The forest was beautiful for this Christmas Eve. Evergreens were frosted with new snow and bare branches sparkled with a thin layer of ice. Ariruth, decorating her front door, heard muted rustles of creatures foraging in the leaves and whispers of birds fluttering from tree to tree. Her preparations for the Wish party were almost finished.
She continued the annual celebration just as her dear, departed parents had taught her. The tradition began centuries ago when a Fairy king desired a distinctive Christmas Eve celebration for his subjects. He selected a member of his court to be named Granter of Wishes. That fairy was given magical power to grant the wishes of all fairies on that one day.
The procedure for making the wish was simple. Upon arising on the day before Christmas, fairies could ask for anything as long as it was initiated in love. The fulfillment of their wishes would be given before midnight. Each community held a Wish party in anticipation of their gift.
In her childhood, Ariruth had wished for and received such gifts as a Kissee baby doll, a Lovey stuffed dog, and a goldfish in a bowl. As she matured, her wishes became more heartfelt. She had requested and received another few months with her dying mother. When Ariruth wished for a best friend, Jarlisa had arrived.
During this past year, despite having a best friend, she had become lonely and was longing to marry and have a family. Ariruth’s wish this Christmas Eve was that a suitable man ask for her hand in marriage. She wanted someone who already loved her and whom she loved, a husband to cherish her, and the family they would have, for the rest of their lives.
Ariruth couldn’t imagine how this wish would be granted. Not one of her male friends seemed to be thinking of her in that regard. The four men she had feelings for (she wasn’t sure it was a forever love) were coming to the party. Would one of the four be her gift?
The one male she truly loved and who loved her was Titansmok. He was the stray, gray cat she found at her front door three years ago, the Christmas eve she wished for a loving companion. The Granter of Wishes misunderstood her desire of a lover and sent her Titansmok. He became her companion and protector, often sitting watch outside her home. They enjoyed magical times playing their favorite game, Hide and Seek. She marveled at how the cat excelled at making himself or some of Ariruth’s favorite trinkets vanish.
Satisfied that her home looked welcoming, she went inside to gather serving trays for tonight’s party.
A knock at the door announced her friend Jarlisa, who had come to help set up the festivities.
“Come on in, door’s open.”
“Hi Ariruth. What did you wish for this Christmas Eve?”
“I’ve wished for a proposal and ring from a man who loves me and whom I love. Do you think it’s possible for it to be granted tonight?”
“Our wishes have always been granted. I wished for a new roof for my tree house as I have a love of staying warm and dry. I can hardly wait to see it when I return home tonight.”
“I’m sure your roof will be wonderful. I a knock. Will you see who’s there? It’s early for guests to arrive.”
Jarlisa opened the door to see Tinkervid shifting nervously from one foot to the other. He was holding a gift bag.
“Is Ariruth here?”
Jarlisa asked him to wait inside the door and went to tell her friend.
“Tinkervid wants to see you. He has a gift bag and seems jittery. He might be the one. Go talk to him. I’ll take over party prep.”
“Hi Tinkervid. You’re early. What’s up?”
He bounced the bag and gritted his teeth.
“I have a gift for you. You know you’re really important to me.” He thrust the bag toward her.
“I care for you, too. Let me see what you’ve brought.” She opened the bag and removed a small velvet box. She looked at Tinkervid to find a clue about the gift. His face was blank as he stared back. When she opened the box, she saw a golden ring nestled in the lining.
“Ariruth, I’ve realized today just how much you mean to me. I want you to marry me.”
“Oh, thank you. I hope you’ll let me think it over this evening and give you an answer before midnight. I’ll put the ring in a dresser drawer for safekeeping during the party.”
Tinkervid agreed and said he would wait for her answer. She placed the ring in her pocket.
As she watched him leave, she spotted Theok flying a moth toward her. She waved to him and waited until he landed at her front door.
“What are you doing here, Theok?”
