Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Christmas Card Mystery-Gift Five

Photo Courtesy - Gift Five

Here is gift five of the Christmas Card Mystery. You can read gift one by clicking here. Gift two here.  Gift three here. Gift four here

The story is posted as separate gifts for you on Mondays and Wednesdays during the advent season. 

May your Christmas bring a ray of shining hope and love to you and your family as you celebrate Jesus' Birthday.

Merry Christmas,
Mary Vee

The Christmas Card Mystery
By Mary Vee

Gift Five

Photo Courtesy-site to buy Wonka Bar

The Willy Wonka Chocolate bar foil ripped when Anna pulled. "A piece for each of us." She handed Jessica and Em a piece. They savored the treat even though it didn't quite taste as creamy and intense as Lindt chocolate. 

Em pointed to the wrapper. "Is there a clue inside?"

Both sides of the the two wrapper parts only had the usual packaging marks. "No." She handed the wrapper to Jessica and Em. "I'm not sure what else the last clue could have meant. She checked the card again. It says, 'Charlie Bucket's prize will delight and satisfy.'" 

"Do you think we need to ask the cashier?" asked Jessica.

"Wouldn't hurt." Em walked over to the only employee in the customer area. "Did someone leave a card or a message for us?"

His eyebrows furrowed, puzzled with the question. He shuffled through some papers on the counter. "Nope. Nothing here. But I can ask my manager for you if you need.

"No thanks." 

Anna walked to the door. The diner across the street was packed. "We used to have hot chocolate there every Friday after the game, remember?"

"That's right," said Em. "I had extra cocoa in my mug."

"I had extra whipped cream," said Jessica.

Anna's eyes closed as she savored the rich chocolate memory. "And I had a piece of chocolate on the plate to stir in the cocoa. After standing out in the rain for a whole football game, the flavor warmed me from my head to my toes. Yum."

"You did mention hot chocolate earlier," said Em. "Maybe the clue is over there."

Wouldn't most families eat at home during the holidays? "Yes, but why is the diner packed? Why now?" 

Jessica checked the time on her cell phone. "It's dinnertime. Why not?"

Something sounded really fishy. Dinnertime. Clues. None of this added up as a good reason why the diner was packed when decorated, empty dining rooms waited. "One of you knows what's going on, don't you? C'mon. 'Fess up."

"I haven't a clue. Honest." Em shrugged.

Anna tried to figure out the truth from the look on their faces but couldn't. "My brothers conned you two into a practical joke, didn't they?" 

Jessica shook her head, innocence wrapped in the surprise pasted in her wide eyes. "You know I can't keep a secret from you. Look at my face."

"I can't keep one, either," said Em.

True. They never could keep a secret from her. One would smile or the other laugh and soon the secret would burst from their lips. But they didn't do that this time. They seemed as curious as she was.

They crowded at Chocolatier's front door window and looked across the street. "There are people standing in the aisles over there," said Jessica. 

"What say we crash the party and join the fun?" Anna opened the door. No more questions. Time to move on.

While they ran across the street, Anna's gut rumbled. Not a hungry or sick motion. Not even a concern. It was more of a something is up or is about to happen sensation. Hopefully it was a good sign.

Em opened the door, leading the way inside. The sign reading, "Seat Yourself" stood by the door. So many of their classmates and their families had squished into booths, their tables filled with burgers, fries, and soda. Em yanked Anna's arm. "There're three seats at the counter."

Jessica and Anna nodded. Talking over the din was an impossibility without shouting. Anna sat in the middle and handed out menus. She didn't know why she bothered to open hers, the choices hadn't changed in the last fifteen years she'd come. "I'm having a burger and hot chocolate."

"Me, too." Em closed her menu and set it on the counter.

"Me, three." Jessica set hers back in the holder.

While waiting for the server to take their order, Em scanned the room. "Did you see the latest couples over by the window? Eric and Ariel. Adam and Annabelle. Al and Jasmine."

"I knew they'd get together in time," said Jessica.

