Alone At Christmas

Joelle sighed as she gathered another armload of firewood. Judging by the way the wind was hitting her face, it was bound to snow at some point in the night. She looked out at the snow covered woods. By this time tomorrow, all of the animals' pretty pictures would be gone and they would have to start all over. Unlike humans, restarting didn't seem to bother them.

With a smile, she turned and went back into her warm home. People had called her crazy for choosing to leave behind the hustle and bustle of everyday life to move up. She had told them it was for her art and that was very much true, but there was more to it than that. She was tried of the everyday grind, of people trying to outdo each other, and of having to be on someone else's schedule. She didn't like the person it was turning her into. She didn't like losing herself. So, she did the only thing she knew: she packed up and left it all behind.

No, that wasn't right. She really hadn't left anything behind. By moving out here, she had gained so much more. Out here she had the freedom to live the life that she wanted without being judged. There was beauty in living a life that was fulfilling to her. There was nothing wrong with living the way she did.

She sat the wood down into the door as she looked around her small house. It was almost Christmas and she was spending it alone. Back in the city, people would probably feel sorry for her for spending the holiday without anyone, but for her, it was lovely. While she had no human family to speak of, she had the forest and that was more than enough.

Her Christmas tree lights twinkled against the early evening darkening sky, while the small fireplace crackled at just the right time, creating a Christmas card moment.

Yes, Christmas in the city was stunning, but you couldn't beat this. The store bought decorations couldn't top the ones made right from nature. The hustle and bustle of running from shop to shop in search of that perfect gift that would be forgotten in a couple of weeks couldn't top something that was made with made and care.

She pulled off her coat and walked over to her easel. The painting she was working on was for a wealthy businessman from the city, who would never dream of leaving his penthouse, but would gladly spend money on a picture of a snow covered lake for his wife. She supposed that she really didn't understand people.

She stood in front of the painting, looking at it with a frown. While the colouring was beautiful and there was nothing wrong with the lines, there was just something missing. It was like this picture failed to capture the true magic of a lake in the winter. It didn't show the paths the animals left behind, the bark scaped off the trees by a deer, or the wise old owl watching you from above. No, this picture did none of that. It was just a picture without the magic and she wasn't sure how to add that magic to it.

Sighing, she ran over hand over the dried paint. The businessman would love it and his wife would talk about it at parties. They would think it was all there was to living in the country. They would fail to see the beauty behind it. The special meaning that the world had to offer.

People would tell her that as long as she got paid that was all there was to it. No, there was more to it than that. It wasn't just about the money. It was about letting people to see the world they way she did. It was about seeing the world the way it was supposed to be seen.

She tilted her head to the side. Maybe it was just a matter of how you looked at it. Art was supposed to work that way. The way one person saw it wasn't the way the next would. Someone who lived out here wouldn't see the same little details she did, but that didn't mean they would be missing out. Maybe the businessman and his wife would still see the beauty in it and come up with their own stories about it.

Or maybe she just needed to walk away from it for a little bit to allow her creative juices to get flowing again.

She stepped into her small kitchen, inhaling the sweet scent of the fresh pine she had hung over the doorframes. While she normally didn't pay attention to pine, there was just something magical about it at Christmas. It was like this was its holiday to shine and it knew it. it seemed to strut this time of year, peeking out from underneath the snow covered trees in all of the right places. Winter was to evergreens was fall was the deciduous trees and what spring was the flowering trees.

She put on a pot of tea and stared out the window. A group of deer stood in the snow, completely unaware that she was even watching them. They tugged at the bark, their guard completely down. Every now and then, their ears would pick up at something far off in the forest, but they never raised their white tails in alarm. Out here, they truly were free to live their lives how they wanted without fear of the outside world.

The kettle whistled, jerking her out of her thoughts. She pulled out her favourite Christmas mug-one with Christmas tree with little woodland animals under it. Pouring herself a cup, she carried it back into the living room and lowered herself into her chair. The fireplace crackled as she sat down and the Christmas lights seemed to dance at the sight of her. Outside, the wind howled, as if it was reminding her that nature really was the one in charge.

She looked around at all of the wonderful things she had made. Christmas and nature had come alive in here and that was what she had always pictured when she pictured her perfect Christmas. While it wasn't anything over the top, it was special and it was something she would never forget.

She picked up her knitting needles, staring down at the unfinished sweater. She normally didn't make things this large, but it was Christmas and she supposed she could indulge herself every now and then. She started walking to the beat of her needles. Life didn't get much better than this-there was no doubt about it.

!

The next morning Joelle awoke to the sounds of the wind whistling around her. She shoved the covers off her bed and went over to the window. Wiping away the frost from the window, a winter wonderland greeted her. She had been correct in thinking that the animals' pictures would be gone by morning, but she hadn't expected this.

This was something far greater than that.

Everything was covered in a layer of fresh snow. The wind blew it around, creating mountains where mountains hadn't existed until now, leaving behind little whispers of marshmallow in their wake. The trees were littered with glittering white as the sun dared to peek out every few minutes before being chased away by the grey sky. Snow poured down from the heavens, changing the picture it had created.

Everywhere she looked, there was something new to see. Little animals were snuggled just out of reach, trying to remain uncovered by nature. When the sun decided to show its smiling face, little bits of a disco ball appeared on the snow, flashing at all of the right moments. The wind howled, adding its own mournful voice to what was bound to be a great show. Even the grey sky didn't seem so sorrowful as it came out to play. Its grey nature served as the perfect backdrop to what was nature's play.

She leaned against the window, trying to bring herself closer to it all. The wind and snow picked up, nearly blocking her view of everything. Bits of cold found its way under her window. Even though she felt chilled, she could not help but to smile. She had just been kissed by nature after all and there was no finer lover than nature.

She turned away from the window and set out getting ready for the day. The wind whistled louder, like it still wanted her to hear its song even though she was no longer close to it. The sounds of the wind could only mean one thing though: this storm wasn't leaving anytime soon.

It was just as well though. It wasn't like she had anywhere to go and she did have two more paintings to finish. Listening the storm would probably actually help her capture the beauty and wonder of the world around her.

She went downstairs. The fire was still holding on for her, like it wanted to prove to her that it could in fact keep up with the long winter nights and that she did not need anything larger. The scent of pine hit her, making her feel even more at home. There was just something about a cozy and simple day that made her feel right at home.

She picked up her unfinished sweater and laid it to the side before lowering herself down in the chair. People would probably judge her for getting herself Christmas presents, but she didn't care. There was nothing wrong with treating yourself. You were allowed to make and do something special for yourself without feeling guilty about it.

Outside, the wind was still howling, reminding her that Old Man Winter was still very much alive and kicking outside. She wanted to tell him that she didn't need to be reminded, that was fully aware of everything that he had to offer the world.

