An excerpt from A Winter Discovery

    Reese woke up from the dream laughing. That was maybe the most amazing dream he’d ever had – and he’d had some pretty amazing ones. He was riding on this super fast train with snow on all sides. A bunch of kids were with him, and they were having this huge party. The train did all of these crazy loopy things – Reese was pretty sure they went upside down for a while, which turned out not to be as bad as he thought it was going to be – and everything outside became a blur.

    Then, all of a sudden, the train slowed way, way down and they were in this crazy city. It took Reese about three seconds to realize they were in the North Pole. The kids got off the train, and there were elves everywhere. The elves kept talking about “the Big Guy,” and Reese just knew he was going to get to meet Santa Claus. But just when it was about to happen, he woke up.

    Still, that was about as much fun as Reese had ever had while sleeping, and the whole thing just made him laugh. How unbelievably amazing would it be to get on a train like that?

    Now that he was up, Reese realized that the dream was an awful lot like the movie The Polar Express that he’d watched with Dad and Millie tonight. Dad had read the book to him a couple of times, too, but the movie was just so real. He really wanted to be the kid in that movie.

    Maybe he was that kid. Maybe that’s why he had the dream. Maybe the dream was telling him to get outside and wait for the train to come. Sure, it wasn’t Christmas Eve yet, but Reese was guessing that the train didn’t only run that one day a year. Why would you build a train that incredible and then only use it on Christmas Eve?

    Now that he had that thought in his head, Reese couldn’t just lay around in his room. How horrible would it be if the train showed up in his front yard and he missed it because he was in his bed thinking about it instead of getting on it. That’s probably what happened to kids all the time. The train waited for you for a little while and then it went to some other kid’s house and you were out of luck forever.

    That wasn’t going to happen to him.

    Reese got out of bed and opened his door very, very quietly. Millie seemed to hear him whenever he got up in the middle of the night. That was great if he wasn’t feeling good, but he didn’t want her with him right now. He was pretty sure the train wouldn’t come if someone else went outside with him, especially a grown-up.

    Taking super-huge care to make sure he didn’t step on any of the creaky boards on the stairs, he went down to the hall closet and put on his coat, hat, mittens, and boots. The front door could be noisy, too, so he had to open it mega-slowly.

    He stepped onto the porch. The train wasn’t there yet, but it could show up at any minute. It was so quiet out here. It was never this quiet when he usually came outside to play. It was good that it was this quiet, because that meant he’d be able to hear the train coming from a long way away.

    Reese walked out to the middle of the lawn, which wasn’t that easy to do because the snow was really high. He said hi to the snowman he made with Dad as he went by. He still wasn’t sure what they did wrong. He thought they were making a Frosty, but they just made a plain snowman. They’d have to give it another try after he got back from the North Pole.

    He was standing there a couple of minutes when it started to snow. This wasn’t the crazy buckets-of-snow thing from last night, just a little sprinkle. One of the flakes drifted right in front of his eyes and he caught it with his mitten and then held it up close to his face. He stared at it for a long time, not sure why he found this so interesting, but also not wanting to take his eyes off of it. As it turned out, this was another one of those non-melting snowflakes. Even though his mitten was pretty warm from being in the house, the flake just sat there.

 

    For some reason, the snowflake made him start thinking about his mom again. What was that about? He thought about her a lot, anyway, but snowflakes just made her jump into his head these days. It would have been cool to talk to her about snowflakes or Frosties or trains that took you to the North Pole. Dad had told him once that Mom was really into Christmas, so she probably would have been really excited about this stuff. Maybe even as excited as he was about it.

    He got that goopy feeling again while he was thinking about his mom. It made him feel really warm, like he was sitting by a fireplace or something. Even if he was feeling warm inside, though, it wasn’t melting the snowflake. That just stayed the way it was on his mitten, which was really good, because he liked having the company.

    Just then, he felt an arm around his shoulder, and, when he looked up, Millie was standing next to him. He hadn’t even heard her walking through the snow to get to him.

    “What’cha got?” she said, nodding toward the mitten that he was still holding out in front of him.

    Reese looked to where she was looking. “Very cool snowflake. The kind that doesn’t melt.”

    Millie leaned closer to his mitten. “It doesn’t melt?”

    “Nope? I’ve been holding it for a really long time.”

    Millie tilted her head and nodded. “That’s quite a snowflake.”

    Reese nodded along with her.

    “You know,” she said, “it’s not the best idea in the world for a six-year-old to be standing out in the snow by himself in the middle of the night.”

    Reese looked down the street. “I was waiting for the Polar Express.”

    “Doesn’t that only come on Christmas Eve?”

    “That’s what a lot of people think, but I don’t think so.”

    “Hmm.”

    Millie didn’t say anything after that, so Reese went back to looking at the snowflake.

    “It’s still not really a good idea for you to be standing out here at one-thirty in the morning.”

    Reese looked up at Millie again, and she gave him one of her understanding smiles. He shrugged.

    “However,” she said, “we still have a couple of those apple cider donuts left. While it wouldn’t be very responsible of me to let you stand outside at one-thirty in the morning, I think it’s completely responsible of me to let you eat a donut before you go back to bed. What do you think?”

    Reese looked down the street in both directions this time. For some reason, he’d been thinking that the train would come from the right, but it could definitely come from the left, too.

    It probably wasn’t coming at all now, though. He was just guessing that part about the train coming on days other than Christmas Eve. And, anyway, it wasn’t going to show with an adult out here.

    He offered Millie an understanding smile of his own. “Donut sounds good.”

    She squeezed his shoulder and said, “Come on, let’s go inside.”

    As they turned to go, Reese took one more look at the snowflake. Since it was a non-melting flake, he could take it into the house with him, but then it would be lonely. Instead, he blew it off his mitten and watched it flutter to join its friends on the ground.