The Christmas Wish
This is the short romance I sold to Woman's World that appeared in the December 20, 2005 issue. I hope you enjoy. And may all your Christmas wishes and dreams come true!
The Christmas Wish
Carrie finished her work and hurried outside to catch the last bus. She hated working late, hated standing in the dark, freezing, as she waited for the crowded bus. Tonight would be worse than usual since it was Christmas Eve and the bus would be filled with shoppers.
When it finally arrived, the bus looked as if it couldn’t hold another passenger. Carrie took a deep breath and pushed her way through the crowd.
There wasn’t a single seat left, and not much in the way of standing room. She smiled and grabbed a spot in front of a man decked out in full Santa gear. As a child she’d loved her holiday visits to Santa and still remembered her disappointment the year her mother told her she was too big to sit on Santa’s knee.
The bus lurched forward and almost sent Carrie flying. Santa grabbed her arm and held her in place. “Thank you,” she said. “This is going to be a long ride.”
Santa smiled. “I’d offer you my seat, but with this bulky costume, I wouldn’t fit in the aisle.”
His voice was deep and smooth, and he sounded younger than she’d expected. His blue eyes twinkled when he smiled, making Carrie wish he’d pull off the fake beard so she could see his face. “That’s okay,” she said. “I’m fine.”
That wasn’t quite true. She was far from her family on the night before Christmas, and she’d be spending Christmas day alone for the very first time. Unexpected tears welled in her eyes at the thought of the lonely night and day ahead of her.
“Hey, are you sure you’re okay?”
Too choked up to speak, Carrie just nodded. Looking around at the other passengers, she saw that most of them were with someone else, chatting animatedly. Only she and Santa Claus seemed to be traveling alone.
The bus pulled to a stop and more passengers crowded on. Carrie let go of the pole and scooted back against Santa’s legs to make room for a woman with an armload of boxes. When the bus pulled away, she found herself sitting in Santa’s lap.
Before she could scramble to her feet, the woman with the boxes had taken her place at the pole and blocked Carrie in. “This is so embarrassing,” she said to Santa. “I’m so sorry.”
“I’m not. You’re the best-looking female I’ve had on my lap all day. And as long as you’re here, why don’t you tell me your name and what you want for Christmas?”
Carrie laughed and brushed the tears from her eyes. “I’m too old to believe in Santa Claus.”
“It’s not a matter of age. It’s a matter of faith. Now what would you ask for if you could have anything?”
Carrie sobered as she thought of her greatest wish. “I’d wish I could be with my family for Christmas.”
“Where are they?”
“In Colorado. I just moved to Chicago to start a new job and I couldn’t afford to fly home. This will be my first Christmas alone.”
Santa looked thoughtful. “Well, my sleigh will be full tonight, so I can’t fly you home. But I might be able to offer you the next best thing.”
Carrie smiled at the thought of arriving on her parents’ rooftop in a sleigh. “And what would that be?”
“You could come spend Christmas with me and my family.”
Carrie turned to look at him, to see if he was serious. From the look in his eyes, he was. “I appreciate the offer, but I don’t even know you and your wife probably wouldn’t want a stranger in her house on Christmas.”
Santa shook his head. “I don’t have a wife—Christmas is at my parents’ home, complete with two brothers and a sister, and seven nieces and nephews. There will be plenty of chaperons, and I can guarantee you my mother would be thrilled if I brought someone home for the holiday.”
He grinned, and Carrie realized she’d seen that grin somewhere before. “Do I know you?”
Santa whispered conspiratorially, “I’m wearing this beard for a reason, but if you’ll promise not to say anything…” He pulled the beard down just long enough for her to get a good look at his face.
Her eyes widened. “You’re--”
He placed a finger across her lips. “Shhh. You promised.”
“What are you doing playing Santa Claus?” Carrie couldn’t believe she was sitting on the lap of a well-known news anchor and that he’d invited her home for Christmas. “And why are you riding the bus?”
“I played Santa for the kids at Children’s Hospital today, and I loaned my mother my SUV so she could pick up a large gift for my dad. So, do you accept my invitation?”
She had a choice between Christmas alone and Christmas with a large family and a man she’d admired each night on the evening news. It wasn’t a difficult decision. “If you’re sure, I’d love to accept.”
He nodded. “I’m sure. And if you’re not busy tonight, would you have dinner with me? And then could you help me wrap a bunch of packages I left until the last minute?”
“I’d love to. And I’m an expert wrapper.” Maybe there really was a Santa Claus after all, Carrie thought as she remembered his words. It’s a matter of faith.