She went over to the canvases. Maybe if she were to work on a different project other than the businessman's maybe something would come out of it. Besides, the other two jobs weren't anything like it. One was a painting of grandchildren and she had a picture to follow with it. The other was of the New York skyline. It wasn't that those didn't require a certain type of magic, they did, but it was a different time. She could picture what those people wanted her to capture. She knew what they wanted-unlike the other.

Sighing, she turned away from the lake painting and picked up the picture of the smiling grandchildren. That was the beauty of young children-they tended to wear their joy on their faces. When you looked into their eyes, it was like you could almost see what they were thinking. Maybe bringing them to life through the paint was just want she needed. After all, she had been told that there was nothing like having little ones on Christmas morning.

With a smile, she started pulling out the different paints, with the wind howling and the remains of the fire crackling as her soundtrack. The little smiling eyes of the children watched her, like they had complete faith in her that she would do what they needed her to do.

!

Later that afternoon, Joelle made her way through the woods. The wind and snow had both died down. The fresh powder though made walking very difficult and she soon found herself out of breath. However, the lake painting needed this. It needed her to go out and see what nature had to add to it.

She leaned against a tree, looking out into the vast whiteness. Every now and then, a puff of wind would pick a bit of snow up and send it dancing across the way. Icicles glimmered and shook as the sun rushed out to greet them.

How was she to bring this to life in a painting? How could she capture all of this beauty and glory with just a few strokes of the brush? That was the most frustrating part of nature: there was no good way to capture everything.

Sighing, Joelle turned away from the scene and kept walking. There had to be a better way to do all of this. Maybe she was just thinking about the whole affair the wrong way. The problem was she had no idea how to think of it differently. Maybe she was just going to have to get out of her head and allow her body and mind to just do what is was supposed to do.

She slowly made her way down to the lake. Like everything else the storm had changed it, which was going to make her change the painting-again. She knew no one would ever know the difference, but she would. She would always know that she was giving him a fake and not the real thing. She didn't know if she could live with that.

She started making her way around the outer edge, allowing herself to drink in its wonder and joy. She could feel the sight running through her veins, making her feel more alive than ever. It made her want to dance and sing, to never return to the world. This was what the painting was supposed to capture. It was supposed to show off the beauty of the world and make people want to be a part of it. It wasn't supposed to chase them back into their fancy apartments and back into their office buildings. It was supposed to provide them with a chance to escape the chaos of the everyday world and give them a sense of hope.

She paused at the western end of the lake. Escape…That was all she had to provide. She just had to give them an insight into the world of magic and wonder. She just had to give them a chance to see their world through a child's eyes and to see all of the good it had to offer. So many people focused on the bad stuff when they needed to see all the joy and wonder there was to offer.

She watched as the sun shone down on the ice, creating a mirror for the world…A world in which the sun was in the star of the show. The snow and ice were just mere side characters in what was bound to be better than anything Broadway had to offer. The sad thing was most people probably didn't even know about this performance as it wasn't exactly in any headliners. It was enough to make her feel sick. So many people paid to see so many wonderful things when all they really needed was right in front of them.

They just needed to open their eyes a little bit to see it. She had been hoping to portray it in the painting.

With a huff, she kept on moving. This whole thing was just completely and utterly pointless. She was never going to be able to bring it to life. She was just going to end up painting a picture of a lake that people would just walk by without feeling anything.

She walked up a small hill that overlooked the lake. Normally, this would not had been a very difficult walk, but in a foot of snow, she found herself getting winded pretty quickly. She paused at the top, letting the cold air enter her lungs, which only seemed to be make her more winded. She was sweating too, which was not normal, given how cold it actually was.

She turned and looked back at the lake. From this view, she could see that she was missing even more from her painting. She wanted to kick herself. Of course, different angles changed the way you looked at something and she hadn't accounted for that in her painting. She rubbed her hands together. Everything was just getting more and more complicated.

She watched as a small group of birds flew over her, their songs stood out against the overall quiet woods. She couldn't help but to smile at the sight. These things weren't supposed to be captured on a single painting. They were supposed to be experienced. Paintings and pictures were supposed to make people want to go out and see the real thing. You weren't supposed to put it all into one sole item.

She danced around in a circle, kicking up bits of powder in the process, covering her pants. What difference did it make? Nature wasn't always as neat and clean as what people wanted it to be. Sometimes to see it all you had to get down and get messy. It was just a simple fact of life.

She paused, taking it all in and breathing in deep. The fresh air coated her lungs, stinging a bit before feeling like it belonged. Her lungs welcomed the clean, undirtied air like an old friend. The body wasn't supposed to be wrapped up inside all the time. It was supposed to be free and one with the outside world.

She stared at the large, bare tree in front of her. To the common eye, it looked like it was dead, but the trained eye, you could in fact see that it had much life to offer. You could see that life still flowed through its veins. It was just sleeping, waiting for the time for it to come out and shine. It was taking a step back and letting the trees of winter have their moment to shine in the spotlight. It was kind of a nice thought. Maybe humans could do with this lesson and learn that they didn't always have to be the centre of attention.

She looked back down at the lake. Maybe that was also the issue with her painting. Maybe the lake wasn't supposed to be seen from a canvas, but be experienced out here. She just had to come up with a way to make people understand that.

!

Later that night, Joelle found herself wrapping her own Christmas gifts. Yes, she knew what was in them, but it didn't matter. Even though she was an adult, there was something wonderful about having gifts in pretty paper under the tree for Christmas morning. Yes, she knew that wasn't the true meaning of the season and it wasn't the most important thing, but it made her happy. Weren't you supposed to do things that made you happy?

She took the gifts downstairs and placed them under the tree, rearranging them so they looked like something right out of a Christmas movie. She stood back, drinking in the scene. Those who said you couldn't do something by yourself and it be fun were wrong. They had no idea what living actually was. They were the ones stuck in the rut and she found herself actually kind of feeling sorry for them. They didn't know what living was.

She went over to her chair and picked up her knitting. She was bound and determined to get this finished by Christmas. Her needles settled into a familiar rhythm as she started counting her stiches.

The painting was still in the back of her mind. She was running out of time for it. She was probably going to have to end up admitting defeat and just take it for what it was. It was a solid painting, one that she would have been happy with had she not actually saw the real thing. She was sure the businessman would love it too. It just wasn't what she was looking for. It just didn't do what it needed to.

She looked down at the sweater. Why couldn't things just be as simple as picking up a set of knitting needles and making what your mind saw? Granted, this was for her, so it wasn't like she had to please anyone but herself. Maybe that was part of the problem too. Maybe she was trying way too hard and was simply seeing all of the paintings faults. She was happy with the way the others had turned out, but this one was just not working for her.

