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Editor’s Note: This is the final chapter of a fictional 12-part Christmas tale. Parents are encouraged to read aloud with their children.

By MEGAN SMITH and HOLLY NITTOLI

Correspondents

For the first time Anna could remember, she didn’t have the usual bittersweet feeling of the end of Christmas. This year was different; the feeling she and Tyler got from helping others was the best Christmas spirit ever, and it didn’t have to end with the holidays.

On Boxing Day, they were full of excitement as they entered the Secret Book. There was a crowd in the little store and Mr. Hinkly was busy waiting for customers.

They slipped through the crowd to the storage room, and Anna found herself holding her breath.

Slowly, she blurted out while staring at the wooden door to the cleaning closet. Her stomach sank every second the black door didn’t appear.

“Maybe he has nothing to show us today,” Tyler said, sounding unconvinced of his own words.

“Actually, I think the work he’s doing through you is done for now.” Anna jumped at Mr. Hinkly’s voice behind her. “It showed you what you need to know.”

“What? How can it be over? Surely there are more people who need our help! she said, and Mr. Hinkly smiled kindly.

“Just because the door isn’t there to show you how to spread kindness doesn’t mean you have to stop.” he said, and Anna brightened a little.

“You’re right. I’m sure we can do a lot – we just have to keep our eyes open to seize the opportunities.

Mr. Hinkly grabbed a box of books and turned to leave the storeroom. “You are absolutely right, Anna. There’s a world of good you can do – and I’m sure you’ll light up the lives of countless people.

Anna found herself excited by the possibilities before her, letting go of her disappointment. She thought about how far they had come, how much good they had been able to do in such a short time, and she was ready to keep the momentum going.

She smiled at Tyler, wrapping her arm through his as they left the storeroom. “Come on, let’s get our cocoa and plan our next move.”

“What do you mean? How will we know who needs help?”

“I think if we start paying attention, we’ll see people everywhere who just need a little kindness. It will be like…like…”

“Permanent Christmas spirit?

“Exactly!” Anna smiled as they sat down at their favorite table in the corner with steaming cups of cocoa. “Because the season of giving shouldn’t be every season?”

Tyler smiled back. “We’ll make sure of that.”

They toasted their mugs and sat in contented silence, watching the snow fall outside.

*********

Eight years later, on Christmas Eve…

Anna wiped down the cafe counter and shook her head. “I don’t know why these kids can’t keep the cocoa in their cups.”

Tyler looked down from where he was stacking cups and laughed. “I seem to remember when you were the one spilling cocoa everywhere.”

“Never!” Anna chuckled as Tyler winked at her, a twinkle in his eye.

He had a new outlook on life since they had discovered the magic door when they were children. And that wasn’t the only thing that was new; he and Anna realized in high school that their feelings went beyond friendship and were now engaged.

Anna was constantly delighted with the turns their lives had taken. She was in her second year of business school and had taken over the management of the store part-time. She hoped to take over completely one day, both here and at her father’s store when he retired. It wouldn’t be easy, but she was excited by the possibilities.

Tyler also worked at Book Secret while studying philanthropy and nonprofit business. He had big plans to one day start his own charity to help families in need.

The bells above the door rang and Anna smiled as a teenage girl entered. “Welcome to the secret book!” Anything we can help you find? »

The girl nervously bit her bottom lip, glancing around.

“I hope so. But you might think I’m crazy,” she said softly.

Anna and Tyler exchanged a look. “I promise we won’t”, Anna said.

The girl took a deep breath. “I dreamed of this place. We just moved here, and I didn’t realize it was this store until we drove by last week. But as soon as I saw the window, I couldn’t believe it. It was exactly that store in my dreams…and there’s a big, sleek door. I see him so clearly and it’s like he wants me to find him.

She sighed, her cheeks flushed. “I know how that sounds.”

Anna and Tyler looked at the girl in shock. Tyler picked up the first one and smiled softly. “Looks like you’ve come to the right place” he said. “Come with us.”

He motioned for her to follow him as he headed towards the storeroom. “I am Tyler. She’s my fiancée, Anna. he said over his shoulder.

“I am Melody” she replied, running after him.

They led Melody into the storage room, and as Anna and Tyler saw the boring supplies cupboard, Melody gasped and her eyes widened in admiration.

“What is that?” she whispered.

“Something awesome,” Anne replied. “Come in and take a look – I promise it’s safe. When you come back, we can have some cocoa and talk about it.

“But Melody” Tyler said, “Don’t go there unless you are ready to change your life.”

“For the best?”

Tyler smiled and nodded, and Melody walked towards the black door that only she could see.

Anna rested her head on Tyler’s shoulder and sighed, glad the door continued to show others how to make a difference in the world, and still allowed her to be a part of it.

“Merry Christmas, Tyler” she whispered.

He kissed the top of her head. “And peace on Earth.”

– The end

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