The story of Meri Kris Maas

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December 2017 Christmas Dreams Story Contest Entry

The Story of
Meri Kris Mass

Written by Nuuan


 
Looking out across the frozen pond Will smiled at the sight of so many children playing on the ice. Several boys played hockey off to one side out of the way of the other skaters. A couple of those boys showed some serious skill on the ice, ‘Better than me,’ Will, who had been one of the original members of the North Stars when they joined the NHL in 1967, thought to himself. Nearer to where Will sat in his wheelchair, a small girl of no more than four or five years old held her mother’s hand while she timidly moved forward on a pair of double bladed beginner skates. Will thought back to when the mother was first led out onto the ice by her own father so many years ago. Like so many that came out to skate on the pond he had watched the small town build almost thirty-five years ago, Will had watched her grow up. He remembered when she had graduated to single bladed skates and the falls the once little girl had as she adjusted to having toe picks on the blades. A small chuckle escaped his lips as Will remembered how the woman, a teen at the time, had pretended to be a novice on skates to give her boyfriend, now husband, the excuse to hold her close.

He envied the mother for the life she lived, a life that only lived in his dreams. Being born in a time when men wore their hair short, or ‘high and tight,’ as the saying went, no boy was allowed to have long hair or act even slightly feminine while no proper woman would be caught in public wearing anything but a skirt or dress, it was impossible for Will to even consider acting on his feelings as he grew up. Then puberty came to smash any chance of his dreams to happen.

Most boys dream of puberty hitting them like it did Will. Tall and muscular with a wide chest, broad shoulders and chiseled Olympian features, Will had women secretly fantasizing about him. He had quite a few friends that were women as he held many of the same interests as they did. Will truly enjoyed those times when the girls would invite him to go clothing shopping with them. Of course their main reasoning was to have someone to carry the bags, which Will was happy to do just for the chance to be able to stand around in the women’s section of the stores and give opinions on the various styles and types of clothing as his friends picked through the store.

Will noticed two older children he didn’t recognize, which was unusual as he may have problems remember all their names now, but he knew every child in the small town. Both wore brightly colored knitted stocking caps that appeared to have been made of reds, greens and gold yarns that even had the little white pompoms on the end, pulled down over their ears to keep them warm. The way the two skated together across the frozen pond would have made professional figure skaters take notice. The grace of their movements across the ice, hand in hand as the two went into synchronized skating maneuvers that Will believed could easily earn first place in any adult competition.

Seeing two of the boys playing hockey with the blades of their sticks held above their shoulders racing toward a loose puck, Will cupped both his hands around his mouth and shouted at the boys, “Sticks on the ice!” Will had taught more boys about hockey than he could remember, this group was no exception and one rule he taught them all was to keep the blade of your stick down, preferably on the ice but never above the waist. Too many injuries and penalty minutes were caused by unintentional high sticking, which in Will’s mind the best way to avoid was to always keep your stick on the ice.

“Mr. Olsen?”

Will turned to the voice speaking to him, finding the two kids had skated over and was now standing in front of his wheelchair. Will couldn’t help but notice the coats they wore were not the factory made nylon outer shell stuff you'd find in a store. They appeared to be handmade, knitted out of heavy wool yarn in colors and patterns fit for the Christmas season just like the stocking caps they wore. “Don’t think I’ve seen you two out on the ice before?”

“We’re not from around here.” Will thought the one speaking was a boy, but the child’s features were so androgynous it was difficult to tell for sure since some girls would wear short hair now days too. Although looking closer at the two children, they both wore thick knitted tights so Will guess the child was a girl after all since boys would never wear green tights.

“You tow must have an indoor ice rink or a lot colder weather than we have here as good as the two of you skate.”

“Yes we can skate year round back home,” the longer haired of the two girls answered.

“So where is home for you two?”

“Up north,” The short haired girl grinned mischievously before reaching into her coat to pull out a package wrapped in Christmas paper and tied with a red ribbon. Holding it out toward Will, “We wanted to make sure you got this.”

