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Sherry's Magical Christmas
By
Kavyansh

Sherry's Magical Christmas

It was nearly midnight on Christmas Eve, and Sherry was slumped in a chair in the sitting room of her small cottage, lit only by the embers of the dying fire. She was feeling totally out of sorts, facing a Christmas Day on her own once again, which wasn't at all what she had planned.

ooOoo

Sherry was a secondary school teacher specialising in Natural History at a large comprehensive school in a rundown area of town. She had studied Biology at university, quickly discovering that she was particularly fascinated by ecology and the relationship of species to their environment. She had worked as a volunteer during her long summer vacations on nature conservation projects, and one of her most significant achievements, when she started teaching was to persuade the head teacher to allow her to transform an area of old industrial wasteland behind the school into a wilderness, complete with a natural wildflower meadow and a small lake.

She was a conscientious and enthusiastic teacher and was very popular with her pupils, many of whom lived in terraced houses without gardens. She built regular field study sessions in her wilderness into the syllabus and had found that freed from the constraints of the classroom even the most hard-bitten of teenage boys would become excited at studying wildlife in its natural environment.

It was Sherry’s love of nature that had led her to buy a small cottage several miles from town rather than a modern house on one of the new estates springing up around the town to cater for the many commuters who made the daily train journey into London. The cottage was situated in open countryside in what had originally been part of Windsor Great Forest, and some of it was very old, perhaps as much seven or eight hundred years, although it was fitted out with all the mod cons essential to life in the twenty-first century.

Unlike some of her more cynical colleagues, Sherry genuinely liked children and, aware that at thirty-three years old her biological clock was ticking, had reached the stage when she would have ideally liked to have settled down with a suitable man and started a family of her own. She was definitely not a prude and had a healthy enjoyment of sex — one of the fringe benefits of her summer vacation jobs had been the number of fit and attractive young men among her co-volunteers. A common and very pleasant conclusion to a day of hard work and an evening spent singing songs around a campfire was a night of enthusiastic love in her tent with a willing male partner.

The years had passed without her finding the right man, and she had had a number of unsatisfactory relationships, including a torrid but brief affair with a fellow teacher, who was, unfortunately, married and unwilling to leave his wife even though he claimed she was frigid. She had also discovered that one or two apparently nice men became abusive after a while, which had done little to give her much confidence in the male sex. However she hoped that a few romantic days alone with her latest lover might lead to something, but he had dumped her a couple of weeks before the Christmas holidays, complaining that he wasn't prepared to become a permanent second best to the demands of her school work — definitely not good husband material.

As she hadn't wanted to be on her own for Christmas, she had invited her closest female friend, and fellow teacher, to stay for a few days. However, she had rung the morning of the day before Christmas Eve to say that she wouldn't be able to come after all because her mother had slipped on the ice and broken her wrist, which meant she would have to do all the cooking for her family.

To make matters worse the heavy overnight snow had blocked the road into town, so she couldn't even pick up the turkey she had ordered. It had also brought down the power lines, and when she had looked for the candles she kept for such emergencies, the mice had eaten them. Sherry felt so miserable that she couldn't even be bothered to go out into the cold to get some more logs from the outside wood store, so she decided that she would just go to bed, pull the duvet over her head and sleep until the New Year. How she wished now that she had accepted her parent's invitation and driven up north to them for the Christmas holiday — entertaining her young nieces and nephews would have been fun and infinitely preferable to this. It was most definitely not going to be a Merry Christmas.

ooOoo

It seemed that she had hardly put her head on the pillow when there was a loud banging on her front door. Half asleep she struggled to make sense of this intrusion on her sleep, unsure whether it was just a dream, so she put the pillow over her head and tried to go back to sleep. But the banging continued, even louder than before, so throwing a dressing gown over her pyjamas, Sherry descended the stairs and approached the front door with trepidation, more than a little alarmed knowing that the roads were blocked, and wondering who could be about on a night like this. However it might be someone in trouble, so hoping that she looked braver than she felt, she drew back the bolts and opened the door a crack to peer out into the night.

