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But somehow, there were still twelve days till Christmas — A Somehow Christmas story (Updated July 27)

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    But somehow, there were still twelve days till Christmas — A Somehow Christmas story (Updated July 27)

    Merry Christmas in July, everyone! I wrote this purely for fun, so don't expect Man's Search for Meaning — Padded Edition. This is a prequel-ish thing to my other story here, and I recommend you read that one first. Or second. During. Whatever floats your boat, just know this story will change your experience of that one if you ever get around to it. Caveat lector.

    I tried a different voice here, slightly cozier in the third person. I should be updating on Fridays. My goal was to make you smile a lot. Let me know if that worked.

    Last edited by donbiki; 07-27-2018, 03:32:39 PM.
    My stories: But somehow, I was still twelve years old
    Current: But somehow, there were still twelve days till Christmas

    But somehow, there were still twelve days till Christmas
    by donbiki

    Chapter 1
    Yes, Virginia

    Christie had never believed in Santa Claus. Even when she was a little kid she figured he was a corporate sales mascot. So drink Coca Cola® and register your list at Toys R Us®, kids. As a concept Santa was, duh, ridiculous. It didn't take a genius to notice that girls like Tara and Laura were hauling in Gamecubes and Furbies despite being total wastes of space. And what do you know? They lived in pretty houses and their fathers had jobs. Ever since she was four, let alone fourteen, Christie knew Santa was fakey fake.

    It didn't bother Christie, because why should it? Whether she believed or not, the take was the same: a book, a CD, some ridiculous clothes from her aunts. (Polka dots? Really?) Then you had to act all excited. Run downstairs screaming with your PJs still on. Oh gee, a new winter jacket, I wanted one ever so badly. The pretending part used to drive her crazy. Christie had to roll her eyes at Shelly getting riled up over Christmas, since it was just a bunch of free stuff, as if she didn't have enough. It's not like they were five.

    One lousy morning in eighth grade, Christie rolled out of bed and crossed her calendar up to December 13th. A Friday the 13th. How promising. There were twelve days left until Christmas.

    Christie hated this part of the year. With quarter testing done, next week would be one long Christmas preview. Teachers slapping together lazy holiday-themed lesson plans: Yule documentaries in Social Studies, Joyeux Noël vocab lists in French, A Christmas Carol in English, again. Worksheets with cartoon Santa on top, the halls lined with his obnoxious mug. God. They weren't children anymore. The whole thing was just an excuse for rich kids to have their parents buy them stuff, all while bleating the christmas spirit, the christmas spirit.

    Huddled under her comforter, Christie somehow convinced herself to get ready. She undressed. Absentmindedly running her thumb inside the crotch, she dumped her PJs and bed towel in the hamper, then she shivered to the shower. She turned the knob all the way right, letting her skin burn. If only the water went up to boiling today. Just melt her away, sizzle sizzle and down the drain. There'd been snow last night, but the radio wasn't listing any delays, god forbid they miss any valuable classroom hours. After a long shower, Christie went to the kitchen and muttered through cooking scrambled eggs and toast, flicking on the lights since it was still dark outside, looking for a note from Mom, finding none, letting the idea of school crush her slowly.


    Shelly'd be on her case today. The Blanchette holiday party came every year like doctor physicals, Arbor Day, or mosquito-and-tick season. It was an annual feature that Christie tried ever more desperately to avoid. Last year they'd had apple bobbing and colored felt hats, as if they were third graders. And of course everyone just had to come. God. Grousing at the mirror, Christie rinsed her face and rubbed in acne cream, then finished dressing. Shivering, she stuffed some gym clothes and underwear in her backpack before heading out the door.

    Outside the world was frozen and crisp, coated with fresh snow overnight, but not enough to delay school. Here and there, gusts of wind would shake branches, cause tufts of snow to come loose and sprinkle down in powdery trails. The whole world was white. Romantic. Sigh. At least the snow covered over the scratch tickets by the roadside, giving the neighborhood a nice, fake, Hallmark postcard feel. And here goes your plucky cherry-cheeked heroine into the snow, like an old Disney movie. Christie cleared the front porch with a shovel, then pigeon-toed over the ice.

    The bus arrived five minutes late, spraying sand off the wheels. It threw slush onto Christie's sneakers as it braked. Sigh. Christie climbed in and took her usual spot at the front, two rows behind the driver. She hoped for a quiet ride, though of course it wouldn't be one. The end of testing released a mania every year, one that sent middle school into chaos and lasted until January report cards. For now the bus was mostly empty. She explored the vinyl seat for the least butt-freezing part.

    "Hey Christie!"

    Christie took out a Meghan Shull novel with a false jacket and started to read.

    "Christie? Christie? Christie Christie Christie Christie Christie CHRISTIE—"

    "What is it, Sam."

    "Reindeer are real, right?"

    "Yeah, Sam. They're called caribou, Sam. They eat moss and grass."

    It was Sam, a girl Shelly had picked off the refuse pile this fall. That Sam managed to eat breakfast and not get run over in the morning was a miracle for the ages. From Trivial Pursuit games at Shelly's, it seemed she thought Guatemala was a type of salsa sauce. The girl was sitting at the very back of the bus with another girl, lyrics leaking from her dangling earbud. There is just one thing I neeeeed. She was the sort of kid who couldn't do anything quietly. When teachers filled in positive feedback for progress reports, they wrote Sam had a 'strong personality'.

    "And reindeer live in the North Pole, right?"

    "The arctic circle, yeah. And Canada, I think."

    Sam pounded the escape hatch. "SEE, Sarah? SEE? I TOLD you. And you can RIDE them too, right? Like on a sleigh?"

    "If they're domesticated, I guess."

    "What's domesticated?"

    Christie rolled her eyes. "Yes, you can ride reindeer, Sam. Merry Christmas, Sam."

    "I f'n knew it."

