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It was the last night of the year, and three friends lay on on their backs not far from a large oak tree at the top of a dark hill, under millions of sparkling stars, overlooking a mysterious, dark valley. The girls listened intently as the boy pointed out all his favourite stars in his favourite constellation, Orion. He was as magical as he had ever been, and now he took it upon himself to give names to the prettiest stars he could see.

“Just to the left of that bright star there,” he pointed, “is the most beautiful star in all the galaxy. It is called ‘Rose’s Heart Light’.” His face beamed brighter than the moon above them. He loved declaring the names of the stars he had chosen so carefully in honour of his friends, and the rose-cheeked girl in the short red dress on his left snuggled a little closer into his side, resting her pretty head against the shoulder of his long blue coat.

“And that tiny, faint flicker you can see right there,” he said, pointing again like a tour guide to the heavens, “is a little known star called ‘The Lamplighter and The Little Fox.’ His little friend in pink overalls on his right beamed a blissful trail of smiling starlight back to the subtle star that she somehow felt was all her own. The white haired boy had been the one to nickname her The Little Fox, and maybe one day – she hoped – she would find someone to share her star with – a handsome lamplighter of her very own.

“Hasn’t it been a magical year?” she sighed, and her friends murmured their agreement. “I almost can’t believe how much we have done and how far we have come.” Her mind wandered (as it was always permitted and prone to do in the presence of her most special friends) back to the very start of their journey together. She replayed again the crisp memory of herself walking day after day alone in the quiet forest, meandering along its wide pine-needle strewn paths, searching for exotic butterflies and other unforeseen treasures.

Then one day, a most unforeseen treasure had appeared on the path right in front of her, as if transported into her life by a magical breeze. She had always thought of this windy path – and indeed, of the entire forest – as being entirely her own. She had never encountered another soul along this road before. But now here was another Child – a boy with bright white hair, a little older than herself – kneeling at the path’s edge, staring intently at something very, very small indeed. “What have you found?” the girl in pink overalls asked, feeling without doubt that curiosity was the only invitation needed to make herself known to him.

“Can’t you see it?” he asked, without even looking in her direction. “I can’t,” she confessed with disappointment, moving closer, but still not seeing whatever it was that transfixed him. “You’re looking with the wrong kind of eyes,” he breathed without shadow of doubt, in little more than a whisper. “Try to see through mine.” When he turned his head towards her, she began to see what he saw and felt herself falling headlong down a deep magical tunnel – past a hundred faeries, a thousand butterflies, a million bright red, yellow, pink and blue flowers, all dancing and swirling like tiny fireworks around and along endless narrow beams of radiant golden sunlight. “Now I see,” she told him, “And I think I understand.” And the intense power of the smile he flashed her in return made her wonder if she was the first person to ever have seen and understood the things he now revealed to her.

Returning to the present, she curled herself up to sit on the grass and looked towards her best friend under the bright night sky of New Year’s Eve – for best friends they had indeed become. Her voice was gentler than the evening breeze as she gifted to him her most grateful smile. “You have shown me where true magic lies and have taught me more than I still can ever know. You have taken me with you where once you walked alone. What adventures we have had along the way!” She saw his eyes brighten, then hint at a tear, at all the treasured memories they had built together throughout the year. “I wouldn’t trade them for all the stars in Orion,” he told her, and she knew his words were true. “Me either,” she smiled, “I don’t think I would trade your friendship for anything in the world.” The pair exchanged a happy hug, and the boy rose to his feet. “I’m going for a quick walk,” he told the girls. He turned his back and made his way slightly down the far side of the hill so his two friends might not see the tiny pool of tears he felt needed to be released.

“He’s wonderful,” the girl in pink overalls told her beautiful friend in the red dress, whose eyes glowed and flickered like the stars themselves. “Thank you for letting him be my friend,” she said, touching the girl’s arm gently. “It hasn’t always been easy,” her friend replied with equal gentleness, “Sometimes I found it hard to understand your magic.” The girl in pink nodded, her eyes scanning the constellations to try to fix her star again. “Sometimes I find it hard to understand it myself. But he brings it out in me. And you do too.” The girl in the red dress smiled a slow, wistful smile. “Little by little, I’ve understood things as they truly are a bit more clearly. You two … belong.” The girl in pink shook her head as the night breeze blew gentle waves through the shivery grass that blanketed the dark hilltop.

“No – we three belong. It has been a long journey, and there have been many fears and tears along the way. But look, my friend, at how much we have grown and how close we have all become. We three are all so very different, yet we have become so uniquely bonded. As this year draws to a close, I will make no resolutions. But as surely as our stars hang in the constellation of Orion, I would like to ask of you a New Year’s Request.” Her beautiful friend sighed and smiled at her sincerity. Where once fear would have washed over her and a certain kind of hesitation would have clouded the twinkle in her eyes, she had grown to know that any request would be one guided by love and wisdom. So she opened the door of her kind heart to the fullest extent of its rose-engraved hinge. “Ask me,” she said, knowing that she would find the courage and strength to grant any request her friend would be bold enough to make.

“As the new year begins,” the girl with the pink cheeks began, “let’s move forward with only love. Perfect love casts out all fear. The things you once feared shall never come to pass, just as those stars will forever be fixed into Orion’s Belt, and those other stars,” she pointed, “will be fixed into his bow. So please do not live one more breath in the shadow of a fear that can never grow to substance. My friendship with him is strong, but my love for you is equally strong. It is the love of a Child for her two very best friends in all the world and nothing more. And nothing less. It is a love for fun and words and adventures and all the priceless treasures and moments that only the deepest and strongest friendships can hope to bring.”

