A Christmas Wish

Author: Spellbound
Rating: PG
Summary: Willow finds a Christmas dream and sets about trying to do the impossible and make dreams come true.
Disclaimer: The Buffy the Vampire Slayer series and its characters are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.
Feedback: Yes, lots please: justkay@hotmail.co.uk


When Santa's sleigh bells ring
I listen all around
The herald angels sing
I never hear a sound
And all the dreams of children
Once lost will all be found
That's all I want when Christmas comes to town

- When Christmas Comes to Town, Matthew Hall and Meagan Moore.

"Auntie Willow, look!!" The soft cries of a small child at Christmas filled Willow Rosenberg's home and she smiled warmly as she tossed the dishcloth on the counter and made her way to where her young niece was staring out of the window, her face full of wonder.

"What is it, Caitlin?" Willow asked.

Looking up at her aunt, her eyes full of hope and wonder, Caitlin pointed out the window towards the street. Following the path of the little girls finger, Willow smiled.

On the front lawn of the home opposite her, the homeowners had placed a large Santa, complete with his reindeer all surrounded by fake snow and a handful of mini snowmen. Fairy lights of every colour twinkled and blinked.

At 6 years old, Willow knew that Caitlin would soon be growing out of the belief in Santa.

"Is Santa going to be here soon?" she asked innocently.

"If you're a very good girl, he will!" Willow replied, as she glanced at her watch.

"Right, it's past your bedtime!" Willow said, ruffling the little girls hair fondly. "Upstairs and brush your teeth and I'll be up in a minute to read you're a story!"

Caitlin turned and practically sprinted up the stairs and Willow couldn't help but smile as she heard the water running in the bathroom.

Willow returned to the kitchen and finished putting the dishes away from dinner.


After tucking her young niece in and reading her her promised story, Willow returned to the living room and found herself once again drawn to the window. Staring out at the festive scene on the opposite lawn, she smiled and wondered when it had been in her own life that she had stopped believing.

She was torn from her thoughts as a car pulled up outside her home and Xander and Anya stepped out. They saw her at the window and waved cheerfully.

"Hey guys!" Willow said in a whisper as she opened the front door.

"Hey, was she good?" Xander asked in the same hushed whisper.

"Yep, she's been great all day. She's just gone to bed!" Willow felt her cheeks flush. She had been told that Caitlin should be in bed by 7 o'clock and it was now well after 8.

Xander grinned at his friend as he and Anya collapsed onto the huge sofa. They had come up to visit Willow and do some last minute Christmas shopping, bringing their 6 year old daughter with them. Despite being the offspring of Anya, Willow was happy to discover that she was becoming more and more like Xander every day, and so far, none of Anya's less attractive qualities seemed visible in the small girl.

"Well if you guys are back, I should take off. I told Buffy that I'd do a shift for her at the coffee shop." Willow explained as she reached for her coat.

After saying their goodbyes, Willow made her way towards town, the warm Californian evening making her wonder why she hadn't decided to go away and have a 'traditional' Christmas somewhere with snow.

Turning into Kelly Drive, Willow looked up at a three storey building and felt a pang of guilt. The building was the Maclay Home for Orphaned Children and she remembered reading in the local newspaper that it was to be closed in the New Year. 'Those poor children,' Willow thought as she stared up at its dull and weather beaten fašade. 'I'm feeling all sorry for myself for not having snow, and those poor little ones have nothing at all.'

Willow shook herself from her thoughts and made her way on to the coffee shop, promising herself that she would do more for others.


For two days, life continued as normal for Willow. Xander, Anya and little Caitlin returned to their home in New Hampshire and Willow busied herself with her festive shopping and covering shifts for Buffy at the coffee shop she owned. and despite her promise to herself, she thought no more of the run down orphanage on Kelly Drive.

Buffy had called, begging her frantically to cover a shift as the young waitress who was meant to be working had been in an accident and couldn't work and so, Willow accepted.

She had to stop off at Buffy's to check on Dawn on her way and on turning out of Revello Drive, she stopped and frowned. On the sidewalk 4 feet in front of her sat a large glowing orb.

Willow looked around her cautiously, assuming that someone was playing a prank. She searched behind the cars parked in the street and behind the bushes, hedges and trees lining the street. When she found no one, she approached the orb slowly.

Reaching the bright ball, she realised it was almost star shaped and giggled as she looked up towards the sky as if the other stars might fall on top of her.

Willow reached out, her hand hovering over the bizarre glowing object she found that, although it was glowing, it was cool. Frowning, she picked it up and........

A roaring log fire, a huge Christmas tree decorated with baubles of every colour and size, underneath it presents of all shapes, sizes and colours.

Over the fireplace, four stockings hang, 'Mom', 'Dad', 'Billy' and 'Alison' stitched carefully into the tops.

Willow blinked against the scene and looked into the room. A family appeared from what she assumed was the kitchen, a small boy who she aged around 6, carrying a large tray with cookies, milk and nine bright carrot led the way with his younger sister following slowly with a napkin in her hand. Behind them, Willow saw who she thought were the parents of the two children, they were smiling broadly as they watched their children set down the tray for Santa and his reindeer.

'All set Mommy!" The boy said as he placed the tray so carefully on a small table near the fireplace and helped his sister lay the napkins.

"Ok Billy. Now we should go to bed so that Santa can come down the chimney and leave the very special presents for you." His mother told him.

The little boy, Billy, returned to his mothers side and hugged her fiercely.

"I love you mommy!!" he said, looking up at her with huge eyes.

"I love you too baby!" she replied, kissing the small boy lovingly as his father swooped his giggling sister up into his arms.

"Right, lets get to bed quickly. Santa is very busy and we are holding him up, we don't want to make him late, do we?!" The man said.

Both children shook their heads quickly.

Willow watched as the family made their way upstairs. From her place on the chair in the corner, Willow heard them say their goodnights and I love you's.

Rain splashed down on her face and Willow jumped, dropping the glowing object onto the grass. She rubbed her eyes and yawned loudly. Looking down at the orb, she couldn't help but be confused. Glancing at her watch, Willow was shocked to find it was almost midnight. She reached into her pocket for her cell phone and cringed at its display. '28 missed calls' it told her. Sliding the device back into her pocket, Willow found herself once again drawn to the glowing object on the ground next to her. Wriggling out of her back pack, she carefully got the orb into the bag, making certain not to touch it again.

She got to her feet and turned back towards Revello drive, intent on visiting Buffy and trying to explain away her evening.

Unsurprisingly, Buffy hadn't believed Willows story and when Willow had opened her bag to prove to her that her story was real, she had found that what she had picked up was nothing more than a strange shaped rock.

Feeling stupid and dejected, Willow had accused herself and made her way back home.

Walking slowly, she wondered why it was that Buffy hadn't seen what she had and stopped, taking off her backpack, she pulled the bag opened and grinned when a bright light emerged from the inside. The orb or rock was glowing again.

Willow smiled and secured her bag tightly before returning it to her back and making her way back home. As she turned into Mortan Road, she stopped in her tracks. Outside the coffee shop sat another glowing orb. She picked up her pace and jogged towards it. Reaching down, she found this one was also glowing white hot but omitted no heat and so she picked it up.

Snow fell, covering the already white ground with a fine dusting of fresh powder. Looking around her, Willow saw a scene that she thought was only real on Christmas cards.

She was stood in a small square, in its centre a red and green striped pole, small houses made a semi circle around the pole and from those houses emerged what Willow could only think to be elves.

She watched in silence as the elves crossed the square to a large and ornate bench where five children sat, their faces full of awe.

The elves went up to each one and hugged them as though they were lifelong friends before taking their places around the bench.

Willow watched the children as their excitement grew. Suddenly all five of them looked to their right and their faces lit up. Willow followed their gaze and found herself drawing in her own breath sharply. From a large archway, a tall and plump man appeared, his long white beard flowing down to rest on his rotund stomach. Atop his head, a large red hat with white furry trim covered white hair.

Willow stared in disbelief. The red velvet suit was accessorised perfectly with a large black belt with a shining gold buckle and perfectly polished black boots. The man she was staring at was definitely Santa Claus himself.

'I'm at the North Pole' she thought incredulously. 'But I can't be, I mean, its not real.. not really!'

Crouching down, Willow grabbed a handful of snow and rubbed it viciously over her cheeks, she felt the harsh sting of the cold as the snow and ice particles burnt her face.

With wide eyes, she watched as Santa approached the children. A little girl ran up to him and wrapped her small arms round his incredible waist.

The large man chuckled loudly and Willow was sure she had heard an unmistakeable 'ho ho ho' in his laughter.

"What's your name, little one?" he asked, although his voice was loud, almost booming his tone was soft and full of love.

The little girl looked up at him with large trusting eyes.

"I just wanted to meet you Mr Clause!"" she told him truthfully. "We don't have much money, so we get things we need or the money is spent on where we live!"

Willow dropped the orb quickly, tears burnt her face as she cried. "Those poor children!" she whispered as warm tears stung her snow burnt cheeks.

Gingerly, she slid the orb into her backpack and the glow from within doubled, almost as if the two orbs knew each other and were greeting the other.

Shaking her head, Willow jogged the rest of the way home, wondering idly if she was really going mad.


After a long hot bubble bath, Willow slipped into her shorts and pyjama top and snuggled down under her duvet. From the corner of her room, her backpack glowed brightly, brighter than it had all evening and filled the room with a comforting glow.

Smiling softly, Willow turned her back to the bag and closed her eyes.

