The Christmas Spirit
“I like your hat.”
Usually, the compliments started with my hat, maybe my elf shoes, and ended up as something vulgar. This job was, by far, the worst I’d had. “Look, buddy, if I had a candy cane for every guy who—oh…”
Staring back at me were the warmest brown eyes I’d ever seen.. The rest of the package was pretty well put together too.
“What would you do with all those candy canes?” He asked, and my heart skidded to a stop.
He laughed and tapped the bell at the end of my hat. “What made you decide to be an elf?”
“I’m oozing with Christmas spirit, can’t you tell?”
I hate Christmas. Everyone was so fake. Ever since I figured out my parents lied about Santa, I had a hard time believing anything about the holidays were real.
So how did I end up basically wearing a green felt bikini and thigh high striped stockings in the showroom of Crazy Cal’s Car Lot? I guess it was just another reason to hate Christmas.
And if my dad ever saw this costume, Crazy Cal would find his North Pole sign in a very inconvenient location if you know what I mean.
“My name is Nick, by the way.” He held out his hand.
Was I supposed to shake it? I’m sixteen, I don’t shake hands with people. Whatever, I put mine out gingerly. He held it for a brief second, but that was all it took. A rush of feelings swept over me—like when you open the front door during a snowstorm. Only these feelings were…nice. The sensations of music hit the hardest—but there was also scent of cinnamon and an urge to giggle.
I drew my hand back like he’d burned me. “My name is Holly.”
“You don’t like Christmas, do you, Holly?”
“Who are you?” Because he wasn’t like anyone I’d ever met, I knew that already.
“You won’t believe me.” He took my hand again, and this time there was cocoa and sleigh bells. “Because you don’t believe. I think I can fix that though.”
Why wasn’t I scared? Cuz this guy was crazy. “Believe in what?” I dared.
“The spirit of Christmas, of course.”
* * *
I ditched Nick, no matter how cute he was, and went about my business spreading good cheer to men with comb-overs and beer bellies. I felt cheap. They should feel worse, but I knew they didn’t.
Every kid that came through the door found Nick. It was weird. They all whispered something in his ear.
Nick and Cal were closing a deal towards the end of the day, so I locked up. One mother told me that her daughter was hoping to talk to Nick before they left.
I promised little Bria to relay whatever message she wanted to give him, mostly so they’d leave and I could put some real clothes on again. When I came out of the bathroom, Nick was waiting. His eyes lit up when he saw me. It was really too bad he was such a weirdo because I’d never met anyone so good looking my entire life.
“Molly says she wants a Zhu Zhu pet, whatever that means,” I said, testing him.
“I’ll tell my dad, thanks.”
“Why does she think you are Santa? Wait…why will you tell your dad?”
“I’m not Santa…yet. Not until Dad retires anyway.” He noticed my raised eyebrows. “I told you that you wouldn’t believe me. Bria still believes in Christmas.”
“Your dad is a mall Santa?” I asked, hopefully.
“No, my dad is Santa Claus. And when he retires, I will be Santa. I know you don’t believe, but I’d like to show you something.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you.”
“That’s okay.” He took my hand. “We don’t have to go anywhere.”
Except that we did.
* * *
Instantly, we were transported to someone’s apartment. They couldn’t see or hear us..
The apartment was shabby, but clean, and decorated with glitter and lights. Christmas music played, and something was roasting in the oven, but everyone was in the back room. Instead of a bunk bed, there was a hospital bed in the center of the room. There were two kids cutting out paper snowflakes on the floor, and two parents reading a book to the boy in the bed.
“They were broke before the medical bills,” Nick said. “They don’t have much. They’ll have even less in a couple of days.”
I swallowed hard. The little boy was bald. I didn’t need to ask any other questions.
“I brought you here because Mikey is going to be okay,” Nick said.
I perked up, “Really?”
“Not like that.” Nick put his arm around me. Instead of weirding out, I let myself enjoy the riot of sensations. It was comforting, especially here, in the dying boy’s room. “He’s not going to hurt much longer. His family will though.”
“What does this have to do with Santa?”
“They will still love Christmas. If they can, why can’t you?”
“Everyone is so fake this time of year.”
“So don’t be fake.”
“Why do you care if I believe in Christmas?”
“I can’t exactly date someone with no Christmas Spirit.”
“I can’t exactly date someone who thinks he’s Santa.”
“I won’t be Santa for another thirty years.”
I took the bundle of money from my pocket and lay it on the dresser. Four Saturdays of leering and pinching to sell myself for a cell phone seemed really, really stupid now. My parents were right. I didn’t need it.
These people had real needs.
“Are you going to get fat?” I asked Nick.
“Eventually.” Nick led me out of the bedroom and we were back in the showroom. “Not for awhile though.”
When he kissed me goodnight, I tasted snowflakes and vanilla.
And when he asked me to hold on to that elf costume for the future, I stomped on his toes.