“Isabella, this is not what you father and I expected you to do with a psychology degree.” Marlena Evans said to her daughter as they sat enjoying a quiet meal at home. “Why haven’t you started a clinical practice or something?”
Belle sighed at her mothers comments. Ever since she’d graduated from Columbia University the year before, she’d been hounded with questions about what she was going to do with her degree. “Mom, I’m a children’s psychologist. I don’t need to open a practice; I need to be with children.” She explained tossing her napkin on the table. “I’m going to the orphanage tonight to tell stories to the children because that’s what they need.”
“But what about what you need?” Marlena persisted. She’d been thrilled when youngest daughter had decided to follow in her foot steps. “You need a good paying job to support yourself.”
“Mom, I work full time for the government dealing with distressed children.” Belle explained tiring of the conversation. “I love helping the little ones by just being there when they need me. Do you even have any patients under the age of 25?”
“No, that’s what my partner does.” Marlena said growing increasingly annoyed at her daughters behaviour. “I deal with those who need help to fit into society and those who have dealt with trauma that prevents them from functioning in daily life.”
“Children need that too.” Belle argued softly. She’d learned to control her temper, no matter who she was talking to. “They feel the same way adults do, but they don’t know who to turn to.” She looked at the clock and stood to leave. “I’m due down town in 20 minutes, I have to leave.”
“Don’t waist your life Isabella.” Marlena warned following her daughter out into the living room. “Don’t get caught up in your feelings for children. Do what’s best for you.”
“I am Mom.” Belle said pulling on her winter jacket. She looked at her mother over her shoulder before turning and leaving the apartment. Since she was a little girl her parents had been teaching her that to be happy you had to be well paid and successful. But in her experiences, that wasn’t the case. She loved working with children and a smile from one of them was worth more than a year’s salary to her. Belle climbed into the elevator and pressed the desired button. ‘I will do what’s best for me, and what’s best for me is to be with the children.’ She smiled at the cool crisp air that greeted her outside. A little snow would help her feel better about being single for another Christmas.
“Are you on duty tonight?” Hope Brady asked her son as he joined his parents for dinner. She smiled at the handsome features that he shared with his father; the brown hair and eyes and the rugged exterior.
“Yeah, I’ve got to go to the orphanage for the night.” Shawn Brady replied smiling at his mother. He knew his parents were proud of his accomplishments. In 6 years he’d received a degree in criminology and attended the police academy. Now he was working the beat in down town Salem. “They had an attempted break in last night and they want protection until Christmas.”
“You’ll enjoy that.” Hope said remembering how he had been with his little brother. He would drag the little guy around every where, no matter where he was going or who he was with Zac had loved the attention. Zac especially loved it when Belle Black had been around. “Have you heard that Belle is back in town?”
Shawn’s fork clattered to the plate as his mothers words registered in his head. “Belle’s back, when did that happen?” He asked as a flood of memories hit him. Belle had been his first and only love.
“A couple of weeks ago,” Hope replied. She and Zac had been grocery shopping when he’d spotted her and took off at a run. Though he’d been only 3 when she left, he could still recognize her. “Your brother attacked her in the grocery store yesterday.”
“Purposely?” Shawn asked thinking of his little brother tackling her to the ground like a foot ball player. The sight would have been funny.
“He recognized her and went over to say hi.” Hope said as she cleared the table of the dirty dishes. “She’s working with the local government as a children’s psychologist. She’s really enjoying her job too.”
“I’m glad.” Shawn said helping his mother load the dishwasher. “I’d better head down town. I’ll be there until Christmas Eve. I hear they’ve got someone into tell stories to the little ones so they don’t feel so sad about being alone for the holidays.” He slipped into his jacket and made sure his gun was securely in his holster. He would be in plain clothes as so not to scare the kids. “I’m gonna pick up some Christmas treats for them to munch on too.”
“You’re such a sweetheart.” Hope said kissing his cheek. He’d matured so well in the 6 years since graduation and he was such a great man. “If you see your dad tell him that I’m not waiting up for him.”
“Will do,” Shawn said as he headed out into the cold. It would snow soon and with two weeks until Christmas, a little bit of the white stuff could help him forget that at 24, he was still alone in the world.
“Is she here yet?” A small girl asked bounding into the main office of Salem City Orphanage. Her blonde hair was dishevelled and her blue eyes shoe with happiness.
“Not yet Noelle,” Jeannie Clarkson said shaking her head at the small child’s energy. “I’ll call you all down stairs when Belle arrives. Why are you so excited anyway?”
“I love stories!” Noelle Carol exclaimed throwing her arms up in the air. She was an exuberant child with more energy than she needed. “And I like visitors.” Noelle’s tone softened as she spoke.
