Updated: Jan 14, 2021
Not many high schoolers stay up late on Christmas Eve hoping to catch a glimpse of the mythical man himself. Most high schoolers have given up on their belief in him well before then. They are too cool or too smart to believe in the magic of childhood anymore. They wouldn’t be caught dead leaving out milk and cookies for their Santa.
However, Melody wasn’t like most high schoolers. As a child, she believed in the jolly gift-giver whole-heartedly. She loved leaving out treats for him and even his reindeer each year. She’d lay in bed, sitting as still as she could trying to hear his sleigh bells or his hearty laughter. A few times she swore she did.
She remembered the day she discovered Santa wasn’t real. She’d been riding on the subway with her mom when she overheard some teens talking about how dumb Santa was. She jumped to his defense before her mother could stop her. Needless to say, it didn’t end well. Her mother told her the truth and the revelation shook her to her core. She cried for days. For the next year, she couldn’t look at an evergreen tree without her eyes getting misty.
With time, she got over the disappointment and learned to love the holiday once again. Then she discovered that magic was, in fact, very much real. She met a valkyrie, dryads, and all sorts of other magical creatures. If they could exist, why couldn’t Santa? Brigida, the valkyrie, had let it slip that he might be real, along with elves from Norse legends.
As Christmas drew nearer, Melody concocted a plan. It wasn’t much. It wasn’t even wild. She’d simply stay up on Christmas Eve and wait and see. After her parents went to bed for the night, she set up shop in the living room. She sat curled up on the couch in her pajamas with a snowman mug of hot cocoa. The only light in the room came from the warm fire burning in the fireplace and the iridescent lights on the Christmas tree.
Then she waited.
The hours ticked by as if they didn’t care that Christmas’s arrival depending on their speedy passing. Soon enough, the hot cocoa was gone and Melody's eyelids were growing heavier and heavier. She wondered if she should have opted for an energy drink rather than a warm beverage.
To keep herself, she studied the ornaments on the tree and tried to remember where they came from. Some were hand-painted creations that she’d made with her mother, like the clear bobble with reflective confetti inside and yellow stars painted on the outside. Others were gifts from friends and family members, like the cute little swine in the Santa hat from her uncle. Lastly, there were the family heirlooms that Melody's mother had grown up with and continued to use. All mixed together to create a tree that was entirely her family's own and Melody loved each ornament on there.
During her ornament pop quiz, Melody's eyes would drift to the fireplace, hoping to see some boots poking down from the top. She felt like an inspector watching a gate, waiting for a suspect to come rushing through to catch them in the act. At first, it was exciting, being poised and ready to spot something magical. After a while though, she began to doubt if what she was doing was right.
Her eyes settled onto the plate of cookies, glass of milk, and bushel of carrots resting on the coffee table. If Santa was real, would he want a teen to see him? One of the many things Melody had learned since meeting Brigida was that most magical beings had their reasons for hiding. Those that did interact with the rest of the world tended to pick occupations that helped keep them hidden.
A yawn overtook her and she stretched her arms out over her head before settling down and closing her eyes. She wouldn’t fall asleep. She’d just rest for a moment.
She jumped awake, she swore she heard sleigh bells. Or maybe a laugh. Her head whipped around scouring the room for the source of whatever she’d heard but found nothing. Everything was exactly as it had been when she shut her eyes. She must’ve imagined the sounds. Blinking, she looked at the clock on the mantle. Midnight had come and gone. It was almost one in the morning.
Maybe she should head to bed and respect his privacy. She didn’t need to see Santa to know that he was real. She could feel in her heart that he was. She stood from the couch and began collecting her things. She glanced longingly at the table of goodies she left out, hoping her parents wouldn’t question her about them in the morning.
Then it happened again. She heard the bells and a quick pinch on the arm told her that she wasn’t dreaming. They were real.
The sound grew louder before coming to a rough halt above her. Melody’s eyes fixated on the roof before she noticed movement by the fireplace. She watched as the brick fixture expanded, reminding her of the fireplaces in the old Santa Clause movie, except instead of aged digital effects, it was really happening before her eyes. The flames died down and the stonework morphed until it looked like a grand little entryway that didn’t lead anywhere but up.
Then came down someone who, for the last few years, Melody had doubted existed at all. Santa stood there in his red coat and hat lined with white furs. A black belt looped around his waist and a red and green star emblem was pinned to his chest. His cheeks and nose were rosy and stood out against his bright white beard and mustache. His green eyes sparkled in the multicolored lights coming from the tree as he stepped into the room with a steady gate. His large size moved silently, despite the giant bag hung over his shoulder. He wasn’t fat, just a giant of a man. Melody felt as if time had stopped and she couldn’t take her eyes off of him. He looked exactly like she imagined he would when she was younger.
She gaped as he looked at her with a warm smile. “Hello, Melody. Brigida said you might be waiting for me.”