    Up front Mrs. Belichor shrieked for Sam to watch her mouth. Her sudden turn sent the bus swerving over a pothole. Sam said sorry, then aped Mrs. Belichor in the mirror.

    The girl next to her, Sarah, groaned. "Just because reindeer are real doesn't mean Santa's real."

    So that's what they were talking about? God. Did this district have a short bus?

    "Then where do the presents come from, huh? Who eats the cookies, huh?"

    "Your mom," said Sarah. "Do you really think someone's eating a bazillion cookies in one night?"

    "I dunno. YOUR mom looks like she eats a bazillion cookies every night. BURN." Sam laughed.

    Christie rolled her eyes, returning to Cat Island.

    "Christie! Aren't dwarves real too?"

    "Dwarves? Sure. Handicapped ones."

    "Yup, like I was saying. Shows what you know, Sarah. You say reindeer aren't real, they're real. You say dwarves aren't real, they're real. Now you're saying Santa's not real. Well where's your proof, huh?"

    Sarah threw up her hands, and Christie felt a glare sear across the bus like a trail of gasoline. Sarah got up, climbing the aisle seatback by seatback. Christie stopped laughing and closed her book.

    "You're not helping," said Sarah.

    "Just telling the truth."

    Christie examined her, another one of Shelly's finds. A tall, superficial girl with no real personality. She was wearing two belts, one crooked with little crystal studs on the leather, like she thought that was cool. Sure. This one was "Sarah" while the other one was "Sam". Why did so many girl names start with 'S'? It had taken Christie forever to get them straight. Sarah had gone to Welford Elementary and clung to fashionable circles like a barnacle. Christie was surprised Sarah wasn't agreeing that Santa was real, since Sarah agreed with everyone about everything.

    "How do I prove Santa's not real? Like, Sam's totally gonna make an idiot of herself at school."

    "I dunno," said Christie. Did Sam need to make an effort? Christie smiled slyly. "Maybe Santa is real."


    "Santa only comes to good kids, right?"


    "Then how would we know?"

    Sarah didn't seem to get her point. Christie giggled with dark delight into her hand. Even so Sarah kept standing in the aisle, her shoulders uneven, like you do when you're looking for an excuse to peace out. "You coming to Shelly's tonight?"

    "Don't think so. Busy."

    "Oh." Sarah nodded politely, then zipped away. Christie wet her finger and cracked open the book again. For the rest of the ride, Sarah tried to convince Sam that Santa was fake. More and more kids piled onto the bus. Eventually Sarah got frustrated and was practically yelling, arguing about the distance between Boston and San Francisco or something. Christie kept giggling to herself.

    Christie could get used to that Santa. One who existed, but didn't bring kids anything. That appealed to her. If Santa did live in the North Pole, and he did have a workshop, and he could fly with reindeer, and eat a bazillion cookies, but he was just turning his nose up at everyone, all the little snots — Christie could get behind that Santa.

    The radio turned on, and they were playing Christmas music. Of course.
    My stories: But somehow, I was still twelve years old
    Current: But somehow, there were still twelve days till Christmas


      Originally posted by donbiki View Post
      don't expect Man's Search for Meaning — Padded Edition.
      Thanks for that. I having a rough day and that comment really made me laugh.


        Chapter 2
        Letters to Santa

        Up in the North Pole, Santa was drinking hot chocolate out of a mug and reviewing invoices from a plastic mold vendor. It was a chilly night in the Artic — or day, he supposed — but Mrs. Claus had stacked a stout maplewood fire that was burning sweetly in the hearth. Santa warmed his fingers on the kettle, the metal clicking as he rubbed it. He felt a tad less jolly than usual. A producer in Taipei had over a barrel for polymers used in the new Microsoft games console, and he might have to insource. A CFO was already half-written on his desk when one of his elf assistants flagged him down, handing over a troubling letter from a certain Christine L, 14 — USA.

        Just kidding.

        Christie sat in gym with her back to the folded bleachers. After a long morning of Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, it was finally afternoon. By each sideline, traffic cones marked no contact zones for dodgeball games, and boys in mesh vests were skidding up, hurling line drives, making girls squeal and do those weird girly jumps with arms tyrannasaured. The boys saved them for last, then looked embarrassed tapping them out. As for Christie, she'd eaten a dodgeball to the face to sit out today, so she was rather annoyed when Shelly walked clear across the court to sit with her. Shelly drew other girls around her like tickbirds, and the sound of sneakers couldn't quite drown them out.

        "Can you believe Sam still believes in Santa?" said Sarah, sitting knees to chest.

        The other girls nodded, all saucer-eyes. They were watching Sam skitter about the court as she faced a boy team. The boys were trying to gun her down, but she was weaving through their dodgeballs in a frenzy. She landed a cracker on a chubby boy's face and was grinning broadly.

        "Like, wow."

        "Like, seriously."

        "Like, is she eight?"

        "Like, are we sure it's not a gag?"

        Christie didn't think it was a gag. (Like.) Sam's belief in Santa Claus had been growing and growing over the course of the morning. Though her friends tried to give her "the talk" in first period, they'd been wasting their breath, since challenge just made Sam up her claims. Now Sam didn't just believe in Santa, she'd seen Santa, she'd talked to Santa. By second period, she'd gotten visits from his workshop dwarves. Then she'd ridden in Santa's sleigh, helped him deliver presents. By the end of the day, she'd probably be in upper management.

        "Why shouldn't Sam believe in Santa?" asked Shelly.

        "Because she's fourteen."


        "And how. HOW can you not know by elementary school?"

        "Know what?"

        Everyone laughed. In middle school, sarcasm was the height of wit. But Shelly still looked puzzled, so they quickly got uncomforable. Christie pretended to wipe her face.

        "Know about Santa..." said Sarah.

        "Know what about Santa?"

        "You know. The truth."

        "The truth?"