“I had a sudden urge to see you this afternoon to tell you how special you are to me. I don’t want to ever lose your love. Come take a ride with me and I’ll explain.” He gently pulled her up and positioned her behind him.
“Hold on. Here we go. We’re not going far, just to the top of the tallest tree in your forest.” When they landed, Theok helped her disembark onto the tree branch. He reached into the satchel slung over his shoulder, knelt on one knee, and reached out to hold her hand.
“Ariruth, I can give you the world you see from this treetop if you will agree to marry me. I’ve brought you this gold ring as a promise of my love if you accept my proposal.”
“I’m honored. Please give me a few hours to consider your request. I have a safe place for the ring and will give you my answer before the party ends.”
Theok held onto her hand for a few moments before he stood to help her back onto the moth. After landing at her home, she waved good-by and went inside. She placed both rings in the dresser drawer.
Joining Jarlisa in the kitchen, Ariruth explained what had occurred with Tinkervid and Theok.
“It seems I have two choices, and I don’t know which one to marry. I can’t tell if one loves me more than the other. Neither was exuberant in expressing love for me. I need to consider the qualities of both men. Do you mind setting the cookies and cheese ball in the dining room?”
Ariruth thought about the proposals as she iced cupcakes. Each man had unique qualities.
Tinkervid was handy with tools and was an avid do-it-your-selfer. He had repaired her plumbing and patched her roof. Their home would always be in good repair. However, she frowned as she remembered how many mishaps he had every time he made repairs. While working on her roof, he had fallen and broken his arm. As his wife, she would spend a lot of time taking him to the emergency room.
Theok was an aviator who excelled in piloting butterflies. He had taught her the basics of flying the winged insects. Those who knew Theok commented on his patience and kindness. The drawback to marrying Theok was the constant travel of his piloting assignments. She would be a single-parent most of the time.
Jarlisa called out to her, “You’ll never believe who’s walking to the door. It’s the baker,Rubell, with a wrapped package. Hope he’s bringing cinnamon buns. But maybe the Granter of Wishes is working overtime today.”
Rubell walked into the kitchen. His package could contain a tasty treat, but it was a bit small for baked goods.
“Hi, Rubell. I’m happy to see you.”
“I want to give you this. When I woke today, I felt an urgency to declare my love to you as soon as possible.” He handed her the gift.
Ariruth took the box and said, “You know I love you, too.”
She opened the box to find a third gold ring.
He smiled. “It’s a token of my love for you. Will you be my wife? We can be happy baking together forever.”
“I need to think about this. I’ll place the ring in a safe place and give you an answer before the end of the night.”
Rubell agreed and went home.
Ariruth went to the dining room to tell Jarlisa about the most recent proposal.
“Three proposals with gold rings! Who do I love more? Rubell was slightly more convincing about his love for me. My wish explicitly said the man must love me. Guess I should have wished for more enthusiasm in the love declarations and proposal. Rubell is a renowned baker best known for his breads and sweet rolls. My mouth waters when I think about his tender cinnamon buns.”
Jarlisa offered, “Just think about him in your kitchen trying new recipes. You can be his official taster.”
“But if I accept his proposal, I’ll become a roly-poly taster.”
An hour passed without another ring-bearing man appearing. However, while she was dressing for the party, Sath came to propose and offer a gold ring. His endearments were as subdued as the others. He gave her permission to safeguard the ring being offered and agreed to wait until midnight for her decision. Ariruth knew Sath had many good qualities.
He was a soft-spoken scholar who had written about the fairy mystique and loved sharing his knowledge. The only fault she found in him was that he often became so absorbed in his studies that appointments were forgotten and everyone around him was ignored.
