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Authors: Darryl Nyznyk

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BOOK: Mary’s Son
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SARAH lay on her bed, her right arm clutching a large stuffed bear under her chin. She was watching the movie,
Miracle on 34
th
Street
, when suddenly she heard a soft knock at her door. She reached for the remote control, turned off the TV, and scurried under her covers. The door opened slowly and
Nicholas’s round, white-maned head pushed through the opening.

 

“May I come in?” he whispered.

Sarah breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn’t Miss Grundick. She wasn’t quite sure how to react to Nicholas, however.

“I came to apologize to you, Sarah,” Nicholas started.

The effect of that statement was immediate on Sarah. She now knew she had the upper hand, even though she had no clue what she had the upper hand in. She sat up and looked imperiously at Nicholas, who ignored the look, to her dismay. He reached for a desk chair and pulled it up to the bed.

“I’m sorry for what happened this afternoon, Sarah. I’m not quite sure how to say this,” he began again.

Sarah leaned forward, surprised that an adult would confide his weaknesses to her.

“I have this terrible need inside me to help other people,” Nicholas continued. “Particularly at Christmas time. I just want to help people enjoy and appreciate this happy time. When I saw all those tired, busy people running around the mall and no one was smiling, I realized there was little joy there. I wanted to brighten things up a little, and you and Mr. Stevens seemed quite happy with what you were doing. I guess I was wrong.”

He eyed her in hopes she would soften with his apology and explanation. But she didn’t.

“Yes…you were wrong,” Sarah scolded. “I needed you to help me.” Sarah folded her arms in front of her, nodded, and stared at Nicholas.

He stared at her sadly. Finally, he shrugged resignedly. He put his hands on his knees and began to stand. “Well, I’ll leave you to your movie. It’s a very good one. You really should watch the end of it. Good night, my dear.”

Sarah was taken aback. She’d turned the TV off before he’d entered. How was it possible he knew it was on, much less what movie she was watching?

“Wait! What do you mean? I’m not watching any movie.”

“No, that’s true, but you were before I came in. You were watching
Miracle on 34
th
Street
, one of my favorites.”

Sarah’s mouth opened slowly. How could he have known? There had to be an explanation for all the magic she’d witnessed surrounding this round man with the constantly smiling face, but all she could do was stare and come up with one simple question.

“You’re not
really
Santa Claus, are you?”

“Why yes, my dear.” Nicholas turned and responded quickly. He started to walk hesitantly back to the vacated
chair. When she appeared interested, he sat again. “I am the real one. Why is that so hard for you to believe?”

“Well…Miss Grundick and my father told me there wasn’t a Santa Claus. It was just a story…that’s all.”

“Don’t I look like the real Santa Claus?”

“Yes…but there are probably a lot of men who do.”

“What does Mr. Stevens say?”

“Stevens?” Sarah hesitated and thought for a moment. “Well, I’ve never asked
him
. But my father and Miss Grundick wouldn’t lie to me.”

“Oh no, Sarah. I’m not suggesting they’re lying. They have simply forgotten. Unfortunately, a lot of adults forget. They start thinking the thing forgotten doesn’t exist. Then they teach their children to forget, and it starts a terrible cycle of lost hope.”

Nicholas realized he actually had the young girl’s attention for the first time. He prayed that he could keep it as he settled in and began to tell her a story.

“Many years ago, your father believed very strongly in me. When he was a little boy, he was so happy and loving. He didn’t just believe; he
knew
I existed. The same is true of Miss Grundick. She was a beautiful, smiling little girl. Both of them knew what Christmas was all about and that I was there to help all children understand the wonder of the birthday we celebrate on Christmas day.

“The problem is that so much time passes between each Christmas that your father, Miss Grundick, and many other grownups simply forget. They get caught up in their own worlds of work, pressure, and money. Soon, memories of that first Christmas and what Jesus’ birth means to all of us begin to fade. Christmas for them is just a chore that they must fight through every year. For some people it’s nothing more than a very big expense, and for others it’s just loneliness because they’ve forgotten. And do you know the worst thing about that, Sarah?”

She shook her head, waiting expectantly.

“The worst thing is when they make their children forget. You see, when the children forget, it creates a wall I can’t break through. The children simply harden their hearts, demand the toys and gifts of the world and forget the real gift of God’s love and giving.”

Sarah stared hard at Nicholas, wondering at his mention of God. Although a part of her wanted so badly to understand the depth and truth of Nicholas’s words, all she could grasp was that her father had lost something…much like Sarah had.

“Why did God let my father forget?”

“Oh, He didn’t let anyone forget,” Nicholas rejoined softly. “Everyone has his own free will. That was God’s gift to all of us. We are able to make our own choices. Unfortunately, so many people make choices that make them unhappy. It
really is easy to choose to believe, and if that choice is from the heart, everything is so much better.”

They stared at each other for several seconds before Sarah dropped her head in thought.

“You see, Sarah, that’s part of my problem,” Nicholas rejoined. “I believe so strongly that I just want to help others believe. Because of that, I upset you today.” He hesitated for several seconds, and when he received no response from Sarah, he continued, “Well, it’s late. You should get some rest. I’ll be leaving in the morning, so I’ll say goodbye now.”

“Where are you going in the morning?” she asked, surprised. There was something important in Nicholas…something she had to pursue. Why would he be leaving?

“Your father was very concerned that you were so upset today.”

“He was?”

“Yes, of course he was. He loves you. He didn’t want me to stay if I upset you. I’ve been asked to leave.”

“I don’t want you…you said you were sorry. Don’t you want to stay?”

