~ Christmas Remembered ~
by Helen Adams


Disclaimers: A short story extolling the hope of goodwill to all at this special time of the year.

Acknowledgement: Thanks Sara for the encouragement and help.


"What exactly is Christmas Grandmother?" Leigh asked her grandmother quietly as she watched the older woman collect items together for the galactic review meeting she was due to give the opening speech to.

Saffron Canterbury sighed heavily, she loved the child as much as she had her own son who died tragically in the 'Three Green Planet War' ten years previously. The child did have this habit of being inquisitive at the most inopportune moments. 'When would this child ever give up asking questions?'

That question she posed to herself brought a slight smile to her thin, stoically featured face as she pondered that she was very like Leigh and if the truth be known still was. "Don't know, where did you pick up that word?"

Leigh Canterbury stared out over the beautiful setting of a spring day. The grass was green, the birds were singing and the lambs in the field opposite had a double spring in their step. Or so Leigh thought, as she looked upon the daily routine of......the hologram program that her grandmother had set up for today.

"I'm not sure but I think I read the word in one of my father's old journals." The girl replied with a slight catch to her words as she recalled sitting reading some of the entries her father had taken the time to write down. For writing was a skill that had become a luxury that many had bypassed with technology over the years. Her grandmother however, had insisted that the family maintain the skill. She knew that her grandmother often made entries in her own personal journal as indeed she had begun to herself.

Saffron stopped her search for the speech she'd transcribed the evening before and gazed at the child standing at the portal. It was a tragedy that both her parents had died so young when Leigh was but a baby. The council had agreed on her upbringing and she had managed to convince them that under the circumstances the child was best left with her. That had angered Leigh's mother's parents who had never liked Saffron or her radical thoughts. Fortunately, the council had for once agreed to see it her way although she did have to conform in society these past ten years to keep the child with her. It had been difficult but she had done so and was now strangely enough classified as one of the elite on galactic external affairs.

"Your father did search out rather strange facts and traditions perhaps it was one of those, in what context did you read it?"

"I'm sorry grandmother you will be late, I always ask you questions at the worse possible times." Leigh apologized as she saw the ice blue eyes glance at the chronometer on her desk.

Saffron once again smiled at the child and this time it was a warm loving smile. "Yes you do appear to have that talent don't you Leigh? How about when I return we look into the situation? I'm sure someone must know, we haven't lost all of our old records now have we?"

"Thank you grandmother, I'll read some more of father's journals he might have mentioned it again." Leigh moved over and hugged the six-foot woman then reached up and kissed her smooth pale cheek.

"Yes Leigh you do that and I'll be back as soon as I can." Saffron was always a little embarrassed at the affection the child gave her and it reminded her of another lifetime or at least that was what it was now.

Disengaging herself from the child she gently cuffed her on the chin and went out of the room.

Leigh smiled at the retreating back of her grandmother, although she was only ten, they told her at the school she attended she was a child genius. She also knew how lucky she was that she could go home in the evening to her grandmother since the others in the school all stayed behind in dormitories. At one time she had thought that was great but having spent a week there when her grandmother was off world, had taught her that family was as important as friends! Then again her grandmother was her friend too and she was alone and she needed her.

Leigh went over to the desk console and disengaged the hologram image outside and the portal went black as night. They lived in an artificial environment as the planet could no longer sustain human life, hadn't been able for hundreds of years. Scrolling over the available scenes she selected one with a white, cold background. The trees had a smattering of white all over them and a small bird with a red chest puffed out in exaggerated display, hopped around the area leaving small three pronged images in the snow or that was what it was called on the selector program.

"Yes that's the one." She grinned at the antics of the cheerful bird and wondered what type he was, another question for grandmother when she returns.

