Alicia spent her days helping her mother. Two more people in the house meant there were more chores than ever so Alicia had plenty to do. Sharon did her best to fill every day with Christmas cheer, covering every surface in baubles and filling every moment with cookies and carols.
It was a nice break from school, but at the same time, it felt oddly normal. After the whirlwind of the summer, this winter was like any other Christmas, just with two new people around the house.
The snow continued to fall all around Ruby City. It wasn’t uncommon for the city to get some snow, but this year it was unusually deep. Alicia hadn’t seen snow like it since she was a kid.
“Pretty!” giggled Sharon as she walked up behind Alicia.
“Yeah, super pretty,” smiled Alicia as Sharon pushed a cup of hot chocolate into her hands.
“Oh, I meant to say, we’re going to have a little house meeting as it is one week until Christmas,” grinned Sharon. A few seconds after the words escaped her lips she burst into giggles. “You know, it is weird to say that now. We have enough people to actually have a meeting.”
“Right,” nodded Alicia. “It is weird to think it isn’t just you and me anymore.”
“Do you like it?” asked Sharon.
“I love it if you are happy.” Smiled Alicia, only for Sharon to chuckle.
“Gosh, you are sweet. Aiming to be on the good list this year?”
“When have I not been on the good list?”
“I mean, sometimes you were difficult!” laughed Sharon as she walked over to the couch.
“Hey! I’m not being lectured on morality by the supervillain!”
“It paid for your Christmas presents!” replied Sharon quickly. As Alicia sat down on the couch, Sharon wrapped her arm her and pulled her in for a tight hug. “But, I’m glad you are so sweet. I really am.”
The front door let out a soft click before swinging open. Alicia looked up, only to spot Ulla and Mara walking in. Both of them were wrapped in snow-covered winter coats.
“Hi!” shouted Alicia as the girls looked up.
“Hey!” replied Ulla, her voice muffled by her scarf.
“See, I said I called a meeting!” grinned Sharon.
“Before the meeting,” smiled Ulla as she strolled into the living room. “I have something to give you!”
“Oh?” gasped Alicia and Sharon in unison.
“Yep! A package arrived today and I want you to open it!” Grinned Ulla as she reached into her bag and produced a small wrapped box. She gently placed the box on the coffee table and stepped back.
Alicia eyed the bow suspiciously before looking at Ulla and Mara. While Mara had a good poker face, Ulla was giggling like a schoolgirl, making it obvious that something was going on.
“Well,” smiled Sharon. “Let’s open it!” she said as she winked at Alicia and reached towards the bow. Sharon gave the ribbon a small tug and it instantly unknotted. The box’s lid flew into the air as a load of confetti started to spray out of the box.
A streak of light dashed out of the box as the confetti continued to spew forth. The light twisted and warped, quickly forming a human shape that flashed before solidifying.
“Ta-Dah!” shouted Kitty as she posed.
“Kitty!” shouted Alicia as she jumped out of the couch and hugged the girl tightly. “I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too!” smiled Kitty.
“I see you got my invite!” Grinned Sharon as she got up and hugged both girls.
“I did!” nodded Kitty.
“She arrived a few days ago, but she wanted to surprise you,” chuckled Ulla. “It was too good of an idea to turn down.”
“I’m glad you went through with it,” replied Sharon as she let go of the hug. “Let me go get you some hot chocolate.”
“Okay!” Bounced Kitty as she pulled Ulla into the hug.
After a few minutes, Sharon returned with another mug of hot chocolate and a bag of marshmallows. “Is it me or are marshmallows getting smaller?” She asked as she sat down next to Alicia.
“Those are tiny!” Gasped Mara. “Marshdust is a better name for them!”
“Right?” Grinned Sharon. “But I wanted to ask you all about Christmas plans as I’ve got shopping to finish and it seemed easier to team up.”
“Good call!” smiled Mara. “I’ve got some bits and bobs to finish before the big day, so I can totally come to help you. We can use my lab as a staging point.”
“Cool!” replied Sharon. “What about you Ulla?”
“Oh, um,” replied Ulla. Her facial expression made it obvious that she was trying to come up with a convincing story. “I’ll be busy with meetings so I’ll likely handle it on my own.”
“You sure?” asked Sharon as she leaned forward.
“Yeah!” grinned Ulla. “Sure!”