She sat down her knitting and went over to the painting, staring directly at it, tapping her chin as her eyes carefully scanned over every detail. There was really nothing wrong with it other than it didn't do what she needed it to do. She needed it to show off the beauty, which it did, but it was missing the wonder and excitement, as well as the peace, that being around a body of water was supposed to bring.

That was the very thing she didn't know how to fix. She didn't know what she was supposed to do with any of this. How could you bring something to life like that? How could you show the true beauty of what the world had to offer?

The only way that was even going to be possible if people went out and actually experienced the world. While there were a lot who would, there was also just that many who would not. There were some people who just expected to have everything handed to them.

She looked around the room. Surely, there had to be something here that she could use to help her bring the lake to life. Yes, there was very much life here, but it wasn't what she needed. It wasn't what she was looking for.

Her mind ran through the paints she had. She had so many wonderful choices, but none of them just seemed to be bring everything to life. There were so many things here that would work for other paintings, but it just didn't work for this one. It was annoying.

She turned and went back over to her chair, her mind racing. There had to be something she could do to help. There just had to be something more out there that she could do to add a little bit more to it.

She sat down at the floor, right in front of the fire, allowing the heat to warm her face. Sometimes staring into the flames was enough to clear her mind. It was here that she made her best decisions.

The flames danced in front of her, creating their own artwork, allowing her to see bits of their soul. They bowed and turned away at just the right moments, while bits of them drifted downwards to join the gathering of ash in the bottom. The cycle repeated without seeming to have an end. The oranges and reds blended together, creating a mini-wild fire that failed to sneak out and cause havoc. The crackling of the wood in the bottom gave them all something to dance to, something for them to keep up their wonderful game. Bringing something like this to life on a canvas would also be nearly impossible.

She leaned back against the sofa, letting its softness warm her body. She just needed to clear her mind and let everything go. Things always came better when you didn't allow your mind to take control. Sometimes you just had to let things come and let them be whatever it was they would be.

She looked up at the ceiling, allowing the heat to wash over her. Her body was, in fact, drifting away and her eyes were growing heavy, but she couldn't make herself move from this spot. There was just something wonderful about sitting here on the floor and allowing her senses come to life.

She looked back over the fire, which seemed to be bowing her, like it was waiting for her to take the centre stage. She smiled. It wasn't everyday that things like this wanted her to join in on their fun, but she had nothing to offer. What more could she do to top nature's show? Nothing…There was nothing she could do.

She blinked. Her eyes and body felt so heavy that she was certain she would not be able to keep them open for much longer. Still, her bed wasn't calling to her. She leaned back further against the sofa, allowing the warmth to enter her body. There really was nothing wrong with just sitting right here and letting herself take it all in. It was how things were supposed to be done after all.

!

Sunlight drifted down on Joelle, warming her face, reminding her that the day was out and ready to pay. She slowly opened her eyes, wincing at the stiff joints that seemed to be popping up everywhere. Maybe sleeping on the floor hadn't actually been that great of an idea.

She looked at the few embers in the fireplace as the chill set in. Rubbing her hands together, she slowly sat up. Little chills rushed up and down her body as she slowly pushed herself to her feet. It either must have gotten much colder in the night or she hadn't put enough wood in the fire.

After throwing a couple more pieces of wood into the fire and stroking it back to life, she went over to the painting and looked at it with a careful expression. In this angle, it really didn't look all the bad. Of course, it was missing some life to it, but the overall artwork really wasn't all that terrible. She eyed her paints. There surely had to be something here that could help give it what it needed. Like yesterday though, she found herself coming up short.

By now, the heat from the fire was making its way through the house, bathing her in its warmth. She moved a little to the right, so more of the warmth reach here. Now, from here, it was very clear that the painting was in face missing something. It just looked like another painting with no special elements to it.

That was exactly what she didn't want to happen to her paintings. She wanted them to be special and to have meaning. They were not to be just a basic painting that was hung up somewhere and looked at every now and then. They were supposed to spark joy and bring feeling. They were supposed to bring people together. They were not just to be hung on the wall and forgotten about. Yes, she knew that most paintings were just supposed to be a part of the room and that hers really weren't any different. Still, she liked to think that they were a little bit different…That they were a special part of someone's day.

She moved a little further back from the painting. The snow didn't sparkle, maybe that was the problem. If she added a little more gloss to the paint maybe it would make everything all that much more better. They said that a little sparkle went a long way in an otherwise dark and unforgiving world.

She reached for her gloss and poured some out. Picking up a brush, she looked closely at the painting. If she screwed this up, it would mess the whole thing up. If she did it right, it would turn out far better than expected. She just had to do this with a steady hand and hope for the best.

She started working it in, watching as it the sparkle came to life on the canvas. When the early morning winter sun hit it, the painting seemed to leap to life. The lake's water danced around the sparkle, like it wanted the snow to come out and cover it's icy surface in just the right places. It was begging the animals to come out of their hiding places and skate on its shiny surface. She could see it now. She could see the bits of life just waiting to be noticed and welcomed into the world.

She sat her brush down for a brief second as she stared at the painting. Yes, that did help, but it needed something more. It needed some life trying to sneak along the edges of the undergrowth, trying to see what all there was to offer.

She started gathering more colours, adding bits of woodland creatures here and there. They weren't completely visible, but they were there just enough so their presence was known and felt. If you were actually walking by this painting, you would know there were more layers to it than what met the eye.

She paused every now and then to stare at it, to make sure that she had everything she wanted and that the painting needed. There was always the chance of having too much. If you put into too much, the chances of the painting looking trashy were high. People liked things that were easy on the eyes. They didn't like things that messed with them. They wanted things that were simple and pleasing.

At least that was her experience. Every now and then, you did come across a person who wanted something different, who liked the busy nature of certain things.

She put her paints down and stood back. There…She was pretty sure she finally had it. Although the next time she looked at it, she very well could end up hating it again. No, she could not allow herself to think such negative thoughts. She had to stay positive and live in the moment.

Things were going to work out…Everything was going to be okay…She just had to believe in it and believe in herself.

She put the remaining paint and cleaned her brushes. The only thing she could do now was wait and see how it was all going to play out. After all, the finished product could end up turning out far better than anticipated.

She turned away from the painting and went upstairs. The day was waiting and calling to her.

Upstairs she looked out the window, thinking. The painting was actually pretty good and it was doing what she needed it to do. Maybe she needed to stop being so hard on herself. Maybe she just needed to admit that she had given it her all and it was showing. She was good at this. She had proven time and time again that she was good at this. People were coming to her and paying money for her art. They were asking her to paint something without even seeing it. That had to mean something, right? People wanted what she had to offer. She was actually worth something.

Being a creator was something that not too many people got to do for a living and here she was doing just that. She was making things that people found joy in. She was getting to do something that while yes was very annoying at times, but getting to do what she loved. Wasn't that the goal of any career or job? Weren't you supposed to love what you were doing? Yes, there were slow times and times were money was tight, but that was just a part of living in the world. There were slumps and there were hard times. You just had to roll with it. In the end, if it was something you loved, it was worth it.

She moved away from the window. The painting of the grandchildren and the New York City skyline were leaving today. She had to finish the lake one up too. Hopefully it didn't need anything more done to it. Christmas was coming and people tended to get worried the closer it got. She had never let a client down though. She had always managed to pull it off.

She pulled on her painting clothes and went back downstairs. Even though it would be several hours before the lake painting was dry, it was always good to have a plan in place just in case anything needed more work. Plus, she didn't want to have to stop and get ready. It was always best to be prepared.

She went into her tiny kitchen and put on a pot of tea. Outside near the woods, a group of deer stood, watching her with a careful expression. She stood frozen, watching as their careful eyes scanned her body. The lead turned its head and with a flick of its tail, they all took off. It had to be hunting season. Normally, they would not have paid her any mind.

The tea kettle whistled. She took it off the stove, inhaling the sweet scents that drifted out. Some people thought coffee offered the most wonderful scents, but she had to disagree. Nothing smelled more wonderful and delightful than a fresh pot of tea. The thing was you could change your tea up and get the smells you wanted. Plus, it wasn't as overpowering as coffee.

She poured herself a cup and went back into the living room. Flurries danced down from the sky. The sun still peered out for now, but grey clouds were threatening to move in and place even more whiteness on the ground.

She sat down in her chair, staring out the window, hoping that the two paintings left before it really started coming down out there. That was the downfall of living out here. There was always the chance that her clients would not be able to get out here.

She leaned back further in her chair and closed her eyes. Her body still ached from her night in the front of the fire, though she was certain it would go away with time. She just had to remember she wasn't a child anymore who could, in fact, send multiple hours in a very uncomfortable position and be just fine.

The fire crackled and the wind picked up. Snow blow around, creating even more drifts. She was going to be snowed in for Christmas and was fine with that. There would be no one to bother her and she would be free to celebrate the season however she wanted.

She took a long drink of tea. People were wrong when they thought that spending Christmas alone made the day just another day, but they were wrong. They were far from being right. You could create your own magic and you weren't bound by what society said you should do on that day. You were free and there was nothing better than that.

There was nothing better than being truly free.

!

Joelle looked at the lake painting with a sigh. All of the other paintings were gone. She had made up her mind. However this painting turned out today was going to be it. It needed to go. Not only was the businessman probably getting anxious, but it was getting close to Christmas. People tended to grow worried the closer it got. However, they should know that she had never let a client down.

Her eyes scanned over the lake and the surrounding area. Outside the wind howled. Not only was it getting close to Christmas, but the road was going to blow shut. She only had today or there was no way that the businessman would not be able to get down here. City people had no idea how to drive in the snow.

She sighed. It was a very good painting, one that would bring so much joy and would probably get her a pretty good size tip. It was still very clearly missing something though. She didn't care what anyone said. There was something missing and she would not be happy until she figured out what that was.

She moved to a different angle. She crossed her arms over her chest. Every place she looked, it gave her something different. From here, it looked fine. In fact, it looked just downright amazing, if she didn't say so herself.

Maybe she just needed to stop being so hard on herself and just admit that she was good at what she did. She just needed to admit that she could pull this off and people would enjoy what she had to bring into the world. Wasn't that the goal of any creator? Didn't you want to have an impact on the people you came in contact with? She thought that was the goal. It wasn't about being perfect and trying to hard. It was about bringing joy to people and giving them an escape from their daily lives.

She needed to just let all the flaws go and see this for what it was. It was a great painting, one that would be treasured for years to come. Why couldn't she just see that? Why couldn't she just see that it would bring people so much joy and happiness if she would just admit it?

She sat down on the floor, still staring at the painting. It would get the job done. She just needed to be honest. There was no way that nature could be captured in fully in a painting. It took going outside and being around it to fully experience all that it did truly have to offer. Surely, this painting would get someone to do just that. Even if they didn't go out into the country…Even if they just went out to a park or stepped outside. Then, they would see that being cramped inside just wasn't the way to do it. Maybe they would step back and see what they were truly doing to themselves. Maybe then, they would finally slow down and take time to appreciate and enjoy what a wonderful gift life actually was.

Outside the wind picked up, sending even more chills rushing down her spine. More and more snow was blowing around, making it impossible for her to tell if it was snowing or now. She needed to get this painting out of here now or she would be stuck with it.

Then, she needed to make sure she had everything she needed to weather this storm herself. It looked like it was going to truly be a snowed in Christmas.

A blast of wind sent the house shaking and the lights flickering. Winter was here and it was here to stay.

Oh, yes, she needed to get moving or it was going to be a very difficult Christmas holiday.

!

A few hours later, the painting was gone. The snow had let up just enough for the businessman to come and get his painting. He had, of course, complained about the roads, but had been pleased with the amount of snowplows out at work. The painting had been a huge hit, earning her more money than she had in a long time. After wishing each other a wonderful holiday season and the best of luck about the upcoming storm, he was finally gone.

The painting was gone and she was at peace.

Outside the grey sky taunted her, like it was daring her to let her guard down. Now, she needed to focus on herself and getting what she needed to get done, done. While she wasn't in any danger of actually dying or anything like that, it would still do her some good to actually be prepared for what was to come.

Putting her heaviest coat and layers, she stepped outside. As soon as she stepped out onto the porch, a gust of wind came up knocking the air right out of her lungs. She gasped, trying to get the coldness to leave, to find her breath.

The blowing snow was picking up even more, sending bits of ice right at her face. Whatever was coming was bond to be a rough one. The wind screamed, sounding like someone was dying. It beat against every thing it hit, threatening to knock everything down in its path. It made her want to go rush back into the comfort of her own home, but she had to keep going. She had to make sure that everything was okay before winter unleashed its full fury at her.

Joelle stepped off the porch, wincing as more snow and ice pellets hit her tender skin. Now that she was actually moving, her body was growing used to the wind. It still threatened to knock the very life out of her, but it wasn't like it was trying to push her back inside. She just needed to show it who was in charge here.

She made her way, slowly, around the house, checking everything. The wind had a rather nasty habit of trying to blow bits of her house away. Before every storm, she took the time to make sure that everything was properly secured. Most people would complain about having to do this, but it was her way of trying to lived with nature. You couldn't beat nature, so there was no point in trying to do so. All you could do was learn to live with it and evolve with whatever punches it threw at you.

The trees along the edge of the lawn threatened to bow down. Their trunks bent in a number of places, making her wonder how they were still standing…How they just hadn't given in to what nature was trying to do to them. It gave her hope. No matter what was thrown at you there was still a good chance that you could beat it.

