I know, I know, I should be working on Shotgun Wedding, and I promise: I have about 40% of the next chapter written, with the rest sketched out in my head. But I had an idea for this story while I was out running, and it needed to happen.
Tag story to Platonic Domesticity. If you haven't read it, here's what you need to know:
"Every time a Christmas or birthday or something was coming up, Santa would leave a note in Brittany's locker or under her pillow, telling her what to buy and where she could find it. She was really glad, because picking out presents for people was actually really hard, but he reminded her in every note not to tell anyone but Santana that he was her pen pal—he didn't have time to write to everyone, and people might get jealous if they knew he was helping her. Brittany was happy to keep his secret, and would sometimes leave him cookies in her locker as a thank you.
She wasn't sure how Santa had gotten her locker combination, but she suspected that the tooth fairy was helping him out with the notes under her pillow. The tooth fairy would probably find the cookies insulting though, so Brittany just flossed a lot more often instead."
Yeah, I'm concerned too. I also don't own Glee. But I finally ordered that tshirt I've been talking about for a month, so that's cool.
Henry Sullivan had been the Lima Mall Santa Claus for thirteen days, and he loved it.
Christmas had been his favorite holiday ever since he was a child, and even now when he had reached his mid-fifties, the holiday season was the highlight of his year. He was famous in the insurance office where he worked for always being the first to hang mistletoe in his cubicle, and he was the jolliest Santa the annual office Holiday party had ever seen. When his three children were born, his dedication to Christmas magic had only increased: his December was spent decorating trees, having snowball fights, watching animated Holiday specials, and singing Christmas carols, hoping to make his kids' childhood memories of the Holiday Season as special as his own had been.
Naturally, then, he was the first in line to apply for the job when Richard Johnson, gristly octogenarian and Lima Mall's official Santa Claus for 35 years, was declared too old and senile to continue living independently by his oldest son.
Well, he waited a couple days after Johnson was officially checked into the nursing home before approaching the Mall manager about the position. He wasn't heartless, after all. Plus, it was March.
Now, though, only a week remained before Christmas, and Henry was gratified to see that the Christmas spirit was alive and well in Lima. There was a line of about fifteen people snaking through the chintzy Santa's Village that the surly electronics store employees had set up, and Henry couldn't get enough of the wonder and excitement each child seemed to light up with when they sat on his lap. Even if half of them asked for ridiculously exorbitant presents—what kind of an eight year old needed an iPod and a BlackBerry?—in a day and age of political scandal and economic troubles, their joy was refreshing.
Until That Girl showed up.
When Henry had first spotted two teenage girls in the line, pinkies linked together, he hadn't thought too much of it. Over the past two weeks, several groups of girls from the middle school had come by, giggling, wanting their picture taken with Santa. These two were a little older—sixteen, maybe seventeen—but they seemed harmless enough. The blonde one kept leaning over the whitewashed fence that came up to her waist, trying to touch the glittery cotton snow that was just out of her reach. Henry flinched inwardly with every attempted grab—her red skirt, which was cut entirely too short for winter, rode up slightly each time she bent over the fence. Her friend, who was dressed identically, seemed to recognize this and stood loyally behind the girl, blocking her from view and glaring at any mom in line who gave them a look.
Dismissing the little boy on his lap with a "Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas!", Henry made eye contact with the glaring teenager. She gave him a quick, dangerous smile before leaning over and whispering something in her friend's ear. Whatever it was, it seemed to make the blonde girl happy—she gave her friend a huge, beaming smile, and went back to trying to reach the pile of fake snow.
Skirt swaying as she walked, The Girl approached the steps leading up to Henry's armchair. She was unusually pretty—dark hair, smooth limbs, clearly Hispanic. Now that she was facing him, Henry could see that the outfits the girls were wearing were cheerleading uniforms, similar to the one his middle child wore as an eighth grader on the middle school's cheerleading squad. For the past few months, Natalie had been chattering happily about preparing for the famous upcoming Spring Assembly, the one where Sue Sylvester, champion cheerleading superstar and Coach of McKinley High's Cheerios, would show up and inspect the soon-to-be freshman class, selecting the group of girls she wanted to work with from the incoming crop. Only half of the girls picked would earn a spot, but Natalie was convinced that she had a chance.
