Brenda stared up at the dinosaur wallpaper that covered every inch of William’s bedroom walls.
Above his desk, he had a corkboard covered with drawings and pieces of artwork. All of them were of the same thing: a blue flying dinosaur, with shimmering scales and a frosty mane of icicles.
For William, this was the most magical thing to happen to him last Christmas – in fact, it was the most magical thing to happen to him ever! Meeting his best friend: the Christmasaurus.
‘Do you think we’ll see him again this year?’ Brenda asked.
‘I hope so!’ William said wistfully. ‘I miss that dinosaur!’
Brenda suddenly sat up, gazing at the sky through William’s bedroom window.
‘What is it?’ William asked excitedly, trying to see what Brenda was looking at.
‘Is that... him?’ she gasped, pointing to the clouds.
William scanned the snowy sky, desperate to see if it was really him. Had the Christmasaurus come to visit him early?
Brenda burst out laughing, her mouth full of food, and William turned round to see that the last piece of pancake was missing from his plate.
‘Oh, you are SO back on that Naughty List,’ William told her, feeling a tiny pang of disappointment. Seeing the Christmasaurus again was all he had been hoping for, all year long.
‘What? This is exactly what big sisters are for.’ Brenda shrugged as she hopped off the bed.
‘How many times do I have to tell you? You are not my big sister. We’re the SAME AGE!’ William replied as he slipped his dinosaur-patterned jumper on and transferred into his wheelchair, which was waiting by the bed.
‘I’m a month older than you, so technically I am your big sister.’ Brenda wrapped her fluffy pink cardigan around herself as they headed out of the bedroom together.
‘If you want to get “technical”, you’re not my sister at all!’ William protested. ‘Our parents aren’t married.’
‘Yet! But they’re living together, so it’s just a matter of time. It’s what grown-ups do: kiss, move in with each other, get married, argue.’
William’s dad smiled as William and Brenda came into the kitchen. Pamela was sipping a cup of tea, and William felt a little pang in his heart as he saw which cup she’d chosen – the glistening blue teacup with a snowflake-shaped handle.
‘Oh,’ he said. ‘That was... That teacup belonged to...’
‘Oh, William, I’m sorry. I’ve done it again, haven’t I?’ she said, quickly putting the pretty cup down. ‘I totally forgot that one belonged to... well, that it was special.’
‘No, it’s OK,’ William said. He knew he was being a bit silly about the whole thing, but it was such a strange feeling, seeing Pamela with something that had belonged to his mum.
He remembered when his dad had thought about donating it to charity. ‘It’s only a cup, Willypoos,’ he’d said softly. But William wasn’t quite ready to let it go, even though he’d never actually seen his mum drinking from it. He was so young when she died that he could barely remember her, but just knowing that she’d once held it in her hands seemed like reason enough to keep it.
He saw his dad give Pamela a reassuring smile before clearing his throat.
‘Right, everyone. Now it’s time for the second Trundle Christmas Tradition of the day – washing up,’ Bob said, throwing snowflake-patterned tea towels to William and Brenda, and grinning as Brenda’s face fell.
Once the pans and plates were tidied away, Bob slid William’s and Brenda’s advent calendars across the kitchen table and they quickly set to work finding door number fourteen.
‘Found it!’ William yelled, opening the little cardboard door.
‘Me too!’ said Brenda a second later, shoving the chocolate into her mouth.
‘Only ten days until Christmas!’ William said excitedly. Brenda stared at him. ‘Oh no!’ she said. ‘It’s December the fourteenth – that means that Dad’s coming to pick me up today!’
She slumped in her seat, and William saw a glimpse of the old, sulky Brenda. ‘Urgh! It’s so unfair that I have to stay with him this Christmas!’ she huffed.
‘Do you have to?’ William asked.
‘I’m afraid so, William,’ said Pamela. ‘Brenda’s dad and I agreed that she would alternate Christmases, and she was with me last year, so...’
‘Dad’s place it is!’ Brenda sighed.
A sad silence fell on the kitchen for a moment.