Taking the package from the girl’s hand, Will could quickly tell whatever was inside was soft. Looking back up to the expectant looks on the two girls faces, “I’m guessing you want me to open it now?” Both girls nodded their heads emphatically. Removing the ribbon, Will found an edge of the decorative wrapping paper and tore open the package.

Pulling the wrapping paper away Will unfolded a red and white furred stocking cap, the same kind of hat a child would expect to see Santa Clause wearing. Although Will could tell this was no cheap dime store faux fur hat. The fur looked and felt real although Will knew of no animals that had fur this color of red. Not even the red fox’s fur was this red. Looking closely at the red fur it was not a uniform color, with many hairs of the fur lighter or darker that those around it, there was no way it could have been dyed. The longer white fur of the pompom and the white fur inside and around the rim of the hat was not a uniform white either as it had some light gray hairs mixed in.

Looking up at the two children, “This is real fur, it has to be expensive, I can’t accept it.”

“You have to!” The long haired girl gasped.

“Yes, please take it,” The stunned expression on the other girl’s face quite evident, “It was made just for you.”

“But this must have cost you two a lot of money,” Will argued. “Money you could use to buy yourself things, instead of some old man you don’t know.”

“Don’t know!” The short haired girl squeaked, “You’re like almost a legend where we live. Look how many boys you have taught the right way to play hockey, without all the fighting and cheap shots some players use, some have went on to play in the NHL. The hockey sticks you hand make for the kids to use.”

“The skates you’ve repaired or sharpened,” The long haired girl continued when her friend stopped, “The skates you have given away. All the kids you helped teach to skate better.”

“The baseball bats you make for the little league!”

“The ballerina recitals you’ve sat through because a little girl wanted ‘Grandpa Will’ to see her dance.” The long haired girl took a deep breath, “You’ve made so many wishes come true for children over the years. How could we not know about you!”

“Please, you have to put on the hat,” Will’s heart almost broke at the puppy dog look the short haired girl gave him.

Reaching up Will pulled the old world war two bomber hat off that he had bought at an army surplus store almost forty years ago. Shivering as the bitter cold touched his mostly bald scalp Will quickly put on the stocking hat. Pulling the plush rabbit fur edge down to cover the top of his ears, a smile formed on his lips as he felt how comfortable the cap was.

“We knew you’d like it!” The two girls grinned back at Will before running off giggling toward the frozen pond, turning to look back at Will once they were on the ice. “Merry Christmas Mr. Olsen!” the two yelled before skating off and disappearing behind the small manmade island in the middle of the pond.

Weeks passed and Christmas was only a few days away. The cap so comfortable that Will rarely took it off. As warm as it kept his head outdoors he couldn’t believe how it felt so good when he was inside, always feeling just right, never hot when indoors or cold when outdoors. Will hurried to dress himself and get out to the pond before the children began arriving. The last few days had been unseasonably warm, which would mean even more than the usual number of children and their parents would be outdoors, but also meant that the thickness of the ice had been thinning over the warm spell. Will wanted to make sure someone checked the ice to make sure it was still safe to go out on.

Will arrived at the pond to see a man out on the ice drilling a hole with a battery powered electric drill then sticking a tape measure into the small hole. “How’s the ice Matt?” Will called out to the man.

The man stood up from where he had squatted down and turned to face Will, “Hey Poppa Will!” Matt smiled over at Will, using the name almost every adult in town called him, “I’ve only drilled 5 test holes so far but the thinnest I measured so far is four and a half inches.”

“Good,” Will responded, “I worry with how warm it’s been lately.”

“You and me both, last thing any of us want is someone going through the ice.” Matt began walking across the ice toward Will, “Got a few more test holes to drill, but looks like we’re going to be okay for skating today, tomorrow might be a different story.”

Will watched as the middle aged man drilled two more test holes in the ice as he made his way across the pond toward Will. Stopping almost thirty feet from the last test hole he drilled Matt stopped to drill another hole. As he dropped to one knee there was a loud popping noise that sounded very similar to thunder that both men could hear. Only Matt heard the smaller cracking noises as the ice beneath him grew spider web like cracks all around him moments before it gave way.

