A Christmas Story

It had been a dark year. There was no joy found in the streets. The glowing white lights hung low and swinging, casting no warmth but instead speckled cold brightness onto the streets laced with ice. Soft, white, fluffy snow had failed to fall. The winter had been mostly freezing rain accompanied by sharp winds, making driving and walking miserable and near impossible. The hospital had been inundated with sprained ankles and wrists from the falls of the townspeople. On their faces only sat the misery brought on by constant cold and lack of holiday spirit. What had started off as a year of so much promise was ending in constant nightmares and fear of the future.

Thomas knew exactly what he was getting Alice. He had known for years but had never been able to find one. Finally, this year, he got a call from someone who knew of a seller who had a copy. He had emailed the gentleman and waited months to hear back, finally getting the confirmation he needed two weeks ago. He was scrambling to find a day, and a believable excuse, to drive the hour to retrieve it. Alice was too savvy for any white lie. She also was constantly texting him with funny quips about her day or ideas she would have flood her when she was on her lunch break. She would worry if he was five minutes late anywhere. What could he possible tell her that she would believe?

“I have to run an errand for Dave after work,” Thomas ventured one morning as they were chugging coffee and packing their bags to start the day. “I’ll probably be a little late. It’s like 30 miles away.”

“Why can’t Dave do it?” Alice said, eyebrows raised. Her green eyes shifted from her scanning the paper to Thomas. “What is the errand? That seems really far for a coworker, babe.”

“Right, well, yes, it is,” Thomas stammered. “It’s a Christmas thing and I told him I would help him out. It’s some fancy antique shop that he wants me to check if they have this…lamp Nancy saw in the summer. His kid’s got hockey so I said I’d go.” Well, that was lengthy.

Alice’s eyes narrowed. Even Thomas didn’t believe his own tale. Then, Alice shrugged her shoulders and said flatly, “Okay, I guess. Just drive carefully.” She went back to her paper. Thomas couldn’t believe she believed him. Then again, Alice had given way to the misery surrounding them all and had been plagued by a dark cloud the past few months. She had lost her spunk and quick wit. He waited with bated breath to see if she had anything else to add. When she didn’t, he finally relaxed and started to plug the address into his GPS for later.

After he was done with his work day, he shoved his tote and travel coffee mug into the car and buckled in, attaching his phone to the holder on the dash so he could follow the directions. He had never been to the town where the gift was located but he had heard of it. A quaint little spot with tiny boutiques and ancient covered bridges. He wasn’t sure if the address was a store or the gentleman’s home. Thomas was nervous to see what condition the present was in. The guy hadn’t given him much information; Thomas only knew his name. He started the car and waited a few minutes for it to warm up. He pulled out of his parking spot and headed to the highway.

90 minutes later, it was clear Thomas was lost. His GPS signal had gone in and out for the past 30 minutes, taking him in a circle and landing him on a backroad. He had pulled over a few times to try and correct his location, texting Alice more white lies, saying he had run into a high school friend in the town and they were grabbing a snack. Her texts back featured smiley faces so he didn’t think she was mad. His GPS finally linked back up and told him he was only a few minutes away. He just needed to take the next left. Thomas flooded with relief. He was hungry and frustrated and ready to get this gift and head back home to Alice, victory in his passenger seat.

Thomas took the next left and after about 3 miles, saw the glow of the town. It was bright, warm, and cheery. Something he realized was not present in his own bigger town. As he got closer, small cottages began to spot the streets, all decorated with holiday decorations. Wreaths, strings of lights, plastic reindeer and snowmen. Each house looked like it was out of a Martha Stewart magazine. The more he drove, the more decorative each cottage became. Store fronts started to appear, also decked out to the fullest, and the warm glow was gleaming even more.

The main street of the town made Thomas almost stop the car entirely. He came up the slight hill and the road opened up into beautiful old shops lined by lampposts and red ribbon. There were all different sized Christmas trees in the alleyways and along the sidewalks. Bells hung from the telephone wires and every window had a candle.

“What is this place?” Thomas thought aloud. “It’s like Christmas threw up everywhere.”

