Snow had settled before Christmas that year. Claira was being more of a hindrance to David by making a snowman right on the driveway as he tried to clear a path.
"There you go, Mr Snowman, just a carrot for your nose and an old scarf and you will be complete." She said contentedly.
David looked up and down the path to the giant snowman.
She spun round. "Hurh?"
"That's right on the driveway."
She looked around.
"Oh yeah, it is. Sorry daddy, I didn't notice."
He shook his head and tried to carry on.
She looked at the snowman and was soon reminded of the last time she made one. She looked at David struggling with the snow then cautiously moved up to him.
"Aren't you going to clear that?" He said pointing.
"Well, um, erm."
"Claira, it can't stay there. How am I going to get the car out in the morning once the ice has got into it tonight?"
She looked down.
"Sorry, I'll, I'll go clear it, sir." She said slowly walking away.
He watched her go.
Claira moved back to the snowman and thought to herself. She turned back to see David going into the house.
A few minutes later she walked in the back door to find David warming up some milk.
"Do you want a cup?"
"Yeah, thanks." She said sitting down on the kitchen stool.
He moved over to the window and noticed the snowman. He looked back.
"You couldn't bring yourself to do it, ha?" He said making sure she saw what he was looking at.
"What? Well, no, you see, it kind of reminded me of the last time I made a snowman. Do you remember, dad, it was just after our first Christmas together."
"Oh yeah, I remember now. You were still not sure what to call me in those days. Dad, David or even, heaven forbid, Mr Vincent." He said looking at her.
"We were investigating that landing, you remember, the one we knew the aliens would return to."
"I remember alright. It snowed all night and the next morning we had to bail the car out."
"Yeah, I remember that."
He looked at her.
She stared at him.
"You really want me to say, don't you?"
She looked down and sighed.
"Alright. I guess that you really bailed the car out because I was busy building another snowman."
"Thank you, at least you're honest."
She soon finished her drink and moved over to the sink where David was standing.
"I also seem to remember that it was where you told me about the time you made a snowman outside your parents home." He said looking at her.
"A-ha, that's correct, yes." She said then turned away.
"I can see that your just remember that time. Anyway, that was a long time ago now…"
"I was five, nearly six!" She said firmly.
He looked at her.
"Mum and dad helped me make him, the snowman and not on the driveway, either."
"Well, that's good to hear."
"That was a big snowman, well at least bigger than that one out there now."
She now looked up.
"Oh, dad, I'm sorry, I keep forgetting. I've already told you this story, when we were stuck in the snow that Christmas…
"And subsequent Christmases after that, now including this one. I really don't mind darling. I can't make you forget your parents, it wouldn't be right."
She looked down and moved into the living room and sat down quietly.
He watched her go then looked back at the snowman and decided to leave it.
Later that afternoon Claira put on her Wellingtons and coat and headed out to the snowman. The ice had already gotten into it as she started to reinforce the base.
"There you go Mr Snowman, as good as new. Mum and dad would be proud of me." She said smiling.
The phone now started to ring in the farmhouse. David walked out to the kitchen phone and answered it.
"Hello?" He said then noticed Claira out by the snowman. "Erm, yeah, I'm still here, carry on…." He added.
Claira pushed a little more snow up to the base of the snowman then noticed a pair of shoes beside the snowman. She stepped back and looked up.
"Wow, is it evening already?"
"It is." He said checking his watch.
"How long have I been out here?"
"A good few hours."
"Erm, maybe I should head in then."
"I think that that would be a good idea."
David followed her in.
"I had a phone call earlier."
"Oh, I thought that I heard it."
He looked at her.
"Don't tell me. The believers?"
He slightly nodded.
"Figures, they can't even leave you alone for Christmas!" She said sitting down in front of the fire.
"Claira, the aliens don't stop just because it's Christmas on Earth."
