The stuffed monkey in Amelia’s hand knew what this meant, and if he were able to, Tanner would have rolled his eyes at her dramatics; but as it was, he just braced himself for the inevitable moment when he would be flung across the room. As Amelia’s mother attempted to calm her down, she tried to explain that her grandparents enjoyed the yearly pictures of Amelia sitting on Santa’s lap. The young girl let out an angry wail and, as he predicted, she whipped Tanner across the crowded mall by his arm, nearly tearing out the seam that had been repaired several times already after Amelia’s tantrums.
Tanner’s purple stuffed body sailed almost clean across the room until he hit a wall beside the fat man with a red suit. He fell silently beside the large throne like chair and laid there unnoticed for a while, but he could hear Amelia’s tantrum raging on at full blast. Santa cleared his throat before turning his attention away from the screaming child in his line to the quiet young girl, who was at the front of the line. She was about 8 or 9.
From his vantage point, Tanner could see the big hole in her running shoes where the sole was separating from the upper part of her shoes. She was wearing pink socks. Her old coat was held together with only 2 buttons and it was impossible to tell what colour it was because of the many different colored patches that had been used to repair it. She walked up to Santa with a solemn look on her face – a serious look that should never have been on the face of a child so young.
“Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas young lady! What would you like this year little one? Have you been a good girl this year?” Santa asked the young girl, as she sat gingerly on his ample lap. Her warm brown eyes stared inquiringly into his bright blue ones.
“I know you aren’t the real Santa.” She leaned in close and spoke in a low voice so that the other kids couldn’t hear her. Before Santa could protest, she held up a hand to continue. “It’s ok. I know. But just in case there is a real Santa out there somewhere, I only have one wish. And I need you to pass it on, k?” The faux Santa nodded mutely.
The young girl drew in a deep breath and began to talk.
“My name is Naomi Maxwell. I live at 64 Welland Street Apartment 129 with my Grandma Rose and my baby brother Jack. He’s four. Grams works really hard, but she says there is no money for presents this year. Jackie needs to get something. He’s just a little kid. And he still believes in Santa. So can you pass the message along?”
“And what about you? What would you like Naomi?” Santa spoke with a deep gentle voice, after a few moments of stunned silence. He was obviously surprised at the young girl’s straight forwardness.
“Just for Jackie to have a Christmas.” With that she hopped off his lap, she turned back towards Santa one last time. “Don’t forget… 64 Welland Street Apartment 129.”
A sudden wailed echoed throughout the crowded mall.
“I WANT TO GO HOME!!” Tanner recognized Amelia’s ear piercing shriek. Her mother’s attempt at calming her down was drowned out by Amelia’s next screech. “Now Mother!” She stamped her foot and crossed her arms in a disagreeable manner. Her mother scurried to gather Tanner and quickly took Amelia by the hand and led her out of the mall.
The ride home was filled with Amelia’s whining. Catherine Danforth stopped to buy her daughter a cup of hot chocolate and a donut to placate her. When that failed, she promised to buy her the new doll that she had been asking her for. That finally seemed to calm Amelia down. Tanner watched it all from the corner of the back seat that he had been tossed into moments after they got into the car. His mind was already concocting a plan that would change everything.
“Now, now dears, settle down and Auntie Amy will start story time.” The pudgy plastic doll sat patiently on the edge of a hard covered novel, Harry Potter and the Battle for Time, while the toddler toys gathered around her. Amy was what is commonly called a Betsy Wetsy doll, although she abhorred the name and was quick to anger if anyone called her that. Because her temper was legendary, no one had dared.
“Sophie, Webby please stop squeaking, and we will begin.” The plastic giraffe and the plush frog each settled down beside one another with a soft squeak. Amy got up and with a little effort, she opened the page of the book she had been sitting on, and with a clear voice, she began to read from the page she had left off on the previous day.
Professor Snape swept through the corridor. He was a man with a mission. He knew that he had to find her, that he had to sort out things out. Foolish woman, she always seems to cloud my head. His long black robes whipped behind him as he rounded the corner and collided into a figure coming from the other direction. Both of them fell to the cold stone floor in a tangle of robes and limbs.
