Ah...I only got one review for the last chapter...Y'all suck. Aha, just kidding. Anyway...here's another story. I'm going to go ahead and cry in a corner while lamenting my lack of reviews...I mean, I'm going to go work on another story now.
Eloise sighed and leaned back in her chair, pulling the front legs up and teetering on the back two. "This…this is the part I hate the most about Christmas," she complained, letting herself fall forward with a thump.
"Be quiet, Eloise," Bernard said with a scowl. "Don't you have anything else better to do? Go bother Curtis. Go bother Sarah. Go bother someone that's not me!" The truth was, Bernard was pleased that Eloise had chosen to come and sit with him in his office. He was just as bored as she was.
The thing was, in the moments after Santa left, the elves had nothing to do for the next couple of days. Yes, there was shop maintenance, and there were the reindeer to tend to, but otherwise, most of the departments were free of all obligations until the New Year. And honestly, Bernard didn't know what to do with his free time.
"You know I don't," she answered sweetly, hooking her strawberry-blonde hair behind her ear. "Besides, Curtis is on emergency leave and Sarah is always snappy right after the reindeer leave. So you'll just have to do."
"Ugh, Eloise…" Bernard muttered, covering his face with his hands to prevent her from seeing him blush. He loved her. But the fact that he was just a back-up plan embarrassed him and nearly broke his heart. He heard Eloise laugh.
"Silly elf, don't be mad at me. Don't you like spending time with me?"
"I'm liking it less and less," he said, annoyed. She was teasing him.
Eloise laughed again and was about to retort when another elf burst into the Bernard's office. "Bernard!"
"Can't you knock?" Bernard asked him, while Eloise jumped up from her chair with a smile, and greeted the elf, Niles, cheerily before either of them noticed the panic in his voice. "What's the matter?" Bernard asked, standing up from behind his desk.
"What's wrong?" Eloise had said at the same time, crossing her arms while her forehead wrinkled in worry.
"Santa…Santa is dead," Niles said, his voice shaking. Eloise and Bernard both shouted in surprise and rushed towards him. "Some guy…his name is Scott Calvin…he scared Santa while he was on the roof and Santa fell off."
Eloise swore, and Bernard started towards Niles. "Did he put on the suit? Did he?"
"I don't know, I came to get you as soon as it happened…" Niles said nervously.
"Well, go find out! Keep us updated!"
"Yes, sir!" Niles answered, turning and running out the door. They looked at each other as Niles slammed the door behind him.
Eloise sighed, then turned and grinned at Bernard. "Looks like things have just gotten interesting, huh, Bernard?"
Bernard frowned at Eloise. "Can't you be more professional?"
"Oh, don't pretend you're not happy he's gone. I know it's troublesome that we have to train a new Santa, but you can't pretend that you liked Stuart Cabot at all."
"He was…nice," Bernard said, unconvincingly. It was true, Stuart Cabot, or Santa Claus was nice enough. He wasn't as cruel as previous Santas, but he was a perfectionist, and tortured the heads of departments more often than not over small details. While he was Santa, their lives were hell. Eloise snorted at Bernard's statement, unconvinced. "Okay fine, I guess you're right. But who's to say this one will be any different?"
"Oh, you never know," Eloise said airily, making her way for the door. "In any case, I'm sure Scott Calvin will put on the suit, so I'll start cleaning and redecorating his room now. See you in a bit, Bernard! Have fun, and be nice." She gave Bernard a two-fingered salute and walked out of the office.
Bernard sighed. "You never know…" he repeated with a smile. Maybe this one would be different. "Well, we'll see…"
"In the silence of the night when the snow lies soft and still, you can see a magic light and hear the ring of Christmas bells…" Eloise sang softly to herself as she observed the new Santa interacting with other elves from the balcony with a wry smile. He had brought his son along, no one had ever done that before.
"Where are all the grown-ups?" Santa wondered, as he and his son looked around from the sleigh.
"This is so cool!" said the little boy. Eloise thought he was adorable.
"Stay here." Santa said, sounding concerned. "Hey, kid! Kid! Kid, who's in charge here?" he asked Fern, as she walked by with carrots for the reindeer. Eloise grinned with anticipation. Fern was a sassy one, and Santa was in for it.
