Large, fluffy flakes danced over seven falls and draped the forest in white. The world, blanketed in white, held its collective breath, anticipating something special on this Christmas Eve. But white wasn’t the only color to be seen in the gleaming twilight.
An arched opening of deepest black, untouched by the snow, stretched up from the base of the seventh hill. Dusky light reflected off the falling snow failed to penetrate the shadowy adit.
A narrow, rust-colored path, magically untouched by the snow, snaked from the bottom of the dark opening, through the forest of bright green trees highlighted in white, and into a wide clearing. There the rusty path straightened out, connecting the distant mine opening to the front door of a storybook cottage.
Both sides of the path leading to the cottage sported lawn ornaments marking the season. A small creche, an inflatable church, an angel glowing with white LED lights, and a small cross of light adorned the right side of the path.
Beautiful mahogany formed the stable of the nativity scene. Detailed carving covered almost every inch of the eave. A donkey, a sheep, Dwarves, crosses, and stars adorned the wood. The largest star, seven rays of light painstakingly carved, sat below the apex of the stable, directly above the babe in a manger. Freshly scarred wood showed the most recent carving to be that of a very pretty woman. Soft, white snow covered the roof of the stable, but it protected the figures within.
The inflatable church stood slightly taller than the creche. Lights from within spilled out through the stained glass windows. Tiny glimpses of the red roof peeked out from beneath the layer of white covering the top of the church. More white spackled the steeple and the sides.
The angel’s lights turned into haloes, snowflakes acting as prisms. She appeared more heavenly with this effect, as if she had just stepped onto Earth from Heaven. Somehow the lighted cross didn’t have the same look. The points of light were distinct, separate, and clear.
The other side of the path sported a small, red sleigh. Six tiny reindeer, side by side, looked as though they were ready to pull the sleigh into the sky. The seventh tiny reindeer led the team, red nose shining bright. A snow-covered Santa held the reins, ready to drive. And a bulging brown sack, untouched by the snow, spread across the back of the sleigh, trying not to spill its contents onto the white lawn.
A lovely, inviting cottage sat beyond the lawn decorations, brightly lit and offering its own welcome. The caramel sides looked like gingerbread. Curved snowdrifts atop the cottage spoke of fired clay tiles. Large colored lights, outlining the cottage, its windows, and doors, and glowing dimly through the snow-covered roof, looked like gumdrops. Warm light spilled out of all seven windows, billowy white smoke streamed skyward from the chimney.
The windows offered glimpses of more Christmas decorations inside, including a tree heavily populated with ornaments and surrounded by a garland of popcorn and cranberries. But the tree, a mantel covered with decorations, a nativity scene, piles of presents - all were seen in brief flashes, as many people flitted to and fro, adding a light here, an ornament there, a sprig of mistletoe just inside the door, and more.
The aromas of hot cocoa, freshly baked apple, cherry, pecan, and pumpkin pie,s and eight different kinds of Christmas cookies wrapped noses in blankets of warmth and good cheer. The sounds of an electric train mingled with bubbling laughter as all eight inhabitants of the cottage danced around, occasionally bumping into one another, decorating, toasting each other with chocolate, and preparing for Christmas.
“Here. Put her on top of the tree.” Doc handed an antique nurse, with a painted ceramic face, gossamer wings, and a halo of gold, to Snow White. “I love being able to decorate without pulling out the ladder.”
Snow White smiled. “She’s beautiful.” She reached up to put the nurse on top of the Christmas tree.
“Not as beautiful as you,” Doc answered. He got down on one knee, but that didn’t change his height by much. “Snow White, you’ve made my life even more beautiful since you came here and cleaned our cottage. Will you marry me?”
Snow clasped her hands to her heart and smiled. “Oh, Doc. Thank you so much for asking me that.” Doc’s mouth stretched into a wide grin at her response. She looked around the cottage, at the other six Dwarves bustling around. “But I don’t know how I could choose.”
Doc looked around at his fellow Dwarves and shrugged. “I know what you mean.” He looked back at Snow White. “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to eat I go.” He stood up and headed to the kitchen.
Happy came over to take Doc’s place. He stood there, smiling at something in his hand, then at Snow White. “I think this one should go near the bottom of the tree. Don’t you?” he laughed, handing a bone-shaped ornament to Snow White.