Minutes before the party began, she was as confused as ever about who would be her best choice. As Titansmok twined around her ankles, she wondered if she loved any of the suitors as much as she loved her cat. He seemed to love her far more than any of the men and showed it in so many ways. He guarded her from mice and snakes. He warmed her lap on cold evenings and slept each night on the pillow next to her. He couldn’t speak, but Titansmok’s actions demonstrated his love. The men may also have expressed their love with actions, but it would have been nice to have them speak the words of love she wanted to hear.
By nine o’clock, the party was in full force. Ariruth stepped into her bedroom to take another peek at the four rings. They were all beautiful, but maybe one would be more appealing to her. She gasped at the open drawer. It was empty. She searched every drawer, got on her hands and knees to peer under each piece of furniture. The rings were missing. What would she tell the men who gave them to her? She hurried out of the room to find Jarlisa.
She pulled her best friend aside, “I can’t find the rings. Did you move them?”
“No, of course not. They were yours, well at least one would be. I haven’t noticed anyone going into the bedroom. These are your friends, but it’s still possible someone stole them. I’ll go see if I can find the rings.”
“Thanks. I’ll search the kitchen.”
In a while, the two women met empty-handed in the living room. The party buzzed around them. Jarlisa suggested another possibility.
“I know Titansmok loves to hide your trinkets. Do you think he was able to open the drawer and steal the shiny rings?”
“He can open most drawers, but he’s been following me around all evening. When I was in the kitchen just now, he was curled up asleep next to the warm oven. I’ll take a look in his favorite hiding places, just in case. Be right back.”
Ariruth had tears in her eyes when she returned. “No sign of the rings.”
The two women huddled in a corner to discuss what could be done.
“I don’t want all the guests to know about the rings, and I don’t want to accuse anyone of stealing. You and I plus the men are the only ones who know about the rings.”
Jarlisa said, “Why don’t you ask each man if he took his ring out of the drawer. If he answers no, you can explain you misplaced it but will still give an answer later tonight.”
“That doesn’t solve my problem. However, I’ll follow your advice.”
Thirty minutes later, Ariruth had questioned the four men to learn that none had removed his ring. She promised to give her answer at 11:30.
She told Jarlisa the outcome of her questioning and shared whose proposal she would accept.
Ariruth was bracing herself to declare her choice and to fend off questions about the rings, when a stranger joined the party. She hadn’t seen him enter. He just suddenly appeared. The man was handsome with thick silver-gray hair, dark gold eyes, above-average height, and a muscular body. Something about him seemed familiar, but she knew she’d never met him. He would have been unforgettable among her acquaintances. The four gold rings he wore caught her attention. She realized her lost rings had been found. Without hesitation she walked over to him.
“I’m Ariruth and this is my home. I don’t believe we’ve met. Who are you? Where did you find the rings you’re wearing?”
The stranger bent over and kissed her hand.
“You’re wrong. We have met. In fact, we’ve known each other for some time. My name is Titansmok. You’ve told me often how much you love me, and I’ve shown you how much I love you. I’ll give you these golden rings when you accept my proposal of marriage and announce to your guests that I’m your true love.”
Ariruth fainted. Titansmok carried her to the sofa and held her close. She finally opened her eyes.
“I-I-I don’t believe you. Titansmok is my cat, not you. I’ve never seen you before.”
“Let me explain. Many years ago, the Fairy king became jealous and I was exiled into the animal world as a cat. I landed on your doorstep and loved you the moment you took me in. The king said I would only return to my own body when I found my true love and four gold rings. I found you, but I despaired of ever finding gold rings. When I heard your wish this morning and saw the men come with the rings, my hope was renewed. I collected the rings from your drawer. Do you love me enough to be my wife?”
Ariruth smiled. “Yes, the Granter of Wishes has outdone himself with my gift. I know now you’re the only one I love. I accept your proposal.”
Titansmok removed the four rings from his fingers. Ariruth announced her choice of husband and returned each ring to the owner.
Tinkervid, Theok, Sath, and Rubell breathed a sigh of relief that there was another man to love and cherish Ariruth forever.