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Authors: Darryl Nyznyk

Mary’s Son (5 page)

BOOK: Mary’s Son
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At home she got attention when she was tedious or troublesome. But that attention was a reaction and had no real meaning. She learned quickly that the only time the attention given her was even partially genuine was when she was on an outing. At home, the attention was simply to keep her quiet and out of everyone’s way as they all went about their daily business. It was only on outings specifically intended for her that she was totally in control. That’s why the mall was her escape. Whoever took her to the mall had only one purpose…to accompany Sarah and to focus on her the entire time. At the mall, she was in charge, and whoever was with her had nothing else that he needed to do—that is, until Nicholas came along.

On this day, Sarah led Stevens and Nicholas through the labyrinth of shops. Stevens was his usual, attentive self, but Nicholas didn’t seem to understand his place. He ambled amidst Christmas shoppers, his hands clasped behind his back and his eyes sparkling in the bright decorations. He was preoccupied with the noise, bustle, and craziness of the sea
son’s shopping, and he showed little interest in Sarah’s needs as he trailed her and Stevens by large distances.

“Mr. Stevens,” Sarah finally demanded, “will you tell Nicholas to join us?”

Sarah had to admit, as she waited for Stevens to catch Nicholas’s eye, that he bore a striking resemblance to the impish symbol of Christmas. He wandered aimlessly through the crowd, greeting everyone with bright smiles and jolly calls of “Merry Christmas.” Maybe it was because he looked like Santa that he thought he was Santa.

“Whatever,” she thought. It didn’t matter right now anyway. This was her time, and he was supposed to be with her. He was supposed to be helping her find what she wanted, noting her choices and then having them wrapped and delivered to her house. He wasn’t supposed to be wandering around, greeting other kids and smiling at everyone he passed.

Stevens craned his neck and waved embarrassingly until Nicholas finally saw him. Nicholas smiled, nodded cheerily, and stepped up his pace. Sarah turned sharply into the nearest store, a Fitzpatrick & Ames teeming with swaggering teens and parents shocked by the half-naked live models as well as the prices of the few stitches of clothing they wore.

When Nicholas finally joined Stevens at the store, he didn’t enter. Instead, he took Stevens by the arm and whispered to him.

“She doesn’t need me in there, Jonathan. I’ll wait out here for you.”

“No, Mr. Nicholas, I’m sure she wants you inside the store. You’d better come in,” Stevens said.

Nicholas shook his head and patted Stevens on the arm as he looked past him and saw Sarah. She was moving purposefully, oblivious to all except whatever shopping mission she was on.

“We’ll have time together later,” he said with another smile before he turned away and stepped back into the crowd.

Nicholas wanted to be the girl’s friend, but he knew it wouldn’t happen here, and he knew it wouldn’t happen while she was immersed in herself. His time would come, he hoped. He would have to be patient.


TWENTY minutes later, Nicholas stood in front of the mall’s gaudy Christmas display. It was made up of a thirty-foot-tall fake Christmas tree and a platform on which sat a fake Santa Claus surrounded by high school girls dressed up as Santa’s helpers, taking photos. A long chaotic line of kids and hassled parents waited.


Mary Roberts stood in the middle of the line with her
four younger children. The twins giggled in anticipation, and Billy squirmed in her arms. Amanda simply stared sadly at the fake Santa. From her vantage, his dark hair was visible under the wig and beard. She frowned and turned away.

Maybe Jared’s right, after all,
she thought sadly.
Maybe there really is no Santa Claus, and I should just accept it
I’m a big girl. I can handle it

Amanda let her eyes wander around the crowded mall—from the fake tree to the bustling crowds—from the harried looks of moms and dads to the frazzled nerves of the mall workers—from the fake Santa to the real Santa.…


She stopped suddenly. Her head jerked back to the spot where she thought she’d seen him. It was only a peek, but she knew it was him. She craned to get a better look, when suddenly the milling crowd seemed to part for her, and there he stood—the plump little man she thought she’d seen seconds before.

To her shock, he actually looked like Santa Claus. He had a real beard and real white hair with a jolly looking face and a sparkle in his eye.

At that exact instant, Nicholas turned and looked directly at Amanda. He waved at her. As quickly as she had given up hope that a real Santa actually existed, her hopes
were renewed. A huge smile spread across her face. She lifted her hand slowly and waved back. She stepped out of line and walked toward Nicholas.

“You’re him, aren’t you? You’re the real Santa Claus,” she said as she stood in front of him.

“Yes, I am,” Nicholas beamed at her. Although other children noticed Nicholas, no one else stopped to acknowledge him—so, at least for a brief time, Amanda had him to herself.

“I knew it. I knew it as soon as I saw you.” Amanda reached for him and hugged him hard for a long moment. Nicholas hugged her and patted her back gently.

“And you, my dear, are…” he started as he reached into his memory bank. “Oh, yes…Amanda Roberts. What can I bring you for Christmas?”

Amanda hesitated for a moment before nodding and answering. “Well, Santa…my mom says we should all hope and pray that our father comes home…and I really do want that. Can you help us?”