        "Um. Santa Claus isn't really... real... Shelly. He's a game adults play with their kids. Like the tooth fairy. The presents come from your mom and dad. You knew that, right?"

        "Wow. Really?"

        Sarah buried her face in her hand. "Shelly, you're a teenager. For godssakes, how do you still believe in Santa Claus?"

        Christie was cringing badly now. Luckily the dodgeball matches gave her something to look at. She resented Shelly more than usual as Sarah and the others explained the Santa hoax to her. The whole thing felt like forks being stabbed into Christie's eyelid. Somehow, Shelly didn't seem to realize how embarrassed she should be.

        They wore kid gloves with Shelly, of course. In this group everyone was Shelly's friend first. Shelly had that inspirational poster type personality you got from a cupcake life, and it made people think they had something special with her. That brand of rich, pretty, popular girls who says stuff like "I'm always here for you!" or "You're the best!", and probably even thought they meant it. Of course, everyone was disposible to Shelly. Christie had seen it happen. But they were all too dumb to realize. They gave Shelly the benefit of the doubt for things they'd tear Christie alive for. Like, for example, believing in Santa past age seven.

        Afterwards Shelly nodded, though she didn't seem quite convinced. Without warning she turned to Christie.

        "What a bummer, huh? I guess we won't be getting the stuff on our lists."

        Christie grabbed the sides her shorts, eyes darting everywhere. Sarah was smiling awkwardly.

        "What are you TALKING about? Of COURSE Santa's not real. I was just humoring you! It's ridiculous that you didn't know! I DON'T believe in Santa. I do NOT."

        Christie launched into a long rant about consumerism.

        In November, "letters to Santa" had been the topic in English free write. Naturally, it had been a joke. But Shelly was so oblivious Christie couldn't bring herself to break the news. After class Christie had written some choice comments for Mr. Claus in the postscript, then crumpled the list and threw it in the trash.

        Dear Mr. Claus,

        Please give me unlimited free money. And a magical talking pixie. And please turn me into a starry-eyed little idiot who believes in fairy tales. And please quit it with November being in the Christmas season. Like, for real. And if you could get me some new clothes, that'd be nice, but nothing from the girls section please, and nothing tryhard. On second thought, please have Christmas not come this year. That'd be awesome.


        P.S. Go to hell

        Christie came out of the rant dry-throated and exhausted. Sarah and the other girls were smiling politely. They probably hadn't heard half as many words from Christie in their lives. But Christie found she couldn't stop when she got going about parents lying to their kids, or how the idea of Santa put a dollar value on children's lives, or how stupid Sam was for thinking a stranger three thousand miles away cared about her. Shelly looked baffled. After a few evasive comments, the girls went back to gossiping. Sarah put in some skim milk remarks about how she used to like believing in Santa when she was little.

        Christie relaxed her legs. It was ridiculous that she even had to explain this stuff. She'd never really believed in Santa. In this group, she'd probably been the first to know. How could Shelly accuse her of that? Christie fumed.

        Once they'd forgotten about her, Christie checked the floor and found clean, polished wood. Even now the sight of a clean, polished wood gave her a touch of relief. Christie waited for a busy spot in the conversation and then, when Shelly was distracted with a girl named Mori, she slid off. Mr. Whittle gave her a hall pass without any questions. Christie hung it about her neck and headed for the door.

        Footsteps squeaked after her.

        "Hey! Christie? Wait wait wait. Hang on a sec?"


        Shelly put her hand on the doorframe, blocking Christie. Not 'blocking' blocking, like a basketball player, with arms outstretched or something. Christie looked up. Compared to fall Shelly had grown another two inches, and those extra inches let her control rooms somehow. Like, she could stand somewhere and make it super awkward for you to walk past. Which was way worse than outright blocking, since you couldn't call her on it. Being short sucked.

        "Sorry about the Santa thing," said Shelly, smiling apologetically, "would've never guessed you hated him that much! You learn something new every day, huh? So are you gonna be back?"

        Christie eyed the door. She didn't hate Santa, she just knew he was fake. Why did people see that as her hating Santa? She didn't hate Barney the Dinosaur or the Cat in the Hat.

        "I dunno, eventually. My stuff's in the locker room, so."


        "Nurse. My head hurts."

        Shelly blinked. She looked suddenly guilty. "Oh. Oh! That stinks. I'll tell the others you weren't feeling well." She looked back to the bleachers, where the girls were talking about boys and didn't seem especially curious. "About tonight. Did you ask if your mom could drop you off?"

        "Oh. Sorry, it turns out I'm busy."


        "Mom had something else planned tonight." Christie lowered her eyes, moved for the door, but Shelly blocked an inch more aggressively.

        "For the whole night? It's no biggie if you can't stay for the whole thing."

        "Yeah, the whole night. Sorry."

        "But everyone'll be there. You said—"

        "Then no one'll be missing me. Cool!"

        "You said—"

        "I know, I know. It's that my aunt's coming to town tonight."

        A pause opened up, sneakers squeaking. Christie kept her face blank, holding her left temple for effect. By the far hoop, Sam landed another cracker. The boys were hooting.

        "Oh. That's too bad," said Shelly, smiling and waving Christie off, like it was nothing. Christie closed the gym double doors, then pressed the air out of her lungs.

        The walk to the bathroom turned out long and snaking, Christie dragging her hand against the lockers, kicking her feet. She really did have a headache now. The feeling frustrated her, since it's not like Shelly had any right to ask that. School today had been worse than she'd imagined, English especially, with kids crunching on handout candycanes or sucking them to make shivs. Ho-ho-ho sound effects everywhere. Ironic carolling. All the grownups with peppermint coffee breath. It was so gross.