"Everyone knew it." Anna laughed with them. But it wasn't a genuine laugh. 

Like a nasty virus, a deep longing ate away the happiness that had bubbled in her heart since she stepped off the train. She closed her eyes. It was wrong to feel this way. This was her hometown and her friends. She graduated from med school and a fellowship with high marks. She had a full list of patients. She had no right to feel empty. 

Who else could boast of two ornery brothers working together to pull the best practical jokes and yet always managed to be there to change her tire or fight off a bully? Her parents encouraged every step of the medical school process sending care packages every week. She had so much.

But the longing grew. 

"What can I get you?" The server's question yanked her from her thoughts, surprising her.

"A burger, hold the onions, and hot chocolate, please."

Jessica placed her order then leaned toward their threesome. "Anna, you haven't told us much about your new office."

"There isn't much to tell. The building is old, but something I can afford as a starter. I really love seeing the kids...."

Their small town diner had a reputation for super fast service. The food wasn't gourmet, but it was fast and tasty. The server set three mugs of hot chocolate in front of the girls. Anna's, though, had a red envelope under hers. She looked up at the server. "For me?"

"I only do as I'm told." He wiped his hands on his apron and returned to his work.

Jessica and Em squealed. "Eeeeee! The next clue!"

Be sure to come back for gift six 
which will be posted Monday.

And feel free to invite others! This gift is for everyone :)

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Christmas Card Mystery-Gift Four

Photo Courtesy - Gift Four

Here is gift four of the Christmas Card Mystery. You can read gift one by clicking here. Gift two here.  Gift three here

The story is posted as separate gifts for you on Mondays and Wednesdays during the advent season. 

May your Christmas bring a ray of shining hope and love to you and your family as you celebrate Jesus' Birthday.

Merry Christmas,
Mary Vee

The Christmas Card Mystery
By Mary Vee

Gift Four

Photo by Mary Vee
Anna held the card out for Jessica and Em to see. "This is going to be a fun adventure."

"I'm driving." Em's car keys jingled when she pulled them from her pocket.

"The town is small and the final Christmas card mystery destination can't be that far. Let's walk." Leave it to Jessica, the hometown girl, to suggest a power walk through a foot of snow.

Anna and Em eyed each other and shrugged. "Okay," Anna said.

The key ring slipped back into Em's pocket and the three set off like Dorothy, Scarecrow, and Tin Man, arm in arm through the snowy path. 

"Where do we go first?" asked Jessica.
Photo by Mary Vee

Anna opened the card again. "Let's see--Mermaids swimming in the pond."

Em pulled them to the right. "This way. We need to go to the fountain at the water park in the middle of the city."

"That's right," said Anna. "There is a statue of Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid in the center of that fountain." 

Snowflakes tumbled from the sky as if the faucet to a storehouse of Christmas fun had been opened. They left the Disneyland woods and scrunched together to walk side-by-side on the walk for half a mile before reaching the park. 

Crossing the street, they met Mrs. Finchley and waved. She raised the collar of her coat and shivered. "Looks like we'll have a long winter this year, girls. Stay warm."

The weather didn't seem so cold. It had more of a festive joy with the sprinkling of snowflakes and laughter with friends. All they needed was hot cocoa. "We will, Mrs. Finchley. Merry Christmas," said Anna.

The snowplows had piled the snow from the street into the park for the kids to sled down. A towering heap blocked the short cut. "I'm not going try this way. Let's walk around the hill. It'll only added a couple of minutes," said Jessica. They dodged sleds and tires sailing past them on the way to the fountain. 

Em sat on the rim where only a thin sheet of ice lined the pool. "Where to next?"

Anna opened the card. "It says to circle around then to the second star."

She closed the card. "I know this one," said Anna. "Peter Pan. We need to turn right on Main Street, which is the next street then walk straight."

"How far do we walk straight?" asked Em. "Didn't the next line give a clue?"

"Yes. Here it is." Jessica pressed the card back open and pointed to the next line. "The number of lost boys is one block too far. All right, Peter Pan expert, how far?"

