The man, who appeared to be about 55 years of age with silver coloured mid-shoulder length hair, wearing a medium brown lightweight woollen suit with vest and a hideous bright orange tie that made it look like he was about to burst into flame, sat in his usual chair in front of the roaring fire at the back of the small but cozy bar in the Midwest college town that he had been frequenting for almost six years now.
He had to squirm and squeeze a bit before he was comfortable; at 6'1", his 375 pounds just didn't fit into chairs easily. He held a long stem pipe in one hand, unlit due to rules against smoking nowadays, as he sat there and waited for his friend to arrive on this Christmas Eve evening.
As he held his toes out toward the fire, he contemplated on what had kept him coming here for so long. The thought that a man as well known as his friend had once been could and did dream of being a little girl did not disturb him at all, he knew of hundreds that were similar. He had kept close to his friend simply because he knew the chance would come for him eventually, and his slight help would see him through to it.
He raised his head for a moment as he heard the low thump of the heavy entrance door slamming as someone came in or left, and was rewarded a few minutes later by his friend placing his drink on a side table and sinking into the chair next to his own.
His friend was a big man, 6'10", 320 pounds that was more flab than muscle nowadays. Nearly thirty years ago, this man had been about to take the state championship in football when his career was abruptly ended by a combined tackle of three defensive players. Their weight had caused him to fall at a bad angle, breaking his right leg in two places below the knee and three above it. He would never play football again. That young man, James Richard Walham, had been known by his high school and college nickname of "The Wall". He had gained that nickname after having many a single defensive player try to bring him down, with only an occasional one succeeding in the actual endeavour.
The two men sat there for a few minutes, just enjoying the company of the other, relaxing in the warmth of the big fire.
The first man turned to his slightly younger friend, smiled at him and asked, "So, James, how have things been these last two weeks? I apologize for missing last week's meeting here, I had an emergency come up and no one else was available to handle it."
James nodded, returning a weak smile to the older man. "Well, Jon, it's been quiet, I don't have many friends nowadays, haven't for quite some time, actually, so I work in that accounting office, then go home and wish that I could be as I've always felt I should be. Just like every time before, it doesn't work, so I usually end up spending the nights moping, stuffing my face and reading stories on sites like BigCloset."
Jonothan Alexander Smythe, or Jon as his friends called him, chuckled saying, "Perhaps things will change for the better soon. It is the Christmas season as you well know, and sometimes gifts can come from completely unexpected sources, true or not?"
James smiled, this time a bit broader, "Yes, like that girl at work who was flat broke, needed a car, and woke up last Xmas with a new car in the drive. She never did find out that darn near everyone in the company chipped in to get her that car, her smile was repayment enough."
"Ahhh, yes, you did tell me about that. Well, James, what if I were to tell you that your deepest wish would come true tonight, or start to?"
James laughed at him, "I seriously doubt it, Jon, the only way it could happen is with magic, and magic just doesn't exist!"
"So you don't believe it could happen? Hmmmm... James, we've known each other for almost five and a half years now, meeting every Saturday evening here unless something came up. Have I ever, in all that time, told you a lie? I'm not talking about swapping tales."
James sat there for a few minutes, shifting uncomfortably now and then. "No, I can't say that you have, Jon, you've always been honest."
"Then believe me now, James, enjoy a few drinks, relax and I promise you this: tonight, your greatest wish will start to come true."
The two men spent the next few hours talking about this and that, college football, sports in general, anything to pass the time.
Eventually, Jon pulled a watch on a chain from his vest pocket, checked the time, and nodded to James that it was time to go. Both men rose from the comfortable seats, then went to the coat check to retrieve their coats before heading out into the rather warm Christmas Eve air.
Jon turned away from James for a brief moment, and with a touch of a finger, lit his pipe, then turned back to James before saying, "I hope you don't mind walking for a bit, James, my vehicle is stored in a shed about four blocks from here."
James nodded, taking a deep breath of the fresh air, "I can handle that, at least it's not dumping a blizzard on us right now."
Jon tilted his head up, breathed in, then smiled at James as he replied, "Not much chance of freezing tonight, even with my vehicle."
James shook his head, something odd was going on here. "What makes your vehicle special, Jon?"
"You'll just have to wait and see, James, you'll understand, I think, once we get there," Jon laughed, a big, belly rolling laugh.
James just shrugged his shoulders and followed along behind Jon, something about the man next to him had him thinking of the Night Before Christmas poem, he couldn't figure out just what it was, he'd known him for quite some time, but tonight he was different, ODD.