        A row of Thanksgiving posters still occupied the math and science wing, so she chose that route, keeping her eyes to the right, away from Santa's fat face. What's the GOBBLE rate of Mr. Gobble? GOBBLE GOBBLE! TAKE a BITE of some APPLE 3.14159!!. The tape was peeling. Christie headed to what used to be the main bathroom of the seventh grade wing, a tiny two-staller with half burnt fluorescent lights, little used since rennovations, her favorite bathroom. Like usual, it was empty.

        Christie checked her underwear more carefully now. Dry. Well, not completely dry, but Mom said this was normal for girls past twelve. God. Now there was a conversation Christie could do without ever remembering again. Christie sighed and unstuck her sneakers from the stall door, starting to pee, wondering how many months she'd be this paranoid. She tried to remember if she'd even dribbled since September. Last year had started her habits of staying safe. Squeezing out a last little bit, Christe promised not to do this again next week. She'd just stay sitting, and everything would be fine. Christie washed her hands, then ran cold water over her face.

        Out in the hall, she met an elf.

        Just kidding.

        The man did look like an elf, soft and pudgy with a weird, youngish face. He was waiting by the water fountain in an off-red suit, old-fashioned, one that looked like it belonged on a wood-grained television set. He turned. She squirmed a little before she realized how short he was. Five one, maybe five two? Christie wasn't used to talking to grown men without craning her neck, since she was still waiting on a growth spurt. He must have trouble finding a girlfriend. It was kinda pathetic.

        "Christie, klof? You must be Christie, klof!"

        "Um. Yes, that's me. Are you a new teacher? Mr...?"

        "It's Klof! zurple. Klof is a secretary, klof! Klof was sent for you, klof!"

        A new secretary? Damn. She shouldn't be in trouble. Most teachers seemed to have their minds on hard egg nog already, so which one would be on her case? Had someone told on Christie for making fun of Sam? Her, of course, when literally everyone in school was doing it. God.

        "Sent?" asked Christie sweetly. "But you're supposed to use the PA, Mr. Klof. Didn't Mrs. V show you?"

        The man nodded. "Oh! Then Klof will use the PA, klof." Without another word, Mr. Klof heel-turned and trudged fatly down the hall. Sucker.

        Christie waited by the water fountains, trying to think of how to argue her case, but it was tough since she wasn't sure specifically what words had gotten her in trouble. Had it been when she'd called Sam Santa's helper in Math? Come to think of it, what if Christie wasn't in trouble? What if the office was dismissing her? If they had a message from Mom? If the nurse needed her? That last one would be super awkward, since Christie was already supposed to be at the nurse. So Christie hurried back to the gym.

        Back on the court, dodgeball was still going, and Shelly's group hadn't moved from the bleachers. Christie wormed into her old spot, making loud comments about how she hadn't gone to the nurse after all. No one cared. They were talking about Jessica Simpson or some stupid crap. Sam's team had survived elimination and was advancing to the finals, and she was lording it over other teams, as if throwing dodgeballs made Santa real. Everyone snickered except Shelly.

        Christie glared at Sam some more. It would be just like this school for Christie to get in trouble for making fun of Sam. God.

        "Yup, so like I was saying. You CAN ride reindeer, the kind they call domesticated — the workshop dwarves call them caribou if they're domesticated, don't they Christie? The handicapped ones at least. But the reindeer get real mean if you don't give them pellets though. Santa breeds em like crazy in Canada. So you can find the ranches anywhere in the artic circle. The artic circle? Oh, that's fifty miles or so around the North Pole. Right Christie?"

        "Sure," said Christie. The other girls kept snickering, even if Shelly looked a little uncomfortable. Christie felt a surge of thrill in her throat.

        The PA crackled on, so Mr. Whittle whistled the semifinals dead. A sing-song voice came through the static:


        Oh crap.





        The man on the PA launched into Holly Jolly Christmas, voice crooning.

        "Wow, Christie. Did your Mom set that up?"


        "What's a Meditite?"

        "I gotta go to the bathroom."

        "So they saved your old lists? It's kinda cute you asked for a friend. When was that?"

        "Oh, uh, kindergarten maybe? I really have to go."

        "Didn't you just go?"

        "No! I went to the nurse!"

        "Didn't you just say...?"

        Christie left the gym without getting a pass.
        Last edited by donbiki; 07-22-2018, 01:37:24 PM. Reason: edits
        My stories: But somehow, I was still twelve years old
        Current: But somehow, there were still twelve days till Christmas


          I really like the "Just kidding" part. It is fun. Also looking forward to the additional difficulties Christie will be having soon.


            It's interesting to see Christie's judgments of Shelly and her friends knowing how (in)accurate they turn out to be a few years later.

            Just like Christie to get herself into trouble while trying to weasel out of something harmless.
            Last edited by TheOneWhoSees; 07-21-2018, 12:13:45 AM.
            Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn


              This story is pretty unique so far. I feel like your trying to make it questionable as to what's happening. I want to believe its really Santa, though I also feel it could be a prank. Anyway, I am really enjoying it so far.

              Thankies for posting!!!


                Originally posted by TheOneWhoSees View Post
                Just like Christie to get herself into trouble while trying to weasel out of something harmless.
                In general, life's biggest problems come from avoiding little problems. Christie does seem to have a special knack.

                Originally posted by LilPeaches View Post
                I feel like your trying to make it questionable as to what's happening. I want to believe its really Santa, though I also feel it could be a prank.
                What are you talking about? Of course Santa's real. What made you think this was a fantasy story?
                Last edited by donbiki; 07-27-2018, 03:27:27 PM.
                My stories: But somehow, I was still twelve years old
                Current: But somehow, there were still twelve days till Christmas


                  Chapter 3
                  Little helpers

                  The halls rushed by. Santa was left, right, forward, everywhere. Shelly had done this. Bolting through the hallway, Christie just knew that Shelly had done this. Shelly had read her old Christmas letters somehow, thought it would be 'cute'. Shelly got all sorts of allowance. How DARE she? How DARE she? A boy Christie hated leaned out one of the classroom doors, probably with something funny to say. There was a hall monitor too busy drinking gross coffee to mind her. She zipped by. She would've reached the main office by the third chorus (Oh, ho, the mistletoe...) if she hadn't lurched rounding a corner, had to collect herself against the wall, knees bloody, hot beads of humiliation in her eyes.