“Oh, Severus, fancy running into you here.” The soft voice chuckled softly, that soft laugh broke through Snape’s cool exterior and a warm smile began to spread, involuntarily, across his face. He quickly squashed the smile and replaced it with his usual cool, detached expression.
The dark haired lady that still lay on his chest smiled up at him. “Be careful Severus, people might think you are human if you actually grin.” She looked up at him. Her blue eyes seemed to pierce through the barriers that he worked hard to build up around him. Without a second thought, he reached up and tangled his long fingers into her dark curly hair and pulled her head down towards him.
A soft gasp escaped Lady Grey as Severus’ lips captured hers in a passionate kiss. All thought and reason were gone; the only thing that mattered in that moment was his lips possessing hers. She responded instantly. This was what she had been longing for, for so very long. She let her hands wander to his strong lean chest; only the thin cotton of his robes separated her hands from feeling the warmth of his skin. With a growl of frustration into his mouth, she grabbed her wand and with one hastily muttered spell, they apparated to her quarters and with another word, his clothes had vanished. She began to kiss his jaw and neck working her way to that lean body that she longed to explore...
Silence filled the playroom.
The toddler toys stared at Amy with blank expressions, unable to understand exactly what had happened.
“Oh... My…” Amy muttered. “Well, that wasn’t appropriate!” She cleared her throat and closed the book with resounding slam, her cheeks blushing a bright crimson. She had just announced an early play time for the toddlers, when a deep voice echoed through out the huge play room. It came from the Viewfinder that stood watch in the window.
“They are back. Everyone back to their positions!” There was a flurry of movement throughout the playroom as all the toys scrambled to get back to where Amelia had left them. As they heard the front door slam and footsteps hurrying up the stairs, everyone settled in place.
The door opened with a bang, and Tanner was once again flung across the room, this time landing upside down in the old rocking chair. Amelia slammed the door behind her and her retreating footsteps could be heard racing down the hallway towards her bedroom. When that door slam resonated throughout the house, the toys came back to life.
A small rag doll with red wool hair pulled up into pigtails scampered out off of the pile of brightly colored cushions in the corner and hurried over to the rocking chair. She used the ruffles to pull herself up and began to help Tanner right himself, while she chattered the whole time, anxious to hear all about his adventure to the mall.
“Tanner? Oh how was it?” Mags tugged Tanner’s feet down and yanked him up by his lanky arms. “Did you see Santa? What was he like? Oh my, it looks like your arm is starting to tear again. Tell me all about the pretty Christmas decorations. Were there lights and trees and…”
“Mags!” The purple monkey grinned at the excited rag doll bouncing in front of him. “We need to go see the other No Mores. I want to tell you all about it.” The duo clamored down the dust ruffles and made their way to the battered old box in the corner.
The No Mores were the neglected and broken toys who were no longer played with. The play room toys were a much divided group. There were the No Mores, the Loved, and the Revered… All toys, except the Revered, eventually wound up in the No Mores toy box.
The Loved were Amelia’s favorites, the toys that she played with often and took with her everywhere. And the Revered - they were the ones that all toys looked up too. Literally. They resided high up on special shelves. They never came down from there. They had their own special wooden tower and lights. They were glamorous and quite lovely. They were the celebrities of the playroom.
Amy stood next to it, watching over the toddlers. The playful squeaks filled the air as a beat up pair of colorful roller skates took the toddlers for rides. Nearby a rubber duck and an old walkie talkie that was missing its antennae were deep in conversation.
“Lefty, Hobble let the toddlers amuse themselves for a bit. I need to talk to all of you.” Tanner called to the roller skates. “Amy, Sid, Roger can you all come over here? I have something to talk to you about.”
Tanner and Mags waited while the toddlers were corralled into a makeshift playpen that Amy kept a close eye on. The other No Mores gathered around to hear what Tanner had to say.
“Well, ok, I wanted to talk to you all about this before I mentioned anything to the other No Mores. You all know that Amelia’s mother picked me up by accident to bring me with them to see Santa.” The others nodded. “That put Amelia in a bad mood to start with; she wanted Bernard. By the time we got to the mall, Amelia had a big tantrum and threw me, and I landed next to the Big Man himself.”