His phone broke the awe by announcing his location would be on his right. He spotted a parking spot on the street and pulled in, turning his car off. He peered out ahead to the address. It turned out to be a shop, not a home, with an old wooden sign dangling over the sidewalk. “PAST TREASURES” the faded lettering spelled. Thomas smiled and popped open the car door, stepping on the street.

The glow was even more overwhelming outside the car. Thomas immediately felt at ease, bathed in the warm glitter of the decorations. He stepped onto the sidewalk and to the door of the shop. The door looked ancient and squealed as Thomas pushed it opened. A sharp bell chimed as he stepped inside. It was dim and Thomas couldn’t make out any features at first. As his eyes adjusted, he realized the shop was lit mostly by candlelight. Candles lined the shelves and windows and the beams above him. The store was small. It only had four or five large bookshelves holding a few books each. Thomas looked around for any staff but none were to be seen. He walked past the large counter with a giant old cash register towards the shelves to see if he could find his prize.

The books on the shelves were all rare editions. Thomas spotted a Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit, and Peter Pan first editions. All beautiful bound and appeared to be almost lit from behind as they gave off a magical glimmer. He scanned top to bottom, not spotting his book. A rustle came from the back, startling Thomas and causing him to jump and spin around, almost knocking a copy of Le Petite Prince in the original French from the shelf.

“Hello?” Thomas called out. He heard a slight grunt and a bent over older man came out from a back room Thomas hadn’t realized was there. The man shuffled over to Thomas, raising his head slowly and meeting Thomas’s wide eyes with his twinkling ones.

“Hello, Thomas,” the old man said as he continued to drag his feet past him. “You’re late.”

“Yes, I am,” Thomas started. “I am so sorry about that. I got lost and then had to pull over to reset…wait, how did you know my name?” Thomas felt goosebumps raised on his arms.

The old man was heading behind the large counter with the cash register. He paused and turned, smiling. “You said in your email.”

Thomas let out a laugh. “Oh, of course,” he said. Ridiculous, he thought silently. Of course it was the email. He let his body relax. “Again, so sorry about my lateness. I hope I am not too late to get it.”

The old man kept smiling as he reached underneath the counter. “I set her aside for you. You made it seem like this was a very important gift.” He placed a large flat box on the counter. It was a beautiful shade of dark red. The old man gestured Thomas to come over to the counter.

Thomas stood in front of the box as the old man lifted off the lid. There it was: first edition of The Velveteen Rabbit, Alice’s favorite book. The cover was yellow with a simple sketch of the rabbit and what looked like handwritten cursive the credits of author Margery Williams and illustrator William Nicholson. There was little wear and tear; one of the corners appeared slightly frayed but it was hardly noticeable. Thomas looked up to the old man watching him, his smile still present.



“Can I touch it?” Thomas asked. The old man chuckled and put his gentle hands around the box and pulled it from the box, handing it to Thomas. He cracked it opened, turning the first few pages. 1922 the copyright read. It was a first edition as he had hoped. Thomas felt his face spread into a grin and something warm and familiar creep into his chest. The old man seemed to notice.

“Is it what you hoped it would be?” he asked. Thomas nodded. “It’s perfect,” he said.

“Good. It is one of my favorites,” the old man replied.

“My wife’s too,” Thomas said. “This is for her. She’s going to love it. I am definitely winning Christmas this year.” The old man let out a sparkling laugh.

“I think you will more than win. It sounds like this was a true Christmas wish you are making come true. Santa Claus usually performs such miracles. He’ll be relieved you took this one for him.”

Thomas looked up at this. He laughed slightly but was taken aback as the old man seemed very genuine. Thomas couldn’t tell if he was saying this as a fun Christmas joke or being completely serious. It didn’t matter either way but in that moment, Thomas felt this strange jolt of deja vu. His thoughts filled with childhood Christmas trees and making cookies with his brother and sister. For a moment, all he saw was that Christmas morning he got his first ‘big kid’ bike, its tire peeking out from behind the tree. He thought of his parents faces of mock surprise as they acted as though they hadn’t known it was there. Thomas let out a soft chuckle as he remembered they were always so good at pretending Santa was real.

“Yeah,” Thomas said coyly. “Always happy to help the man out. How much do I owe you?”

