Here is the first Chapter of Michael’s book. Please feel free to leave comments like you would with MSFV 250. Thanks.


A novel by

Michael Cornell

If I had a box just for wishes
And dreams that had never come true
– Croce

CHAPTER ONE – Wonderful and Magical Things

It was that special time of year when wishes come true – if you believe.

Today was the first day of Christmas vacation, and that was pretty special. Of course, the most special day of the year was still over a week away. But today was the seventeenth, and it was the second most special day of the year for Holly Starr because today was her birthday. And today she finally became a teenager.

As she stood at the kitchen sink washing the breakfast dishes, Holly remembered how wonderful her birthday had been last year. Things were a lot different then. That was before her mother had become so ill. Last year, when Holly had come downstairs on her birthday morning, her mother was sitting at the kitchen table. She was stirring her coffee, and she had a big smile on her face – the smile she used to wear before the illness had consumed her and forced her to stay in her bed most of the time.

Holly swirled her father’s coffee mug into the warm soapy water and ran the sponge inside it while her mind pictured last year’s birthday present. It had been sitting on the table, wrapped in blue paper, with a big silver bow on top. Holly recalled opening the package and finding the beautiful new ice skates she had hoped for.

She rinsed the last plate as the event continued to replay in her mind. She could almost smell the musky aroma of the rich, white leather again, and she remembered how the light reflected from the shiny steel blades. Her father had shown her how to rub mink oil into the leather to keep it soft and supple and how to give them a good coat of polish so water couldn’t soak in.

But that was a thing of the past now, and Holly wasn’t really expecting anything for her birthday this year. She knew that every spare dollar her father earned was now being used to pay for doctor bills and tests and more and different medicines for her mother. But none of it seemed to be helping. In fact, it seemed to Holly that her mother was getting weaker every day.

She finished drying the plate, placed it in the cupboard on top of the others, and climbed the stairs to her mother’s bedroom. When Holly entered the room her mother was sitting up in bed holding a book, but she had dozed off while reading and her chin now rested on her chest.

Holly didn’t want to wake her, but she had something important to ask her. “I finished the dishes, Mother,” Holly said in her softest voice.

Her mother opened her eyes and looked up at her over the top of her reading glasses. “What?”

“I finished washing the dishes. The kitchen is all cleaned up.”

“Thank you, sweetheart,” her mother said.. “You’re such a help to me.”

“Can I ask you something?”
“You can always ask me anything. What is it?”

“Well, some of the kids were talking at school yesterday about going over to Murphy’s Hollow today to skate on the pond. Since it’s the first day of Christmas vacation, and since it’s so nice outside, would you mind if I go?”

“Of course I wouldn’t mind,” her mother answered. “Have fun, and I wish you well. Just be sure to bundle up. I don’t want you taking a cold. And be home before dark.”

“I will, Mother,” Holly said. “I made you a ham sandwich for lunch. And I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for Cole. I put them in the refrigerator and showed him where they were, so when you get hungry just yell at him and tell him to bring it up to you.”

“Your little brother should be eating a ham sandwich instead of peanut butter and jelly,” her mother said.

“He wouldn’t have eaten it. At least he’ll eat the PB&J and get some protein. Do you need me to get you anything before I leave?”

Holly’s mother reached a thin and feeble hand toward the night table and picked up an amber plastic bottle. “Could you get me a glass of water so I can take my medicine?

After taking her mother the glass of water and making sure there was nothing else she needed, Holly went back downstairs. When she had pulled on her boots and stuffed her arms into her winter coat, she lifted her ice skates from the nail by the kitchen door and slung them over her shoulder.

The morning sun smiled back when Holly opened the kitchen door and stepped outside onto the snow-covered back porch. She closed the door behind her and bounced down the three wooden steps. The fresh snow crunched beneath her boots as she hurried around the corner of the house.

That’s when she saw it.

It might have gone unnoticed, because it was almost totally hidden under the waxy, green leaves of their holly bush. But there was just enough of it sticking out to reflect the morning sun and send a golden flash that caught Holly’s attention and stopped her in her tracks. Reaching beneath the holly bush, she brushed the snow away and picked up the item.