“I don’t know,” Nicholas’s smile disappeared for an instant. “Your father has his own mind. It is up to him to make his decisions. No one can force him to come home.”

“But that’s the only thing my mother wants,” she said sadly.

Nicholas stared into Amanda’s pleading eyes. Other
children began to take notice of Nicholas and Amanda talking. A ripple of recognition spread through the lower mall and to the Christmas display where the fake Santa was working.

“I promise you that I will do my best, Amanda,” Nicholas finally said. “I’ll need your help, though. You’ll have to keep praying for his return.” He smiled again, “But what about you? What do you want?”

“Just that, Santa—if you.…” She was suddenly interrupted by a surge of other children crowding toward Nicholas. Slowly, Amanda was pushed away. Nicholas began hugging the children who were swarming around him. Amanda turned to walk away, and Nicholas called out, “Amanda!”

When she turned to him, he mouthed, “You’ll get your bike this year.”

Amanda clapped her hands sharply as Nicholas waved and said, “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas,” Amanda whispered happily.

Nicholas laughed and joked with the excited children and weary mothers as Sarah emerged from yet another store with an exhausted Stevens trailing behind her. She stared in shock at the children surrounding Nicholas. She grew angrier with each moment and each happy hug.

Stevens stood behind Sarah. He placed his packages down on an empty bench to rest his weary arms, when he
too suddenly spied Nicholas. Despite his fatigue, his reaction was different than Sarah’s. He chuckled at the scene of kids swarming around the little man.

“What’s he doing, Mr. Stevens? I want you to get him… now!” Sarah demanded.

Stevens’ smile faded. “I’ll leave the packages here and get him, Miss Sarah,” he said before he trudged toward Nicholas.


ON the mall’s second level, just above all the commotion, Jared, M.J., and Hammer walked like town toughs among the milling shoppers. Jared glanced over the rail, and his buddies followed with their own looks.


“Hey, look, Jared…there’s your mom,” said M.J., pointing.

“Yeah. But who’s that old guy?” he asked, nodding to Nicholas.

“Santa Claus,” said Hammer sarcastically.

M.J. and Hammer began to laugh while Jared scanned the crowd and then stared again at Nicholas, who suddenly looked directly at him. Their eyes locked. Nicholas smiled broadly and waved an arm at Jared, beckoning him to join the crowd. Jared pulled away from the rail sharply. “Let’s get outta here!” he commanded.

Hammer and M.J. looked quizzically at each other but followed Jared.

“Hey, wait; where’s Burner?” shouted M.J.

Jared turned. He was still flustered at the little fat guy’s seeming recognition of him. He shook his head angrily, both to clear his mind and because they now had to search for Burner. After a few seconds, Jared spied Burner preparing to lift some chocolate from a candy store. Burner looked around furtively to make sure no one would see him. He then suddenly reached for one of the packages of chocolates on display. Almost immediately his hand was pushed away and he turned sharply to face Jared who glared angrily.

“Don’t be stupid. Security is staring right at you.”

Burner glanced past Jared to a security guard, who was, indeed, looking directly at him.

“You want to blow our whole plan?” Jared whispered. “We got something much bigger going. C’mon.”


BACK on the mall’s first level, Nicholas had calmed the children and gotten them to sit quietly on the floor in front of him. They were transfixed with broad smiles and bright eyes as Nicholas spoke softly of how busy his elves were at the North Pole and how if they all were patient and good, they
would have the best of Christmases. Stevens pushed his way through the throng and was finally able to maneuver next to Nicholas.


“Come, Sir, we must move on,” he whispered.

“Just a few minutes, Jonathan,” Nicholas responded. “Please stay with me.”

Nicholas turned back to the children as Stevens glanced back to an angry Sarah. He shrugged to her and turned back to Nicholas.

“Do you see that man up there?” Nicholas asked as he pointed to the fake Santa.

The children turned quickly, returned their gazes to Nicholas, and nodded. “He and many others are my helpers. What you tell him always gets back to me, so when we’re finished here, you must go back to that man and get your pictures taken with him so that you’ll all have a memory of this Christmas, okay?”

Then, amidst the nods, he leaned forward conspiratorially, and the children fell silent.

“Now, I want to tell you all a little secret. When I’m here in person, none of you has to tell me what you want. All you have to do is close your eyes…be very quiet and think very hard about the present you want. I’ll know.”

All the children and some adults did exactly as Nicholas suggested.

“Come, Sir, Miss Sarah is waiting,” whispered Stevens again.

Nicholas glanced past him to Sarah, who fumed off to the side. “Just a few more minutes, Jonathan,” he pleaded.

Nicholas then turned back to the children, who had begun to open their eyes. He looked at one six-year-old boy.

“Come up here, my boy,” he beckoned.

The little boy was not shy. Nicholas threw an arm around him as he ran up and turned him gently to face the still growing throng of children and adults.

“I must leave right away, but before I go, I’d like to do something. Jimmy here would like to lead us in a song—wouldn’t you, Jimmy?”

BOOK: Mary’s Son
11.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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