“Muff, just face it,” the Bori pleaded desperately. She was curled up in the seat farthest from the fire, mindlessly flipping through her magazine. Her icy figure never seemed to react well to fire, but it was only fair that Muff was allowed to at least stay warm. She was watching the Kacheek out of the corner of her eye; he was pacing anxiously, and he kept jumping at every sound. He was a good few years older than her, but he was acting like such a child. A festive hat was placed delicately atop his mess of long, white hair, a tiny bit too big for his head. It kept slipping down to cover his huge yellow eyes. Even from her distance, though, Daze could see that he was masking the feeling of sorrow that was creeping up him, sending chills down his spine. “Nobody’s coming.”
“But Daze,” Muff whined, his voice cracking from so much strained anticipation. “It’s Christmas Eve! There just have to be carolers!” He stood up defiantly, crossing his arms and staring almost longingly at the door. “Y’know... holiday cheer? There just have to be carolers...” His trailed off and became noticeably softer. “This is my first Christmas off of the island... it’s understandable to not carol when it’s summer year round, but it’s different, now!” He bounced over to the window, his hat flopping forward. “Speaking of, when does it start snowing?”
“Muff,” Daze began delicately. “It’s not like that, here. It’s not supposed to snow tonight. I’ve been here all my life and not once have I seen somebody go Christmas caroling.” She looked away, not wanting to see the heartbreak in his large yellow eyes. “It’s almost ten—we should get some sleep.”
But Muff didn’t go. He simply stood by the window, leaning his head against the icy pane. “You can go on ahead,” he called quietly to her without moving. “I’m just gonna wait a few more minutes.”
“There aren’t any—“ Daze began, but silenced herself. Muff was stubborn, and every time that she told him that there wouldn’t be any, he’d only be more mulish. Instead she let out something that sounded almost like a whimper and retreated to her room.
Before she could even get to sleep, though, somebody was knocking on her door. “Daze,” came Muff’s urgent voice. The ice Bori sat up, not sure if she was hearing right. A few seconds later, he knocked again. “Daze!” he called, more urgently this time.
“What?” she asked, sitting up in her bed. Muff almost kicked the door open, and then he stood there, grinning broadly. He was wearing a complete winter attire, from his hat to boots to mittens to a bright green scarf, and in his hand he was holding a giant mug of hot chocolate. But that wasn’t what astonished Daze the most. No, what surprised her was that Muff was singing.
It was Jingle Bells—a perfectly innocent song, one of Daze’s personal favorites. She couldn’t help but beam at him as he finished, and his expression was one of pure joy. “Well?” he asked when he finished, slightly out of breath. “What do you think?”
Daze struggled to find the right word. “Brilliant,” she finally exhaled, and for a small second, Muff could see past Daze’s façade. He could see past her cold exterior, and could see into the eyes of the little girl who was forced to grow up much too fast, and had always wanted to see a Christmas caroler on her doorstep.
“So, how about it?” the disco Kacheek asked, smiling weakly. Immediately Daze’s guard went back up.
“How about what?” she asked, her voice filled with wonderment.
Muff genuinely smiled at her and held up a matching hat and a white scarf. “Will you join me?”
Daze cast a nervous glance at her bedside clock. “Muff, it’s almost ten thirty, everybody’ll be asleep...!”
“Do you really think that they’d sleep through what could possibly be the only caroling party ever?’ Muff asked excitedly, tossing the clothes to her. He put on his best welcoming look and held out his hand to her.
And, for once, Daze didn’t think of what the consequences would be. She simply smiled, took his hand, and allowed him to lead the way.
It was cold. It was dry and cold and, on any other day, Muff would have done anything to be inside. But that night, Muff was ecstatic to be out. They were standing in front of Mister Silverton’s house—a kindly old Ruki who would obviously be the first on anybody’s list to carol for. Both of them were flushed with excitement—they were doing something completely out of their comfort zone.
“Ready?” Muff mouthed, his breath visible in the cold night. Daze stifled a giggle and nodded. Briskly, Muff raised a hand and knocked.
They stood together on that doorstep for what felt like hours. They dared not knock again—that would only annoy him if he was ever-so-slowly making his way to the door. Slowly, their excited faces drooped back into their usual bland selves.
“Maybe he’s with his family?” Daze suggested weakly, her tongue slightly numb and not working quite properly. She cupped her hands and exhaled into them, trying to keep warm. She may have been made of ice, but she still felt the chill.
“Perhaps,” Muff concurred bleakly, but he didn’t want to move from the doorstep. “But... what if he’s really here? He’ll be so disappointed... he’ll think that, for the first time in his life, there’ll be carolers on his doorstep, but then there’ll be nobody here! And he’ll be alone on Christmas...”
“We need to keep moving,” Daze stated bluntly. “Otherwise, he’ll find two frozen bodies on his doorstep.”
Muff couldn’t think of a valid comeback, however, and instead grudgingly turned and glanced sadly over his shoulder at the door. Daze shivered—she would have liked to blame it on the cold, but she knew very well that it was more than that. It was her conscience, nagging at her for destroying her friend’s ideal image of Christmas eve.
Three more houses, and nobody was home. Finally, they got to a house with music blaring and the lights bright. Muff’s face lit up. “Come on, Daze!” he called excitedly, almost skipping up to the doorstep. He rang the doorbell, twitching a tiny bit and ringing it twice.
