“Santa Claus!” Molly exclaimed. “Oh mommy, can I go tell Santa what I want for Christmas? Please.” Five-year old Molly tugged on her mother’s hand.
Callie bit her lip and stared at the mall Santa in his red suit. What’s the point, there will be no Christmas for us.
“We have time Callie,” her cousin Rose said. “Let’s take the girls to visit Santa and then we can finish our shopping.”
Angela and Molly looked up with pleading eyes.
Callie blinked back tears, her stomach churning. Molly was too young to understand. The storm that had destroyed their home had left them devastated. They had no money for Christmas. They were dependent upon the kindness of her cousin, Rose, and her family for even the clothes they were wearing. She would not impose on their holiday. Callie had already been making plans to return Texas. FEMA would give them vouchers for a place to stay until they could rebuild their lives. Straightening her shoulders, she followed Rose and the two girls to the miniature Santa’s village.
Rose’s daughter, Angela, just a year older than Molly, went first. She had a list of Christmas presents she wanted and Santa finally had to tell her he’d surprise her with some of the things on her list. Smiling, she’d leaped from Santa’s lap and whispered to Molly as she passed. The two girls touched hands and Callie had to wonder what they were up to.
Molly climbed on Santa’s knee and stared up into the man’s kind face.
“And what would you like for Christmas Miss. Molly?”
Molly’s eyes grew large. “You know my name?”
He smiled and patted her back. “I know all the good children’s names.”
Molly leaned close and whispered.
Santa glanced up and met Callie’s eyes. He blinked and nodded. “I’ll do my best.”
Molly patted the gloved hand and said, “That’s all we can do Santa, our best. That’s what my mommy says.” She looked up and waved.
Callie smiled and waved at her daughter as she struggled to control her emotions.
“That was an awfully long list you had Miss. Angela,” Rose scolded her daughter. “You know what I think of greedy children, don’t you?”
Angela blushed. “But I had to mommy, Molly wouldn’t ask Santa for what she wants for herself, so I had to give him both our lists.”
Callie stopped walking and turned to her tiny cousin. “What do you mean, Molly wouldn’t ask?”
Molly tugged on Angela’s hand and shook her head. “You can’t tell or it won’t come true.”
Angela sighed, and whispered loudly, “You can’t tell but I think it’s okay if I tell.”
Molly hung her head. “You’ll ruin everything.”
Rose patted Molly’s head. “It’s okay Molly, you can have your secret. Of course, if you told your Aunt Rose, I could make sure Santa didn’t forget…”
Molly stared up into Rose’s eyes. Rose was only her cousin but because of the age difference, Molly carried on the family tradition of giving cousins of the previous generation the honorary title of aunt or uncle.
“Callie,” the ladies turned to see a handsome young man coming towards them. “It is Callie, isn’t it?” He asked.
Callie nodded. “Do I know you?”
Touching her hand, he turned her away from the girls and mouthed, “I’m Santa.”
Callie blushed. The man couldn’t be any older than she. Fit and handsome, he wasn’t the typical Santa. “Oh yes, how can I help you?”
“I was wondering if you had a moment.” He nodded to the coffee shop. “I’d like to talk to you.”
When Callie hesitated, Rose said, “I’ll take the girls to the bathroom and we’ll get a snack at the bakery.”
She didn’t wait for Callie to agree as she hustled the girls down the mall to the bathroom.
Callie asked, “What is this about?”
He smiled, his gentle green eyes full of warmth. She liked the way his whole face lit up when he smiled. “Come, let’s get some coffee.” He led her into the shop. “My name’s Jeremy Deans.”
She shook his offered hand. “Callie Davenport.”
They took their coffees to a table near the back of the café and he held out her chair. When they sat down, he said, “Molly’s worried.”
Callie nodded and stared into her coffee.
“She wants to stay here but she knows you don’t like taking charity from your cousin. “
She blushed and looked away. “My God, that girl…”
“My aunt owns this coffee shop. She’s looking for help. I know you don’t know me…”
“You’re right. I don’t know you and you don’t know me.” She started to rise.
Jeremy put his hand over hers briefly. “I’m a police officer in my regular life. I play Santa each year because I love kids. Molly’s only wish for Christmas was that you find a job here and a place to stay near her cousins.”
Callie wiped at her tears. There was little for her back in Texas, why not start over again here in North Carolina? Taking a deep breath, she said, “I’d like to meet your aunt.”
Jeremy waved over an older woman with kind green eyes just like his. “Aunt Ginny, this is Callie Davenport, she’d like to apply for a job.”
Callie said good bye to Jeremy and went in search of her daughter and cousins. “You’ll never guess what just happened,” she said, smiling. “I have a job and a place of my own.” She told them about Jeremy and his aunt, leaving out the part about Jeremy being Santa. “She offered me an apartment, it’s over her garage but we’ll be out of your hair. It’s only a few blocks from your house.”
“I know Ginny and Jeremy. They go to our church. Oh, Callie, I’m so glad you’ll be staying. I’ve enjoyed having you and Molly here.” Rose hugged her. “You know you could have waited until after Christmas.”
“Luke’s family will be coming to visit and you need the room.” Callie hugged her. “This is better. We’ll still be together but just not under the same roof.”
The two little girls whispered together. “Santa is real. He didn’t even wait for Christmas to bring you your wish,” Angela said.
Molly nodded and hugged her cousin. “And we won’t be separated ever again.”