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Ellen slipped down the holly festooned stairs. The wooden treads had only one creak which she deftly avoided. Her nightgown brushed along the edge of the holly, catching occasionally on a leaf. The lights were out, except for one candle in the window to guide the Mary and Joseph to a safe place.

She crept through the front room back toward the cozier family room. There, in the corner of the room was her target, the stocking with the little puppy on the front of it. It was smaller than the others by just about one inch, which really wasn’t fair. The cookies and milk they’d left out for santa were eaten, and there was a chocolate santa left on the plate.

She smiled at the sight. That was for Petey. She was too old for that sort of thing now. She was almost eleven after all. Petey was just five. The tree wasn’t lit because Mommy was afraid of fires, but the ornaments glittered in the moonlight. The draft from the fireplace made the ornaments twist and send sparkles across the room. She smiled as one of the lights bounced off of the spangles on her stocking.

Sticking out of the top of it was a rolled up puzzle book. A doll peeked out from the edge. Ellen longed to run over to it, but she had one mission tonight.

She stepped in front of the fireplace and up onto the hearth. She looked at the blue stocking with the puppy. Her mother’s stocking was always almost empty. That just wasn’t right. She looked down at the bottle in her hand. She’d saved up her allowance for over three months for it. She tucked the perfume into Mommy’s stocking, then stepped down carefully.

She was about to creep up the stairs when she noticed the man by the tree. His beard was white and his suit was red. He smiled at her and winked. Then, he crossed the room and stepped up onto the hearth. He nodded at her once, then he turned in place and was gone in an instant.

She gaped at the empty hearth. Then, a slow smile crossed her face. She slipped up the stairs and back into bed. Santa was proud of her.

FIN

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