Santa's Little Helper
Concentrating on the task at hand, Trixie was completely focused on the object in her hands. She squinted her eyes and bit her lip while her fingers nimbly tied the final ties on the netting of the lacrosse stick. She seemed to be in a world of her own, oblivious to all else.
Appearances can be deceiving.
In a lightning-fast move, she whipped the stick around and spun her body, executing a perfect block. The result was a horrifying crash as Dan tripped, slipped, and crashed into the workbench across from the one Trixie occupied.
Trixie softly blew on the ice ramp at her feet to make it disappear before turning back to her work with a self-satisfied smirk on her face.
Mart, arms so full of books he couldn’t see a thing, calmly stepped over Dan’s prone body as he passed by. “Haven’t you learned by now that you’ll never be able to sneak up on her?”
Dan’s winded voice wafted up from the floor. “But trying is so much fun.”
“Because you enjoy falling on your butt and whacking your head on the floor?” Jim asked from his seat behind Trixie, shaking his head at the sad state of his friend.
Fuming, Di chimed in. “No! Because he enjoys making a mess of my paints!”
Only then did Dan realize he’d crashed into Di’s work area. Again. “Oh, sugarplums.” He quickly scrambled to his feet to survey the damage.
Honey sat next to Di, calmly sewing the tiny seams on a doll’s dress. “One of these days, Daniel, Di’s not going to forgive you.”
Dan muttered a heart-felt apology while waving his fingers over the table. As the splotches and puddles of spilled paint returned to their proper containers, Di glared at him and tapped her foot at a rapid tempo. Only when Dan glanced up to see if she’d calmed down yet did he notice the large spot of paint just right of center on Di’s blouse. Red-faced, Dan quickly snapped his fingers to make that stain go away.
“What is the meaning of this?” screeched a cranky old voice, as the owner rushed down the aisle angrily.
Dan pointed at the ice skates on his feet. “Quality control.”
Old Lytell thrust his hands onto his hips and scowled. “Get those things off and put away! You’ve many more to make before the big night.” Turning to survey the group, he shook his head. “I swear, the lot of you are more trouble than you’re worth!”
“Not true at all,” rumbled a jolly old voice from above his head.
All eyes immediately focused on the bearded, dimpled face of their beloved leader. Joy filled their hearts, because that was the effect he had on all who were lucky enough to see him in person.
“Elves work hard, and play harder,” Santa chuckled. “With how hard they work this time of year, you have to expect some horseplay. This group works harder than most, so of course they play hard.” Raising one eyebrow in Daniel’s direction, he cautioned, “As long as they don’t damage the merchandise, there’s no harm done.”
With a gulp, Dan made a grabbing motion. In the blink of an eye, the ice skates were in his hand and his feet were properly clad in green felt adorned with jingle bells.
Santa winked at Dan before turning to leave. “Come along, Lytell. We have work to do. Leave the kids to theirs.”
Lytell followed Santa, but only after leveling one final glare at each of them.
Di scowled at Dan, but there was a twinkle in her violet eyes. “You’re lucky Santa likes you.”
Trixie snorted. “He’s lucky Santa likes Regan. If your uncle ever loses his touch with the reindeer, you’re sunk.” With that she waved a lacrosse stick at him – the new one she had started and finished during their conversation.
Knowing full well that he was falling behind, Dan hurried off, but not before uttering, “One of these days, Freckles… one of these days!”
Brian chose that moment to arrive.
Jim looked up from the rubber ducks he was fashioning for Ronda’s family. The ducks were their theme for the year, so they needed a great many. “I was wondering where you’d gotten to.”
Frowning deeply, Brian replied, “I was unfortunate enough to be near the main entrance when Abraham arrived. I got stuck carrying his guest’s bags to her room.”
Trixie’s eyes grew big and round as saucers. “Uh, oh.”
“Uh, oh is right,” Dan said, appearing suddenly by her side.
Mart studied his older brother. “What could this woman have done to make you so unhappy?”
Brian shrugged. “Nothing, really. I just have a bad feeling about her.”