“Oh is that where your stitching came out again?” Mags asked. Tanner nodded briefly and continued.
“I saw this young girl. She is probably a little younger than Amelia. She told Santa that she and her brother weren’t going to have a Christmas.” The other toys erupted in gasps and questions.
“Oh the poor child!”
“What did Santa tell her?”
“Why won’t they have Christmas?”
“Every child deserves to have a Christmas.”
Tanner put his fluffy purple arms up to silence the others. He explained the rest of Naomi’s talk with Santa. When he was done, the others were silent for a short time. Each had a somber look on their faces.
“I had an idea, but I would need all of you to agree for it to work. I think we could give Naomi and Jack a real Christmas.” His plastic black eyes watched the others hopefully.
“All children need a Christmas morning.” Amy stated simply.
“Those poor dear children… I will help, Tanner.” Mags spoke softly.
“We’re always up for making a child a little happier.” Hobble spoke for herself and Lefty, whose tongue was flapping in agreement.
“I’m in.” For a toy created for communicating, Roger the walkie talkie was a toy of few words.
The only toy who hadn’t spoken up was Sid, the old rubber ducky. He sat quietly while the others all agreed with Tanner quickly. They all looked to him. He had been one of the first to become one of the No Mores.
“Sid?” Tanner looked to the elder No More, who looked back at him with a pensive look on his plastic yellow face. His wise eyes took in the small group in front of him.
“Tell us your plan, Tanner. I would prefer to hear it first before I agree to anything.” His rich voice was thoughtful.
Tanner nodded and looked over the group before continuing. “Amelia has more toys than any child ever needs. Our group of No Mores grows bigger every month. And we all know the fate of the No Mores, the fate that we will all eventually face. The Black Bag.” A brief squawk emitted from Roger at the last words. Amy glanced nervously at the toddlers. “I know it is scary. The No Mores who get put in The Black Bag never return to us. They are gone forever. So why don’t we change things? We can take control of our own destiny. Our own fate.”
The toddlers squeaking nearby were the only sound in the room as the others digested what the monkey was telling them.
“We could make two children so very happy. We could give them a Christmas that they otherwise couldn’t have. And we would be loved and played with in return. I doubt Amelia would even notice a few of us missing. What do you think?” He looked at the group anxiously.
“I could never go Tanner, what about the toddlers? Who would watch them?” Amy spoke up immediately.
“Actually Amy I think you must go. Jack is only 4 so he would enjoy playing with the toddlers. This would save them from the black bag. You know it is only a matter of time before they end up in the black bag. We all know that eventually Mrs. Danforth will let go of those sentimental attachments she has to Amelia’s baby toys.”
“Toddler.” Amy corrected automatically, but her mind was thinking on what Tanner was saying. It was something that she had been worrying about lately.
“I’ll go!” Mags piped up, as enthusiastic as ever. Tanner smiled at her gratefully.
“We’re with ya, Tans!” This time Hobble’s tongue flapped in agreement as Lefty’s high voice resonated through out the large room, causing several of the Loved to look in their direction with disdain. The No Mores ignored them. As usual.
“Sid?” Tanner was uneasy about the rubber duck’s opinion. He had always admired the way Sid had handled himself and he looked up to the older toy with respect.
“No. I won’t leave here Tanner.” Sid slowly turned his head so that he was facing the young monkey. His eyes warming into a soft smile. “However I will help you with your plan. No child wants an old rubber duck with no squeaker left in him, but I may be of some assistance in hammering out the details.” Tanner blinked and then a broad grin crossed his soft plush face.
“Well we had better get to work. We have only a few hours to get things sorted out. Tonight is Christmas eve.” After a moments pause he began to pass out jobs. “Roger, you are friends with the computer, Windie, right? We need to know how far it is to Naomi and Jack’s. Can you have her look up 64 Welland Street? And maybe get us some directions?” Roger squawked in agreement and hopped off towards Windie, who was in her usual spot on the desk in the corner.
