Dashing into the house, panting and out of breath, Joe ran to his room. His mother’s voice chased him down the hallway.
“Will the two adventurers be home for lunch?”
“Dunno, Ma. I hope so.” He yelled back.
“You hope so? What does that mean?”
Joe ignored the question.
Making sure no one was looking, he opened his bottom drawer, feeling for the envelope he’d taped to the back. His grandfather had told him to hide it and how to do it.
Stuffing the envelope in his inside jacket pocket, he ran back down the hall. Slowing just as he came into the living room so as not to alarm his mother, he tried to act as if all was right with the world.
“So, where’s Chrissy?”
“Oh, she’s ah, she’s waiting for me in the woods. She likes to check out the different trees.” Joe didn’t like to lie to his mother, so this was the closest he could come to the truth without setting her off into a panic.
“Well, hurry back. I don’t want any tree monsters to snatch Chrissy away before Christmas.”
His mother’s words caused him to stop. Does she know? Is she in on this? Nah, can’t be.
“Just kidding, Joe,” his mother said, catching the confusion on his face. “Now go do whatever it is this secret project your grandfather put in your head and get back as soon as you can. It’s getting colder out there and the storm is supposed to start later today.”
Joe nodded, then dashed out the door. His grandfather’s words ran through his mind. ‘Joe, this is one of the most important things you’ll ever have to do. Protect this envelope until Christmas Eve. Very few things are more precious than what this envelope stands for, so guard it well.’
As he ran along the bike path and into the woods, he wished will all his heart he could ask his grandfather what to do. But he knew he was on his own. His grandfather trusted him to do the right thing and he would do his best.
Entering the clearing, the barn now back in full operation, Joe ran to the door. Two elves stood there, holding a big gray blanket.
“Any idea on how I can get close to her?” Joe asked.
One elf let out a whistle, and the great wolf that guarded the reindeer came bounding out of the woods. The enormous creature ran to Joe and nuzzled against him.
A plan formed in Joe’s mind. Maybe, just maybe, I can get to Chrissy without giving up the envelope.
Joe whispered in his ear. “You need to get me through the woods and close to where they have Chrissy without them knowing it. Can you do that?”
The wolf nudged him one more time then lay on the ground. Joe climbed on the wolf’s back and wrapped the blanket around himself. He heard his grandfather’s words once more. ‘Believe, Joe, believe.’ Wrapping one arm around the wolf’s neck, Joe pulled the blanket over his head.
When the wolf stood, the blanket blended in with his fur. From afar, no one could tell the wolf bore a passenger.
“Let’s go,” Joe said, and the wolf ran into the woods. Taking a long winding route, sniffing the air and looking for any signs they were being followed, the wolf tracked the scent of the creature through the forest.
As the wolf made his way into the darkening woods, the wind picked up and a snow squall hid everything. The weather was supposed to turn bad, but not this early. As the snow picked up, the temperature began to drop.
They were running blind in a blizzard through a world controlled by a creature they had no idea how to defeat, protected by an army of trees, and they didn’t know where he had hidden Chrissy.
Believing might not be enough, Joe thought. Then he forced the doubt out of his mind.
I can do this, I can do this. He repeated the words to himself as he clung to the wolf’s back, willing himself to believe them.
P.S. If you’re interested in the previous one from Christmas Past here’s a link. Please share this and this new story with all your family and friends.