Jeannie’s heart broke for the little girl. Her parents had been killed four years ago in a car accident. Out of the 13 people involved, only Noelle and another baby survived. Health problems kept people from adopting the little girl. “I’m sure she’ll come back too. Don’t you worry, she’ll love you just like everyone else that comes in here.”
“Until they find out I get sick.” Noelle said dropping her eyes to the floor. Asthma and other respiratory problems made her feel sick most of the year. “Then she’ll run away like all the others.”
“Now why would you say that?” Belle asked from the doorway just behind Noelle. “Why would your being sick make me not want to come back.” She crouched down to look at the four year old girl and smiled. “Am I going to catch it?”
“No,” Noelle said with a laugh. Already she loved Belle. “But other people don’t come back when they find out I can’t breathe sometimes. They think that I’m too much trouble.”
Belle’s first thought was of JT Riber. A baby switch had occurred when she was a teenager and the Brady family had ended up bringing the wrong baby home. The little boy known at JT had FAS and many times had problems breathing. “That’s ok.” Belle said touching the little girls nose. “I know a little boy with something called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and he has problems breathing. But he was given 2 loving homes in the end.”
“Was he adopted?” Noelle asked thinking maybe there was hope for her after all.
“Well, it was like this.” Belle said picking the little girl up and moving to sit on a chair. “He was given up by his mom to a family I grew up with. But the hospital messed up and he went home with the wrong parents. The daddy found out and wanted him back. You see, he didn’t say it was ok for him to be adopted. So then the little boy went to live with them.”
“Did the family get their baby back?” Noelle asked worried. She believed people should be with their parents unless the parents were dead.
“Yes they did.” Belle said smiling at the happy ending. “And the other little boy whose name is Zac talks to the other boy on the phone all the time. They’re sort of like brothers.”
“A happy ending!” Noelle exclaimed jumping to the floor. “I’m glad that story had a happy ending, I love them!” She hurried out of the room to let everyone know Belle was there.
“Hey Jeannie,” Belle said moving to shake the woman’s hand. “Is what the little girl said true? She’s not adopted because she’d sick?”
“I’m afraid so.” Jeannie said offering Belle a seat. “She’s got many respiratory problems that keep people from adopting her. She can’t be near cats, carpet, feather pillows, birds or dogs. People don’t want to change everything to have a child.”
“That is so sad.” Belle said shaking her head. “I mean, Hope and Bo loved JT with all their hearts and he had FAS. He was so much worse off than she is. And she’s adorable.”
“I remember mom telling me Aunt Hope’s little boy was sick.” Jeannie said shaking her head in agreement. “I was so scared that he’d be rejected. But even when they found out he wasn’t even theirs, they loved him so much. I’d like to bottle that love and hand it out here sometimes.”
“Are you coming to tell stories?” Noelle asked from the door. She’d grabbed her favourite doll and was waiting for Belle to come into the playroom.
“Yes I am.” Belle said following the little girl out of the room.
“We had a break in the other night, so there will be a cop here for most of the night.” Jeannie explained as they walked up the stairs. “He’ll be in plain clothes so the children aren’t frightened.”
“That’s a good idea.” Belle said in agreement as they entered the playroom. The room was large and quite sterile. A few toys lay scattered around the room, but the area was dominated by a group of white armchairs and ottomans. She shivered at the coldness of the room. “Any idea who the cop is?”
“No idea,” Jeannie said shrugging her shoulders. “All I know is it’s a male about your age.” She led Belle to a large chair and left her to sit with the kids.
Belle looked around at the smiling faces that sat in front of her. There were 12 kids under ten and three teenagers. “Hi everyone, I’m Isabella Black.” She said taking a book out of her bag. “But you can all call me Belle.” She held up the book, “I can read a story to you from a book, or you can give me an idea and I’ll make one up.”
“Make one up!” Noelle chirped from her chair right in front of her. “Stories from a book are boring.” Her smile lit up her face and she giggled at the murmurs of her friends around her.
“What kind of story do you want to hear?” Belle asked smiling at the little girls laugh.
“Tell us about your Christmases.” Noelle said bouncing in her seat. “You must have had a lot of great Christmases.”
“I did have a lot of great Christmases.” Belle said smiling at the crowd. “I’ve had happy ones, sad ones and ones where I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad.”
“Did you have a boyfriend?” One of the older girls asked. She was a pretty brunette with bright blue eyes. She reminded Belle of her high school friend Chloe Lane.
“Yes I did.” Belle said smiling at the memories of her one and only love. She jumped as a loud bang and footsteps echoed through out the room. She looked up and gasped, “You.”
Belle couldn’t believe her eyes. Shawn Brady had not changed one bit since high school. His brown hair was still short and his eyes were still the same chocolate brown that had always melted her soul. And he was here at the orphanage. “You,” She repeated softly.
