For Christmas I got plot bunnies who won't let stories go and have given me a couple more plots. I was wondering where they went. Another story from a Christmas song. This time from Helga's POV.
Christmas was always a special time for them.
Their first real kiss. The proposal. The conception of their first child.
When he'd taken this job, she understood that he would miss birthdays, anniversaries, and many of other major holidays. But they'd agreed that Christmas would be the one time he would always be home. Their special time.
So that's why she was on the phone with him long distance two days before Christmas feeling like the wind had been knocked out of her.
"I can't help it. I'm trying to find a ride, but the airport here is empty."
"You've never missed a Christmas, Arnold, ever." She said, clutching the phone tightly.
"I know luv, and I'm trying. But I might not make it."
"You promised me when we got married Christmas was our day. How do I explain it to the girls?"
"I don't know Helga. I'm so sorry. Look my time's almost up. I'll call you if I can find a flight. I love you."
She hung up the phone, her hand against the wall. After twelve years this would be their first Christmas apart. How was she supposed to explain to the girls that their dad wouldn't be home?
Fate took that decision from her in the form of a four-year-old little girl suddenly clutching onto her with tears in her eyes.
"Daddy has to come home, he has to!" She wailed. Sighing quietly, Helga dropped down to her squat in front of her youngest daughter.
"Baby, I'm not sure he's going to be able to this year." She said, glancing up to see her ten-year-old daughter walk into the kitchen and lean against the doorway. "There isn't a plane that can take him out of where he is."
Her youngest cried in hr arms, and then suddenly stopped, as if an idea had come to her.
"Santa can give him a ride home!" She exclaimed, looking up at Helga, her green eyes filled with hope. "We can ask Santa to bring our daddy home for Christmas."
"I'm not sure it's going to be that easy Gwennie." The eldest said from where she was, giving Helga a knowing look. She was silent for a moment, and then steeled herself. Gwen would be devastated if she let her believe that it was possible for Arnold to return in time for Christmas. That would take a miracle, and she wasn't sure she believed enough for one to happen.
"Santa might have already left. That's going to have to take some heavy wishing."
The four year old looked up at both her mother and sister. "You just have to believe." She insisted. "I'm going to go upstairs right now and ask him."
Helga heart broke. Gwen looked so much like her father at that moment, her green eyes shining with a determination that everything was going to turn out fine if one just believe hard enough.
She ran out of the kitchen and raced back up to her room, slamming the door behind her.
Helga stood up, placing her hands against the kitchen table.
"Why can't dad come home?" Her eldest, Sophie, asked.
She sat down in a chair and looked at Sophie. At ten, her eldest reminded her of her at that age…almost. Sophie was a realist and insisted that she not be treated like a child. Out of respect, Helga didn't.
"There's unrest in El Salvador." She said. "Your Dad stayed behind to help a family find safety even when the rest of his team left. He made it to the city but he's not sure if he's going to be able to find a plane to get him at least to Panama to get home. This might be the first year your Dad doesn't make it home."
"Gwennie will be devastated." Sophie said. "After all, she is Dad's princess."
Helga's head shot up. Could she really believe that her father didn't adore her? That he didn't stand at her doorway for hours and watch both of them sleep. That he would move Heaven and Earth to grant even the smallest request for either of them. Only this time, Heaven and Earth weren't enough.
"As you are his angel." She said. "Sophie, never forget your father loves you both equally. You are both very precious to him."
"Sorry mom." Her blue eyes remorseful.
"Go on to bed Sophie. God knows the next two days are going to be hard on all of us."
The next day and a half was busy. Helga wrapped the remainder of the presents, determined not to dwell on the fact that this was usually a task they did together. She got all the things for Christmas dinner. She was determined to make this Christmas as close to normal as possible for the girls.
As she tucked Gwen in on Christmas Eve, the youngest looked up at her.
"Santa's going to bring Daddy home tomorrow."
"Baby, don't count on it. There are some thing not even Santa can do."
"He can Mommy. I know he can."
"Go to sleep Gwennie." She dropped a kiss on her daughter's forehead and left the room quietly. She checked in on Sophie who was sitting in bed reading.
'Light's out Soph," she said. "Santa won't come until everyone's asleep."
The eldest looked up at her. "You just don't want us hearing you pull out the presents."
Helga smirked. "Go to bed smarty pants."
Sophie smiled. "Night Mom."