She was about to say, “Don’t you think it's rather late to be banging on someone’s door? Is there any way I can help you?” when she stopped dead in amazement at the sight before her eyes. Standing at her door was the strangest looking man dressed entirely in furs, carrying a great bow in his hand with a full quiver of arrows on his back and a long curved horn hanging from his belt. Strangest of all was his face, the upper part of which appeared to be a stag's head complete with antlers. Sherry rubbed her eyes, thinking that she must be dreaming, but when she opened them again, the vision was still there. Utterly perplexed, she opened the door wider and what she saw made her even more convinced she was dreaming. The small spinney across the road from her cottage had been replaced by a great forest, the trunks of the trees glowing palely in the light of the full moon, and overhead the sky was studded with the light of millions of stars shining like diamonds against the blackness.

"Who, who are you?" Sherry managed to stutter, totally lost for words.

"I am Herne the Hunter," replied the man in a deep voice, "and I have come at your call to bring you some Christmas cheer."

"But I didn't call anyone," said Sherry in a small voice.

"You may not have spoken the words," he said gravely, "but your heart cried out in your loneliness, and so I came."

Having said these words, the man lifted his horn to his lips and gave three long blasts. As he finished, a multitude of woodland creatures came out of the trees to stand behind him, led by a white stag with antlers that glittered like silver. He blew again, and in a twinkling, the creatures were transformed into an army of elves all dressed in red and green, and the stag became a handsome young man with hair so blonde it was almost white and eyes like pools of liquid chocolate.

Herne spoke once more, "Young lady, I wish you a very happy and memorable Christmas, and may good fortune bless you from henceforth." With that, he turned on his heel and strode into the forest and soon disappeared from sight.

The young man, who looked like a god to Sherry's enchanted eyes, took her by the arm and led her back inside her cottage, which was now brightly illuminated by the merry light of a thousand candles. "Go back to bed now beautiful lady, and when you wake in the morning everything will be prepared for your delight," he said and pushed her gently in the direction of the stairs.

"But what do I call you?" Sherry asked, deeply puzzled by his words.

"I am Cernunnos," he replied, "but no more questions, "off to bed with you, and sleep sweetly the rest of this night, for on the morrow we shall feast like kings."

ooOoo

The morning was already well advanced when Sherry was wakened by the magical light of the sun reflecting off the snow flooding into her bedroom. She felt more rested than she had for a long time and at the same time curiously happy, the misery of the night before just a bad dream. Looking at her clock, she thought, "Goodness it is nearly noon, time I got up and looked to see what I can find for my Christmas dinner. I may not have a turkey, but I'm sure I can find something special in the freezer which will have to be used up anyway since the power is off, and I've got plenty of bottles of wine."

Then, as her senses cleared, she remembered, "What a strange dream I had. In a strange way I only wish it was true, but there is no such thing as magic. It did drive away my blues, though, I really was feeling very sorry for myself, but now I feel so much better, and that is magic of a sort, isn't it? Happy Christmas, world!”

She jumped out of bed and rushed over to the window. But when she opened the curtains she almost fell over backwards in shock. The streetlights along her road had disappeared, and the road itself was no more than a rough cart track. Even more amazingly, the forest she had thought she had only dreamed was still there and was now a wonderland of black and white — the night's fresh snowfall coating every branch so that the trees glittered in the sunlight with a million points of silver.

Just then there was a soft tapping on the door, which opened to admit a small elf carrying a tray with a steaming mug of hot chocolate. "Happy Christmas Day my lady," trilled the elf, "everything is nearly ready, and your host requests that you join him at one o'clock for a pre-dinner glass of mulled ale."

Everything appeared to be as the elf had said. As through the open door wafted the delicious smell of roasting turkey from the kitchen downstairs, and after pinching herself, Sherry said to herself, "Well if this is a dream it is certainly a very nice one, so I might as well enjoy it," and she smiled happily.

After she had showered and brushed her teeth, Sherry looked in her closet for something suitably festive to wear but plumped after much thought for a simple white silk blouse and a knee length skirt of deep crimson. However, as it was Christmas Day, she thought better of her normal practical cotton underwear and put on her favourite silk lingerie with sheer stockings and suspenders. "I don't know what has come over me, but I might as well feel sexy," she thought to herself, "even though nothing is likely to happen."