Will watched as Matt’s head appeared out of the water and his gloved hands dug at the now wet ice sheet unable to find purchase to pull himself out of the water, “Your cleats!” Will yelled from where his wheelchair sat at the edge of the pond, “Use your cleats!”

Using his teeth Will ripped the glove off his right hand then fished his cell phone out of his coat pocket with his now bare hand, quickly dialing 9-1-1 on the older style flip phone.

“9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”

“Aimee? This is Will Olsen, Matt fell through the ice out here at the pond, he needs help.”

Will could hear her dispatching the call on the police stations radio over his phone. “Alright Jerry’s on patrol and on his way, I also alerted the fire department and first responders.”

“Let them know he’s still in the water!”

Aimee, like almost everyone in town had grown up under the old man’s caring shadow, thought of him as family and knew the old man all too well, “You stay off the ice.” When he didn’t reply she spoke into the phone again, “Do you hear me Poppa Will? Don’t you dare go out on the ice after him!”

Had will still been there he may have heard the muffled voice of Amiee from where he had dropped the phone on the packed snow before using that hand to push the small joystick forward on the motorized wheelchair propelling it and himself out onto the ice. Will was more than half way out to where Matt fought for his life, the ice crunching, crackling and popping under the weight of the heavy wheelchair’s rubber tires, before Matt spotted the old man. Stopping his struggle long enough to yell at Will, “What the hell are you doing? That chair weighs a ton, get off the ice!”

“Where’s your cleats?” Will shouted back at him.

“Get off the ice before you…” Matt slid back under the water as he made a sweeping motion with one arm trying to get Will to turn back. Matt broke the surface, both arms flying out onto the ice to hold him from going under again just in time to see Will throw himself forward out of the wheelchair as it lurched to the left, the ice breaking through under the wheel. Landing on its side with a loud thump that vibrated the surrounding ice, the heavy motorized wheelchair broke through and sank into the icy water under the ice.

Gasping to regain his breath after being knocked out of him when he hit the hard ice, Will turned on his side while reaching into his left coat pocket, fighting to get something out with his remaining gloved hand. Unable to do so with the heavy glove on, Will took his empty hand out of his coat pocket, frantically removing the glove before shoving his hand back in his pocket to pull out two short wooden handles that had three short curved rods in each. Holding the two items, one in each hand, the metal rods stuck out between his fingers like claws allowing Will to drag himself across the ice toward the struggling man in the water.

Struggling across the ice until he was within arm’s reach of Matt, Will pushed one then the other of his homemade claws toward Matt. “Take the cleats, pull yourself out!”

Taking the homemade claws into his own hands, Matt struggled to pull himself out of the water but even with his now better grip on the ice with the claws, struggling in the cold water had drained too much of his strength. Pulling himself forward on the ice, Will grabbed onto the back of Matt’s waterlogged coat and began pulling, helping Matt to pull himself out of what he knew would become an icy grave for the man before more help could arrive.

The water that had splashed across the top of the ice from Matt’s struggles hampered them by making the surface even more slippery than normal causing Will to inch closer to the hole in the ice every time he pulled against the weight of the larger man. Slowly inch by inch he managed to help Matt up onto the ice out of the hole.

Rolling over onto his back Matt began coughing as he fought to catch his breath. Through chattering teeth, “T—thanks,” he rolled over in the direction of Will to find no one there. “WILL!” Matt screamed, twisting his body around so he could see the hole in the ice he had fallen through. Finding the only sign that the old man had been there, one of the pac boots Will always slipped on his feet without lacing up, in the hole in the ice, floating in the water.

“WILL!” Matt screamed once again while twisting himself all the way around facing the hole. Reaching out he grabbed the lone boot tossing it behind him out on to the ice before reaching down into the icy water trying to find and purchase on the elderly man so he could pull him up.