“Hi kids,” Shawn said ignoring the beautiful blonde that sat in front of her. His heart had stopped when he saw who the story teller was. Isabella, his Isabella, the one whose heart he’d broken in senior year. “My name is Shawn Brady and I’m going to stay here with you for the evening to make sure you stay safe.”
“You can sit with me!” Noelle said enthusiastically. She scooted over in her chair so Shawn could sit with her. He gently picked her up and sat her down on his lap. “I’m Noelle.”
“Well hi there Noelle.” Shawn said looking at the tiny child with wonder. “And why is a pretty girl like you living here in an orphanage? I’d figure you’d be living with some rich family. You look like a million dollars.”
“Noelle’s a sickling.” One of the older boy said with a snicker. “No ones wants her.”
“Now that’s not very nice to say.” Shawn said looking at the boy. “I’ll bet God’s just looking for the perfect family for her. She’ll get a mommy and a daddy soon.” He smiled at the child in his lap and whipped a tear off her cheek.
Belle smiled at she watched Shawn whisper to the little girl. It made her think of how he’d acted with JT before the Ribers had taken him back. “Do you guys still want to hear about my Christmases?” She asked hoping to quiet the arguments that had started.
“I do,” Noelle said with a hiccup. “Tell us about a happy one.”
“Hmm,” Belle said thinking back. “I’ve got one. This one happened when I was about 5 years old. I spent Christmas eve with my best friends at one of their grandparents’ house…”
“Would you like another donut Isabella?” Alice Horton asked the tiny blonde who sat on the couch next to her great grand son. “I have some chocolate ones here.” She offered the plate.
“Thank you.” Belle said smiling up at the kind old woman. She’d never known someone as kind or old as this lady. “I love your donuts Mrs. H.” She took a huge bite out of the donut and giggled.
“Would you boys like one?” Alice asked looking to the other little ones in the room. She’d offered to watch the Black children, Isabella and Brady, Victor Kiriakis’ little boy Phillip and her Great Grand son Shawn Douglas.
Each little boy reached out and eagerly took a donut from the tray. “Gran, when are you decorating your house?” Shawn Douglas asked through the donut he was chomping on. “It’s Christmas tomorrow and you don’t have any decorations up.”
“Well dear, I’m just not in the holiday spirit yet.” Alice admitted. She’d had a hard time feeling jolly this year, with Tom just passing away. “But with tonight being Christmas Eve, maybe I should get started.” She smiled at all the little ones. “How would you all like to help me?”
“I’d love to!” Belle said jumping off the couch. “I love decorating for Christmas. Mommy and I just did our living room and it looks so beautiful.” She threw her arms out wide and smiled. “Doesn’t it Brady?”
“It does look pretty good.” Brady admitted, embarrassed that his little sister was so excited about some stupid decorations in their living room. He stuffed the rest of him donut into his mouth and looked at the floor.
“Well then, Brady and Shawn why don’t you come upstairs with me and we’ll bring down the decoration.” Alice said taking the young men’s’ hands and leading them to the base of the stairs. “Isabella, Phillip why don’t you two start clearing the other decorations off the tables and things in here?”
“Ok!” Belle said enthusiastically reaching for a bowl of fruit. “Come on Phillip, let’s get it done so we can help put up the decorations.” She looked at her friend and gave him an evil glare when he didn’t move. “Com on Philly, let’s do this!”
“I don’t wanna.” Phillip said crossing his arms over his chest. “That’s for the servant to do.” He looked away and lifted his chin in the air. He was a Kiriakis, they didn’t do manual labour.
“Come on Phillip.” Alice said as she and the other boys came down the stairs carrying boxes. She sat down on the couch and pulled the little boy onto her lap. He was a pretty child, having delicate features and light blonde hair. “Now, not everyone has servants to do all their work for them.”
“Why not?” Phillip asked innocently. “We have all kinds of servants at home. They cook and clean and drive me to school.” He looked up at the elderly lady with confusion in his eyes.
“Well,” She gathered Shawn, Isabella and Brady around her and snuggled into the couch, “you see Phillip, your family has a lot of money. I grew up the same way you did with servants to do it all. But I do all the things around the house myself. I feel better about myself when I do my own laundry.”
“You like to do your own laundry?” Phillip asked in amazement. He hadn’t even had to pick his up off the floor, let alone do it. “Why?”
“I’m not sure.” Alice admitted with a shrug of her shoulders. “I just feel better knowing that my own hands could do something. Something else I love to do is help out at the homeless shelter downtown. I started going down there every Christmas when I was Isabella’s age. I was just over 5 years old and I remember it like yesterday.”