                  God. Why had she written those letters? WHY? A pond? How do you get a pond for Christmas, idiot? A new sister? How cliche can you get? A letter from dad? How could Santa even give her that? Ariel's dress? Christie hadn't wanted one of those since she was nine!

                  The office door slammed behind her. Inside a space heater hummed and the secretary was munching on mints, doing a crossword puzzle. There was a potted frond on her desk, decorated with tinsel and false snow, just the sort of tacky seasonal accent everyone insisted on slapping everywhere in December. But no time for that. Christie drew a deep breath, bunched her arms together, and put on her best tsunami refugee impression.

                  "Mrs. V! There's a stranger in the school! He's short and he's got a red suit and a weird face and he was waiting outside the girl's bathroom! He's saying weird things on the PA! I think he's dangerous!"

                  Mrs. V looked up, startled. She set her puzzle aside. "Oh, sweety. What a terrible thing to say about Mr. Klof!"

                  "Mr. Klof?"

                  "Mr. Klof. Dear, didn't you read the notice home?"

                  The secretary let out that motherly sigh that only unmarried middle aged bags who will never be mothers can sigh. The 'Mrs.', Christie knew, was not strictly accurate. Just something kids got to calling you when you were a frumpy old lady who did crossword puzzles and chided people for not reading eighteen bajillion school notices. Mrs. V had put on another fifteen pounds since her thirty-ninth birthday last May. The girls in this school, particularly the seventh graders, had Mrs. V in the palm of their hands, and they were always taking candy out of her dish, having her write them notes, or let them in from the courtyard ('NO ENTRANCE'). Christie had hoped she'd be more exploitable today.

                  Luckily, the PA clicked off after Holly Jolly Christmas. The special ed director passed through with a stack of copy paper. She eyed Christie, glasses cocked and faced pruned. At first Christie thought it was her gym clothes, dress code violation or something, but then she noticed her knee was bleeding on the carpet. Mrs. V sighed again and dug around her desk for bandaids.

                  "Golly, that sounds awfully scary, klof! Klof wouldn't want to meet that klof, zurple! Huhuhuhu!"

                  The door to the programming office clicked open. Out came Mr. Klof, who rolled onto his tiptoes, grabbing a handful of mints from Mrs. V's desk. Christie almost charged him.

                  "Who IS that?"

                  "Why, it's Mr. Klof, dear. Now don't be rude, he's come all the way from — oh my, I've clear forgot what the program was called. A lovely, lovely program. And with so much funding! It was strongly recommended. They do motivational speaking, character development. Do be polite. Oh dear, how has it slipped my mind..."

                  "Gee shucks, Sheila, that's no figgy pudding problem, klof! Klof didn't mean to startle anyone, huhuheehee, you can both call klof Klof, zurple!" Klof patted Mrs. V on the back. The man really was ridiculously, pathetically short. He drew another handful of mints from her desk, munching them all at once, red sludge dribbling as he let out a rapturous moan.

                  "That man's suspicious! Clearly he's suspicious!" Christie pointed at Mr. Klof. "He's here to slander me! Blackmail me! Embezzle the school! Conspiracy! Defamation! It's all lies!"

                  Mrs. V looked distressed. "Be careful with those new vocab words, dear. Oh, such an imagination! Mr. Klof, she's a bit like this, but I'm sure Christie doesn't mean any harm, she's a little dear. Why, she was like this to me at first, too! She might just need to warm up to you."

                  Patronizing bitch.

                  Mr. Klof's squirrelish features beamed at Christie. "It is awfully cold outside, huhuheehee. Maybe we all need a dose of holiday cheer, klof! Then we can all be friends in no time, klof!" He did more of his freaky laugh. How old was this guy?

                  Mrs. V phoned the physical education office to tell them that Christie wouldn't be returning to gym. While they arranged for someone to collect her things, Christie was given a bandaid and ushered into a sugary-smelling conference room stacked with manila folders and cardboard boxes. It seemed to serving as Mr. Klof's makeshift office. Mr. Klof offered her the high-backed seat at the head of the table— Klof would have too much fun bouncing in that spinny chair, huhu — and went rummaging through a heavy velvet sack. The sweat in Christie's clothes had gone cold and itchy.

                  Chistie almost freaked when she noticed the little kids off to the side. Like, really little kids. There were six of them lined up by the wall, droopy hats touching rim to rim. Each had a candycane heart pinned to the front of their scrunchy green overalls, a name scrawled in illegible crayon. There was that weird little kid smell to them. They had notebooks out and were holding golf pencils like giant novelty crayons.

                  "We're on a field trip, tribble!"

                  "Ob-serv-a-tion, crompolump. Form-a-tive, crompolump."

                  "Bof bof bof!"

                  "Shhhhhhhhhh they're about to start, mip!"

                  Mr. Klof took a long time searching through his sack, which seemed to contain ream after ream of gilded-edge paper. Much more than Christie would have thought possible. If she hadn't known better, she'd have guessed there were a thousand phonebooks' worth in there. Eventually, he dug out a tall stack, bound with packing string, and then a thin black folio from which he drew four neat sheets. He gave her a gross, oily smile, fishing for his pair of spectacles. "Let's see, we — oh, silly Klof, zurple! Would you like some apple cider, klof?" He produced a thermos from under the table, then a mug from his sack. After pouring, Mr. Klof stood on his chair and wiggled to push it across. Christie stared at the steaming cup blankly.

                  "She's not drinking, tribble..."

                  "Opp-o-sit-ional de-fian-ce, crompolump?"

                  Christie glared at them.

                  "Why don't we start with 'hello', klof? Hello, klof! How gummybear gleeful Klof is to meet you, Christie! Those rascals to your right, they're Team Toffee, but don't pay them any mind, klof! Klof was going to do everything on the PA, but then you came a running, klof. Truffle terrific! Now this'll be reeeeaaally surprising, but it turns out, we're no ordinary old klofs, zurple! Klof lives in a snowy village at the North Pole, and Klof is ACTUALLY an—"

                  "No, you're not. No, you don't."

                  Mr. Klof seemed taken aback. Apparently, he hadn't expected an argument on this point. But after a moment of confused whispering from Team Toffee, he smiled more warmly.

                  "Huhuhee. And how can you be so sugary sure, klof?"

                  Christie rolled her eyes. "Cause the North Pole is over a layer of ice, dummy. You can't build buildings there."

                  "And what about my sack?"

                  "I dunno. Optical illusion?"

                  "It's magic, klof!"


                  "Have you ever seen the North Pole, klof? It's a magical place, klof! There are jawbreaker roads and candy cane lanterns and cabins of logs drizzled with chocolate syrup and— "

                  "Yeah, there are photos of it from outer space. And you're not an elf either."

                  Mr. Klof wiggled his eyebrows. "Oh, klof? And how would a cute little girl like you know what an elf looks like, klof?"

                  Sweet little girl. Cute little girl. Little dear. Christie thought she'd hit the next person with a brick if they said something about innocent or sweet she was. She'd been planning to sulk her way through this meeting, but now she decided to put this creep in his place.

                  "The arctic was explored by Robert Peary and Frederick Cook a hundred years ago. It ended something called the 'age of exploration'. Breaking ice, using dog sleds and stuff. They searched all over, but they didn't find any elves. I read about it in a book. You're just a midget."

                  "Huhu-heeheehee. Did you hear that, kids? Maybe we're not so magical after all, klof!"

                  Tii-tii-tii-tii-tii-tii snurklesnurkle klof klof mip mip bofbofbof tribblewibble tribblewibble crompolump mip mip tribblewibble crompolump snurklesnurklesnurkle tii bofbofbof mip mip tii klof snurkle huhuhu tii-tii crompolump heeheehee snurklesnurkle mip bofbof tribblewibble crompolompolump snurkle mip mip huhuhu bof tribblewibblewibble klof klof snurklesnurkle tii-tii-tii.

                  "OH MY GOD. STOP THAT RIGHT NOW. GOD." Christie clapped her hands over her ears. "Where did you get my Christmas lists, anyway? How much did Shelly give you? What do you want from me? Get out of my life!"

                  "We just want you to rediscover the Christmas spirit, tribble!"

                  "Fat chance!"

                  "We can prove it, tribble! Look, look, look."

                  The little loudmouth probably named Tribble danced lightly into the air, a haze of glittering sparks trailing behind. Christie rolled her eyes. She kept them rolled as Mr. Klof coaxed the kid back down. As if flying proved the Christmas spirit. The little showoff probably expected her to be impressed.

                  "Can I go back to class please?"

                  "Oh no, klof. We haven't even begun, klof! Old Nick sent me down to—"

                  "No he didn't."

                  "—talk about your last letter, Christie. You have to take it back, klof."

                  "Do I?"

                  "Old Nick wanted you to know—"

                  "But what does Barney think?"

                  "Wishing Christmas wouldn't come—"

                  "I wish it wouldn't come. If you really are an elf, you wanna prove it to me? Cancel Christmas. That'd be great."

                  "Why, think of all the boys and girls, klof! How sad will they be if—"

                  "Oh boo hoo."

                  "Christmas is a magical time of year, klof!"

                  "Magical? A bunch of little kids get free toys and think a fat man brought them. What's magical about that?"

                  "Christie Christie Christie, you've forgotten what it is to be a child, Christie!"

                  "Nope, I remember it just fine, thanks." Christie snorted. A few choice memories slid across her mind like fryer oil that hadn't been changed in a while. Why did people like saying her name so much? She glanced over at Team Toffee, who where watching anxiously with their huge gold-flecked eyes. Children sucked.

                  "Anyway, this 'Christmas spirit' business," she said, gesturing frustration. "It's better to give than to receive, right? But you're saying Santa's real too. Even if I were dumb to buy that, which I'm not, how's that suppose to work? Never mind the fact Santa gives rich kids Xboxes while poor kids get new socks, which is what everyone points out. The crazy part is, Santa hogs all the giving. So much for the Christmas spirit. The kids just get and get. Don't you see how this Christmas stuff doesn't make any sense?"

                  "But you have to learn how to get before you can give, tribble!"

                  "Hush hush, Tribble. Klof thinks he sees your point, Christie! It's actually cinnamon bun simple, klof! Let Klof tell you a story about the Christmas spirit, klof."

                  Mr. Klof launched into a long, wordy narrative about when he'd been a young elf. Every Christmas his friends would make presents for each other, exchanging them the week before on Liquorice Lane. Over the years, they competed to make the most perfect toy. At first they built for the simple joy of building. They made bouncing balls and rocking horses and pogo sticks, rustic toys loved by all, and they would laugh and play together in Snickerdoodle Square. But after elf kindergarten, they learned to make more intricate toys: four stage jack-in-the-boxes, transformer action figures, dancing kites, dainty mechanical dolls that fanned themselves, fluttered eyelids, and sang. Everyone tried to prove what skilled and mature elves they were. Eventually Klof (zurple) lost sight of the toys as gifts, and thought of them as a means to prove his elf worth.

                  The story was unbelievably boring, and before even five minutes had passed Christie's eyelids were drooping and she was stirring her apple cider, staring listlessly out the window. Mr. Klof just kept talking and talking. Somewhere along the line he learned a valuable lesson, or something. Eventually, he finally shut up.

