Twenty-Five Days Of Christmas: A Christmas Tale, Chapter Eight

I looked away to hide the tears. “I had no chance to help him. All I had was the memories of his love of books. His love of movies. His love of art.”

She slid over next to me and took my head in her hands, turning my eyes toward her. She dried my lone stream of tears. “Be careful, there, Soldier. Don’t want moisture to collect in your cyber-optics.” She kissed me on the forehead. “And now you are fighting to return something of him to the masses. Makes me love you all the more.”

She took my head in her arms and held it close. I scooted her onto my lap so I could lay it on her shoulder. We sat there, quiet, for the longest time. And I cried, my quiet sobbing shaking us both.

When I was done, I brought my head up slowly. “Thank you, My Love. Thank you for being there when I need you. I don’t know what I would do without you.”

She smiled. “We would have met, eventually. We were destined to meet. We are two halves of the same whole. And we both have the same sense of loss. I have never been through some of what you have been, but I know what it is like not to have anyone to turn to in the earliest moments of grief.”

I smiled weakly. “So I am forgiven?”

She swatted at me playfully. “For what?”

I looked into her eyes. “For being a weepy old fool?”

She play-tickled. “You are none of those. You are my Soldier. Don’t you forget that.”

I started to chuckle. “You sure know how to put things into perspective.”

She threw her arms around me. “Because I love you.”

***

I left the apartment three hours later. I had something important to do. I had to play Santa. yes, I had a feast to plan and presents to find. Even if it meant that we find someone who would be willing to make the banned items known as toys.

I walked out onto the catwalk above the commons. “I need your attention!” Everyone present looked up and snapped to attention. “At ease. I just need you to listen and pay attention. We have a very special mission this month. We need to find some Christmas gifts for the children. Also. Men. Go into the shops down here. Pick out whatever your wives or girlfriends would like. Women. Do the same for your men. And your children.

“But we are also on a mission to find toys. Games. Fun things. After all, we will be celebrating a forbidden Holiday.”

One of the commanders stood up and saluted. “Permission to speak, Sir.”

I smiled in spite of myself. “Permission granted.”

He remained emotionless. “How is Santa going to get through? I mean, for years, he has been banned from all the countries and now, we are asking him to return.”

I knew he was being both serious and trying to lighten the mood of his fellow soldiers. “Well, that is a good question. I think that we will have to do his job until this war ends. I know he won’t mind.”

He smiled, showing that he had been only trying to accommodate the children. “I agree, Sir.”

I returned his smile. “On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we will hold feasts to celebrate the day and evening. Children will be required, according to ancient custom, to be in bed early on Christmas Eve.” I looked around. “Do we have any empty storage rooms where we can set up a makeshift Santa’s workshop?”

Simi smiled. “We can make one, Sir. And maybe we can find a classic–”

I held up a finger to silence her. “We’ll invite Santa to come and work from here. Perhaps we will be blessed by his ancient presence.”

She realized my meaning and kept her suggestion to herself. No need to betray my plan to the children. Now, all I had to do was find the poor sap to play Santa. how good it felt to give to others! I nodded to Simi and she left to work on the project I had brought up.

I turned my attention to the rest. “Remember the special mission, Men.” I headed for the mess hall kitchen. “Dismissed.”

As I entered the kitchen, I saw the perfect man to play Santa. He playfully saluted me with his soup spoon. “Sir?”

I smiled. “Merv, how long have you worked for me?”

He looked at me nervously. “Nigh on twenty years, Sir.”

I put my hand gently on his shoulder. “How often have I requested you to call me sir?”

He looked down. “Never. Why?”

I patted him on the shoulder. “Please don’t start now. We have always been equals.”

His eyes lit up. “Thank you, S–” He caught himself. “Is there something else?”

I smiled again. “Yes. How would you like to be Santa for a while? The sous chefs can handle the meals for a while. Besides, the children need a little diversion from the harshness of everyday.”

His smile could have lit up a thousand kitchens. “Most definitely, Dan!”

I chuckled. “And your wife?”

He shook with laughter. “Why she would make the perfect Mrs. Claus. We used to do it every year for our own children…before it was outlawed.”

I looked him in the eye, seriously. “Well, we are going to un-outlaw it. And all the holidays. Every one of them.”

He was beaming with joy. “And I shall have the best holiday feasts ready for Christmas Eve And Christmas Day.”

I grinned. “Good. Good.” I picked up a teaspoon and saluted him back. “Carry on.” We both burst out in thunderous laughter.

He cocked his hat sideways and saluted me back. “Aye, Aye, Cap’n.”

I turned and took my leave of the kitchen. I motioned Tim over with a wave. “Is the town above secured?”

He smiled confidently. “Yes, why?”

I looked at him. “After Christmas, we begin rebuilding. Where the corporations stood, we will build schools, libraries, and real medical facilities. Not to mention police stations and fire departments. And anything else that our society has not seen since this oppression was enforced.”

He nodded. “Yes, Sir.”

I smiled. “You don’t have to call me sir either. We have been friends far longer than this war. Let’s not stop just because I am a commander.”

He chuckled. “I am still your dearest friend, Danny. Nothing will ever change that.”

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