Anna had read the book and watched the movie a zillion time as a kid. Wendy, John, and Michael figurines lined the shelves in her patients' rooms back at the office. "There were six lost boys in Disney's version. So we need to go five blocks."

Their boots punched through unshoveled snow only a short ways when Anna burst into laughing. "Do you remember the day my brother Ray whined until my mom said we had to let him play with us?"

"The time he used the oak branch for a bed?" asked Em. "He must have been a good fifteen feet off the ground. And Peter Pan popped out from behind the birch shouting, 'Who wants to go to Neverland?'--"

"Right. And he stood up, ready to fly away with Peter--" Anna dabbed a happy/sad tear. Happy because Ray really did look funny. Sad because Jess made the best ever Peter Pan. 

"But tumbled down into the snowy fort we'd made." Jessica laughed. "We were lucky the fully loaded snowball artillery in the fort padded his fall."

"Then he ran home crying to Mom that Peter Pan left him behind."

"Poor kid," said Em.

"Poor kid nothing. That same poor kid short sheeted my bed and TP-ed my bedroom." Anna smirked. "I got Tom and him back, though."

Photo Courtesy from Disney's movie Tangled
At block number five, Anna pulled the card out and read, "Tangled, Terabithia, and Treasured Island is the next line."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it," said Jessica. "Tangled is the hair salon right there." She pointed.

"Next we need to cross the bridge for the Terabithia clue," said Em.

The bridge's walkway to the right left plenty of room to stop midway and look at the frozen river below. They threw snowballs down, but didn't break the ice. "On the other side is Fredricksen's Jewelers, the answer to the Treasured Island clue. Did you two get your engagement rings from there?"

Jessica held up her left hand and smiled. The sun reflected sparkles from the surface. "Brian wanted it to be a secret, but the ring was loose. He took me there to have it sized. Carl, the owner, put a rush on the order and had it done in two days."

Em ran her right hand over her bare ring finger. "Ryan and I shopped there, too. The one we picked is simply gorgeous. White gold with diamonds laced to snuggle around the big diamond."

Times like this Anna could have been jealous. Of course she wished for a wedding date. Not today, though. Not this Christmas season. In her own little corner of the world, in her own hometown, she could be whatever she wanted to be--proud, happy, and thrilled for her friends. And no one would take that away.

Standing outside Fredricksen's Jewelers, Anna held the card up for them and read, "The last clue is: Charlie Bucket's prize will delight and satisfy."

Em had puzzled brows. Anna didn't know it either. She looked at the card and read the words out loud again. They turned a 350 looking at the businesses around them. 

"What's that delicious smell?" Em closed her eyes.

The three said together, "Chocolate."  

Photo Courtesy-site to buy Wonka Bar
Jessica pointed across the street. "In Willy Wonka, Charlie's chocolate bar wins the prize. Was Charlie's last name, Bucket?"

"It must have been," said Anna. "The next clue is in the Chocolatiers."

When the traffic cleared, they ran across the street and into the Chocolate shop. The cocoa aroma held them prisoners with the most delicious bonds. The sweet scent was so intense Anna could taste the confection.

"May I help you?" the store worker asked.

Anna reached in her pocket for some cash. "Yes. One Wonka Bar, please."

Jessica whispered, "How do you know the clue is in the bar?"

"I don't. I didn't know the other clues would be where they were either. So, I'm guessing. Do you have a suggestion?"

"Not really. But were gonna share the chocolate three ways. Right?"

Be sure to come back for gift five 
which will be posted Wednesday.

And feel free to invite others! This gift is for everyone :)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Fabulous Friday Feature-Donita K. Paul

Today I welcome author: 
Donita K. Paul

To win a copy
of Donita's upcoming release:
Two Renegade Realms

Scroll to the end of the post 
to see how to get your copy.