                  Christie rolled her eyes. "So basically, you want me to take back wishing Christmas wouldn't come. And to say Santa's real. Whatever. Can I go now?"

                  Tribble and the others exploded in applause, pencils dropping to the floor, little hands beating. Christie gaped. Their heads bobbled like screws in their neck had come loose. Meanwhile, Mr. Klof was whooping, snatching the pointed cap of his head.

                  "Whoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-HOO! That's just whipped-cream-chocolate-sprinkles-and-cherry-on-top WONDERFUL, Christie! Klof knew that story would do the trick, klof! Old Nick will be so marshmallow merry, klof! Oh, it's a Christmas miracle, klof!"

                  The kids launched one by one into Angels We Have Heard on High, but Mr. Klof warned them to be non-denominational, so they switched to Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Mrs. V poked her head into the conference room, dopey smile bringing out her old lady wrinkles. Even confused, she waved her hands as if to encourage Christie to sing along. Christie nearly puked.

                  "Huhuhu! And Klof thought we'd have to be at you all winter, klof! So you're fine with November being in the Christmas season, klof?"

                  The thought sent a shiver down Christie's spine.

                  "Uh, sure. Take it back to September." Tribble clapped.

                  "And you see that what Christmas cheer comes around, goes around?"

                  "Yeah. Wow. It makes so much sense now." Clapping.

                  "And you want the other little children to be happy, klof?"

                  "Joy to one and all." Christie crossed her heart. More clapping.

                  "And you believe Old Nick loves you, klof?"

                  "Santa loves me? Oh, geez. You know, now that you mention it, I realize that it's what I really wanted all along. To be loved. How didn't I see it before? All these dark years... oh, I couldn't be happier."

                  The merriment in the conference room drew on for another five minutes. When Team Toffee finally calmed down, Mr. Klof paged the phys ed office to bring Christie's backpack over to the office bathroom, stashing his papers away unread. They had been a list of Christie's naughty and nice deeds over the past two years — supposedly — but Mr. Klof said reviewing them wouldn't be necessary anymore. Team Toffee crowded up to Christie to donate a messy pile of hard candies, Mip chirping and leading cardinals at the window in a winter aria, Crompolump trundling up and telling her how moved he was, ponderous tears streaking down his six chins. There was a weird cherry smell. Christie sipped at the apple cider, room temperature, and waited for her cue to slip out.

                  "And now to tell all your friends about the Christmas spirit, klof!"

                  "Uh, excuse me?"

                  "We're going to tell everyone about Old Nick, tribble!"

                  "Who is 'we'?"

                  "Why, we is we, klof! You and klof and Team Toffee, klof! We'll make it a joyous day for all, klof!"

                  Mr. Klof handed over her backpack and a small bag of folded clothes. Christie sifted through it while Team Toffee stuffed candies in the pockets. It contained her clothes from the locker, neatly folded: shirt, jeans, and underwear — Jesus Christ — a santa's hat, a candy cane heart lapel pin like the ones Team Toffee were wearing ('~✨✨Christie✨✨~'), and a knitted sweater with red stitched lettering: SANTA'S HELPER.

                  "Yeah," said Christie, peering into the bag. "Not happening."

                  "What's not happening, klof?"

                  Christie rolled her eyes.

                  Mr. Klof looked forlorn. "But what about spreading the Christmas spirit, klof!"

                  "Trust me. Our school has pleeeenty of Christmas spirit without my help."

                  "But we thought... Don't you want your friends to know Santa loves them, tribble?"

                  "Don't you want to apologize for lying to Shelly, klof?"

                  "Or for making fun of Sam, mip?"

                  "For being pas-sive ag-gre-sive with Sarah, crompulump?"

                  "Bof bof bof Ana bof, bof!"

                  Team Toffee went on listing Christie's iniquities for some time.

                  "We want to spread the Christmas spirit with you, tribble! We've come all the way down from the North Pole, tribble!"

                  Christie played that scene forward in her mind. "Uh, it'd be a distraction to class. Anyway, there's already a girl... advocating for Santa in Social Studies. She totally has it under control. Why don't you go talk to her? I need to... reflect on everything I've learned today. Quiet time, you know? But I'll be sure to wear this sometime though. Thanks so much, I'll remember today forever. For-ever."

                  "Oh, don't you worry, klof! Sheila warned the teacher you might be making a speech, klof! The spirit is like strawberry jam, it's for spreading! and Klof has heard a few others in this school don't believe in Santa, huhuhu!"

                  Christie's throat got dry.

                  "If you're afraid, we can all come with you, mip!"

                  "Why that's a great idea, Mip! Who wants to come and help Christie once she's got dressed, klof?"

                  Team Toffee's hands shot up all at once, Tribble and Mip hopping to reach as high as possible, everyone babbling so fast Christie could hardly hear. "We can tell everyone for her if she's feeling shy, tribble!" "They'll be so happy to hear about the North Pole, mip!" "Hurry hurry hurry hurry, tribble!" "Caroling, crompolump!" "Bof bof bof bof bof!"

                  Christie was half pushed, half carried into office bathroom. Little hands waved before the door clicked shut. On her forehead, streams of cold sweat worked their way down her face.

                  This situation had gone off the rails. Christie could pass off the PA stuff earlier as a joke, but if what she thought was about to happen happened, Christie suspected she'd liquify on the spot. They were trying to have her stand in front of class, say sorry to Shelly's friends, even if they deserved it, and then say Santa was real. Holy crap.

                  Tugging off her damp gym clothes, Christie tried to think. Christie had played along with the ridiculous notion that Santa was real and that they were elves. Now they expected her to say she believed that in public, which of course she didn't, and it would be social suicide.