She waited about an hour before pulling out the presents and placing them under the tree. Staring at the soft glow coming from the lighted Christmas tree, she wondered if the eternal optimism of both her husband and youngest daughter would actually be enough to create a Christmas miracle this year.
"Please Santa." She whispered, before shaking her head and climbing the stairs to get some sleep. Christmas would come soon enough and with it presents and her youngest daughter's tears when she found that her father still wasn't here.
A sound woke her up for a sound sleep. Squinting, she glanced over at the clock on the nightstand.
It read three am. Gwen couldn't be up already. Grabbing her robe, she slipped out of the bedroom and peeked into her youngest daughters bedroom. She was still bundled under the covers, sleeping soundly. The noise sounded again, and she knew that it hadn't come from either of her daughters. The sound of bags rustling stilled her heart for a moment. First their father not being home for Christmas, now someone breaking into their home.
Not with Helga G. Patacki…
Another movement, like a thud, broke into her thoughts. Grabbing a candleholder from a table in the hallway, she crept down the stairs, the weapon held aloft. Turning the corner, she spotted a figure in the shadows wearing a bulky jacket and a Santa hat.
"Hold it creep." She called out. "I've already called the police."
The figure spun around and Helga froze, the candleholder falling from her grasp.
The man in the bulky coat smiled brightly. "Merry Christmas luv."
Tears falling, she ran to him, sobbing quietly.
"You're home!" She exclaimed. He grabbed her to him, kissing her soundly. She tightened her arms around his neck not really believing he was really here.
"But how? How did you? You said you'd call." She whispered against his neck as they broke away.
"I…" he started but was interrupted by a very loud screech.
He pulled away and pulled off his Santa hat, bending down to pick up his youngest daughter.
"Princess!" He exclaimed. Gwen hugged him as tight as her little arms would go around his neck, crying and thanking Santa over and over again. Sophie came around the corner as if hesitant to believe it we really her father. Arnold put Gwen down and opened his arms again, giving his eldest a huge smile.
"I missed my angel." He said. She ran to him tears flowing, grabbing him in a tight hug.
"How did you get home?" She asked, her face against his coat.
"Darnest thing." He said, pulling Gwen back into his embrace. "I was sitting in the airport when this older guy walked up and started talking to me. I eventually told him about not getting home and that's when he told me he had a private jet here. Said he was on his way back to the States and asked if I needed a ride. Dropped me off at the main airport about two hours ago. When I asked him how I could repay him, he told me he was paying a debt long overdue. Told me to tell my family that Christmas miracles still happen. Then he was just gone."
Helga stood there smiling. Apparently eternal optimism had saved the day again.
"I asked Santa to bring you home Daddy," Gwen said. "And he did."
Arnold pulled his wife in for another hug. "He might have princess, he might have."
She wrapped her arms around him, laying her head on his shoulder when she heard her eldest quietly thank Santa. Finally she pulled away. He had to be sweating in the heavy coat.
"Okay you two. Apparently Santa's been here, but we still need to get some sleep. No other present opening until tomorrow." She said. Both girls whined good-naturedly. Arnold pulled off the heavy coat and promised the girls he'd tucked them in.
Helga watched as the three headed upstairs, then began picking up suitcases and discarded coats. As she moved a bag, a large square present fell out of it. Frowning, she picked it up, wondering if it had been accidentally moved from under the tree.
The tag on the present had her name on it.
She turned her head to see Arnold walk back into the living room. He sat next to her on the couch, sliding his arm around her shoulder.
"Open it." He repeated. "I'm dying to see what's in there."
She frowned. "Didn't you buy it?"
He shook his head. "Nope. It's from my Good Samaritan. Right before I got off the plane, he gave it to me. Told me to give it to you with an apology for it being so late."
"It could be a bomb."
"I don't think so." He said, mirth in her voice. "Just open it."
She pulled off the wrapping paper and used her nails to slit the tape off the sides of the box. Opening the lid, she gasped, her eyes widening in shock. Arnold frowned.
"Aren't those Nancy Spumoni signature snow boots? I don't get it."
She started at the boots in the box in amazement, and then looked up at him.
"You're sure you didn't buy these?"
He looked at her perplexed. "I didn't even know you wanted snow boots. Heck, I didn't even know they were back in style."
Helga began to laugh. She put the box on the floor and pulled her husband into a hug.
"All I wanted for Christmas was you." She said. "The snow boots are just a reminder."
"Of what?" He asked, his arms around her. She smiled up at him, her eyes shining.
"That Santa is real and Christmas miracles can still happen."