The eight-foot Advent calendar towers over me. I stand on the step ladder and stretch towards the door marked December 22nd. I let my fingers feel the date’s glittery surface before tugging on the miniature candy cane door handle. A thrill of delight and anticipation zips through my fingers.
My hand touches something cold. Effie must have just placed today’s treat inside.
I pull out a miniature snow globe. Inside is a tiny little snowman, its crystalline, roly-poly body glittering in the blinking lights that frame the Advent calendar. In a few minutes, the snow figurine will melt into a Florida snowman, its body parts floating in water. But for now, for this little instant, he is the perfect wintry Christmas moment.
Christmas cheer is here indeed.
I take a step back from the Advent calendar, which I’ve hitched to the fragrant pinewood door that leads to my Snow Globe Magical Christmas Winter Village.
Okay, the Snow Globe Magical Christmas Winter Village is technically a round greenhouse. One reason I accepted the position of chief window dresser at The Shops at True North was because it has a greenhouse. Talk about nifty. We call it The Oxygen Exchange.
This year, I convinced my bosses to convert it to a magical snow globe for our Christmas Eve event because it looks exactly like a giant snow globe! Once the shopping center’s cooling system is properly rigged, we’ll blast wintry freshness and transform the greenhouse into a full-blown Snow Globe Magical Christmas Winter Village in time for December 24th. Complete with snow, thanks to the snow machine that arrived this morning.
People told me my wintry village couldn’t be done. “Eve,” they said, “we’re in South Florida. In a heat wave. Winter wonderland? You have got to be joking.”
But I plowed ahead. And now, excitement has spread. Even the local news is interested. Any minute now, I’ll be speaking to a news crew to promote the event on Christmas Eve.
I wrap my hands around the chilly snowman’s snow globe, knowing that my enjoyment of the cold will only bring his demise on faster. But I plan on wrenching every bit of Christmas happiness from the maws of the season.
This is going to be the most perfect Christmas Eve ever.
It has to be.
I put on my green woolen hat. (It goes perfect with my red hair!) It’s a bit mosty-toasty because I’m standing in the open-air central walkway of the Shops at True North, but I need to look perfect for my winter-themed news interview.
My phone buzzes. It’s a message from Todd, the head of maintenance here. “I consulted Gabe about the air conditioning system. He’s not convinced your cooling plan could work.”
“Don’t contact that man,” I type back as I blow a strand of hair from my sweaty forehead. “Todd, you are great at engineery stuff. I believe in you. Don’t use Gabe as a crutch.”
Sure, Gabe’s a top engineer. We call him in from time to time on contract, but he hates Christmas.
You can’t trust a man who hates Christmas.
You know, even if he is tall and has a rumbly voice and smells like—
Enough about Gabe. I stare at my melting snowman. Todd’s message has left me unsettled. I look to the wooden Santa and Rudolph, which we’ll install inside later, for comfort.
“Can you imagine being like that Gabe?” I ask the figures. “Ugh.”
Their fixed smiles are all the response I need.
My Christmas cheer is here to stay.
“Eve!” A hurried voice calls out to me from down the central walkway. “Eve, Eve, Eve!”
That’s Effie, the one I mentioned earlier. She also works at The Shops at True North and is my best friend. The news crew must be here because, despite her broken leg and crutches, she’s practically racing towards me.
“Is the reporter here?” I call out. “I’m ready to dazzle.”
“You’re going to want to take a deep, cleansing breath,” she says as she reaches me, gasping for air.
“No, I’m fine. I love the media. I eat the media for elevensies.”
“Focus on the positive.”
This is starting to sound ominous.
“Don’t make a big deal,” she says. “It will all work out.”
“What? What will work out?”
“He’s not here? He’s supposed to be here for the news crew.”
“I wish he weren’t.”
“What? What? What happened with Santa?”
I hear the roar before I see its source. I follow the sound, dodging the palm fronds and ferns and miniature ponds. A knot of people is clumped near a Christmas tree. What I see stops me in my tracks.
Oh, no, no, no, no, no. This can’t be happening.
The news crew has indeed arrived, and the camera is pointed right at Santa, who is . . .
Oh, no, no, no, no, no.