“Kenzie, it’s time for bed,” David said.
“No, Daddy. I’m busy.”
David sighed. “Busy doing what? Don’t you want to put the cookies we made today out for Santa?”
His daughter had her face pressed to the window. She was wearing her fairy wings.
“I’m waiting for Santa to bring me my present.”
“We’ve already talked about this, Kenz. It doesn’t work like that. Nothing will happen until after you go to sleep.”
“I want to wait on my present. It’s my Christmas wish. I asked Santa at the mall,” she stated matter-of-factly.
How does one argue with an almost five-year-old who believes in Santa?
“I know, but Santa can only pack so much in his sleigh.” It was a weak defense at best. David sighed, knowing he was going to be dealing with an impending disaster. Maybe he should call his mother and ask her what to do. Surely with two kids and two other grandchildren, she’d know how to handle this. How do you explain that Santa can’t perform miracles?
“But Daddy, tomorrow is my birthday, too. And I want my mama.”
David scrubbed his face, not wanting to dash her dreams.
“Come here, Kenzie.” David placed the cookies and milk on the coffee table and sat on the sofa. “Your mama loves you. But she can’t be here—”
Reluctantly, his daughter left the window and crawled into his lap. “You have to believe, Daddy.”
“I do, Kenz, but—”
“No buts, Daddy. She kissed him. “It will happen. Santa will bring me my mama.”
“Yes, but…” his voice trailed off. If he told her that her Christmas wish wasn’t going to come true, she’d go to bed upset. Feeling like a coward for not being straight up with her, he sighed and held her tight.
Christmas hymns played in the background and the Christmas tree lights blinked on and off. It was the season of hope and miracles, but he was also a realist. In the garage in a tote were the presents he’d place under the tree in a few hours. After that, he’d eat the cookies and drink the milk. He had all night to come up with a reasonable explanation why Kenzie didn’t get her birthday and Christmas wish. Parenting was so damn hard at times.
It was cold in the room and he pulled the afghan off the back of the couch and wrapped it around her. He’d wanted to build a fire, but she’d worried about Santa coming down the chimney.
“Tell me about when I was born Daddy,” Kenzie said with a yawn.
He’d told her the story a million times. The miracle of meeting her mother on Christmas Eve. But it was one of his favorite stories, too. So he told it to her again and her eyes grew heavy.
“She’ll be here…” she murmured, falling asleep.
He held his precious gift, not wanting to let go just yet. He closed his eyes, waiting for her to be sound asleep before he’d put her to bed…
Warm lips kissed his and surprised, he opened his eyes and smiled. Underneath a red Santa hat, Emma’s hazel eyes stared at him full of love.
“Mama!” Kenzie squealed. David grunted when she stood on his crotch to lunge for her mother.
Emma laughed, hugging their daughter tight. “Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday, Kenzie!”
“See Daddy? I told you Santa would bring her! And he ate the cookies and drank the milk!”
David stood up, rubbing his eyes. The packages were under the tree and the smell of coffee drifted from the kitchen. He glanced at the clock over the mantel. It was one in the morning. Christmas morning.
“How did you get here, Em? We were supposed to pick you up at the airport later this afternoon.”
Emma had flown to Washington to meet with legislators regarding human trafficking. Because of weather issues, her flight had been delayed until this afternoon.
“It’s a Christmas miracle,” she replied with a kiss that tasted of Christmas cookie sugar.
“I told you, Daddy. You have to believe. I knew Santa would bring Mama home.”
David hugged and kissed both of his girls. “Yes, you did.”
They opened presents and just before dawn, Kenzie crawled into her bed hugging her dog Mollie and her new Barbie doll. Emma tucked her in and kissed her forehead. “You have always been mine and Daddy’s favorite Christmas gift, Kenzie. Happy Birthday, my sweet girl Catch a nap. Your grandparents will be here this afternoon and we’ll have red velvet cake.”
Turning out the light, he and Emma retired to their bedroom. “I still don’t know how you did this,” he murmured, cupping her beautiful face in his hands.
Emma finger combed his hair. “After I called to tell you the flight had been cancelled, I couldn’t help it, I started crying.”
“Oh, honey. I tried to book you another flight. I even called Dylan to see if he could arrange something, but even his money couldn’t get you on a plane this late in the game,” David admitted. He’d hated asking Dylan but had put his pride aside for Kenzie’s sake. “So how did you do it?”
She smiled. “Santa.”
“No, really. Tell me.”
“I’m telling you, it was Santa.” Emma pulled her phone from her pocket. “I told him you wouldn’t believe me, so we took a picture.”
His mouth dropped when he looked at the picture of Emma with an older gentleman with a long white beard and hair. While he had on a red plaid flannel shirt, he also had on a red Santa hat. And it was obvious they were at an airport.
“Santa gave me his hat. And his ticket. Now do you believe?”
David laughed . “I believe I do. Merry Christmas, Emma.”
“Merry Christmas, David.”
©2018 Nancee Cain
Interested in reading how David Patterson met Emma Devine?
THE REDEMPTION OF EMMA DEVINE
After the upheaval of being dumped by his girlfriend, David Patterson leads a quiet life as a high school teacher in the small Southern town of Pine Bluff, Alabama. Soon to enroll in seminary, his dreams are within his grasp.
But a chance encounter with Emma Devine changes everything. She’s on the run, desperate, and surviving by any means possible. His pastor’s heart longs to help her—and the rest of him is rather intrigued as well.
His random act of kindness brings them together, but Emma makes an unfathomable decision—one that threatens to destroy two lives, though her intention is to save one.
Four years later, Emma returns, seeking redemption. But can David—whose dreams took a very different course after their last meeting—forgive her and risk losing everything?
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