“How did this get here?” she whispered, as her fingers gently explored the tiny, golden box and the intricate scrollwork on the hinged lid.

Although it was small and appeared to be from an era long passed, Holly thought the box was incredibly beautiful. As she admired it, she thought it would make a wonderful Christmas gift for her mother. She couldn’t help imagining the surprised look on her mother’s face when she saw it on Christmas morning.

Holly opened the delicate clasp on the front to see what secrets the tiny box might be holding. When she lifted the lid, she discovered a piece of paper, folded and tucked neatly inside. The paper looked ancient, like a brown parchment. She unfolded it, thinking it might contain the owner’s name, and secretly hoping it didn’t. Instead, there was a note written in a beautiful script, with flourishes, which began…

Happy Birthday, Holly!

“What?” Holly said. “Wait a minute.”

She glanced around quickly, thinking her friends might jump out from behind the pine trees at any second and yell, “Surprise!” But that didn’t happen. She was alone, and the only thing greeting her wide, brown eyes was the quiet of the snow-covered landscape.

She thought, just for a moment, that her mother had placed the box there for her to find. It was, after all, the special kind of thing her mother would do as a birthday surprise. But Holly knew that wasn’t possible. Since the illness had drained her mother’s strength and she wasn’t able to get out of her bed very often, Holly knew she couldn’t have made the trip downstairs and all the way to the holly bush. And she knew her father wouldn’t have put the golden box there either because, well, that just wasn’t the kind of thing he would do.

The only other possible suspect was her little brother, Cole. Holly thought her mother might have asked Cole to do it, but she shook that idea out of her head immediately. Her mother was sick, but she wasn’t crazy. At seven years old, Cole could barely find his own feet. He wouldn’t have been able to follow instructions, and there would be no telling where the beautiful box might end up.

“This is weird,” Holly said to herself. “If someone put this box here for me to find, how could they be certain I would find it – especially today?”

She continued reading…

It’s no accident you found this box, Holly. It was placed here especially for you to find on this very special day. And now that you have found it, wonderful and magical things may happen, as long as you don’t tell anyone about it.

“Wonderful and magical things?” Holly whispered to herself. The only wonderful thing she could think of was the beautiful strand of pearls she had seen in Macy’s window in Charleston. She had fallen in love with that necklace at first sight. But she knew her family couldn’t afford such things, and she knew she would never be able to have such a wonderful necklace to call her own.

Of course, the most magical thing that could possibly happen would be for her mother to get well so their family could be the way it used to be. But she seriously doubted whether a little, golden box with a note inside could make something that magical happen.

Holly read the last of the message…

If you’re interested in wonderful and magical things, leave your bedroom window open when you go to bed tonight. A visitor will appear at the stroke of midnight and explain everything.

“Yeah, right,” she said to herself. “I may be gullible, but I’m not nuts. Leave my bedroom window open until midnight in the middle of winter? And someone is going to climb up to the second floor and crawl in? I don’t think so.”

She read the note again, trying to imagine who would be sneaky enough, or mean enough, to play such a trick on her. She couldn’t think of anyone who would do something that mean. And she didn’t know anyone in school who could write in such a beautiful handwriting.

After reading the note, and especially after reading the part warning her not to tell anyone about it, Holly became a little nervous. If what the note said was true and if there was a possibility of something wonderful and magical actually happening – as long as she didn’t tell anyone – she certainly didn’t want to have to explain anything and ruin the possibility.

Holly stuffed the golden box into the pocket of her jeans and headed toward Murphy’s Hollow. She would figure it out later. As she walked along she could feel the box in her pocket, and the words on the note kept running through her head. She wanted to believe it. She wanted to believe something wonderful and magical could actually happen. But she didn’t want to get her hopes up in case it really was a practical joke.

By the time she arrived at Murphy’s Hollow, she had made her decision. She was going to leave her bedroom window open tonight – just in case.