1. At the North Pole
I wrote you a letter a few weeks ago asking for an iPhone 8, but I was wondering if it would be okay for me to change my wish? This Christmas, all I really want is for my sister to find someone to love. It's her first holiday since her boyfriend died and she cries every night. I just want her to smile again. If you could find her someone new to love or maybe fix her broken heart, I wouldn't need the iPhone.
I folded up the purple sheet of paper and stuffed it in my pocket, blinking back tears.
Then I ran through the workshop doors, pushed past a crowd of fellow elves, and almost knocked over Blitzen, but it didn't matter. I needed to talk to the boss. ASAP.
"Sir," I said when I found him, bowing my head out of respect. "I got a funny letter today. It asked for something I don't know how to build."
He held a clipboard in his hand, and didn't bother to look down at me as he asked, "What is it?"
That made him stop, lick his lips, and look at me. "Oh, a letter like that should've been thrown out," he said. "It must've gotten mixed in on accident. I'll have a word with the mailing department."
A thrown out letter? I'd never heard of such a thing. That's why I asked, "Why would a wish from a child be thrown out?"
"Because there are some things we just can't make."
I scratched my head so hard that I almost ripped through my hat. "Well, why not?" I asked.
"Why, it's impossible to create love or joy or any other type of happiness."
"I thought that's what we did. Made happiness. For Christmas."
He just put a hand on my shoulder, smiled a sad smile, and went on his way without answering my question.
I pulled the paper out of my pocket to reread it. Leila had made her wish pretty clear, but if Santa wasn't going to help me, how would I help Leila?
I had my head buried in the letter as I walked, reading it over and over and over, which is why I ended up bumping right into Mrs. Claus' knee.
"Sorry. So sorry ma'am," I said on instinct. Then, as I looked up at her rosy cheeks and pink lips, I decided to ask, "Quick question. Do you know how to make Love?"
She chuckled, but I didn't understand the joke.
"You can't make something like that. You simply feel it," she said with a warm smile. "You shouldn't have to ask this. You've felt love before, yes?"
I scrunched up my face until I came to a conclusion. "Well, I love eating candy canes and watching the reindeer play their games. And oh, I love Christmas, of course."
"See? Then you already know all about love, sweetie. Except sometimes love isn't for a thing. It's for a person. Like me and Mr. Claus."
"I love Mr. Claus too," I pointed out.
"Yes, of course you do, but it's in a different way. Romantic love isn't any better than familial love. But it is very different."
She made the whole "love" thing sound so obvious--but she hadn't really helped, either. Or maybe... Maybe she had.
I looked back down at the letter, read it one last time, and then made my way toward the mailing department.
2. At the Harris Household
I could hear Leila jumping onto our parents' bed, begging them to wake up, because it was finally Christmas morning. I would've complained about her waking up at the ungodly hour of 6, but truth was, I hadn't slept at all the night before. Hadn't really slept at all since Tom had died.
That's why I pulled on my Christmas jumper and put on my happy face, even though I knew it wouldn't fool anyone at all. Then I made my way into the living room to sit by the tree with the rest of the family.
I barely paid attention to the gifts being opened. I just smiled and snapped pictures on my phone, pretending to be interested.
The first thing that really caught my attention was when Leila opened her gift from Santa. She got a bloody iPhone 8, and she actually looked disappointed. Kids these days. Greedy, greedy, greedy.
"You're really upset with that?" I asked, trying not to sound as annoyed as I felt.
She scrunched up her lips. "It's just... I asked for something else, too. But I don't think I'm going to get it if I got this."
I rolled my eyes and flipped through the photos I'd just taken, but they looked pathetic compared to the photos I'd taken with Tom for the past five Christmases.
God. I missed him. I'd never stop missing him.
After an hour more of pretending to be okay while watching my kid sister open gifts, I heard Leila say, "Wait, there's a card back here. It's for you!"
She bolted over to me and encouraged me to rip it open. In bright green writing, it said:
"Dear Miss Harris,
Leila told me all about the situation your heart is in, and I wanted to fix it. Unfortunately, not even Santa could tell me how to build new Love. That's why I decided to write you a letter instead. I know it's not expensive, but love isn't expensive either and I've heard it's the best thing in the world.
Anyway, I'm truly sorry about your boyfriend, but I don't want you to forget about your sister. She loved you enough to give up her Christmas gift (which I made sure got delivered, anyway). And I'm sure you have parents and friends and cousins and even stuffed bears that love you. I know familial love isn't the same as romantic love, but it can be just as good. So, you see, you do have plenty of love, so your heart must not be completely broken.
Sparkle the Elf"
By the time I finished reading, a trail of tears covered my cheeks.
"Oh no," Leila said. "I'm sorry. I thought it would be good."
"It was," I said, forming my first genuine smile in months. And then I grabbed her to hug her for as long as I could.
** Merry Christmas, everyone! And a happy New Year! **