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The Gift by Melanie P. Smith Talia sat in front of the large window, watching the snow fall gracefully from the evening sky. It was going to be cold this year. She sipped her tea and considered all the possibilities. There were so many. Anticipation bubbled inside her, and she laughed when her stomach growled in hunger. She had skipped lunch, wanting to be good and hungry when she arrived for the feast tonight.

Talia stood. She had to get a move on. As much as she loved the peace and serenity the falling snow brought, she knew it would continue at least until tomorrow. It always did. No exceptions. Each year, even if they were having a dry season, the snow would begin to fall on Christmas Eve and continue until midnight on Christmas night. It was an anomaly nobody could explain — not even the experts. And yes, they had swarmed into town to study the weather patterns, the moisture index, and all that technical stuff that meteorologist analyzed to forecast the weather. After a few years, most of them gave up and just accepted the unexplainable.

The annual town Christmas party was only a few hours away. It was a local tradition, one nobody dared miss. Every adult for miles would make their way to City Hall for a Christmas Eve celebration like no other. Everyone would dance and sing carols of joy, and the food would be served promptly at midnight. Then, they’d all head home and prepare for an early morning with anxious children, gifts from Santa, and the promise of a new special prize of their own. With a sigh, she pulled her blanket in tighter. She would need to get up soon, slip into that little red dress she’d bought just for this occasion, and head into town. But first, she wanted to finish her tea. For as long as she could remember, she had loved this tradition. Sure, it was a little scary, but the uncertainty only added to the excitement. Talia smiled, took another long sip of tea, and planned out her evening. She’d slip into her new fur-lined boots, shrug into her favorite coat and head into town. The holiday lights would twinkle along the tiny street that led to City Hall — and the enormous tree she helped decorate in the center of Main Street would glow bright and welcoming. Her favorite part was the angel perched so high above the city it gave the illusion she was floating on fluffy white clouds as she spread her wings and ushered in the festive evening — and the suspense.

She was humming her favorite Christmas carol as she carefully applied her makeup and pulled her hair into a sparkling clasp she’d purchased just for this occasion. She wanted to be stunning and confident. Maybe, if she were upbeat and cheerful enough, it would bring her luck. She’d need luck, the good kind this year. Last year, the year before and every year for the past five years since she turned eighteen — the only luck she had was bad luck. Her special gift was always a disappointment. Not this time. Tonight, she’d choose wisely, and she’d be rewarded for her faith and hope. It was only fair after all this time, right? Twenty minutes later, she slid into her boots, shrugged into her coat, and slipped through the back door. The air was crisp and cool tonight — as it was every Christmas Eve. - 36 -


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