Sunday, December 7, 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.


Unknown said...

Oh Mary! This has me wanting the next chapter! :) I can't wait!
Kelly Y

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thank you, Kelly :)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Ack! You tease ;)

Mary Vee Writer said...

Now that is a compliment :)

Deborah K. Anderson said...

Like I said, maybe I'll know who the card is from by the next chapter. :-)