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As Tom sprinted back to the creaking cottage, Melissa lay on the ground, sobbing uncontrollably. She looked up as a shadow was cast over her body. Thinking that it was Tom, or perhaps her mother or father, she got up and stumbled to the figure for a comforting hug.

Blinded with tears, Melissa clutched the figure, as she told what happened.

"There, there, child. You'll be okay."

But it wasn't smooth and reassuring, like her mother's. It wasn't gruff, but loving, like her father's, or kind and helping like Tom's. It was tender and helpful. Melissa dried her eyes and looked up. Se saw not Tom, not Mom, and not Dad.

He as a tall, lean old man, with azure blue eyes, and pure white hair. He had a beard which trailed to a small point, and glasses. All in all, the man looked like one of Santa's elves, only taller, and no pointed ears.

The Xaviersens had no neighbor for miles except Joe Davison. So it had to be him.

But it couldn't be him, reasoned Melissa. Old Man Davison was a recluse! Recluses don't look like Santa's elves. Being only seven and a half years old, she asked him openly:


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