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It was two days before Christmas and the North Pole was alive with excitement as the elves worked round the clock to complete the list of childrens' wishes and dreams.
There was a frenzy and energy that had everyone dancing and singing with delight.
The reindeer's were resting, the sleigh was being loaded and Santa was just emptying his mail bag to make sure every letter had been read and every wish had been filled.
It had been a long season but he felt pleased and assured that every child's dream would come true.
He gave the bag one last shake and to his surprise one little letter fell to the ground.
He slowly picked up the envelope and noticed that it was dirty and appeared to be old.
He examined the date on the postmark and realised that it had been sent the year before. Quickly he opened it up and read the letter.
Tears rolled down his cheeks as he realised this little girl's request had gone unanswered.
Lydia Brown was orphaned when she was 8 and sent to live at the Englewood home for girls. The social worker who delivered her there assured her that it was only temporary and that soon a wonderful family would come and adopt her.
Lydia always remembered those words even as she saw other children leave and she was left behind, she knew that her time was coming.
She was now 9 and soon realised that the children being adopted were much younger than she was.
She would always look her best, comb her hair and wear her best dress for prospective parents, but they just smiled and passed her by as they were drawn to the little ones.
Being a very optimistic child Lydia decided to use another approach.
Christmas was coming and she knew, or had read, that Santa always honors the requests of good little girls and boys.
She knew that she had been very good that year and sat down to compose her letter to Santa. She explained that she just wanted to have a family, was not picky about brothers or sisters but wanted a mother and father to love her and whom she could love.
She did not care about toys or games; none of those things mattered.
She sealed the envelope and deposited it in the mail box labeled, "North Pole Express".
During the next few weeks several families came to visit and many children were adopted. Lydia was not worried because she knew her new parents would arrive on Christmas day. Santa never disappointed little children.
Christmas day arrived and Lydia quickly dressed and placed a red ribbon in her long blonde hair.
She had neatly packed her small suitcase with her meager belongings for her departure.
She hurried to the dining room for breakfast and then sat quietly in the entrance, suitcase in hand waiting for her new family.
The other children were gathered around the tree unwrapping their presents but she knew hers was not under the tree.
As the hall clocked ticked in the foyer and the hours passed, the sun started to set.
Mrs. Babcock tried to encourage her to partake in the activities but Lydia could not take a chance and miss the arrival of her new parents.
Evening came and Mrs. Babcock took her by the hand and led her to her room.
She explained that sometimes Santa could not answer all of the children's letters and maybe this year it was hers.
Lydia cried herself to sleep.
The next day she awoke and resigned herself to the fact that Englewood home for girls was her forever home and that there was no Santa Claus.
Marla Comstock and her husband had been married for 15 years.
Marla was a motherly type but had never been blessed with a family.
Her husband had always left the child question up to her but it never seemed like the right time. Her career had given her great satisfaction and many opportunities, but now that she was retired she felt empty.
Her husband was still working in his small on-line business and she was left to fill her time. They chose a small community to settle into and Marla tried to fill her time volunteering.
She liked volunteering but still had a feeling that something was missing from her life.
She had accepted the fact that she would never be a mother and chose to fill that emptiness by filling the needs of others.
Santa spent the whole day thinking about little Lydia.
How she must have felt disappointment that day her new parents did not arrive.
All the other letters requested toys, games, dolls, and trucks.
Poor Lydia wanted what every child deserves, loving parents.
Santa had never received a letter like this and did not even know what to do.
Toys were easy to build but parents, where would he even start?
This was a year later and he wondered if Lydia had ever found her family.
Maybe she had lost her faith and belief in him; there must be something he could do.
He immediately called his head elf, Oscar, for a consultation.
Oscar had been in charge forever and no request seemed too much for him to handle.
Oscar read the letter and was quiet for the longest time.
When he finally spoke he had a brilliant idea, the return address was on the letter.
There was only one way to find out if Lydia was still there; pay her a visit.
Lydia was not bitter or angry at Santa, she just had grown up, after all she was 10 now and not a little girl.
She was now one of the oldest in the orphanage and took it upon herself to mother the little ones.
The more love she gave them the happier she became.
She no longer thought about getting adopted because she finally felt needed and loved.
The only time she felt sad was when the little ones got adopted, not sad for them but for her; however, soon after new children arrived and needed her more than ever.
Santa in a way had answered her letter, he had filled her heart with love and they loved her too.
Oscar made the long trip and confirmed to Santa that Lydia was indeed still living in the orphanage.
Santa was dismayed but Oscar assured him that Lydia was happy and making life better for the other children. Santa was relieved to hear that but still convinced that this year Lydia's request would be granted and he had a plan.
Marla had become very active in her new community and headed up the town's Christmas committee.
Every year the town brought Christmas to hospital patients, and to the children at the Englewood Orphanage.
This year the committee decided to give the children a real home Christmas experience, which was something they had never done and the children had never had.
Each child would spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day with a local family.
Marla was excited; what was Christmas without children!
Many of the families wanted the younger children because they stilled believed in Santa but Marla felt a tugging to get an older child, who might have not only lost their faith in Santa but in adults in general.
The children were all cleaned up and in their best clothes; they quietly waited to be selected. Lydia chose not to participate; she had been in line-ups before and did not want to experience not being picked one more time.
She decided to stay in her room and wait until all the children had been selected and left.
Marla and the other families entered the bleak dismal parlor of Englewood Orphanage.
All the children were excited and nervous.
One by one they were all selected to accompany the family that had chosen them.
Marla was disappointed that she did not feel a connection with any of the children but as it turned out all of the children had been selected and she stood alone in the parlour.
It appeared that the numbers were off, there were more families than children and she was left without a child.
She started toward the door discouraged but brushed it off; this was not her first disappointment.
Lydia had been in her room for several hours and finally ventured out, positive all the children had left. She would spend Christmas with Mrs. Babock who was also alone and would appreciate the company.
Lydia ventured down the stairs just as Marla was gathering up her belongings to leave. Something made Marla turn her head and catch a glimpse of Lydia as she descended the stairs. There was something about this child, a peace, a love that radiated in her presence.
Lydia's eyes caught Marla's gaze and she felt warmth coming from her; the same kind that she received from her little charges in the orphanage.
Marla knew that this child had been saved for her; there was an instant connection that she could not explain.
Mrs. Babcock appeared and noticed the energy between them and knew that Santa had answered Lydia's letter.
Lydia went home with Marla that night and never returned to the orphanage.
She had received from Santa what she had asked for the year before.
The stars twinkled that Christmas Eve as Santa made his journey with a heavy bag and light heart knowing that her letter had been answered at just the right time.
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