She paused to be certain her friend understood, looking deeply into eyes. “This is my request. Please do not live another moment in the shadows of what will never pass. Instead, live fully, wholly, completely in the light of all the magic that our friendship with each other and with the white-haired boy promises to us all. As we walk back down that path and into the new year’s dawn, please promise me that our arms will link and that this link will never, ever be broken. On our own, each one of us is frail and weak, but with our arms linked, our strength is deeper than any ocean, taller than any tree, higher than any star.”

The ruby eyes of the girl in red sparkled with all the certainty she had longed to fill her until now. All fear had been dispelled forever by her friend’s request, and the bright lights of the night sky cast away all the shadows that had once filled the corners of her heart. Then the night grew so intensely bright that she knew the light could no longer be coming from the stars alone. Both girls turned their heads, their eyes filling with wonder at the enormous full moon that seemed to fill the entire sky behind the hilltop, not the bright white they expected, but glowing a luminous orange, pink, red. And against the dazzling celestial orb, they could see the silhouette of the white haired boy, his arms stretched wide towards the dark sky. A magical breeze blew his long blue coat high to outline the elongated wings of some mythic dragonfly. Glittery butterflies poured like a paper rainbows from his pockets, glistening and floating, then dissolving like balloons released from the tiny hands of children into the moon’s magic light.

The boy was lost in his magic, his eyes following each butterfly high into the night sky with awe as it seemed to take its place as a shining new star in Orion’s Belt. The two girls were transfixed by the sight. When the last butterfly finally emerged and fluttered its way slowly towards the heavens, a stillness fell upon the hilltop, and the boy’s eyes returned to the earth and gazed with delight into the eyes of his friends. “That was beautiful!’ the girl in pink exclaimed. “I wish it didn’t have to end,” sighed the girl in the red dress. “You don’t understand,” the boy beamed with a smile more radiant than the massive moon behind him. “As one year closes, another starts. This is just the beginning!” Both girls’ eyes sparkled widely, as they realised the boy in the vibrant blue coat must surely have yet another one of his extraordinary surprises almost ready for them both.

An expectant pause filled the last few moments of the old year, and a trail of beautiful memories from the year that had passed flashed like fireflies before the bright eyes of the three children. This had truly been a year that had grown and stretched them all, and one that would change their lives forever. As they counted down the final seconds, the friendship that bound them now began to pound powerfully in their chests, filling them with love and courage and strength like never before. Reaching out for each other’s hands, they counted down to the new year’s dawn. Three – three friends bound with the strongest cord. Two – two best friends for each of them forever. One – one extraordinary friendship that would sustain them all for the rest of their lives.

And on the count of ‘One”, they each caught their breaths, and the girls’ eyes followed those of the boy back up to the butterflies that had all dissolved like faint glittering jewels on Orion’s Belt. Now there was an explosion of sound and colour as each jewel suddenly burst from the constellation, showering down in a stream of sparkling ribbons – blue, red, pink – past the huge gold orb of the massive full moon. “I am little, but I am strong,” declared the boy, “And my magic can turn butterflies into fireworks,” as his laughter sent more and more bright stars, transformed again into glittery butterflies, shooting down from Orion’s Belt with long, sparkling streamers behind them. The girl with eyes like rubies handcut to sparkle like diamonds declared boldly to her friends, “I was afraid, but now I am filled to the brim of my cup with love and joy and courage. This year I will become all that I was destined to be.” Their little friend in the pink overalls squealed with delight and put her arms around them both.

“I was such a lonely Child. I don’t know how you two found me, but please don’t ever lose me again”,” she whispered, a happy tear threatening to roll from her enormous blue eyes down onto her pale pink cheek. “You are the two best friends I have ever known in my life. Happy New Year, my dearest treasures. May the coming year be filled to overflowing with laughter and adventure and smiles that pour from three hearts that are fuller than the ocean.” And while the myriad of the brightest butterflies whizzing past the massive moon was an extraordinary sight to behold, the three Children all knew a much better place from which to witness the magical way they burst again and again from Orion’s Belt, transforming from faint silver stars into bright explosions and streaming fountains of dazzling colour. Instinctively, they linked their arms, the girl in pink in the middle with her precious friends on either side. Without another word, each one knew that the time had come to welcome in an even more magical New Year – from the tall, sturdy boughs of their beloved Friendship Tree.

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Consider the year that has just been,
Reflecting on all that you’ve seen.
What have you learned from all you’ve done?
Reflect on all you have become.

The hardest lessons sometimes are
The ones that left you with a scar.
They hurt you deep and caused you pain
You know you’ll never be the same.

Reflect on all that you now know,
What you may keep or must let go.
Remember what you’ve gained and lost,
Relive the joys, lament the cost.

Those things that beat you down are past –
You’ll rise again, so strong at last.
A new year brings new wings to rise
Above the old year’s sad demise.

And as this year draws to its close
Reflect on how it’s helped you grow.
Its lessons near ripped you apart
But in the end strengthened your heart.

Though you feel lost, you’ll find your way
To navigate the brand new day
And all the brand new days to come
For life’s next stage has just begun.

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