Willows eyes popped open quickly. She was pulled from her sleep by the sound of a child crying. She sat up and rubbed her eyes as she looked around.

'What the...? This isn't my room!' she thought.

The room she was in was sparse, cartoon characters were fading on the walls and the carpet, such as it had been was in dire need of replacing. In the far corner was a bed, in it a small child was crying having woken up from some nightmare.

"It's ok little one!" Willow called out as she swung her legs from the bed she found herself in. "It's ok now, shush."

As she neared the small boy she saw the bed he was sitting in was old, the mattress needed replacing and he had one blanket to cover him. While it looked warm enough, Willow realised that the occupants of this house were obviously short of funds and had probably given him the best blanket they had.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Willow extended her arms so as to wrap the crying boy in a hug and comfort him.

"It's ok James, I'm coming!" Willow turned to the door where a light was creeping under the door.

The boy whimpered slightly and a small smile appeared on his lips.

Getting to her feet, Willow moved from the edge of James' bed and returned to the corner of the room in which she had awoken.

The door opened and a long silhouette stretched over the floor. Squinting against the new light, Willow saw a stunning blonde woman enter the room.

"It's ok little man!" the blonde cooed as she crossed quickly to James' bed and sat down next to him. The little boy buried his face in her chest as she hugged him.

"Now what are those tears for?" The blonde asked him as he met her gaze.

"I got thcared!" he told her and Willow smiled. The little boy had a serious lisp.

"What scared you?" the blonde woman asked him gently.

"My dweamth had monsterth in them!" he told her honestly.

The blond smiled warmly and kissed the top of his head.

"You know that the monsters can't get you here, don't you James?"

The boy thought about this for a moment before nodding slowly.

"Now settle yourself back down and get yourself back to sleep and have the sweetest dreams!" the blonde told him.

"Can I have a teddy?" James asked her.

The blonde shook her head sadly. "I'm sorry James, we don't have a teddy for you"

James looked up at her, and Willow saw something in his eyes that tugged at her heart. Disappointment.

"We don't have any money for teddieth!" he told the blonde. "It'th ok. I'll cuddle my pillow for thafty!"

His little face broke into what Willow thought of as his 'big boy grin' and she felt tears sting her eyes once more. Such a young child who already understands so much.

"You'll do no such thing!" The blonde told him. "You need that to rest your head on, you'll get a sore neck! I'll give you my pillow to cuddle!"

Before James could form an argument, the blonde got to her feet and left the room. James watched with fascination as she returned, chattering to her own pillow.

"Now James," she began as she reached his bed. "This is a special pillow! It is full of hugs and kisses that will keep you safe!"

James grinned once more. "But what about you? Your neck will get thore!" he said, handing the limp pillow back to the blonde who smiled weakly.

"Well I'm already very old and sore, so you have to have this so you don't end up like me!" she told him, causing him to burst into laughter.

"Now, you snuggle down and go to sleep and as soon as we can, I'll get you your own very special teddy, ok?"

"Ok!!" James said.

"Mith?" The blonde paused at the door and turned back. "When I grow up, I want to be jutht like you!" He told her as he snuggled down under his blanket and closed his eyes.

Willow sat up suddenly. "Poor James!" she said allowed to the empty room.

At the foot of her bed, a third orb sat, glowing with the same intensity as a child on Christmas morning. She reached out and brushed her fingers along its surface.

Little James was kneeling at his bedside, his tiny hands clasped in prayer.

"Pleathe God, look after my fwiendth and Mith and if pothible can I pleathe have a teddy so that Mith can have her pillow back to look after her? Amen."

Willow pulled back from the orb and sighed sadly.

"No child should have to live like that!"

Swinging her legs from the bed, she stepped onto the full and plush carpet and a second wave of sadness washed over her as she remembered the threadbare carpet of James' room.

She showered quickly and dressed. Sitting in the kitchen with a bowl of cornflakes, Willow flicked the switch on the radio and carols filled the bright kitchen. Singing along, albeit badly, Willow washed her bowl and laid it in the rack to dry before turning the radio back off and heading for the door. She still had one more gift to buy and planned to spend the day browsing the mall once she had collected her final gift.

She pulled open her car door and sat down in the drivers seat, pushing the key into the ignition, she paused to reach into the glove compartment for a cd. On the passenger seat, another orb sat, glowing cheerfully at her.

"Ok, now this is ridiculous!" She said to the orb that continued to twinkle and shine. "I'm not touching you!" she told it firmly, "You'll just have to sit there!"

Willow tried to force her 'resolve' face on but instead turned off the ignition and looked at the new inhabitant of her car. "This isn't fair!" she said as she reached out and picked up the orb.

Willow found herself in a huge room, a long table in its centre was set for seven. Candles and traditional Christmas flowers decorated its surface and Willow could smell a meal cooking. A huge tree stood in the corner, decorated perfectly, its lights twinkling softly. The warm smell of a fresh tree and home cooked meal filled Willow with happiness.

