THE GIFT OF JOY - EXCERPT
The premise of the story is about a girl who made a wish that has changed her life forever. Instead of asking for something selfless and noble, like the protection of her mother from a cruel father, she asked for the protection and friendship of a boy who didn't know she existed.
The set-up: Joy is on her way to the mall to pick out the toys for the children of the Battered Women and Children's shelter she runs. On this fateful day, Gabe finally speaks to her, conjuring all of the painful memories of her childhood and forcing her to relive the selfish wish that caused her to lose her mother.
Joy’s hands trembled as she drove to the mall. She was still shaken by the fact that, after all these years, Gabe had finally spoken to her. Well, Joy was no longer that naïve, hurt little girl that cried for days and weeks because a rude little boy refused to acknowledge her in the mall when she was six years old. She was a woman grown now. She no longer needed the friendship or protection from that boy she remembered with the warm eyes and gentle, soothing touch to protect her from bullies. Now she was the protector…of sorts.
There were countless children and women that depended on her. And she would not let them down. Which was why she was at the mall. Although she did not accept…or receive… Christmas gifts, that did not prevent her from wanting to give. After all, she could still remember well enough the enjoyment of receiving something special. She just didn’t believe anymore that your deepest wishes could come true. But, that did not stop her from pretending that they did…at least with the children in the shelter she ran for battered women and children.
So what if Santa Claus didn’t really exist? The small children that depended on her would learn that lesson, soon enough. Until then, she would do everything in her power to ensure that they had a happy and joyous season.
The cheerful sound of holiday music greeted her as she entered the mall. A tidal wave of memories swept through her, making her shiver inside. For an instant she was teleported back to a time when she did believe. Oh, how she wanted to believe that her deepest wish would come true.
But she had been selfish then. In a brief moment of self-centeredness, she had only thought of herself…of her own happiness, her own needs and wants. Not for a moment did she think of anyone else’s happiness or comfort. My deepest wish could have made a difference. But what did she wish for? For the boy across the street, that made her feel safe and happy, to like and protect her. To want to be her friend.
And three days later, on Christmas day, she had lost the one person she loved most in this world. I could have saved her. I should have wished for my mother’s happiness. Instead, her father killed her mother in a violent rage then was executed for the crime, leaving Joy orphaned and alone. And Gabe was not there to protect you, she thought to herself.
Joy pushed her way through the crowd of people, shoving her way to the toy store. The atmosphere in the mall was warm and pleasant, but it was not enough to penetrate through her armor of indifference and cynicism. She would just pick out the toys that the children put on their wish-list to Santa then be on her way home. There was no need to browse and linger. She just wanted to complete her task and be done with it.
The shrill of a little girl having a tantrum got her attention. She looked over to the North Pole where Santa and Mrs. Claus were stationed to receive their guests. The little girl had on her best Christmas ensemble, complete with muffs and shiny black shoes, but she was not in the mood to be placed upon Santa’s lap. She looked terrified, Joy thought. As well you should be. He will only fill your head with impossible hopes and dreams only to learn one day that it was a pipedream. All lies.
Joy watched as her father scooped her into his arms to try to alleviate her fears, soothing away her tears and promising her sweets if she would just let the nice lady…pointing to Mrs. Claus, with the pleasant smile on her face…take a picture for Grandma and Grandpa. The scene would have made Joy laugh any other time, but now…now she wanted to cry along with the terrified little princess. Don’t do it. You will only end up with a broken heart and shattered dreams.
A subconscious frown played upon Joy’s, otherwise beautiful features, as she witnessed the father gently rock his inconsolable daughter in his arms, shushing her cries. The realization that, in that moment, what she wanted most in the world was a family of her own to love and the protection of someone that loved her. The notion was enough to send her reeling back in surprise.
After a little while of coaxing and bribing, the father had managed to convince his daughter that she would be safe with the strange looking man with the snow white hair and the jovial, booming laughter. She sniffed a couple of times and agreed to do ask her father wished. Her eyes never left her father’s face, knowing that as long as he was there and she could see him…she was safe. Safe. That’s what Joy should have wished for. To feel safe.
She turned to walk away from the touching scene, heading to the toy store to purchase the presents for the children then looked back at Santa Claus one last time.
He had been watching her…a broad smile playing on his lips. His cheeks were rosy red and there was a twinkle in his eye. An honest to God, real twinkle. He winked at her, his eyes shining brightly before he turned to the camera so Mrs. Claus could snap his photo with his reluctant charge.
Copyright © 2010 Valerie Maarten
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