“Holy reindeer poop!” Honey exclaimed, shocking everyone.
“Forget I said anything,” Brian said darkly. He shoved his hands into his pockets and shuffled away.
The others just stared at each other dumbly for a moment. In the next moment, Trixie was rushing to head for the residence. Just as quickly, Jim and Mart grabbed her arms to stop her.
“What?” Trixie demanded. “Anyone that can make Brian react like that needs to be investigated!”
“Not like a bull in a china shop,” Mart said.
Rescuing Mart from Trixie’s death glare, Dan chimed in. “Seriously, Trix. What are you going to do? Run into her bedroom and demand to know what she did to give Brian the willies?”
When Trixie reluctantly acknowledged their point with a shake of her head, Jim released his grip on her arm. Throwing his arm around her shoulders, he said, “We’re not saying no. Just slow down enough to have some finesse.”
Trixie stared at the ground and nodded. “Okay. Fine.”
Everyone jumped at the sound of Santa’s voice. From out of nowhere, he was right behind them.
“Yes, Santa?” Trixie managed to keep her voice steady.
“I have something I need to discuss with you. Why don’t you and Jim join Mrs. Claus and me for dinner?”
Smiling happily, Trixie replied, “Of course, Santa!”
The jolly old elf winked at her, then turned to leave. “See you then!” he called back over his shoulder.
Once he turned the corner, Di chuckled. “See? Nothing gets past Santa!”
“And now you have the perfect opportunity!” Honey clapped her hands in delight. “Pleasant dinner conversation and a good grilling are almost the same thing!”
With a triumphant grin, Trixie turned to Mart. “If you’ll excuse me, I have to go get ready for dinner.”
Watching her skip merrily away, Mart said to his friends, “Life at the North Pole never ceases to amaze me. Santa basically just asked my sister to meddle in the love-life of his heir apparent.”
“He hedged his bets, though,” Dan mused. “He invited Jim along to keep her in check, I’d say.”
When the others turned to him expectantly, Jim blushed. “I – I – I… need to go… g-g-get ready for dinner,” he stammered. He fled at top speed, and the others chuckled.
When they arrived for dinner, Mrs. Claus welcomed Trixie and Jim with hugs. The two elves gladly welcomed Abraham home. He then introduced them to his lady friend, a Miss Laura Ramsey. She shook their hands gingerly, like she was afraid of germs, and her smile lacked warmth.
Throughout dinner, conversation focused on Abraham’s schooling and adventures in “the Other World”, as the residents of the North Pole called it. When he spoke of how he’d met Laura, Trixie was able to slip in some personal questions. Whenever she was about to push too hard, Jim would squeeze her leg under the table and ask Abraham a question. Mrs. Claus and Santa repeatedly redirected the conversation so that Trixie could slip in another question. It became pretty obvious that Laura was resisting these questions, that she was as phony as the snow on the set of any Hollywood Christmas movie, and that Abraham was completely smitten and totally oblivious.
After dinner, all the Bob-White elves met with Santa in his office. He opened their meeting without preamble. “Tell us your impression of Laura, Brian.”
Brian sat sulkily in a corner, arms crossed over his chest. “I shouldn’t have said anything. There was nothing. She just… gave me the creeps.”
“Tell me everything she said to you,” Trixie encouraged.
“When Abraham asked me if I could carry her bags, she looked at me and said, ‘What is that?’ like I was some kind of gross creature,” Brian admitted. “How does someone freaked out by an elf even get invited to the North Pole?”
“Now there’s a good question,” Santa grumbled. He frowned, which was the first time his normally jolly demeanor had slipped.
“What did you think, Trixie?” Honey asked, impatient to know more.
Trixie grimaced. “Well, it’s obvious why Abraham likes her. She’s absolutely gorgeous.”
“But,” Jim quickly interjected, “her beauty is only skin deep. It’s easy to see through it.”
Diana pursed her lips. “So Abraham will probably tire of her all on his own… eventually?”
“Probably,” Dan said. “Abe’s still enamored with life in the Other World, but he’s not stupid. He’s still a child of the North Pole.”
“So the important question is,” Mart said, “does she pose a threat to Christmas?”
“Definitely.” Trixie nodded her head firmly.
Jim seemed surprised. “Really? I didn’t get that impression. I just thought she was superficial and annoying.”
Curls bobbing, Trixie shook her head sadly. “Men have such trouble seeing the truth about a beautiful woman.”
Santa’s rumbling laughter filled the room. “It always comes back to that, doesn’t it, Trixie?” Sobering, he regarded her seriously. “Tell me why you think she’s a threat to Christmas.”
“She kept asking you how you get all the toys to all the children.” Trixie shrugged.
Santa chuckled. “Everyone I’ve ever met asks me that. That’s just natural curiosity.”
Trixie sat back and waited. Everyone looked back and forth from her smug expression to each other. Finally Brian dared to ask, “Why does her curiosity threaten Christmas?”
Once she knew she had their full attention, Trixie shared her real observations. “Laura is in shipping logistics. She works for her father’s multinational company, and is trying to impress him enough to be considered next in line. She’s really here to get The List.”
For a moment the room was so still you could have heard a snowflake fall. Then there was an explosion of sound as each person expressed their fervent need to prevent that from happening. It built to a crescendo before Santa halted the discussion.
“Ladies and gentlemen, calm yourselves.” Seeing the determined look in Trixie’s eye, Santa gave her the floor. “Trixie has a plan. Let’s hear it, refine it if necessary, and give it a try.”
Trixie smiled gratefully at Santa. “The most important thing is that Abraham be the one to catch her.”
“Huh?” Mart scratched his head in confusion. “You always want to be the one to catch the bad guy.”
“Trixie’s right,” Honey nodded. “If we do it, Abraham will be convinced that the elves or his parents just didn’t like Laura and thought she wasn’t good enough for him. He’ll get mad at us and turn to her. He’ll never see through her then.”
“Unfortunately, the girls are right.” Santa shook his head sadly. “My own son should know better, but that’s what would happen. So how do we get Abraham to catch her?”
Three days later, Trixie was questioning the wisdom of her idea. Although everything else was still going according to plan, spending three days with Laura Ramsey around was making her crazy. She seemed to have some sort of magic power that had all the guys fawning all over her. If Trixie hadn’t had Lady Vanderpoel run a magic scan, she might be worried. Instead, she was just thoroughly aggravated.
It was in this foul mood she found herself when she finally received the long-awaited signal that mischief was afoot. She went searching for Abraham, finding him in the reindeer pen.
“Abraham, can we talk?”
“Sure, Trixie.” Abraham gave Prancer a final pat on the head and locked up the pen.
They walked along in silence for several minutes. Abraham spoke first. “You don’t like her, do you?”
Trixie sighed. “To be honest, I’m jealous. Why do pretty girls have to spend so much time flirting with every guy, instead of just sticking to their guy?”
“I was kind of wondering that myself,” Abraham admitted. “Three days ago Laura thought Brian was ‘creepy looking’, but now she’s flirting with every male elf she meets.”
Surprised, Trixie studied his profile. “You’re jealous, too! Aren’t you?”
“A little.” Abraham noticed that Trixie had been distracted by a particularly special display from the Aurora Borealis. He smiled and said, “It’s very beautiful, isn’t it?”
She smiled and nodded. “I love watching it.”
“More than Jim?”
Temper flaring, Trixie whirled to face him. “Excuse me?”
Abraham smirked. “Just because something’s beautiful to look at, doesn’t mean it replaces that which is most important.”
Looking into his bright blue eyes, Trixie suddenly realized how much they resembled the wise old eyes of his father. Her temper fled and she studied him thoughtfully. “When does something go from ‘beautiful to look at’ to ‘that which is most important’?”
He directed his eyes toward the Aurora Borealis. “For one thing, you’d have to love Christmas as much as I do. If you can’t look around the North Pole with eyes of wonder, heart filled with the Joy of Christmas, then you don’t belong here.”