Matt was soon pulled back by the volunteer firemen that had laid out one of their ladders across the ice and used it as a safety bridge to crawl out and grab Matt. Matt frantically fought them off until one of the men realized his frantic screaming was because Will had fallen in trying to rescue him.

An hour later the small hole had been widened to over thirty feet across as three men with large grappling hooks tossed them over and over into the water, allowing them to sink to the bottom before pulling them back in, in hopes of snagging part of the elderly man’s clothing and pulling his body out of the pond. They continued expanding the hole as they drug the bottom for a body. The following morning a diver was brought in who scoured every inch of the pond in an attempt to locate the old man’s body but it was never found.

Matt was questioned heavily many hoping in his panic to get out of the ice, he only imagined that Will has saved him, but when a tow truck wrenched the motorized wheelchair out of the pond and officers finding no one at home when they went to check on Will, no one doubted Matt’s story. They even found his walker, his only other means of getting around, in his house right where he always left it beside the spot he always charged his motorized wheelchair.

~o~O~o~

As Will started to regain consciousness the first thing he noticed was the noise of what sounded like tiny bells, ‘Not noise, music,’ as he recognized the tune they played was, ‘It came upon a midnight clear’ a Christmas song. Will laid there with his eyes closed enjoying the music. When that song ended the same bells began playing, ‘Joy to the World.’ Will opened his eyes after hearing a child’s voice whisper, “I think she’s awake.”

Turning his head toward the sound of the voice, Will brushed some light colors something out of the way that had fallen over his eyes before seeing the two your girls from the pond that had given him the new fur cap. Behind the two children the wall looked to be made out of roughhewn pine boards. A fireplace in the middle of the wall with a roaring fire warmed the room its mantle adorned with various Christmas decorations. While a fur tree stood decorated for Christmas in one corner. Will’s eyes widen as he realized just what he thought the two children really were, as this looked like what always envisioned Heaven to be like, “Where, where am I?” Will reached up to his throat as his voice sounded too high pitched for some reason. Finding nothing there, including the whiskers he hadn’t bothered to shave off that morning Will thought back to the last think he could remember.

He was pulling Matt out of the ice hole he had fallen into. Problem was the icy water on top the ice made the ice so slippery, when he gave that final pull that had helped Matt life himself out of the hole, Will has slipped forward too far on the ice and fell into the hole himself. Looking back at the two children, “You, you’re angels?”

Both children began giggling and snickering, “Elves.” One finally answered between giggle fits.

“Noel, Fizzy, why don’t you two make yourselves useful and bring our guest a cup of cocoa and some cookies?” A large man at least six feet in height and almost as big around walked in through a wide arched doorway. His white hair and long white beard along with the red undershirt and red pants with suspenders make it impossible to mistake who is was supposed to be. Will gasped at the sight of the man, his eyes wide as possible, “You, you… no you can’t be!”

“Friad I can be, and I am him,” The white bearded fat man even chuckled the famous ‘Ho, ho, ho.’ “I’d tell you to go ahead and pinch yourself but be careful with those nails I think you could draw blood quite easily.”

Will raised his hand up to see a hand he didn’t recognize. His hands were old and calloused with large knuckles and liver spots. The hand he saw was slender with a healthy but pale complexion. Will would have guessed these to be the hands of a young woman even without the long manicured nails painted in bright green with tiny glittery snowflakes that seemed to magically move across the polished nails, “I’m, I’m a girl?”

Grinning Santa touched a finger to his nose, “It’s been your wish for as long as you can remember.”

“But I never spoke of it, not even when I was alone, no one knew.”

“It’s sort of my job to know what people really want, even when they keep it a secret,” Will couldn’t help but noticed how the man’s belly shook as the man insisting that he was Santa chuckled.

“So if you knew of my wish, why grant it now?” Will puzzled, “Why not last year or ten years ago or forty years ago?”