“Well, let’s see. I don’t usually have prices set at anything. I like to hear the story first,” the old man replied.

“The story?”

“Yes, the story of why you want this book. All these books are precious to me. After my wife died, they have kept me company in this little shop. They are the best stories in the world, captured in their first existence. I like hearing the stories of why they are special to those who take them home.”

“Oh,” Thomas said confusedly. “Well, okay. Um, like I said this is for my wife, Alice. It’s her favorite book. Her mother used to read it to her when she was little and even made her a Velveteen Rabbit one year for Christmas by hand.” Thomas smiled thinking of how Alice lit up whenever she talked about it. “She used to try and make it ‘Real’, you know, like in the book?” The old man smiled and nodded, listening intently. Thomas took a pause and then got lost back in the story. “Alice lost the rabbit her mother made her somewhere, I forget where. I think in a hotel on a vacation or something. Anyway, her mother always told her it was like the book and that the rabbit went off to be Real with all the other rabbits.”

“That is probably true,” the old man ventured.

Thomas laughed, “To this day, Alice still goes up to any rabbit she sees, looking for a resemblance.” Thomas looked up from the book in his hands to the old man. The man’s eyes were glistening with the start of tears and his smile, ever present, was even wider.

“The poor child. Her mother was a magical woman,” the old man said gently. “Would you like me to wrap this for you?”

“Yes, yes that would be great,” Thomas said, distracted by the stunning illustrations on the pages. “She sounds like it. I never got to meet her.” Thomas hadn’t heard the familiarity in the old man’s voice as he spoke of Alice’s mother. He handed the book to him as the man was pulling out rolls of gift wrap.

The man laid the book gently back in the box and took some pre cut velvet ribbon out alongside the gold paper he had placed on the counter. He grabbed scissors and began cutting with such precision Thomas found himself unable to look away.

“How long have you had this shop? It’s great. I love the collection you have gathered,” Thomas offered in the brief silence that had fallen between them. The old man glanced up from his wrapping and looked around affectionately.

“Oh, it’s been in the family for years. This building has been here since the 1700’s. My family has always collected books and has shops across the world. This one was passed down to me by my father many years ago,” the old man said. Thomas nodded as he began to wander over to another shelf where he spotted a few copies of Beatrix Potter’s tales.

“All fairy tales?” Thomas asked. The old man, placing his finger on the box to tie the ribbon, bent his head in confirmation.

“Oh yes,” he said. “Fairy tales and fables are the most important of stories. We get so caught up in the tale itself, we don’t realize we are walking away from it learning life’s most critical lessons.”

“In fairy tales? Really? They were just kid’s stories where animals talk and poor girls become princesses,” Thomas quipped. Then when he feared he had insulted the old man when he didn’t respond quickly, “Don’t get me wrong, I like them! My wife is more the fairy tale fanatic than I am.”

“Yes, I know,” the old man said. Once again, Thomas failed to register the familiarity in his words. “We learn about friendship, believing in ourselves and our dreams. We learn that hard work and dedication pay off but also that the world is full of darkness and evil and we must always seek the light and good and fight for even when all seems lost. Fairy tales gives us hope when we are hopeless, Thomas. They stay with us always, even if we haven’t open their pages in years. We start them again and suddenly, we realize something new about the story. It teaches us a new lesson we didn’t realize until we were the age where it makes sense. Why, just the other day, I said I never wanted to grow up. Our dear friend Peter always said that, didn’t he, Thomas?”

Thomas chuckled. “That he did.” He glanced back to the self with the first edition of Peter Pan. “I used to keep my window open when I was little hoping he would come for me.” Thomas stopped himself. He turned back to the old man who had shifted his focus back to wrapping. Why would I just share that? he thought. He took in the old man’s appearance for the first time. He wore a wool red sweater and had a full graying beard. His head was sparse of hair at the top and his round glasses sat on the bridge of his nose as he looked down while wrapping. He looks like a Santa, Thomas thought, I wonder if he plays one for the kids in town.

“I bet your mother loved that in the cold winter,” the old man said, winking at Thomas. The wink filled Thomas with that comforting warmth again. “Yeah, she definitely did not,” Thomas said, snickering.