Tanner watched him go before turning to Amy. “I need you to organize the toddlers. This is going to be a big change, and things will have to happen quickly, so we need to make sure that things move smoothly.” Then to Mags, he added, “Magpie, I need you to talk to some of the other No Mores, but we can’t take everyone. Even Amelia would notice if all of us disappeared. Gather only a few others. Just talk to those who can be quickly repaired. We want Naomi and Jack to be able play with their new toys.”
Mags and Amy turned to attend to their appointed tasks, both eager to help out.
“What ‘bout us boss? What can we do?” Hobble spoke up, she and her brother looked up at Tanner with willing eyes.
“Hobble, do you still have your wheel? The one that fell off?” Hobble nodded, her tongue flapping wildly. “I need you to get repaired. You guys will be our ride to our new home. See if the crafty toys can help you. In fact, while you are there see if you can all figure out some way to get all of us to Naomi‘s. We will have to leave late tonight.”
The duo sped off while Tanner turned towards Sid with a wry grin. “Ok, old fella, what are you thinking? Am I crazy? Is this a ridiculous idea?”
“Not at all. In fact, I think this could be one of the best ideas you have ever had.” Sid looked at him appraisingly. “You have grown up a lot Tanner.”
Tanner blushed and looked at his shoes, bashfully. “Um… Thanks Sid.” He lifted his black eyes to look into Sid’s. “I can’t tell you how much that means to me. Are you sure you won’t come with us?” A hint of hopefulness was apparent in Tanner’s voice.
“No child wants a faded old rubber duck with a broken squeaker. Besides, who else would help keep the No Mores in order? This is my place, but I want to help you in anyway I can in making those children’s Christmas … magical.”
Annabeth Maxwell wiped the steam off of the bathroom mirror and looked at her own face. She sighed as she made the honest realization that she looked at least 10 years older than her 42 years. She had devoted most of her time to raising her children and grandchildren and the rest of it working as a chambermaid at a large hotel downtown. She never had a chance to look after herself.
Working full time for minimum wage was barely enough to cover the basic necessities: rent, food, heat and electricity. No matter how much she scrimped and saved, there was never enough to buy any of the extras. Although she would never tell Naomi, her very observant granddaughter, near the end of every month, Annabeth made the long walk to the food bank to bring home enough food for them to survive.
Her heart broke at the thought of not being able to provide her grandchildren a Christmas. There would be no tree, no presents and sadly no mother to wish them a merry Christmas.
The single biggest regret in Annabeth’s life was that she had so obviously failed in passing on the values and morals that she valued, to her only daughter. Vanessa was never cut out to be a mother. She never wanted the responsibility of a child. Vanessa was a party girl. Alcohol, drugs and boys were the only things she was interested in. No matter what Annabeth had done to get through to her, Vanessa rebelled.
She had been only 14 when she had given birth to a sickly baby girl. Unsure of what to do, she left the colicky baby with Annabeth and disappeared. She only reappeared four years later to drop off her newborn son. The infant was sick with an ear infection and Vanessa couldn’t handle the screaming child. At only two weeks old, the infant was named by his grandmother and his four year old big sister.
Bringing herself back to reality, she glanced at her watch and realized that she was running late. “Naomi, hon, can you put Jackie to bed? I have to get ready for work.” She poked her head out of the bathroom door to see the young girl with shaggy brown hair set the pencil onto the paper on the table and get up to go get her little brother.
Ten minutes later, Annabeth walked down the short hallway to Jack’s bedroom to give the kids a kiss goodnight before she headed off to work. She stopped outside the partially opened door to listen to Naomi’s bedtime story.
The young girl always made up little stories to tell Jack each night. Usually there were dragons and magicians and almost always there was a prince or a hero named Jack who saved the day. Annabeth listened each night to the story before she interrupted to say good night. It always put a smile on her face. She had been so blessed to have these kids in her life. Each night as the story ended, Annabeth offered a little prayer of thanks to God. Tonight she had missed the end of the story, but her breath caught in her throat as she heard Jack’s question to his big sister.
“Ryan says tonight is the night that Santa comes. Will he come see us tonight too Noms?” His innocent voice brought tears to Annabeth’s eyes. Her heart seemed to break a little more for what she couldn’t provide these children.
