Her mom looked at her with concern. “You still not sleeping?”
“No, Mom,” Sara yawned. It wasn’t easy trying to function at the department store where she had a seasonal job as a Christmas Elf.
“Maybe you need a nice man to wrap your arms around,” her mom teased.
Sara shook her head firmly. “I’m too tired for romance. Hopefully I’ll sleep better tonight.”
“I hope so. And don’t give up on finding someone nice. I know being in a relationship isn’t the be all and end all, but the next man you meet could be The One.”
“Yeah, right,” Sara sighed. All she seemed to attract were jerks. Instead of Prince Charming, she’d end up with Shrek. Or rather, the other way around, as in Shrek, Prince Charming had turned out to be horrid.
“You just need to find your one true love, like me and your dad,” her mom continued. “Write a letter to Santa, like you did when you were a little girl. Ask him for some sleep, and to bring you someone nice. That’s what I did, and that very Christmas I met your dad. So, get out your notepad. No typed letters to Santa, please, he likes the personal touch. Make it heartfelt, and post it off. Santa always delivers.”
Sara gave her mom a disparaging look. “I’m 24. I think I’m a bit too old for Santa’s help now.”
“Trust in Christmas miracles. What have you got to lose?”
“Fine! Just don’t expect son-in-law material to materialise for Christmas lunch,” Sara said, giving in to shut her mum up.
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Feeling silly, she found some old notepaper shoved in her desk drawer that evening. Scrabbling for a pen, she found a scratchy blue biro.
What am I doing writing a letter to Santa? She shook her head, unable to believe she was actually going through with the charade. Addressing the envelope to ‘Santa Claus, Santa’s Grotto, The North Pole,’ she put it ready for posting the next day.
Unfortunately, sleep still proved elusive. Eyeing herself in the mirror the next morning, she made a face at her reflection. Inky circles encompassed puffy eyes. Full of good tiding and joy she definitely wasn’t. She felt more like the Grinch.
“You’re supposed to look happy. You ARE a Christmas Elf,” her boss said shoving a clean outfit into her hands.
Grimacing, Sara changed, before walking towards Santa’s grotto. The green mini skirt and jacket suited her slim figure. And luckily the little green pixie boots were fairly comfy considering she was on her feet all day. She didn’t even mind wearing the hat – especially on bad hair days. Affixing a smile to her face she readied herself for the day ahead. If I’d thought about it, I could have saved the postage and given the letter to Santa instead she thought wryly.
Inwardly sighing, Sara gazed at all the children clamouring for whomsoever had been hired to play Santa for the last week before Christmas. She’d been told by one of the other girls that the last Santa couldn’t do this final week, as he’d gone on holiday.
Alright for some, Sara thought sourly. Her splitting headache from another bad night seemed to intensify with the cacophony of noise. She could hear ‘Jingle Bells’ booming out over the speakers, but after the seventh or eighth playing, it was beginning to jar.
Herding one excited child in, after another, she began to feel like she was on some mad tinsel and cotton decorated conveyor belt.
“Looks like you could do with a rest,” Santa grinned up at her from an oversized red sparkly throne as she showed in yet another child.
“Tell me about it,” Sara said with feeling. “I’m not sleeping at the moment as it is.” As she met his soft brown eyes, her heart gave a sudden jolt.
“Maybe you should ask Santa for some sleep,” he suggested with a raise of one bushy white eyebrow.
“I only posted my letter to him this morning, I don’t think he works that quickly,” she quipped.
A small boy who’d been waiting impatiently, tugged on Sara’s hand. “Santa can do anything. YOU should know that!”
Santa nodded solemnly. “You have to believe in magic for it to work.”
Sara gave him a hard stare, before turning to the next overexcited child.
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By the end of the day her feet felt sore, the painkillers she’d slugged lunchtime had worn off, and she felt totally punch drunk with false bonhomie. The sparkling fairy lights were beginning to increase the pounding in her head, and she couldn’t wait to get home, have a relaxing bath, and hopefully some sleep.
Heading to the changing room, one of the other girls grabbed her. “Coming for a drink?”
Sara started protesting, but the others insisted and she found herself being led towards the pub next door. Maybe a few drinks might help her sleep?
“You know Nick, right,” one of the others introduced her to a tall, good- looking, casually dressed man with a mop of dark hair. Sara felt her heart jolt for the second time that day. Before she could answer, the other girl vanished.
“Umm, hi, I’m Sara.” Looking up at his handsome face, she had a weird feeling she’d met him before but she couldn’t remember where.
“I know,” Nick smiled. “I’m playing Santa.”
“I thought those eyes looked familiar,” she grinned, feeling glad she’d come.
“I like to get to know all my elves,” he winked. “You ok? Only you didn’t seem very full of Christmas spirit today. You look tired.”
“Oh, thanks,” Sara retorted, before explaining her insomnia.
“You’re the opposite of Sleeping Beauty,” Nick grinned.
“Yeah, wide awake zombie!”
“Not at all. You’re still beautiful. It just makes you look more fragile.”
A faint blush spread over Sara’s face. “Thanks. I think!”
The evening flew, before she reluctantly eyed her watch. “I better go. We’re going to be busy tomorrow, with only three days to Christmas Eve.”
“Can I drive you? Car’s not far.”
“Thanks, but I only live around the corner. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Waking the following morning Sara realised she had actually slept. Maybe the drinks had helped? She was even looking forward to going to work.
Exchanging banter with Nick as she escorted various children in, made the day far more enjoyable. Looking into the mirror later as she changed, she noticed her cheeks now had a rosy glow, and her eyes didn’t seem quite so dull. No-one seemed to be going for drinks, and she couldn’t see Nick about, so she headed home for the relaxing bath she’d promised herself the previous evening. It seemed to help, as once again, she slept much better.
Changing into the well-worn themed outfit the following day, a big grin spread over her face at the thought of seeing Nick again. Happily, she escorted a rather sulky looking 6-year old and his frazzled mum towards Santa’s grotto. But her joy plummeted like a stone as her gaze met a different pair of eyes. Where was Nick?
Asking one of the other girls, they didn’t know. “Maybe he’s off sick or something.”
Intense disappointment swept through Sara. She and Nick hadn’t even swapped numbers. Not that he’d asked - she’d just been hoping.
Christmas Eve seemed hotter than normal. Reaching the department store she changed into her green outfit, desperately hoping that Nick would be there for the last day.
The day predictably proved busier than ever. Although Sara saw Santa, it was never head on. Just the back of his head, or a glimpse of red. She didn’t even get a chance to ask the others as they were run off their feet in the Elf World.
Feeling ridiculously crestfallen at not seeing Nick, Sara gathered her things ready to leave. Obviously not meant to be, she thought sadly.
Stepping outside, she gazed in awe at the sea of stars sparkling above when she heard her name. Turning, she saw Nick.
“I’m glad I caught you. I never got your number. Maybe we can meet up after Christmas? I’m heading home to my parents tonight, but I’ll be back on the 27th if you’re free.”
“That would be fab,” Sara beamed.
“By the way, you look as though you may have caught up on some sleep,” Nick grinned. “Santa been working his magic already?”
Sudden realisation hit. Sleep had been much better and romance now beckoned. Both her requests to Santa had been answered. “Yes. I’m beginning to think there really is a Santa Claus after all,” she said, grinning back.”
Nick moved closer. “Were you ever in any doubt?” He asked before gently pulling her towards him for a passionate embrace.”
Neither of them noticed a passing reindeer pulled sleigh as it sped across the velvety dark sky with a ho, ho, ho echoing as it disappeared as if by magic.
© CARRIE HEWLETT