Lauren stared at the crackling fire, comforted by the rhythmic rise and fall of its amber flames. She sighed. Jamie was upstairs cleaning his teeth and Matt was outside securing the horses for the night. Christmas was less than a week away and Jamie had been asking questions. Said the kids at school had been saying things about Santa, questioning his existence. Concerned, Lauren and Matt had talked. Matt suggested it was time to come clean. Lauren agreed. However, watching her son, who had now swooped into the living room, dressing gown flapping behind him like Superman’s cape, she wasn’t so sure; felt overcome with sadness. Thorax tightening, she swallowed the plumb now lodged in her throat and smiled. Jamie grinned back, pointing to her mobile, now busily buzzing on the coffee table.
‘It’s Dad,’ he said, picking it up and passing it to her, Matt’s cheery smile filling the screen.
‘Hey,’ said Lauren, putting the phone to her ear. ‘Everything OK?’
Matt sounded concerned, explained how; about to lock up for the night, he’d come across a small deer.
‘He’s injured,’ Matt continued. ‘So I could do with your help to get him inside. He’ll freeze out here, otherwise.’
Lauren and Jamie shrugged on their coats and raced outside to help. Next to the stable door appeared to be a small deer with a broken leg. Trembling, it stared at them through huge frightened eyes; kept making a strange bleating noise every time Matt tried to approach it.
‘Here, let me,’ said Lauren. Jamie watched in awe as his mother got down on her hands and knees and crawled towards the little deer until, eventually, it allowed her to stroke him. ‘There, there,’ she whispered. ‘We only want to help.’
Between the three of them they carefully carried him into the stable and made him comfy for the night. The following day the vet visited, said the deer’s leg was sprained, but not broken. She strapped it up and under her guidance, Matt, Lauren and Jamie nursed the little deer back to health. Jamie loved looking after him, and the little deer loved letting him. Plus, the only time Santa was mentioned again was when Jamie pointed to a shiny silver bell hanging from a collar around the deer’s neck, saying, ‘I think he belongs to Santa.’
On Christmas Eve it was time to set the little deer free. Jamie knew it was the right thing to do, but still, it wasn’t easy. However, wiping his tears with one hand and waving with the other, Jamie watched how, with one last glance back, his friend disappeared into the woods behind their house.
On Christmas Day, stuffed from eating Christmas dinner, huddled on the sofa next to the twinkling Christmas tree, Lauren and Matt asked their son what his favourite gift was.
‘The silver bell at the bottom of my stocking,’ he replied, without hesitation.
‘That was so sweet of you to do that,’ Lauren whispered to Matt.
Matt frowned. ‘Wasn’t me… I thought you’d put it there.’