She rounded the final turn. So far everything was good, but you couldn't stop now. It always seemed to be right at the end of a project that things started to go wrong. She wasn't about to let that happen now. She wasn't about to let her guard down, thinking she had it made when she really didn't.

A powerful gust of wind hit her body, nearing sending her tumbling to the ground. Her lungs fought to find air, leaving her gasping. Her entire body burned as gust after gust hit her, leaving a sick feeling in her throat. It had always stuck her as rather odd that the feeling hit in her in the throat and not her stomach.

She rested a hand against the side of the house as she struggled to get her breath. She could do this. No, there was no could about it. She had to do this. If she didn't, she could very well end up losing the house she had worked so hard to get and keep.

Staring out into the blowing snow, she pushed herself onward, wincing as her lungs begged her to stop. It just was one more corner, one more little bit, and she would be free to go. She moved forward, looking at everything. Everything seemed to be in place.

She stepped onto the porch just as the skies opened up. Rubbing her hands together, she looked out at the scene. It was snowing so hard that she couldn't see the trees at the edge of the yard. The sky was so dark that it looked like it was night, when it was actually early afternoon. The wind howled and pushed at it, like it was trying to make her go back inside. If nature was telling her to go back inside,

She picked up a few more piece of firewood before turning and retreating back into the warmth of the house. If that was what she was supposed to do, then she would gladly do so. She just hoped that the businessman had made it back home before this hit.

She added the firewood to her pile and peeled off her snow covered layers. The lights flickered, but fought to stay on. Snow beat against the windows, covering them in a white layer. She leaned back against the wall, trying to get her breath back.

Her holiday decorations all looked at her, like they were asking her if she was okay. She closed her eyes. It was perfectly clear now. There would be no going outside until this blew itself over. She took a deep breath, allowing the fresh scent of pine to enter her lungs. It was fine. She had enough to do inside to keep herself busy.

The first thing was to take a nice warm bath. She had made some bath bombs awhile ago and hadn't had the reason to use them until now. Now, they were just calling her, begging her to use them.

She pushed herself off the wall with a smile. Yes, there was nothing wrong with treating yourself after a long days work. Plus, it was almost Christmas and it was the time of giving. Since she really had no one to give to, she supposed that it would have to be herself who she her gifts to.

She threw a few more pieces of wood onto the fire before heading upstairs to her small bathroom. The wind shook at the house, reminding her that she wasn't alone-even if nature wasn't being the kindest right now.

She slowly opened her bathroom cabinet and peered inside. There were so many options and so many that did so many different things. The wind beat against the window, like it was trying to push her into making a decision. She hated being pressured when it came to things like this. she really liked trying to take her time and think about what her body needed.

Maybe the wind did know what she needed and was just trying to get her to look within and see what it saw. She needed something to cleanse not just her body, but also her mind. She just needed something that would allow her to let go and embrace what the world had to offer. She just needed an escape.

She ran her fingers over all of her options and waited for one to speak to her. Finally, she found one. She slowly took it down and breathed in all of its wonderful scents. The sweet scent the bomb raced through her body, allowing her to feel all of the tension and back things leave her soul right away. She smiled as she started running steaming water into the tub, throwing the bomb in at just the right time.

She sat back on her heels, watching as the colours came to life. By now the entire bathroom was filled with the wonderful scents. Normally, she didn't leave the door open when taking a bath, but she wanted to see if she could fill the whole house with this wonderful smell.

The wind whistled as she settled into the bath, leaving her with even more joy and wonders. She leaned back and closed her eyes. Yes, winter was in full speed outside, but, in here, she was warm and cozy. Sometimes that was all you truly needed in life.

!

The storm hadn't died down by the time Joelle woke up the next morning. If anything the wind was louder than it had been the day before. The snow was piling up higher than she had ever seen it. There was no doubt about it. She would not be leaving for quite some time-no that she had plans to leave in the near future anyway.

Today would be a good day though for her to finish her sweater. She was almost done and was quite proud with the way that it was turning out. There really wasn't any other choice. Tomorrow was Christmas Eve.

She made her way downstairs as the lights flickered again. They had been doing that off and on for awhile now, but had somehow managed to stay on. She was kind of in shock about the whole situation. She had even went as far to gather candles and, yet, nothing had happened. She wasn't complaining though.

Downstairs the windows were frosted over, but the fire was still burning-thanks to her getting up every few hours to add more wood. The warmth rushed through her, adding more good feelings. The Christmas decorations made her smile. Nothing could be better than this.

She peered through the frost covered windows. It was still snowing hard outside. Even the birds had taken cover from the winter. The vast emptiness of the landscape made her not want to go out and that didn't happen to often. Still, there was something beautiful about it. It was like the world wanted to alone right now.

She stood back. If that was what the world wanted, then she needed to give it to it. There was nothing wrong with wanting to have a little alone time. In fact, it was something she was very familiar with.

She turned and went over to her chair. The sweater wasn't going to finished on its own. She was running out of time. Yes, she was aware that it was for her, but she still wanted to make it special and meaningful. Plus, she wanted to open it up on Christmas morning. There was nothing wrong with wanting a few things for yourself. She didn't care what others said. In order to take care of others, you did have to take care of yourself.

She quickly settled into her rhythm. The needles and fire clicked in just the right place as the wind howled outside and beat against the house. The lights from the Christmas tree shone out against the flickering lights, not letting the outside get the best of them. Sometimes that was all you needed. You just needed to remember that the even if the world was a very dark place, there was always a little bit of light there.

She closed her eyes, allowing herself to feel everything. There was indeed beauty to everything if one only remembered to look. You didn't need a lot to see the beauty and wonder the world had to offer. All you really needed was your mind, your eyes, and a little bit of a heart.

The hours passed by, blending into one, but she could see the end in sight. She was going to finish this sweater in time. No, with time to spare. She would take it upstairs and wrap it all pretty. Once it was under the tree with the other things she had given herself, it would be perfect.

One of the great beauties of Christmas was that it allowed the magic of childhood to come back into everyone's lives. It was one of the few times a year where everyone wondered if magic actually existed. She didn't really wonder about it, because she knew there was magic and it was real. No, she wasn't talking about the magic at the North Pole, but the everyday magic. Certain things did, in fact, have some kind of power that was able to be held over even the strongest of people.

She could feel it everywhere she went. The smile of a baby, the flow of water, the smell of a favourite plant. All of this held great power over people. That was what magic was. It was able the ability to hold power and pull you in.

She put down her needles for a minute and added a little bit more wood to the fire. The last thing she wanted to happen on a day like this was for the fire to go out. If she let the chill creep in, there would be no getting it out.

She watched at the fire kicked back up, welcoming the new life to it. Yes, that was what it needed. Sometimes you just needed to add a little bit of something to make everything come back to life.