From the direction that Willow believed was the kitchen, came a sudden burst of laughter and lots of chatter from children. Their voices were full of excitement and delight at an unseen event.

As she began to make her way to the table, Willow stopped suddenly as the door burst open and a boy of around 7 emerged carrying a plate almost overflowing with food. Behind him, a girl, aged around eleven carried two plates, also full to over flowing. Willow watched as they found their seats and waited patiently for the others.

A small boy who Willow recognised almost immediately as James followed on and sat down next to the older girl who placed the smaller of the two plates in front of him.

Closely behind them, the boy Willow knew to be Billy emerged, his plate also full to overflowing with food and a small girl who Willow recognised from the 'North Pole orb' followed him out.

They all took their seats at the table and waited patiently.

"You should all start without me!" A voice called from the kitchen.

"It's ok Miss Tara, we'll wait for you!" The eldest girl called back, the other children all nodded in agreement.

A few moments later, a blonde woman emerged from the kitchen with her own full plate. Willow recognised her from the 'James orb' and smiled.

Tara, as it seemed her name was, took her seat at the head of the table. Turning to the first boy who had appeared she said;

"Would you like to say grace, Tommy?"

Tommy looked at her, his pride etched clearly over his face. Tara nodded at him and clasped her hand and bowed her head. The children followed her example.

"For what we are about to receive I am sure we will all have indigestion, but please believe Lord, that we are truly thankful. And Lord, please bless Miss Tara for giving us everything that we have and making sure we are always fed and clothes, even if it means that she goes without for herself. Amen!"

"Amen!" The other children said together.

Tara looked up at little Tommy with tears in her eyes and leant over and kissed the top of the boys head.

"Lets eat!" she said, her voice wobbly with emotion. And with no further word, the group tucked into their meals.

Willow put the orb carefully back down on the passenger seat and looked at it with tears in her eyes.

"It's the orphanage!" she realised out loud.

Stepping out of her car, she locked the door carefully and made her way on wobbly legs towards Kelly Drive.

As she turned the corner fifteen minutes later, Willow had managed to convince herself that she was completely insane.

Whatever the orbs were, they had clearly affected her mind and she doubted her own sanity. As soon as she turned the corner, she saw another orb sitting outside the gate to the orphanage. She smiled at a man who approached her and wondered if he would stop and pick it up.

Willow frowned slightly as he sidestepped the orb and continued walking.

'Why didn't he at least look?' she wondered as she approached the orb.

Standing over the glowing ball, Willow looked around and saw the street to be empty. She bent down and studied the orb. Reaching out, she picked the orb up.....

She was in a room, much like James', looking around, she expected to see the small boy and was surprised when the girl from the 'dinner table orb' entered the room.

"Good night!" she called back over her shoulder.

Willow heard other voices call back to her and she smiled, it was like the Walton's

The girl went to her bed and pulled the cover back before getting to her knees in prayer at its side.

"Hey God, It's me again, Jane!" she began. "Lord, I know that everyone wants your time and expects lots of things from you and I know that many people will be talking to you this evening but please, if you find the time, I would like you to make Miss Tara happy. I should ask for things for myself but Miss Tara has done so much for us that all I would like is for her to not have to work so hard for us all and to be happy with someone. We are used to having nothing but Miss Tara deserves to have something special in her life. Thank you Lord. Amen!"

Jane got back to her feet and settled down in her bed.

For the first time, Willow found herself to be removed from the scene, almost as though she had been in a film that had ended suddenly.

Looking around, she found herself to be stood in Kelly Drive, outside the orphanage.

She slipped the small orb into her pocket and pushed the gate open. Standing in front of the front door, she took a deep breath and knocked loudly. From within, she heard children running around and calling although she couldn't make out the words.

The door swung open a few moments later and before her stood the woman she knew to be Tara.

Willow caught her breath. In the orbs she had been taken aback by this woman but in the flesh, she was truly beautiful.

"Good morning." Tara greeted her politely, "Can I help you?"

Willow looked at her, dumbfounded for a few seconds before her hand took the lead and extended towards her, her mouth followed suit.

"Good morning, my name is Willow Rosenberg and I was wondering if you had a few moments to talk?"

Tara sighed heavily. "Look, I told the bank that there is no more money, they've bled me dry and these children will not be getting the first proper Christmas that I promised them because of you and your money grabbing associates....."

Willow held up her hands defensively. "I'm not from the bank or anywhere else. I'd like to try and help you if I can!!"

Tara stopped and stepped back, pulling the door open in invitation to Willow.

Stepping inside, Willow looked around. The main hallway was clean and tidy although it was obviously in need of some fresh paint.

As she followed Tara through the hall, she glanced to her right into a large room with a long table up against one wall. Willow smiled, it was the table from the 'Christmas dinner orb'. She knew she was in the right place.