“Well, you are all set here. Thank for you telling me the story of Alice and her rabbit. It was incredibly special.” The old man set the wrapped gift down. It was truly perfectly wrapped, the edges crisp, the red velvet ribbon draped luxuriously across the surface.

“Wow, is this extra? Because I will pay extra. My gift wrapping looks like a five year old did it,” Thomas joked. The old man laughed. “No, no, I enjoy it! It’s never extra.”

“Great!” Thomas said. He pulled out his wallet. “Alright, Christmas miracle worker, what’s the damage?”

The old man looked at the box and ran his aged hands over it, almost petting the velvet ribbon with his fingers. “$19.22.” Thomas let his mouth fall open.

“Sir, you can’t be serious. I have been searching all over the country for this book and the cheapest I found was $20,000 on Ebay. Let me pay you at least a hundred times that. I’m prepared to do so. I’ve been saving for it for this reason.” Thomas couldn’t believe the man would be this crazy. This book was worth a fortune.

“Thomas, it is quite alright. This book will make Alice very happy. That is enough for me. I do not need such fortunes for such a small, precious thing.”

Thomas didn’t know what to say. He cautiously pulled out a $20 and handed it to the man. The register chimed as the drawer popped open. The old man started to count change when Thomas insisted he keep it. “Alright,” the old man said as he shut the drawer. “Well, Merry Christmas, Thomas. I am glad you found the shop and the book for your wife. Please come back sometime and tell me how she reacted. I love those stories, too.”

“Wow, sir, I can’t tell you how happy I am you emailed me back. I’ve had this idea since we got married. I wanted to give it as a wedding present but could never find one nearby. This…thank you. Merry Christmas!” Thomas clutched the box with the book close to his chest and began to walk to the door. “I’ll come back soon! I’ll bring Alice with me. I’m sure she’d love this place.”

“Thank you, Thomas! I am sure she will,” the old man said with a wave. “Oh, and Thomas?” Thomas stopped and turned, his hand on the door knob. “That bike your parents pretended wasn’t from them? I have a sneaking suspicion they were telling the truth that time. They aren’t that good of actors, you know!” The old man laughed at his old joke and told Thomas to drive safe, putting the gift wrap back under the counter. Thomas smiled and thanked him again, stepping out into the night, a final time failing to realize the old man’s knowledge of things Thomas had not shared aloud.

He unlocked his car and gently put the book on the passenger seat. Small white flakes began to fall on his windshield. Thomas smiled as he turned the car on and pulled out of the parking spot. His GPS glowed against his face and his headlights made the snow look like stars, as if he was driving into the night sky.

The trip home was much shorter. This time, Thomas noticed a visible difference in his town than the one he just left. The snow had stopped around the town line and he felt he was plunged into darkness as he pulled off the highway onto his exit. The warm feeling of the shop and the old man and the book beside him still burned strong in spite of the sudden change in atmosphere. Thomas arrived a little later than he had told Alice he would. She was still up, sitting on the couch, delicately holding a glass of red wine.

“Hey, you,” she said, barely glancing away from the television. “How did it go? Did you get the thing for Dave?” She said the last sentence cleverly, as if hinting she knew he was lying. At this point, he had the gift hidden behind his back so he didn’t mind. The lie may have failed but his mission was complete.

“Oh, yeah, all is well,” Thomas remarked. “I’ll be right back. Just going to run upstairs to get comfy.” He hopped up several steps at a time and placed the gift wrapped book in his bottom drawer of his dresser to wait for Christmas morning.

The next two weeks were a blur of the usual routine. Alice remained cloaked in the heavy year, walking around with a forced smile, pleasant but there was something dark lingering under the surface that pulled her down as the days pressed on. Thomas, however, felt rejuvenated. He went out on Thursday and purchased boxes of lights and balls and decorations and put them all up around the apartment, surprising Alice. When she asked him why with her face lit up more than it had in the past 12 months, he said he thought they could use some Christmas spirit. “Yes, I think you’re right,” she said, admiring the poinsettias by the front door.