An hour later, after taking great care with her makeup and with her long black hair tied back with a red and silver bow, Sherry entered her sitting room, slightly unsteady in a pair of high-heeled silver slippers. Cernunnos rose from his seat by the blazing log fire and stepped forward to greet her, taking her hand and raising it to his lips to give it the gentlest of kisses.

"On behalf of all the creatures of the forest, may I wish you a very Happy and Joyful Christmas," he said, "and now it will be my pleasure to make this the best day of your life."

ooOoo

Some hours later after a wonderful meal, and when everything had been cleared away, the elves all disappeared leaving Sherry and Cernunnos alone. Cernunnos poured them each a brandy and then sat down next to her on the settee. He put his arm around her and pulled her to him with her head resting on his chest.

"Sir," she said, "if this is a dream, it has been a very wonderful one, and all I can say is thank you for giving me such a lovely Christmas Day."

"My dear Sherry," he replied as he stroked her hair, running her dark tresses between his long fingers, "your day has only just begun, because it is now my turn to give you my special Christmas present."

Being this close to this wonderful man — or was he just an apparition — was making Sherry feel rather more flushed than could be accounted for by the wine she had drunk. She had to admit, just a little tingly; but all she could say in reply was, "What more could you give me, it has already been the best Christmas Day I can remember since I was a child."

Cernunnos said nothing, but turning her face to his, he kissed her softly on her lips. "This will be my gift, my dear," he murmured, "to carry you to a land of pleasure in my arms," and he kissed her again, gently probing her lips with his tongue.

Sherry, deeply attracted by his powerful masculinity, began to respond to his kisses, opening her mouth to allow his tongue to probe and flicker against hers. Their kisses soon became passionate and relaxing into his arms; she allowed herself to be carried away on a tide of rising desire, and looking deep into the bottomless wells of his dark eyes, without saying a word Sherry surrendered to his will.

Cernunnos stood and pulling Sherry to her feet, just said, "Come," and lifting her as effortlessly as if she weighed no more than a feather, carried her up the stairs to her bedroom. Closing the door behind him, he turned and started to undress her, pausing between each garment to savour the beauty of her body as it was slowly revealed to his gaze. When finally she was naked, he laid her gently back on the bed and started to shower kisses on her trembling flesh. Sherry was no inexperienced virgin, but she could not remember such tender lovemaking, even from the most attentive of lovers, and soon she lost all awareness of her surroundings. It was as if she was filled with a magical light that emanated from his body to surround her and carry her to heights of hitherto unimaginable pleasure. So complete was her possession that she could feel his thoughts in her mind as they became one in their mutual ecstasy.

As they lay together in the delicious afterglow of love, Sherry experienced a new and amazing wonder. The walls of her bedroom appeared to shimmer and then melt, and they rose together into the air high above the cottage. In every direction, all that she could see was a great forest and in the distance the line of the River Thames gleaming silver in the moonlight. Together Sherry and Cernunnos began to fly silently through the air until they finally alighted in a clearing in the forest in the centre of which was a great oak tree. As soon as they were safely on the ground, all the creatures of the woodland appeared from the trees and bowed in silent worship of the ancient god of nature and fertility.

“One day dear lady,” said Cernunnos, “all this will inevitably disappear as man bends the world of nature to his will. However, if human beings ever forget their origins and lose their respect for the environment, it will be the beginning of their destruction.

“But what has this to do with me,” Sherry replied.

“You are a very special lady,” he said in return. “You have already demonstrated your understanding and love of nature, almost reverence, and as a gifted and popular teacher, you are in a special position to influence young minds. The future is not fixed, but I have seen its many possibilities, and you will have a small but crucial role as a catalyst of change. I have just given things a little push in a more hopeful direction because having mated with a god you will now find that you have even more strength and determination, and just a little of my magic.”

As Cernunnos spoke these words the vision faded, and Sherry found herself back in her bed, wrapped in the warm and comforting arms of her divine lover. She turned to look at him in wonder, and then spoke quietly, “Kind sir, I am grateful for the vision you have granted me, and overwhelmed by your confidence in me, but now let me make love to you.”

