It’s Christmas Eve Eve and what better theme for #1LineWed than CHRISTMAS! I only have one WIP with Christmas in it–next year’s Moonstruck Christmas Novella–MIDNIGHT MOON. Subscribers to my newsletter got a blurb from the Light Wars chapter. 😉 So I’m going to pull another snippet from MIDNIGHT MOON, written as a #FlashFiction piece about a tipsy Santa (or tipsy other holiday being 😉 ) Y’all might remember Grace (the orphan daughter of Sally and Danny) and Joy, the young girl Nate saved from that Black Root lab in the bayous. So Merry Christmas Eve Eve and I hope you enjoy:
Grace stuck her fingers in her mouth, staring at the man snoring in the bench. He was fat, his face covered in white whiskers, and he snored. He also wore a red puffy coat, dirty pants, and old boots. Joy grabbed her arm and jerked her back. Grace’s gaze bounced between her and the old man.
She tried to pull her away but the little girl dug in her heels and refused to budge. Joy’s nose crinkled. The old dude smelled ripe—BO and booze. She recognized both odors from one of the guards at the lab. Not a happy combination—the stink or the memory. She didn’t get Grace’s fascination but they needed to escape before the adults found them. They were supposed to be asleep in the car but she’d been awake when they stopped for gas and food. The big man—Nate—he’d parked the SUV after filling it up, made sure they were still asleep and then went inside to find Jacey. She was his wife or something.
Joy was having trouble getting used to life outside the lab. It was scary out here and there was so much she didn’t know. She pulled on Grace’s hand but the kid still didn’t budge. She threw up her hands, grabbed then hoisted the toddler over her shoulder like a sack of laundry. Grace giggled but as she turned to walk away, the little girl’s words stopped Joy dead in her tracks.
“Bye bye, Santa. Feel better.”
Santa? She thought the old drunk was Santa? Crud. Joy didn’t believe in any of that stuff. Didn’t even know there was such a thing as Christmas and Santa Claus before the big man opened her cell. Holidays weren’t something celebrated in the lab. Since being freed, she’d discovered lots of things and one of them was that little kids needed something to believe in. Grace was way too young to give up Christmas fun. Before she could figure out what to say, the man woke up.
“Ho, ho, ho, baby girl.”
Grace pushed off Joy’s back with her arms so she could see the man and giggled again. She raised one pudgy hand and waved. “Hi, Santa.”
Joy eased the toddler to the floor and faced the man. His eyes were blue and blood-shot, his breath almost as bad as his body odor. He focused on her and Joy fought the urge to run before his gaze shifted to the baby.
Grace darted to him as Joy made a futile grab, her fingers missing the little girl’s jacket by a fraction of an inch. The man straightened on the bench just as Grace launched into his lap. Joy fisted her hands, ready to wade in to save Grace. The little girl settled into his lap and leaned against him, utterly trusting. How did the old guy know Grace’s name?
Something shimmered around the man and he straightened up. “Gotta lay off thosh hot toddiesss,” he slurred. Shaking his head, he blinked several times, as if waking up. He jiggled his leg and Grace crowed in delight at the ride. Still bleary-eyed, he gazed at Joy.
“They picked well,” his words not so drunken now.
She jerked back almost as if she’d suffered a blow. “What?”
“Nate and Jacey. Naming you Joy.”
Terrified, she didn’t know what to do. Her mouth moved and words she hadn’t planned came out. She never talked. “How do you know that?”
He smiled and his ruddy cheeks got even redder. “I’m Santa Claus. I know everything.” His smile dimmed. “Too bad I can’t fix everything. But, if you let them, your parents will.”
“Not my parents.” She refused to meet his eyes.
“They will be, baby girl. They already love you and this little one.” He set Grace down then stood, weaving a bit. “Yup, a little tipsy. Definitely gotta stop with the peppermint schnapps in the cocoa.” He inhaled and almost seemed to inflate. His eyes twinkled and were those bells? “That’s the secret, Joy.”
Joy snatched the toddler’s hand then stood there gaping as the man shimmered again. And disappeared. What the…?
Grace waved at thin air. “Bye-bye, Santa.”
“Secret?” Joy whispered?
“The magic of love, Joy. That’s the secret.” His voice came from nowhere, but everywhere. “Merry Christmas.”
She said the only thing that came to mind. “Merry Christmas, Santa.”