She went back over to her sweater. She just needed about another half an hour and it would finally be finished. Then, she could start prepping for her Christmas dinner. She, like so many others, did not like to cook on Christmas. The more she could do now, the less she would have to do on the day. The less she had to do, the more she could actually enjoy the day. After all, days like Christmas weren't an everyday thing. There was just something extra special about the magic of Christmas.

The lights were flickering even more now. The wind had picked up speed. She was grateful for the amount of candles she had. If the lights went out, she wouldn't be completely in the dark. Besides that, there was just something wonderful about candlelight. It added a bit of charm that she couldn't' find any place else.

She settled back into her beat. It was amazing how easy it was to settle into something you loved and brought you so much joy. It was like seeing an old friend from the past and picking right up like you had never left off.

She let her hands take over, going over what needed to be done without so much as a second thought. Why couldn't everything be this simple? Why couldn't your body just take over and know just what needed to happen in order to make something beautiful?

With a smile, she held the sweater up. It was done and it was just right. A bit of pride raced through her body as she stared at it before putting it down. It wouldn't do to dwell on it now for it would take away some of the magic on Christmas morning.

She gathered it up and took it upstairs. Now, she just needed to wrap it, put it under the tree, and all would be right with the world.

!

Joelle pulled out what she needed to make her Christmas dinner. She would mix up and cook what she could now. There were certain things she didn't want to make until the right time. The house also needed to smell just right for the big day. Cooking certain foods this far out would not give her scents she was looking for.

She looked at what was in front of her. It was just a good thing she had gotten what she needed early, because there was no going out. The storm was still showing no signs of letting up.

She looked out the small kitchen window. She was truly alone. If something went wrong, no one was coming to help her. She could be missing for days before anyone realized that something was wrong.

She preheated her oven and stared at what was in front of her. There were so many things she could make with what she had. That was the beauty of just buying the basic things. You never knew what could become of it.

She pulled out her favourite cookbook and started thumbing through it. A lot of people got their recipes from the internet now and she did sometimes. However, nothing could beat the idea of going through a cookbook and picking out what you wanted. Not only that, but she had no choice. The storm had knocked out her internet connection and it probably would not come back on until the storm blew itself out.

Anything with a fruit or vegetable was going to have wait until Christmas Day. She couldn't stand anything besides fresh produce. The meats could be done today. However, she also had seafood. It always struck people as kind of odd that she loved nature and living things so much, but she still ate meat. She just preferred not to listen to them.

She paused on a simple recipe, but it wasn't one that she made every day. That was what the holidays were supposed to be about. It was about doing things you didn't do on a normal day.

She started mixing up the ingredients. This was nice, but it was missing something. She set the bowl down and went into the living room. She went into the corner, where the record player stood. While she did enjoy using CDs and digital music, there was something extra special about listening to music on record. The sound was clearer and it took you back to another time period.

She pulled out her only Christmas record and smiled. It was the same one she had listened to growing up. No, it didn't have the most modern music and that didn't matter. It was pure and it was good. Unlike so many modern songs, these had stood the test of time. She placed it on the record player and smiled as memories of Christmas long ago filled the house.

Now, everything was perfect and ready to go.

Now, it was truly Christmas.

She let the music wash over her as she went back to her work. The wind howled, mixing in with the music, creating the most wonderful orchestra. She embraced it all. Even though it was kind of ugly outside, she could enjoy this and did. It was the simple things in life that made the world go round.

She finished preparing her dish and shoved it in the oven, wiping her hands on her apron. She looked around the kitchen, trying to decide what needed to be done next. There was so much, but, yet, it didn't bother her. She was able to do it at her pace and do what she liked. It was another joy and gift of being alone. You got to do whatever you wanted at your own speed without someone pushing you.

The Christmas music drifted in, sending her back to a place of long ago. It warmed her soul and heart as she thought about what it would have been like to live in the time the music was written. While certain things in the world were more difficult and just as much as challenge back then, she couldn't help but wonder if it had, in fact, been simpler.

She started mixing up another dish. A simple life was all she was after. She didn't need everything the world had to offer in order to live a fulfilling life. She could enjoy this. She could make herself a good life by just enjoying the simple things.

She peered into the oven. Yes, that dish was baking just right. Its delightful smells filled up the kitchen, making her feel like she was in a dinner instead of at home. The wind howl and beat against the house, reminding her that she truly was not alone.

She looked out the window again. The snow was still coming done, leaving behind a pristine winter wonderland. It was be such a shame to go out and mess it all up. The wind picked up bits of snow, dancing with it before putting it down in a new location. She was just glad that the lake painting was gone or else she would have to try to add that to it.

That was just it. Nature wasn't supposed to be captured in a painting or words. It was supposed to be experienced. It was supposed to be loved and cursed for even those things you loved could cause such pain. The thing was to keep remembering all of the good and joy it had to offer. It was about looking past all of the bad and rough places.

She finished mixing up the second dish. The pile of dishes was growing tall in the sink, but it was all worth it. In the end, she would have a lovely meal that she created and would be able to say that she had in fact done something.

She flipped back through the recipe book. She needed something to add. Dessert was , of course a must, but she felt that the main courses were missing something. She leaned over the counter as she looked at the beautiful pictures of food in front of her. This was also the curse of just buying the basics. There were so many good things to pick from and enjoy. There was the daily things she ate. Those would be good, but she wanted something different.

It was, after all, Christmas and it was one of the specialist days of the year. She wanted to make it like that. It needed to stand out from the rest of the world.

She paused on a recipe that she had never made before. It wasn't really something she normally fancied, but she supposed you only lived once. Her eyes scanned over the ingredients. She did actually have everything she needed to make it. It would do her some good to venture out of her comfort zone and try some new things.

She looked at the pictures. It did actually look pretty good. If she didn't like it, then she would know to never make it again. However, if she didn't try it, then she would be left with this deep sense of the unknown and would never know what could have been. She was trying to live a life without regret, so this only seemed to make sense. She just needed to seize the moment.

Outside, snow beat against the window, like it was encouraging her to take a chance.

"Alright, alright," she said with a laugh as she started throwing what she needed into the mixing bowl. If the storm wanted her to do this, then she clearly had no other choice.

!

Joelle woke early the morning to sun beating against her face. Last night, she had fallen asleep to the whistling of the storm and the smells of lovely food. It had been late by the time she had finished her cooking and had gotten the kitchen cleaned up.

She smiled as the sun warmed her face. The snow on the roof glittered as she buried herself beneath her warm covers. There was nothing like getting under the blankets on a cold winter morning. Besides, she really didn't have all that much to do today besides enjoy the day.

It was Christmas Eve, after all, the most magical day of the year.

