The hands of the pocket watch hadn't moved for six years; they had stopped after Gran took her last breath on Earth, as if the life had been taken from them too. She had taken it with her wherever she went as if it were her talisman.
It belonged to Aleesha now. She kept it in her pocket and took it everywhere she went. Her little sister had wanted it, pleaded for it after Gran's death but Gran’s will promised it to Aleesha. The pocket watch had been in their family for decades, passed down to the first born granddaughter. That meant it had to belong to Aleesha next, disobeying such a tradition couldn’t be done. She had been given it last year, on Christmas Day with the promise that it would always bring her luck and joy. That had been the best Christmas present Aleesha had ever had.
The pocket watch had lost its original shine and faded to a dull gold due to Gran’s constant use of it. The chain it hung upon had tarnished at various points, the gold colouring rubbed off to reveal the silver underneath. Aleesha didn’t mind though; it held so many memories of her Gran and the happiness Gran had filled Aleesha’s life with.
* * *
Aleesha checked the pocket watch was safely in her jacket pocket before she left for school on the Tuesday of the last week of term before the Christmas holidays. She always took it to school because Gran had told her it would bring her good luck wherever she went and she needed it now more than ever because she had exams that week at school. That morning, as Aleesha placed the watch in her pocket, she noticed that it was glinting in the early morning sunlight. That was very mysterious, considering that the watch was old and faded and had never done anything like that in the whole year she had owned the watch, but, after glancing round her room and seeing nothing out of the ordinary which could be causing the glint, she forgot all about it and left for school. Aleesha did not look at the pocket watch at all for the rest of the day, she merely checked her pocket at regular intervals to ensure it was still there.
When she arrived home that evening Aleesha took out the watch and placed it on her desk where she always put it when she was working. It was a great surprise to her to find that the watch was now gleaming and shining brightly; it was a pure gold and seemed to radiate a beam of yellow light which encircled the watch. The sun had set by this time so it could no longer be the cause of the change of appearance in the watch.
“This is odd,” Aleesha said to herself. “Most extraordinary.”
As her mum and dad were both out at work still, and would not return home for another two hours at least, Aleesha called for her little sister, Saffron, to come and have a look at the pocket watch.
“It’s sparkling!” Saffron gasped in astonishment. After thinking for a few minutes she looked up at Aleesha, “It hasn’t sparkled like that before, has it Aleesha?”
“No,” her older sister replied thoughtfully. “That’s what I wanted to ask you about. It’s strange, isn’t it?”
“Peculiar.” Saffron agreed, picking up the watch and turning it over in her fingers, trying to discover whether there was anything else which was different about the watch.
“Oww!” She cried as her finger brushed against a tiny ridge on the back of the pocket watch, just below the place where the chain was attached to the body of the watch. “That wasn’t there before!”
Aleesha took the watch from Saffron and examined the back of the watch.
“No, this definitely wasn’t there. But what can it be?”
She stared at the ridge for a while before realising that it could be pushed into the watch, it was a button! Aleesha pressed the button and laid the watch upon her desk, waiting to see what would happen. As she and Saffron stared, the watch began to transform.
The chain vibrated violently, clanking against the desk and the other links as it folded itself into a complex pattern. The watch itself span, faster and faster until it was just a gold blur upon the table. Suddenly, the watch seemed to disintegrate, disappearing from view, but as quickly as it had evaporated, it returned. Except it was no longer a pocket watch.
Aleesha and Saffron were awestruck.
“This can’t be real!” they breathed in unison.
The chain had transformed itself into a torrent of golden curls raised upon another section of the chain which was closely interwoven to form a body. The hands of the watch had formed arms with the watch face forming the front of the body. A face had appeared upon the watch, where this had come from remained a mystery to both Aleesha and Saffron. It didn’t seem as if it could be possible. The object continued to spin, slowing down gradually and allowing the girls to see that there was a set of wings on the creature’s back which seemed to be the back of the watch split into two segments, folded upwards as if the creature was preparing to fly. The whole thing sparkled and shone as though it contained a never-ending flame.
“Who are you? I mean, what are you?” Aleesha asked, feeling slightly nervous.
“I am Raphael. I have been kept within this pocket watch since it was first completed to bring joy and good luck to whoever possessed this watch. I was promised that one day I would be liberated by a young girl and when that happened I was to reveal the origin of the watch, the goodwill of the creator so that he could be celebrated and not forgotten. Then I am to grant you one wish.”
“Wow! How did you appear at the touch of a button though? It was amazing, and slightly shocking!” Saffron queried in wonderment.
“I cannot answer your question. I am sorry,” Raphael replied. “Now, follow me, if you would.”
Raphael took them out into a street where darkness had begun to settle, informing the girls that it was Christmas Eve in Victorian London. Lamps were lighting up as Aleesha, Saffron and Raphael walked past and a light snow had begun to fall. There were people running about everywhere, rushing to get all their goods bought before the snow began to get heavier and the bells rang for the Christmas Eve service. They stopped outside a small watchmaker’s shop which was emitting a soft orange light. Through the window Aleesha could see an old man bent over a table with a bright naked bulb above him. He had a small tool in his hand and she could make out a watch in front of him. It was a glittering gold, with a beautiful chain and gleaming face which seemed to have been recently polished. A woman stood by the man, intently watching his progress. She seemed to be desperate to have the watch to take home for Christmas.
"Will it be alright? She's desperate to have it for her Christmas and that's tomorrow!" the woman asked, her anxious voice travelling through the glass of the window.
"Yes. I should think so. Let me just add this and then it'll be finished." the watchmaker smiled as he screwed the back of the watch onto the main body and handed it to the woman. "I hope it brings her joy."
"Thank you, sir. Thank you!"
The woman left the shop and hurried on her way, barely noticing the three of them staring at her as she passed. She had her eyes cast down against the snow and seemed desperate to get home as soon as possible. It wasn’t surprising; Aleesha knew that she’d want to be home on Christmas Eve too to be with her family.
"That is your watch. It was made here in 1869 as a gift for your Great Great Grandmother, Adele, who has passed it down through your family ever since. She adored her Christmas present and took the watch everywhere, it was the perfect gift for her and I hope it is the perfect gift for you too. None have ever discovered the secret of this watch, although Adele did come close. You are the first. Now, I promised to take you wherever you wished once I had revealed the history of your pocket watch. Where shall I take you?"
Aleesha looked at Saffron, who nodded her head.
"Can you take us to see Gran again, maybe when she was a little girl? I'd love to see her, and hear her voice again."
Raphael nodded, "I can do that. Hold my hands and we will go."
Aleesha stood on one side, Saffron on the other. As soon as they took hold of Raphael’s hands, they were whisked from the scene into a sea of colour and blurred images. Then everything went black.
* * *
The next morning both girls awoke in their beds. All the events of the previous evening felt as if they had been a dream. Had they really been to see Gran again? And had they really stood in a Victorian street, watching an old man add the finishing touches to a magic watch? Neither Aleesha nor Saffron knew the truth. They didn’t really want to know.
Saffron rushed into Aleesha’s room soon after waking up and jumped onto her sister’s bed.
“Is it still there? Is it?” She asked urgently.
Aleesha got out of bed, rubbing her eyes sleepily. She scanned her desk for a sign of Raphael.
“No, he’s gone. But look, the pocket watch has returned.” Aleesha picked the watch up and checked to see if it was any different to the day before.
“Oh!” She cried excitedly.
This has to be the perfect gift for Christmas, Aleesha thought to herself. It may be a week early but even so, nothing better can be expected.
“It works!” Aleesha exclaimed, “And it’s the right time! The watch is working again!”