***********
The meeting had taken rather longer than she had hoped and it was now late in the evening. It was rare that she was late but Saffron hadn't been able to do anything about it. To make matters worse she was needed off world at a galactic conference. That meant of course, leaving Leigh behind and she knew Leigh hadn't enjoyed staying over at the school with her other friends. It had been embarrassing when she had called for her the evening upon her return to the planet. She had been overwhelmed in an emotional hug by her granddaughter, anyone would think she hadn't seen her for years instead of a week. This had made her determined that separation wasn't an option for, in her own way she knew she too had missed the child and her inquisitive questions. Actually she was sure that was why she was still ahead of the game with her compatriots?her ability to think with a similar agility of twenty years ago. That she had to put down to bringing up this wonderful child.

Ryan, her son, had been brilliant, as it had been hoped from his genetic background. He was an experiment that had gone right. Too many had berated her and the arrogance of her decision to bear the son of her deceased lover Lee, who had been a militant according to the council. A militant wasn't the word for Lee, for that title was already firmly on her own shoulders? she had just brought Lee into the public eye that was all.

The Canterbury's had been elite council personnel for their abilities in many ways and her parents had practically run the council and taken it out of the depths of despair as one war after another had sapped confidence and population. Had it not been for their influence in the council, Saffron would have been banished to another world. Her parents had pleaded and she had conformed for five years and then sent Ryan to school and began her own wayward campaigns, anything the council supported she didn't. In some ways she was trying to join Lee in death but always there was a reason to not take that final step, but she wished that Lee had seen their son and now their granddaughter.

Entering her study she softly asked for dim light since it was late and she needed to sleep. Leigh would be up at the crack of dawn with more questions not to mention her original one of the day. The child wouldn't forget anything, never had and never would. One day she was going to run the council her intelligence dictated it and each day her powers of deduction honed even more.

Saffron walked over to her desk and saw the blinking light of the hologram program, it had miscued over time and she looked over to the portal. As she did so she pressed exit and then smiled gently as she saw the sleeping form of her granddaughter. It brought a lump to her throat as she looked at the blonde hair cascade over the oval face and the peaceful expression on her face.

"Yes Lee, you would be happy to be in the company of your granddaughter my love, she's so like you! Your hair coloring, your eyes those green orbs that could melt the darkest heart and your?your love of life." Saffron whispered into the silent room not wanting to disturb the child.

Pulling up the seat closest to her granddaughter she tenderly touched the blonde tresses and recalled all those years ago threading her fingers in her lovers hair. As she peered down on the child she saw the same expression her lover had in sleep, that small-satisfied smile, the innocent love of life.

"Is that you grandmother?" a small voice asked.

Saffron pulled back immediately at the words had she disturbed the child she hadn't wanted to in any way.

"Yes it's me. Go back to sleep Leigh we can talk in the morning."

"I know what Christmas is?" Leigh slurred in her tiredness.

"You do? Well that's wonderful one less answer for me to find." Saffron smiled as she watched the child try to wake properly but was struggling.

"It's you grandmother." Leigh spoke the words distinctly.

"Me?" Saffron was surprised and suddenly her own inquisitive nature wanted to know what the child meant.

"Yes you, father said it was the season of goodwill to all. Some old man said that and it changed his life. They celebrated that long ago and you create goodwill for me and others on the planet grandmother, so you are Christmas." Leigh smiled serenely up at her grandmother and saw a trail of tears over her cheeks.

"I didn't want to make you unhappy for Christmas."

"No, no Leigh you didn't, far from it! I'm not Christmas but tomorrow we will track down Christmas together, what do you say?" Saffron pulled the child into her arms and held her close kissing the top of her head.

"I'd like that together." Leigh smiled slightly and then fell into a deep sleep held safely in the arms of her grandmother.

"Yes tomorrow, Christmas, what a wonderful word that sounds like." Saffron whispered into the now silent room again and looked at the hologram program for it she had obviously not exited correctly. There was the snow scene and the red breasted bird, wasn't that a Robin?

***********
Saffron watched the child eat her way through the nutritious diet the school doctor had prescribed for Leigh. Although it was edible to her mind it was barely so. Still she would do as the council asked and conformed to what they felt right for the child. Even if at times she had to grit her teeth and turn away as some supercilious person from the school asked for more control over Leigh's life.

