tagRomanceMy Dream Santa

My Dream Santa

bySpencerfiction©

(A Christmas romance)

Chapter 1

Jen opened her tiny eyes, it was very early Christmas morning and it was quite dark in her cool bedroom that the three-year-old shared with her toddler sister. There was just a narrow ray of moonbeam peeping through the gap in the curtains which revealed to her a silent movement, a momentary flash of white.

There, she thought she could see someone in dark clothing trimmed with white, a hat pulled over a moon white face. He was placing a tiny wrapped present at the foot of her bed. The figure moved through the moonlight beam again to move towards the chimney. He was a young man and didn't have a beard, but it was, it had to be, she knew with certainty, that he was Santa!

"Santa, is that you?" she asked, in her tiny voice hovering between fear and wonder.

"Hush, Jennifer, go to sleep, now," Santa said quietly in a deep but reassuring, comforting voice, that wasn't frightening at all. Anyone else in that bedroom at that time of night and three-year-old Jen would have merrily screamed her head off. But no, this was Santa and, after all, he had every right to be there, the whole family had invited him to come. Jen had even signed a card she had made at pre-school, with glitter stuck on the front of it. Besides, his voice assured her there was nothing at all to be afraid of, so she wasn't afraid. After all, Jen reasoned, he always came every Christmas and brought only joy and pleasure into her world, nothing bad had ever happened with Santa. He continued in his calm manner, "It's not quite Christmas morning yet, Jennifer, so you be a very good little girl and go right back to sleep."

"OK, Santa," Jen said, and so she settled down easily and instantly fell back asleep.

It was only when she woke up, bright and refreshed that she realised that she remembered every single detail, and that Santa didn't look at all like she had expected from all the pictures she had been shown at school and in the library. He looked nothing at all like Old St Nicholas, although some things were exactly as she imagined. Like the red coat lined with white fur, and big black boots, and the red hat, and, and, and - she had to take a deep breath - and the big red sack. Those things she expected and that was why she hadn't been afraid that he was there in her and her sister's bedroom in the middle of the night.

But what she had noticed that was so different, was that this Santa was a young man, with no whiskers. Jennifer imagined he was younger even than her Daddy. She told her Mummy and Daddy about the dream and they only thought it was a funny dream, and told her that it was nothing at all to worry about. All little girls became obsessed with the build up to Christmas and for three-year-olds like her, this was the first Christmas that she could appreciate as something special. So she didn't worry and neither did Mummy and Daddy.

There was one little present that year, however, that nobody noticed, or claimed to have sent it. The gift was packed in a box, and beautifully wrapped, but without a label. It was a tiny bracelet of wooden beads, that she wore every day for several years until the string broke, and she lost too many beads to salvage it.

And every year after, she had that self same dream, sometimes twice a year on or near Christmas Eve.

Every year for the next 26 years.

***

In her 29th year she had the same dream again, almost exactly as the usual one, but this time there was one significant and immediately apparent difference.

Jennifer sat bolt upright and groaned as soon as she realised 'where' she was and, more importantly, exactly 'when' it was.

The 'where' was her tiny city one-bedroom studio flat of course. Where else would she be on a Thursday night? At home of course. She did nothing in the evenings during midweek, and not a lot more during the weekends. Her life was currently in limbo, so where else would she be on the 30th of November?

And that was the second reason for the groan, the 'when'. She occasionally had this annual dream twice, once on Christmas Eve, plus a "dry run" a week or few days earlier, but before it had always happened deep into the second half of the month of December. It was hard to pinpoint, but she often ended up with a small but special present among the rest of her gifts, one which she could not identify the sender. Last year's was a silk bookmark, which she now used all the time.

This year the dream had put in its first appearance, manifestation, infection, call it what you will, the earliest ever.

For crying out loud, her thoughts screamed, it wasn't even December yet!