“What did you do?” Belle asked, her blue eyes shining with the excitement of a child at Christmas. She’d seen the homeless people the night before and they scared her.
“My father and I went down and I read a story to the people.” Alice said thinking of the happy memories. “Then we helped serve food to them. I was only a little girl, but I saw how much these people depended on the help of my family and others like us.”
“Do people still need help?” Shawn asked looking up at his Gran.
“Yes Shawn Douglas.” Alice said nodding her head at the small boy. “They need our help now more than other.”
“Can we go help?” Belle asked as Brady wrapped his arms around her.
“That’s a good idea Isabella.” Alice said nodding her head at the small child’s suggestion. “Let’s forget about decorating and go down to the shelter. We can take some of the sweets that I have in the kitchen for them to enjoy.”
“Yeah!” Belle said as they hurried to get their coats on. She smiled as Alice handed her a tray of sweets and a book. “I can read?”
“Sure you can.” Alice said as they headed out into the car. She smiled as they headed out to the car. She bundled the kids into the backseat and placed Brady up front with her. “You can do anything you want to.”
“I wonder where they went.” Jennifer Horton asked as she and her cousin Hope decorated Alice’s house. They’d arrived a few hours before to an empty and undecorated house. “It’s not like Gran to leave and not leave a note. And here it is Christmas Eve and the house still isn’t decorated.”
“I know.” Hope said as she plugged in the last set of lights. “I hope everything is ok.”
“I’m sure they’re fine.” Marlena Evans said as she strode into the room carrying a tray of snacks. “Alice would have called and told someone if something was wrong.” She placed them on the coffee table as the front door opened and Belle rushed inside.
“Mommy!” She exclaimed seeing her mother. “Mr. H took us to the homeless shelter.” She jumped into Marlena’s arm and continued to talk a mile a minute. “We took them food and served them their dinner and I read them a story!”
“Well that’s great!” Marlena said looking at her daughters face. It glowed with happiness and she looked so young. “I’m glad you had a good afternoon.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t leave a note.” Alice said as she sat down in her chair. “But we were having a little talk with Phillip about doing things for yourself and I thought of going down to the shelter with my father. Belle asked if there was anyway for them to help so I took them down.” She smiled at the four children who had gathered with their respective parents. “They were great, I’m so proud of them. They’re my Christmas angels.”
“I learned that year that no matter how much money you have, there are many things that you can do for someone else.” Belle explained looking at all the children who were listening to her intently. Her eyes locked on Shawn’s, wondering if he remembered the day. “I learned that helping someone else is the greatest feeling in the world.”
“Back again this evening are we?” Belle asked as she approached Shawn. She hadn’t said more than a few words since she’d seen him the night before. “Were you intrigued by my story? After all, you were a main character.”
“I thought it was very sneaky how you told stories with me in them.” Shawn said from his chair. “And yes, I’ll be here every evening until Christmas. I hear you will be too. Do you think I can tell a Christmas story sometime? You know, in case you miss one.” His tone was sharper than he’d wanted.
“I won’t forget one.” Belle said, his words stinging her. She wasn’t sure why he was so angry, she hadn’t done everything wrong.
“I’m sorry Belle.” Shawn said reaching out to touch her shoulder. She pulled away and he dropped his hand back down beside his body. “I didn’t mean for that to sound like that. I’m not angry, but I know it sounds like that.”
“I have stories to tell.” Belle said brushing past him. She felt tears in her eyes and didn’t feel like crying in front of him. “Hey everyone one, are you ready for another story?”
“Yes!” A chorus rang out as she took her seat.
“I’ll get right down to it since I’m a little late.” Belle said taking her chair and watching Shawn lift Noelle into his lap. “This story happened three years after my last one. At the time I was eight years old…”
“Shawn, where are you?” Belle asked as she quietly climbed the Brady’s stairs. She made her way over to Shawn’s door and poked her head inside. There was no one there and the light was off. “Shawn? Shawn D, where are you?” She noticed Mr and Mrs. Brady’s door was open so she looked in. Shawn said on the bed looking at a picture that he held in his hands. “How are you?”
“Bad,” Shawn said looking up from the picture. His father wasn’t going to be home for Christmas and his mother was dead. How else was he going to be? “Why are you here?”
“Mom asked me to come and see how you were.” Belle said hopping up on the bed next to him. He looked so sad and it hurt her to see it, even though she didn’t understand why. “Everyone is sad for you Shawn. I’m sorry your Dad won’t be here with you, I know how you feel.”
“How do you know how I feel?” Shawn asked feeling angry. Belle lived in a palace and she was spoiled by her rich parents. “You have no idea how I feel!”