“Jackie, Santa is a very busy man, sometimes he has to miss houses otherwise he wouldn’t be able to get to everyone. I think we may be one of the ones he has to miss this year. But when you get up tomorrow you and I are going to make pancakes and I asked Miss Green from next door and she said that she is going to lend us her VCR and her nephew’s videos and we will watch cartoons all day!” Naomi’s voice was excited, yet Annabeth could hear through the false cheerfulness. She was so proud of her granddaughter for trying so hard to make the day special for her baby brother. And then felt the familiar wave of guilt for not being able to provide them with more.
“Cartoons? All day? Really?” Jackie voice was bubbling with an enthusiasm and delight at the simple thought of cartoons that can only come from a 4 year old. Annabeth smiled at the sound, and she chose that moment to enter the room. She sat on the bed beside Naomi and placed her arm around the young girl.
“Grams! Me and Noms are gonna watch cartoons all day tomorrow!!” Jackie squealed as her scampered into her lap, wrapping his arms around her neck. Annabeth grinned at the youngster in her lap.
“Wow Jackie! You must have the best big sister in the whole world!!” He nodded happily, looking at Naomi with an almost reverent expression on his little face.
Naomi blushed a little and snuggled into her Grams’ arm. “It’s no biggie!” She muttered with a grin.
“Ok kiddos, I have to get to work! Jackie you get some sleep, so you can be ready for your fun day tomorrow, ok?” She settled the smiling four year old into his bed and pulled the blankets up. With a kiss on his forehead, she and Naomi left the room.
“Ok Naomi, I have to run. If you need anything Miss Green is next door; she will be checking in on you tonight.” She cupped the young girl’s cheek with her work worn hand. “You are a good girl, Noms.” She said softly. “A good girl.”
Naomi’s cheeks flushed again. She wrapped her thin arms around her grandmother and squeezed her tight before pushing her towards the door with a smile. “Go before you get in trouble.”
Annabeth laughed. “See you in the morning hon. Don’t answer the phone or the door. And lock the door behind me. Night hon. Love you.”
She stood in the dingy hallway outside the apartment until she heard Naomi turn the lock. With a sigh of regret, she headed towards the front door of the apartment building.
Tanner was kept busy preparing for the big move. He barely had a moment to absorb the fact that he would soon be leaving Amelia’s house and all of his family. This playroom was the only home he had ever really known. A wave of sadness washed over him, but before he could let it take over he was interrupted once again by a toy asking him if they could go with him. He once again had to deny them. He felt bad about it but there was very little he could do.
Mags had organized a dozen or so No Mores that could be repaired quickly, and that could go missing without Amelia or her mother noticing. There had been a huge response. All of the No Mores wanted to volunteer to go, yet many were beyond repair. Like Sid. The sadness threatened to overtake Tanner again at the thought of saying goodbye to his old friend.
Sid had been a huge help. He had talked to the other No Mores and had organized the ones who weren’t going to help the others. Repairs were done, toys were cleaned and primped ready to make two children’s Christmas a little happier. He had also helped Hobble and Lefty design a wagon for the roller skates to tow all of the other toys with. They had taken a cardboard box and with the help of the crafty toys they had affixed some wheels and some string to it.
Tanner’s mind was going over the final details when he was interrupted by an unfamiliar female voice. He turned to see several of the Loved behind him. A group of Barbie dolls looked uncomfortable standing next to the No Mores toy box.
“Monkey?” The unnaturally skinny blonde doll in the front spoke in a soft voice. “Is it true? What you are planning I mean?”
“Tanner.” When she looked at him with a puzzled look, he elaborated. “My name is Tanner. And yes it’s true.” He shot a bewildered look back at her. “Why?”
“We want to help.” Several of the Barbies held up bows and ribbon. “We can gift wrap several of you for the poor little ones to open tomorrow morning.”
Tanner stood in shock for several moments. “Well, that would be… wow, that’s a great idea!” He stammered. He looked at the group and thanked them. “I will send those that are ready over to you… But can I ask… Why?”
“We think what you are planning is... Well, it is extraordinary. You are creating a magical day for those children, and since we can’t go without Amelia noticing, we decided this was the best way to help.” Her voice was sincere, and Tanner was touched. He was ashamed to admit he hadn’t thought to ask any of the Loved or the Revered to participate in his plan. He had assumed that they wouldn’t care. Obviously he had been mistaken.
“Tanner!” Mags high pitch yell rang out throughout the playroom. “Roger got the map. We…um… am I interrupting something?” A dark look of jealousy gleamed in her button eyes as she stared at the Barbies that stood around the purple monkey.
“They are here to help us, Mags.” Tanner explained patiently.
“We are going to have to leave soon if we are going to make it there before morning. It is a long ride.” The rag doll kept a suspicious eye on the Barbies as she talked to Tanner.
Tanner thanked the Barbies briefly once more before heading back towards the spot where Roger and Sid were talking. “Ok is everyone ready?”
“Yup. We are all ready to go. Just waiting for your word.”
“Send all of us that are going to the Barbies, and tell them all to hurry. We are leaving shortly.” Mags nodded with a bewildered look on her face before scurrying off to the others.
“Roger, can I see the map?” Tanner asked, as he neared the walkie talkie.
Together Roger, Sid and Tanner reviewed the map and plotted out which route would be the most direct and the least conspicuous. It wouldn’t do for them to be run over by a car or be discovered by some person walking the street. Within ten minutes, the plan was ready to be put into action. Tanner looked towards the group of toys waiting for him.
The Barbies had done a wonderful job preparing everyone. Crisp blue ribbons were in Mags hair, Amy was wearing a pretty dress that looked like new and the toddlers were all squirming in their green and red bows. Each toy looked clean and shiny and rather festive.
“Ok we have to get going. Hobble and Lefty, go look over the map with Roger, so you know where we are heading. Amy and Mags, I need you guys to get everyone into the wagon. We are leaving as soon as we can.”
The toys scattered in different directions. Tanner turned to Sid who had been quietly observing the final preparations.
“Well, old fella, I guess this is goodbye.” Tanner’s voice was quiet. It was a goodbye that he was dreading. Sid was the one who had been his mentor since he had first arrived in the No Mores toy box. He had taught Tanner the ways of the toy box and had become the one toy that Tanner could talk to about anything.
The old duck looked up at his younger friend. He looked at him a long time before speaking. His voice was gruff, as though it was full of raw emotion. He also knew that this was the last time the two friends would talk.
“I… will miss you, Tanner. You have done a wonderful thing today. I hope you realize just how wonderful it really is. You are doing something that most toys only dream about doing. You are creating something special for two very lucky children. They will look back at this Christmas for the rest of their lives as one of the most magical holidays that they will ever have. You are enabling them to truly believe in the spirit of the season.” Sid smiled sadly up at the plush toy in front of him. “I always knew that you were special, and now you are proving just how special you truly are. I am so very proud of you.”
Before Tanner could speak, Sid gave him one last smile and headed back to the toy box. Tanner watched him for only a second before running to catch up. He flung his soft long limbs around the bright yellow duck and held him tight for only a moment before hurrying off to the wagon that was waiting for him. Sid turned to watch him go. A solitary tear rolled down his plastic face.
The roller skates had been tied to the wagon, and all the toys were already loaded inside as Tanner arrived. He climbed aboard, and after talking briefly to Hobble and Lefty about the route, he settled into a corner of the wagon by himself, his mind turning over the last words Sid had said to him. Sadness seemed to overwhelm him, and he fought back the tears. He didn’t want the toddlers to see him cry.
The roller skates took off down the hallway, and the wagon load of toys waved goodbye to their friends who had opened the door for them.
“Heads down everyone!” Hobble called out, as they neared the dog door that they were using to escape Amelia’s house.
The dark night was clear and cold. They raced through the streets at breakneck speed. The toys held on tight as Hobble and Lefty took sharp turns and whipped through the deserted streets. The toddlers were mesmerized by the thousands of Christmas lights that lit up the houses.
