Thanks for all the reviews/favorites/alerts. I fail at replying to the reviews, but I will. Promise. It's still Christmas…in at least one of the U.S. time zones, so I barely squeaked by with posting this, but I made it!
The title is from the 1897 New York Sun posting entitled "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus."
Thirteen-year-old Stella Bonasera sat in the bathroom floor with her back against the door, knees hugged to her chest. It was the only place she could cry in peace and quiet. And that was exactly what she needed at the moment. Tears rolled down her sad face and off her jaw, soaking her green sweater, but she didn't care and knew no one else would either; there wasn't anyone else to care.
The Santa-for-hire was finally gone from the orphanage, at least she assumed he was. After her turn with 'Santa,' where she told him what she wanted for Christmas--it was all she ever wanted--and got the same response for as many years as she could remember, she'd raced from the room, hot tears blurring her vision. She realized in that moment that Santa didn't exist, that he was just an actor hired to play a part. How cruel for people to trick children into believing that one man could travel the globe delivering presents to all the children in the world in one night! Even worse, how could someone tell her, year after year, that she'd get her wish…someday?
No, she was completely and utterly alone. And she probably always would be. Some people were just meant to be alone; apparently she was one of them. New tears sprang to her eyes, and she hugged her knees closer to her chest. It was the worst Christmas ever.
"Stella?" he whispered, lightly touching her shoulder.
She jumped at his touch, but quickly leaned into him. "Hey," she sighed softly.
"Just thinking about how much my life has changed."
"For the better, I hope," a hint of teasing in his voice.
"Yes," she sighed happily, nestling against him and wrapping her arms around his waist. "Definitely for the better, Mac."
"Good," he chuckled, pressing a kiss into her hair.
They stood like that for a solid minute, enjoying the quiet moment wrapped in each other's arms.
"It's funny," she said with a wry laugh, breaking the silence.
"Every Christmas when I was a little girl, a Santa came to the orphanage. It was so exciting. We'd all put on our best outfits and line up so we could sit on Santa's lap and tell him what we wanted for Christmas. All I ever asked for was a family. Every year I got the same response: 'Someday, Stella, you'll have that.'" Tears welled up in her eyes, and she tried to swallow the lump in her throat.
Mac pulled his wife tighter against him and rubbed her back soothingly, murmuring words of love and support.
"I was thirteen when I quit believing, Mac--in Santa, that I'd ever have a family," she continued, her cheek against his chest, her tears saturating his t-shirt. "I was bitter and angry and boycotted Christmas. I was a teenager in the system--orphanage, foster care, orphanage again. No parents, no one who wanted me, no one who loved me."
"I love you, Stell," he whispered and felt her smile against his chest.
"I know you do, and I love you, too. So much." She sighed and pulled back slightly, their eyes connecting even in the dim light.
He reached up and slowly wiped the remaining tears from her face.
"After all these years, I believe again, Mac."
"In Santa, in family," she grinned. "The 'someday' Santa referred to? I have that now. And I have the best family in the world. I wanted a family so badly. I just never thought I'd be the mother."
"Or that I'd be the father," Mac replied with a smile, fingers tangling in her hair as he kissed her softly.
Their newborn son--barely five days old--whimpered from the nearby bassinet, and she pulled away, instantly missing her husband's touch, but knowing that their son needed her.
"It's okay, sweetheart," she cooed, gently picking up and cradling the newborn against her. He fussed for only a few moments then settled down, soothed by his mother's loving touch. Still amazed that she could love someone so small so much, Stella hummed softly and bent down to kiss his head.
Mac grinned and admired the scene between mother and son, burning it into his memory, certain that he would never tire of that image. He padded across the room and wrapped his arms around his wife and son--around his family.
"Remind me to thank Santa," Mac whispered with a grin as he leaned down to kiss Stella again.
"I will," she assured him, eyes shining with happiness even in the darkened room.
Careful to not disturb their sleeping son between them, their lips met in a tender, loving kiss. Somewhere in the distance bells jingled, and Mac and Stella pulled apart, matching looks of surprise etched on their faces.
"Was that…?" Stella asked as she made her way to window, glancing outside and searching for the source of the jingling bells.
"What else could it be?" Mac whispered, following her to the window and standing beside her, one hand coming to rest on her shoulder, the other on their son.
"Do you really think…?" she let the question trail off again and gazed up into her husband's eyes.
Mac bent to kiss his son's head, then grinned at his wife before kissing her yet again, something else he would never tire of. "Yes, Stella, there is a Santa Claus."
Thanks for reading!