After about ten more minutes of walking, they approached a long shed with an entrance on the shorter side. Jon walked up, touched the lock with a finger, twitched his nose, and then pulled the door open, all in front of a flabbergasted James. No key at all!
James found it very hard to believe what he had just seen, he had to be hallucinating, stuff like that just wasn't possible!
Once they were inside, things became crazier, with another twitch of his nose, a finger tapping his knee, and a shake of his considerable belly, the man James had known for over five years as Jon Smythe changed appearance, matching many a picture of Santa at Christmas time. The full red outfit with thick white fur trim around the edges of it, including the big cap, the twinkling eyes, the merry face, all showed Santa.
Another big, rumbling laugh erupted in the shed's confined spaces, as James looked, then fell to his knees on the wood floor, moaning under his breath, ""It's not possible, it can't be possible, magic doesn't exist, I haven't believed in Santa for over forty years!"
Santa, his twinkling eyes shadowing a bit as he watched the man in front of him, smiled, reached out and gently put his hand on James' shoulder. "Aye, son, I am Santa, or as some call me, Saint Nick, just because you didn't obviously believe for the last forty years or so doesn't mean that you stopped believing in me deep down inside where that wish of yours has grown over the years between then and now."
James looked up, a few tears sliding down each cheek, "But how? Santa is or was initially just a story!"
"That it was, but the story itself was modelled on a man who did good deeds for many years, and the combination of his good deeds and the tale spawned a legend, which over time has come to be acknowledged all over the world, if not actually believed."
James shook his head, he still found it hard to believe, but it's hard to ignore evidence when it's right in front of you. He placed one hand on the floor, then gripped the wall beside him and slowly pulled himself upright. "So you've been doing this sort of thing for a long time."
"Aye, it's getting on to not quite seventeen hundred years now, and I still love to help people whenever I can." Santa then wandered down the short section of the shed, bringing reindeer over to the sled itself and attaching them to it, one after another, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen, before bringing one last reindeer out and harnessing him, Rudolph, at the very front.
James just stood there and watched, counting the reindeer as they were hitched to the sleigh, "You're bringing Rudolph, too?"
"That I am, he might be needed before we reach our destination, better to have him with us if we do need him, I think."
James nodded to himself, even with the reindeer and the sleigh right there, he was wondering if he was in a mental home or dreaming.
"Well, James, you might want to get in the sleigh, there's blankets available if you need one, doubtful, as it's fairly warm." With a tap of finger on knee, a twitch of his nose, a shake of his belly and a quick snap of the pom on the tip of his cap, Santa was seated in the sleigh.
James scrambled over to the sleigh, stepped on a runner, then lifted himself up and tumbled into the back seat before righting himself.
"You should brace yourself, James!" Santa yelled as the sleigh began to move, picking up speed as it headed to the other end. Just as James was thinking they would slam into the wall at the end, Santa, with a twinkle of an eye, a nod, and a twitch of his nose, caused the wooden wall at the end to vanish. Barely a second later, they were out and climbing into the starry night sky as the speed continued to increase.
James grabbed onto the sides for dear life, blinking in shock as buildings below sped by faster and faster until they were gone.
Santa, formerly Jon, checked the pocket watch again, noting that it was just after 10:30 PM there. He then turned to James and smiled at him, saying, "When we get where we're going, it will be about 11:30 PM there, not quite midnight, you'll make a lovely Christmas gift."
James chuckled to himself as he watched the earth flash past below them. "So just where are we going, then?
"Ahhhh, to an orphanage in the west end of London, my boy. Speaking of which, there is something that I need to do. Lean forward, James." As James complied, Santa turned around enough to place a hand on top of James' head, then he twitched his nose, stomped a foot, snapped the whip over the reindeer without touching any of them, shook his belly, nodded twice and released his hold on James's head.
The effect on James was instantaneous, within seconds, he could feel himself shrinking; as the minutes passed, he continued to shrink, until a pretty six month old girl was buried beneath the clothing he had worn just minutes before. Santa turned around again, chuckling for a moment, before he picked up the clothes and dropped them at the other end of the seat, then grabbed a blanket and covered the little girl. With a few motions of various parts of his body, and another quick glance behind, he noted that the little girl was now in a nice sleeper/onesie.
He continued onward, the earth passing below as speeds that would have astounded James, but the little girl never even noticed. She looked at the big, jolly man in the front of the sleigh and a beautiful little smile spread across her pretty face. Her dream would come true!