In her heart, Trixie knew then that everything would work out. The man before her wasn’t a besotted teenager wearing blinders. He was a friend who needed her help… perhaps even wanted it. “Is that what this was, Abe? A test?”
His eyes twinkled as offered a teasing smile. “You don’t think I’d invite someone to live at the North Pole without your approval, do you Trixie?”
“So, other than making you jealous…” Abraham tugged one of her long curls, “would she pass your inspection?”
Behind the teasing, Trixie saw the truth in his eyes. He knew the answer already, but still had a spark of hope that he was wrong. Hating the fact that she had to douse that hope, Trixie didn’t say another word. She just nodded her head towards the nearest building. Just then Laura could be seen climbing out of the window of Santa’s office, holding an ancient, hand-carved wooden book.
When Abraham followed her gaze, his teasing expression turned to a mask of ice cold fury. “Apparently not.” Fury building, he growled at Trixie, “Go find my father!” Then he stormed off to deal with Laura himself.
Trixie raised her eyes to the roof, and gave the signal to Dan, who was watching from there. He turned to pass the signal to Brian, who was waiting on the other side of the building to fetch Santa. All went according to plan, yet Trixie wasn’t feeling her usual pleasure in her success.
Life at the North Pole went back to normal. The next several days – the last three days before Christmas Eve – were too busy to even think straight. Once Santa’s sleigh departed, the bustle of activity changed. The air traffic control and emergency crews sprang to life, while Mrs. Claus and Abraham directed the rest of the elves in the preparation of the Christmas celebration to be held upon Santa's return. Once they had properly celebrated the Christ child and feasted together as a family, only then would the North Pole stop to rest before beginning the preparations for next Christmas.
All seven of the Bob-White elves joined Regan each year in the barns when Santa returned. They took responsibility for grooming and bedding down the reindeer, and were always the last to arrive at Christmas dinner. As usual, when they entered the great hall the celebration was in full swing.
Predictably, Mart’s first words were, “I’m starving.” He grabbed Diana’s hand and dragged her towards the heavily-laden buffet table.
“So what else is new?” Dan asked with derision. Nonetheless, he and Regan followed closely behind.
Energized by the happiness around him, the laughter echoing throughout the room, and the success of saving Christmas, Brian smiled happily. He turned to Honey and bowed. “Might I have this dance, milady?”
Giggling, Honey nodded. “But of course, milord.” And off they went.
“What about you, Trix?” Jim asked. “What would you like to do?”
Trixie looked around her without enthusiasm. “I’m tired. I think I’ll just go to bed.”
“That’s not how it works here at the North Pole!” Abraham placed an arm around each of their shoulders. “We celebrate!” He smiled at Trixie, honest gratitude in his eyes. “Remember… Christmas comes first, Trixie. Always.”
Abraham’s genuine happiness was infectious. Trixie smiled. “Of course! I think I’ll open presents, then have dessert before dinner.”
“Much better,” Abraham nodded. “Speaking of presents…” He stuffed his hands into the deep pockets of his jacket and pulled out two gaily-wrapped packages. “Merry Christmas to you both.”
Jim and Trixie took their gifts and thanked him. Abraham started to walk away to greet others, but stopped and turned back to Trixie. “Perhaps the next time I travel to the Other World to find a wife, I should take you with me.”
Jim watched Abraham walk away, and then looked at Trixie bouncing with excitement at the thought of such an adventure. He mentally questioned Abraham’s sanity as he thought of all the trouble Trixie could manage to get herself in on such an adventure. His usual need to protect her from everything – including herself – flared brightly. “I don’t suppose you’d like some company on that trip, would you?”
Trixie smiled lovingly and stepped into his arms. “From you, Jim? Always.”
A sprig of mistletoe magically appeared above their heads. Jim leaned down to kiss her, and Trixie sighed happily. Abraham was okay, Laura Ramsey was gone forever, Christmas was safe, she was with Jim, and she had a promise of future adventures. This was the most perfect Christmas ever!
Merry Christmas, Ronda!