“Why yes, it should,” she agreed. “Even though we don’t have a dog. But you can reach the bottom, Happy. Why did you hand this to me?” Snow didn’t think it possible, but somehow Happy’s smile grew.
“Because I can whisper in your ear when you put it on the tree,” he chuckled.
“Then I guess I’ll put it right here,” Snow White responded, bending over to put the ornament on a branch only half-full of ornament, the branch nearest Happy. Happy leaned over to whisper in her ear.
“I used to be Happy, but I've been absolutely full of glee since you came to our cottage. Will you marry me?”
Snow White brought her lips close to Happy’s ear and gave her answer very quietly. “You are so sweet, Happy. And you fill me with glee, too. But how could I possibly choose one of you amazing Dwarves over the rest?”
Happy spun around, looking at the other Dwarves filling the cottage. “I see what you mean,” he laughed. Then he skipped over to the fireplace and picked up another small, lighted cottage to add to the growing village there.
Snow straightened up, and Sleepy ambled over and climbed up into her lap, yawning. He closed his eyes and motioned for her to bend close. She did.
In the middle of a snore Sleepy mumbled, as if talking in his sleep, “Snow White, you make me feel,” another wide yawn interrupted him. “... more awake than ever before. Will you marry me?” He finished his snore, eyes closed and relaxed, seeming to fall asleep. Still, Snow leaned over to whisper in his ear.
“I feel totally relaxed around you, Sleepy. And thank you for asking me. But I don’t see how I could possibly choose one of you over the other six. You are all so wonderful, and kind to me.”
Sleepy snored twice more, then climbed down out of her lap and shuffled over to the nativity scene in the window. He started rearranging the figures, before falling asleep on his feet.
Snow heard a loud sneeze behind her. She turned to see Sneezy standing there, holding a box of tissues. He stretched his hand out, offering her the box.
“Snow White,” sneeze “there is an” sneeze “engagement ring” sneeze “inside.” Sneeze, sneeze, sneeze. “Will you, “sneeze “marry” sneeze “me?” Double sneeze.
“I don’t think I’ve sneezed once since I’ve been here.” Snow smiled. “And you have more different ways of sneezing than anyone I’ve ever known. But I can’t possibly choose one Dwarf over another.”
Sneezy blew his nose. “I” sneeze “under” sneeze “stand.” He turned around and headed for the table full of cookies, sneezing all the way.
As Snow White turned back around, Dopey walked over. “Snow Wait,” he cocked his head and looked down, wringing his hands. “Wait, Snow. Will you Merry Christmas” he put a hand over his mouth. “Oops. Will you Marry Christmas?” He cocked his head the other way.. “I mean, will you marry me?”
“Oh, Dopey, you’re adorable.” He blushed. “But I can’t figure out a way to choose one Dwarf over the other six. Do you understand?”
“Coarsely I do.” He laughed and cocked his head. “I mean of coarse I do.” He blushed and shifted from one foot to the other. “I mean of course I do.” He giggled. “I just said I do.” Then he turned and walked away.
Snow White ticked off the proposals on her fingers. Doc, Happy, Sleepy, Sneezy, Dopey. Five. She looked around the cottage.
She saw Grumpy, with a mouth full of pecan pie. “This pie filling is too sweet.” He caught her looking at him. She noticed he had eaten the whole pie. “Whut rrr ooo king at?” he mumbled, mouth full of pie. No, he was probably too grumpy to think about asking anyone to marry him.
Bashful looked around to make sure nobody saw him taking the smallest cookie off the plate of Snickerdoodles. As soon as she made eye contact, he put the cookie back and blushed. No, he wouldn’t dream of asking such a question.
“Good. We’re done with all that,” she thought.
Knock, knock, knock. All heads turned to look at the door. Who could that be? Doc was closest to the door, so he stepped over and opened it wide.
A wizened old crone, with a hairy wart alongside her nose, bent over so her back looked deformed, stood there, shivering in the cold. A wicker basket suspended from one arm, a single, large red apple nestled inside.
“May I come in out of the cold?” she asked, voice cracking with the cold. Doc motioned her inside, and she stepped over the threshold. Once inside she looked up and saw Snow White. She reached into her basket and pulled out the apple.
“May I offer you my last apple in return for your warmth?” she extended the apple towards Snow White.