Thinking of how his daughter's face would light up when he told her he had gotten to meet two of the famous McKinley Cheerios, he smiled warmly at The Girl. "Why hello there! What's your name, Miss?" he asked, in his best Kris Kringle voice. The Girl gave an impressive scoff and folded her arms across her chest. "Why," she asked scathingly, "so you can go trolling through the phone book and find my address? As if, pervert. I know what kind of guys go for a gig that involves touching little kids all day." She gave him a frosty glare, and Henry found himself speechless. He'd been prepared for little kids crying, for ten year old boys challenging his validity, maybe a lap-wetter or two.
This Girl was an entirely different ball game altogether. And worse, she seemed to know it.
"Here's the deal," she told him crossly. "That's my friend Brittany. She's pretty much your biggest fan." He looked over at the other cheerleader skeptically. Brittany had stopped trying to grab the snow, but was now amusing herself by waving spastically at the animatronic elves each time their little plastic heads turned in her direction. If she noticed that the two-foot-tall robots weren't actually elves—and were in fact moving in the same pattern every eight seconds—she gave no outward indication of it.
"Anyway," The Girl continued, shaking her head at her friend, "Britt really wants to meet you. She thinks you've been helping her pick out presents for people by sending her letters and shit, and she wants to say thanks in person." She rolled her eyes dramatically. "I tried to talk her out of it, but she refused to leave until she got to see you, and frankly, I'm tired of listening to her whine about it."
Henry thought he detected The Girl's tone softening for just a second. Then the Satanic glare was back, and all thoughts of softness were banished, replaced by a sense of impending doom.
"So here's what's going to happen, Lardass," The Girl said with snark. "Brittany's gonna come over here and fawn all over you like you're the Second Coming of Jesus or something. You're going to pretend that you know exactly what she's talking about and make her happy. You're going to keep your sweaty little hands and jingle bells to yourself. Then, we're going to leave, and both of us can get on with our day. Clear?"
Henry nodded, eyes embarrassingly wide. "C-clear," he agreed, stammering a bit. The Girl smiled poisonously.
He did not feel reassured. Rather, he felt as if he were being sized up by a shark.
"Good," she said, in a frighteningly sweet tone. "Because I happen to know this girl who can cry on command. She's kind of a bitch, but she got a teacher fired the first week of school for sexual misconduct, and she loves an audience." The Girl's predatory smile grew as the full weight of her threat sank in. Henry sat motionless in his chair, pale and sweating, as she started down the stairs. She couldn't be serious, right? The Girl was scary, sure, with a sense of humor bordering on the sadistic. But she couldn't possibly be threatening him. Before she reached the bottom step, she turned around and flashed him a quick look.
"By the way," she added, "that girl I mentioned? She's Jewish, so she kind of hates you."
Henry only had a few seconds to compose himself before The Girl reached her blonde friend. "Britt, let the elves do their job," she said kindly, tugging on Brittany's arm. "Santa wants to see you." The blonde girl's eyes went wide, and she practically skipped in place as she grabbed for The Girl's hand. "Did you tell him what you want for Christmas?" she asked eagerly, and The Girl smiled back. "Sure did," she replied. "Those Manolos are mine. Your turn." She led an excited, quivering Brittany up the stairs. "Santa," she said, poisonously sweet voice back in place, nearly making Henry wet himself. "You remember Brittany."
Brittany's eyes were shining. "Hi Santa," she said breathlessly. "It's so nice to meet you in person." She looked around quickly, and leaned in. "You didn't have to go to all this trouble, though," she whispered so only the three of them could hear. "Santana said you've been here every day for two weeks. If you had told me, I'd have come on the first day. That way, you could have gone home."
Santana. Fitting name, really.
