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No Santa This Year

Corey sighed as she looked down at the tiny face that peered back up at her. Her curly, brown hair and sparkling blue eyes gave her a unique beauty. The four years that she had known the child had been both joyful and challenging. Taking her tiny hand within her own, she gently lifted the girl up and placed her on her lap. Her little mouth opened in a yawn as she rubbed her sleepy eyes.

“When’s Santa coming?” she mumbled.

“I…um…I don’t know if he’ll be able to make it this year, Anna.” Corey whispered. “He’ll try really hard though. Okay?”

She gently kissed the young child on the forehead as she nodded in response. “I’ve got cookies if he comes.” Anna said softly. “If he comes, I want a baby doll. Okay, Mommy?”

“Okay, my love.” Corey said. “Let’s get you to bed.”

When Corey had successfully tucked the sleeping child in, she stopped in the kitchen and poured herself a cup of coffee. Opening the cupboard, she pulled out one of the few things that resided in its wooden dwelling, peanut butter and crackers. She smoothed the mixture on a couple of crackers and then put the remaining back. This would be her dinner. The living room held only a couch, rocking chair, a coffee table, and a small television set. A small Christmas tree stood proudly on the coffee table. It overshadowed nothing but the small white towel that snuggled against its base. Corey plopped into the rocking chair in front of the television. A tear tried to creep out of one of her eyes but she quickly brushed it away. Her job at a local veterinary hospital barely paid the bills that their little family’s existence dictated. The young woman quickly counted in her head the times the electricity had been shut off due to the lack of money. There would be no Santa Claus this year.

She dreaded the morning light of Christmas day. For this one, like so many other days, was just another bill that had come due. One that she had no money to pay. Closing her eyes for a moment, she prayed that the little girl would not be too disappointed. She was now old enough to notice the fat, jolly, old elf and eagerly awaited his arrival, thanks to the daycare. For a couple of weeks before this night, she had brought home brightly colored Santa and Christmas tree pictures that now hung on the refrigerator door. The child’s heart was set on something that Corey had no means to provide for her.

Letting another sigh escape from her lips, she turned the channel on the television to catch one of the late night talk shows which followed the local news. Christmas decorations decorated the set of the news room and wishes of merriness flew out of mouths of the anchors.

“Sure.” Corey mumbled to the television. “Fine for you. You have the money to have a Merry Christmas.”

An unwanted tear slid down her cheek as she took a bite out of the peanut butter and crackers. She swiped it away with a delicate hand and threw her mind into the holiday coffee commercial that now played before her. Those had always been her favorite. The family members coming in to their childhood home, welcomed by the warm scent of coffee brewing in the early morning. The smiles, the hugs, the warm fire sparkling in the kitchen’s fireplace. Corey could not help but be envious. Her own family had left town a few weeks ago to take a cruise that they had planned for their entire married life. They would not be anywhere near her for another week or two.

Finishing up her dinner, she rinsed out the coffee mug and grabbed a thick blanket before returning to the rocking chair. The late night show host had taken the stage and she watched as he attempted to make her laugh for the first time today. The hour passed quickly as she lost herself in the make believed world. The bills, the responsibilities, Christmas blues and everything else vanished for that one small moment in time. When it was over, she moved to the couch. She would not be sleeping in her bed tonight.

Letting out a yawn, she ran her fingers through her brown, shoulder length hair and closed her eyes. Morning would be at her door soon enough and she needed to have a little strength and stamina to deal with young Anna’s disappointment. Her mind raced around for a moment trying to search for something she could give the child to make the blow a little easier. She was much too young to understand that the Christmas elf must be paid right along with the faceless bureaucrats that sent her the many bills that continuously stacked themselves on her kitchen counter. Her possessions were few. She owned no jewelry that she might share with the youngster, so that was out. No treasures of any kind inhabited her little two bedroom house.

Nausea crept up as her brain started to go on overload. Forcing it back down, she shut her mind off as the television continued to interrupt the silence that would have filled the air otherwise. Charles Dickens’s story of A Christmas Carol began to enter her sleepy ears. Secretly, she wished that the reformed Mr. Scrooge would visit her door with his little bag of gold coins. These thoughts circled her mind as she finally lost her battle with fatigue, falling into the unconscious rest that her body had begged for.