Santa tilted his head smiling down at Will form where he stood, “If I you had got your wish forty years ago, who would have taught little Joey how to play hockey and eventually make it to the NHL? Who would have pulled the Horton boy out of the water when he ignored the thin ice signs and ran out onto the pond with those bullies chasing him? Would Tina have worked so hard in her dance lessons if Grandpa Will had not been around? How many other lives have you affected over the years?”

“Still that doesn’t explain why now and not a year from now.”

Santa sighed deeply, “Will Olsen was at the end of his time. Between the exertion of trying to save his friend and the shock of the cold water when he slipped into the water, his heart stopped. If we had left you there, they would not have been able to revive you.”

“So I died.”

“No, we pulled you out before that happened,” Santa walked over and sat on the edge of the bed Will was in, “Now about that job…”

~o~O~o~

The bell rang causing the teens sitting behind the desks to jump up and race toward the door to the classroom. The young blond teacher stood up from her desk yelling to be heard above the roar, “Don’t forget, those of you that signed up for caroling be at the park by the skating pond no later than five P.M.” She could only hope the students remembered, although in defense of their excitement to leave, this was the last class on the last day of school before the Christmas holidays.

One dark haired girl lagged behind the other students leaving, walked up to the teacher’s desk, “Miss Maas, I just wanted to say I thought your outfit was gorgeous.”

The teacher looked down at the green velvet dress she wore, the hem of the dress falling halfway to her knees and ending in long white fur trim exactly like the fur trim around the end of the sleeves and the neck opening. “It’s one of my favorite dresses,” Miss Maas smiled at the young teen.”

“I wish I had a dress like yours, its beautiful.”

“Funny that you mention that,” Miss Mass walked over to the door to the storeroom for her classroom, opened the door, then without looking reached in to the side and brought her hand back out holding an identical dress but in a smaller size that would fit the teen on a hangar inside a clear garment bag. “I’ve been hoping to find someone that could use this one as it was too small for me.”

“Oh my god!’ the girl squealed, “You can’t be serious!”

“I’m very serious Lisa,” handing the dress to the girl, “Merry Christmas.”

“Om my god,” Clutching the dress to her breasts, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, this is so awesome! You are like the greatest ever Miss Maas.”

After the student scurried out of the room, Miss Maas looked up to find one of her fellow teachers leaning against the door frame. “Hi Mr. Harris.”

“Schools out Meri, we can use first names now.”

“What can I do for you Steve?”

“I was wondering if you had any plans for Christmas eve?” Standing up away from the doorframe he had been leaning against. “I know you’re single and have no family close by, I thought I would invite you over to my parents for dinner?”

“I’m sorry Steve, Christmas eve is a really busy time for my adopted family, I’ll be flying home to help them with the preparations.” She walked over by him to the coat rack, pulling the bright red hooded coat with white fur trim off the hook. Once she had her coat on she grabbed the fur stocking cap off the coat rack and put it on, quickly pulling it down to cover to top of her ever so slightly pointed ears as the cap forced them to stick out from under her hair. “You can walk me over to the park if you like?” Meri suggested as she went back over to the storeroom and retrieved a large bag.

“I can drive you there?”

“It’s too nice outside, I’d much rather walk.”

“Nice?” Steve shivered, “It’s something like ten degrees out there!”

“Yes, isn’t it wonderful!” Meri smiled, “And since I walk right by there to go home I can check on the kids out skating. I’ve heard some of the boys playing hockey have been getting a bit too aggressive when no one is watching them.”

~o~O~o~

Meri watched the boys playing hockey as she put on her skates. Meri saw so many things going on that the boys would have never tried back when Will kept an eye on them. “Yelling over to the boys, Sticks on the ice where the puck is boys! And you!” pointing at one of the older boys, “If I see you trip anyone again with your stick, you’ll be playing without a stick for the rest of the game!”

The boy turned to Meri, “Who are you to tells us how to play! You’re just a music teacher, you don’t know anything about hockey!”

Meri skated over to the teen looking up at the taller boy, “Okay how about a little one on one, you and me.” Meri grinned up at the taller boy, “And to make it fair I’ll have an open net behind me and you get to keep your goalie. First to five goals wins.”

“Just shows how much you know about hockey, that’s a fools bet!”

“Then show me how foolish I am,” Meri smiled, “But if I win you listen and you follow my rules.”

To say the one on one game was one sided would be an understatement. Meri did aim a few well-placed shots on goal directly at the goalies blade to give him a few saves. When she was up four goals to none Meri stopped in front of the other boys, “Are all you boys going to sit there and watch your teammate lose or are you going to help him?”

One of the boys spoke up, “But I thought it was one on one?”

“Rule one, never leave a teammate out in the cold, always be there for the assist!” Meri shouted, “Now get out there and help your teammate!”

The one on one game turned into Meri teaching the boys about sportsmanship and playing as a team. Finally walking back to the bench where she had left her things she saw Steve sitting on the bench clapping. “That was some of the best skating I believe I’ve ever seen. And you intentionally passing the puck back to the one kid who had ran out of steam by your goal. The surprise on his face when he realized he had the puck and could make a goal. Now that was a Kodiak moment. And the rules you gave them, which reminded me so much of back when I first started playing hockey on this pond and the rules Papa Will would give everyone. But your skating, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone skate like that. It’s was, it was, just wow!”

Meri sat down and began taking off her skates, “I’m really not that good, you should see some of my family on skates, some of them are simply magical on a pair of skates.” Beginning to wonder about his motives for following her out to the park, “So what brought you out here, I thought you said it was too cold.”

“I know you said you have plans to go visit your family,” Steve began, “Where did you say they lived again?”

“Up north.”

“Um yes, you said that, but I can’t remember you mentioning the town you are from?”

“It’s a little place, not even a town really just a small village.” Quickly diverting the subject, “Was there something else on your mind?”

“Oh yes, well I was hoping since you would be flying out of town for the holidays soon, you would let me take you for dinner tonight?”

Meri smiled warmly at the man shaking her head, “I’m sorry Steve, I really do wish I could, but I can’t.”

“But if you want to like you say, what’s the problem?”

“I’m sorry it’s really complicated. It’s just I can’t get involved with anyone right now.”

“Okay, I think I know what the issue is.” Steve held up his hand when he saw Meri ready to interrupt. “You are cryptic about where you are from, you don’t talk much about your past and you’re afraid of getting into a relationship with a man.” Steve reached out to take one of Meri’s hands, “Lots of women have fled from an abusive husband. I’m not him and I swear my intentions are honorable. My only goal is to get to know you better, nothing more, at least for now.”

Meri looked down at their hands as Steve spoke, trying her best not to laugh since he was being so sincere. Looking back up she tried stifling the snickering. “I’m sorry,” Meri took a few deeps breaths between giggles, “I don’t mean to laugh at you, really.” Taking a few moments to finally compose herself, “My adoptive parents are the most wonderful two people you could ever hope meet as are all my cousins. And I have never had a husband, abusive or otherwise.”

“Okay then there is no reason we can’t walk over as two friends and split a pizza.”

Meri sighed, knowing it would be easier to give in than to continue saying no. Anyway she was getting hungry and if she paid for half it wouldn’t be like a real date. “Okay you win, pizza does sound pretty good.”

“Great!” Steve stood up, “My treat!”

~o~O~o~

Two days later Steve stood on the front porch of Meri’s house holding a pair of hockey skates. It had taken him half the day yesterday to dig out all his and his father’s old skating gear. While his father’s old stuff was unnecessary for him to go skating, changing the blades on his own skates for the old crusty ones from his father’s old skates was the only means he could think of as an excuse to come see Meri. Since she had bought Papa Will’s place as is, and Steve had learned that Will’s old skate sharpening machine was still in the garage. Steve had no idea if Meri knew how to use the equipment but as he had spent a lot of time helping Will in the garage during his teen years, although it had been awhile Steve had firsthand experience with the equipment. Taking a deep breath to steady his nerves Steve knocked on the door.

When the door opened Steve quickly began, “Hi Meri, sorry for dropping by unannounced but after watching you and those kids on the ice, I dug out my old skates and was wondering if you still had Will’s old sharpener?” spitting out his rehearsed greeting Steve’s eyes went wide when he saw Meri now had red hair. “You, you dyed you hair.”

Meri smiled warmly at him before turning her head back behind the partially open door, “Meri you have a visitor.” Turning back to Steve, holding out her hand, “Hi I’m Holly, Meri’s cousin.”

“Cousins?” Steve choked out, “You, you’re like her identical twin.”

“Oh heaven’s no, I wish I was as young as Meri, but thank you for thinking I was,” Holly’s chuckle sounded almost like a teenager’s giggle. “Knock the snow off your shoes and come on in, Meri was just making some hot cocoa. Would you care for a cup?”

“Um, yeah, I mean yes that would be great,” Steve answered while kicking the snow off his shoes before entering.

Sitting there in Meri’s Livingroom with her and her cousin, Steve could not believe how much the two women resembled each other, “Sorry if I’m staring but Meri told me she was adopted and I just can’t get over how much you two look alike. You look like sisters.”

Taking a sip of her cocoa Holly smiled, “Yes Meri does share a lot of our family’s characteristics, so we really happy to bring her into the family when we did.”

After finishing their cocoa Meri led Steve out into the garage where she sat up and sharpened his blades with the old machine Will had built so many years ago. Steve was amazed at how well she seemed to know the cobbled together homemade device so well, reshaping and sharpening the blades on his skates faster than he thought that old Will could have.

Finishing his skates Meri turned to find Steve looking at the old wooden work bench on a side wall, “Everything okay Steve?”

“Oh,” Steve turned to face Meri, “Yes, I was just remembering how Will helped me to make my first baseball bat right on this work bench. After my mom passed away we had it rough for a few years, my dad couldn’t afford a lot. I was envious of the boys with all their sports equipment. Will brought me in here and showed me how to make my own.” Pointing under the work bench at a long wooden stepstool, “He made that so I could reach the work bench. He helped me make a bat, then he showed me how to clean and recondition the leather of an old glove then relace it giving me a glove that was better than you could buy at the store.” Steve continued after a big sigh, “I spend most afternoons here after school until my dad got off work. Will said it was to pay for the things like the baseball and hockey equipment he helped me make, but I knew he was doing it so my dad could work extra hours without worrying about me.”

“I have a feeling that wasn’t his only reason.”

Looking over Steve found Meri’s warm smile impelling causing his cheeks to feel warm, “I know most everyone called him grandpa, but to me he really was like a grandfather to me even after my father remarried I still hung out here as much as I could.”

Holding up his freshly sharpened skates, “What do you say we go give these a try?”

“Really, you want to go skating with me?” Steve felt elated that she would ask.

“Sure, why wouldn’t I?” Meri shook the skates at him as if she was tempting a young toddler.

With a big grin on his face, Steve took the skates so they could go back in the house and grab their coats to go skating.

Hours later after Meri had returned home, she sat with Holly in the kitchen, “He’s quite handsome.”

“Steve?” Meri questioned, “You know I can’t.”

“And why not?”

“What about when he gets older and I still look like this?” Meri motioned with her hands at herself. “And I’m so much older than he is, I remember when his mother used to push him around the pond in a baby carriage!”

“Sounds to me someone is afraid of things they have no control over.”

“Holly, he’s already been asking about our family and where we live!”

“So?”

“What do I tell him?”

“If you two become serious, tell him the truth.”

“He’ll think I’m insane!” Meri gasped, “I can’t tell him I used to be old man Will and that Santa’s elves saved me and gave me the body I always dreamed of.”

“I’d start with something simple like, ‘Oh by the way my father is Santa Clause,’ then work your way from there to the really impossible to believe stuff,” Holly laughed.

“Yeah like that would work,” Meri glared at her red haired twin.

“Don’t worry little sister, you have plenty of time to figure it out.”



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