"I understand that dad, but the purpose of the believers is to investigate all sightings. Why do they have to pick on us when Christmas comes around again?"
"Well, maybe it's because they know that we're good at what we do."
"While destroying our Christmases in the process…."
"At least we're together doing what we like best." He said kissing her.
She looked at him then moved away from the fire.
He watched her go then noticed the snowman again and started to think to himself.
They had a quiet dinner and then settled down to watch the television.
David flipped through the channels, as Claira was relaxing.
The news soon carried pictures of a possible alien-landing site.
Claira now stared at the screen.
"Hey, what's that?"
He looked at her.
"Oh, so now your interested in what the believers are talking about this week."
"That's a landing site."
"Shush dad, turn it up." She said fumberling for the remote.
They watched the camera zoom in on the area.
"That's a big craft."
"Not really, it's two landings."
She looked back.
"Oh, and how do you know that, Mister know it all?"
He threw her the folder.
"I just downloaded this from the believers website. Check it out sometime, Miss know it all."
She looked at him then moved back to the sofa and sat down.
"Good scoop or what?" David said watching her read it.
She decided not to look at him.
"Alright, I can take a hint." He said getting up and going to the kitchen to grab a beer and a quick smoke.
Claira eventually walked up to him and sat down on the stool.
"It says here that reports have been coming in about this site for over three months now. Local investigators have seen increased alien activity for the last week or so."
"Definitely a good scoop, I'd say." He said sipping his beer.
Claira read on.
"Interest has grown since a local TV network, WWZKZ actually filmed a ship landing. Well, why didn't they show it?" She said looking at David.
"Would you want to publicize something like that?" He said pointing to the folder.
"Yes, I would, and straight away, not, certainly not three weeks after alien activity was noticed by the believers."
David looked at her.
"Claira, we're talking about a small, local community here. Everybody knows everybody else. You go in there showing a landing to everyone they'll run you out of town before you got to the first house. Believe me, I know, from experience."
"Same here, I have been with you for some time now, dad."
"I bet everyone in that town will tell you that they didn't see a thing. Get it, blind."
Claira stared at him then grabbed the folder and moved back to the sofa.
"Fine, if that's how you want to play this one, okay. It's Christmas, we can spend it here, this year. You're right, there is no interest in this one. I see, blind." She said touching her head.
David watched her for a while. He now grabbed his beer and moved to the sofa and sat down next to her.
"Claira, this will be our third Christmas away from home. Don't you think that just one year we could relax and enjoy Christmas together, as every other American family does at this time of year?"
"Excuse me dad, but who contacted us this year like they have for the past two?"
"I know, but I have already put them off. I have told them that this year I am going to enjoy a quiet Christmas with my child while we entertain Father Christmas."
"Ha, entertain Father Christmas? Dad, you don't seriously believe that he exists, do you?"
He looked away.
"Oh yeah, I keep forgetting, you don't believe in Father Christmas. Your parents drummed that out of you at an early age. Another fable told to kids by their parents."
"That's right, a tissue of lies." She said going through the folder.
He turned back.
"Told to you while you were busy making your first and only snowman with them before they were killed by the aliens, yes?"
She looked up and thought about her parents for a moment.
"Yeah, I suppose so, yes." She said wishing not to say anymore.
He stood up and moved away from her.
"Well, I really lost out over that one, didn't I?"
She looked up to see him go into the kitchen.
"What do you mean?"
"I was hoping that your parents hadn't have been so mean to a, well to a five year old child. They could have waited a year or two."
Claira now got up and went into the kitchen and up to him.
"A year or two? Dad, they would have been dead by that time. Where is all this leading us here?"
"To that snowman sitting outside on my driveway!" He said pointing out the window. "Why do you do this to yourself, Claira? To me?"
"You can't keep blaming yourself for their death, Claira. They are dead and I am here and I love you as much as they did. I am your father, aren't I?"
She looked down.
David moved up to her and lifted her head up.
