by the way, happy holidays to all! and enjoy the story after the break.
Magic, or the Holiday Special
“I think Santa’s sexy.”
“You’re insane. He’s an old fat guy in a bright red suit,” Kyle glared at Maria quizzically before munching on a Saturn Ring.
“Give it up Deluca, it’s all very Oedipal.”
“Where the hell did you learn that word, Kyle?”
“On occasion I read.”
“Hey guys!” Isabel walked into the Crashdown with a load of bags and an excess of cheer.
“Hi Isabel. Perfect timing, Santa—sex god or skanky geezer?”
“Deluca here thinks Santa’s sexy, I say he’s not.”
“Santa? Sexy? Skanky? What on earth is wrong with you people? I can’t believe this. Kyle come with me,” Isabel proceeded to grab Kyle by the ear and lead him out the door calling out, “Maria, you better follow if you know what’s good for you.”
“Oww. Isabel that hurts,” Kyle complained as he rubbed his ear. Isabel didn’t appear to hear him as she walked back into the diner for Maria.
“Ow ow ow! Kyle, why did you involve her?” Maria smacked Kyle on the arm as she mirrored his actions. Isabel had also dragged her out of the diner by the ear. And had gone to pick up her packages.
“I forgot the whole Christmas Nazi persona.”
“What was that Kyle?” she asked as she met them on the sidewalk.
“Nothing, Isabel,” he muttered.
“Good. You two are coming with me. And I better not hear one complaint.”
“But Isabel, my shift—“ Maria tried to explain.
“Ah ah ah! Not one complaint. Now walk.”
Kyle and Maria begrudgingly began walking in the direction Isabel commanded, both with the sinking suspicion that they should have gone while the going was good. And with the knowledge that messing with the Christmas Nazi was a dangerous thing.
“Is it safe?” Michael whispered his question from behind the shelf in the supply room.
Liz looked out the door and listened carefully for a few seconds. Before opening it again and stepping out. Cautiously she tiptoed over to the windowed doors that led out to the restaurant’s main room.
“Yeah. I think it’s ok to come out now.” She called out.
“You think or you know?” Michael replied from within the depths of the pantry.
“Good. I wish I could feel more guilty about leaving Kyle and Maria to suffer the wrath of the Holiday Führer,” Michael said as he came to stand beside Liz at the doors.
“I know. We should get back to work.”
“You’re covering for Maria?”
“Yeah. I mean…I didn’t try to help.”
Michael snorted, “As if there were any way to help. Valenti and Maria dug their own graves.”
Michael and Liz got to work. The diner was packed to overflowing and there was little time to talk for the remainder of the afternoon. As they shut down the restaurant they worked in a companionable silence. Liz was filling the sugar containers at the counter while Michael lounged on a stool next to her, the mop he had been using propped idly next to him.
“So what are you doing for Christmas this year?” Liz asked.
“Don’t know…Maria and I are still very over, so I’m guessing I won’t be spending it with her. And the Evans are still upset with both Isabel and Max and aren’t really filled with the holiday spirit. Isabel did invite me over to have dinner with Jesse and her, but it scares me.”
“Oh, well, I mean…if you want you should come over.”
“Yeah, it’s just me, my mom, and my dad, we have dinner and then go ice-skating.”
“Ice-skating?” Michael asked dubiously.
“Oh come on, it’ll be fun.”
“What do you guys eat?”
“The holiday special.”
“What? It’s tradition here at Casa Parker.”
“Well, it sounds real nice Liz. You’re sure your parents are cool with it?”
“Sure, they love you.”
“What about Max?”
“What about him?”
“Michael, he’s searching for his son. He’s feeling all tortured and anguished and suffering separation anxiety for someone who can’t survive on this planet. I feel bad for him. But I can’t keep doing this. I can’t keep being okay with this situation. Because I’m not okay. And he doesn’t even notice.”
“Have you talked to him?”
“Yes I have, but he refuses to listen. I can’t be like this anymore. He doesn’t see me. He’s consumed by the past, and I…I have to move forward with my life. Because this is killing me. I feel like I don’t exist anymore. Michael you understand, right?”
Michael looked at Liz and saw her chocolate-colored eyes fill with tears. He put his arms around her, pulling her face against his chest and kissed the top of her head. “I do. Liz, please, don’t cry. It’ll be all right. I promise.”
They stayed that way for a long time, until Liz’s tears subsided and Michael got up again to finish up the mopping.
“Come on you guys, there are two-hundred more packages to wrap!”
“Isabel, I have a paper cut, you don’t want me to bleed on the presents.”
“Maria Deluca, one more whine out of you and it’ll be round the clock elf duty. In fact, I have the perfect little costume for you, Snowflake!”
“Oooh,” Maria groaned and went back to diligently wrapping the stack of presents for needy children Isabel had placed before her. At the rate she and Kyle were going they’d never finish.
“Kyle, you are spending way too much time per package, and your corners are sloppy.”
“Isabel, I’m a guy. I don’t know how presents look pretty. My dad and I use newspaper, okay?”
“Well, do better or it’s Kris Kringle for you,” Isabel flounced off after delivering that parting shot, and as soon as she was far enough away Maria and Kyle let go of the boxes they were in the process of wrapping and leaned back in their seats.
“How long before she’s back?”
“I have no idea, but we’d better hurry.”
“I’m never ever talking to that woman about Christmas again.”
“Me either, although if you were to dress as Santa, wouldn’t you say that was sexy?”
“In a weird, totally strange way I guess if I were dressed as Santa you could say Santa was sexy. Now let me tell you something. Elves are totally hot,” Kyle leered at Maria jokingly and waggled his eyebrows.
“Don’t say that too loudly or the crazy Christmas Nazi will come in here and torture us,” Maria laughed.
“Yeah, we got to get out of here Snowflake.”
“Why are you calling me that?”
“Cause you know we’ll end up doing it as punishment for escaping this workhouse.”
“So should we stay?”
“Hell no. If I have to wrap one more box I’ll lose it.”
Maria and Kyle pushed open the window and had started clambering out when they heard a shrill voice behind them say:
“NOW WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU”RE GOING?!”
“Nowhere,” Maria explained as they turned around, “Kyle and I just needed some fresh air.”
Michael was stumped. He needed to get Liz a present. He wanted to get Liz a present, but he had no idea what to get her.
It wasn’t like he knew she needed anything, although perhaps that approach would be the wrong tack considering the way things had gone down with Maria and the bumper. He didn’t want Isabel to pick out his gift to Liz. He wanted it to be something special.
Jewelry didn’t seem appropriate. And he didn’t want to get her shampoo or bubble stuff. He considered getting her a CD but somehow that didn’t feel special enough. Maybe if he burned her a special mix, songs that reminded him of Liz. There were so many after all.
He sat down to compile the song list and had pretty much decided what would go on the CD when the phone rang. It was Monk, one of the guys he worked with, apparently he was having girl trouble. Absently he listened to Monk gripe and moan and started doodling in the margins of the legal pad he’d been working on. Eventually Monk realized that Michael was just as clueless as he was regarding girls and hung up. It wasn’t until then that Michael realized what he had been drawing.
He doesn’t see me…
Liz’s voice rang through his head. A special mix CD and a sketch of her. That would be his Christmas present. Because he did see her, she was beautiful and amazing and he prayed he could do her justice with just a charcoal pencil and some drawing paper.
Michael looked for the supplies he kept hidden in his closet and for the picture of the group he kept lying around. He hoped Liz was smiling in the picture because even he realized how little she smiled. It always made him glad that he could still startle her into laughter, even when she was laughing at him, even though it only lasted a moment.