Donita has a gift for writing in several genres. I am more familiar with her dragon fantasy stories, as is my teen daughter. By the way, her books make great gifts for the teen/middle grade readers. I just learned from this very post that she has written much more! Well, I had to get the rest of the story for us by asking her to share how God has led her on her writing journey. Here is what she said:

Messengers of Hope

We meet people daily, sometimes as a mere touch in passing and sometimes with the commitment of holding hands through joy and sorrow. God uses these encounters to influence our view of life. 

A young man stopping to help an old woman load her purchases in the trunk of her car lifts our spirits and subtly encourages us to be more spontaneously generous. A woman loudly harassing her child in the store solidifies the scruples we have developed about the dignity of children and the positive model of discreet behavior in public. A child singing to herself as she swings in the park reconnects us with unconstrained expressions of joy. 

Those with spiritual eyes to see recognize God’s prompting in the most incidental experiences. 

Then there are the long term relationships: people who mold us through interactions of appreciation and disdain, love and hate, joy and grief, celebration and the angst of a long wait. These individuals may demonstrate care over decades. One or two might teach us the meaning of a thorn in the flesh that must lead to reliance in God’s indwelling. Some may snatch us back from making an ill-advised step forward that would pitch us off a cliff.

My publishing journey has been blessed with many people. God has used chance encounters and supportive, loving individuals to guide me.

"I love this picture of me as a child. I love the coat, the cowboy boots, and the
tricycle you can’t see. The trike was my horse in those days. When I look at
this picture, I see an adventurer ready to go."...Donita K Paul
My mom told me to “write, you’ve always wanted to” when I found myself disabled by a massive infection and unable to work outside the home. My friend Leta brought me a card she’d gotten in the mail, advertising Heartsong Presents book club. She thought the books sounded like those I was writing. 

I’ve been involved with small critique groups for over 15 years. How many times have those dear people encouraged, exhorted, enlightened, and endured me? They rode the ups and downs of seeking a book contract with me as well as giving practical suggestions to improve my craft.

And readers have delivered silver notes of appreciation and golden words of validation regarding the words I have put on paper in obedience to God. 

Books are not written by committee, but authors do not, could not produce stories without the people God thrusts into their lives. Take note of the people around you. Like me, you may find God is populating your world with messengers of hope and discernment. No man is an island. No writer is alone.


Donita K. Paul retired early from teaching. Writing books passed from hobby to profession, and with more than half a million sold, she is invigorated by readers’ sharing enthusiastic words. She wants keep creating fantastic worlds in many genres including contemporary romance, mystery, picture books, and time travel. Always a teacher from a family of teachers, her passion is building better literacy stepping blocks for the children of today.

Connect with Donita at: 
Twitter: @DonitaKPaul  
her website:

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball: In a city brightened by Christmas snow, matchmaking wizards give away two tickets to a special ball. This lighthearted tale reads like a made-for-TV movie with a touch of good cheer, a sprinkle of romance, and heartwarming friendships enhancing the holiday magic.
Click Here to buy "Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball"

Cantor D’Ahma waited his whole life for this day. Born with a gift to jump between worlds, the young realm walker is finally ready to leave his elderly mentor and accept his role as protector and defender of the realms.

But mere hours after he steps through his first portal, Cantor discovers that his job will be more dangerous and difficult than he ever imagined. The realms are plagued with crime and cruelty, and even members of the once-noble Realm Walkers Guild can no longer be trusted. To make matters worse, his first assignment—finding a dragon to assist him on his quest—has led him to Bridger, who is clearly inept and won’t leave him alone.

With the help of his new friends Bixby and Dukmee, Cantor must uncover the secrets of the corrupt guild before they become too powerful to be stopped. But his skills aren’t progressing as fast as he would like, and as he finds himself deeper and deeper in the guild’s layers of deceit, Cantor struggles to determine where his true allegiance lies.

 Click here to buy "Two Renegade Realms"

To enter the contest for a copy of 
Donita K. Paul's Dec 23 release: "Two Renegade Realms"
leave a comment (and email address)
AND become a follower of this site, 
OR sign up to receive posts by email
if you aren't already.