When Christmas morning finally arrived, Thomas got up before Alice and bounded down the stairs, present in hand from his drawer. She opened her eyes to see him gone and took a pause. He never got up before her any morning. She was normally the one who loved Christmas. Alice realized she hadn’t been very in the spirit of the season as of late. She lay quietly for a few moments reflecting on how much she had changed in the past year and how down she felt. She had forgotten to find the joy in the little things and magic in the wind, as her mother always said. Even the smallest flower can provide the most powerful potion. Alice frowned, remembering how alive she used to be in her own life. Where had it gone? She made a silent promise to start again next year, remembering more of her mother’s words and imagination that she used to live by.

Alice came down the stairs to the smell of coffee. She turned into their living room to see Thomas sitting on the floor next to their small tree, two cups of coffee already on the table.

“Okay, are you ready?” he said excitedly. Alice couldn’t help but laugh. “Um, I mean, I guess so? Ready for what?” He pulled a box from behind him. It was gorgeous gold wrapping with a beautiful red velvet bow. Alice reached out for it as Thomas pulled it back teasingly.

“Now, when I win Christmas, I expect two dozen of those peanut butter cookies to be made stat,” he said flirtatiously. Alice giggled, the comforting electric excitement began to crawl from her toes up. She reached for the present, Thomas finally relinquishing it.

“We shall see, buddy. I did pretty well this year, too!” Alice said, looking at the box in her lap. “I don’t even want to open it, it’s such pretty wrapping. Did you do this?” she asked, knowing he didn’t.

“Yeah, of course. I’m secretly amazing at wrapping. Would you just open it?!” Thomas said gleefully. Alice smiled widely and untied the ribbon, gently removed the tape and paper, and revealed the box. She lifted the lid.

It was one of those magical time freezes and the world stops moments. It can happen often when the perfect gift is given. A gift that is meaningful and thoughtful and unexpected. A gift where Alice wondered, “How did he even remember this?”

Alice felt her heart thump hard against her chest. Her body flushed with warmth and tears began to tickle her eyes. Inside the box sat her favorite book in its original form. Memories of her mother flooded back to her and words caught in her throat. Her mouth agape, her eyes wide, she kept shaking her head as she pulled it from the box. She ran her hands over the cover, feeling the jacket’s worn surface and fingering the sketched lines that formed the rabbit and the author’s name. She gently opened the cover and turned the first few pages, the tears filled her eyes and slowly rolled down her cheek. Alice had loved Thomas since their third date but the affection she felt towards him in this moment was on a whole different spectrum.

“Do you like it?” Thomas asked. Alice turned her face upwards to meet his eyes. “I…” she stuttered. “I don’t know what to say. Oh, honey, this is…it’s…oh, my God, it’s from 1922!”

“Yup,” Thomas said softly. “First edition.” He felt his heart make the same thump. It had been months since he had seen his wife’s face light up like it was doing just now. It wasn’t even about winning Christmas any more. He had done something even bigger.

“This must have cost a fortune! I can’t believe you did this,” Alice stammered. “I love this book so much,” her voice cracked. “I don’t even know what to say. How did you even remember this?”

“Every time we see a copy of it, you say you wish you still had one. And the rabbit thing. You always look for your rabbit. I just paid attention,” Thomas lovingly said. “You know, I’ve never even read it.”

“Well, I know what we are doing today!” Alice squealed through her tears. She leaned forward, placing her hands on Thomas’s face and kissing him softly. They put their foreheads together and she whispered, “Thank you” as the tears continued to fall and sparkle in the lights of their tree.

Suddenly, the world seemed brighter. The year and its darkness began to fade as Alice and Thomas clasped their coffee cups and curled up against the couch, sitting on the floor, with a blanket over their legs and the book in Alice’s lap. As she began to read, the words filled the air, caressing her with sweet memories of her mother, pearls of wisdom from the Skin Horse, and her husband’s extreme thoughtfulness. The two of them forgot about the rest of the presents under the tree for the short time it took Alice to read through the book. Finally, she closed the back cover and turned to her husband.

“Wow,” Thomas said. “I didn’t really expect it to be so relatable. I loved it. That guy was right.”

“What guy?”

“Oh! I haven’t even told you about the guy who sold this to me,” Thomas exclaimed. He proceeded to relay the entire story fervently to Alice who ate up every word.