She now hugged him.
He closed his eyes as he held her.
"Go on. Go and grab your case."
"Ha? My case?" She said looking at him.
"Well, we are going to this site, yes?"
Claira stared at him then realised what he meant and again hugged him.
"Oh, thank you daddy." She said then ran off to her bedroom.
He watched her go then looked skyward.
"Why?" He said then looked back and smiled.
They were soon on the road and heading to the small town.
Claira looked around.
"The traffic is pretty light for this time of the year." She said making small talk to pass the time away.
"Well, of course. I bet everyone's at home with their children with the houses all a buzz with what Father Christmas is going to bring them this year." He said looking at her.
Claira stared at him.
"Yeah, like, right dad."
They both now looked away and David carried on driving.
Some hours later they arrived at the town and headed towards the site that was a hive of activity with camera crews and reporters everywhere.
"Here we are."
"Well, I had a funny feeling that we wouldn't be the first." David said looking on.
He pulled over and they got out.
"You better stay here while I go and check out what's going on. I have a funny feeling that once they find out we're here we'll get now peace all night."
Claira watched him head into the crowd.
She checked her pocket for some change and moved up to the catering truck.
David soon found her and joined the queue.
"I've met up with some more believer friends. They're going up to the site in a minute. Are you interested?"
They walked up to them and climbed in the back of a station wagon and it headed up the path.
"I'm Carl Stevens. We first noticed the activity last month."
Claira watched her father shake hands with him then the attention was suddenly on her.
"I must say I'm surprised to see your child out here two nights before Christmas. I know that this must be a special time for you at the moment, Claira."
She looked at him.
"Well, with the advent of Father Christmas tomorrow night. With the added activity around here, you might even get to see him flying across the sky with his reindeer while on his way to your house." He said beaming at her.
Claira stared at him.
"Oh, please, is that all you've got to talk about? Father Christmas, who doesn't even exist!"
"Claira!" David said pushing her back into the seat.
Carl looked at her then David who was staring at her.
They soon arrived at the site and they all climbed out.
"Claira." David said calling her back.
"Listen, back there. Carl was only making small talk. Remember what I said, a small community. We're a little bit out of place around here and your words regarding Father Christmas might not go unnoticed if you carry on."
"Alright, okay. I understand, sorry."
He kissed her.
"Mr Vincent?" Carl said behind him.
He turned round.
"If you wouldn't mind…"
"Yes, yes, darling." He said taking her hand and walking to the landing area.
"We've already had a soil test analysed. We detected carbon deposits all over this area."
Claira knelt down and touched the edges.
"This is two nights old." She said now looking at him
"Yes, erm…." Carl said moving aside.
"You were right about the two landings dad, but wait a minute"
"What? Have you found something?" David said kneeling down with her.
"No, stay there. Was there a landing in this area last night?"
"No! We have a twenty four seven watch on this whole area and we didn't see anything last night." Carl said.
Claira jumped up and looked around.
"That's odd, really odd." She said wiping her hands.
"Do you see something, Claira?" David asked.
"Maybe." She said then noticed the film crew. "The camera men. We're they here last night?"
"Could we see the film for last night."
"Why? As I said, there was no landing last night. The place was clear all night."
"If you wouldn't mind."
Carl looked at her then David.
"Don't look at me. If Claira has something then you better do as she says. She's like me in that instance."
They drove back to the film truck and climbed into the back.
"Have you got the tape for last night?"
"Yes, but it's blank, no screen." The engineer said pulling the tape out from its case and inserting it into the video player.
"Maybe to you, yes."
"What do you mean?"
David looked at Claira.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"We'll soon find out."
The tape played. They saw the blackness of the tape to show that nothing landed but then the tape flickered and lines now appeared all over it.
"They jammed your broadcast, hovered above the site and you were none the wiser." Claira said pointing to the screen.
The engineer stared at the screen.
