This is a continuation of, “The Story of Meri Kris Mass”, so if you haven’t read that one it’s best to go do that first.
Steve had hoped to have the chance to spend more time with Meri before Christmas but when he arrived at Meri’s house he found a note pinned to the door that read, ‘Gone to visit family for Christmas, will be back on Dec 26.’ With a heavy sigh Steve adjusted the gift wrapped present under his arm before turning to walk back toward his own home. Passing through the park Steve stopped and sat on one of the benches that sounded the pond to watch the children and teens out skating that morning.
As he sat there watching the children skate around on the ice, Steve couldn’t help but wonder about Meri. She had only moved into the small town no more than two weeks before the school year had begun. Bought and moved into Will’s old place, before anyone saw go up for sale. Then seemed to have had the job lined up as the new high school music teacher before anyone knew Mrs. Horton was even going to retire and open the position.
While Steve was only in his fifth year as the science teacher, he had made enough friends among the other teachers to be included in any gossip and he was not the only one that had been surprised about Mrs. Horton’s retirement or her replacement. Many of the teachers resented the way she had been hired as no one had been allowed to bid into the position like normally should have occurred when a position opened like that. Current employees always had first rights to the new position before the school board hired from outside.
Meri had to deal with quite a bit of animosity for the way she was hired. Steve even had to admit it bothered him at first, but Meri shed the hostilities and animosity of the other teachers like water off a duck’s back. And she was so friendly and helpful to everyone it was impossible not to like her. She was the most friendly, giving person Steve had ever had the pleasure to meet. He had to admit to himself that he was originally attracted to her due to her looks. What man wouldn’t be attracted to such a beautiful woman? What Steve found most charming was her attitude, they say people can be put into two categories, those that see the glass half full and those that see it half empty. Meri always seems like her glass was overflowing.
Steve thought that was what he liked best about Meri, her positive attitude and her love of children. It was obvious for anyone that looked that their own mother’s couldn’t have loved the students in her classes more than Meri did. Steve loved children himself and truly wished to find the right women to settle down with and raise a family. His heart told him that Meri was that woman, she was everything he had ever dreamed of, the perfect women in his mind. He could tell she was interested in him, but whatever secret or secrets from her past kept her from letting herself get close to anyone. There was only one thing he could do, and that was be patient and whenever she finally did let him in on her deep dark secret he would have to show her whatever it was didn’t matter to him. He would show her he loved her for the way she was here and now and whatever happened or she did in her past or family secret she kept hidden made no difference to him.
“Hi mom!” Meri waved as she threaded her way over past the dozens of elves rushing about in the enormous kitchen over to the much taller heavyset woman carrying a large sheet of freshly baked cookies.
“Hi Merilyn,” The woman sat the sheet of cookies down on a counter then picked up a spatula that she used to begin transferring the cookies to a cooling rack, “Have you settled into your old home okay?”
Walking over Meri picked up one of the cookies taking a bite from it before answering, “Everything was just as you and daddy said it would be when I got there. Everything was exactly like I left it. The school had all my paperwork ready for me and the kids are so adorable at the school.”
“What about your list?” The white haired woman asked.
“Already gave it to daddy!” Meri grinned, taking another bite from the cookie she was holding, “There were a few that came close to going on the naughty list but I was able to help them become better.”
“Good girl,” The woman smiled lovingly while reaching over with a free hand to gently touch Meri’s cheek, “That’s exactly what we wanted you to do in those cases. The list has nothing to do with judging them, it’s about helping them to grow up giving and receiving the love that all children need.” Going back to removing the hot cookies from the cookie sheet to the cooling rack, “You want to help me with this?”
“That’s what I thought I was doing,” Meri grinned mischievously as she grabbed another cookie and shoved part of it in her mouth. Taking with her mouth full of cookie, “I’m making more room on the cooling rack for your cookies.”
The older woman chuckled, “I think papa may have used a bit too much of the elf magic with you! You’ve got a bit too much of their playful antics. Now grab a spatula and help me with these, I have another pan of them that should be almost ready to come out of the oven I need to check.”
Taking the spatula from her mother Meri shooed her toward the oven as she took her place placing cookies on the cooling rack.
Many hours later Meri plopped down into an overstuffed chair across from a man that bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus, “Daddy I don’t remember there being this much to do last Christmas.”
The older man chuckled a reverberating, “Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho.” Holding his large belly as it jiggled with his laugh. “We didn’t want to overwhelm you last year as you were still getting used to the new you. There is still much for you to learn, but there is no rush and we’ll only give you as much as you feel comfortable doing. One thing I think you are ready for is driving a full team of reindeer.”
“What?” Meri’s eyes shot wide, “Why would I need to have a team of eight?”
“Well you were really comfortable with six on your sleigh before you went back to that town you’re so fond of, what’s two more?”
“But eight?” Meri gaped, “You told me six was more than enough to pull a sleigh.”
“Quite correct if you want to stay on the ground, “he laughed again. “You don’t want to stay on the ground do you?”
“You’re serious?” Meri couldn’t believe what she was hearing, “You’re really going to let me learn to fly?”
“I have always had intentions of you learning that,” Smiling at Meri, “You have no idea how helpful you can be once you’re comfortable flying a full team. So tomorrow I want you to go find two more that are willing to work with the six you already have and start letting them get used to being a team.”
Mrs. Claus came walking in through an open arched doorway carrying a tray that held three steaming mugs and a plate piled high with cookies. Sitting the tray down on a table near the two, Mrs. Claus sat down in a plush chair beside Santa.
“Are these new?” Santa grinned reaching out to pick up one of the chocolate covered delights as he looked over at his wife to see her nod. Holding the cookie up in front of his eyes, he turned it several times, inspecting the new treat, “Oh I so love the job of taste testing your new recipes momma.”
“As I know you are dear,” Mrs. Claus smiled while patting her hand gently on his thigh, “but these were Meri’s invention.”
Smiling over at Meri, “So my daughter what kind of a new delight have you created.”
Meri grinned, “Peanut butter cookies with a double dipped milk chocolate coating.”
After taking a bite of the cookie, “Mmmm, the have to go on my favorite kinds of cookies list!”
“Papa,” Mrs. Claus chuckled, “every cookie you’ve ever eaten is on that list!”
“That’s because they’re all my favorites!” Santa laughed.
“Now that we are all here together with a nice warm cup of cocoa in our hands,” Mrs. Claus smiled over at Meri. “I wanted to ask you about this new man in your life?”
Man in my life?” Meri almost spat out the hot cocoa she had just taken a sip of, “Momma there is no man in my life.”
“What about Steven?”
“Who’s Steven?” Santa looked back and forth between his wife and Meri.
“He’s just a coworker,” Meri stated. “He teaches science at the same school I teach at.”
Jerking his head over to look back at Mrs. Claus, “Are you saying that our Meri has a boyfriend already?”
Patting Santa’s arm with her hand, “Well dear she is an adult and her maternal clock is ticking.”
“Whoa! Wait a minute!” Meri jumped up from the chair she was in, “I do not have any clock ticking and I don’t have a boyfriend! It wouldn’t do me any good if I did since you said we can’t have children and I’m not human anymore.”
“Who said you couldn’t have children?” Santa asked.
Santa held out his hand while shrugging his shoulders and shaking his head.
“Yes you did, you told me we couldn’t have children,” Meri huffed.
“What I think your father meant was that ‘we’ as in he and I couldn’t have children dear,” Mrs. Claus explained. “You can give us as many grandchildren as you want.”
“I, what?” Meri all but collapsed back into her chair, “But I’m an elf?”
‘You’re only half elf, which means you’re still half human,” Mrs. Claus stated.
“Well, probably closer to thirty, thirty five percent human, “Santa chuckled. “Needed to put a little bit more elf into the magic to get your change to go just right.”
“She can still have children can’t she poppa?” Mrs. Claus looked alarmed.
“Well of course she can dear! Do you think I would have left that out?” Santa boasted.
Mrs. Claus let out the breath that she was holding, “Good, good.”
“Mom, dad, I’m sitting right here?” Meri couldn’t believe the two were having such an animated conversation about her having children. “And do you think I may need a little time to get used to the idea of being changed into an elf girl before we begin naming my children?”
“What he is saying is true poppa,” Mrs. Claus took Meri’s side. “Why we haven’t even met her suitor yet, nor has he asked permission to court Meri yet.”
“Good idea dear,” Santa turned and yelled out through the open doorway, “Harness my team boys, Mother and I are going on an outing!”
“WHAT!” Meri jumped up out of her chair, “No! Daddy you can’t!”
“Why not?” Santa tilted his head giving Meri his full attention.
Searching her thoughts for a reason good enough to stop any arguments Meri realized Christmas Eve was two days away and if anything could keep him from leaving right now that would be it, “Christmas, that’s why! You can’t go flying off to who knows where right now, you’re needed here. And what would happen to Christmas if something happened to you right now? No you have to stay here, there’s too much at stake for you to go anywhere this close to Christmas.”
“She does have a point poppa,” Mrs. Claus agreed.
“Oh alright,” Santa sighed, then looked over at his wife, “I was looking forward to a midnight ride, just you, me alone in the sleigh with the Aurora Borealis to light our way.”
“Okay with that mental vision that I did not want, I’m going to bed,” Meri snickered getting up from the chair and leaving the room.
Entering her room the first thing Meri saw was the pulsing glow of a snow globe that sat on small round table just big enough to hold the eighteen inch clear ball and its base. With a heavy sigh Meri closed the door and walked over to the crystal globe. “Okay what’s got you all glowy?” Meri asked as she peered into the wintry scene it contained. In the snow globe she saw several boys frozen in various positions on a sheet of ice playing hockey. Meri cringed when she noticed two boys off to the side. The larger boy was dressed completely in hockey gear, pants, jersey, even a regulation helmet, while the smaller boy appeared to have put on multiple layers of old clothes to protect him from the cold and accidental flying puck, he also had longer hair that came out from under a cheap plastic football helmet and his skates, they were white figure skating skates. Reaching down where the crystal globe met its base Meri touched a ring that seemed to join the two together. The ring began to slowly rotate to the right.
Meri watched the scene unfold inside the snow globe as the boys became animated and took on realistic qualities.
“Get lost you little fag!” The larger boy yelled at the smaller boy, “Nobody wants you on their team.”
“I, I just wanted to play hockey,” The smaller boy cringed.
“We don’t allow girls to play, they could get hurt,” The larger boy smirked.
“I’m not a girl!” The smaller boy’s voice raised in anger.
“Really?” the larger boy goaded, “You’re wearing girl’s skates and you got long hair. Why don’t you take off your gloves so we can see what color you painted your fingernails?” The larger boy grinned at the smaller, “You know if you were to stop pretending to be a boy, put on a nice dress and a little make up I’d be tempted to ask you to the movies.”
Seeing the opportunity to really get under the larger boy’s skin the smaller boy yelled, “You call me a fag, then try to ask me out? Sounds like we know which one of us really likes boys.”
“YOU LITTLE SHIT!” the larger boy swung his hockey stick up from the ice at the smaller boy’s head.” Meri tapped the ring to stop it from rotating further, freezing the scene in place.
Meri’s eyes went wide as she saw the arc the stick would take, which would cause it to catch the smaller boy in the neck on its edge doing some serious damage if not killing the smaller boy. Standing up straight Meri began to pace back and forth across her room trying to think of anything she could do to stop the boy from being hurt badly. After ten minutes of pacing Meri went back to the snow globe to stare at the scene for several minutes.
Reaching out to the ring once again, Meri pulled it slowly to the left causing the scene to reverse as if she was rewinding a video. Freezing it once again at the point where the larger boy’s stick was on the ice held close to the larger boy’s right foot. Putting her finger on the clear orb, some of the glittery fake snowflakes inside picked up from the floor of the snow globe and began to flow around as if they had magically came to life. Swirling around at the boy’s foot and hockey stick obscuring both from view for a few moments before suddenly drifting down to the white floor of the snow globe although leaving one change to the frozen scene. The laces of the larger boy’s skate was wrapped around his hockey stick and appeared to be frozen in place. Meri then pushed the ring to the right and allowed it to finish playing out the scene, only this time with the laces of his skate frozen to his stick, trying to swing the stick at the other boy caused him to jerk his own foot up off the ice which caused him to fall back on his butt on the ice.
The smaller boy giggled quite girlishly at the fallen boy, “If I did date boys, I would never go on a date with a loser like you.”
Sitting on the park bench holding the present he had bought for Meri, Steve sat the present down and got up when he saw the two boys out on the ice yelling at each other and began walking quickly toward them. He hadn’t taken more than five steps out onto the ice when he saw the larger boy apparently trip and fall down on his backside. Seeing the larger boy struggling on the ice Steve continued out and helped him up as he asked, “Are you okay Carl?”
“Yes, god damn stick is stuck to my laces!” The boy spat.
“Language Carl,” Steve cautioned the boy. “We might not be in class but I’m still one of your teachers.”
“Yes sir Mr. Harris,” the boy’s tone became much more subdued. “Sorry, but I can’t get my stick loose.”
Steve knelt down to look at the problem. Seeing the ice buildup on the laces and stick he stood back up, “Looks like your laces are iced up on your stick. You should take them off and go home to let the ice melt or you might ruin your laces.” Glancing around the pond, “Where’d you leave your boots? I’ll help you over so you can get these skates off.”
Motioning toward the opposite side of the pond, “I can do it by myself.”
“I won’t have you falling and getting hurt, I’d never hear the end of it from your mother,” Steve held onto the boy’s arm. As the two made their way across the ice Steve looked back over his shoulder at the smaller boy, “Shawn why don’t you take Carl’s place so the game doesn’t have to end.” Carl cringed and began mumbling under his breath when he heard his teacher.
After making sure the boy got his skates off and was on his way home, Steve walked around the edge of the pond so he wouldn’t interfere with any of the kids skating, picked up the present he had left on the park bench and began walking to his own home.
Dropping the gift wrapped present beside the 42 inch flat screen sitting on the wide entertainment center to the left of the door after entering the house, Steve sat down on a bench took off his boots and then slipped his feet into some slippers that had been sitting beside the bench. Walking through the room into the kitchen, Steve made himself a sandwich which he carried back out on a paper plate along with a can of soda from the fridge. Sitting the plate and can down on the coffee table as he sat down, Steve picked up the TV remote and began surfing through the channels for something to watch as he ate his sandwich.
The contrast of the brightly wrapped gift sitting on the drab brown wood of the entertainment center and the bare cream color of the wall behind it kept drawing Steve’s eye. Eventually causing Steve to look around to see just how plain his undecorated living room was. Steve had always celebrated Christmas at his parent’s home and had always neglected to decorate his own home during the holidays. Even when he was in college it was his roommate that prodded Steve into helping decorate, even the year their sole Christmas decoration was a tree shaped pyramid of various colored beer cans, emptied of course by Steve and his roommate, before being glued together into the form and a Small strand of lights wrapped around the shape. Looking back at the gift wrapped package it looked so out of place lying there.
Finishing his sandwich and soda, Steve deposited his trash in the kitchen bin, pulled his boots and coat back on and was out the door once again. Jumping in the small pickup truck he owned, Steve found himself at the center of town where a small parking lot had been roped off and was selling Christmas trees. Steve had planned on finding a small tree but after seeing the seven foot tall Douglas fir, he knew it was the one he had to have. The tree reminded him of Meri, it just seemed to scream Christmas spirit just like she did in the way she dressed and treated people so compassionately. After loading the tree into the back of his truck, Steve proceeded out of their small town to the closest Walmart located about fifteen miles away in the next town over. There he bought a tree stand, ornaments, tinsel, lights and garland. It was close to midnight when Steve finally climbed into bed, Meri’s present now lying under the multi-colored twinkling lights of the tree that stood in the corner of his living room brightly decorated.
Even before Meri sat up in bed the following morning she glanced over at the large two foot diameter snow globe sitting on its pedestal. Meri thought back to the day she had met Jinglebauble, or ‘JB’ as she tended to call him rather than the nickname other elves had given him of ‘Tinker’ that he didn’t care for. That was the day he had given her the snow globe and the smaller six inch one she had in her house back in her small home town that was linked to it. JB like all the elves had magical abilities although unlike most the other elves JB’s magical ability dealt with time or to be more precise space/time itself. JB had tried to explain it to her several times over the days he spent teaching her how to use her set of snow globes but his explanations went over her head so quickly Meri thought she needed someone like Albert Einstein to understand everything JB tried to tell her. Meri understood that her snow globes held the same clockwork magic to a smaller extent that the large clock in the village center and Santa’s sleigh.
The large three story clock in the center of the village was the heart of the system that allowed Santa to perform his amazing one night miracle of delivering toys to children all over the world. His sleigh, and all the snow globes used, all magically linked to the large clock’s magic. The least powerful but so useful snow globes picked up on events when it was possible for Meri or anyone that had one of the magical snow globes, to intervene in a situation to hopefully create a better outcome.
Sliding her feet out from under the thick comforter and over the side of the bed, Meri slipped her feet into the slippers she had left there on the floor. Standing up out of bed, Meri pulled on the thick red fleece robe trimmed in white fur then proceeded to the fireplace in the corner of her room, where she stirred up the hot coals before dropping a couple small logs on to the fire. Looking over at the French doors that led out to a balcony, frost had settled on the glass obscuring her from looking outside, the reflection of the Borealis coloring the cobwebs of frost in multicolored hues of reds, greens, blues, purple and yellows that seemed to twinkle like Christmas lights as she moved around the room to her snow globe.
Looking into the crystal globe, Meri could see the scene was centered on a street she recognized not far from the park but she found it confusing that it showed nothing more than the late night deserted street. Moving the scene forward or in reverse had no affect either. Having never seen this happen before she decided to ask Holly who was in the next room over. Wrapping her robe tight around her body then securing it with the red sash attached to it Meri walked over to Holly’s room and knocked. After hearing, “Come in.” Meri did so, closing the door behind her to find Holly buried under several blankets and comforters curled up in the fetal position shivering.
“Holly are you sick?”
“No, fr, freez, ing,” Meri heard come out from under the pile of bed covers.
Giggling, Meri walked over to the fireplace in the room and used the poker to stir up the coals and partially burnt logs until she had the fire going well again and placed several more small logs into it. Walking over to Holly’s bed Meri picked up Holly’s green robe and took it over to the fireplace. “Hey I need that!” she heard Holly’s complaint from behind her.
“This is trick my mother used to do for me when I was small,” Meri held the robe open in front of the fireplace to let it begin absorbing the heat. Giving the robe several minutes to get toasty warm Meri looked back over her shoulder at Holly, “Get ready to jump out of bed and put this on.”
Doing as she was told, Holly jumped out of bed and quickly slipped on the robe that Meri held up and helped her into. Holly smiled as she wrapped the warm robe around her body, “Oh my god, thank you, you’re an angel!” Holly smiled over at Meri, “I know being from Minnesota you’re used to cold, but in San Antonio this room would be considered a deep freeze.”
Meri laughed, “Well now that I have you dug out of that pile of blankets, I was wondering if you’ve even had your globe show nothing,” Meri thumbed toward Holly’s own snow globe, sitting on its pedestal.
Holly cocked her head to one side squinting a bit, “You mean after it does the glowy stuff right?”
Holly shook her head, “Not really, but I remember tinker saying that they can pick up distortions. But if there was some weird distortion in your area it would have shown up on my globe too as mine is still attuned to all of North America.” Both women looked over at Holly’s snow globe which sat perfectly benign. Walking over to her snow globe, Holly used her hands to turn and twist the scene inside to an aerial view of Meri’s home town, “Where exactly was it showing?”
Having followed Holly over to the snow globe, Meri touched the globe with her thumb and first finger then spread them out causing the scene to zoom in on one street. “There!” Meri pointed.
Holly stared at Meri with her mouth agape, “How, how did you do that?”
“Do what?” Meri’s voice trailed off.
Her hand covering her mouth, Holly replied, “You used my snow globe. You can’t use someone else’s globe.”
“I’m sorry,” Meri gasped, jerking her hand away from the globe, “I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to?”
“No,” Holly quickly explained, “You don’t understand, it shouldn’t have worked for you at all. They’re only supposed to work for the one who they were made for.”
“Then how was I able to make yours work for me?”
“I don’t have a clue.” Holly then grinned at Meri, “But we both know who would know.”
“Jinglebauble,” Meri smiled back, “He made them.”
“He will also be able to tell us why your globe acted so weird,” Holly added. “Let’s get dressed and go see him.”
Once dressed the two headed downstairs only to be caught by Mrs. Claus with two steaming mugs of hot cocoa she handed to them before they could get out the door. “Where are you two heading is such a hurry? And before you’ve even had a cup of cocoa. Come girls, let’s go find some food to go with that cocoa. Whatever it is cannot be as important as a good breakfast.”
The two followed Mrs. Claus into a dining room that could have sat at least twenty people. Looking up form where he sat Santa greeted the girls, “Good morning girls.” Noticing how they were already dressed to go outside his gaze focused on Meri, “Going to practice with your team this morning?”
“Hi daddy,” Meri smiled at the large bearded man, “I was actually going to go see J.B. My snow globe was acting funning this morning and thought he might have an idea why?”
“Your globe was acting funny?” One of his bushy white eyebrows rose as he sat straight up, “Nothing serious I hope?”
Meri shook her head, “No, it was strange though. It alerted me to nothing, only showing me an empty street and some houses.”
“Sounds like a minor glitch,” Santa’s posture relaxed, “I wouldn’t worry Jinglebauble with it right now as he should be starting the countdown and doesn’t like to be disturbed once he goes in the clock tower.”
Before Meri had a change to rebuke her father’s glossing over the unusual way her snow globe has acted and elf came running into the room and began whispering into Santa’s ear. Meri watched as his eyes widened at the information the elf relayed to him, which concerned Meri greatly as tonight was Christmas Eve, “Everything alright daddy?”
Looking from the Elf over to Meri, “Oh, mmm… Yes, yes everything is fine, why don’t you and Holly go ahead and go find Jinglebauble like you had planned, while I take care of something that came up.”
Meri looked inquisitively over at the man who she now called father, “I thought you didn’t want us bothering him? Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yes, everything is fine, but you two should hurry so you catch him before he goes into the clock tower,” waving his hands in a shooing motion for them to leave.
“This isn’t funny. Where are all the adults? I demand you children tell me where the adults are!” Meri eyes widened in shock as she recognized the voice coming from the hallway the elf had entered.
Running around the table and through the doorway, Meri stopped when she saw a group of maybe a dozen elves surrounding a much taller human man, “Steve what are you doing here?”
“Meri?” Steve stopped when he saw the woman standing in the hallway ahead of him. “What the hell is going on?” All the elves around him stopped and gasped, some placing their hand over their mouths while others froze in place at Steve’s outburst. “Why are all these kids dressed up like Christmas elves? Is this some kind of bad joke?”
Turing to look back into the room she had been in to see her father already out of his chair and halfway to Meri, “Daddy you promised!”
Walking out into the hallway Santa put both hands up on Meri’s shoulders, “I would never break a promise to you honey, I haven’t left the village.”
Pointing toward Steve, “Then how is he here?”
“No, no, no, no, no!” Steve shouted. His eyes glued to the large bearded man wearing a red undershirt and red trousers held up with black suspenders he saw walk out to Meri. His hand shaking as he pointed at the two ahead of him, “You, you’re…” Then looking around at the crowd of what he thought were children, “These are elves, real elves!”
Many of the elves began snickering and giggling, one finally coming forward, “Santa didn’t break his promise Meri, Twinkleleaves and Brandysnap brought him here.”
“Why would they do something like that?” Meri gasped.
“Because we all love you and want you to be happy,” anther elf answered
“And we heard Santa say that he and Mrs. Claus had to talk to him before they would allow him to court you,’ the first elf finished.
“Sa, Santa, elves,” Steve gulped as he looked over at Meri with eyes wide, “He’s your father!”
“Meri, maybe you should bring your boyfriend in here so he can sit down, “the voice of Mrs. Claus came from the dining room most had been in, “I’ll fix him a cup of cocoa.”
“Okay momma,” Meri looked through the doorway at Mrs. Claus then holding her hand out in Steve’s direction, “My mom is right, come on Steve, I know this is a lot to take in.”
“A lot to take in? This, This is impossible!” Steve’s eyes couldn’t open wider in shock, pointing at Santa, “He’s real! Santa Claus and elves are real! And you, you’re his daughter!”
Meri merely nodded as she motioned for him to take her hand, leading him into the dining room where she sat Steve down at the table.
The rest of Steve’s day was filled with wonder and surprise as he helped Meri and the elves ready presents to go all over the world. Working throughout the day with breaks where elves would bring out trays filled with steaming mugs of hot cocoa and other full of cookies, before Steve knew it the whole day had passed and elves were finishing up and filing out of the workshop.
Looking over at Meri for an explanation, “Where’s everyone going?”
“The clock tower. It’s almost midnight.” Meri grinned, “Ever wonder how Daddy can deliver all these presents in one night?”
“Well yeah, who hasn’t?”
Giggling she took Steve’s hand and began pulling him toward the door, “You’re about to find the answer. Although you can’t tell anyone.”
“If I was to tell anyone about today they would lock me up!” Steve laughed.
Outside everyone had gathered around the front of the clock tower. Looking up Steve could see the small hand on the clock face pointing up at the numeral twelve, the longer minute hand pointing three tick marks to the left of twelve as the longer but thinner second hand moved from one tick mark to the next on its circuit around the clock face. Glancing around the crowd he could see that most everyone was also looking up at the clock face. The antique faced clock continued ticking it way toward midnight, when only seconds remained Steve noticed the elves around Meri and himself holding their breath until the second hand lined up with both the hour and minute hands all pointing straight up at the numeral twelve and stopped.
As a collective sigh of relief came over the crowd, Steve looked over at Meri, “Was it supposed to stop like that?”
Meri grinned, “Check your watch.”
Pushing his sleeve up to see his wrist watch Steve noticed its digital display which was still set to their home town’s time had stopped at 7:58:34 PM, “Something stopped all the clocks?”
“Actually the clocks are still working,” Meri’s grin widened as she pondered whether his background in science would help him come to the truth or make it impossible for him to figure out.
Hours later as Steve rode in the sleigh Meri drove to bring Santa fresh reindeer and another sleigh loaded with gifts, Meri couldn’t stop herself from giggling when she saw the revelation on Steve’s face as they flew past an airliner that appeared frozen in the air above them. “You, you can stop time!” Steve gasped.
Meri grinned over at him in the sleigh beside her, “No, not really but it looks that way to us. JB explained it to me, of course most of it went over my head but what I got out of his explanation was that we move faster in time than everything around us. It all has to do with the clock tower and he told me the sleighs are tied to it magically so they run on the same time as the village.”
Steve’s eyes grew wide at the realization of what Meri was saying, “You’re telling me you can manipulate the fourth dimension? That’s, that’s imp…” Steve sat there slack jawed staring at Meri.
Shaking his head, “I was going to say impossible, but I’ve seen so much today that should be impossible that nothing should surprise me now.”
“Mind if I ask a question?” Meri grin faded into an impish almost sky look.
“Sure although I can’t see me knowing anything you don’t about all this?”
“What’s a fourth dimension?”
“Time.” Steve continued, “We exist in three dimensions, length, height and depth, three dimensional space. But we all travel through time which is considered the fourth dimension and why scientists now uses the term space-time to relate to all four dimensions. As far as science knows there is no way to manipulate time, I can’t even imagine what kind of apparatus it would take to duplicate this effect.”
“The clock tower does it.”
“Yes, but how, what kind of technology is built into your clock tower?”
Meri giggled, “Can’t you just believe it's magic?”
“Two hundred years ago a flashlight would be considered magic.”
“What’s that got to do with the clock tower?”
“Clarke’s law,” Steve grinned knowing he had won their little debate. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
“Well the only elf that might be able to explain how it works is JB and he won’t leave the clock tower until Daddy has delivered all the presents and Christmas is over.”
“Great, I can ask him about it tomorrow,’ Steve smiled.
Meri pointed down at the city frozen in time below them, “Tomorrow for them, not us.”
Steve stood outside in the village square looking at the clock tower while he waited on Meri, they were at end of the twelfth day of ferrying sleighs and fresh reindeer to Santa and returning with the ones he had been using to let the elves restock the sleigh and give the reindeer a rest. Steve had left the cottage early this morning so he could observe the clock tower and hopefully catch the reclusive elf that operated it. The only things he knew for certain was that time here ran at different scale in relation to the outside world. From the movement of the hands on the large clock face above him in the tower one day here roughly equaled two hours in the outside world meaning twelve days would pass here while only one would pass to everyone else in the world. This allowed Santa to quite literally chase midnight around the globe as he delivered presents.
From what Steve gathered from talking with Meri’s mother and some of the elves time would resume here or resynchronize with the rest of the world once the clock tower’s hands made a full sweep around and returned to twelve o’clock. Which was why as more and more elves finished with their work began gathering around the clock just like Steve? Although Steve’s motives were slightly different, while the elves anticipated the clock returning to normal, Steve wanted to talk with Jinglebauble about the clock itself, most notably how it worked.
The one thing above all the craziness over the past days Steve appreciated was all the time he got to spend with Meri and how close they had already become. If not for the elves abducting him in his sleep he would still be trying to talk Meri into a date. Instead he had the pleasure of her company every day for the past twelve days, most of that time he spent alone with her in the front seat of the most magical sleigh ride imaginable. Something had attracted him to Meri the first time he saw her and no it wasn’t her looks, it was something else about her. Yes she was quite beautiful, Steve thought that with her looks she could have easily become a model instead of a teacher. Steve thought it was how kind and generous she was with everyone. How she always seemed to be there to say or do just the right thing to help a student or fellow teacher. How just being in her presence made you want to be your best for her.
While Meri had not actually told Steve that she would be inclined to date him the way she now held his hand at times and had begun to sit closer, almost snuggling up against him over the past few days in the sleighs gave him the encouragement that it was a definite possibility in their future.
Meri walked up beside Steve, “Can’t wait for this to be over and get home where things are much calmer?”
“What? No,” Steve‘s cheeks felt suddenly warm when he realized he answered so quickly. Looking down he reached over taking Meri’s hand before looking back up at her, “I’ve loved every moment we’ve been able to spend together here.”
“I’m glad,” Meri stood up on her toes kissing Steve on the cheek. “Because I’ve really enjoyed spending time with you too.”
“Does this mean you’ll go out with me?”
A wide smile spread across Meri’s face as she nodded.
Looking down into her eyes, Steve slowly leaned down to kiss her. At the same instant the second hand of the clock in the tower lined back up signifying twelve o’clock midnight, the twenty four hours of the clock tower’s magic were up.
Rolling over in the bed Steve saw the time on the digital alarm clock on his bedside table read ‘7:48 AM’. Startled at seeing his own alarm Steve quickly sat up in bed glancing around disoriented and confused at finding himself back in his own bedroom. Looking down at himself he had on the sweatshirt and lounge pants he had on prior to his abduction. Picking up his wrist watch from the side table where he had placed it before his twelve days spent helping Meri and her father, he could see the date read, ‘25’ so it was Christmas day. He reasoned the clock tower slowed time so that the twelve days he was gone equaled only one day here so it should be the twenty-fifth, no wait it should be the twenty sixth if I had really been there.
Steve sighed heavily as he came to the logical conclusion, “It was a dream! It was just a dream.” His shoulders slumped as his heart sank, Steve couldn’t believe it had all been a dream. Everything felt so real, the elves were so real, Meri was so beautifully real. It was quite some time later when Steve finally gathered enough pieces of his broken spirit to swing his legs out from under the covers and get out of bed. Wandering into the kitchen he filled the coffee pot with water then reached into the cupboard above it for the box of K-cups that fits the coffee maker. Pulling the 8 inch square blue box from the cupboard. The label read ‘Jamaican Blue Mountain’, normally his favorite coffee but he couldn’t get his mind off Mrs. Claus’ hot cocoa of course it had been the greatest hot drink he had ever tasted, it was a dream after all. Placing the small plastic cup in the receptacle in the machine, Steve closed the lid. Placing the box back in the cupboard he withdrew a coffee mug that he sat under the appropriate spot in the machine and after selecting the cup size on the side of the machine he hit the brew button. Steve thought he would have to stop by the store tomorrow when it reopened and buy some hot chocolate cups for his machine. Walking over to the counter he picked up the pad of paper and pen he always left beside the telephone and wrote down, ‘K-cup, hot chocolate’ then after thinking for a moment he wrote down ‘spiced cider’ beside that. Steve had forgotten how much like loved both drinks as a kid, having a cup at Meri’s house the other day he reasoned was how they had become part of his incredibly pleasant dream.
After a cup of coffee and a quick breakfast of instant oatmeal Steve got showered and dressed for the day as his step mother would be expecting him to be at their house by noon. For the rest of the morning Steve puttered around the house and watched TV. Knowing he would be send home with over half of any leftovers after dinner at his parents and his step mother really laid out the food for Christmas dinner.
Almost ten thirty on the dot the phone rang, knowing who it would be since she made the same phone call every year at the exact same time, Steve picked up the phone, “Hi mom.”
“Hi honey,” Steve heard his stepmother’s voice. “I was just calling to make sure you’re awake and got everything.”
“Yes mom,” Steve held back the chuckle, “Everyone’s presents are sitting by the garage door so I can’t forget them.”
“That’s good honey,” His stepmother paused, “Angie told me she saw you skating with a woman when she was at the park. Chris said it was his new music teacher, should I set another plate for dinner?” Steve could hear the hopefulness in his stepmother’s voice.
Steve sighed wishing he could tell her yes, “Her name is Meri, um Merilyn Mass, and yes she is the new music teacher. But she is out of town spending Christmas with her family, so no you shouldn’t set an extra plate.”
“Well tell me about her? What’s she like?”
It was another fifteen minutes of answering questions, many he really couldn’t answer before he was able to hang up the phone. By then he really needed to gather everything and get ready to leave.
Just after eleven o’clock the phone rang. Believing it was his step mom again Steve picked up the phone and immediately said into it, “Yes mom, Chris’ and Angie’s presents are already in the trunk and I was just getting ready to head out the door.”
“Oh I guess that answers my question,” He heard Meri giggling on the other end of the phone.
“Meri?” Steve’s heart skipped a beat. “Oh shoot, I’m sorry I thought it was my mom.”
“Yes it’s me,” Meri stifled the giggling. “I was able to catch a ride home earlier than expected and was going to ask if you had any plans for this evening, but I guess you do.”
“Uh yeah, my mom would skin me alive if I didn’t make an appearance for Christmas dinner.” Steve remembered how his stepmom had asked about setting another plate, “So what have you got planned? My mom asked me to invite you to Christmas dinner. Apparently my little brother and sister saw us skating together and now she thinks we’re an item. You wouldn’t mind saving me from the Spanish inquisition she’s going to give me would you?”
“Spanish inquisition!” Meri giggled, “She can’t give you the Spanish inquisition. No one expects the Spanish inquisition! Since you know it's coming she’s already lost her chief weapon, surprise, fear and surprise. Their two chief weapons, fear, surprise and ruthless efficiency!” Meri couldn’t finish as they both began laughing too hard to talk.
“Oh god that was funny!” Steve caught his breath, “I never expected you to be a python fan.”
“Now what kind of music teacher would I be if I didn’t know the spam song? And yes I will be happy to go and save your from the Spanish inquisition.”
“You will?” Steve perked up. “I, I thought you told me you couldn’t, you know because of your life being complicated.”
Meri was glad he couldn’t see her blush over the phone, “While I was home something made me realize those complications weren’t as bad as I thought and would like to give us a chance, I mean if you can handle my family that is.”
“Speaking of your family I had the strangest dream.”
“Um yeah,” Steve hesitate to tell her about it but his need to be closer to Meri forced him to explain. “Well guess it has a lot to do with it being Christmas and the way you dress, you know kind of like a Christmas elf or something with the hat and coat and such. I know it sounds silly but in my dream Santa was your father.”
“I guess if you can accept that and still want to be with me, then there is very little that could stop us from seeing each other,” Meri giggled.
Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Steve chuckled then realized Meri didn’t call it silly or deny it. “He isn’t your father is he?”
“What a silly question,” Meri giggled. “So what time should I be ready for you to pick me up?”
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