Feeling Santana's glare drilling a hole into his head, Henry laughed as merrily as he could manage. It came out a bit squeaky and slightly hysterical, but he figured he could be forgiven, given the circumstances. "No trouble at all, Brittany," he improvised, doing his best to sound extra jolly. "I have plenty of elves to help me out; I'm delighted to visit you." Brittany's smile was huge and sweet, and if he weren't so terrified of her Cheerio bodyguard, his smile back would have been genuine. Santana might have been freakishly intimidating—easily the scariest teenager he'd ever met—but Brittany didn't seem like she was going to pull a Linda Blair on him.
"So," he said, trying to move the visit along so Santana would leave, "what do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas this year?" Brittany bit her lip, looking back at her friend. Santana sighed. "It's okay, Britt, you can tell him. He's your friend, remember?" Brittany shook her head. "You can't listen," she explained, "or it won't come true." Santana put a hand on her hip. "That's birthday wishes, Brittany, not Christmas wishes." Brittany stared at her stubbornly, and Santana rolled her eyes. "Fine," she sighed, throwing her hands up and stomping down the steps.
Brittany smiled and leaned toward Henry, speaking in a voice too low to carry over to Santana. "Now that it's just us," she said conspiratorially, "I kind of wanted to ask you something." Henry felt his heart rate speeding up. He had no idea what this sweet, dim girl was going to ask, but he did know that if he screwed up the answer, he could kiss his dreams of being Santa goodbye forever.
Not to mention he'd be lucky to make it out of this situation without having to register as a sex offender.
"Did you want to tell me what you wanted for Christmas?" he asked hopefully, trying to steer her into familiar territory. "You've been very good this year, you know." Brittany looked down, studying her fingers. "Well, that's kind of what I wanted to talk about," she mumbled, tugging on her skirt. "You put everyone on a naughty or nice list, right? And I'm on the nice list?" Inwardly, Henry let out a sigh of relief. He could handle this one. "Every child goes on the list," he told her merrily, "and you've been very nice this year. In fact," he added, "I think you might be right near the top." Brittany nodded calmly, apparently unsurprised by this news. "So I can ask you for a present?" she confirmed, and Henry nodded. Brittany took a deep breath, and looked up to meet Henry's eyes.
"I want you to put me on the naughty list."
Henry stared at her. "You…sorry?" he asked, thinking that he must have misheard her. Brittany tugged on her skirt again. "I want you to put me on the naughty list, and give Santana my spot on the nice list," she explained. "I know she's not on the nice list, because Quinn says she's a Super Bitch, and Quinn knows everything."
Henry didn't know who Quinn was, but if the past five minutes were any indication of Santana's usual behavior, he couldn't bring himself to disagree.
Brittany was still pleading her case. "And if you can see everything we do, I know you know that even though she's kinda mean, like, all the time, she's nice to me. And I don't want her to get coal. So I want to trade."
If he lived to be Santa for the next forty years, this would still probably be the most unusual request he would ever receive. But if it would make Brittany happy and keep that Santana girl from running him over in the parking lot, it was an easy request to grant.
He gave Brittany a huge, crinkly-eyed smile. "I think there might just be room for both of you on the nice list," he told her. Her reaction was immediate. "Thank you Santa, you're the best!" she said fervently, and planted a kiss on his cheek. "I'll leave you extra cookies in my locker," she promised, bouncing down the steps to where Santana was waiting, typing on her phone. "He said yes!" she shared excitedly. Santana dropped her phone in her purse. "Yay, can we go now?" she deadpanned, giving Santa's Village a bored glance. Brittany ignored (or more likely didn't notice) her sarcasm, and reached over to take her pinkie. "Yup," she chirped happily, swinging their hands. "Let's get ice cream on the way home!" Santana stared at her incredulously. "It's twenty five degrees outside," she pointed out. Brittany's expression didn't change. "Whatever," Santana sighed, "Let's just go." And the pair walked away, hand in hand.
Henry Sullivan had been the Lima Mall Santa Claus for thirteen days, and he loved it.
But if That Girl ever came back, he had every intention of hiding in the men's room until she went away.