Down the hall, in the tiny little bedroom, lay the sleeping Anna. With a thumb in her mouth, a characteristic habit she picked up from another child in daycare, she quietly dreamt of sweet candies loaded into a stocking she had seen in a picture.

Her little hand thrust its way into the depths of the velvet enclosure, pulling out chocolates, peppermints, fruits, and nuts. Her mother, sitting on the couch with a cup of hot coffee in hand, smiled on as she watched the young girl. The tree on the table towered against her; the white towel looked like a snowy blanket covered in brightly wrapped presents. Unwrapping a chocolate, she popped it into her mouth with her tiny fingers. The sweet savor filled her taste buds. She couldn’t help but giggle. Bouncing onto her feet, she placed two of the tin foiled candies into her mother’s hand.

“For you, Mommy!” she sang. “Merry Christmas!”

Her mother laughed, taking the child into her arms and hugging her.

“Merry Christmas to you, little one!”

Her mom placed a box into Anna’s lap as she held her. Still giggling, the four-year-old tore at the paper, revealing an open faced box where a beautifully dressed doll lay inside. The child’s face beamed.

“It’s yours, baby. Take good care of her.”

“I will, Mommy, I will!”

Taking the doll out of the box, she placed her gently in young Anna’s arms. Anna hugged her and immediately broke out into a lullaby. Her mother smiled broadly at the joy the child expressed. Her biggest Christmas present of all. Seconds later, Anna placed a small gift into her mother’s lap. After she unwrapped it, a tear slid down her face. For inside was a beautiful, gold, diamond ring.

“Thank you, Anna.” Corey replied, slipping the ring on her finger. “It’s beautiful.”

“I knew you’d like it.” she laughed, her eyes sparkling. “I saw it in a picture.”

The child stirred in her bed. A little grin crept across her tiny face. Down the hall, lying huddled under a blanket on the couch, Corey lay still. Her mind dreamless. A side effect of many years of reality forcing out a child’s imagination. The small television still blared Mr. Scrooge’s story of redemption while the tiny Christmas tree flickered its miniature lights.

Outside the little house, the darkened clouds began to let go of their treasures as large snowflakes started falling on the frozen ground, blanketing it in its magical carpeting. Bared trees swayed to and fro in the light and chilling wind, begging for the wondrous covering. No traffic on the small road and no person or animal anywhere in the distance made for the silent night of Christmas Eve.

Back inside, a small kitchen clock pointed its stiff metal hands to 3:00 a.m. while the small television set had settled into its nap under the cover of the colored bars and droning sound. Corey slept on as the tiny Christmas tree continued to blink its tiny lights as if she were watching its show. In her little bed, Anna continued dreaming of holiday treasures as the time passed quietly by.

When her dream had finally stopped. She opened her eyes to her dark bedroom where only a small nightlight shined against the dimness. Letting out another yawn, she sat up. A dull roaring sound could be heard from the living room. Quietly, she slipped out of bed and tiptoed down the hall into the living room. The television set displayed its familiar colors as it sang the annoying tune. She pushed the off button and watched as the colors disappeared. On the couch, she saw her mother; still sleeping. Leaning over her, she gave her a little peck on the cheek.

“I love you, Mommy. Merry Christmas.”

Corey’s eyes flew open as she heard the tiny voice whisper good morning in her ear. “Uh…Merry Christmas, sweetheart.”

She sat up and took the child’s hand. “I’m sorry but Santa couldn’t come this year.”

“Yes he did, Mommy. Look!” she said, pointing at the tiny Christmas tree where several brightly covered presents covered the white towel. “He even brought me a stocking. See!”

The child giggled as she lifted the red, velvet stocking that had been stuffed with Christmas goodies for her mother to see. “Just like I dreamed.”

Corey’s eyes widened as she jumped from the couch to the floor and flew to the light switch. “But…how? Nobody was here!” she stammered, racing around to check the doors and windows that were still locked.

“Santa, Mommy, Santa!” Anna squealed, jumping up and down on the couch and pointing out the living room window.

Anna’s jaw dropped as she watched a sled pulled by several reindeer fly off into the dim, snowy sky.

“Just like I saw in a picture, Mommy. I remember!”

“So do I.” Corey said softly, hugging her young daughter. “So do I.”
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Upload Date: 31/12/1969

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