[In the Morning.]
Wormy woke to the cheery whistle of the teakettle and a bright chorus of chirping from the robins that had moved in to a nearby tree. He'd been excited at the idea of new neighbours, but it turned out to be not quite so fun. No more going out early in the morning, Owly had warned, robins ate worms! But as they read more about robins in Owly's Big Book about Birds, it turned out that robins ate mostly fruit in the afternoons. It would be safer to be out and about then, but it was to be rides in the bottom of the new applecart only until Owly had a chance to make friends with the robins.
Rides in the applecart or checking on the garden was the last thing Wormy wanted to do this early in the morning. He wriggled a little deeper into his bed where it was warm and snug, and he closed his eyes to lightly doze as Owly prepared things for the day. There was the hiss of the teakettle filling a mug, the clatter of grains into a bowl for breakfast, and the soft whisper of a book being opened, all sounds comforting and a familiar part of the morning routine.
He must have fallen all the way asleep again, as when a gust of winter wind hit the tree and snuck in to swirl icily across the very top of Wormy's head, he opened his eyes to discover that the sunbeam on the wall had moved several inches. Outside the window a single snowflake drifted lazily on the breeze. Once the sight of the snowflake had time to sink in to Wormy's sleepy haze, his eyes popped all the way open and he was wide awake all at once. It was winter! He popped out of his cosy nest of blankets and quickly wound himself into his scarf.
Winter! Of course there would be no rides in the applecart to the orchard. Angel and Tiny had already gone south to follow the flower blossoms and he and Owly had read all about how winter started on the shortest day of the year. On top of that, winter meant holidays! And gifts!
Having bought fresh craft supplies from the store, he and Owly and all their friends had spent a day making advent calendars. With "Owly and Wormy" written neatly across the top, their calendar was tacked on the treehouse wall. Glancing at Owly to make sure he was watching, Wormy pulled open the tab on today's advent.
A tree! Owly flapped his wings excitedly. It's time for a tree to decorate!
Wormy hopped up and down, equally excited. He looked hopefully at the door and his warm winter hat hanging there ready for an adventure outdoors. When they had last bought grains, the Forest store had plenty of seedlings ready to be taken home and decorated, and they had used the extra supplies from the advent calendar party to make ornaments in preparation.
Owly's excitement waned slightly. He looked pointedly at the floor where the sun wasn't even a third of the way across the wood. The robins will be out and hungry.
Frowning, Wormy curled around his warm cup of tea. You could go alone, he suggested, even if the idea made him a little sad. He could sit at the window where he'd be safe and watch until Owly came back.
Owly shook his head and poured himself a fresh cup of tea. It's a tree for our home, so we'll go after lunch and pick it out together!
Abandoning his tea momentarily, Wormy inched over to their craft box and came back with some scraps of paper and tape. We can make more ornaments while we wait!
Great idea, Wormy. Owly beamed and cleared some space for them to work.
[In the Afternoon.]
Oh no! Wormy was crestfallen.
Owly's wings drooped. They had saved for weeks to afford a tree. The coinpurse tucked under his wing was near bursting with money they had set aside just for this.
Sorry, Owly and Wormy, but we sold out of the last trees just this morning, Raccoon told them, a furrow in his brow. If I had known you two still needed one, I would have set aside a seedling.
Wormy shrunk into his scarf, trying very hard not to cry. Owly patted him gently. There's always next year, Owly reminded him.
But we saved up so much money! Wormy wiped away a tear. There had been things he'd wanted, and he'd skipped getting all of them because he'd wanted a tree even more. And what would they do now with all the ornaments and the lights? He looked at Owly, where a bit of moisture in Owly's eyes said he'd been looking forward to decorating the tree a lot too.
Owly tapped his beak thoughtfully, his head coming up sharply as an idea came to him. Since there's no tree for us to buy, we can give the money to a family that needs it! He pointed at a new flyer for a holiday charity that hung on the store's signboard.
Wormy didn't quite like that idea as much and Owly could tell. Quietly, Owly reminded him about the old applecart and how they had made a house for the bluebirds from it. That had turned out all right in the end, and the bluebirds had needed a house far more than Owly and Wormy had needed a cart. They even saved up enough over the summer to make a new cart!
Still, Wormy wasn't quite convinced. But the ornaments.... he persisted as he crawled up to perch on Owly's head in anticipation of the long walk home.
Don't worry! Owly reassured him and handed their savings to Raccoon for him to give to the charity.
[In the Evening.]
It's beautiful! Wormy cheered, wiggling happily atop one of the thick roots at the base of their house. This was a great idea! Now everyone in the Forest could enjoy a decorated tree.
He and Owly surveyed the work they had done and thanked the Robin Redbreasts for all of their help. The Robins had come to investigate all the commotion and after some proper introductions—and making sure Wormy wouldn't get eaten—they had offered to fly up and hang the ornaments and lights onto the highest and thinnest branches where Owly and his ladder couldn't reach and where Wormy couldn't safely go.
Thank you! Owly told their new friends, and he and Wormy wished them a fond farewell as they waved goodbye and flew back to their own tree.
Shall we go inside? Owly asked. Or do you want to look at our tree a little longer?
A little longer, Wormy decided, cuddling close to his best friend under the canopy of their treehouse and its newly adorned branches.