‘Not to worry!’ Bob chimed merrily. ‘We’ll just have to make the most of every second that you are here today! The four of us celebrating Christmas together, the Trundle way!’ He picked up a beautiful snow globe from the table, which had a hand-carved wooden base and a small, cosy-looking log cabin inside the glass ball. He turned it over and the snow swirled around, creating a magical scene. ‘We’ll make mince pies, sing songs, roast chestnuts...’
‘And crumpets, Dad – don’t forget the crumpets!’ William added as he and Brenda watched the snow settling on the miniature house inside the snow globe.
‘And crumpets! Well remembered, William. Oh, we’ll have enough fun today to last you all Christmas, Brenda, don’t you worry about that. And, if Christmas with your dad really is as bad as you think, then it will be over in the blink of an eye, it always is, and then we can start looking forward to next year when we’ll all be together. The four of us.’
There was a loud bark from beneath the kitchen table. ‘Five of us! Sorry, Growler,’ Bob corrected himself and reached down to give their adopted dog a pat on his scruffy head.
‘You’ll be back home before you know it, Brenda. And, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: every second away from one Christmas...’
‘...is one second closer to the next!’ they all joined in, and burst out laughing.
‘That’s more like it. Keep smiling, Brenda. It’s Christmas!’ Bob said, before launching into a solo rendition of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’.
‘Your dad can’t be that bad, can he?’ William asked quietly as Bob began twirling Pamela around the kitchen.
‘Well, you know how your dad is fun, loves Christmas, always tells the truth, checks how you’re feeling, knows what your favourite things are, tells you that he loves you...’
They both looked at Bob, who was still singing, and had now slipped on a pair of fake antlers.
‘Yeah!’ said William.
‘And do you remember when we had “opposites day” at school and had to imagine that everything was the other way round? Up was down, left was right, in was out... good was bad?’
‘Well, my dad is like your dad on opposites day!’ Brenda explained, opening door number fifteen of her advent calendar and popping the chocolate into her mouth.
‘Oh,’ William said, thinking that now was probably not the time to tell her she shouldn’t do that.
‘Plus, I haven’t seen him for almost a year. And that’s not all.’ Brenda took a deep breath. ‘Before my dad comes to pick me up, there’s something you should know about him...’
But just as Brenda was about to tell William... Her voice disappeared.
Her lips were moving, but it was as though someone had accidentally leant on the mute button and switched off her sound.
‘What? I can’t hear you!’ William said. Or at least he tried to – but his voice had disappeared too!
They both looked around and realized that the entire kitchen was absolutely silent as if something had sucked out all the sound. There was no gush of running water from the sink, no carol from Bob’s mouth, not a single jingle of a bell from his jumper!
It was even quieter than quiet. Like someone had turned the volume down on William’s ears and when the volume reached zero had just kept going into minus-quiet.
That’s when William noticed something else a little fishy, a little out of the ordinary, a little... magical. Through the kitchen window, a flock of pigeons that had just taken flight were floating absolutely still in mid-air, as if they’d been stunned by a freeze-ray that had glued them to the air itself.
Snowflakes had also stopped mid-fall and were hanging in the air as though suspended by an invisible string from the sky. Growler was stuck mid-bark at the window. In fact, the only things that were moving were William, Brenda, Bob and Pamela!
Bob turned round, leaving the mug he was holding floating in the air. Pamela shrieked at the strange sight, but no sound came out.
This is weird! William thought to himself as he went to the window and peered out at the perfectly still morning. He saw Yusuf next door suspended in mid-jump above his trampoline and an aeroplane hovering in one spot in the sky. Even the second hand on the kitchen clock wasn’t tick-tocking, as though – by some kind of magic – time itself were frozen!
A smile started to grow on William’s face – he couldn’t stop it.
What is it? Brenda mouthed, wondering why William suddenly looked so excited.
William was excited because he had seen this kind of magic once before. He knew that there was only one person in the whole world who could make something like this happen. Someone who was about to land in the next chapter...