You expect this seasonal marketing creep, earlier and earlier every year, from the big retailers. You know, as soon as the returning students go back to school after the summer holidays, ignoring the minor hiccoughs of Hallowe'en and Guy Fawkes in between, all the shops seem hell-bent on the Christmas festivities, and they seem to get earlier and earlier each year. The Christmas displays in markets and shopping malls springing up in October and November could be ignored as the height of tackiness, but what about her dreams? Weren't they sacrosanct? No, that annual Christmas dream should have stayed firmly where it belonged, during the festive season!

This recurring dream was now beginning to impinge on her life. Not that she had a life, she mournfully lamented, but even so, this Santa dream was becoming personal.

And Jennifer never remembers any of her other dreams, her normal everyday dreams, like she does this one singular dream. Well, hardly any, other than little snatches sometimes of sandy beaches and romantic sunsets or moonlight dinners. Now those were dreams that were worthwhile remembering and repeating. In the Santa dream she appears to wake up and Young Santa is there, reassuring her that all is well and so she goes back to sleep again. Time after time, she just dreamily answers "OK" before slipping into the land of nod again.

But the "Christmas Morning Santa" dream was always so vivid and so memorable that it seemed like every detail of the full dream was etched into her subconscious. Fortunately, she reminded herself, the dream never put in more than a single appearance before her Christmas Eve dream. She hoped that this year would be the same. In fact, her current schedule at work was so insane it was any wonder she was dreaming about anything other than frantic panic about her workload.

There were possible explanations for the extraordinary earliness of the Santa dream, as her best friend Satish had already pointed out. Maybe that was why the dream had surfaced so early in the festive season.

"Jenna," Satish had said after Jennifer had told her why she was so in the dumps. This slipped out before she realised it, as they shared their first coffee and tea respectively, before starting work. Everyone called her Jenna in the city, ever since she moved there almost a decade earlier. Jennifer liked "Jenna" as a substitute name, she thought she sounded somehow more sophisticated and less provincial than plain Jennifer, Jenny or Jen.

Satish continued speaking as they sat rubbing and warming their hands in the freezing cold office rest room, "This is going to be the first Christmas that your whole family aren't going back to your family home, so it is perfectly understandable that you are feeling a lot less secure and a bit more emotional than usual."

She was right, of course, Satish always was right.

Chapter 2

Jennifer's life wasn't the same as it was and never would be again. In fact it was nothing at all like it used to be. For a start, that damned internal clock inside her was ticking away furiously. She would be thirty years old next birthday and was still a single woman, living alone, a salient fact that her mother never failed to remind her about at every single opportunity that presented itself. Only her mother could make her marital status, or spinsterhood, appear to be a failure, akin to being late to be potty trained, learn to walk or talk when she was a baby or becoming a toddler.

Even though she loved the little tykes, she was not looking forward to seeing her younger sister's three angelic children. She knew that her mother would use their presence as a means to make her feel more inadequate, even more a failure in her personal life.

Jennifer was unattached and unmarried because it was only in the past year that she had been forced into leaving her boyfriend of eight years. That break-up still made her so angry. She had lost eight years to that loser. Eight of what were supposed to have been the best years of her life. Not only had Scott failed to commit himself fully to their relationship, by proposing marriage to Jennifer, the bastard had proved that he simply couldn't keep his ... his bloody thingy in his bloody pants! He had always disrespected her, making her feel insecure by ogling every other woman around, and flirting outrageously. In the end she had no choice but to give him up as a lost cause.

Jen's self confidence had never been so low as it had was now reduced to over this last nine or ten months.

She had suspected previous dalliances on Scott's part, of course, but she had never seen enough evidence to blow their relationship out of the water. However, this last affair was so blatant that Jen couldn't ignore it any longer, nor accept his glib excuses of his innocence this time around.

That is why she was now renting her tiny one-woman studio flat on her own. Jen and Scott were forced by the breakup to sell the house they had been buying together over the last four years, and lost so much money on it trying to pay back their mortgage loan and legal costs in the current depressed housing market. Neither partner could afford to buy the other one out, so they both had to take an equal share of the financial hit. And Jen couldn't afford to buy anything at all on her own. All their investment in the house was lost, she fumed, blown away by Scott's greed for extra affairs on the side, damn him!