Sorry, U.S. only

Winner announced on my facebook page.

Thank you, Donita, for Joining us This Weekend!

We love chatting with you and are looking forward to reading your comments and questions.

Thanks for stopping by!

Don't forget to comment!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Christmas Card Mystery - Gift Three

Photo Courtesy - Your Third Gift

Here is Part three of the Christmas Card Mystery. You can read part one by clicking here. Park two here.  

The story will be posted as separate gifts for you on the remaining Mondays and Wednesdays during the advent season. 

May your Christmas bring a ray of shining hope and love to you and your family as you celebrate Jesus' Birthday.

Merry Christmas,
Mary Vee

The Christmas Card Mystery
By Mary Vee

Chapter Three

The mystery seemed easy to solve at first. Dad planted the card near her suitcase. He gave it away with a wink. 

No, wait a minute.  His name remained on the suspect list but was pushed down to number two by her brothers, Tom and Ray. Slipping the card into the woodpecker's hole seemed more their practical joking style. 

When Jessica and Em showed up and said they found a card telling them about a meeting at their childhood hideout, the number one person on the suspect list became a mystery again. 

Anna whispered, "Do you think someone is here?" 

Other than animal prints, nothing else marred the snow except Anna's and her friends footprints. Still, a lot of snow had fallen in the last thirty minutes. They split up and searched behind trees and bushes in the area and found no one. 

"It's been a long time since we've had fun like this," said Em. Crystals from her breath puffed into the air. She had a contagious laugh that morphed any serious conversation into frivolity as a kid and had been missed from the holiday celebrations. "My singing career keeps me traveling and..don't get me wrong, I'm happy--" Her eyes went to the sky. "I'm just so tired and needing home." She wrapped her arms together hugging her chest. 

Anna and Jessica drew closer for a group hug for the briefest show of compassion before whipping out their cell phones to take selfies and toss snowballs. 

Photo Courtesy
"Have you seen the movie Frozen? I just love that little snowman." Anna hoped they had, and even if they hadn't they needed to make one for their Disneyland.

"Olaf? I love Olaf. I'll get something for his nose since we don't have a carrot." Jessica hurried off toward the bushes.

Em and Anna piled snow into a heap, shaped the snowman, and patted the finishing touches when Jessica returned with an armful of deco. "I have sumac for his nose, these two branches for arms, twigs for hair, stones for eyes, and pebbles for a mouth." 

They pulled out their phones and took another round of selfies with Olaf. A better day couldn't have been planned. 

Anna's new medical career as a pediatrician took every spare minute. Work days grew longer and free time shorter. She dragged tired feet to her bare bones efficiency each night, nuked a dinner, then fell asleep. Her staff encouraged her to close the office to take a few days for Christmas and rest. Reluctantly, she agreed only if Dr. Havard agreed to handle any emergencies.

The cool air and laughter livened her spirits like the sleepovers and pillow fights they use to have. She really missed their friendship. "Any news from either of you?"

Jessica held out her left hand. A shiny diamond glittered. 

The girls squealed. "When?"

"Brian gave it to me on Thanksgiving. We're getting married next June, and both of you have to be in my wedding."

A wedding. The first one from their group. Amazing how a bursting joy can intertwine with utter sadness and longing. Anna's finger had no near future hope of a ring.

Em bit her lower lip as if bursting to share her news. 

"Go ahead, Em. Don't make us wait." Jessica slipped her left hand back in her glove.

"Ryan and I have been talking, and talking and well, you know how some guys need a nudge to pop the question?"

"He did?" Jessica and Anna said right on cue.

Em nodded. "He promised to give me my ring at my family's Christmas dinner. You two have to be in my wedding next June." The three girls broke out in squeals again.

Life had been perfect for her friends. Careers, engagements. From the bottom of her heart, Anna truly was happy for them. The busy days required for opening a new medical office didn't allow time to devote to a relationship. Maybe in a year or two she might start dating.