"But, we had people all over the site. No one saw a thing all night."
"Wide open block out. They only had to keep it up for a few minutes. You must have all lost a few minutes in your lives." David said looking at them.
Carl now jumped up and went out.
"Sorry. Hopefully tonight we may catch something. We're here now. Lets see what they come up with." Claira said looking at the blank tape playing to itself.
Later that evening Claira and David walked back up to the site.
"Do you notice anything interesting around here?" David said looking around.
"Not really. Then again, look at the places we've encountered the aliens before. Not exactly picturesque."
"No, but this is out of the way, quiet, peaceful."
"Hmm." She said kicking the soil with he shoes.
"They would have finished with this site by now. I mean three weeks of this and then that video tape last night."
"Yes, I'm starting to wonder what they can gain from this one site."
David watched her move around.
"It could cost us the holidays."
"So, what's new?"
She looked back at him staring at her and gave him a fake smile.
They now walked back to the car and grabbed their sandwiches.
"The film crew are settling in for the night."
"Their double checking they don't record a blank screen this time." David said laughing.
Claira leaned back into the passenger seat and closed her eyes for a moment.
"Do you remember this time last year?" He said looking at her.
"Hmmm. You made hot soup and then promptly dropped the cup all over the front seat. The whole car smelt of chicken soup for months." She said looking at him.
"Thank you. Alright, what about the year before that?"
"Hey, now that was not my fault dad!" She said pointing at him.
"You read the map wrong and we ended up miles from where we were supposed to be that Christmas."
"You downloaded the wrong map from the believers website, not my problem."
"Oh, no, of course not."
"Do you know, there worse than the aliens sometimes." She said looking at him.
Claira managed to get some sleep while David kept watch. He moved over to the catering truck that was doing a roaring trade. He noticed Carl then moved up to him checking his watch.
"It's too late now. They wont be coming tonight."
"How do you know all this? Your kid too…?"
He looked at him. David decided to leave him and walked back to his car. He got in and closed the door.
"Hmm, dad?" She said opening her eyes.
"What time is it?"
"Nearly four. They won't be coming tonight it's too late. The sun will be up within the hour. They'll probably chase Father Christmas tonight."
She stared at him.
"Yeah, yeah, very funny daddy."
He looked at her then allowed her to get some more sleep.
That day Claira joined David at the canteen queue for breakfast. She looked around.
He looked at her.
"Have you got any plans for today?"
"What, around here? No. Why, have you?"
"How about a nice long walk?"
She looked at her breakfast and nodded.
They were soon up at the site.
"There's no shelter around here. No cover. Do you think that this is one of their drop off centres? You know, the cars come in, they get off their ship, into the car, whisked away to a special alien training site?"
"Claira, we still haven't found any evidence of that fact."
"Oh, come on dad, it happens. The fact that we haven't got any evidence means nothing."
"I'm not disputing the fact, child, maybe they do have a safe house somewhere, but with no concrete proof we have to stick with level one, drop off."
She looked around.
"But, they could be all over the planet by now. Being us, being…"
"Parents?" He said looking at her.
She stared at him
"Now who mentions them?"
He looked away. He lit up a cigarette and moved up to her.
"Claira, we're supposed to be working together on this. I'm sorry if I have said anything,"
"Look, forget it, dad. I can live with it, I have for three years already."
She moved away as a cold wind now came up behind them.
"Come on, the car will be warmer." He said leading her back down the hill to his car.
That evening Claira watched the other children playing in the town. She noticed the children's parents now collect them.
"Come on kids, early to bed tonight or you wont be able to see Father Christmas."
She stared at them run in then shook her head and moved back to David by his car.
"Hey, where have you been?"
"Watching the other kids in town. Their parents have just collected them. They got suckered with that old Father Christmas line."
"What Father Christmas line?" He said watching her.
"You must know. If you don't go to bed early tonight you wont catch Father Christmas in the morning, suckers."