“My dad is with your dad.” Belle said softly. She didn’t like to be yelled at, but she knew it was a little worse for him since she had her mom and he didn’t. “But I’m sorry about your mom.”
“Thanks.” Shawn said holding back his tears. There was no way that he was going to cry in front of a girl. He jumped up off the bed and moved to the window. It was Christmas Eve and here he was alone in the world. “You don’t have to stay; you should go home with your mom and Brady.”
“Shawn, you shouldn’t be alone tonight.” Belle said following him to the window and leaning against the cool pane. “I know you’re supposed to go over and stay with Mr. and Mrs. Brady, but maybe you could come and stay with me and my mom.”
Shawn looked at Belle with a curious look. “I don’t think your mom would like that.” He said shaking his head at her. “And dad would want me with family.”
“Just think of the fun we could have.” Belle said taking the frame and setting it down on the table. “It would be like the sleepovers we used to have at your Grans’ place. Come on Shawn, I’ll call your dad myself if you want.”
“It would be more fun than staying with Grandma and Grandpa.” Shawn said remembering all the fun times he’d had with Belle and Brady. So what if Belle was a girl and Brady were 10, a whole 2 years older than he and Belle. “Let’s go ask.” He reached for Belle’s hand and she blushed at the contact. “Maybe I can have a merry Christmas after all.”
“How was that so happy?” Noelle asked as she looked up at Shawn. She knew that there was a connection between Shawn and Belle. Belle talked about a boy named Shawn in her story and the way she looked at Shawn was like some of the older girls looked at the boys in the music magazines, love.
“It’s not over yet.” Belle said smiling at the little girls’ cleverness. For such a young girl she was incredibly bright. “If you can sit tight, I’ll finish…”
“Is he here yet?” Shawn asked as Belle moved to the window to look at the sky. It was 2am and they were still up, looking for Santa.
“Not yet.” Belle said flopping back down onto her bed and looking at him. “I wonder if maybe he came from the other side of the building.” She yawned and closed her eyes for a second.
“You’re getting tired.” Shawn commented. He reached out and pulled her blanket up over her body and flipped off the light. “Sleep, I’ll watch and if he comes I’ll wake you.” He quietly moved over to the window and pulled up a chair.
“Shawn, it’s time to get up.” Belle said gently shaking him. He’d fallen asleep in the chair looking out the window. “Come on Tough Boy, get up.”
“I’m up, I’m up.” Shawn said jerking awake. “He didn’t come last night. Not that I saw at least.” He stretched his arms before following her down the stairs.
“Merry Christmas Shawn,” Marlena said as they two little ones came down to the living room. “Did you sleep well last night, or did you stay up and wait for Santa to come?”
“I waited up.” Shawn said sitting down on the couch next to Belle. “I asked Santa to bring dad and Mr. Black home for Christmas. I wanted to know if it would happen.”
The door bell kept Marlena from replying. “I wonder who that could be.” She said as she moved towards the door. “Probably your grandparents,” She pulled open the door and let out a squeal. “John!”
“Doc!” John Black exclaimed as he threw himself into his wife’s waiting arms. “Merry Christmas!”
“Daddy,” Belle and Brady screamed as they hurried towards their fathers’ waiting arms.
Shawn dropped his eyes to the floor. “Is my dad with you?” He asked waiting to be told that his father was still in Paris with his mothers’ dead body.
“I’m here sailor man.” Bo Brady said looking at his sad son. “We both are.” He placed his arm around someone and led them into the room.
Shawn’s eyes lit up as he realized who was with his father. “Mom!” He yelled running towards his parents.
“You see, Shawn’s mother wasn’t dead.” Belle said noticing Shawn’s smile. “A very bad man wanted to get her so they said she was dead already. But I saw this lady the other day and she was very much alive.” She smiled at the kids. “Now you guys, off to bed.”
“That was a nice story Belle.” Noelle said moving over to stand next to her chair. “Why doesn’t Shawn tell the story too?”
“Why would Shawn help tell the story?” Belle asked throwing Shawn a glance.
“Because he’s the one you’re talking about in your story.” Noelle said smiling at her. “I know because of the way you look at him as you tell the story.” She giggled, “I think you’re in love.”
Shawn looked at Belles’ alarmed expression before moving to kneel before the little girl. “Belle and I did know each other.” He told her. “I am the one in the stories.”
“But Shawn and I aren’t in love.” Belle said shaking her head. “We were at one point, but not anymore. Anyway, you need to go to bed. I’ll be back tomorrow to tell another story.” Noelle stomped away, visibly annoyed at being brushed off.
“Why aren’t we in love anymore?” Shawn asked Belle when Noelle was out of sight. “I mean, we loved each other so much.”
“You know why.” Belle said gathering her coat and gloves. “You lied to me and that ruined everything. Now if you don’t mind, I have to get home.”