Was it really her fault that she couldn't attract a man who would love her alone enough?

Last Christmas the family occasion was hosted by her parents, Lisa and Andy Webster. It was also the last traditional family Christmas in Jennifer's family home. Unfortunately, her parents had legally separated, and started their legal divorce proceedings several months prior to Christmas, after having been married for 38 years, but had continued to share the same house until it sold in January. Now they were officially divorced and the family would never be whole again. The split was apparently amicable, as the Websters had both insisted to Jennifer and the rest of the family. They had simply 'outgrown' each other, is how they put it at the time of the announcement, whatever that was supposed to mean. It seemed inconceivable to Jennifer that they would end something that had so much longevity, quite so casually and with such an apparently unemotional conclusion.

The house hadn't been sold by the end of last December, so they were able to keep the family together to celebrate that one last Christmas together, although there was a tenseness in the air between the couple that had never been apparent before. It was there on both sides, just under the surface. That made Christmas an emotional roller coaster ride last time around, Jennifer remembered, so it was no wonder that, with her anxious anticipation of the festival this year, she felt all over the place emotionally.

She had to admit, this was probably the reason for her rather unseasonal dream about Santa, as being some irrational fear of Christmas with a broken family and her own broken relationship exposed for ridicule.

Jennifer's dominating older brother Miles and his loud-mouth wife Sharon had been present last year, together with their quiet, almost sullen teenagers Kendra and Mica. Her sweeter young sister Bernie and her laid-back husband Mark turned up with their three boisterous young children Oliver the eldest, and cute girls Ronnie and Judy.

Scott had accompanied Jennifer to her parents' house last Christmas, because at that time they were still together. It would have been an unlucky thirteen which sat down for dinner, although in fact the five children all ate by themselves at the small table in the conservatory. That unlucky thirteen had manifested itself all too clearly in Jennifer's mind, now that she thought back to it. Again, she thought, there would be thirteen this time around at her mother's, with new husband Jack replacing her father, in more ways than one, and Jack's teenage daughter replacing Scott.

If thirteen was not so much unlucky, but could be turned into a luck-changer, her romantic life might improve during the following year, she hoped. It certainly couldn't become any worse that it presently was.

Even with the four bedrooms they had in the old family home, accommodation had always been tight. They had been able to rough it for a couple of nights, last year, although the celebrations were more than a little muted due to the impending break-up of her parents. The prominent "For Sale" sign outside hadn't helped the atmosphere during the celebrations. Jennifer knew things would never be the same again, even though at the time she had held out unrealistic hopes of a reconciliation between them brought about by the close family festivities. Sadly, she reflected, that was not to be.

This year both her parents had new partners, which indicated to Jennifer that perhaps the "irreconcilable differences with no outside persons involved", cited last year as the cause for the breakdown, had been somewhat disingenuous. Especially as her mother moved in with a divorced father of a teenage daughter in January, even before the decree absolute was official, and married her new man before the month of March was out.

Meanwhile her father set up occupancy with another family in February, immediately following the completion of the sale of the family home and removal of his half of the furniture. Andy Webster's girlfriend was two years younger than Jen's younger sister, and already had three children, all aged under five.

Now the arrangements for this Christmas were still up in the air, with Mum wanting a full family reunion, minus Andy and his new brood, of course, at her new place.

Also, hernDad wanted some sort of celebration at his place but accepted they really didn't have the room and his girlfriend had very young children, with whom none of the rest of the family were in any contact, so had no relationship to build on.

Jennifer was dreading the whole blasted holiday, but could find no acceptable way of getting out of it.

Chapter 3

Jen's mum Lisa was now Mrs Lisa Brandlow, since her swift remarriage. She and her new husband Jack were 58 and 52 respectively, with Jack's 18-year-old only daughter Stephanie still living at home while she locally continued her college studies.

