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A December Knight

A December Knight

When Santa fails to deliver, a knight gives the perfect gift.

Jan Cooper doesn’t believe in Santa Claus. The jolly old elf had failed to deliver the one true gift her heart desired. The single mom’s only wish is for Christmas to pass quickly, so life can return to normal, and she can forget about the two men who had disappointed her most: St. Nicholas and her ex-husband.

Delanie Taylor is regional manager for Dreamland of Toys. Divorced and struggling to control his teenage daughter and overbearing ex-wife, he has no time for romance. When he meets Jan’s daughter at the toy store searching for the perfect gift for her mother, he unknowingly discovers the perfect gift for himself.

Below is the first scene of A December Knight. It’s in draft form, so some mistakes may still exist.

Chapter 1, Scene 1

Not Receiving is Unbelieving

Emmie Cooper stiffened when she heard the exasperation in her mother’s voice.

“Christmas? It comes too early and never leaves quick enough.”

“Humbug, Jan! I love the holidays,” said Lorette Dalrymple. “Magic fills the air when everyone is happy and giving.”

“You mean when they are spending money they don’t have on gifts no one needs.”

Emmie burrowed deeper into the closet, letting the jackets on the clothes hangers disguise her hiding place. Her mother and Aunt Lorette sat at the kitchen table drinking tea. She hadn’t intended to eavesdrop, but she was almost into the room before she realised they were there. Instead of saying hello and drawing attention to herself, she sneaked into the shadow of the closet. With Christmas only two weeks away, she expected to hear about a gift bought for her. She had been dreaming of many wonderful things, but had narrowed her list down to ten: five for the list she’d given to her mother and five written in her letter to Santa.

“Oh, come on; where’s your holiday spirit?” said Lorette.

“It went out with last week’s trash,” said Jan.

“Honestly, sis, I don’t know what to make of you. Every year you dive into depression as if it’s a punch bowl laced with rum. It’s as if someone killed your cat, swiped your favourite heels and posted your baby-fat pictures on Facebook all in one day.”

“Thanks. Like I needed to remember the over-sized love handles of my teen years.”

“Look, I’m asking as a sister who loves you: what’s wrong? You’ve always avoided things during the holidays, but the last couple of years you’ve gone out of your way to make Christmas miserable for yourself.” Lorette paused. “Don’t you think this is having a negative impact on Emmie? The poor girl is as excited as the rest of the kids to see Santa come.”

“Santa!” Jan huffed. “We shouldn’t lie to our kids. It’s wrong. There is no Santa and this year, I’m telling Emmie the truth!”

“You can’t! Jan, she’s just a baby.”

“Baby? She’s ten, and it’s time she learns the truth.”

“But what if there is a Santa?” said Lorette. “Then it would be you who’s lying.”

“Are you local or have you dipped into the Holiday spirits? Oh, right, you were dropped on your head as a child. There is no Santa.”

“How do you know?”

The question hung in the air, and Emmie held her breath, waiting for the answer. What did her mother know that she didn’t? Did her mother have evidence to prove one way or the other of the jolly man in red’s existence? Older kids in school mumbled about the possibility of Santa not being real, but no one in her grade believed them. They knew Santa was real.

“You’re going to laugh,” said Jan.

“Promise. I won’t.”

“Well…do you remember…this is crazy.” She sounded as though she had changed her mind and would hold fast to the secret that proved whether or not Santa was real.

“No, no, tell me. I want to hear it,” said Lorette.

“It’s stupid but…do you remember the Knight in Shining Armour doll? You know, the dashing red-haired man who came with a full suit of armour. Cindy-Bella’s boyfriend.”

“Yeah…I think. He had a horse too, didn’t he? He was the every girl’s dream doll.”

“It was a black stallion, but yeah, that’s him.”

“So what about him?”

“Um, well, I had Cindy-Bella.” She hesitated. “But I really wanted the handsome red-headed prince. I’d dreamt about it for months and every time I told Mom about it, all she’d say was, We’ll see, honey.”

“And?”

“I never got him,” said Jan. “When I was eight I made thousands of wishes and wrote to Santa Claus; he wrote back telling me if I was a good girl, he’d see what he could do. Christmas morning arrived, and in spite of being an angel for weeks, my Knight in Shining Armour was nowhere to be found.”

That’s what has you bummed out about Christmas?”

“If there really was a Santa, I’d have gotten that knight. Instead I got stuck with a jerk who couldn’t stick around long enough to see his little girl’s first day of school!”

“Now we’re blaming Allen.”

“Santa Claus, Allen and every other jerk who lied to me, promised things they never intended to deliver,” said Jan. “I’ve learned the hard way life isn’t a fairy tale. A knight in shining armour isn’t going to ride in, sweep me off my feet and love me ever after.”

“You’ve got half that right. I mean, I love Mitch; he’s a great dad, but…but I always felt life could be better,” said Lorette. “Life isn’t a fairy tale; there’s no such thing as true love. You have to take what’s given and make the best of it. Like the singer says in that song, enjoy the one you’re stuck with or something stupid like that.”

“You mean settle. I know all about that.” Jan slammed her fist onto the table. “I won’t do it again! I’d rather be alone than sacrifice my freedom and compromise. I don’t need a man in the house to prove my worth to the world.”

Lorette chuckled. “What are you going to do for sex? That need still has to be filled.”

“What do you think I have Frank for? Whenever I want it, I have it. No strings attached.”

“Now there’s a piece a work. Where did you find four-eyes?”

“He’s not horrible to look at,” said Jan, defending her choice in men. “He works in the shop at Bayer’s Lake. I met him at the summer staff party.”

“Have you two already—”

“No! Gosh, I—I’m not so sure…to be honest, I don’t think Frank can handle an open relationship, and I’m not willing to let him hang off my apron strings. So I’m taking it slow, but if I ever needed a little hanky-panky, I know he’d be there.”

“So you haven’t shared your sheets with anyone since Allen?”

“What’s the point? There are only two results that come from it. Men either decide they’ve conquered the mountain called woman and move on to new territory, or they think they’re in love and never stop calling.”

“So what if the red-headed knight in shining armour showed up at your door and wanted to take you for a horsey ride?”

Jan giggled. “I’d drop a treat in his bag and tell him he’s late for Halloween.”

Emmie listened to Aunt Lorette’s cell phone jingle the familiar tune of Bud the Spud. Within minutes, the tea party ended, her aunt left and her mother vacated the kitchen. Before long, the vacuum cleaner roared to life in a room down the hall. Seeing the coast was clear, Emmie sneaked from the closet to her bedroom. With the door shut, she dragged the tattered Christmas Wish Book from beneath her bed. She had flipped through it so many times, making one wish after another; she knew every section by the colour code. Although she had searched the toy section a million times, she’d never once saw the red-hair Knight in Shining Armour doll. Still, she’d look again. If it was there and if it wasn’t too much money, she’d buy it for her mother and make up for Santa’s mistake many years ago. She glanced at the pink, fat ceramic cat that served as her piggy bank. It held exactly $28.53. Getting her mother to believe in Santa again was worth every penny.

A December Knight, coming Christmas 2020

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