The snow lay thick and deep and the hill looked tall and imposing. Will struggled onwards with his heavily laden sledge. His mother had sent him out giving him explicit instructions to get there and back before the next snow storm hit but as he glanced up at the heavy grey leaden sky he was not sure he was going to make it.
His legs sank into the powdery whiteness, almost to his knees and once or twice he slipped as he hit a patch of ice. Once all the boxes fell off the sledge and he had to flounder and grope around in the snow trying to find them all. He knew there were fifteen but he only managed to find fourteen.
Will counted again. Twelve, thirteen, fourteen. Where was it? It had to be there. It was almost the smallest one but the most important one. They played such a big part in the Christmas story that they had to have one. The old one had got lost when they moved so his father had ordered in a new one.
Small flakes of snow began to fall, whirling round him, blowing on the wind. His hands froze within his mittens as he pushed the snow on the ground aside. He had to find it. His mother had trusted him and he did not want to lose that trust. Tears filled his eyes as he searched. It had to be here somewhere. It would not be Christmas without the contents of that box.
The snow fell faster, his tears freezing on his face now as he kept looking. The darkness grew now, the wind tossing the snow in his face, it’s howling mocking him as he failed to find what he was looking for.
Will was cold, so cold he could barely feel his hands but he kept searching. Finally his hand knocked against something and he pushed the top layer of snow aside. It was the missing box. Scooping it up in both hands he shoved it into his pocket. Then he wrapped the rope of the sledge around him and began to walk towards home.
Each step seemed to be a mile and take an hour to do, but he kept going. He reminded himself how pretty the snow would look in the morning and thought how he and his sisters Rosie and Victoria would go sledging and build snowmen. He was going to teach them how to make snow angels and snow caves and they would have such fun.
Finally through the snow he saw the lights of home blazing out into the darkness. The front door was open and he could see his mother standing there, her hands cupped round her mouth.
“Willlllliaaaaammmm!” her voice was muted by the snow but he could still hear her.
“I’m coming,” he called moving as fast as he could.
His mother pulled him into a hug as soon as he got to the door. “I was worried sick, where have you been?”
“The boxes fell and I had to pick them up.”
Rosie looked at him. “There are only fourteen,” she said. She may only be seven but she knew how to count and had already counted the boxes as she and her father brought them inside. “The littlest one’s not there.”
William put his frozen hand into his pocket and brought out the box he has spent so long hunting in the snow for. “Here,” he managed. He let his mother take it from him then strip off his wet clothes. She wrapped him in a warm blanket.
Rosie picked up the box. “Can I?” she asked.
Her mother nodded. “You can open it but William hangs it.”
With trembling fingers Rosie opened the box. She gasped. “It’s beautiful.” She took it out and held it up. It spun and glittered in the firelight.
“Oooo purty,” five year old Victoria said.
Rosie handed it to William and he held it tightly as his father lifted him so he could place the Christmas Angel on top of the tree.