“Home to where?” Shawn asked catching her arm and turning her to look at him. “To a small apartment, alone? What kind of life is that?”
“The one that you caused me to lead,” Belle said leaving the room. She quickly got into her car and drove away. She drove all the way to her apartment before she noticed a small package lying on the passengers’ seat of the car. She carried it up into her apartment before opening the brightly wrapped package. Inside was an ornament with a picture. Belle reached for the small note and read the message out loud. ‘Helping’ was all it said. She carefully turned the silver item around. Inside a frame was a small picture; taken at the Salem Homeless Shelter. In the photo were two smiling children; one blonde, one brunette. She and Shawn.
“Welcome back again,” Belle said as Shawn opened the door to the orphanage and let her in. “Why are you opening the door?”
“Um, there was a break in last night after you left.” Shawn said closing the door and locking it. “It seems one of the kids in here was removed from their home and the parents want them back.”
“That’s so sad.” Belle said removing her coat and gloves. “Did anything happen other than that?”
“A few of the kids got cut up with broken glass.” Shawn said taking her hand and leading her into the kids room. There were three broken windows that had been boarded up. “And one had to get stitches. It was little Noelle.”
“Oh,” Belle gasped as she looked at the broken windows again. “This is not right, it’s so close to Christmas and if these kids don’t have it hard enough.” She crossed her arms over her chest and pouted.
“But your stories will cheer them up.” He said as they walked into the playroom. Noelle was waiting for him, her arm in a white bandage. “Hey kids!”
“Do you have another story?” Noelle asked Belle as soon as she saw then. “A happy one?” She was disappointed about being pushed away last night.
“I’ll get right to it.” Belle said as she watched Shawn put Noelle on his lap. “I was 11 when this happened and there was a big storm in Salem…”
“Do you want to come out and play?” Shawn asked as he stood in Belle’s living room, dressed for the out doors. “Uncle Roman is going to take me to the big hill. Can you come?”
“Can I mom?” Belle asked looking back at her mother.
“Make sure you’re back in time for the concert.” Marlena said smiling at her daughter. “You get your gear on and I’ll go put together a picnic basket of treats.”
“Thanks mom.” Belle said reaching for her snow pants. “Is there a lot of snow on the hill?” She quickly donned her gear and smiled at him.
“Oh yes.” Shawn said nodding his head. “Uncle Roman said that the snow we got last night covered it completely. He was on duty when he passed and he told me that there were lots of kids on it.”
“Here you go.” Marlena said handing Shawn a small basket. “Have fun and ask Roman to have you back for supper please.” She checked to make sure Belle was dressed warmly before letting her and Shawn go out to the elevator. “And be careful!”
“Look at the snow.” Shawn said as he and Belle sat down to much on a cookie from the basket. They’d gone back a trail with the other kids, but had been left behind. “I didn’t know that much snow could fall in such a short time.”
“I know.” Belle said with a shiver. “I wish the others had waited for us. I don’t like being out here all by myself.” She grabbed another cookie and realized she was wet.
“You’ve got me.” Shawn pointed out looking around to see if anything looked familiar to him. “I’ll keep you safe Belle, don’t you worry.” He gave her a smile as the snow started to come down harder.
“I’m cold Shawn.” Belle said as she started to shake. They’d been out in the snow for hours and she was thoroughly soaked. “I wanna go home.”
“I know you do.” Shawn said packing up the basket and putting it back into the knapsack he’d been carrying around with him. “But we have to get moving so we can get back. You have to sing in the concert at 7 and it’s almost 5.”
“I’m going to miss it!” Belle exclaimed bursting into tears. She’d been practicing for the town Christmas Pageant for weeks and now she wasn’t going to be there. “I’ve worked so hard too.”
“You won’t miss it.” Shawn said taking her hand and leading her through the snow. He pulled her along until it became dark. “I think I know where we are now.”
“I hope we’re almost out.” Belle said as they stepped out into the light of a street lamp. “We are, let’s run!” She pulled him along and then realized that the town clock was chiming. “It’s 7, I’m late!”
“Come on!” Shawn called running along beside her. They hurried to the building near by where the concert was being held outside. “Mom!”
“Shawn!” Hope exclaimed as he watched her son and Belle run up to her. “Where have you been?” She hugged them both before leading them both inside to change.
“We got lost.” Belle said as she grabbed her dress that was hanging on the wall. She quickly ran behind a screen and changed into the floor length green dress with long elegant sleeves, medieval style. It was made of soft velvet and she loved it. “My hair!”
“I’ll do it.” Hope said reaching for a brush. She quickly brushed Belle’s hair until it shined. “Shawn do you have your clothes on,” She helped Belle into the red cloak that went with her dress. Fur lined the hood and ran down along the edges. Belle’s hair looked lovely when the hood was pulled up over her head.