Santa noticed the southern shore of Ireland as they flashed by, and he began the descent to the small park near the orphanage. The descent took a bit of time, as he had to change direction a few times, then drop through the treetops to land in the park itself. Once the sleigh was on the ground, Santa took a few minutes to ensure the animals and sleigh could not be seen or heard while he was busy elsewhere.
He gently picked up the baby girl, smiling at her and talking to her, "Well, little Jessica, you'll be meeting your new parents soon. Such a sad story, it is. The mother was pregnant last summer, but had a miscarriage in mid-August due to a viral infection of some sort, which not only killed the new life that was within her, but also took away any chance she might ever have of giving birth again. As I said, a sad story.
"Your momma-to be, Serena, has had a rough time since then, it was only a couple of months ago that she asked her husband, Palmer, if they could adopt a newborn or very young baby. They've been looking all over southern England, and found out about you here last week.
"Now I just need to slip in here without being seen," as he opened a side door to the orphanage, then took the stairs beside the door up to the first floor before turning and opening a door several feet down the hall. Inside were over a dozen cribs, each holding a baby or newborn. One of those cribs, in the approximate center of the room, was empty; he crossed over to it and gently laid her in the crib, covering her up.
He stood there for a moment or two, just looking down at the pretty little girl, then stepped back over by one of the walls and vanished. In actuality, he was still present, he had just made it so that he could not be seen or heard, like he had with the reindeer earlier.
At that moment, a car stopped in front of the orphanage, and a young man and woman climbed out of the car, locking it behind them. The young man made his way to the front door, his wife just behind him, then used the lion's head knocker to rap twice on the heavy door frame.
When no one appeared after a couple of minutes had passed, he used the knocked and rapped again on the door, harder this time. Just as he was thinking that he would need to try again, the big door opened with a groan, revealing a short, slightly plump man standing there.
He held out a hand, shaking Palmer's, then the woman's, before saying, "Hello, I'm Randolph, the night manager here. We normally expect people to show up during usual business hours, but your visit last week made it clear that such times don't work for you, correct?"
Both Palmer and his wife, Serena, nodded in response to his question. "You called us last week about a little girl you have here?"
"Yes, yes, little Jessica Natalia Rossington, such a sweet little thing, her mother dropped her here with a brief note a few hours after she was born. We decided to get her checked out thoroughly, so we took her to Hillingdon Hospital, they assured us she was completely healthy. We've had her in our care since then, the mother has made no effort to return for the child, so we had her added to the adoption registry."
"Could we please see this child, so we can get the whole process moving and maybe have her home before the New Year?"
Randolph nodded, "Yes, yes, just follow me, please," as he closed the door and started moving toward a staircase at the back of the house. He took them up the stairs, then into the same room as Santa had entered only minutes before, leading them to Jessica's crib. "Here she is."
Little Jessica looked up as three people entered the room, two of them holding hands. Palmer was rather small for a male, 5'6" and maybe 145 pounds, longish dirty blonde hair just touching his shoulders, wearing a slightly rumpled shabby suit, loafers and a jacket. Serena was the same height, weighing 130 pounds to his 145, with long honey blonde falling to mid-back, wearing a skirt suit, tights, blouse, heels and jacket.
As soon as little Jessica saw Serena, something in what had been James' mind felt an emotion it hadn't felt for far too long; even as a tiny six month old baby, Jessica could feel the love emanating from the woman in front of her, and without thought, raised her arms up to her.
Serena, upon seeing the little girl, felt her heart melt; when the little one raised her arms while lying in the crib, Serena just could not resist and reached down, picked up the little girl and hugged her close, then walked around the room while holding her close to her own heart.
Palmer smiled, he knew that his wife wanted a child to raise, and he'd never seen a child do what this little one had done without ever seeing the person before; this little girl seemed to like his wife quite a lot, they appeared to be bonding, who was he to stand in their way?
Santa, lurking in the corner watching everything, smiled; he touched his nose, nodded twice, tapped a knee and was gone.
Palmer looked at Randolph, then smiled broadly. "We'll do it, let's get this process started, we want to take her home as soon as possible."
Between Christmas and New Years, papers were signed, and on the second last day of the year, Palmer and Serena walked into a courtroom to finalize it all, they were legally declaring themselves to be Jessica Natalia's parents for now and for ever.
Three hours later, in the early evening, they left the orphanage, taking Jessica to her new home.
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