There were a few shouts from the other side of the door. Muff’s naïve smile remained unchanged, as the door swung open.
Two Kyrii, probably a bit younger than Daze, stood there. Clutching drinks in their hands, they looked Muff and Daze over expectantly, which the duo took as a cue to start singing.
It started off quite rocky—Daze started half a measure too late, and Muff was a tad flat. Muff saw their matching shocked expressions, and suddenly the entire night felt worth it.
And then the Kyrii shared a quick glance. They nodded almost simultaneously, before the one closest to the door swung it shut, slamming it in the two carolers’ faces.
Their song halted mid-phrase. Daze cringed, quickly turning her attention to Muff. His face seemed to be frozen in a state of bliss, fear, and shock. “Muff?” Daze whispered cautiously, barely audible over the roar of the music. His stare slowly became blank and his gaze shifted downwards, staring dejectedly at his feet. “Muff?” Daze tried again, delicately placing a hand in his shoulder.
Muff shrugged it off weakly, turning and walking dolefully down the walk. He reached the street and turned, trudging in the direction of their house.
“Muff!” Daze called, breaking the suffocating silence. She lunged forward and grabbed him by the arm, pulling him to a stop. He turned to look at her with his huge, sad eyes.
“You were right, Daze,” he said in a monotone, dejected voice. “Nobody ever carols on Christmas Eve. I don’t know what I was thinking.” He tried to pull away, but the petite Bori stood her ground.
“Muff, please,” she begged, looking up at him with pleading eyes. “Just one more house! Please, Muff, just one more!” he suddenly stopped resisting and looked back down at her, his eyes no longer alight with excitement.
“Just one more,” he reasoned. “Then I want to get to sleep.”
Daze couldn’t take her eyes off of the road in front of her. Please, she kept thinking to herself, let them be home. Please.
They were home. The light from a flickering fire could be seen through the curtain-covered window near the door. Daze stumbled on her way up the step—Muff stood a few steps back, now only a ghostly shadow of himself just an hour earlier. Holding her breath, Daze knocked on the door.
A few seconds later, the door creaked open. A small Usul that couldn’t be older than six stood there, clutching a small stocking in her paw. “Yes?” she asked, her voice equally small.
Casting a quick glance back at Muff, who seemed almost resigned, Daze began to sing.
Jingle Bells. It was the first song that came to mind, and it seemed ever so fitting. Muff wasn’t singing. She felt like a complete idiot, singing by herself in the middle of the night. Her voice was sharp—she could tell.
She didn’t dare look at the Usul’s face. If it was upset or even blank, then it would just break Muff’s heart. She stared into the house to keep her mind off of it. It was cheaply furnished and some of the wallpaper was peeling off near the stairs.
Briskly, Muff stepped next to her and began singing, as well. She could hear the quaver in his voice. Fearing the worst, she glanced down.
The Usul was staring at them, wide-eyed. She was clutching her stocking even tighter in excitement. Then, she let out a tiny squeal. “Mum!” she shouted, not taking her eyes off of the two. “Mum, carolers! I knew it! I just knew that there’d be some out tonight!”
The girl’s mother rounded the corner, her eyes betraying her wonderment. The two Usuls stood there awkwardly, unsure what to do other than stare as the Kacheek and Bori sang until the end of the song. A few seconds of silence later, the smaller Usul erupted into applause, followed by her mother.
“I knew it!” the young girl cried again, pumping the air with her fist in celebration, before hugging her mother. Her mother, meanwhile, was clapping slowly, still staring at them in awe.
“Never in my life,” she began, her voice quivering, “have I ever seen a Christmas caroler.”
Muff grinned broadly. “Neither have I, Ma’am,” he stated, and the tiny Usul suddenly hugged him around the leg.
“I was gonna make my mum take me caroling if nobody showed up!” she announced, grinning up at the Kacheek. Muff chuckled and leaned down, patting the small girl on the head.
“That’s the spirit!” he exclaimed, and it was completely genuine. The Usul retreated to her mother, burying her face in her fur and smiling. “Merry Christmas!” Muff exclaimed brightly, once more excited beyond his wits.
“Merry Christmas!” the two Usuls echoed, clapping again. The looks on their faces were priceless. Daze didn’t need to look over to know that Muff was beaming.
“Again?” Muff called as he skipped down the street, holding hands with Daze and giddier than ever.
“Sure!” Daze agreed, barely able to contain her exhilaration.
And once more they broke out into a chorus of Jingle Bells. At the last line Muff stopped and smiled genuinely at his companion. “Thank you,” he began, “so much, Daze.”
“It was my pleasure,” she responded happily, matching his grin.
“Hey,” Muff added as an afterthought, “Merry Christmas!”
Daze smiled. “To you as well.”
And then something huge and wet fell right on Muff’s nose.
He went cross-eyed as he looked at it, almost not sure if he was seeing correctly. But then another one fell on Daze’s ear, and another fell directly into her eye.
“Snow!” Muff shouted, and it echoed off the trees and houses and back at him. He threw his head back and let out a carefree laugh. “It’s snowing, Daze! It’s snowing!”
“Well, I’ll be,” Daze exhaled, staring up into the dark sky. Sure enough, all around her the little white flakes were falling.
A few hours earlier, Daze would have informed the Kacheek that it wouldn’t stick. But he didn’t need to know that. For now, she would let him enjoy the second miracle in the night.
Jingle bells, jingle bells. Jingle all the way.