Michael has been working on this, so here’s his newer version.

Thanks Michael for sharing this.

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.

And when your mother is dying, you have to believe in something.

Although the most special day of the year was still over a week away, today was almost as special. Besides being the first day of Christmas vacation, this was the day Holly Starr turned thirteen.

The sun smiled back when Holly opened the kitchen door of their old farmhouse on that crisp December morning and stepped outside onto the snow-covered porch. Her skates bounced on her shoulder as she hopped down the three wooden steps and hurried around the corner toward the pond in Murphy’s Hollow.

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, 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 delicate scrollwork on the hinged lid.

Although it was small and appeared to be very old, 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. 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. 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. Even though he was seven, Cole was so absent-minded he could barely find his own feet. He wouldn’t have followed the directions, and there would be no telling where the beautiful box might end up.

“No way,” 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 as she imagined the possibilities. The most wonderful thing she could think of was for her mother to get better so their family could be the way it used to be. But since the doctors couldn’t make her well, she seriously doubted that a little, golden box with a note inside could make something that wonderful happen.

The only magical thing she could think of was the beautiful strand of pearls she had seen in Macy’s window in Charleston. But she knew her family couldn’t afford such things, especially now, with all the doctor bills. And she didn’t really believe a little golden box was going to make that dream come true, either.

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 so mean. Besides, she didn’t know anyone that could write in such a beautiful handwriting.

Holly stuffed the golden box into the pocket of her jeans and headed toward Murphy’s Hollow. As she walked along, listening to the snow crunching beneath her boots, she could feel the box in her pocket. 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 the pond, she had made her decision. She was going to leave her bedroom window open tonight – just in case.

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