The sharp voice startled Thistle terribly as he tried to move through the workroom while holding perhaps a few too many boxes. Pain flared on his left hip as he collided with one of the worktables. The boxes went flying forward, propelled by the momentum. More ominous than the thunk of the boxes was the tinkling sound of shattering glass. Of course, it had to be the ornaments and glassworks. He couldn’t possibly have run into the stuffed toys bench or the Christmas socks table. No, Thistle had to find the one breakable bench among hundreds, and the one most likely to do him injury.

Thistle froze, knowing if he took one step, he would invariably step on a piece of glass… or a hundred. He could feel every eye in the work area on him, feel the frustration and the anger. He’d been trying to help. Mistletoe had been the only one on transfer duty and had been running herself ragged, trying to make sure all the packages got to the right departments. Granted, she hadn’t asked for his help, but Thistle had figured carrying boxes couldn’t possibly result in anything bad, right?

No, not right.

“Don’t move, Thistle,” Bayberry said with an exasperated sigh. “You’ll get glass in your feet. Where are your shoes?”

“Um, home?” Thistle answered as he curled his bare toes.

“You know the rules,” Bayberry said, putting his hands on his hips as he stood before Thistle. “Shoes are to be worn in the work areas at all times.”

“I, well, I kind of forgot I wasn’t wearing them.” Thistle bit his lip. “I was helping Mistletoe, and this is the quickest way to the other side of the workshop.”

“Next time, go around,” Pinebough grumbled as he approached with a broom. “It will save the rest of us extra work.”

“I didn’t mean….”

“It’s all right, Thistle. Just, be more careful and stay out of the work areas without shoes,” Bayberry easily lifted Thistle out of the destruction zone and set him down in a glass-free area.

“Um, okay, I’ll try…. I mean, I will,” Thistle scurried out of the work area. He practically slammed the door behind him, leaning against the wall next to it. Thistle took a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh.