Finding Forever

By: Melody Anne

The babysitter came flying around the corner.

“I am done watching these children,” the woman yelled. “They don’t listen, they purposely make messes and then tell me I have to clean them up, and they’re the most ungrateful brats I’ve ever met in my entire existence.” She grabbed her purse and went running out the front door. She didn’t even stop to ask for money, which made Whitney almost thankful.

After the door slammed, Whitney turned toward the kids, who were looking guiltily at the floor.

“What happened?”

“I’m sorry, Aunt Whitney,” Ally said with tears streaming down her cheeks.

“We don’t need a stupid babysitter,” Brayden snapped. “I’m ten and Ally is seven, but you still treat us like babies.”

“You’re only ten, Brayden. Yes, you need a sitter, or I’d be in serious trouble with social services,” Whitney told him. “I know you’re lashing out because you’re hurt, but we’re going to be okay. I promise you.”

She reached out toward Brayden, but he jerked backward.

“On what planet is everything going to be okay? Or are you talking about a parallel universe? Sheesh.”

“Brayden, it’s December, the season of magic and dreams,” his aunt said. “We have each other, and that’s so much more than many others have.”

Ally broke in, saying, “Maybe we should be a little better, Bray, or Christmas will be ruined.” Her sweet niece continued pleading with her brother; the mention of the big holiday brought a hint of magic back to her eyes.

“Christmas is over forever, Ally. You need to figure that out, because there’s no magic, there’s no Mom and Dad, and there’s certainly no Santa Claus,” he growled. “Only stupid little girls believe in him. You really need to grow up.”

“Sweetie, you can’t think like that,” Whitney said to the boy before turning to her niece. “Don’t give up, Ally. Everything about Christmas is enchantment and light, and the day represents the good still in this world.”

“Whatever. I hate all of this,” Brayden shouted before he stomped from the room.

Whitney cringed when he slammed his bedroom door violently enough to shake the walls. But she took a deep breath. She could tackle only one problem at a time.

“I’m sorry, Auntie,” Ally said in between sobs.

Whitney dropped to her knees and pulled her niece into her arms.

“Oh, baby, it’s okay. I know how hard things are for you right now.” She then looked at the floor with a sigh. “Did you and your brother make this mess?”

Ally’s guilty eyes were her answer.

“First, your brother is coming back down here, and then the two of you are going to clean it up. I’ve been too lenient and this is the result.” Yes, she had to try to be somewhat stern.

“I don’t think he will,” Ally told her.

“Yes, he will. Once the mess is cleaned up, then you and I will forget all about it and bake some cookies — the right way. This time, with far less mess.”

Ally’s dimple made an appearance, as her niece gave her a watery smile before nodding her head. Whitney kissed her on the forehead before going to get Brayden. Let the battle begin.

Brayden came down and helped his sister without even looking at Whitney. That broke her heart, but this was the right thing to do. She didn’t want her nephew to grow up into a monster, and they couldn’t let the tragedy dictate the rest of their lives.

As soon as the kids were finished, Brayden stormed back up the stairs and managed to slam his door with even greater force than before. Whitney decided to ignore that as she got out the ingredients for her and Ally to begin baking.

It didn’t take long for Ally to bring up the big holiday again.

“Is it bad for me to still believe?” she asked with achingly innocent eyes.

“Of course not. Believing is what keeps the magic alive,” Whitney told her.

“How do you know?” the girl asked, and she paused briefly in thought. “Why do bad things happen at Christmastime if all the good things about it are so real?”

“Ah, baby, the world is far from perfect, and sometimes bad things happen because people make wrong choices. And sometimes bad things happen even to good people, and we’ll never know why. There’s a divine plan. But good things happen too, and that’s the magic and the hope that we hold out for.”

“I want to believe that,” Ally whispered.

“It’s okay to feel happy, baby girl.”

“But Brayden says that if I feel happy, then I’m forgetting Mom and Dad,” Ally said, a tear falling down her cheek.

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