The Healing Water Chapter One

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CHAPTER ONE

Ben

We made our way into the place the Well had always been. It was daylight now, and there was no sign of the heavy fog that had moved in so quickly the night before. We all looked around.

No flowers bloomed, no glow came from the ground, and there was no pristine patch of grass or granite benches. Where the Well had once been was now nothing but solid ground.

“Wait a minute,” said Nessa. She ran into the woods.

“Nessa?” Evan ran after her.

They both returned in a few minutes while the rest of us were still standing there in a daze, wondering where the Well had gone.

“The cottage is gone too,” Nessa said.

“What are we going to do?” asked Kat.

No one had an answer.

The Well and everything around it, including Kris and Christine, had completely disappeared.

I looked around at my friends, and we were all speechless. We had known that the Well was going to be moved because of the threat of Alex escaping from jail in the Northern Kingdom, wherever that was, but to see it completely gone, along with everything beautiful around it, was a shock.

There was an eerie silence all around us.

Kat and Nessa both cried and fell to their knees.

I was paralyzed at first, but watching Kat in such despair snapped me out of it.

“Kat!” I hollered.

Evan called for Nessa, and we both moved toward the women.

“Kat, what’s wrong, sweetheart?” I asked.

I knelt next to her and took her in my arms. Her body stiffened with fear, so much so that she couldn’t even return my embrace. I looked over at Evan and Nessa and saw that he was attempting to calm her as well.

“There is a disturbance near the graveyard,” Kat said. “I can’t tell what’s causing it. We have to go, Ben.”

She stood quickly and grasped my hand. Evan helped Nessa to her feet, and everyone looked at her.

“We must be silent.” Nessa looked pale, even for her. “We have no idea who might be listening to us.”

Nessa silently pointed to where the Well had been located for fifty years. We all understood that whatever was happening right then, it had to do with the Well and the graveyard where the native people’s chiefs were buried.

I’d been more than surprised back when we first discovered the graveyard. Brodie and I had been tending his Christmas Tree farm, since it belonged to his grandparents back when we were young. I knew every inch of that forest and quite a bit of land past it as well. We spent a lot of time there either working on the trees or just looking over the land, especially when it came time for the tree-farm expansion.

Kat worked for the US Forestry Service and had been assigned to come out and inspect the property before signing off on the expansion. It seemed that a local tribe of the Assiniboine people had once lived on the land, and Kat had to be sure there weren’t any artifacts remaining. I was sure at the time that there wouldn’t be since I’d spent so much time exploring the area.

But boy, did we find an artifact. I was out showing Kat the land when we suddenly came across a graveyard that wasn’t on the map and that I’d never seen before. The oddest thing about it wasn’t that it was there. It was how perfectly maintained it was.

A lot happened after that discovery, but eventually, we learned that it was a magical place, much like the Magic Wishing Well, and that Kat was descended from the Assiniboine people and was destined to be the Keeper of the Graveyard.

But now, she was sensing that something was wrong, and I needed to help her find out what.

“James and Jesse, follow us,” I said.

We all left the old location of the Well and headed toward the graveyard as quickly as we could. Construction on the new tree farm had come a long way since it started in June. Now, the path was covered in snow and was hard to walk through, but eventually, we all made it to where Kat and I could see the entrance to the graveyard, its massive iron gate showing through the bushes.

The graveyard was surrounded by a thicket like the one that was around the Well, and we all passed through. We all paused as we took in the sight around us.

No matter how many times I went there, I was still in awe every time I saw the iron gate and the well-manicured contents within. The entire graveyard was fenced in with a tall wrought-iron fence with imposing spikes on the tips. Inside was a lush, green lawn—even though there was snow everywhere else—with perfectly trimmed bushes. The gravestones were ancient yet well preserved, some small and some large, imposing monuments of solid granite.

But it was more than just the looks that were impressive. The graveyard had a presence that left me with a feeling of complete peace.

“What is that?” asked Sophie. “It’s absolutely beautiful.”

Kat and I both turned toward her, completely shocked that she could see the graveyard. Most people couldn’t see it. As I looked at my friends—Brodie and Hannah, James and Sophie, Jesse and Belle, and Evan and Nessa—I realized they all could see the beautiful, magical graveyard.

“How are they able to see the graveyard?” Kat whispered.

“It’s because you all are the Next Generation.”

A deep, familiar voice spoke up behind us, and we all turned around. My eyes went wide when I saw the man that we’d known for so many years suddenly behind us.

“Pops?” asked James.

Kris smiled and nodded.

Jesse took Belle’s hand. “What’s going on, Pops?”

Kris took a breath. “I’m sorry I couldn’t explain more before all of this took place, but for the safety of the Well and the town, we had to be discreet.”