It was easy for them to breeze into their lives and lay down the rules and then breeze out again, expecting her to follow them in a regimented fashion. They didn't have to put up with Leigh's occasional tantrums, her allergies to various foods that made her sick for days or the simple child wanting to have fun instead of the regulated work that even out of school she had to master.

'I do wonder sometimes Lee if I made a mistake in bringing our child into the world. When the only life that is now left to his child no longer holds fun anymore. But you would still have wanted our child born whatever the circumstances for you enjoyed life no matter how dark it became. There are times when I do miss you more than I want to live this lonely life I have. Then I look over there Lee and what do I see?the reason for life itself staring back at me with your eyes. She even laughs as you did and I swear she has your sense of humor, god help me, in later years.'

"Grandmother you are daydreaming again." Leigh pointed out to the older woman who gave her a startled glance.

"Don't be ridiculous child of course I'm not!' then regretted her sharp words as she saw the crestfallen face before her. 'I'm sorry Leigh you were right I was daydreaming. Must be the Christmas question you posed, that has me thinking." Smiling gently at the child to take away the sting of the words.

"I told you last night that you are Christmas or at least you sound like the man who had goodwill to others." Leigh blinked her confusion at the explanation; it really wasn't that clear now that she had time to think about it.

"Well, my little inquisitive darling you and I are going to the history archives at the council chambers to check it out. I have an old friend who works there that I called last evening who might be able to help." Saffron saw the widest grin cross the child's face. It was so easy to make her happy and that happiness helped to spark a warm glow in her also.

"Then we had better go hadn't we can't have questions unanswered, not if our name is Canterbury." Leigh giggled and rushed towards the door her exhilaration at the task before them catching.

"Okay, okay I'm right with you." Saffron pressed the automatic house shutdown sequence and wondered what it must have been like centuries ago to not have technology and androids to take care of everything. Obviously hard and so time consuming, who in their right mind wanted to cook and clean when you could be putting that time to better use?

Like War!

***********
The building they entered several micro-minutes later was made of indestructible Aliylum. After the last 'War Of The Three Planets' it had been used to house all Earth's history archives or what was left of them along with a few special pieces that were actually so old no one was allowed to touch them for fear they would disintegrate. Not even new advances in technology were allowed! It had been a decree of the council and the storage room itself was named Canterbury after Saffron's parents. She had never been allowed access, as her name had been one of those specifically denied entry years before because of her militant tendencies.

"I'm so excited grandmother I've never been inside before. Always we have linked the archives from the terminals at school this is an honor to go inside." Leigh chattered excitedly and hung onto her grandmothers hand as she skipped along beside the longer gait of the older woman.

Saffron smiled at the girl and her pleasure once again at the slightest thing. "Then let's get inside shall we. Danny will be waiting."

Daniel Stracynsky watched the two figures approaching and he tugged on his gray short goatee beard. As he looked over to the taller figure he smiled as he recalled that she really hadn't changed in the forty or so years he had known her.

Then his eyes turned to the child at her side and the face that looked out at him. So here was the child genius that the council was predicting would take over in the future? How could anyone know that she was going to be the one? Still they had ways he supposed and Saffy certainly must think it so or she surely wouldn't have allowed them to control her only grandchild's life to the extent she did.

The sealed door opened and the air leaked out with a whoosh that always made him jump although he'd been in this building since it's completion over eight years ago. He was often called 'The Curator of Earth's Past' and that was probably an apt description and one he didn't mind in the slightest. At least it was better than his old title when he was young, 'Demon Hacker' but he had been good at that too.

"I see you made it Saffy?" Daniel quietly spoke from his chair at the main console in a room that looked rather bare and not very history like. At least to Leigh's eyes anyway as she quickly surveyed the room and it's contents.

"As always Danny a friendly face, how long has it been?" Saffron Canterbury went forward and hugged the old man in a warm embrace. She had always liked him and he was one of the few left from the old rebellious days.

"Saffy too long and how do you keep so young looking? I swear you don't look a year older than the first day I met you?" Danny chuckled as he traded glance for glance with the woman he had followed with complete conviction and would today if she asked him.