"You are," Fern said matter-of-factly. "And I'm not a kid. I've pointy shoes that are older than you." She turned to walk away and added over her shoulder, "I'm an elf."
Santa followed her. "Uh, you guys…or you girls," he amended quickly, "Who gives the orders? Who's your boss?"
"You are," Fern repeated, laughter hiding in her voice.
"No, no, no! Uh…Who-Who's the head elf?"
"You are!" she said again, most definitely laughing at him now.
Eloise spotted Bernard, who was finally making his way over to Santa. "What took him so long? He was in the room when they got here…" Eloise mumbled to herself, leaning against the railing to see and hear better.
"Hey, who's causing all the trouble here?" Bernard demanded, putting his hands on his hips with authority.
"He is," Fern said, while Santa claimed the opposite at the same time.
Bernard scowled. "Excuse me," he said. "Are we on a coffee break?"
"We don't drink coffee," Fern said dourly.
"Then I guess the break's over. Back to work, thanks." Eloise grinned at the scene. He was one witty elf. Bernard looked up at Santa, who was frowning at Bernard with disapproval.
"Take it easy on her, will ya?" Santa said. Bernard's scowl deepened, but Eloise smiled. He cared about the elves. She could tell he was going to be a good one. "Who are you?"
"I'm Bernard. Nice to meet ya, Santa," Bernard said plainly before starting to walk off. Eloise sighed. He was so tactless. She used elf magic to get down to the ground floor to observe them some more.
"I'm not Santa!" Santa insisted. "I've had a rough night. There's been dogs barkin', guns goin' off. Look, my back's killin' me. Have you ever tried to shove a sea kayak down a chimney?"
"I'm tired of this small talk," Bernard snapped.
"Hm?" Santa asked.
Bernard turned to face Santa, with a wan and wry smile. "The other Santa disappeared, right?"
Eloise couldn't help but grin. Bernard was glad that Stuart was gone. Eloise was too. Maybe now, they could all have some peace of mind. Especially Bernard. He worked so hard.
"Wait a minute…" Santa said slowly. Bernard started walking away, and of course, Santa followed. "Hey, I know where this is goin'! It wasn't my fault. The other guy fell! I've got homeowner's insurance and a good attorney…not as good as my wife's but let's not open up that wound!" As they started walking down the hall towards the ballroom, Eloise gestured to the little boy to follow them. His brown eyes lit up, and he climbed out of the sleigh to follow his father. "Hold it a minute…W-whoa, whoa, whoa! How did you know the other guy was gone?"
"Can I get you a drink?" Bernard asked Santa, ignoring most of the man's ramblings.
"No, I don't want a drink," Santa answered irritably. His son caught up them.
"I'm thirsy!" the brown-haired boy chirped. "And hungry, too!"
"Charlie!" Santa said, trying to scold his son. "I thought I told you to stay in the sleigh!"
Even from where she was standing, Eloise could see Bernard's eyes light up. You could never tell from the way he acted, but Bernard loved kids. "Who's this?"
"This—" Santa said, putting a protective hand on his son's – on Charlie's – shoulder, "This is my son, Charlie." He looked down at his son. "I'm sorry. Charlie, this is…Buh…Beh…Beh—"
"Bernard!" Bernard said.
"Bernard," Santa repeated.
"Hi, Bernard," Charlie said, holding his hand out.
"Hiya, sport," Bernard answered, shaking Charlie's hand. Charlie blinked, then looked up at Santa, looking pleased.
"Hey, Dad! He called me 'sport,' just like you!"
"Wonderful," Santa said, slightly sarcastic.
A smile tugged at Bernard's lips. "Hey, you know what? I've got something for you…" He opened his satchel, "Okay, hold out your hand, alright?" He pulled out a snow globe, and Eloise couldn't help but gasp. Bernard loved snow globes. And that one was one of Bernard's particular favorites. A gift from his late father, before he had passed. "Now, be very careful," Bernard said as he put the snow globe in Charlie's hands. "This is very old, just like me." Charlie's eyes widened with wonder and excitement as he carefully took the snow globe out of Bernard's hands. "Shake it up, Charlie," Bernard said, almost grinning now.