Maybe. The only one who ever held her heart, knew how to make her laugh, and loved her unconditionally took all of Cupid's arrows with him to his grave overseas. Jess's smile popped in her mind.

"Anna, I hear you have a new medical office," Em said. "How's that going?" 

Both girls gave their full attention to Anna, waiting for her answer. "I love my work and have a full patient load already."

"Congratulations! I knew you'd be a successful doctor." Jessica, the all A valedictorian who chose to stay in Graysing to work in the diner, looped her arm through Anna's and squeezed. "I'd say God has blessed all of us." 

God truly had blessed them all, and Anna wouldn't give up anything He had given her and was so happy for her friends news. "Hey, we forgot about the newest envelope." She pulled it out of her pocket. Em and Jessica stood close to read with her.

"Hurry. These cards are as much fun as hot cocoa with marshmallows." Jessica pulled Anna's thumb to rip the envelope faster.

Odd, whoever set this up expected all three of them to be available to play the game. 

Anna opened the card.

Be sure to come back for chapter four 
which will be posted Monday.

And feel free to invite others! This gift is for everyone :)

Monday, December 8, 2014

My Christmas Present to You: The Christmas Card Mystery Ch. 2

Photo Courtesy Your Second Gift
Here is Part two of the Christmas Card Mystery. You can read part one by clicking here.

The story will be posted as separate gifts for you on the remaining Mondays and Wednesdays during the advent season. 

May your Christmas bring a ray of shining hope and love to you and your family as you celebrate Jesus' Birthday.

Merry Christmas,
Mary Vee

The Christmas Card Mystery
By Mary Vee

Chapter Two

Anna climbed out of her parents' Ford Escape and slid along the icy sidewalk to the front porch of her childhood home. Every outdoor Christmas decoration hung from the same place as the holidays before, and God sprinkled the same amount of snow in the yard.

Even the air smelled of memories. Smoke curled out of the chimney from the wood burning stove in the family room. She flung open the screen then pushed the front door open. The usual gorgeous angel sat on top of the tree, silver garland straddled the banister, this year's Christmas card collection outlined the living room doorpost, freshly baked sugar cookies filled the platter on the counter, and well, the house was ready for Christmas.

The front door closed and Dad set her suitcase to the side. Snow tumbled from his boots onto the mat forming an instant puddle. "I'll take this upstairs for you, honey."

"Thanks, but that's my job. Um. I still have my old room, right?"

"Of course," said Mom. "Your brothers may have rearranged a few things though."

Ahh yes. The dreaded holiday decoration ritual in her room. A short-sheeted bed, fake snakes, and ten other gags that might have wondered through her brother's minds. "Some people never change."

She dragged her suitcase upstairs and opened the door. Brotherly love left little surprise and plenty to do before she'd could share hot chocolate with Dad. At least they used green and red paper to TP the room. The bed had to be remade and the snakes planted back in Tom and Ray's room along with a few other paybacks to reciprocate such a warm welcome. Before tearing down the toilet paper decorations, she stepped back and reevaluated. Leaving it seemed like the best way to foil their plan. And it looked festive.

The suitcase burst with presents for the family along with her toiletries and clothes. She gave the Christmas bundle a hug and took it downstairs. On the way, she caught sight of her coat on the rack. "The yellow envelope. That's right." Using the only available two fingers, she pulled the card out from her pocket and carried it with the gifts to the tree. The last few gaps under the pine branches were now filled by her wrapped packages. Time to open the card.

The paper flap popped open as her finger ran under the edge. A card, the same color as the envelope, was tucked inside. She pulled it out and read, 

Merry Christmas, Anna

This card contains a mystery. One only you can solve. 
The fourth tree in Disneyland points to a path
Over the brook three steps on the right
Reach up where woodpeckers sleep
And hold tight. 

There was no signature. 

The print done on a computer. 

She turned the card over. No clues at all telling who sent it. "Dad?"

He walked out of the kitchen with a plate of cookies and two mugs. "I made you some fresh hot cocoa, just the way you like it."