After a seemingly infinity time of mutually given and received delight, both Sherry and her immortal lover ascended to the summit of pleasure together. Sherry felt totally possessed, as the god poured all his power into her mind and body, and in the ineffable delight of her rapture, she floated away on a cloud of utter bliss into a profound and dreamless sleep.

ooOoo

When Sherry awoke, it was daylight again, and she was alone. She felt more relaxed and fulfilled than she had ever known, and although her thoughts were tinged a little with regret, she felt happier and more complete than ever in her life. For a while, she just lay in her bed lost in a delicious reverie as she relived in her imagination the most wonderful Christmas gift of her life. If it had been a dream, it was a most wonderful and life-affirming dream. But when she looked at her clock, she saw a small package on the bedside table. Opening it, she found a delicate silver chain with a beautifully crafted miniature silver stag's head hanging from it.

When she did finally rise and open the curtains, the snow had melted, and the enchanted forest had disappeared as magically as it had appeared. But to Sherry's mind, it was not a return to normal, because she knew that things would never be the same again and that the promise of a new and happy future lay before her. Gone were her feelings of inadequacy and unfulfilled longings, to be replaced by hope and confidence.

Two days later the power had been restored and the roads cleared of snow. Sherry was shopping in the supermarket in the nearby town when a shopping trolley banged into hers while she was looking at the shelves trying to decide which of two similar products to buy. She heard a male voice apologising for his clumsiness and still feeling benevolent after her wonderful Christmas adventure; she was about to say that no harm had been done when she looked up and the words died in her throat. Standing there was a tall man with hair so blonde it was almost white, and the darkest brown eyes she had ever seen.

"Hello Miss Cooper, Sherry isn't it? I am so sorry, but I find these things have a life or their own," and he pointed to his trolley.

Taken aback, Sherry could only reply, "How do you know my name?"

"Sorry again, you must think me very rude, "he said. "I'm Peter Franks, David's father. He is always talking about you and telling me about how exciting your lessons are. You really must be a wonderful teacher, because he is normally highly critical of school and teachers. You must let me buy you a cup of coffee."

There was no way that Sherry was going to refuse his invitation — it was like a miracle, and she wanted to find out all about this man who was the spitting image of her dream lover of Christmas Day. They were soon talking as if they had known each other all their lives, and she learned that he was a single parent, having lost his wife two years before to breast cancer. It seemed natural therefore to accept when he invited her to share New Year's Eve with him since they would both be alone, David having gone to his grandparents for the holidays.

She became even more certain that this was fate when he ushered her into his sitting room, and there on the mantlepiece was a bronze sculpture of a stag that looked exactly like the silver stag on the chain round her neck. When she remarked on it, he said that it had been left to him by his grandfather who had been presented with it by the Queen when he retired as head ranger of Windsor Great Forest.

Sherry and Peter were married three months later at Easter. David was delighted when his father told him of his plans — his favourite teacher was going to become his mother, or as he put it, "Yippee," which was his way of signifying his approval. He acted as bridegroom at the wedding, a role that he took with great seriousness, showing a maturity that belied his youth. Sherry never told Peter about her magical Christmas Day, but throughout their long and happy married life, she never forgot the night Herne the Hunter came to call.

As Cernunnos had foreseen, many of Sherry’s pupils went on to be active in the fields of environmental protection and sustainable living. It was David who played the most significant role, however when as President of Europe he secured a binding commitment by the presidents of all the other major world powers to work together to address the catastrophic consequences of climate change which threatened the very future of civilisation. Most important was their common agreement to divert the majority of their vast expenditure on armaments, thus ensuring world peace and hope for the future of humanity.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © 2020 by Keith Paver

All rights reserved, including all copyrights and all other intellectual property rights in the contents hereof.

The compositions and contents herein are not to be copied, reproduced, printed, published, posted, displayed, incorporated, stored in or scanned into a retrieval system or database, transmitted, broadcast, bartered or sold, in whole or in part without the prior express written permission of the sole author. Unauthorized duplication is strictly prohibited and is an infringement of National and International Copyright laws.

All names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

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