“What do you mean?” asked Hannah.

Kris gestured beside us. “Let’s sit down on the benches and I will try to explain.”

We all looked around and saw benches that seemed to have appeared from nowhere. I wondered about it briefly. But growing up here in Holly Well Springs, there were just some things that you didn’t ask about.

We all sat while Kris walked back and forth in front of us.

“All of you were present at the last council meeting, and when Alex was taken into custody for trying to steal the Well,” he began. “As long as the Well is located here in Holly Well Springs, the town will continue to be known as the Christmas town. The town is protected, and it was initially set up because your grandparents requested it with open and pure hearts. The other reason, as you know, was to protect the Well and keep it from falling into the wrong hands.”

Kris sat on another bench that I could have sworn hadn’t been there the second before. He smiled at me knowingly and continued speaking. “Because Alex was captured at the original site where the Well was first placed, it had to be moved. But it was decided that it would stay within this town. The safest place, we believe, is here in the new Christmas tree farm Brodie is constructing. Kat, you felt fear because something disturbed the area around this beautiful, sacred ground you are protecting.”

Kat took my hand and squeezed, nodding toward Kris confidently. I wrapped my fingers around hers and felt the engagement ring I’d given her, which put a smile on my face.

“Nessa, you felt a pull toward the new location of the Well, calling you to take your place beside it as its protector,” Kris explained. “You all will find the location by taking the path that will be open to only you and those who might need the assistance of the Well in the coming year.”

“Where’s Gran?” asked James. “Is she okay?”

“Your grandmother is fine,” said Kris.

James nodded and took Sophie’s hand. She put her other hand over his, a caring look of support in her eyes.

Kris turned to address the full group again. “Christine and I are here for a while to train the person coming to run the house and inn. James, you and Sophie will be meeting her tomorrow. She is the daughter of Dr. Cliff. Dr. Cliff was your grandmother’s doctor during her cancer scare.”

Jesse spoke up. “Speaking of that, when is the surgery scheduled for?”

Kris’s eyes suddenly turned sad, which was not a way I’d ever seen Kris look before. He was the town’s Santa, always happy and cheerful no matter what the circumstance.

He looked directly at Jesse. “What you don’t know about your grandmother is that we found out that the cancer she has cannot be cured here.”

Everyone gasped. All my friends started speaking at once, asking different questions. Mine was about how long they had known that and what they were going to do about it. Christine was a wonderful woman, Holly Well Springs own Mrs. Claus, and I didn’t think the town could go on without her.

Kris held up one hand and we all fell silent.

“The treatments helped to reduce the tumor, but surgery will only add a few more years to her life at most,” he explained. “The only way that Christine can be cancer free is if we return to Christmas Land.”

“But Pops—” James began.

Kris shook his head. “This is something we have long expected, my grandson. It was a decision we made together when Sachee and Michael left for the Northern Kingdom.”

“So, that’s why everything was gone this morning,” whispered Jesse.

Belle wrapped her arm around his shoulders to comfort him.

“Yes, we had returned there,” said Kris. “But there were a few loose ends.”

“Loose ends?” I asked.

Kris nodded. “We forgot some things that need to be finished up here, so we are back for a little while to deal with those things so that Holly Well Springs can run smoothly without us here.”

“Pops, how can it be Holly Well Springs without you here?” asked James.

“It is for the best, grandson,” said Kris. “We trust you and the rest of the Next Generation to take over where us old folks left off. I have my own duties in Christmas Land to attend to.”

“Will you be gone for good?” asked Sophie.

Worry spread across her face.

“Yes,” said Kris. “But we’ll have visits here twice a year once we’re set up in Christmas Land.”

James sighed in relief.

“James, I will work closer with you over these next few weeks,” said Kris. “I have a lot of information I need to convey to you, and not long to do so.”

He looked at Nessa. “Nessa, your home is located right behind the Well as it was before, and you will find it there in just a little while. You’ll find things to be just the way you like them.” He gave her a reassuring smile. “Also, Sachee will still be working with you through your spirit connection.”

“This is a lot to take in,” said Brodie.

Hannah nodded and squeezed his hand.

“Yes, it’s a lot to think about, I know,” said Kris. “So, let’s all head back to the house for now. I know Christine has one of her famous breakfasts spread out waiting for us. You have all had a long, hard morning. Brodie and Hannah, we are sorry to disturb your first morning together as newlyweds, so if you would rather go back to your home, I will let Christine know.”

Brodie looked at Hannah, and she smiled and said, “And miss one of Christine’s breakfasts? Hm, I don’t think so.” 

Everyone laughed and got up, heading back to their cars. 

I could smell the fresh homemade biscuits and honey already.

 

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