Now, a proud owner of a bicycle, William would pedal hard and fast to reach the school.

William worked for the town’s newspaper. Early in the morning, he would collect a bundle of the Morning Herald. He would run like a hare, house to house, dropping the newspaper. He would cover about a hundred houses in an hour and a half.

Every week, the boss would give him a few rupees as weekly wage, which he would keep in a safe place. He worked for a couple of years distributing paper. At last he had enough money to buy a used bicycle.

Now, a proud owner of a bicycle, he would pedal hard and fast to reach the school.

It was a small town where everybody knew everyone else. Everybody was happy that William had got his own bicycle.

One evening, William was cycling home. He stopped at the church. He parked the bike outside and went inside. After a few minutes when he came out of the church, to his shock, the bicycle was gone! William desperately ran up and down the street. But it was deserted. Not a soul was to be seen. There was no one he could ask about his bike. He waited for a while and then went home walking.

His mom was surprised to see him walk home. He had to tell her about the bicycle. She was stunned. She hugged William for she knew how much he loved his bike.

The next morning the whole neighbourhood came to know about the missing bike. People offered sympathy and suggestions. His friends went out looking for his bike. His well-wishers advised him to file a complaint with the police. But William did not want to file a police complaint. “I’m sure my bike will come back to me,” he said with confidence.

Every evening, William would go to the spot where he had parked the bike outside the church. He would stand there for an hour. Whoever had ‘borrowed’ his bike, he believed, would return the bike at the same spot. Soon.

Days passed by. William continued his vigil outside the church in the evening. The whole town was talking about the boy who was waiting for his bike to be returned. Morning Herald carried a report about it too.

Soon it was December 25th. The entire town celebrated Christmas. As usual, that evening William went to the church. As he neared the church he could see a bicycle parked outside. He ran to the spot. It was his bike!

William was dazed. He hardly heard someone greeting him. Then he turned. The one who greeted him was a boy about his age. “Merry Christmas William,” the boy said, “My name is Ajay.”

Ajay then told him about why he had taken his bike. He had fought with his father that day and left home in a huff. He wanted to leave town and never return home. He was running down the road when he spotted the bike parked by the roadside. He had simply taken off on the bike without thinking.

“I must have been cycling the whole night. When day broke, I was near a village and I was hungry. As I slowed down I was greeted by someone who was the village school master,” said Ajay.

The school master and his wife were very kind to Ajay. They gave him a hot cup of tea and some biscuits. They asked him to stay with them for the day. “I ended up staying there for a week,” grinned Ajay.

“Then I read about the boy who was waiting for the bike to be returned in the Morning Herald. It hit me then that I had taken away your bike. I wanted to return it to you. So I came back,” Ajay concluded his story. “I’m really sorry.”

William hugged Ajay.

“I’ve found not only my bike,” said William, “But also a friend. Merry Christmas Ajay.”

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