"Danny really you always did flatter me so and I guess you can put it down to my granddaughter for keeping me so young. Leigh this is my old friend citizen Daniel Stracynsky, he is the curator." Saffron released the embrace she had on her old friend and turned to her granddaughter who was looking at them with a question in her eyes, always a question with Leigh.

"Citizen Stracynsky I'm pleased to meet you." Leigh held out her tiny hand and was instead engulfed in a bear hug from the large man and she giggled as his beard tickled her cheek.

"Danny to you young lady and it's my pleasure to finally meet the famous Leigh Canterbury." He chuckled and Leigh felt both surprised at his words but happy at the man's obvious pleasure at meeting her.

"I'm not famous Danny, not yet anyway." Leigh said with the arrogance of youth.

"You will be one day little lady just like your grandmother here and all your family that have gone before you." Danny said solemnly.

"We want to know what Christmas is?" Leigh asked her question with a directness that stunned the old man and brought a slight smile to Saffron's lips for those not familiar with Leigh were often stunned at her forthright attitude.

Recovering slightly he laughed and muttered. "Just like Lee, all that exuberance."

Saffron heard the reference to her lover and it brought a smile to her lips that remained there despite her attempts to mask it.

"Then my dear young lady Christmas it is." Danny sat down at his console and began tapping questions into the central memory banks with Leigh seated beside him.

Saffron walked over to the area marked restricted access and surmised it to be the lower vault that housed the last of the Earth's treasures. Her fingers drifted gently over her parent's names on the panel beside the door lock.

Her father had died in the hands of the Scralen when he had agreed to a peace conference twenty years ago. Her mother had refused to accept his death and traveled for five more years before freedom warriors from the planet Kaltian assassinated her. The death of her mother had decided her fate in many ways for she realized the only truth was she must use her talents for the good of Earth and not for causing friction within. In addition, her son had turned eighteen and joined a regiment whose main task was to defend the outer perimeter of the Earth. He had been so young and na´ve and died far too early. Ryan never had the opportunity to see his daughter and Jenny's death from a freak reaction to the medication she was given at the baby's birth was a double tragedy. Later when the scanner had picked up the 'potential' of the baby and it's 'usefulness' in society it was just another trial to live through.

"Press the picture panel Saffy." Daniel said softly as he came up behind her. Leigh was busy scanning pages and pages of text about Christmas.

Saffron turned and glanced at her old friend. "Why?"

"Always questions Saffy, why not just do it and ask the questions later?" Daniel gave a resigned sigh.

"My granddaughter must be rubbing off on me." Saffron shrugged her shoulders as she pressed the image.

"Nope, you were always full of questions, I often wondered how Lee put up with you." Danny smiled, as he saw the flicker of emotion the comment caused within her.

"Lee loved me I guess, often said you put up with anything if you loved someone." Saffron gently responded.

"Oh I know Lee loved you! It broke all our hearts when that went through the ranks. Such a blow to those of us who thought we might have a chance." Danny smiled engagingly at her.

Then Saffron's eyes were diverted as she saw the clear holograms of her parents appear before her and it was just like being in the room with them. The words they spoke not listened to by Saffron as she looked at the beloved faces of her parents. No words could describe her feelings. Tears that she normally held in check publicly came and refused to be ignored as they tracked down her cheeks.

"Why are you crying Grandmother?" Leigh had watched the two elders talk and then saw the holograms appear and was fascinated as to who they were.

"Crying?I'm not crying." Saffron watched in fascination at the expressions that crossed her father's face and it was like the day she had passed her first major test at school and he had been so pleased with her. In fact that was the day she was given her first pen to manually write for the first time. Her mother had furnished the first lesson and said it was an art long forgotten but always the Canterbury family had cherished its power.

"Your eyes are leaking then?" Leigh patiently pointed out and closed her small hand around her Grandmothers in a soothing gesture.

"Yes Leigh my eyes are leaking." Saffron finally conceded.

"Why?" Daniel couldn't help it he laughed at the question it was a family trait obviously.

"This is Peter and Diana Canterbury or to you young Leigh your great grandparents." Daniel smiled as he saw the enchanted expression settle over the child's face.