Charlie gave the globe a shake and watched the scene inside come to life. "Wow!" he said quietly.
"Why don't you, uh, hold on to it for me for a while? It might come in handy."
"Thanks!" Charlie said, looking up at Bernard. "Thanks a lot! I promise I'll take good care of it."
"Make sure you do," Bernard said, trying to be serious again. He placed his hands behind his back and waited.
"I will." Charlie turned to his father, "Hey Dad, look!"
"Huh?" Santa said, looking away from the ballroom. "He took the globe out of Charlie's hands. "Fabulous ball." He gave Charlie the globe back and turned to Bernard. "Hey, Barrabas—"
"Bernard," he corrected, scowling again. He gave Santa a cheeky nod. Eloise decided it was time to leave the boys alone as Bernard asked Larry, an elf who was passing by, to help Charlie get some food. She had to set up another bed in Santa's room for Charlie…and then maybe she'd get some hot chocolate from Judy.
"Ugh…" Bernard sighed, opening the door to his office. It had been a long night, and he was ready to just go home and go to bed. But first, he had to arrange for Scott and Charlie to be sent back home and get started on preparations for next year. Scott Calvin had made it perfectly clear that he wanted nothing to do with Christmas elves or the North Pole. So that left everything up to Bernard, as always. So much for a better Santa...
"Coffee break, that was a good one," Eloise said from the chair she had been sitting in. She stood and smiled. "Too cute." Bernard stopped and stared at her. "Are Santa and Charlie all set?"
"What are you doing in here?" Bernard demanded, ignoring Eloise's question.
"I figured you'd want some cocoa after dealing with Santa like that. Want help with the paperwork?" Eloise answered, pouring some hot chocolate into a mug for Bernard. "You must be tired, so let's get this done so you can get some rest for tomorrow."
Bernard's frown eased into a soft smile. "I uh…sure. Thanks." Bernard took the mug from Eloise and drank deep. Eloise was one of the only elves Bernard would trust to do paperwork right the first time. She had been the favorite for Head Elf when they were younger, after all. It was a shame she generally hated doing it. Bernard always accepted her offers, since she rarely volunteered to even do her own.
"What are friends for, huh? Relax a second, I'll take care of getting them home for you," she left his office, and Bernard went to sit behind his desk and get out paper and some pens and ink for him and Eloise. He frowned at the carefully wrapped box that sat in his pen drawer.
He picked it up and turned it carefully in his hands, looking for a note. He found a small one taped to the bottom and pulled that off first. He opened it, and instantly recognized Eloise's neat, loopy handwriting. "Bernard," he read aloud. "Merry Christmas, I hope that this gift if useful, and that you think of me every time you use it. Eloise." He started to fold the paper, when he noticed something scrawled at the bottom. "P. S. I think it was really sweet of you to give Charlie your snow globe. You'll make a good father one day." He flushed at the postscript and tore the wrapping paper off the box. It was a fountain pen set. A very nice fountain pen set. Carefully crafted by skilled elf hands with redwood, accented with gold. On the side of each pen were the words, 'Bernard M. Barauch, Head Elf,' also in gold. He stared. He hadn't gotten Eloise a present. He hadn't thought about it. Some friend he was. "Damn…" he muttered.
"Now, now, don't swear," Eloise said as she walked back into his office. She dropped her large stack of papers on Bernard's desk before she noticed that he had found her present. "Oh man, couldn't you have waited til I got back?" She teased. "Do you like it?"
Bernard blushed again. "Y-yeah," he stammered. "I…I didn't get you anything though."
"Don't worry about it. And hey, I even enchanted them so they'll come back here if you lose them or if someone takes it by mistake. You work hard, you deserve something nice every now and then."
"Thank you…" Bernard said quietly.
Eloise beamed. "You're welcome. Now, let's get going on this damn paperwork so we can go home."
"Now, now, don't swear," Bernard told her, pulling some papers toward him. Eloise grinned and stuck her tongue out at him. A few beats of silence. "Eloise?"
"Yes, Bernard?" she asked sweetly.
Eloise looked surprised for a moment, then smiled. "Merry Christmas, Bernard."
So, there you go. Now seriously, please give me some love in the form of a review. I'd like to know how my writing is...