After a short while, Lefty called back that they were turning onto Welland Street, and only moments after, they were in front of 64 Welland. The building was a dingy, rundown old grey stone building. There was a set of old wooden steps that looked as though they had been built many years ago. The wood was grey and black with age and grime.
Tanner and Mags climbed out of the wagon and left Roger and Amy in charge of all the others while they went to check things out. They climbed up the stairs and looked at the faded list of names next to the buzzers by the front door.
“There it is. 129. It is in the basement. Let’s go look in the windows so we can see if we can figure out which one it is.” Tanner suggested. The duo scampered down the stairs and began walking by each of the basement window of the weathered old building.
Several of the windows were covered by curtains and blinds, and a few others were dark and they were unable to peer inside. Tanner was just beginning to worry that they wouldn’t be able to find the right apartment when Mags called him to the next window.
The curtains were only apart a few centimetres, but it was enough for the toys to see inside. At first, Tanner didn’t see anything of interest. A tiny room sparsely furnished with old, worn furniture. However a small light was on in the hallway which was all he needed to spot the patched coat hanging by the door. It was the same one that Naomi had worn to the mall to see Santa.
“That’s it! That’s her coat!” He didn’t even try to hide the relieved grin that crossed his soft face. “Now how do we get in there? I’m sure the windows will be locked.” They stared into the window for several minutes before Mags squealed. She grabbed Tanner’s arm and dragged him back to the wagon.
She explained her plan to the whole group and although some reservations had been voiced, there was precious little time left, and there were no other suggestions, so they decided to go ahead with it.
Mags, Roger and Amy gathered several of the Toddler toys and made their way to the front stairs, the others set about untying the roller skates before joining them. Roger stood in front of the door, and Mags clamoured up to stand on top of him. Using him as a stepping stool, she was just barely able to reach the mail slot. With a little effort, she managed to wiggle her way through and landed on the floor on the other side of the door. While she waited, she glanced around her. The hall way was dimly lit and while it was old and worn it did appear to be clean.
She could soon see the head of Sophie, the giraffe, poking through the mail slot, with a barely audible squeak she was pushed through and landed on top of Mags. Sophie was followed by Webby and Tycat, a hard rubber tiger. Mags quickly hoisted Tycat onto her and Sophie’s shoulder and instructed Webby to climb on top and hold on tight to the handle of the door handle, which he did without question. His little webbed hands were perfect for holding on.
Once he was latched onto the handle, she told Tycat and Sophie to hold onto him, and together the four of them pulled down and the latch clicked. With the help of the other toys pushing from the other side, they managed to ease the door open ever so slightly. The toddlers and Mags quickly moved out of the way to let the others push the door open wide enough for everyone get through.
After a moment of silent celebration, Tanner waved for the others to follow him down the dim corridor towards apartment 129. They walked close to together in the eerie quiet corridor. When they finally reached the end of the hallway, they spotted the right door. They followed the same procedure as before until they were all safely inside the dark living room.
There was a dark green sofa and chair along with a few mismatched tables and lamps. The threadbare rug was old, as was everything else but it was spotless. It has obviously been well cared for. In one corner, on a small wooden table, sat a tiny Christmas tree. It was decorated with an assortment of homemade ornaments. Mostly coloured paper rings and hand coloured paper Santas and stars. On the top of the tree sat a huge cardboard angel, obviously created lovingly by a child. The lines were slightly crooked and some of the colouring was outside of the lines but the effect was lovely.
Tanner silently directed the others into position under the tree. Amy began to straighten bows and tidying the others up so that they would all appear like new to their new children. As the others settled in and resumed their inanimate toys positions, Tanner could see the faint bits of daylight shining through the curtains. It had been a long night. Not even 24 hours had passed since he first saw Naomi and was touched by her wish to Santa.
Mags settled in beside him and almost as an after thought she leaned over to plant a soft kiss on his fuzzy cheek. “Thanks for this Tanner. You gave us a second chance, and you are about to make two children very happy.” She rested her head on his shoulder as she resumed her toy state. Tanner grinned and just as he become immobile, he could hear a young child’s voice talking excitedly about cartoons. A look of joy washed over his face… Christmas was about to begin.