Fiona’s favorite day is the day before Christmas. When the whole world is painted in bright reds and greens, gingerbread men dance in windows, and the nights become frosty. She grew up in a huge Victorian home in Cape May, New Jersey, with her parents, prosperous monkey merchants who sold goods and operated a ferry bringing rich tourists to port.
Each Christmas her parents Ansel and Greta would gather the children together near the fireplace and roast bananas flambé and toast marshmallows. Ansel, in addition to his skills as a merchant, was no slouch as a knitter – and each year he toiled away on chilly evenings to present Fiona with a treasure for the new year: a knitted dress.
So every night before Christmas, without fail, Fiona would creep down the tall 3rd story setps to the candlelit tree, find the white box tied with red and white baker’s twine, pull out the dress and dance around in it while eating the banana and chocolate chip cookies left for Santa.
Then, as morning approached she’d replace the dress carefully, run upstairs and tuck herself tightly into bed so that when her father appeared with the long white box she could look extra sleepy and surprised…