“Well, he’s my hero, that’s for sure,” Alice said, holding the book still in her lap. “He sounds like Santa!” she said jokingly. Thomas laughed. Then, suddenly, they both turned to each and had a moment of ‘Could it be…’ which they quickly laughed off. Thomas popped up and announced he was going to make cinnamon rolls. Alice place the book carefully on the coffee table and pulled herself up to start dividing up the presents. She made two piles, one for her, one for Thomas. The smell of the rolls started to fill the apartment.

A short while later, torn wrapping paper was scattered about them on the floor. Alice casually asked if it was wine time yet. She went to grab a bow that had been tossed almost clear behind the tree when she spotted another gift. It was wrapped in the same gold paper with another red velvet ribbon.

“What’s this?” Alice said, picking up the gift. It was oddly shaped and gave way under her hand. “It’s squishy.”

Thomas stood up from the couch. “I…um, I don’t know. That’s not from me.” Alice flipped over the tag and giggled.

“Oh, right, right. This is from Santa,” she replied. She gave Thomas a quick wink and disregarded his look of confusion as she tore open the gift. Long brown ears came out first followed by the rest of the worn Velveteen Rabbit.

Alice practically screamed with surprise. “Oh my God! It’s almost identical to the one my mother gave me! Oh, see? It even has the uneven whiskers. Three on the left, two on the right! Did the store sell this?” Thomas didn’t respond. “Honey?”

“Uh, no,” he faltered. “I don’t know where that came from.” Alice stood, the rabbit close to her chest. It was incredibly soft and almost warm to the touch. She glanced back down at it. It was remarkably similar to the one she had lost as a child. She smiled and looked at Thomas.

“I guess it’s just a Christmas miracle then!” she said. Thomas shook his head in disbelief. “The perfect match to my perfect gift.” Her husband finally let go a laugh and smiled back.  He shrugged and offered to get the wine as he stated he definitely needed a drink now.

Alice wasn’t sure if Thomas was lying and did get her the rabbit. It didn’t matter to her either way. For the first time, in a long time, Alice remembered what it was like to feel Real. She was loved, she was safe, she was healthy and happy. So much of the year had taken those sentiments and more away from them all. As she looked at her husband, she realized he had given her more than the book. He had reminded her of her childlike wonder of the world and her imagination. That she had been searching for her lost rabbit with every live bunny she saw. Alice used to be so full of light and fairy dust. Everything was magic to her, even the smallest flower.

Thomas took out two wine glasses from the kitchen and spun a few bottles on their counter around to see the labels, deciding what they should start with. He smiled to himself, thrilled with her reaction, and to have his beautiful, happy, sprite of a wife back. He hoped in the following weeks she would start painting again. He look forward to coming home to her singing and dancing in the kitchen as she was making dinner. He had missed that. Thomas too felt lighter somehow. He had told Alice the truth; The Velveteen Rabbit had struck a chord with him. It had been easy to forget how powerful something so simple as being loved can be. It can be your entire world. It can change you for the better. It can make you Real. Thomas felt a kinship with the rabbit. He felt like him and Alice loved each other so much, they were falling apart at the seams, much like the rabbit. They were becoming Real.

From that Christmas night and into the next year, the Rabbit slept in the bed with Alice and Thomas. When they had a child a few years later, the Rabbit was given to the child, along with the book, which the little boy loved to have read to him every night. Slowly the Rabbit lost his fur, his right eye, and all his left whiskers. His seams remained in tact, proving him the most resilient Christmas toy any of them had ever owned.

Thomas and Alice returned to the small shop where Thomas bought the book a few weeks into the new year. It was the same shop but the old man wasn’t working. It was a young girl from the town who knew as much about the books that the old man did. She spoke of them all with great affection. When Thomas asked when the man worked as he wanted to introduce him to his wife and thank him personally for making their Christmas, the girl said the old man only worked during the holidays.

“Nick? Oh, yeah, he just comes around during the holidays. He’s the owner, super nice guy. He just goes somewhere warmer the rest of the year,” she explained as she packed up the copy of Peter Pan. “So, what’s the story behind this one?”

 

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

 

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