"Claira." He said looking away.
"Oh come one dad, its so farcical."
"You didn't say anything to the children, did you?"
"No, but I feel like I should. Someone's got to tell them Father Christmas doesn't exist."
"When there old enough to realise that on there own, they will."
"I remember dad saying once that if he really did exist then he would know us all, by name, personally. Father Christmas couldn't do all that, he doesn't exist."
She looked away.
"Yeah, okay. I'm going to sit in the car for a while."
He watched her get in.
The cameras were soon rolling and pointing at the open field.
Claira got some sleep but soon got restless and decided to take a walk around. She moved out past the trucks towards the hill.
David grabbed a cup of coffee from the crew while watching the screen.
Claira looked to the sky and thought about Father Christmas and what her parents had told her.
At that moment a space ship appeared in the sky and soon headed towards the hill where Claira now was. She quickly knelt down and watched it fly in to land. She looked back at the film crew who were at a safer distance than she was.
David watched the same scene from within the TV truck. He noticed the cars appear and head up to the craft.
Claira slowly moved back as she watched the aliens get out of the ship and into the waiting cars.
"Hey, who's that?" The engineer said focusing in on Claira.
David stared at the screen.
"That's my kid!" He said running out and up to the site.
The cameras now focused in on David trying to get to Claira.
At that moment the whole site was lit up as a lone truck drove in and screeched to a halt in front of Claira and the space ship.
The front flew open and a local man jumped out firing his automatic gun into the air.
"Aliens go home!!!" The man shouted firing at the aliens and the ship.
Claira watched them burn up right in front of her.
One alien climbed out of the burning space ship and headed towards her. He had got shot in the back but managed to make his way to her.
As he did he started to grow old as his regeneration seeped away. He started to glow red as he moved up to her.
"What, what is happening to you? Your different, you…." Claira said staring at him.
"You, you know my name, you…."
"Yes, I know your name child, I know all your names, I, I'm…." At that moment he died and disappeared in a flame of red.
Claira knelt down.
"No, no! Come back, you!"
"Claira!" David said running up to her.
"Dad, daddy!" She said turning round to hug him.
"It's okay Claira, I'm here."
"Daddy, it was him. I know it was. He knew me he knew all of us. Dad once told me that if he really did exist he would know us know all of us. It was him dad, Santa Claus, Father Christmas."
David stared at her then the outline of the dead alien. He now led her away.
The TV crew now focused in on the burnt out hulk of the ship.
David grabbed some toast from the truck and watched the film crew pack away.
Carl walked up to him.
"So, you don't think they'll come back?"
"No! Would you after last night?"
"No, I guess not. Too bad, we were that close and some nut has to go and pull a stunt like that."
David watched him go then moved back to Claira sitting on the hood of his car with her eyes closed.
"Morning." He said kissing her.
She opened her eyes.
"Not morning daddy, Merry Christmas." She said now kissing him
"Ooops, stand corrected."
He lent on the bonnet watching her.
"Do you feel up to talking about last night, yet?"
She looked at him.
"What was all that commotion with the truck about?"
He looked away.
"Alright, if you're not up to talking about it, I can wait."
"My dad once told me that if Santa Claus really did exist that he would know you, me, everyone. I don't know dad, but last night he…." She said looking down and closing her eyes.
"So, he gives up the reindeer for their space ship, great trip. Welcome to the twenty first century."
Claira now looked up and jumped off the bonnet.
"Now who doesn't believe?"
David bit his tongue and finished his breakfast.
"Alright, so it might have been an alien, but dad, no alien has ever grown old in front of me like he did last night. He looked straight at me and he glowed red…." She said as she started to cry.
David watched her then moved up to her and held her. He now looked at her.
"He has his ways of delivering darling, so, just maybe…"
Claira stared at him then buried her head into his chest.
They were soon driving out of the town to enjoy the remainder of the Christmas holiday together.