                  Could she refuse to go back to class? Probably. But Mr. Klof seemed to have the support of the school, and he'd said something about "all winter". He'd be back next week, and he'd be harder to fool next time. Could she play the sarcasm card, make it all a joke? Possibly. But she'd have to ham it up as obviously as possible in front of class, and what if these idiots finally caught on? Would she be listening to Mr. Klof's stupid poems and stories all winter? And those lists Mr. Klof had... what if they got out, somehow? What was on those lists? God, God.

                  Undressing, Christie cleaned as much as she could with paper towels and water, then tried the toilet again. Nothing. She squeezed again. Nothing. Squeaky voices behind the door asked if she was done. Apparently they didn't think much of privacy.

                  Christie took a deep breath. Basically, she had to convince Mr. Klof she was excited for Christmas and believed in Santa and everything; while at the same time, reminding everyone else she hated Christmas and believed in nothing. A plan started to form in the back of her mind mind. Christie emptied the bag and stuffed her dirty clothes inside. She picked the sweater and candycane pin off the floor. The tough part would be ditching these somehow, since she'd need to be at least ten times as sarcastic wearing SANTA'S HELPER on her chest.

                  Christie got dressed. She put on the sweater, the hat, and even the pin for now. She practiced smiling in the mirror. The sweater came done to her thighs, and its sleeves ran down to her fingers — didn't they know her clothing size? — while the Santa's hat swallowed most of her forehead. She looked she was playing dressup. That was fine, for now.

                  Carefully, she dabbed handsoap in her eyes and started rubbing. It stung worse than she expected, but she worked it in anyway, deep into the corners, running hot water for good measure. Her face flushed at the steam. Then her nose got going. By the time Christie left the bathroom, her eyes were runny and raw and there were great red circles lining them.

                  The door closed behind her.

                  "What wrong, tribble?!"

                  "Nothing," she said quickly, pushing Tribble away. "Is everyone ready to go?"

                  "But there must be something wrong, mip? Are you scared, mip?"

                  "It's really nothing."

                  Christie made a show of zipping her gym clothes and candies in her backpack, briskly preparing to go. But after the fifth prompt, she let them drag it out of her. "I'm just thinking about something, is all. Someone. But it'll be okay, I'm sure it'll be, if I can just..." Christie pressed her palm over her eyes.

                  "What's their name, tribble? Are they in trouble, tribble?" asked Tribble.

                  "Bof bof bof bof bof!" boffed Bof.

                  Christie sniffled. "There's just this girl named Sarah. But I'm sure I'm just imagining. It's nothing, really, it's nothing!"

                  "Tell us, mip!"

                  "Well... Sarah was making fun of people for still believing in Santa this morning, and she's not in my Social Studies class. I was thinking... well, I'm just worried about her."

                  "But why, klof?"

                  "I dunno, she's just so, so, you know? I was thinking about Christmas, and... Sometimes... She was even yelling..."

                  "What do you really mean to say, klof?"

                  "You can trust us, comprolump. Fi-del-ity, crompolump."

                  "Well, the truth is, Sarah doesn't really have any friends, not really. Like, you know? So she hangs out with everyone, and everyone pretends to like her, and she puts on a brave face, and acts cool and stuff, like the clothes she wears, cause she can't show her true self. That's why she has to... has to attack people like that. And, and she sounds like she hates Santa so much, it's like there's a poison eating inside her and, and, and...!"

                  "Say no more, klof!" Mr. Klof wrung his hat in his hands. "Klof sees now, you have truly grasped the soul of the Christmas spirit, Christie! Old Nick knew you had it in you, it does not surprise klof, zurple! So you want to talk to this Sarah first, klof?"

                  "Me? Oh I could never convince her. I can't speak, not like you..." Christie batted her eyes.

                  Everyone exchanged glances. After a few whispers, Mr. Klof gave a meaningful nod. "Then Klof will speak to Sarah next week, klof. We weren't planning to leave until spring anyway, klof. Thought you rascals are all dying to get home, klof!"

                  Team Toffee giggled, wiping their eyes.

                  "You would? Oh, oh thank you! But..."

                  "But, tribble?"

                  "Sarah's going to Florida next week. Her family, dragging the poor girl everywhere... the flight is tonight, really. You won't be able to speak with her. She'll go another Christmas without knowing Santa's love..." A single perfect tear streaked down Christie's cheek.

                  "Then we'll go now, tribble!"

                  "Yeah, mip!"

                  "We'll show her the Christmas spirit if it's the last thing we do, crompolump!"

                  Team Toffee chattered, planning how to bring wayward Sarah back from the Christmas-less purgatory. Steering the conversation, Christie managed to put it in their heads that the best thing would be to go to Sarah now, right now, and convince her that Santa was real with the moral support of Mr. Tovesby's English class waiting to bear, who would surely all embrace Sarah in this moment of crisis. (An in-ter-ven-tion, crompolump!, Just like It's A Wonderful Life, mip!) Mr. Klof produced Sarah's former Christmas lists from his velvet sack. They were all bustling to leave, when Tribble drew up.

                  "But aren't you nervous, tribble? To speak to the class alone, while we all go..."

                  "I..." Christie took a theatrical gulp. "I can be brave! Today, I feel like I can do anything!"

                  In the end, Tribble volunteered with to go with Christie. Well, one was better than six, and this one seemed especially dumb. Christie thanked Tribble warmly and waved Team Toffee a fond farewell. Before he left, Mr. Klof extracted a promise for Tribble to tell him about their good work the Christmas spirit. Now all Christie had to do was fool this little brat, and she'd be scott free.
                  Last edited by donbiki; 07-27-2018, 03:28:51 PM.
                  My stories: But somehow, I was still twelve years old
                  Current: But somehow, there were still twelve days till Christmas


                    In hindsight, this does sound like something Shelly would do if she had the resources.

                    The question remains, how is this going to blow up in Christie's face now?

                    When in doubt, deflect blame to one of Shelly's friends.
                    Last edited by TheOneWhoSees; 07-28-2018, 01:33:26 AM.
                    Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn