WRITTEN BY LISA ALLEN
The magical department store gave Sophie something special
At exactly midnight, Sophie spun through the doors of Mistlehills department store, her heart racing.
Inside, spotlights fell through the dark like snowflakes. The air was thick with silence. There was a forbidden feel about the place; as if she shouldn’t be there.
Mistlehills had never lost its magic, despite the changes that had happened outside of its grand walls over past decades. It was a reassuring presence in an ever evolving city.
Sophie had visited Mistlehills every Christmas since she was a child, the first trip being twenty years ago. She’d spend a magical festive day each year with her family staring into wintery window displays, strolling around its timeless departments, only stopping for a cake and hot chocolate in its Christmas cabin cafe.
Never in her wildest dreams had Sophie ever thought she’d get to see inside Mistlehills after dark – and she was about to discover, that was when the magic really happened.
“Pssst! Sophie, over here.”
Sophie turned her head to a giant polar bear guarding the ground floor lift doors. Standing beside the friendly creature, a man the same age as Sophie beckoned her.
Sophie drew level with him, grinning. “Daniel, why are we whispering?”
A blank look passed his eyes before he whispered back, “I don’t know.”
They burst out laughing.
Sophie couldn’t believe it when she got the job as Special Visual Merchandiser for Mistlehills famous Christmas window display. It had been a lifelong dream. Sophie had studied design and interiors at university, working her way up from small boutiques to high street stores, and now Mistlehills – the place that had sparked her imagination as a child every Christmas.
Daniel, who was a permanent employee at Mistlehills, pressed the lift button, taking them up to the props room. Sophie had pre-ordered the festive props months in advance, planning everything down to the last detail. As they ventured into a cold, musty room, a light buzzed on and Sophie let out a scream – water was trickling over the open crates of Christmas props from a leaking ceiling pipe!
Sophie ran over, pulling out grinning elves and grumpy fairies.
No! It’s utterly ruined. There’s nothing salvageable!
Daniel rushed to the mountain of mush. “There must be something we can do?”
Sophie wailed, “Christmas is ruined! I promised Mistlehills the most magical Christmas window scene they’d ever had. Tomorrow morning the red curtains will fall and there will be nothing but an empty window. Everyone coming especially to see the unveiling will be so disappointed.”
Daniel rubbed his head, thinking. It did seem hopeless. If they borrowed festive props from other departments, it would spoil the overall look of the department store. A bell slid off the mush mountain tinkling to the floor. “I’ve got it!” he said.
Sophie looked at him, teardrops wetting her cheeks. “It’s no use. I can’t think up a whole new display.”
“Yes, Sophie, you can. I’ve known you for years, and I know how much this department store means to you. If anyone can save Christmas for Mistlehills, it’s you. Now follow me.”
Crockery, books, faux fur rugs, cuddly toys and bundles of Christmassy things filled the trolleys Sophie and Daniel wheeled through the stock room to the lift.
“Are you sure this will work?” Sophie looked doubtful.
Daniel smiled at her. “With your talent and a bit of Christmas magic, there’s no stopping us.”
“This is it, then,” said Daniel.
Standing on the pavement they watched the excited shoppers gathering for the annual unveiling of Mistlehills Christmas window display.
Three, two, one… Sophie silently murmured, her heart thudding in her chest.
Red silk sheets fell inside the glass window panes, and the crowd gasped.
The most magical, beautiful Christmas scene suddenly came to life in the wide frost-edged windows: a Christmas tree made up of cups and saucers with cupcakes for baubles and strung candy canes and paper doll chains; concertinas of books moving like piano accordions; and gentle festive music was drifting from the window speakers.
There were bears and toy soldiers sharing wintery picnics on cosy fur blankets, ballerinas spinning high on circus hoops, all surrounded by the most glittering magical Christmas things Daniel and Sophie could find in the stock room.
The crowd suddenly burst into applause and cheers.
Daniel leant towards Sophie, and whispered, “You did it!”
Sophie’s gaze met Daniel’s. For a moment, it felt like the noise of the crowd was fading and it was just the two of them again. “We did it,” said Sophie.
A spark passed between their eyes.
Daniel took Sophie’s hand, smiling. “Celebratory breakfast hot chocolate and cake in Mistlehills Christmas cabin?”
Sophie smiled back. “As long as you promise we can do this all again next Christmas.”