Sharon looked from Ulla to Alicia before chuckling softly. Alicia bit her lip, trying to hold her giggles back. She recognized her Mom’s tone, it was her “I know you’re lying but giving you a chance, to tell the truth,” voice. It was something that Alicia had heard many times while growing up.
“Are you sure?” smirked Sharon. “Are you sure there isn’t anything you would like me to know?” She added before tapping next to her eye.
Ulla’s looked down as she squirmed a little bit in her chair. “No fair,” she mumbled.
“Oh? Usually, you’re totally down for that,” giggled Sharon. “But, seriously, you can tell us. I just want to make this season as great as I can.”
“Doesn’t mean I can’t protest about it!” teased Ulla as she looked around the room.
“Brat,” chuckled Mara.
“Brat?” replied Kitty quizzically, causing Mara, Sharon, and Ulla to start laughing.
“We’ll tell you later,” cooed Sharon softly. “Once Ulla has said her piece.”
“Well, I have this little tradition I’ve been doing for a few years,” mumbled Ulla as she rubbed her arm.
“Is it a human sacrifice?” interjected Sharon.
“Then you don’t need to be shy! It is okay!”
“Well,” replied Ulla as she took a deep breath. “You know those stories that go around every Christmas? The ones about local hospitals and charities finding random gifts on Christmas morning?”
“Of course!” grinned Alicia. “Happens every year! The person somehow gets into the building as well!”
“That’s me,” smiled Ulla.
“Really?!” gasped Alicia.
“Yep, every year.”
“I should have guessed, only MIST have the resources to pull something like that off.”
“Well, that is the thing, I keep it a secret to prevent it from being a MIST thing,” smiled Ulla. “If it was a MIST thing then it would involve fifty people, loads of paperwork, and a security team and for me, that ruins it.”
“Wait,” interrupted Mara. “Every year?”
“Yeah, every year,” nodded Ulla.
“One year we were at a Christmas Eve party together. How did you pull that off?”
“The one hosted by your friend?”
“Yeah,” nodded Mara. “Kathleen’s party, you were there all night.”
“I was there most of the night,” corrected Ulla. “Every few hours I would jump out of the bathroom window and run to a van I had parked nearby. I would then quickly deliver a few, and then come back. Spend some time at the party and make myself noticed. And then repeat.”
“You jumped out of a window?” giggled Alicia.
“Climbed more than jumped, but you get what I mean.”
“How did you do all that in one night?” questioned Mara.
“A lot of planning. I had to plot out a load of maps to work out the optimum route so that each run didn’t take too long,” smiled Ulla, growing in confidence with every word.
“You are dedicated,” chuckled Sharon.
“And obsessed with planning,” nodded Mara.
“Well, would you like us to help Ulla?” asked Sharon softly.
“Oh, I don’t want to bother you,” mumbled Ulla.
“You’re not bothering us!” smiled Mara.
“Yes, we want to help you do things that make you happy!” nodded Sharon.
“And with five of us, it will be way easier to sneak gifts into places!” nodded Alicia.
“You are all too sweet,” blushed Ulla.
“Also, several of us makes it easier to obscure the purchases,” nodded Mara. “Wait, how did you hide all the purchases? Someone must have noticed you buying that much stuff?”
“I’m not saying I have one or two shell corporations that operate as import businesses.” coughed Ulla.
“Wow, little Miss goody-two-shoes runs a front!” giggled Alicia.
“It is run legally! Just involves loopholes!” replied Ulla. “It lets me spread the cost out all year as well.”
“Well, I’m more than happy to be an elf for you.” nodded Alicia.
“Wouldn’t we all be reindeer?” asked Mara. “Because we’re delivering stuff.”
“Yeah, I didn’t want to invoke that image. It is quite dirty when you think about it.”
“What?” blinked Sharon as she pondered for a few moments. “Oh!” she gasped. “Yeah I see what you mean that is an utterly filthy image.”
All of the girls started to laugh at Alicia’s comment. As they did, Mara and Ulla looked at each other before blushing for a few moments.
Once everyone had calmed down, Ulla let out a soft sigh. “Thank you, I appreciate your help,” she said softly. “I’m still not used to the whole team thing.”
“I get it!” smiled Sharon. “But we’ll get there, okay?”
“We will!” nodded Ulla.
“But we should plan out this idea,” grinned Sharon as she grabbed a notepad.