Jacob lowered his eyes. “I didn’t, sir. I was trying to save my sister.” He grabbed her hand and moved her away from the offending lights. “She’s special needs and loves lights.”
The man moved both Jacob and Gwen away from the tree. “Is that right?” He was dressed in a dark suit and dark shoes. Jacob was worried he was a policeman and he was in trouble.
Jacob knew Santa was watching, so he had to be truthful. “Yes, sir. I was trying my best to save her.”
“Where are your parents?”
Jacob looked the man in the eyes, not wanting to seem disrespectful. He’d learned about that in school. Always look someone in the eyes when speaking, his teacher had told them. He was just worried this man would be upset that his mother and Dean weren’t nearby.
“Sir,” Jacob started. “My mom left us in the line for Santa.” He pointed. “She’ll be right back. I think she needed to go to the bathroom or something.”
“And your dad?”
Jacob’s eyes filled with tears, worried this man would be upset. “He died, sir. He was in the Army and was shot.” He had to lower his eyes or he might cry. Santa didn’t need to see him crying. “My older brother is around, though. So we’re not alone.”
The man was quiet and Jacob was worried he was hunting for handcuffs or an officer with handcuffs. Touching that tree had to be wrong.
“I see,” the man said. “Do you have a list for Santa?”
Jacob was surprised. The man didn’t seem angry at all. “Yes, sir.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out his list while he still held Gwen’s hand. “It’s for Santa. He’s the only one who can help us.”
“May I see it?”
Jacob’s eyebrows lowered. “I’m worried Santa won’t believe I have a list if I lose it. Who are you, anyway?”
The man chuckled. “I’m a good guy. I just want to read it and then I’ll give it back to you. You can tell Santa as soon as I see it.”
Jacob sighed, thinking it through. He finally handed the man the paper. The man read it over, nodding as he went. “You’re Jacob, right?”
“Yes, sir.” Jacob pointed to the list. “I signed my name there.”
The man nodded again, reading the list one more time. “Is that all you want?”
He handed the list back to Jacob. “Nothing for you?”
Jacob shook his head. “No. Just for the rest of my family. Santa can do this, I’m sure.”
“I hope so. That’s a tall order.” He ushered the two children to the front of the line. “Janet, these two are next. I think Jacob might want to stay with his sister.”
The woman elf watched the man’s face, following his gaze to the two kids. “I understand.” She took Jacob and Gwen to see Santa. Gwen took one look at Santa and burst into tears.
“Are you scared?” Jacob asked her.
She leaned closer to her brother and buried her head in his chest.
Janet put her hands on Gwen’s shoulders and turned her toward her. She knelt in front of her and gave her a hug. “Go on. Talk to Santa,” she said to Jacob. “I’ll watch her for you.”
Jacob turned toward the man in the red suit. He held out his hands and Jacob moved closer. One of the other elves lifted Jacob onto Santa’s lap.
“Ho, ho, ho,” Santa bellowed, with a smile. “What would you like for Christmas this year.”
Jacob still held onto his list and handed it to Santa. The man smiled until he read the list. “I see. Nothing for you?”
Jacob shook his head. “No, sir. This is more important.” Jacob knew this might be tough, but the man was Santa, after all. “Can you help us?”
“I don’t know…”
The other man in the dark suit moved behind Santa and leaned down to his ear. After whispering something, Santa smiled. “Ho, ho, ho. Jacob, I’ll do my best.”
Jacob smiled and shook the man’s hand. “Thank you.”
Someone took his picture and he got off Santa’s lap. Gwen had calmed down and was eating a candy cane and laughing at the guy making the balloon animals.
Jacob headed for Gwen and took her hand. Just as he was ready to take her to wait for their mother, Dean ran up to them. “I’m back.”
“It’s about time,” Jacob said. “Gwen almost pulled that big tree down.” He pointed.
Dean looked over at the gigantic tree. “Uh oh.”
They started to walk away, but the man in the suit ran up to them. “Would you wait here for a moment?”
“Are we in trouble?” Jacob asked.
The man chuckled. “No. I want to talk to your mom.”
Dean looked over toward the tree. “She’s right there.” Jacob turned and saw their mom carrying one bag, running toward them.
“Stay here.” The man ran to her side and directed her to a bench. She listened for a moment, and then looked over at the three children. She looked so sad, and finally wiped her eyes. They talked for a while and finally both stood up. She shook his hand and wiped her eyes, but he pulled her in for a hug while she cried. He held her for a long time, before she backed away and wiped her eyes again.
She headed for the kids, still wiping her eyes, and took them to the car without saying a word. Dean glanced at Jacob, but he shrugged.
For the next two days, Jacob, Dean, and Gwen stayed at the house while their mom worked. Jacob wasn’t sure Santa could help them. His wish was too hard, he was certain, because the heat was still off in the house, and the for-sale sign was still in the front yard. They still had peanut butter and jelly for their lunches, but there was no bread left. Instead, they used old crackers, since the pantry was empty.
The night before Christmas, Jacob’s mom came home and fell into the broken chair in the living room. “Well, kids. Tomorrow’s Christmas.”
“Did they pay you at the second job?” Dean asked.
She shook her head. “Nope. But they did fire me. I only have that little day job left. I don’t know if we can make it.”
Jacob climbed up to sit on her lap and gave her a hug. “Santa will handle things, Mom.”
She chuckled and wiped her eyes. “I’m sure you’re right. Better get to bed. Santa will be here at midnight.” She seemed so sad. “Just know he can’t bring much this year, but he’s doing his best.” She cried some more.
Jacob hugged her. “Mom, it’s okay. I’m going to put out some peanut butter and jelly crackers for him.”
“I’ll find something for Santa.” Dean stood up.
“No.” Jacob’s mom put Jacob on the floor. “You all go to bed. Make sure Gwen gets there. I’ll put the things out for Santa.”
Dean rolled his eyes and helped the other two upstairs to bed. Jacob took one last look at the tiny Christmas tree in the living room, with the paper ornaments he and Dean had made out of paper bags.
Jacob got ready for bed and climbed into his old bed. He stared out the window at all the stars, wishing he could see Santa. If only he could stay awake, he might even see the reindeer.
Dean walked into the shared room and got into bed. “This isn’t good, Jacob.”
Jacob sat up. “What’s the matter?”
“Mom told me the bank’s going to take our house. We’re going to be out on the street next week.”
Jacob swallowed hard. “The street? We’ll be cold.”
Dean sighed. “We’re cold already. Just don’t let Gwen know anything and don’t say anything to Mom. She said we could go to Grandma’s house, but I know she argued with Mom. Grandma doesn’t want us.” He got into bed and pulled the covers up. “Good night. I’m just glad we can stay here for Christmas.”
Jacob worried. Santa hadn’t come through with his wish, he was certain. But there was always tomorrow. Good things would come tomorrow.
The last part will be next Friday! Stay tuned!
The last part will be next Friday! Stay tuned!