"Thanks." She took the cup with both hands and sipped the steaming chocolate sensation. "Do you know who sent this card?"

"Can't say that I do. Boy that Christmas tree leaves a good smell in the house." He took a manly sized breath with his eyes closed. The plate in his hand wobbled and his eyes sprang open. He edged over to his chair and plopped down, setting his cup and cookies on the end table  "Your brothers help me cut this one down. Took all three of us to haul this baby from the woods." 

"The tree is beautiful, Dad." Anna looked at the card again. Fourth tree in Disneyland? The words hadn't crossed her mind in years. Why now? "I'll be back, Dad."

She slipped her arms through her coat sleeves and pushed her feet into her boots. Dad didn't ask where she was going or try to stop her. True signs of a confession. He had to be the one behind the mystery card. Outside, her feet sank in a foot of snow, and the sun raced to the western sky, tempting her to run back for a flashlight, but she kept going. 

The path she'd traveled so many times as a kid had vines and bushes blocking the way in some places. A few branches could be pushed aside while others had to be stepped on to keep moving forward. 

Over the next hill, the tree came in view. She ran, plunging her feet in deepening snow to the fourth tree in the place she and her friends once called Disneyland. How many stories had they acted out in this nature stage to an all-animal audience? Peter Pan. Robin Hood. They had such fun.

The big oak had grown new branches, perfect for climbing. Two squirrels poked their heads out from the third tree chittering at her. Sure was nice to see this place again. She leaned against the trunk and took a deep breath of cool winter air. 

Snowflakes stuck to her eyelashes and playful memories of her role as Wendy, Jess as Peter Pan, and the others as lost boys should have made her laugh. Jess tried so hard to save her, but Hook got him. Never to return to their Neverland. A tear sneaked down her cheek. She swiped the irritation away. 

Branches snapped to her left and sqooshing in the snow too loud to be a small animal made her look. Two girls talking to each other crested the hill. "Jessica? Em? Is that you?" She hadn't seen them in years.

"Hey Anna." Both shouted and ran as fast as the deep snow would let them. "We didn't expect to see you here."

"What would a visit home be without a side trip to Disneyland, right?" 

In the safety of their memories, Em scooped up a handful of snow and tossed it. The cool, wet moisture kissed Anna's face and they all laughed.

She dried her cheek with her glove. "What brings you two home? I haven't seen you in forever."

The two looked at each other. Em nodded to Jessica to answer. "I received the strangest message." She pulled a green card from her pocket. "It says, Meeting in Disneyland 3:00pm. I didn't know what day or any information except I knew Em was home so I called her." 

"I found mine in my stocking when I checked for a chocolate reserve. My parents say they have no idea how it got there." Em showed her card, one identical to Jessica's.

"My parents said they didn't know anything about it either. We took a chance and came right away. Did you sneak these in our house?" Jessica stuffed hers back in her pocket. 

"You're joking, right? I just arrived on the train and found this yellow card on the ground near my suitcase."

"What did yours say?"

"Mine was more of a riddle. Here, I'll show you the card."

The three huddled, reading the words. 

Em looked up, "Have you looked there?"

"Not yet. Want to come?"

Their rolled eyes answered the question. 

To their right, a small brook rippled. They leaped over the water, plunging into the snow on the other side. Three steps farther they touched the tree where Robin Hood hid from the sheriff in their plays. The trunk towered over them. 

Anna reached up, her fingers curled into a woodpecker's hole only an inch. "I don't feel anything. Boost me higher." At eight-years-old she could have scaled the tree in front of a crowd of boys and not blinked. 

Em and Jessica threaded their hands together to form a step. She climbed up and reached into the hole again. "There's something here!" She pulled out a pink envelope. "Another one? How did this stay dry in this snow?" The girls dropped her to the ground. 

"What does it say?"

Anna turned the envelope over. "Look! It's addressed to all three of us. Who's doing this?

Be sure to come back for chapter three 
which will be posted Wednesday.