Christmas came to the sleepy town of Chicago. All the little boys and girls were snug in bed dreaming of sugar plum fairies and candy canes while their mom’s and dad’s, exhausted from putting together the last minute presents, snuggled into bed for a couple of hours of sleep. Claire Allen was dreaming of a fireplace with stockings hung full of presents and a handsome man named Alex was making Christmas cheer right by her side. Champ Terrace was settled tight amongst his covers snoring soundly and smiling a little from the cookies and milk he had as a nightcap from the night before.
Only one person through out the entire city was awake to see the clouds turn from dark to light. He had been up all night wrapping gifts and finalizing plans. Trevor Hale surveyed his room, double-checking the presents to make sure they were tagged and ready to be handed out. He gathered up all the presents to be given in his pillow case, donned his bright red and jolly Santa hat and clapping his hands twice, turned out the twinkling Christmas lights in his room.
“I need to get one of these for my room at home.” He said aloud, speaking to no one in particular. “This is one of man’s greatest inventions, this Clapper.” Grinning, he softly shut the door and tiptoed up the stairs to Champ’s room. Popping his head in to make sure he was asleep, Trevor tippy-toed all the way to the bed. Carefully moving Champ’s arm as to not disturb his slumber, he slipped his present under the crook of his arm and snuck his way back out. Jingling down the steps, he stopped long enough to grab his keys and wallet and the extra bit of mistletoe and went out in to the early morning light.
Claire awoke with an early start to her alarm on her bedside table. Rubbing her eyes, she yawned and stretched lazily. Blinking a few times to become adjusted to the light she rolled out of the covers and stood up, stretching again. Shivering slightly, she reached for her robe and put it on. Reaching into her pocket to make sure she hadn’t misplaced it she found the photograph of the couple from the box. Gazing at the picture, she walked out into the hallway and into the kitchen. She put a pot of coffee on to brew and went to light a fire in the fireplace. She stopped for a moment and looked around the room. Something had changed in her house. She couldn’t put her finger on it but she could tell that there was something amiss.
She went back to lighting her fire, while thinking about what could have changed over night. Out of the corner of her eye she saw it. There were icicle lights hanging down in front of her living room window softly lighting the inside of her house and making the snow on the ground outside sparkle even more. Stepping out on to her front porch she looked for any tracks made by the person who had put the lights up on her house but she could find none. Smiling, she reached down to get the paper and found a small package, wrapped in glittery red paper. The note tag read: To Claire with no “from” line.
Bringing the paper and the present inside, she grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down on her couch to open her present. She hadn’t even sat for longer then a couple of seconds when her doorbell rang. Noting the time, she wondered who could be up this early and why were they at her house. Pulling her robe around her and tying it securely, she opened the door saying, “Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas, Sparky!” The person who was speaking wasn’t entirely visible because he had his hands full of giant poinsettias that were covering his face. Shaking her head, she grabbed a plant before it could fall from his arms. Stepping backwards into the house, she held the door open for Trevor.
“Landscaping is normally done during the spring time.” Claire said, putting the plant on the ground and helping Trevor unload the rest.
“This isn’t landscaping, its adding holiday cheer, lighting up the load, toasting the chestnuts, jingling the bells, and tinseling the tree.” Smiling, he flopped on to the couch. Noticing her present was unopened, he made a space for her to sit on the couch and patted the seat beside her. She rolled her eyes and sat down. He handed the present to her and waited.
“I suppose this is from you?” She asked as she ripped into her gift. He nodded, silently watching her.
Opening up the box she found a pair of red cotton mittens stuffed like a stocking. Smiling, she reached into the left mitten and pulled out a bunch of candies, mostly chocolate, and a smaller red velvet box. Opening it, she found a small, antique key on a red silk cord. Looking up she asked him, “What’s the key to?”
Shaking his head, he motioned for her to keep going with her present. Not stopping, Claire reached into the other glove and pulled out more candy, a fountain pen, and crisp, fancy stationary. Smiling, she unwrapped a chocolate coin and popped it into her mouth. “I used to get these in my stocking when I was a little girl. My dad used to send them to my sisters and I along with other presents from his road tours. He was always away from home at Christmas.”
“There is one more thing in there.” Trevor said to her.
Searching in the bottom of the box, she found another box, slightly smaller and not as deep, and stuck to the outside were hearts, some small, some large, some modern styled and others full and romantic. Glancing up at him, she raised her eyebrow. “What does this mean?”
“I was inspired by the box you found in your closet. And the key is a key to your heart. Whoever you give that to will always have it. And of course, your heart would be found in that box. That is where you can stash your erotic and kinky love letters to a particular gorgeous stud.” He said grinning broadly.
“I should have known. What about the lights? Did you put them up?”
“Of course! I made like Santa and went around back and put them up from the roof.” He said.
“That would explain why I couldn’t find any footprints out front. Let me give you my present to you.”
“Wait, that’s not the only present, Claire-bear. Grab your cuppa-cuppa burnin’ coffee, put your slippers on and follow me out to the porch.” He said, standing up and arranging his coat. Taking his arm, Claire went with him out to the porch. From there, they could see a poinsettia plant sitting where the two young children usually sat and ate snowflakes. Remembering something Trevor told Claire to stay put and he ran inside the house.
He came back out with something tucked underneath his arm and ran over to the snowdrift. He put whatever was under his arm out next to the plant and ran back over to Claire. She turned to ask him what he was doing and what he had put out there but he just put up his hand and said, “Watch and learn.” He checked his wristwatch, nodded, and leaned back against the rail and got comfy.
