The following is a conglamoration of some of my favorite movies to watch at this time of year all wrapped around the fabulous Aly and A.J. Christmas song, Not This Year. I hope my fellow M/E shippers enjoy this Christmas tale filled with drama, romance, music and the true meaning of Christmas.

I of course do not claim ownership of the song or any references to material from other movies.

Maddie tuned out Sister Dominique as she stared at the tiny sliver of paper in front of her. It read: Esteban. She had drawn his name for the Tipton Secret Santa. What am I going to do, she wondered. I haven't a clue what to get him. In fact, it was almost depressing for her to have to buy a gift for the one person she wanted more than anything in the world to give her the gift of love. But it was impossible, so she was left with the task of buying a good enough gift to prove that she cared, but not one that was so obviously thoughtful that she would scare him away.

"Maybe I should start with finding a nice card to go along with it," Maddie said passing by a small gift shop near the Tipton on her way from school to work. She had just enough time to take a quick look around. She browsed the cards, glancing at only the ones that caught her eyes. She picked up one of two Christmas angels. "I could sure use an angel this season," she opened it up to read the inside. It sent shivers down her spine. "Enjoy the presence of angels all around you this holiday season." She glanced up and around, and to her surprise saw Esteban pass by the gift shop window, clearly on his own way to work as well. She couldn't bring herself to purchase the card no matter how much she longed to. Instead she settled for a cute, simple card that had a blank inside. Maybe it would be easier to fill the card with her own words.

Maddie had struggled to fill the card she had bought for Esteban for over a week. She experimented on scraps of paper, but nothing ever sounded good enough. It was harder than picking out the gift. The gift had been surprisingly easy once she overheard Esteban wishing for a new wallet. She carefully placed the card in her purse, and began yet again on her trek from school to work. She put her feelings to song as she walked by herself against the wind,

"This Christmas card is so contrived. A mannequin looks more alive.
Haven't meant a word I've written here. The page is full not one thing sincere

I can't, I can't, I can't, I can't take it.
This is the time to smile, I can't fake it.
Please allow me the chance now to break it down.
It's not snow it's rain coming down.
And the lights are cool, but they burn out.
And I can't pull off the cheer.
Not this year! Not this year! Not this year!"

Esteban heard Maddie's voice as she walked down the sidewalk, but wasn't sure what she was singing. It didn't matter to him; it was beautiful to his ear either way. She smiled at him and continued humming as she passed him and went inside. As he picked up a woman's bags, his mind raced, wondering what he would give Maddie for Christmas. Esteban had drawn Maddie's name for the Secret Santa! "So far, all I have is a card. If only the gift were just as easy."

He thought about it as he was carrying the bags to the woman's suite. As he was opening the door to the room, he paused. He heard a faint sound from one of the nearby vents. Curiosity got the best of him and he put his ear close enough to hear what it was. He was taken for a loop when he realized it was Maddie. He didn't know that the vent led to the girl's locker room where Maddie was still singing softly as she changed into her work uniform. This time he could hear every word.

"When I look into the mirror, no happiness is present here.
Not supposed to whine. Not supposed to cry.
Try to hold it in, but not this time.

I can't, I can't, I can't, I can't take it.
This is the time to smile, I can't fake it.
Please allow me the chance now to break it down.
It's not snow it's rain coming down.
And the lights are cool, but they burn out.
And I can't pull off the cheer.
Not this year! Not this year! Not this year!"

Esteban felt his heart sink at the sound of melancholy in Maddie's voice. "If only I could wrap a heart full of happiness and give it to her for Christmas," he sighed. Suddenly a thought came to him! He remembered seeing something that he thought would be so perfect that he dashed off a few feet before remembering he was still on his shift! "It'll have to wait I guess." But his excitement caused him to work as fast as possible.

It was the last day of school before Christmas break, and also the night of the Tipton Christmas party. Every student in Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow was rushing to get their things and trample their way to the door; everyone except Maddie.

London noticed her friend's sluggish pace. "What's wrong, Maddie?"

"I'm thinking I'm going to stick around for a couple of minutes."

"Why? We're already here enough, and hello! There's a Christmas party to get ready for. Fine, suit yourself," London walked on, not comprehending the logic in Maddie's behavior.

Maddie made her way quietly to the school's chapel. She walked to the front and let her emotions go. A few small tears were mingled with her song of prayer,

"Don't know, don't know if you can hear me.
I will, I will speak louder for you.

No more whispering. Are you listening?
I am pleading! I am pleading!"

She was joined softly by the voice of Sister Dominique singing, "I can't, I can't, I can't, I can't take it. This is the time to smile, I can't fake it. Please allow me the chance now to break it down. It's not snow it's rain coming down." She spoke the rest, " And the lights are cool but the burn out. And you can't pull of the cheer?"

"Not this year," Maddie let the tears flow freely.

"Maddie, I don't know what it is that troubles you, but He does," the nun said pointing to the crucifix and then pointing up.

"It feels like nobody knows. All I want is…peace."

"So does everyone else, Madeline, dear. Is that not why He was born? For peace on earth?"

Maddie thought for a moment. "But how come I don't have peace?"

"For the same reason many don't have peace. People make things more complicated than they are. They refuse to accept the gift freely given to them so many Christmases ago. The best gift ever given was also the simplest, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger."

Maddie never thought she would see the day, but she gave a quick hug to Sister Dominique and hurried to the Tipton.

"I'm your secret Santa," Maddie and Esteban said to one another simultaneously. They blushed just a little and accepted their gifts.

"A wallet!" Esteban cheered excitedly. Now he could have a place to put a picture of Maddie-even if only as a group picture of the staff. Still, every time he pulled it out, there she would be. He proceeded to open the card. He opened it and read the beautifully handwritten words, "Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace, good will toward men. May your holidays be as happy as mine." They will be now, Esteban thought to himself. His heart was delighted to know that she was happy.

Maddie opened up a small package and was overwhelmed at the sight of a very pretty heart-shaped locket. Engraved on the front was the word "happiness." "Oh it's so beautiful." She decided in her heart to fill it with a picture of the Tipton staff, with the knowledge that Esteban would always be close to her heart. She proceeded to opening the card. What she saw took her breath away…there before her was the same card she had longed to pick out for Esteban. She opened it up gently and read the signature, "All my love this holiday season, Esteban." Her heart melted within her.

To her it meant everything. It meant that Sister Dominique had been right. It meant that He had indeed been listening to her prayer. And it meant that she really was in the presence of the closest thing on earth to an angel that she had ever known. She had received the gift of love she had wanted, even if only in the simplest form.