Clara’s Letter, Part Two

Whew, I haven’t posted since the seventh . . . what’s up with that . . . Actually, I do know what’s up with that! Guys, I had the coolest weekend ever. I went to a sleepaway camp with my church, and I was in a cabin (we call them cabins, but they were more like dorms) with all the amazing girls in my grade. There was a lake, zipline, ropes course (which was lame, btw), rock wall, a swing called the Screamer, and a lot more! I was super awesome.

Oh, and I got my ears pierced last Wednesday :)

Anyway.

Here’s the second part of Clara’s letter — and the last, at the moment, anyway. I haven’t written any more to the story since I posted part one. I’ll probably write more, though, since I really enjoyed writing it!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      The other children had warmed up to Godfather once they had seen the wonderful gift he had given to me, and he worked his way around the tree, presenting one-of-a-kind toys to each child: dolls, wooden soldiers, rocking horses, stuffed animals. Shouts of happiness ran out as the young ones played with their gifts.

      Fritz, who had been given a set a hand-painted soldiers, was glaring at me as I twirled around the room with the Nutcracker Prince. Suddenly, he snatched a huge walnut from a dish on the side table, lunged at me, and shoved it into the nutcracker’s mouth. He jerked the lever on the toy’s back down, but the walnut was too large for him to break. Instead, what broke was the Nutcracker Prince’s two front teeth!

      A strangled shriek of horror escaped my lips as the petite teeth plummeted to the floor. Sobbing, I wrenched the nutcracker from Fritz’s grip and scooped the teeth off the ground. Not wanting to be punished, my brother scurried into the dining room and blended into the crowd of cousins. Adults swarmed around me, brushing my shoulders sympathetically and murmuring comfortingly.

      Godfather rushed to my side and gently pried the nutcracker’s teeth from my trembling hand. “I can fix him, Clara,” he promised. “Your nutcracker shall be as good as new before the party ends!” He lifted the Nutcracker Prince from arms, selected several tools from his ever-present sack, and hurried away.

      Sniffling, I wiped at my eyes and wandered back to the tree, where I opened the rest of my presents. They were all quite wonderful, but not nearly as grand as the nutcracker. I wish Godfather would hurry up! I thought.

      All too soon, the children started yawning and their parents shooed them out the front door in a flurry of cloaks. Uncle Raymond, Aunt Katherine, and Mercy were some of last to go, but they left too. The Stahlbaum house, which had been full of laughing relatives gorging themselves on holiday treats minutes before, was silent except for the steady tick, tick, tick of the grandfather clock.

      As Fritz and I were climbing the stairs to the second floor, a shadowy figure appeared on the landing. We screamed and practically tumbled head over heels down the stairs in our haste to get away. My heartbeat pounded in my head. A ghost!

     “Wait, children!” called the shadow. Moments later, a blinking flame materialized on the landing, and Godfather’s face was bathed in wavering candlelight. He moved down the stairs, his old joints creaking in rhythm with the squeaks of the staircase. “I have mended your nutcracker, Clara.”

      I took the nutcracker from him with one hand and hugged him with the other. “Thank you, Godfather. I love the Nutcracker Prince so much!”

      Mother grasped Godfather’s hand in her own and led him to the door. “You didn’t have to spoil Fritz and Clara with those extra gifts of yours,” she told him. “They already had enough presents for this Christmas, the next one, and their birthdays!”

      “They’re children, Marie!” Godfather said. “And they shan’t be for much longer. I’ll spoil them while I can.” He kissed Mother’s smooth hand and ducked outside into the chill December night.

      Once Godfather had left, Fritz scampered up the staircase to his room, but I stayed on the bottom step, one hand on the railing. The Christmas tree, still aglow, was alluring, and I didn’t want to leave.

      Mother turned away from the door and focused her arctic blue eyes on me. “Go along, Clara, off to bed,” she ordered.

      I hopped off the staircase and begged, “May I please sleep on the couch tonight, Mother? Just this once?” I placed the nutcracker on the ground and clasped my hands. Please say yes . . . oh, please, Mother, say yes . . .

      Mother opened her mouth to object, but Father put a hand on her shoulder. They had a silent conversation with facial expressions, and Mother relented. “Fine, you may sleep on the couch. Only tonight, mind you, so don’t get used to it.”

      I bounded over to her. “Thank you, Mother!”

      She laughed softly and kissed my head. “Run along and put your nightgown on, and when you come down, Father and I will have made the couch into a bed fit for the queen.”

      Upstairs, I let my hair down and changed into my new nightgown, which swished around my ankles when I walked and was made of airy blush colored fabric with a silver sash around the waist. I slipped silently down the stairs, picked the Nutcracker Prince up off the parlor floor, and walked toward the couch. Mother was waiting there beside the Christmas tree, and when I reached her, she complimented me on how lovely I looked in the nightdress.

      A blanket, crocheted with sea foam and pearl-colored yarn, was draped over the couch. Two fluffy pillows were set at one end. Mother pulled back the blanket and I slid onto the couch. The cushions puffed up around me, embracing me in a hug filled with sleep. My eyes would hardly stay open, and I didn’t hear Mother bid me goodnight. I was already asleep, the nutcracker in my arms.

***

      The Christmas tree was growing rapidly, reaching for the ceiling, and its branches expanded until the pine needles were as thick as the shafts of quill pens. Someone was perched on top of the tree, cackling and waving an arm around wildly. It was Godfather!

      My head snapping back and forth, I saw that everything in the parlor was growing larger – everything except for me, that is! The toys scattered beneath the tree had become the same size as their real equivalents. Then the dolls began to bend their wooden and fabric joints, and the stuffed animals made noises that sounded like yawning. They were alive!

      A doll, dressed in red, strode around the tree, shaking the other toys and commanding them to wake up. It was the Nutcracker Prince! He spotted me out of the corner of his eye and waved for me to join him at the base of the tree.

      I jumped off the couch, landing on a stray pillow on the floor, and ran to him. Was this real? Had all my toys come to life? Laughing a bit hysterically, I screeched to a halt by the nutcracker.

      He put a hand on my shoulder and announced, “This is Clara Stahlbaum!”

      The other toys crowded around me, shaking my hands and saying hello. Suddenly the Nutcracker Prince shouted in alarm and pointed to the other side of the parlor, and the toys froze.

      An army of hundreds of mice had appeared, baring their teeth and pounding their spears against the ground in a menacing drumbeat.

      I hate to stop there, Mercy, but I’m about to run out of ink! I shall write again soon with the rest of the story.

Yours truly,

Clara Stahlbaum

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