Noelle's Gift (short story)
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"It's going to be a small Christmas this year," Emma began in her serious oldest-sister voice.
Noelle's head was hidden under her covers. Her older sisters thought she was asleep, but at Emma's comment, her eyes flew open and she listened silently.
"The hospital bills were expensive," twelve-year-old Bethany stated.
Emma gave a little sigh, acknowledging that she knew the fact, then added, "It's not just that," her voice lowered and Noelle had to strain to hear it. "Mama won't want a big Christmas."
"I don't know."
The older girls were quiet for a little while before fourteen-year-old Emma continued, "I guess the accident took away some of her happiness."
"I wish we could give that to Mama for Christmas."
That was the end of the conversation. The older girls fell asleep and then Papa was gently shaking Noelle, waking her up.
Noelle let her feet dangle as she balanced herself on the top rail of the fence. Her mind played the conversation of her sisters over and over. A small Christmas. At the thought, Noelle mentally scratched out her Christmas list. She would be content with just a few new books, maybe, though she had dreamed about a new bicycle. She didn't have to be told that bicycles were very expensive.
But the other part of the conversation troubled Noelle. What had Emma meant by Mama not wanting a big Christmas? Mama always loved Christmas. But maybe things would be different this year. Surely Emma was old enough to know what she was talking about.
Unconsciously, Noelle repeated Bethany's wish: "I wish I could give happiness to Mama for Christmas." But what gift could give happiness? It shouldn't be hard for Emma and Bethany. They were old and could find a few odd-jobs. But Noelle? She was only eight. What could she do?