Mummy and Daddy said Santa had a tough year. They said he didn’t have enough candy canes to pay all of his elves because it wasn’t a good year for growing candy canes. They said that, because he didn’t have enough candy canes, some of the elves had to do different things, like make shoes for cobblers, so that they could bring home candy canes to the baby elves. I don’t know what a cobbler is, but I don’t know why they deserve new shoes when my Daddy’s shoes have such big holes in them that he has to use a plastic bag over his socks to keep the snow out.
Anyway, Santa didn’t have enough elves to make all the toys he usually does, so he told Mummy and Daddy that I wasn’t going to have as many presents under the tree as last year, but that I’d been a very good girl and shouldn’t be disappointed. But, he also told them they wouldn’t be getting ANY presents this year! They always get presents too because they’re always good parents.
It just doesn’t seem fair because they work so hard. They always wake up before me and they always stay up really late, and mum says if Dad drinks anymore coffee, or looks at the bank account any more, there will be a hole in his tummy! I don’t want Daddy to get a hole in his tummy.
I wanted to do something, but Mummy and Daddy said they didn’t need any presents, and they were happy Santa was going to focus on me. I was most important, they said.
It just didn’t seem fair. So, I decided to get them a unicorn.
Whenever Daddy go out to tuck the horses in a night, I go and give them each a big kiss on the nose and a tasty carrot while Daddy just leans against the fence, one heel up and hanging on the middle board. And then, when I get close to finishing, he sighs.
I ask him the same question every night, “What’s wrong, Daddy?”
He always replies, “Nothing, sweetie. I just need myself a unicorn, is all. Just one unicorn and everything will be okay.”
Well, I’m going get him that unicorn for Christmas.
I scrounged up some loose change from the couch for my supplies. Daddy sometimes falls asleep and everything in his pocket always ends up in the seat cushions. He never seems to figure it out, though. I usually use the change for my candy money, but not this month. This month, I saved every little nickel, dime and quarter for my big surprise. And, by the end, I had just enough for a bottle of glitter, some glue, and a box of toothpicks.
After Mum tucked me in one night, the night before Christmas Eve, I stayed up late waiting for the sound of footsteps and talking to quiet down, and the sound of the TV and Daddy’s snoring to come on. By then, it was way past my bedtime, but I wasn’t even tired. I was ready to work. So I worked like the extra little elf Santa needed in his workshop, sucking on a candy cane I snuck off our Christmas tree for energy.
I took one of my toy horses out of my toy box – the spotted one, an appaloosa. It was my favourite. I’d named it Snowy, because it looked like he had snow covering his rump. Snowy would be a perfect unicorn, I thought. I gave him a quick kiss and then covered him in glue and shook the whole bottle of glitter onto him. I made sure every part of Snowy was covered.
I stood back and looked at my work – Snowy had transformed into a majestic, magical horse, standing in a pool of glimmering glitter. I smiled. The plan was working.
Then, I needed something to make the horn. That’s what the toothpicks were for, so I glued seven of them together, trying to make a bit of a cone – like a horn. I think it looked good. But, I needed a way to make the horn white so they’d look like a unicorn’s horn. I just needed something small, the toothpicks weren’t very big, but I couldn’t find anything in my room, and I didn’t want to ruin the surprise by asking Mummy for something in the kitchen.
Aha! Finally, I thought of something white. Poultice. Only, it was down in the barn and I wasn’t allowed down in the barn alone after dark. But, this was a special situation. I needed that poultice because Daddy and Mommy needed a unicorn.
I opened my window and looked around. No one in sight – good. The only sound I could hear was of the horses moving around in their field. I looked down to the ground. We only had one story in the house so I could easily jump, except for the bushes. I didn’t want to land in the bushes. I used to play hide and seek with Daddy in there, and they’re prickly!
But, it was a special circumstance tonight. I’d have to suck it up. I put on my thickest sweater and socks (I didn’t want to wake Mum or Daddy up by getting my coat and boots), and I climbed out. The snow soaked through my socks right away, and the coldness on my toes almost made me yell – almost. I’m tougher than that. Like Daddy’s always says, I’m a rancher’s daughter.
I started running towards the barn. Daddy also says to never run, but my toes were too cold to walk calmly like I’m supposed to. Plus, the horses are in the field and, unless I have food, I know they’re not going to care about me.
I got to the barn, fumbled with the heavy lock and got in. I flicked on the lights before remembering that Mum and Daddy might still be awake – they like to look out at the barn together – so I shut them off. I felt my way down the aisle using the stall doors. The tack room would be on my left in 3 – 2 – 1. I flicked on the light in there because there weren’t any windows.
I giggled to myself. I felt like a spy.
I opened Daddy’s medical trunk and found the bucket of poultice. I tried to lift it out but its weight surprised me. Daddy always carried it for me when we needed to poultice a horse, and he made it look so easy.
I should have brought Snowy with me, I thought. Too late now. I had to be strong. So, I gripped the bucket’s handle with both my hands and heaved with all my might.
I got it up and out of the trunk.
I shuffled as fast as I could back to the house, making sure I latched the barn door because you never leave the barn door unlatched.
I managed to get back to my window, which I’d left open – silly me – until I realized that the bucket of poultice was too heavy for me to lift into the window.
I stood there at the window, tears fighting their way into my eyes, as I tried to figure out what to do next.
That’s when I heard my Daddy’s voice. He sounded scared.
“Annabelle? Annabelle! Where are you hiding?”
Uhoh. He caught me. He only uses Annabelle when he’s really serious.
“Annabelle! If you can hear me, tell me!”
Shoot. He sounded scared. More scared than that time that our best stallion, Ranger, lay down in his stall and couldn’t get up, and he was pretty scared then.
I yelled back, “I’m here!” My tears spilled over in disappointment. wouldn’t get to surprise him with his unicorn after all.
Daddy’s head popped out of my bedroom window, and Mummy’s wasn’t far behind.
“What are you doing out there! And why do you have a bucket of poultice?” Daddy asked, his face contorted in a combination of worry, relief and confusion.
“Sweetie! You’re going to catch a cold! Where are your boots and coat? Mummy added. I could hear the catch in her throat that said she was going to cry. “And what happened to your room?”
I didn’t answer, remembering the pool of magical unicorn glitter with a half-ready Snowy in the middle.
I broke down, plopping down in the snow. I wailed, then. I couldn’t help it. I’d let them both down. The best parents in the world, and I couldn’t even give them the one thing they needed – one, single unicorn.
Daddy jumped out of the window, then. He was in his bare feet, but he didn’t even flinch when his feet hit the snowy bush. That’s the kind of rancher he was. Mummy came flying out the front door soon after, with my coat and boots in hand.
Daddy picked me up and started carrying me towards Mummy and the front door.
I couldn’t stop crying.
“What’s wrong, Annie?” he asked, holding me tightly. “Tell me. You can tell me anything.”
“Santa asked for my help, and I let him down” I fibbed, wiping my nose on his plaid sleeve. I didn’t want to tell him that it was all my idea and that Santa really was going to skip them this year.
“What on earth do you mean?” Daddy asked, swallowing a snort. I knew that meant he was trying not to laugh.
“Don’t laugh! It’s serious!”
“Of course, sweetie. We’re not laughing. Right, Daddy?” She said, giving him her Mommy look.”
“Of course not,” he said, burying his face in the top of my head. I think he was still laughing, but he covered it by kissing the top of my head.
“What do you mean, Santa asked for your help?” Mummy asked.
“Well, it’s just….” I paused and buried my face in daddy’s sleeve. I liked the way it smelled. “It’s just, Santa knows you need a unicorn. He heard Daddy say it over and over again this year. And he said that it wasn’t fair that he didn’t have enough elves to make you presents this year. So, he asked if I could be his elf helper for one night and make you your unicorn, because you’ve been such a good Mommy and Daddy all year.”
Daddy squeezed me so tightly that it was hard to breath, but I liked it. He and Mummy buried their faces in me, Daddy in my hair and Mummy in my tummy. And then I felt the shaking. Daddy was shaking.
We were inside now, so Daddy put me down on the couch so that he and Mommy could look at me. He had the biggest smile on his face, and maybe even some tears in his eyes. Tears? I thought to myself. Not possible. It must have been the cold wind stinging his eyes. Mummy as crying, but she was smiling too. I didn’t understand.
“Sweetie, you are everything we need. We don’t need Santa’s presents, or any presents at all. We have everything we need right here,” Mummy told me as she took my hands in hers.
“She’s right, Annie,” Daddy said. “Plus, you want to know a little secret?”
I leaned in close. I loved secrets.
“You’re our unicorn. You’re special, and beautiful, and unique. And no one else has a daughter like you. You are our unicorn, and you are everything we need.” He put his hands over top of Mommy’s and held our hands tight. And then he kissed me on my forehead.
We stayed like that for a moment, just the three of us. It felt good.
Daddy finally broke the silence. “Why don’t I make some hot cocoa by the fire. I don’t know about you, Annie, but my feet are flippin’ freezin’!”