Set in Fairy Town in Crossroads Park.
Background that helps: Crossroads Park has been left to go to weed and rot for far too long. Last spring, Whitney decided that she was going to start cleaning it up. She's been helped by some strange beings along the way.
It was definitely winter, and not just because they had reached the Winter Solstice. The snow had been coming down so heavily that the roads were closed; Whitney did not, technically, need to go to work, as the library had closed down along with most of the rest of the city.
She was heading through the Crossroads park in that direction anyway, however, because she wanted to look up something a ghost had said to her a few weeks before. She had a notebook she kept with her while gardening for things like that - comments from ghosts and fae, names engraved on things she found, bones with nobody attached to them she sometimes encountered. Now that it was winter, now that the park needed very little attention for a few months, she could research all of it.
She paused near the crossroads of the park as the sounds of singing came to her. She bit her lip; she had never heard of a caroling ghost, but it could happen. She had, she'd been told, been waking up more and more of the ghosts as she continued her work.
She wondered if she would ever wake them all up. And if she did, what might happen to the park?
She followed one of the narrower paths towards the singing. She'd cleared this one off just the summer past, finding the old pavers lost beneath weeds and trash and clearing them off until the path was welcoming, if still whispering of secrets not told and mysteries around the next corner.
As she got closer, she could make out several voices, bright and clear and mostly on-tune. They were singing Oh Tannenbaum - this way was the pine grove, she thought, although even she was not always certain about what was where in Crossroads Park.
Not ghosts, then? She considered her options. It could be the fae; it wasn't specifically a Christian song and, even so, not all Christianity warded off most of the fae. It could be the goblins; they liked to sneak out places where there weren't many people. She'd read about a singing tree recently, but she didn't imagine a tree would sing to itself. She slipped a little on a patch of ice and brought herself back to the park around her and the music she was coming closer and closer to.
The chorus lifted up in German and she stepped around a statue of a nymph around which someone had wrapped a long red scarf. There, in a small opening barely big enough for them, a chorus - a living chorus, a probably-human chorus - was singing brightly to the trees. They were wrapped up in coats and scarves, matching red hats and mittens, and their voices were sweet and sincere.
"You are here," whispered one of the women to the side. She handed Whitney a round tin decorated with a bright ribbon before she lifted her voice up again in the final verse.
Whitney couldn't help but sing along, so she added her own thin alto to the end of the song. And then, with a giggle and a smile, the choir patted her shoulders and smiled at her and left so quickly, she wasn't sure she hadn't just imagined them.
But there in her hands was a tin with its red ribbon around it and its cartoony tree on the top, and there were footprints in the snow where they'd come from and where they'd gone. Whitney held the tin close to herself.
You ARE here.
She found herself smiling. She'd become part of the park, hadn't she? A rumor, a myth, a whispered bit of gossip.
And someone had come to the park to sing songs to her, to give her a tin that thunked with what she thought was probably cookies.
When winter days are dark and drear
You bring us hope for all the year.
O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
How steadfast are your branches!
Whitney brushed her hand over the branches of the nearest fir. She hummed a little, letting the tune waft through her mind and through the clearing.
It was a good day to walk through the park, she thought, and a good day to go someplace where there were people, living people.
She meandered her way out of the park, humming O Tannenbaum and letting herself skip every few steps. She was pretty sure Spot Coffee was open, and even today they'd be crowded.
...and probably have a Christmas tree.