"I've seen them on the terminals but never as a hologram it's like they are real." Leigh whispered and wondered if her parents were here too?

"Are my parents here Grandmother will they come and talk to us too?" Leigh asked in earnest.

Saffron was brought out of her pre-occupation with the images of her parents as the simple question invaded her senses. What did you say when a child asked that fateful question?

"No, I'm sorry darling but your parents will not be coming to talk to us." The apology, sounding hollow to her.

"That's okay, one day when I'm older they will come and talk to me. What's in here and can we see it?" Leigh turned to the curator for the answer.

Daniel was slightly disconcerted what should he say. "I thought we were looking up Christmas?"

"We are but I already know what Christmas is." Leigh announced confidently.

"May I ask what that is?" both elders looked inquisitively at the child trying to divert her attention from her original question.

"The archives say that Christmas is a time for goodwill to all. People gave presents as a sign of affection and they had parties and were happy together. To some people a savior was born that helped people have a better life, but others who didn't understand killed him. There was something called a donkey and a stable but I don't know what they are. The message all the pages agreed upon was that it was a time for being good to people even those you don't know. A time to tell people you love them even if you haven't seen them for a long time." Leigh explained to the two elders and was given a beaming smile from Daniel.

Saffron wiped away another tear that threatened to fall as she watched the animated face of this ten year old explain a long forgotten tradition. For it had certainly been forgotten?everything here was so selfish and fabricated. Who actually gave a damn about the total stranger or their own families even? Too often now it was the self that was the most important, all too important to many.

"That is a wonderful sentiment Leigh, so when is Christmas?" Daniel asked quietly.

"It is tomorrow on our calendar, the twenty-fifth of December in the old ancient calendar."

"I guess we need to celebrate it then, don't you think?" Saffron finally found her voice and croaked out.

Leigh grinned at her grandmother and grasped her hands. "Yes we can, so what present will you get me?" Saffron chucked the child under the chin gently in mild censure.

"Thanks for letting us in today Danny, want to come over for dinner one evening?"

Daniel smiled warmly at his old friend. "Yeah one day perhaps I will. Take care my friend in all your endeavors.' He bent closer to her and whispered into her ear. 'She is the image of Lee, I'm glad for you." Saffron was stopped from answering as Leigh pulled her forward towards the exit. "I'll be back to see inside one day Danny count on it."

Danny tipped his hand to his forehead in acknowledgement, wasn't that the truth.

**************
"They call it Christmas Eve Grandmother." Leigh stated as they sat together on a comfortable sofa in the dimness of the shimmering lights in the room.

"They do? Well that sounds interesting. Another thing that you found out from Danny's archives?" Saffron picked up her floral flavored tea she sipped from it as she checked the last entry in her journal.

"No, my father was going to ask you about Christmas, when he next saw you." Leigh gently explained and saw the surprise pass over her grandmother's face.

"He was? If he had I guess I would have an answer for you now then wouldn't I? This 'Christmas Eve' what does it mean?" Saffron was intrigued now with this question of Christmas and it had taken a child to pique her interest.

"Yes, he and my mother had heard something about it along the way and they had both been fascinated. They just never had the time to research it but we have, haven't we?" Leigh smiled at the closed off look she received at the mention of her parents.

"No?no that's true they never did have the time, such a waste." Saffron replied softly her own mind drifted to the day that Ryan had brought home the much more confident Jennifer Reliance. Ryan's mothers past exploits or her recent ones didn't intimidate her either. It had to her been a match made for eternity as she considered hers had been with Lee.

"You don't talk much about family do you?" Leigh challenged Saffron and saw the shock mirror for a fraction in the older woman's eyes.

"I would rather not dwell in the past what satisfaction can be gained by that pastime. I have always believed in today and what can be achieved towards our future and the future generations still to come." Saffron primly informed the girl at her side who was watching her with bright intelligent eyes taking in all that was said and things not said too.

"I don't think you understand grandmother." Leigh replied quietly as she placed her small hand on top of the much larger one.