She did suppose that she needed to take a walk outside at some point today. She always hated ruining the ground, but she needed to make sure the house was still in one piece. Plus, she wanted to see if all of her animal friends had made it through the storm. She was certain they had. Animals had a way of making it through the worst of things, but she would not feel better until she could check for herself.

The birds chirped from the trees, making it sound like it was the middle of spring instead of the dead of winter. She leaned back against her pillows, listening. There was a little bit more magic to their song today. It was like they knew something extra special was happening tonight and they weren't wrong.

She slowly unwrapped herself from the blankets. The day was calling and it would not do her any good to lay her and dwell. If there was magic to be had, then she had to go out and embrace it.

She looked out the window. The sun was out in its full glory, making it seem as if they hadn't spent the last couple of days weathering out a storm. She supposed that was the one of the many wonders and glories the world had to offer. Sometimes it was just best not to question the way everything worked.

She pulled on a heavy outfit. Even though she knew it looked like it was warm out, she knew better than to be deceived by the winter. One of its favourite things to do was trick you into thinking that it was warmer than it was. As soon as you stepped out in not nearly enough layers, it took your breath away and left you with a rather sick feeling.

She made her way downstairs. Once again, she had gotten up every few hours to add some more wood to the fire and was rewarded for her efforts. She smiled as the warmth raced through her body, beating out the chill of winter.

She wiped away the frost from the closest window and stared out. There wasn't even a puff of window to rattle the trees or a cloud in the sky. It was like nature had completely calmed itself down for everyone to have a Christmas together. She actually didn't know how much gathering there would be. The roads were still bound to be rather ugly and with the current world situation, well, she just didn't know. Maybe this would make everyone embrace the idea of a slower lifestyle, but she somehow doubted that.

She turned away from the window. The tree was ready in all of its glory. Most of the presents had been carefully placed beneath it. She still had a few wrapped boxes upstairs to bring down. She really couldn't remember what was in them. The last time she went into the city, she had treated herself and had them wrapped on the spot. She supposed this was a good thing. She would be surprised when she opened them tomorrow or there was that chance she would feel guilty for buying herself things that she really didn't need.

She sighed as she made her way to the kitchen. The sweet scents of yesterday's cooking still lingered in the kitchen. She breathed in deep, allowing it to coat her lungs. Her meal tomorrow would be worth all of the effort.

She placed some tea into the tea pot and pulled out a Christmas mug that she hadn't used yet this year. The day ahead of her was free and open, just the way she liked it. Soon she would have to go back to painting and creating. Not that was a burden or anything, but it still felt nice to have a couple of days to yourself every now and then.

Nature was calling to her from outside. She would be there soon to embrace all that it had to offer. She couldn't wait to see what all was out there. Even though she went to the same places most of the time, there was still always something new and fresh to see. She couldn't help but to get excited about it.

The tea kettle called to her. She poured herself some of the hot liquid and took a drink, allowing it to warm her body.

Turning, she walked back into the living room. She needed some music to set the stage. While she did have a TV, it wasn't calling to her the way that the music was. Now, tonight she would watch a Christmas movie. It was one of her favourite things to do on Christmas Eve, right before she went on her midnight walk to wish the animals a Merry Christmas.

She turned on the record she had on yesterday and allowed the days of Christmas past to drifted up. She leaned back against her chair, allowing its wonder to fill her mind and soul. She could see the old times, of families of long gone gathered around the Christmas tree. She could see people like her taking in the day and making it merry for themselves. That was one thing. You could not rely on others to make you happy. You had to find your own happiness and joy in this crazy world.

The fire crackled, reminding her that she wasn't truly alone. There were still things, living things, out there who would be more than happy to enjoy the day with her. No, you were never truly alone. All you had to do was look around and you would find something who wanted to spend the day with you.

She allowed the music to enter her mind. If she wrote novels, she could picture it coming together. However, every time she sat down to write a novel, she ended up writing a short story instead. Not that there was anything wrong with a short story, she would just like to write something a little bit longer.

She could feel the music making its way through her as the stories came to life. In her mind, everything was beautiful. There was no pain, no tears, and no sorrow. Life happened the way it was supposed to without darkness ever finding its way in. Maybe once Christmas was over, she would write another short story and send it in the local newspaper. They always seemed to welcome her work.

She finished her tea and went back into the kitchen. Now, it was time for her favourite part of the day. It was finally time to go outside.

She threw a couple more pieces of wood onto the fire. She started pulling on her layers. The more she pulled on, the hotter she got. However, she knew she would appreciate their warmth once she was actually outside. She didn't know if to leave the record playing while she was gone or not. There was just something about it that really added to the house. However, it would probably end before she got back.

She went over and turned it off. At least, it would give her something to look forward to later.

She opened the door, allowing the cool air into her lungs before stepping out. Taking a deep breath, she stepped out onto the porch and shut the door behind her.

The snow glittered in the sunlight, making it seem as if there were clusters of stars on the ground. The sun shone in the clear blue star, hitting the snow on the trees in just the right places to make it seem as if they were glowing. The birds' carols rang out from the trees, adding a bit of music to otherwise quiet environment.

The snow crunched beneath Joelle's boots as she stepped off the porch, leaving behind a row of footprints. She could not help but to feel a little sad at the sight. The world had worked so hard at creating these pictures and here she was ruining them. It didn't matter though. She had things to do and she was sure the world understood.

She started down the south side of the house, looking carefully. Sometimes it was hard to tell just what had happened to her place. When the wind hit it just right, it was difficult to tell if the house was actually damaged or if it was just the way the snow had hit it.

The snow crunched beneath her feet and gathered around wherever she stepped, making it difficult to walk. Certain places close to the house had the tendency to drift, which made walking in those places far more difficult than it needed to be. Soon she found herself gasping for air and sweating through her layers. Before she went out into the woods, she was going to have to go in and dry off. It would not do to venture out into the woods soaking wet.

She kept looking up at the house closely. She really couldn't see anything that stood out to her, which was more than fine with her. The last thing she wanted to do was spend her Christmas Eve doing repairs. However, it did come with having a house. She was grateful that she had a place like this to call her own. So many people had nothing.

She paused as she started down the second side of the house. The dampness was starting to find its way into her clothes. She wiped a bit sweat off her face. Who knew winter could be this warm? She looked out at the trees at the edge of the lawn. They were calling out to her. She smiled, knowing she would be there soon.

She started down the second side, wading through the snow. Her boots broke through with crunch after crunch, leaving little breaks everywhere she went. She lifted her legs up higher than normal. It was the only way she could make her way through the deepness. She supposed it had been right the temperature to make the snow heavy rather than like powder.

As she made her way to the other side of the house, the birds picked up their song, like they were trying to encourage her to keep going, no matter how difficult it was. They were reminding her that they were out there, waiting for her to come out and enjoy them in their games.

