in a brilliant wonderland. Cold and sharp, it blanketed the earth like a blank canvas, eagerly awaiting to be colored by a brave artist. Noelle grasped her warm travel mug of hot cocoa and darted out the crimson front door of her family’s tiny home in the North Pole. Her breath was white against the frigid air as she rushed towards the colorful lights in the city ahead of her.
I’m late! Late again! She huffed into the air as her thoughts pestered her, pulling her into a sour mood. With one hand, she pulled her blue woolen cap over her pointy ears. Mom and Dad are never late. The Winter family, Head of the Flying Toy Department, are punctual folk. Well, they were, until I began working with them. I’m two hundred years old and failing at working on time. She pushed the fir branches out of her way and made her way up a paved road lined in colorful candy canes illuminated by cherry sized lights. The scents of freshly made peppermint treats and hot cocoa filled the crisp air around her.
She bustled past the other toy departments and reached a set of wooden doors with bells engraved in silver upon the doors. Other elves stood at their assigned seats, screwing in pieces and painting toys built to fly the sky. No one seemed to notice as she softly walked as casually as possible through the factory.
Noelle blinked as she heard an approaching sound, almost like a soft hum of an engine, and ducked as a blue plane flew just over her head, as it was almost in range of tangling into her golden locks. She tripped over her feet and fell to the floor. “Noelle Aubin Winter!”
I didn’t even make it that far without being noticed. Clumsy me. Noelle looked up to see her mother standing at the entrance to her father’s office. Her arms were full of paperwork and her evergreen sweater was covered in loose fabric and paint. She brushed some of her curly silver hair out of her eyes. “Please come up here and speak with me and your father.”
“Yes, Mamma.” Noelle did not miss the eyes that now glanced her way as she regretfully eased up the wooden steps. Her mother turned around disapprovingly and walked with her to her father’s large office.
Ivy hung from crystal beams along the entrance, and the heavy smell of wood burning filled the room. Ornaments were decoratively strung throughout the area, sending sparkles dashing over the ice blue walls.
“Noelle,” her father stood and moved a velvet seat for her to sit on. “I must speak with you. This year each elf is assigned a child in need to create a special toy. That toy is then showcased to all the departments in the North Pole, and a winner is chosen for the most creative creation. We would love it, Noelle, if you could create something special to help us stand out.”
“Me?” Noelle pointed to herself with her crystal blue eyes wide with surprise. “I’ve always been so clumsy and late getting to work.” She looked down at her feet and bit her lip. “I really want to make you and Mamma proud, though!” She fought a smile and clapped her hands together. “We will make this Christmas special!”
“That’s our girl!” Noelle could smell the heavenly scent of snickerdoodle cookies coming from her mother’s clothes.
Noelle beamed, although a tiny voice in the back of her head worried at the prospect of creating a unique toy all on her own.
“We’ll let you begin brainstorming,” her father added. “You only have a week.”
“A week?” Noelle felt her jaw drop.
“Yes.” Her mother made a shooing motion with her hands.
Noelle spun on her heel and hurried out the door, her mind spinning. What could she possibly put together in a week? To calm herself, she thought up a list of things with Christmas attributes: Reindeer, jingle bells, hot chocolate, bows, green, red, glitter... she pulled up short in her mental list-making. Green and red glitter. She suddenly had an image of a cropduster spreading green and red glitters everywhere. Only, an airplane was far too common. Maybe... a glider?
She grinned, awed by her own imagination. A glider that dropped glitters everywhere. And puffs of red and green smoke! Her brain was working double-time now.
Now entirely occupied by her thoughts, Noelle tripped over her own feet. Flushing and trying to ignore the snickering elves around her, she stepped into her workspace and started some serious planning.
Over the span of the next three days Noelle fit the glider into her time making other toys. When it was finally constructed, she realized the fatal flaw in this plan.
She’d been afraid of heights ever since she was a small child and she watched an elf fall out of a faulty toy airplane. She wondered if she could cajole a friend into testing the glider. Glancing around, the first elf she saw was her friend Holly.
“Holly!” She met her halfway. “Holly, I wonder if you would take this glider I just finished on a test ride...”
Holly was already shaking her head. “If it’s for the contest, I can’t. It’s against the rules. You have to do everything.”
Noelle’s stomach dropped to her feet. “Are you sure?”
“Yes. I’m sorry.” Holly looked apologetic. “I would if I could.”
“I understand. Thanks anyway, Holly.” Noelle returned to her station, her footsteps weighed down now. Just the thought of lifting into the air on the glider was nauseating.
“Darling, how is the constructing going?” Her mother appeared as if out of nowhere.
Noelle swallowed. “Fine, Mamma.”
Her mother beamed. “I can’t wait to see it. Your father is already talking about how you’re blossoming into such a helpful little elf.”
Noelle felt a sickening sensation. There was no way she could quit now. Not after all the time she’d spent crafting the glider. Besides, with her careful workmanship, what were the chances it would fall apart mid-flight?
Suddenly, she doubted her skills.
The next morning, Noelle put a splash of coffee into her hot chocolate. A fortifying cup of mocha was what she needed for today. She took a sip, then looked down at the mug. On the other hand, perhaps she shouldn’t stuff her belly, in case she ended up emptying it.
The sun hadn’t even come up yet. Noelle didn’t want any other elves to bear witness if she fainted or something equally embarrassing. Besides, she felt more confident without their prying eyes. She meticulously went over every inch of the glider, making sure it was in working order. Then she took it to a snowy slope and took a deep breath.
Dasher, the only person around, huffed encouragement. She glanced over at him and managed a tight smile. Dasher was her favorite reindeer, and he had been a comforting companion since she was barely able to climb onto his back. “Wish me luck.”
He watched her as she sprinted towards the edge of the slope. She closed her eyes as she leapt over the edge.
There was a brief sensation of falling before the glider caught the wind. It lifted gently into the air, and she opened her eyes a slit. She was ten feet off the ground, and gliding effortlessly through the air. Suddenly remembering, she jerked the ripcord and looked under her arm. Smoke puffed out behind her, colored red. The green was a little slower to follow. A showering of sprinkles emptied out below her.
The glider ran out of momentum and began a rapid decline. Noelle braced her feet. She hit the soft snow running, the glider propelling her onward. She whooped with joy, and Dasher tossed his head, stamping his hooves. She ran back towards him, shouting, “Did you see?”
He bobbed his head up and down. Noelle ‘s legs gave out, and she landed on her bottom in the snow. She saw her legs were trembling. She couldn’t believe that she’d just flown a glider.
By the end of the week, Noel had perfected the glider and painted it a deep shade of red with green-edged wings.
She didn’t win the contest, but she was a runner-up in it, and her parents beamed and cheered for her. The accolade, however, was nothing compared to the feeling she’d had when gliding over the snow.