Saffron heard the words from this?whatever did you call a child genius who had the intelligence of a person three times older and the insight that would make her a great leader of men and women one day? As well as the innocence of youth to gain answers to every question the universe could throw at her. Here she was sixty years old and renowned by her peers for her quick thinking and intelligence, being counseled by a child. Albeit a rather superior child but one none the less, it made her smile at the thought.

"I'm all ears darling what don't I understand?" Pulling the child onto her lap and stroking her fine blonde hair as she talked.

"We need to remember the past or people are forgotten and that wouldn't be nice, especially for people that we love. Look at today grandmother if someone hadn't talked about Christmas and put it in the archives we would never have known about it would we? If we talk about the past then the people we love are still alive in our thoughts and never die do they?" Leigh logically pointed out.

Saffron stopped her soothing strokes over the child's hair as she tried to concentrate on the words. 'Yes people did get forgotten, so many had died in the wars that had plagued the planet in the last three centuries and so many stories would never be recalled, traditions lost forever not to mention the people who had created them.'

"Well, in that case Leigh it's time I put that right and no better than this evening. Would you like me to tell you a story about the day your father brought your mother home to see me for the first time? She was quite something your mother and different in every way to your father." Saffron smiled tenderly as she was given a blinding grin from the child who snuggled closer to hear the story.

"I would love to hear about them and I know you loved them grandmother so it will be even better." Leigh sighed contentedly as the older woman began her story.

**********

"Citizen Canterbury I'm not sure I understand your request?" The merchant asked for clarification of her requirement.

"I want one of those." Saffron resent her original image request.

"But?but Citizen I'm not sure that it's possible and certainly not in so short a number of hours. Wouldn't an android do as well?" The merchant never wanted to give up a sale especially when one as influential as a Canterbury was the potential buyer. It would go down on his records and be a coup. Few of the elite ever purchased outside the standard council listings.

Saffron tapped a well-manicured finger on her terminal in irritation. "You can't help so I will go elsewhere. Thank you for your time."

"No! Please no I have a friend, he has contacts and I will confirm within the next micro hour." The merchant quickly ended the message before the Citizen could and rushed away to track down the unusual item.

Saffron had been emotionally drained when she had put Leigh to bed a little while ago. Certainly recalling the past had its happy moments but it also brought the people to mind so clearly, almost as if they hadn't been gone for so many years and that hurt too.

Walking over to the hologram portal and watching the black inky night sky filled with stars a projected one as the planet now had a lethal layer of radiation over it, nothing existed outside of the special domes the population now lived in. The outside world was a glacially cold forbidding place where the light of the old sun never shone anymore. It was hard to recall how many years it had been since the last human had walked the planet without the aid of radiation suits or special terrain vehicles. She had often wondered if the planet had really looked like the special hologram programs that they could tap into at random. It must surely have been so, for who would have the imagination to conjure up such scenes and with such clarity of vision of not only the landscape but the creatures that inhabited the areas also.

'You know Lee that grandchild of ours is so special she brought back into my life things I've long considered dead, giving them vibrant life again, the feeling was so wonderful. We are going to celebrate something called Christmas tomorrow morning. I must say darling you would have been in your element, just the kind of thing you always loved to participate in.' Saffron shook her head and chuckled into the silent room, here she was talking to herself or at least in her head anyway. Her deceased lover would have been laughing at this turn of events that was a certainty.

Advising the house system she was going to retire for the evening the lights dimmed as the door closed behind her.

***********

Leigh was munching on her breakfast waiting for her grandmother to appear. Today they planned to celebrate Christmas. Well at least they would try, it was something original and she had to leave for school shortly.

"Good morning Leigh did you sleep well?" Saffron walked silently into the room and picked up her breakfast on the low table and sat opposite the child.

"Good morning grandmother, yes I slept well thank you. I have a test today at school but I will be home early. Will you be home today?"

"Home all day, just waiting for you." Saffron said solemnly and was pleased at the laughter that emitted for the girl at the statement.

"No, no you won't for the council will have tasks for you they always do." Leigh carried on eating her breakfast and drinking the supplement that always accompanied it.