She reached the other end of the house. Everything was okay and she was fine with that. No, she was more than fine with that. It meant she could go out and enjoy the holiday season.

Panting, she climbed onto the porch. She tried not to look back at all of the damage she had done to the snow. It was one of those things she had to do though. Nature would come back and it though. When she went on her walk, she would just have to make sure she kept to single path and left the rest of the world untouched. She could do it. She had done it before.

!

An hour later, Joelle found herself making her way through the woods. She looked up at everything with wide eyes, allowing herself to drink it all in. The birds danced in the trees and other small creatures were finally starting to come out. Every now and then, she would pause to see what the world had to offer.

Every now and then a little bit of wind would kick up, creating more wonderful pictures in the snow or covering up her tracks. Oddly, walking out here wasn't as difficult as she thought it would have been. It felt right. It felt peaceful.

She paused underneath a tree, starting at the large evergreen in front of her. The snow covered most of the branches with little hints of green peeking out. When the sun hit it, it glittered, creating little disco balls all over it. The ends of the limbs dipped down from the weight of the snow, but didn't manage to break. Their strength couldn't be bested by event the harshest conditions Mother Nature had to offer.

Smiling, she moved on. The undergrowth remained bent beneath the many layers of snow, some of it was even covered by drifts of snow that had become caught in the claws of the thorns. She turned, looking down into a line of trees. Some of these trees hadn't faired so well in the snow. Limbs littered the ground beneath them. While it was sad to see so much destruction, there was hope. By sheading those extra limbs, it meant that the tree would go on to live another day. They would still be here to burst out in the spring, get shade during the summer, and provide a delightful show in the fall.

She paused at the edge of the lake that had caused her so much trouble. Snow drifts littered its surface, while bits of ice peeked out underneath. Limbs bowed down to it, like it was the start of the show. The sun didn't reach here. She looked upwards. The sun was actually starting to set. How had it gotten this late?

No, it wasn't actually all that late. The sun just hide more during the winter. It had to go to bed early tonight to allow the magic to come to life. The colours of the sunset raced across the sky, like they were even in a hurry as the shadows crept in around her.

She needed to get home in order to prepare for what was to happen tonight.

!

Christmas music filled the room as Joelle double checked everything. All of the presents were under the tree, her meal was heating, and the fire was crackling away. She had lit every Christmas inside and outside the house so that it was ready to go. Once her meal was heated, she would bring her plate into the living room and watch a Christmas movie. It was her ideal Christmas Eve. Then, tomorrow the day would be wide open for her to enjoy as well.

The timer went off as the sweet smells of food made their way throughout the house. This was how Christmas was supposed to be spent. It was supposed to be spent in peace without the hustle and bustle that came with daily life. You were just supposed to sit down and enjoy it. That was really all there was to it.

She went into the kitchen, filling up her Christmas themed plate with all of the wonderful things she had made for herself. That was another joy of spending the holiday alone. You got to make whatever you wanted. She filled her Christmas glass with punch and went back into the living room. The only thing left to do was pick the movie and her Christmas Eve would be perfect.

She set her plate and glass down on the end table and went over to the TV. Underneath, she kept her small collection of DVDs. A lot of people were going to streaming, but that just didn't do it for her. Sometimes you just needed that DVD feeling. Besides a lot of the good stuff just wasn't on streaming yet. She pulled out her favourite Christmas movie and popped it in.

She made her way back to the coach and settled in for a night of comfort and coziness. This was her time and her time alone. The excitement raced through her body. Yes, she was one of those people who got more than a little excited about the thought of getting to spend an entire day alone.

She dug into her plate, allowing all of its goodness to rush through her body. It was even better than she had thought. It was like magic and it did make her wonder if it was. The movie only added to the effect. Everything was perfect. This was how she had always pictured spending the day.

Her eyes focused on the screen, while she enjoyed her meal. Yes, this was the way it was supposed to be….

She finished her meal and paused the movie. She just needed to clean up the kitchen and, then, she could finish the movie. She made her way to the kitchen, letting the stillness overtake her. It was peaceful, not lonely at all.

Humming softly to herself, she started putting the leftovers away. She would enjoy this time. It was nice not to have worry about pleasing anyone besides herself. The crackling fire and the sleigh bells only added to the moment.

She slowly sat down the dish she had been washing and looked up with a frown. Now, she had told them that this was what she wanted, but she knew they would probably stop by. Trying not to groan, she looked out the kitchen window, almost afraid of what she would see.

Even in the faint light of the Christmas lights, she could make out the sleigh and the reindeer. She rolled her eyes. He had a lot of work to tonight and stopping by here would only put him behind that much more.

Still, he would not leave until she went out to see him.

With a sign, she turned away from the kitchen and put on her coat. She might as well get this over with.

She crept out into the still night, around the side of the house. Oddly, this time she didn't feel out of breath nor was the walking very difficult. She supposed it all thanks for him and his magic.

She rounded the kitchen side of the house. He was still sitting there, studying a long scroll of paper. However, when he heard her coming, he set it to the side. A wide smile formed on his face, one that she could see even in the darkness. The reindeer pawed in greeting as she got closer.

"I was wondering how long you were going to leave me out here," he said as she stopped beside the sleigh.

"I was just kind of surprised to see you here. It's a busy night."

His eyes trinkled from the Christmas lights. Even in the darkness, she could make out the white beard. "Well, I always time for you. You know that."

She kicked at a bit of snow. "I know that, Dad."

He reached behind him and pulled something out of his bag. "Besides, I had to bring you your gift." He held it out to her. "Merry Christmas, Joelle."

She took the gift from him. "I sent yours and Mom's up. Did you get it?"

He nodded. "We did. We haven't opened them yet. It's not time." He nodded to her own gift. "Now, just remember, you aren't to open that until Christmas. I will know if you have."

She smiled. "I know."

He pulled out a rather large pocket watch and looked carefully at it. "I don't have much time. It's my big night." He looked at her. "You'll have to come up sometime. We miss having you around."

She smiled. "Yeah, I miss it to sometimes, but I like it down here. It's nice."

He nodded. "You do whatever makes you happy." He looked up at the sky. "I really must go."

"I know."

He pulled her in for an embrace before flickering the reins. The reindeer took off into the sky. She looked upwards as they blended into the stars and disappeared from sight.

Smiling, she turned and went back into the house. She wasn't the only one who had secrets of her own.

Once inside, she placed the gift under the tree, knowing that it had probably been made with extra magic, attention, and love. She turned away from the tree and settled in.

She supposed she was going to have to make the trip to see her parents, but for now, she was going to enjoy her holiday alone and embrace all that it had to offer. After all, this was the magic of Christmas. The joy and special feelings felt during this time were unlike anything she had experienced.

She looked up at the ceiling. "Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night," she whispered before unpausing the movie.