"What can I do for you?" Tara asked as she closed the door to her small office. On the wall, red bills hung, screaming their demands.

She gestured for Willow to take a seat and she did so.

"You won't believe this, but please try and keep an open mind!" Willow began before she told Tara of the events of the past few days.


In the large hall, Billy, Chloe and Tommy raced to the closed office door, each one trying to work out who the newcomer was.

"I think she's from the bank, she's going to make Miss Tara cry again!" Chloe said.

"She's not from the bank!" Tommy said. At nine years old, he was the oldest of the assembly and spoke with the voice of a boy who knew he had authority over the little ones. "People from the bank dress nice!"

"I think thhe'th here to take one of uth home!" Billy said softly. He had just turned six years old but still managed to carry with him the naivety and innocence of a child, despite his harsh surroundings.

"I think you should all come away from the door!" A voice said from behind them.

The small group turned and looked in the direction of the voice. Jane stood in the hall with her hands on her hips. She was thirteen but having spent all her life in foster care, she had learnt to grow up quickly and had often helped Tara with the little ones over the years. Now, there was just the five of them left and she had been with them all for five years.

"Sorry Jane!" the echoed in unison.

"Come on, James wants to play hide and go seek."


"So, that's it and I want to help!" Willow explained.

Tara exhaled loudly, the story that this strange redhead had told her was clearly insane, she was clearly insane for believing it and yet, Tara couldn't not believe her.

"We are closing in 4 weeks Willow." she said, "There's nothing you can do to help. Unless you have.." she paused and searched through the papers on her desk before turning back to Willow, "...$83,412.67 just lying around. You don't have that just lying around, do you?" she asked hopefully.

Willow shook her head sadly, "No, I'm afraid I don't. I know what I've told you sounds completely insane and if I were you, I'd have called the police by now so thank you for not doing that." She paused to catch her breath. "I don't have that sort of money just lying around, but I believe I've seen these children's Christmas wishes, their dreams, and I know that I can make at least some of them come true, if you'll let me?"

"If you can get all that you feel you need to done by tomorrow, then I won't deny my kids one perfect Christmas!" Tara said.

Willow grinned.

"I will, I swear I will!" She said, and rushed from the room. "I'll call you tonight!" She yelled over her shoulder before skidding to a halt at the front door.

"And that would be easier if I had your number!?" Willow said sheepishly.

Tara smiled softly and jotted her number down on a piece of paper which she handed to a very red-faced Willow.

"It's going to be perfect!" Willow whispered.

"Call me after 9, all the kids should be asleep by then!" Tara whispered back.

With one final glance at the blonde, Willow left the orphanage and rushed back towards her home.


A little after 9, Willow returned home laden with groceries. Thanking her lucky stars, she returned briefly to her car and from its truck pulled a massive turkey. When she was certain she had a good grip on the bird, she waddled back up to the house and into the kitchen.

She washed her hands and reached for the telephone and with shaking fingers, dialled the number that Tara had given her.

After three rings, Tara answered. "Hello, Maclay Home for children."

"Hi, Tara?" Willow asked gently.

"Yes."

"It's Willow, we met earlier."

"Ah yes, how are you Willow?"

Willow smiled, this woman was clearly so giving and generous but she sounded tired, possibly on the brink of exhaustion.

"I'm ok. I have everything. The turkey is huge and I have all the trimmings, the place settings, crackers and even the table decorations, like in Tommy's wish." she said quickly.

At the other end of the phone, Tara swallowed her sobs. She had thought that maybe the redhead was really mad but here she was, true to her word calling her with plans for the following day.

"You managed to get a turkey this late on Christmas eve?" she asked eventually.

"Well yeah, it was a bit of a struggle but I'm lethal with a grocery cart!" Willow joked.

"Anyway, I have picked some simple gifts, I didn't know what the children liked so I got them some clothes and socks and things and a small toy each and some colouring books and things."

"Erm, Willow?" Tara cut in slowly. "Look, I don't mean to be rude but, how can you afford this?"

Willow smiled. "I have savings, I work hard and my job pays very well. I have no children of my own; my house is paid for as is my car and so I save for a rainy day." She said explained.

"Or for the appearance of strange orbs that show you children's Christmas wishes?!" Tara giggled.

"Well yeah, that too!" Willow agreed.

"Look, I have a friend with a van who will bring a tree, will you be up for a while?" Willow continued.

Tara nodded slowly. "I mean, yes!" she giggled. "I'll get the gates open, bring whatever you think you need to, if you want, bring the food too and I will put it in our fridge, it must be larger than yours!"

"Ok, well we'll be there in about 20 minutes then!" Willow said cheerfully.

They said their goodbyes and hung up the telephones.

Willow sighed heavily and got a second good grip on the turkey before waddling back to her car with it.