“Why is Shawn getting dressed?” Belle asked not quite understanding why he needed to change.
“Your partner cancelled out this morning.” Hope explained as Shawn walked out in a winter tux, complete with top hat. “So Shawn said he’d sing with you.”
“Oh.” Belle said as she heard their names introduced. Shawn took her hand and they went out onto the stage. He gave her a smile as he started the song.
Just hear those sleigh bells jingling
Ring ting tingling too
Come on, it's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you
Outside the snow is falling
And friends are calling "You hoo"
Come on, it's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you
Giddy-yap let's go
Let's look at the snow
We're riding in a wonderland of snow
Giddy-up it's grand
Just holding your hand
We're gliding along with the song
Of a wintry fairy land
Our cheeks are nice and rosy
And comfy cozy are we
We're snuggled up together like two
Birds of a feather would be
Let's take the road before us
And sing a chorus or two
Come on, it's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you
There's a birthday party
At the home of Farmer Gray
It'll be the perfect ending of a perfect day
We'll be singing the songs
We love to sing without a single stop
At the fireplace while
We watch the chestnuts pop
Pop! Pop! Pop!
There's a happy feeling
Nothing in the world can buy
When they pass around
The coffee and the pumpkin pie
It'll nearly be like a picture
Print by Currier and Ives
These wonderful things are the things
We remember all through our lives
Just hear those sleigh bells jingling
Ring ting tingling too
Come on, it's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you
Outside the snow is falling
And friends are calling "You Hoo"
Come on, it's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you
It's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you
“Shawn and I almost didn’t make it to that concert.” Belle said smiling as she thought of the way the crowd had cheered. “But we sang the same song every year after that until our senior year of high school.”
“Would you sing for us now?” Noelle asked looking at Belle with soft eyes. “Both of you?”
Belle looked at Shawn, silently asking him what they should do. He nodded and started to sing. Belle joined after the very first note.
The first Noel the angels did say
Was two certain poor shepherds
In fields where they lay
In fields where they lay keeping their sheep
On a cold winters night that was so deep
“I’m sorry Noelle put you on the spot like that.” Belle said as Shawn prepared to leave.
“That’s ok.” Shawn said opening the door. “I’ll see you tomorrow night.” He closed the door and moved to her car. Opening the passengers side door, he carefully placed a silver box on the seat. He silently closed the door and disappeared into the night.
‘I’ll be glad to get into bed tonight.’ Belle thought as she climbed into her car. She’d stayed to talk to Jeannie about doing a tree for the kids. Jeannie had loved the idea and they’d talked about what to put on it. Starting her car, she noticed the small box. “Shawn Brady, what are you up to?” She reached over and opened the box. Inside was another ornament, this time in the shape of a bell. Only this time there was a picture of the two of them, on Christmas morning, with their parents. That same Christmas morning when they’d gotten the special gift from Santa: Their parents.
“Are you going down to that orphanage again tonight?” John Black asked as Belle joined them for a family dinner. Like Marlena, he was disappointed at the way their daughter had decided to use her degree.
“Yes I am.” Belle said rolling her eyes at her brother. Only Brady approved of what she was doing with her life. That was probably because he and his wife, Chloe, both worked for social services and hated to see the children with out a family on Christmas. “And I wish you and mom would let this be. I like going down there in the evenings. It’s not like I don’t work, I work everyday.”
“You council children about their problems,” John said frowning. “I didn’t send you to school for you to spend your day talking to children and playing with them. I wanted you to make something of your self.”
“She has made something of herself.” Brady argued taking Chloe’s hand in his. They often called Belle to council a child who had been removed from their home or lost a parent. “And she’d great at what she does too. I’ve worked with a lot of different psychologists and she’d they best one I’ve seen.”
“I agree Mr and Mrs. Black.” Chloe said carefully. She knew that they hadn’t approved of their marriage and rarely spoke to them unless they’d spoken first. “Belle has a great talent at getting scared children to talk. That helps the social worker and doctors if they’re involved.”
“I know you’d like what she does.” John said to Chloe. The girl got on his nerves and he wished that she’d get out of their lives. “You’re into that business.”
“Dad!” Brady exclaimed banging his fist down on the table. “Don’t talk to Chloe like that. Don’t take your frustrations out on her; she hasn’t done anything wrong!”
“Don’t you speak to me like that!” John bellowed as he stood up. “I am you father and it seems you and your sister have forgotten that. I raised you to be the best. And what have you done with your lives? Where is my executive manager; where is my doctor? I didn’t get them. Instead, I got a couple of children who ruined their lives.”
