She stepped out from her sheltered place, feeling the wind nip at her face as she kept her eyes outward, still scanning for any signs of Steam Santa, taking only the occasional glance at where she was slowly walking to keep herself from running into anything, or slipping on ice or snow. She was a little more than halfway to the girl when a faint movement captured her attention and stopped her in her tracks. There, low on the horizon, out past the large windmill – was that…? Then, for just a moment, she saw a clear outline of a sleigh, hovering at the level of the treetops. Steam Santa!
In one second, she had her megaphone raised to her mouth, ready to crow out the news. In the next second, she had lowered it, and was racing along the walkway.
The orphan girl, startled by the sound of Mariah’s pounding footsteps, stared as Mariah skidded to a stop beside her. Mariah swiftly glanced outward, and saw the figure was still there. “To the right of the biggest windmill,” she said softly, but intently. “Low on the horizon. Do you see it?” She didn’t point, not wanting to warn anyone who might be watching them.
The other girl directed her gaze there, squinting hard, and finally breathed, “Yes.” Her voice was full of raw envy.
Mariah thrust her megaphone out. “Call him.”
The girl stared at her in utter astonishment. Mariah shoved the megaphone into her hands. “Call him,” she said with greater intensity. “Quickly – before someone else does!”
Her eyes still wide, the girl grasped the megaphone and raised it. “Steam–”
“Louder,” said Mariah emphatically. “Shout it!”
Taking a deep, shaky breath, the girl yelled, in a wavering voice, “STEEEEEEEAM SAAAAAAANTA! STEEEEEEEAM SAAAAAAANTA!”
Cries from both sides arose, and other children started running along the wall walkway toward them. The first to arrive was a boy a few years older than the two girls; he was also dressed in orphanage clothing. “Kendra!” he cried as he reached them. “Where is he?”
Kendra pointed out past the windmill, but before she could say anything, Mariah quickly interjected. “I came over to see if she’d want to borrow my gloves for a little while. She saw him, so I let her use my megaphone.”
The boy gave her a swift, thankful smile, before saying, “This is wonderful, Kendra!” He looked outward again, and began whistling, cheering, and waving. Mariah looked also, and saw that the sleigh was now rising higher, and making its way toward the city wall. As more and more children gathered by them, also cheering and waving, the boy kept telling them about how Kendra had spotted him. Kendra couldn’t get a word in edgewise – just as Mariah had hoped.
By now, the steam-powered sleigh was close enough for them to see the two figures inside – Steam Santa himself, of course, and his helper, the Boiler Elf. All the children streamed down off the wall, sweeping Kendra along with them, and followed the sleigh until it finally began circling above the lumberyard by the main railway station. Workers in the yard sprang into action, shifting piles of lumber around, even using lengths of wood to start building makeshift booths. Even the engineer, the porters, and other workers from the train sitting at the station abandoned their usual jobs to help. Mariah smiled to herself, hoping someone would at least tell the passengers what was going on, and invite them to the festivities, since they certainly wouldn’t be leaving any time soon.
More and more people began streaming into the lumber yard, as the word of where Steam Santa had landed spread. Shopkeepers immediately began claiming booths and other advantageous places for their products. Everyone paused and cheered, though, as the sleigh finally made its dignified descent into the yard, landing in a cleared area on the north side. Mariah got into the jostling line of children, and watched as they nudged Kendra toward the front.