Jack Brandlow had been a widower for many years, and had brought Stephanie up on his own, so they were more than just close, each having relied on the other for mutual support over the years. Jack Brandlow was a self-employed electrician, working as a subcontractor on extensions, kitchen refurbishments, and the like, mostly small fry, one man jobs. Lisa continued to work part-time in an estate agents, as administrative support, a job she enjoyed so much that she hoped to continue after the age of retirement in a few years time. Jack's daughter Stephanie was a bright, lively girl, and very pretty, Jennifer remembered from her Easter visit to her Mum's new abode, and had started as a student at a local college in the October.

It seems Mum and Jack met when Jack bought a house at an auction of properties that Lisa represented on behalf of her client. He bought the house to restore, and did most of the work himself, before using Lisa through her estate agency to sell it on. So they got to know one another very well during the subsequent sale and Jennifer's mother was more than receptive to his rather tentative at first, advances. Jennifer hadn't really had a chance to get to know Jack, having only spoken to him briefly at the wedding and had since briefly visited her mother twice in the intervening months, each time unaccompanied by the now, determinedly ex-, boyfriend Scott.

Lisa and Jack were currently extending Jack's present house, using Lisa's share of the proceeds from the sale of the Webster family home, to add a master bedroom with ensuite bathroom and changing rooms, with a dining room underneath. This mid-winter, however, the work was still unfinished as Jack was doing most of the internal work himself in between his lucrative contract work. So that was one side of Jennifer's broken family.

There was a much bigger age difference in the relationship on the other side of Jennifer's splintered parentage.

Andy Webster and his girlfriend Layla, were aged 60 and 26 respectively. Andy ran a small haulage firm, based on the edge of the town, right next to the local airfield. His ex-wife still owned a quarter share of his business, as he wasn't able to buy her out completely after the divorce settlement, without crippling bank loans, but he was working hard to buy back the rest of his company over the next few years.

His girlfriend Layla was a stay-at-home Mum. She had never married and kicked out her partner, who was the father of the latest of her three children, when she started her relationship with Andy. Andy had used part of his proceeds from the sale of the family home to buy an extended ex-housing association house with four bedrooms, necessary for the growing needs of his new family. Downstairs there was an integral garage and study, which Andy needed as a home office. This meant there was no dining room in the house, so they were going to rig up a temporary dining room in the conservatory for the Boxing Day meal.

Jennifer had groaned. It looked like there would have to be two separate Christmas celebrations split between the two households, each no doubt trying to outdo the other in impressing Jennifer and her other two siblings. She was sure that the atmosphere of oneupmanship at each venue would resist cutting with a hot knife.

Now, Mum had only one spare bedroom, while Dad had two, because currently all the young children could be moved temporarily into the same bedroom. So Jennifer was going to be staying with Mum throughout the festivities, while Miles and Bernie's families were determined to rough it out at Dad's for the two nights.

All those arrangements were still to be confirmed and Jen needed to work through the next three and a half weeks of sales calls before that fateful day dawned.

Honestly, she thought, anything could happen before then, and I might not have to go through with the whole nightmarish ritual.

***

Jennifer and Satish worked in the same office, taking calls from branch stores or direct customers up and down the country for communication equipment, mostly mobile phones and tablets, software or replacement upgrades. It could be pretty stressful at times, especially as they were required to push other services, insurances, applications or software upgrades all the time and each had individual daily targets to reach. At present, with Christmas fast approaching, there were continuous streams of orders for new customers, equipment and upgrades coming through as Christmas presents.

Jen had dreaded telling Mum that she'd broken up with that philanderer Scott and moved out of their house into a cupboard-like flat. She also felt ashamed that he'd cheated on her so often, the true facts of scott's serial betrayal only emerging after they broke up. Soon, her friends divulged what they knew but had feared to tell her. This only made feel that his affairs were partly her fault, hence her low opinion of herself. Her Mum had adored the charming and flirty Scott and several times over the years told her that she thought Jennifer had done very well to catch such a hunk in her net. Jennifer had no man in her life so, in frustration, when she did mention the split, she somehow, on the spot, invented a new boyfriend! Later, she had to admit to herself, what was she thinking?

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