"Ah, but I will still be waiting for you when you come home and then I have a surprise for you." Blue eyes twinkled at the child.

"A surprise but what is it?" Leigh shouted excited at the prospect, she'd never had a surprise before.

"If I told you that Leigh it wouldn't be a surprise would it. Now finish your breakfast go to school and complete the test and when you get home we will look into that surprise."

Leigh rushed around the table and flung her arms around the older woman and kissed her cheek. "I love you grandmother."

Saffron colored at the remark and left it at that as the child went to school.

Leigh was right she probably never had had a surprise before in her life. Then again if Saffron thought about it when had she? Her thoughts shifted to a time and place long ago and it brought a smile to her face as she contemplated that very question. She'd had a surprise once in her life and what a wonderful surprise. The day Lee confessed love for her, was in love with her, and pledged that love forever.

"Can't say your surprise will have quite the same effect on your life as mine did Leigh, but I hope it makes you happy." Saffron whispered to the now empty room.

***********

"Grandmother can't I open my eyes yet?" Leigh pleaded her voice raised slightly with the impatience of youth.

"Soon Leigh have a little patience here. It will be worth it you wait and see." Saffron replied as she struggled with the surprise for Leigh.

"That's the point I can't see." Leigh pointed out and smiled as she heard the quiet laughter of her grandmother at her remark.

"Okay Leigh open your arms out, I want to put something inside them but you have to be careful." Saffron went closer with her cargo to the waiting child and finally settled the surprise in eager outstretched arms.

Leigh gave a delighted squeal as she felt some thing warm, soft and alive squirm in her arms. Her eyes popped open and she was confronted with the cutest creature she had ever seen.

It was white as the snow on the hologram program and with the brightest black eyes if you could call black bright. It had two ears one was pointed upwards the other flapped over and it had a black wet button nose. The creature settled into her arms with a short yelp as it nuzzled her hands.

"Grandmother what is it?" the child asked excited at this new life that had been given to her.

Saffron couldn't help the big grin that crossed her face as she looked at her granddaughter and the surprise gift.

"That my darling Leigh is called a canine, virtually extinct outside of the new worlds and she's all yours. Happy Christmas Leigh."

"Is she mine to keep for all time?" Leigh was in awe at the creature and couldn't believe that she was being given a live creature to care for.

"All yours to keep Leigh and you will have to look after her well as I know she will look after you. She needs a name though." Saffron replied seriously.

Leigh considered the words and a name for the dog and looked up with tears in her eyes. "I'm going to call her Snow."

"Then Snow it is Leigh, I received this as well with Snow. Tells us all about her and how to look after her." Saffron handed over the information cube.

"Grandmother I haven't got you a Christmas surprise." Leigh raised tearful and apologetic eyes to her grandmother.

Saffron hugged the child briefly. "Oh you have Leigh, believe me you have. For everyday with you is like a Christmas surprise and that's far more than anyone could expect in their lifetime."

Leigh smiled as the tears fell unchecked and then she giggled as Snow placed a pink tongue on her wet cheek and licked away the marks.

Later both child and dog were curled up asleep after a series of enchanting hours of playtime. Saffron had watched the scene with a mixture of envy for youth and love for the child.

"You know Lee I was right, that little girl is all the Christmas surprises I will ever want in my life. Thank you for loving me all those years ago so that I could experience the true meaning of the spirit of Christmas. A season for giving without thought of receipt and a happiness in the heart when you see how much your loved ones mean to you, all of our loved ones. I think I'll mention this to the council, it's time we found something that all the people can relate to and participate in. Yes, Christmas sounds as good a place to start as anywhere in rebuilding our societies traditional values." Saffron sat down quietly in the armchair and recalled the image of Lee, almost forty years ago and the happiness that her lover had brought into her life and still managed to reach inside to touch her soul.

The hologram had blinked unexpectedly and the snow scene shimmered and the scene looked as if the snow was falling fresh on the scene.

Pulling out her journal she began her evening entry.

Leigh and I celebrated a long lost tradition called Christmas today and it was wonderful?.

End.



The Athenaeum's Scroll Archive