Miss Kane's Christmas

By: Caroline Mickelson

Chapter One

“I cannot believe you’ve banished me from the North Pole.” Carol Claus glanced across the sleigh at her father. “What have I done?”

“Don’t be so melodramatic, my dear.” Santa smiled at his daughter. He hopped down from the driver’s seat and motioned for Carol to join him. When she did, he put his arm around her shoulders and gave her an affectionate hug. He gestured across the moonlit neighborhood of Indian Village. “This is a beautiful place for you to spend your first Christmas away from home.”

Carol looked down on the snow covered street. Each two story home in the cul-de-sac was bedecked with strings of colored lights, nativity scenes, plastic gift wrapped lawn ornaments, and pine wreaths on the front doors. The seventh home just under their feet was the exception to the neighborhood’s festive spirit. A white clapboard colonial with black shutters, it gave no indication that its owners knew Christmas was only three days away.

She fixed a pleading expression on her father but, while his blue eyes sparkled with his love for her, he showed no sign of going back on his decision that she spend her first Christmas with a family of his choosing. It was a Claus family tradition, and Carol, as the youngest child, was over-due for her turn. Still, she made one last ditch effort to change his mind. “You’ve said yourself that no one excels at elf management like I do.”

“True, I said it and I meant it. But your absence will give your brother Nicholas a chance to work more closely with the elves. Besides, you deserve some fun this year. You work too hard.”

“I love every moment of it.” Carol tucked a strand of her dark hair behind her ear. She shared her father’s blue eyes and his love of Christmas. “I’ll miss you, Daddy.”

“I’ll miss you too, my girl. I know this won’t be easy, Carol, but it’s necessary.” He dug into the pocket of his red down jacket and pulled out a sheet of folded paper. “Read this.”

She reached out for the paper. “What is it?”

“Just read it. It’s the reason you’re here.”

Carol unfolded the slightly crumpled sheet of lined paper and instantly recognized that it had been written by a child. Fortunately the moon was bright enough to allow her to easily read the words that had been neatly printed in crayon.

Dear Santa,

My Daddy doesn’t know I’m writing to you. He would say I can’t write a letter to someone who doesn’t even exist but I know you are real. My Mom told me so before she died. My little brother Patrick doesn’t remember her saying that but that’s only because she was gone before he was even in preschool. I’m not writing to ask for anything for Patrick or me. But Santa, can you please bring my Daddy some happiness? I know the elves can’t wrap it, and it’s nothing you can bring down the chimney but he needs help. I don’t know who else to ask. I know you’ll think of something Santa.

from Hillary (age 8)

p.s. Patrick likes to play with cars and my favorite color is pink

Carol finished reading the letter, refolded it and handed it back to her father. “I take it we’re at Hillary and Patrick’s house?”

Santa nodded. “And not a moment too soon, my dear. There are three very sad people living here. I can’t bear for them to suffer through one more miserable holiday.”

“You’re so kind hearted, Daddy.” Carol knew she was beat. She couldn’t say no to her father, not when little Hillary was counting on Santa Claus, and Santa Claus was counting on her. “There’s more to it than you’re telling me, isn’t there?”

Her father nodded. “Quite a bit more.”

“Tell me what’s going on then. I’d rather know going in what I’m up against.” Carol stomped her feet to keep some feeling in them. “Is this about the children’s mother?”

“No. The children were too young to know that their mother had all but left their father just before she was diagnosed with cancer. She’d already rented a townhome and had packed up most of her things but then she found out she was ill. Her husband insisted she move into the guest room to recover.”

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