Not understanding what he meant, she turned back to see what he was talking about. A few moments later, it started to snow. She held her cup a little tighter in her hands to bring some warmth to her. Taking a sip of her coffee she could see over the rim the little girl come walking down the street holding hands with her neighbor a few houses down. Looking at Trevor he continued to smile and nod while watching the little girl and her grandmother.
“Trevor?” Claire asked.
“Sparky, shh…” he whispered to her as soon as she started to ask questions. “Check it out.” He motioned with his hand to the other side of the street. There they saw the little boy tugging on her other neighbor’s arm almost pulling him down the street. The older man was laughing so hard he could barely walk. The little girl was already sitting beside the poinsettia plant, legs crossed, looking like a little lady save for her tongue sticking out already in position to catch snowflakes. Her grandmother had stopped watching her little granddaughter and was watching the little boy tug his grandfather down the walk. The little boy, noticing that his playmate was already there, left his grandfather and sprinted to her side, sat down grinning and stuck his tongue out at the snow.
The older gentleman hurried to catch up when he caught sight of the girl’s grandmother. Stopping in his tracks, Trevor and Claire heard a gasp from him as he started to run towards the snowdrift.
“Madeline? Madeline Smith?” he said as he ran to where the woman and the children were.
“Eugene Harris? Peewee?” she responded, her voice shaking with emotion. The older gentleman burst into tears when she said his name and threw his arms around the woman. Both of them continued to cry as they held each other, smiling through the tears. The children concern written on their faces tugged at their coat tails, trying to get their attention. The man and woman stepped back to see the little girl and the little boy holding something out to them. The little boy held a picture frame and the little girl held the wooden box. Crying even harder, they hugged the children and then hugged each other. The little boy peeped around from behind them and gave the thumbs up sign to Trevor and Claire. Trevor nodded to the boy and started lightly clapping. Laughing, the boy smacked his forehead and clapped twice.
At the sound of the clap, Christmas twinkle lights popped on the poinsettia, surrounding the children and the couple in a soft white glow. Waving to the children, Trevor led Claire back inside the house and shut the door behind him.
“Just another day’s work and one more bead closer to celebrating next Winter Solstice Festival back at home.” He proudly said.
“How in the world did you find them?” Claire asked while a million other questions popped into her head.
“Its easy. I am Cupid.” He said, crossing him arms.
“No, Trevor, I am serious. How did you find them. And I mean the ‘mortal’ way.” She asked as she poured a cup of coffee for herself and one for him. Handing the cup to Trevor she sat down on the couch again while he sat on the ground in front of the fire.
Sipping his coffee and taking his time he smiled. “Yellow pages and the phone. I even thought about going to one of those things you humans call computers but I figured that I would have a better chance if I went to the oracle at Delphi. And everyone knows that she was never that accurate to begin with. If you could sit through all her mumbo jumbo talk.”
“Cut the crap, Trevor.” She said, annoyed. “Is that really how you found them?”
“Yes, it is. Also hanging out at the Veteran’s Hall didn’t help. That is when I knew that I could get them really matched up. Can you believe that she married someone else after the war but never changed her name? I asked some of the older women who were hanging around there and they told me that she didn’t want to change her name because if Peewee was going to be able to find her he would look under her maiden name.”
“But Peewee never looked for her?” Claire asked.
“He did. But when he returned home from Germany, he came back to find that Madeline had moved away with her mother out of state. He spent about a year searching for her but never did find her. A year or so later, he married his wife. They had one child together and she passed away about five years ago. Madeline married about a year after the war to one of her mother’s friend’s sons and moved back to Chicago. Did you know that Madeline used to live in this house?” He asked her.
“No clue.” Claire said, completely entranced by the story. “That is some story.” She said, breathing deeply. For some reason, she had this warm, happy feeling in the pit of her stomach. Remembering how happy the man and woman were she smiled. Getting up, she went over to Trevor and hugged him.
“What’s this for?” he asked, pulling away from her.
“Because its Christmas. Merry Christmas, Trevor.”
“Happy Solstice, Claire.” He said, smirking.
She jabbed a finger into his ribcage and stepped away from Trevor. “So, do you want your present or not?” she quipped, standing with her hand on her hip.
“Oh goody, presents!” Trevor shouted. “I always love presents!!” Claire went over to her Christmas tree and pulled out a medium size box and handed it over to him.
“I know you will like this. And I just want to say that I got you this gift not because I think that you are Cupid, god of love, but because I know a character is never complete unless he has his appropriate props.”
Not waiting for her to stop talking, Trevor ripped into the paper and threw it over his shoulder. Opening the box, he pulled the paper away. Laughing, he saw a small wooden bow and quiver of suction cup arrows with white feather plumes on the shaft. Next to it was a small jar labeled, ‘Magic Dust’.
“My queen of the head-shrinkers ball, you shouldn’t have. What would the psyche board say to you giving a patient with godly delusions this gift say?” he said, aiming the bow and arrow at the window.
“I don’t care. It’s Christmas. Besides, if you bring that out in public or to our sessions I will have your posterior served to me on a platter. So don’t let me see you out shooting people with that.” She said, smiling.
“Okay, that means I can still use the magic dust on people. Sweet. Its like a concealed weapon!” he shouted.
“No, Trevor. It’s not magic, its just glitter I put into a frilly bottle.”
“No, Claire, it says right here, ’magic dust’. Doesn’t matter if you wrote it or you had imported it from the Tooth Fairy or Tinker belle.”
On and on continued the debate until the late afternoon, until it was time for Trevor to say goodnight to his fair couples councilor and back to planning his New Year’s Eve “match-a-thon”. Determined as ever to make it home and lose this mortal coil binding him to the planet once and for all.
(And of course, Merry Christmas!)