I begrudgingly accepted the tacky elf costume that was handed to my when I arrived at my shift. Rolling my eyes and not wanting to change out of my new mixiepixie7 merch, I did up my hair in two tight braids, and headed to the center of the mall with no signs of a skip in my step. There was no jolliness, no jingles.
Molly was right, I would never make a good elf!
I arrived at the set up. A huge poster was plastered just above Santa, and a fully trimmed tree stood beside him.
“Nice to meet you…” I said awkwardly, like most of the things that came out of my mouth. It was my new job, so I was especially uncomfortable.
“My name’s Joe,” the man said in a gruff voice, “You call me Santa from now on. No, actually don’t talk to me. Your only job is to guide the kids back to their parents, and give them a candy cane. Now get to it! There’s a line!”
There was, indeed, a line. Right beside the photographer, whining children and exhausted parents stood impatiently, waiting.
A little girl no older than 6 years old scurried away from her mother and into the lap of Santa Claus. Joe- no, Santa gave a forced “Ho, Ho, Ho! What would you like for Christmas?”
The tissue in her hand made me shudder, and so did her pink cheeks and snotty nose.
Her conjested voice made me back away a little as she coughed before she spoke, without even covering her mouth, “My name’s Jennifer, and I’m a little sick…” A little was an understatement, ” And I want a Barbie Dream house!” she sniffled.
As soon as the photographer took the picture of both of them in their best smiles, Santa coaxed her away from him, and I was careful not to touch her contaminated fingers as I handed her a candy can.
She blew her nose into her tissue, and scurrried back excitedly to her mother.
Next in line, a mother swooned beside the photographer as her baby’s photo was snapped as swiftly as all of us could, “Awww!”
It wriggled in Santa’s arms as it cried it’s eyeballs out. I decided it wouldn’t be appropriate to give it a candy cane…
A young child that looked to be about 10 years old bounced up into Santa’s lap, and I could tell Joe was biting his lip in dismay. I grinned at her festive sweater.
“Ho, ho-” before he could finish his line, she shrieked in delight, and I withheld the temptation to cover my ears up, “I want a million bajillion teddy bears! And even MORE art sets! Can you get those for me Santa, pretty pretty please with a cherry on top?”
“Ho, ho, ho! Who knows, I’ll try!”
Ho, ho ho, yourself, Joe, I muttered under my breath as I handed the little girl a candy cane. She squealed and promptly tore off the wrapper, popping it into my mouth.
“What’s your name, little boy?”
the twelve year old rolled his eyes, whispering, “My mom made me do this. Please, just let her take the picture, and I can leave,”
The faux Santa grunted, and turned to the flash of the camera.
I couldn’t relate more to the next little girl…
“I want an American Girl Maryellen Doll complete with her Poodle Skirt Outfit, Gingham School outfit, Rockin Roller Skate Outfit, her Holiday Cookie Set, and Roller Skating Accessories!”
He just nodded at the overload of information, and promised to get it all for her.
An older looking little girl adjusted her raspberry framed glasses. She strutted up in her fur coat and propped herself in Santa’s lap. Her snotty voice spoke in a superior tone, “I want a brand new pair of uggs and the iPhone X!”
“I’ll see what I can do! Ho, Ho, Ho!”
And to contradict her tone, she smiled just as the cute little girl earlier had.
I rolled my eyes as I saw the uggs she was already wearing, and handed her a candy cane. She threw it on the floor.
I’ll pick it up later…
I smiled at the next girl in line, and tried to look away in order to not take away from the magic. Paisley hopped like a bunny all te way through the line, and gave one of the widest grins I had ever seen as she looked at Santa. Teddy bear in hand, and pink beanie on head.
“Ho, Ho, Ho! What’d your name little girl?”
She smiled as much as humanly possible, “My name is Paisley and I…” she looked down, and Santa raised his eyebrow, “I don’t really want anything for Christmas, I already have enough,”
My eyes went teary, “But if you have time for me, I guess I’d be happy to get a few more stuffies!” Santa nodded, but before the picture could be taken and we could have moved onto the next kid..
His pretend beard flopped all the way off of him! I don’t know how exactly it happened. Perhaps it was the buildup underneath of grease and sweat, or the abundancy of mall air conditioning. Whatever it was, the santa was unmasked.
Paisley screamed, “You aren’t Santa!” Tears streaming down her face, she suddenly shipped around to me, her eyes wide, “And you’re not an elf!” she recognized me, “Hazel?” she was silent for a moment, but continued to cry her eyes out, dashing out of the photos with Santa Area.
I left my station, Joe screaming at me to get back, but I didn’t care.
“Paisley, wait up!”
“No! You’re tricking me, you’re not an elf, your my very own sister! How could you?” Paisley’s voice was shaky.
I chased her all the way out of the entire mall. She ran and ran, all the way to the storage unit at the back of the entire shopping center. People stared, pulling their children closer to them as they watched an elf chasing an 8 year old, but I didn’t care.
She stopped, gasping for breath. I pulled her into a hug, but she wouldn’t let me touch her.
“Everyone is lying to me! Santa’s not real!”
It was those three words that struck a match in my heart. I felt like exploding. I remembered when I was skeptical.
Santa’s not real?
No. Santa was real. I knew it, even if I was almost 14 years old. I knew it well. I knew that he lived in our hearts. I still believed in Santa. I know it sounds silly, but it’s true.
So that’s what I told Paisley.
“That’s not true…”
“Yes, it actually is!” she rolled her eyes,
“Do you know why the santas in malls are fake?”
“No…” she seemed curious,
“Because the real Santa is busier than ever in the North pole, making all the toys that you’re going to open on Christmas morning. Do you really think he has time to make it to all these malls?”
She shook her head and pulled me into a hug. And I replaced her three words with a new set of three, “Santa is real.”