15 minutes later, Willow pulled up outside the orphanage and a large van stopped directly behind her, from its back doors hung the top of a clearly huge Christmas tree.

Tara had seen the headlights of the car and opened the front door. She stepped out onto the street and gasped. Willows car was literally full of everything you could ever need for the perfect Christmas. Looking after Willow, she saw a large black van and heard lots of grunting coming from the back of it.

"Willow?" she asked towards the van.

A red haired head popped around the back of the door.

"Hey Tara, come and help us will ya!?"

Tara jogged to the back of the van and was struck speechless.

Willow and a small blonde man were pulling fruitlessly on the stem of a tree, a generous 5 feet were hanging out the back of the back already.

"My god Willow!!" She gasped.

"Don't 'my god', just pull! This is Oz." Willow said as sweat dripped into her eyes.

Between the three of them, they managed to pull the huge tree from the van and drag it into the orphanage. Another 2 hours later it was stood proudly in the large hall with the long table.

They then unloaded Willow's car, the food was put in the kitchen and the rest was left on the table.

"I'd love to help but I have to drive to Arizona and it's almost midnight." Oz said.

Both Willow and Tara hugged the man tightly.

"Thank you so much!" Tara said as she hugged him. "Really, you don't know how much this means to me and the children."

"It's cool." Oz told her. "Merry Christmas guys!" he said as he left the building.

"Would you like a drink, we could have a little rest and a drink!" Tara said hopefully.

"Oooh that would be great." Willow agreed.

Tara disappeared into the kitchen and returned with two tall glasses of iced tea. They drank quickly and in near silence.

Willow got to her feet and rustled through the bags on the table.

"Do you ever sit still?" Tara asked with a giggle.

"No, not really, there's always so much going on in my head that if I don't keep moving I think that my head may produce too much energy and blow up." Willow replied.

Tara laughed heartily. "What about when you're asleep?" she asked through her laughter.

Willow pushed a dozen or so bags to one side and turned to face Tara once again.

"I'm just as bad, I fall out of bed a lot!!


With their drinks consumed, the pair set about decorating the huge tree. Tinsel, lights and baubles surrounded them and they chatted as they decorated.

"Can I ask you a personal question?" Willow asked as she tested the fifth set of lights.

"Go on." Tara replied, suddenly nervous.

"Why an orphanage?" Willow asked gently.

"Why?" Tara echoed, "That's easy. I was raised in care, my parents died when I was small and I had no other family and so I went to an orphanage. The people were horrible and the other kids, my friends, they were treated badly, some got into drugs, real heavy stuff too, and the others, well they turned to crime and some of the girls ended up on the streets, sleeping with anyone they could for money. The others slept around, offering it up to anyone who showed any feeling towards them."

She paused for a moment or two as if to compose herself before continuing.

"I got lucky, I was adopted by a wonderful family but I swore to myself on the day that I left there that I would work hard to make it different for kids in care and so I worked hard and saved all the money I got, every last nickel and put it into what you see here."

Willow wiped a tear from her eye and sniffed loudly. "I'm so sorry." she said.

"Don't be sorry, it was good for me. I learnt a lot and the people that adopted me were brilliant. I had a very happy upbringing."

Returning to the large table, Willow rummaged through the box that contained the tree decorations.

"Star or angel?" she asked, holding up both for Tara to decide.

"I think it's only fair to have an angel to remind us of the angel that made all this a reality!" Tara replied, her cheeks flushing red.

Willow grinned and handed her the angel. "I wouldn't say that!" she said softly, her own cheeks matching Tara's in their colour.

"Well we'll agree to disagree then!" Tara told her with a giggle.

Placing the angel on the top of the tree, Tara climbed down from the step ladder and took a few steps back as Willow turned on the lights. The tree sparkled and glittered magically.

Willow suddenly threw her hands up in the air and rushed back to her car leaving Tara to stare after her in confusion.

"What was that about?" she asked when the redhead returned a couple of minutes later with a large bag.

"We need to take a picture!" Willow explained.

"Oh yes, of course!" Tara said.

From the large bag, Willow produced a small camera and a photo printing dock which she set up on the table before turning back towards the tree and aiming the camera towards the tree and snapping a few quick shots.

Tara watched in fascination as the redhead frowned comically at the back of the camera before pressing a few buttons and then repeating the process over again.

"Erm, Willow?" Tara asked eventually. "What are you doing?"

"Trying to get the perfect picture of the tree so that we can print it off on the, the thingy!" She told her, waving her hand towards the device she had set up on the table.

"Oh yes, silly me!" Tara giggled.

When Willow finally got the picture she thought was perfect, she turned back to the printer on the table and plugged the camera in, after pressing a few buttons, the printer burst into life and moments later a large print emerged, followed slowly by five more.

"One for each of the children and you, of course." Willow told her before taking them into Tara's office and laying them out carefully on her desk to dry.

"Now, lets wrap presents!" she exclaimed.

Tara stifled a yawn and joined Willow at the table.

The bags the red head had produced were stuffed full of clothes, a complete outfit for each child including underwear, socks and a coat.

"I didn't know what sizes to get so I guessed from what I saw in their wishes." Willow explained as she put the outfits together.

"I didn't know about shoes, so I got vouchers."

"Willow, really, this is all too much!" Tara said, "I mean, I don't mean to sound ungrateful because I'm really not, but this is too much. You shouldn't have spent so much!!"

Willow shook her head. "Nonsense!" she told her firmly. "I have savings and all I do is waste it on things that aren't that important, not compared to this!"

Tara could tell from her face that Willow meant what she said.

They wrapped the clothes slowly, writing out name tags for each child and attaching them securely.

"I got them a toy each too!" Willow explained as she lifted another three bags onto the table. "But this one!" she said, lifting a large brown teddy with lovable eyes from a bag, "This one is the most special; this one right here is for James. It's his Christmas wish."

Tara grinned and began wrapping, a train set for Billy, a doll for Chloe, a jewellery making set for Jane and a small castle for Tommy.

Willow wrapped James' bear carefully before reaching back into the bag and pulling out a couple of board games.

"I got these so everyone could play together after dinner." she explained as she wrapped them and put the names of all the children on each.

"And this...." Willow said, pulling a pre-wrapped gift from the bag. "This is for you!"

Tara smiled and pulled the box towards her.

To Tara, from all your children, we love you! The tag read.

"I also got you some vouchers for a clothes shop and the shoe place, I mean, its not that I think you don't dress nicely because you do, but I don't know what sort of things you like or what I should get so I got you vouchers!"

"It's ok Willow! Thank you, you really didn't have to!"


They placed the wrapped gifts under the tree and prepared the table for dinner the next day. Setting out a place for each child with a small card with their names on and a cracker, Tara could just picture their faces when they awoke to this sight. Candles were spaced evenly along the brand new tablecloth and a few festive table decorations finished it all off perfectly. When they had finished, Tara went out into the kitchen to put the kettle on.

"I can't believe it's almost 5am!" she said as she joined Willow on the bench next to the tree.

"Me neither!" Willow said as she stifled a yawn.

Before the kettle had boiled, both women had fallen into a well earned sleep.


A little before 7am, Tara awoke to the sound of laughter. She squinted against the twinkling to her left and cautiously opened her eyes.

The Christmas trees lights were still on and greeted her cheerfully. Next to her, Willow stirred.

"It wasn't a dream!" Tara said as the redhead yawned loudly.

Willow rubbed her eyes and stretched. "What's that?" she asked, gesturing to a large and dirty mark by the fireplace.

"I don't know, looks a little like a footprint!" Tara said, "Maybe Santa really did come!" she joked as she got to her feet.

"Look, they go right up to the bench, and they are footprints!" Tara exclaimed, excitement filling her voice.

Willow set her hands down on the bench and was surprised to find a small box.

"What's this?" she asked again as she lifted the box and studied it.

"I don't know, it wasn't there last night!" Tara told her.

"Open it!" she said as she returned to her seat.

Gingerly, Willow pulled the ribbon from the outside of the box and lifted it. Inside was what looked like a sleigh bell and a small folded piece of card.

Unfolding the card with shaking fingers, Willow read allowed.

This bell is a wonderful symbol of the spirit of Christmas- as am I. Just remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart. Your friend, S.C

Both women looked to one another, a questioning expression on their faces.

"I didn't! .... it was you!!" They said together, realisation creeping over them that in fact, the bell and footprints hadn't been placed there by the other.

Willow lifted the bell and jingled it softly. It's beautiful ring filling them both with Christmas joy.

"But Santa isn't real!" Willow said doubtfully.

"Well, for today at least, I am willing to believe!" Tara told her, "Now let's go and get the children.

Willow nodded in agreement and Tara made her way upstairs, she could already hear James and Billy giggling as they played a game of make believe.

"James, Billy, Chloe, Tommy, Jane!!!!" Tara called, "It's time to get up, I have a surprise for you all!!"

Four bedroom doors burst open to reveal five grinning faces.

"Did Thanta come?" James asked, his small face lit up with hope and excitement.

"Well you better go into the hall and see!" Tara told him and all five children ran past her and down the stairs, sounding for all the world like a stampeding herd of elephant than children.

They skidded to a complete stop in the entrance to the large hall. Each one stunned into motionless.

Tara paused behind them and watched as they looked very slowly to the other members of their little family as if to see if the others saw what they did.

Jane turned around to regard Tara.

"How did you make all this happen?" she asked. The other children turned to look at her, the younger ones with tears streaming down their faces.

"I had a little help from someone!" she told her with a wink, "Now go on, there's presents under the tree for everyone!"

The children ran to the tree and sat down around it, their eyes trying to take in everything around them.

Willow emerged from the kitchen with two steaming mugs.

"I thought you could use a cup of tea!" she whispered as she handed the cup to Tara and turned to watch the children with their gifts.

"Look!!" Billy called over the chattering of the others. "This present is the most important!!"

The others stopped and looked at him.

"What does it say on the tag?" They prompted.

Billy got to his feet and cleared his throat as if he were about to address congress rather than four excited children and two adults.

"It says; "To Tara, from all your children, we love you!"" he read slowly and clearly and with the biggest grin Willow had seen on the face of any child ever.

"You're right, it is the most important one!" Jane agreed.

Billy walked over to the bench where Willow and Tara had taken a seat and handed the small box to Tara.

"You should open yours first!" he told her.

"Yeth, go on Mith!" James said from the corner.

Tara grinned and ripped the paper quickly. From inside the box, she pulled a small brass trophy with the words; 'Our Hero' engraved into its side. Tears filled her eyes and she hugged Billy fiercely.

"What does it say?" Chloe asked.

Pulling back from the hug, Tara read the words to the others who all agreed loudly before racing up to hug her and then Willow.

"Wait, who are you?" Tommy asked as he pulled back from the hug with the redhead.

Willow giggled, the children had been up almost 20 minutes before seeming to realise she was even there.

"This is Willow, she's a good friend of mine and she's the one who..."

"I helped Tara and Santa do all of this for you!" Willow cut in, not wanting to ruin the illusion of Santa for the children.

"Thank you Willow!" they all said together before returning to their seats around the tree.

The children opened their gifts one by one and the delight on their faces filled both Willow and Tara's hearts with joy and love.

With all the gifts opened, the children went to their rooms to try on their new clothes before putting on a make shift fashion show.


Tara gathered all the children together and sat them down in front of her.

"I think this year has been a very special Christmas for all of us and we should be very thankful for these wonderful gifts that we have received." She said. "I know that it is a difficult time of year for many people who have even less than us, but in a way, the people around this table today are the luckiest people in the world. We have something that a lot of others don't. Love."

She looked up at each of the children before her gaze landed on Willow. Jane, never one to miss anything, saw this and smiled.

"Can I say something Miss Tara?" Tommy asked. He had often been told off for butting in before others had finished speaking and didn't want to ruin the day by getting himself into trouble.

"You may Tommy, I have finished." Tara told him with a smile.

"I want to say thank you!" He said, fresh tears forming in his eyes. "This was my Christmas wish and it really did come true!"

"Mine too!!" James echoed,

Jane looked back and forth between Willow and Tara and saw the joy in Taras eyes.

"And mine!" she said.

"My Christmas wish was to have a family!" Billy said, "And mine came true too! You are my family!" he cheered.

"What about you Chloe?" Willow asked softly.

The small girl shook her head sadly, "My wish didn't come true." she said, trying bravely to fend off the tears.

Glancing at the clock, Willow smiled. "Well it's still early, maybe you still have time for your wish to come true!" she said, tipping a secretive wink to Tara.

A loud knock at the door made everyone jump.

"I think you should go and see who that is!" Willow told Chloe.

A grin broke over her face and she raced for the door.

With the fingers on one hand crossed, Chloe pulled it open to reveal a large, rotund man in a red velvet suit, his black boots polished to perfection, a large gold belt buckle held a perfect black belt around his large midsection and his long white beard spilled onto his stomach!

"HO HO HO!! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!"

"Santa!!!" Chloe squealed as she leapt into the portly mans arms.

Each of the children hugged Santa and thanked him for his excellent gifts. They told him of how Tara looked after them so well and that he shouldn't go to the bank managers house and all the mean people that were taking their orphanage away. They didn't deserve presents.

Santa agreed and promised them that those people were on his 'naughty' list and hadn't gotten any presents that year.

Eventually Santa said he had to leave but promised that he would return next year as long as they were all good boys and girls. They all promised that they would be, even Willow and Tara.


A couple of hours later, Willow and Tara served dinner in the kitchen and the children carried their full plates to their places at the table.

"Who would like to say grace?" Tara asked as she and Willow sat down.

"I think I would!" Tommy offered.

"Ok then Tommy, go ahead." Tara told him as she clasped her hands together and watched at the others bowed their heads. Her eyes remained locked on Willow and as Tommy began, the redhead mouthed his words exactly.

"For what we are about to receive I am sure we will all have indigestion, but please believe Lord, that we are truly thankful. And Lord, please bless Miss Tara for giving us everything that we have and making sure we are always fed and clothed, even if it means that she goes without for herself. Amen!!"

"Amen!" the others echoed as they raised their heads.

"Let's eat!!" Tara announced and the group tucked into a well deserved Christmas dinner with all the trimmings.

And Tommy turned out to be right, they did all get indigestion.


THE END


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