“How are our lives ruined?” Belle asked trying to keep her voice calm. The last thing she needed was to get upset with her parents. “We’re all happy and we’re employed. How can they be ruined?”
“You are not doing the best job you could have!” John exclaimed pointing at her. “You’re not married and you’re not dating. Your brother went and married a hore! That’s how they’re ruined!”
“That’s it, we’re out of here!” Brady exclaimed grabbing Chloe’s hand and leading her out into the living room. “Unless you change the way you think, Chloe and I will spend Christmas at our place.”
“I’m gone too,” Belle said following her brother out and putting on her coat. “Dad, I knew you were set in your ways but you’ve gone too far. You can’t control your children’s lives anymore. We’re all grown up and I think we’ve turned out pretty well.” She slammed the door and headed to the elevator with her brother.
“He called me a hore,” Chloe sobbed as they stepped into the elevator. “Why would he do that? I’ve never done anything to make them think that.”
“Don’t mind my parents.” Belle said giving Chloe a hug. “Dad had our lives planned out from the time we were kids. I’d be the successful doctor like my mom and Brady would be some bigwig business guy. Dad had actually arranged a marriage with the daughter of a friend for him. I guess he thought he’d get both businesses in the end.”
“You were betrothed?” Chloe asked Brady, wondering why he’d never told him before.
“Until I was twelve,” Brady said taking her into his arms. “I found out and told dad it would never happen. I knew that I wanted to marry for love. And I did.”
“You two make me envious.” Belle said leaning against the wall and sighing. “Dad was right about one thing. I’m 24 years old and I’m single. What am I waiting for?”
“Shawn Brady.” Chloe said smiling at her. It was well know that Belle had never really gotten over Shawn. But at the same time, she hadn’t gotten over his betrayal and lies. “You know you compare every guy you’ve dated to him. And let’s face it, not too many guys can measure up to Mr. Brady. Except maybe your brother that is.”
“I do not compare every guy to Shawn.” Belle argued with a frown. “I just wish they were him.”
“Are you ready for Christmas?” Hope asked Shawn as they enjoyed their dinner.
“I don’t have that many gifts to buy.” Shawn said nodding his head. He loved coming over to dinner with his family and he loved spoiling his little brother. “I think I bought more for Zac than I did for everyone else in total.”
“You spoil him too much.” Bo said smiling at his son. He was a bachelor and had no one else to spend him money on. “But it shows us you love him. Are you down at the orphanage again?”
“Yes,” Shawn said blushing slightly. He’d only been asked to go down once, but he’d asked to be placed there permanently so he could see Belle everyday. “Um, you heard that I asked to be assigned to the entire watch didn’t you?”
“I did and I was wondering why.” Bo said taking a mouthful of the spaghetti he and his wife had prepared for supper. “Are you falling in love with a little girl down there?”
“Not funny dad.” Shawn said rolling his eyes at his father. He wasn’t sure if he wanted his parents to know the real reason, but he did want to tell someone. “But I’m going down there so see a woman. Um, Belle is telling stories to the children in the evenings and I like to listen.”
“You’re going there to see Belle?” Hope asked not quite understanding if she should believe her son. “As in Isabella Black?”
“Yeah,” Shawn said dropping his eyes to his plate. “I walked in that first night and she was sitting there talking to this little girl. Mom if you could see this little girl you’d fall in love, I know I did. She looks like Belle and is the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen. I was so shocked that she was an orphan. It seems people won’t adopt her because she’s sick with respiratory problems.”
“That’s sad.” Hope agreed thinking of little JT with his health problems.
“But mom you should have seen Belle.” Shawn said his eyes lighting up with emotion. “She told her about JT being adopted and how much he was loved and little bits about his life. I was so happy to hear her say those things.”
“Belle had a connection to him.” Bo said thinking of his lost son. “And speaking of JT, Glen and Barb are coming back to Salem right after Christmas. I know you’re getting older and you can go out and party, but would you consider watching the boys on New Years?”
“I’d love to,” Shawn said thinking of seeing the little boy he hadn’t seen in over three years. “Here or my place?”
“Either.” Hope said feeling relieved they had a sitter. The Ribers had wanted JT to see they Brady family and had suggested that they all go out together for New Years.
“Your house,” Zac said through a mouthful of food. “You have a big screen TV.”
Everyone laughed at the little boy’s comment. “My house it is then.” Shawn said smiling at his brother. “I’ll get movies, junk food and party hats.” He stood up and smiled at his mother. “I’ll call for details, but I have to run.”
“Have fun.” Hope said as Shawn headed to the door. “We’ll see you for dinner on Christmas day.”
“Yeah,” Shawn said heading out into the cold night. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a box with green wrapping paper. “I hope you like this one too.”