“With all my heart, but I must leave in the morning.” Before standing, he reached into the pocket of his coat. “I have something for you.”

It was the Nativity globe. He smiled and handed it to her. Sparkling stars were cascading down around the manger. Sarah’s eyes went wide as she accepted the beautiful gift. She had never seen anything so colorful and beautifully carved in all her life.

“Merry Christmas, Sarah,” Nicholas said and turned to leave.

“Merry Christmas,” Sarah whispered. The door closed behind Nicholas, and she continued to stare at the wonder of the gift.

When Sarah finally looked up and noticed Nicholas was gone, she sat quietly and held tightly onto the beautiful glass globe.

 

TWO hours later, Jonas Stone was sleeping soundly in his room when, from the fringes of his dreams, he sensed someone standing over him. His eyelids shot open, and through the haze of sleep, he was finally able to discern his daughter.

 

“Sarah…what’s wrong?”

“Daddy, please don’t send him away.”

“What?… Who?”

“Nicholas, Daddy. Don’t send him away tomorrow.”

“Sarah, it’s almost midnight.”

“I’m sorry, Daddy. I just couldn’t sleep. Please don’t send him away.”

“I thought he upset you.”

“No, Daddy…he’s…he’s fun. Please let him stay…please.”

Jonas shook his head slowly. He was sitting up, rubbing his eyes and yawning as his daughter pleaded with him. He was groggy and in no condition to argue with Sarah.

“I’ll let him stay another day,” he finally said through another yawn. “We’ll talk more about it tomorrow.”

“Thank you, Daddy,” Sarah hugged him.

At first Jonas was taken aback by his daughter’s hug—a hug he hadn’t experienced in quite some time. Slowly, he raised his own arms and hugged Sarah back.

“Let’s get you back to bed.” He stood, threw an arm around her, and walked her back to her room.

- 6 -
 

The next morning Nicholas was packing his bag when Stevens walked into his room, beaming.

 

“He changed his mind.”

“What’s that?” asked Nicholas.

“Mr. Stone changed his mind. He wants you to stay on.”

“And Sarah?” Nicholas asked warily.

“Oh, she’s very excited. I believe it was her doing. I overheard something about her waking her father last night after midnight.”

“That’s wonderful,” Nicholas smiled just as Sarah bounced into the room.

“You’ll stay?” she asked.

“Yes…and I have the perfect outing. That is if Mr. Stevens here can drive us.”

“Miss Grundick would be delighted to have us out of the house today…last minute preparations for the party tonight. I’d be glad to accompany you.” Stevens bowed jokingly.

“Can Daddy come?” Sarah asked.

“Of course, if he’d like,” answered Nicholas.

Sarah took Nicholas’s hand and led the two men into the foyer, where Jonas Stone was giving Miss Grundick instructions for the party that evening. He was dressed in his suit and clutched his black leather briefcase at his side.

“Daddy, can you come with us today?”

Jonas turned at his daughter’s interruption. He appeared preoccupied, seeming to have forgotten the previous night’s hug. When he finally answered, he smiled, but gave his daughter his usual reply.

“I can’t, Sarah. I’ve got a big meeting today at work. I’ll see you at the party tonight, though.”

As Jonas was putting on his overcoat, he stared hard at Nicholas. Although his daughter was pouting, he paid no attention. Instead, he motioned to Stevens to join him as he walked out the door and whispered, “Stay with them Stevens…at all times.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Several minutes later, Nicholas helped Sarah with her coat and tried to think of something to say to console the girl. Miss Grundick took Stevens aside and instructed him on his duties for the day.

“I don’t want to hear that he’s a harmless little man, Mr. Stevens. I don’t trust him. I don’t understand why Mr. Stone changed his mind, nor do I understand why you now defend
him. Make no mistake; he is not to be trusted. Watch him closely,” Miss Grundick commanded icily.

“He speaks well of you, Miss,” Stevens responded with a smile. “He says you were a very beautiful little girl…full of life and.…”

Miss Grundick was suddenly perturbed. “Yes…well… that’s behind us now, isn’t it? He didn’t know me anyway.”

“I believe he may have known you, Myra.”

“Myra? You forget yourself, Mr. Stevens,” she nearly shouted. “Are you losing your wits too?”

“Perhaps I’m just finding them again.”

Miss Grundick stared for a moment at the man, not quite sure what to make of him. Stevens, on the other hand, was enjoying the woman’s discomfort and smiled broadly.

“Go Mr. Stevens, and be very careful. The man is dangerous. I feel it. Make sure you’re back early for the party. Mr. Stone insists on Miss Sarah’s presence.”

She glared at him. Stevens nodded and followed Nicholas and Sarah out the door. Miss Grundick turned and walked away from the door, past a mirror in the hall. She caught a quick glimpse of herself, stopped, and turned to see her reflection. She primped a little and then, regaining her haughtiness, marched out of the room.

 

NICHOLAS glanced at Sarah, who stared sadly out the car window.

 

“I’m sure your father would have…” Nicholas started.

“I don’t want to talk about that now.” She glanced sadly at Nicholas for a moment before she asked, “Where are we going?”

Nicholas nodded and smiled conspiratorially as he leaned toward her. “If I tell you, it’ll spoil the surprise. Let’s wait and see.”

Sarah smiled and then turned to stare out the window again, when suddenly she saw four boys about her age standing on a street corner, staring at her car. She frowned at the boys and looked more closely at the neighborhood through which Stevens was now driving. Her frown turned to disgust at the dilapidated structures and horrific conditions of the homes, businesses, and the area she knew with horror as “the Sink.”

BOOK: Mary’s Son
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