by Kaitlyn Libby
It was Christmas morning, and the Nelson’s house was as bright as any. It had snowed the night before, covering the earth in a blanket of white. It was still dawn, the sun casting a soft orange glow over the earth,when the first person awoke.
Zoe blinked sleepily, then her eyes flew open at once as the realization fell upon her. It was Christmas! Leaping out of bed with her curly golden hair frizzy after a night of restless sleep, she threw open her bedroom door and raced downstairs.
Zachary, on the other hand, was not quite as excited as his sister. Grunting as he opened his eyes, he slowly slid off his bed and climbed sleepily down the stairs.
“Zoe,” Zachary groaned, “why’d you have to wake me up so early?”
Zoe glared at her brother. “It’s Christmas, Zach! Have a little holiday cheer!” And with a last angry look at Zachary, she went to wake her parents.
“Mom! Dad! Wake up! It’s Christmas! It snowed! Santa was here! It’s Christmas!”
Her mother and father smiled up at her, the last remnants of sleep wearing away slowly. “Let’s go see what he brought, Zoe,” Mrs. Nelson yawned, stretching and climbing out of bed. She was followed by her husband, who was seemingly just as excited as Zoe.
Zachary was still in the living room, finishing the plate of cookies on the coffee table. “Zach!” Zoe whined. “You just ate Santa’s cookies!”
Zachary snorted, clearly indignant. “D’you honestly think, ahem, ‘Santa,’ is going to come again? Why do you even care?”
Zoe seemed to be at a loss for words, so Mr. Nelson decided to break the two up. “C’mon, kids, let’s go see what you got in your stockings!”
“Yay!” Zoe dashed over to her stocking. “Zach, look at all the chocolate I got! Ooh, and a necklace! What’d you get?”
“Honestly, I couldn’t care less.” Zachary stuffed two pieces of bread in the toaster.
The angry expression returned to Zoe’s face. “Zach, you don’t care about any of this, do you? Not even the presents! I guess I’ll just claim all your presents as my own, then!”
“Zoe, c’mon! Those are mine!”
“Exactly.” Zoe grabbed a present from under the tree. “Hmm… to Zachary, from Santa.” She began to tear a strip of paper off the present.
“Zoe!” Zachary snatched his present out of his sister’s hands. “Give it here!”
Zoe smirked at her brother. “I guess you do care after all, huh?”
And so this went on until all that was left under the tree were a few scraps of shiny wrapping paper and pine needles.
“Hey, Zach, mind taking care of the paper for me?” Mr. Nelson put a hand on his son’s shoulder.
Zachary grumbled and started gathering up the scraps of red and green paper.
Zachary jumped, scattering wrapping paper all over the floor. Cursing under his breath, he turned to his sister.
“There’s a note! Look!” A folded piece of paper was lying among the torn and tattered paper.
“Dear Zachary and Zoe,” Zoe read aloud, “I wanted to let you know about a certain surprise I left at your aunt’s house. Have a happy holiday! From Santa Claus.”
“Yeah, like I’ll believe that.” Zach rolled his eyes.
Later that night, their Aunt Jacqueline was handing out the last of the presents. At the very end, she announced with grand enthusiasm, “The last present is for Zoe and Zach!” She handed a bright red present to the twins.
“Hey, it’s making noise!” Zoe put her ear to the box.
“Go on,” their aunt insisted.
Zoe tore open the present and opened the box. Inside was a golden retriever puppy, a festive plaid bow tied loosely around its neck.
“She’s been dying to meet you two!” Aunt Jacqueline smiled.
“How did she know…” Zachary broke off, glaring at her suspiciously.
Aunt Jacqueline winked. “Christmas magic.”
“She’s adorable!” Zoe gushed. “What should we name her, Zach?”
And for the first time that day, Zachary smiled. “Noelle,” he replied. “We should name her Noelle.”
Zoe, taken aback, stared at her brother for a few moments before grinning. “I told you, Zachary! I told you it was real!”
Her brother’s eyes widened, as if suddenly realizing what he had done. "Noelle, Zoe, as in the name!”
Zoe, still smiling, turned back to the puppy. “Come on, Noelle. Let’s go home!”
No matter how much he denied it, it was all too clear that Zachary did not doubt the legends. He could pretend as much as he wanted, but every Christmas morning after that, he was awake even before Zoe, racing downstairs and emptying the contents of his stocking. Miraculously, the twins got along much better around the Christmas season, and all was well at the Nelsons house for many years afterward.