The Mall SantabyDG Hear©
This story was edited by my friend, 'Chantal' who always makes it a much better read. Hope you enjoy it and 'Happy Holidays'.
I live in a medium-size town in the Midwest. I served four years in the army. When I got out, I went to college for two years and received my Associate Degree in Criminal Law. There weren't many jobs available, but I was able to land a job in security at the mall.
There was a lot of turnover in my profession, but I decided to stay with it and I became head of security in two years. I was happy, made a decent wage and was back home with my family and friends. Life was pretty good.
Ray Binning, the mall owner was also a veteran and gave me the job. I was to oversee twelve other people that worked security. We had both men and women; some wore uniforms and others dressed in street clothes. Ray came up to me the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and asked for a favor.
"Jeff, I need a big favor. The man we hired for Santa didn't pass the background check and I was hoping you would do the job for a week. We have some more applicants but I won't be able to get the background checks and paperwork done on them till next week because of the holiday," said Ray. He was speaking of Thanksgiving.
"Let me get this right. You want me to be the mall Santa until next week. Ray, I'm not exactly the Santa type person. I'm 6' 1" and weight 185 pounds."
"We have a costume that we can pad-up for you. My problem is I need to get through Black Friday and I need someone I trust. Needless to say I'll pay you extra, and can really use your help."
I had to laugh, but Ray was a good boss and he gave me a job when I needed it. I told him I would do this favor for him, but hoped he would hurry up and find another Santa. He promised me that he would hire a replacement by Wednesday of the following week.
I had just turned twenty-seven and moved back in with my parents after returning from Iraq. I went to school full time thanks to my military service. I took the two-year degree format option so I could get a job and support myself. I was in the military police while in the service, so taking Criminal Justice worked out good for me.
I have three older sisters who are all married and have kids so I know what it's like to be around children. As a whole, I like kids, but I want them to be well behaved. I knew my sisters would get a big laugh out of me being Santa. We would all be getting together on Thanksgiving and I would tell them the news.
My sisters have been trying to fix me up with dates ever since I returned from overseas. I know I'm a decent looking guy, and I work out almost every day at the gym located in the mall. It's just that I'm not ready to settle down; I haven't found the right woman.
My oldest sister, Donna, asked me what I was looking for in a woman. I told her I wasn't looking; if it were to happen, it would happen. My other sisters, Kim and Cindy, tell me that I would be a good catch, and whenever they invite me over for dinner or a party, there is always an extra woman there; as if I can't figure out what my sisters are doing.
I know they mean well and are looking out for their little brother, but I'm not little or young anymore. I have gone on quite a few dates, and actually have had sex with most of them, but I haven't felt the love in any relationships.
It's funny how my sisters see other women, and many times have told me the women were too easy. I told them I liked easy when it came to dating. They would yell at me, and I would laugh. You would think I had four mothers the way they watched over me.
On Thanksgiving, I told the family that I was going to be the mall Santa for a week, and everyone laughed. I tried to explain that it was a favor for Ray. We had to watch what we said, because a few of my nieces and nephews still believed in Santa, and we didn't want to ruin it for them. My sisters did say they were going to bring their kids by to see me at the mall.
I showed up for Black Friday not knowing what to expect. All my security personnel would be working extra hours until after Christmas. They did laugh when they found out I was playing Santa for a few days.
I have to admit that I wasn't ready for the onslaught of kids that appeared on the first day. We had a little Christmas village set up, and I had my own booth where the kids could come and sit next to me. It wasn't possible for the kids to sit on Santa's lap anymore. Just too many perverts out there.
We gave every kid a candy cane, and he or she could have their picture taken with me if they wanted. We charged three dollars for the picture, which I thought was reasonable. Thank God, I had two elves to help me. They controlled the line of kids that seemed never ending.
I have to say something about the kids. Some were as sweet as could be, and hardly asked for anything for Christmas. Then, there were the other kids that were nothing but brats. If I was a real Santa, they would have only gotten that lump of coal my parents said I would get if I was bad when I was younger.
The list of gifts sure changed. Almost everyone asked for electronic items. I believe most kids wanted their own phone. Some of the kids seemed so sweet; I really hoped they would get some of the things they asked for. I'd tell the kids that seemed bratty; they would have to be nicer if I was to come to their house. They'd usually mouth off to me. They'd say things like "I know you're not the real Santa and my Mom will get me whatever I want."
They were probably right, and their parents would buy them what they want instead of spending time with them and teaching them right from wrong.
My nieces and nephews all came by at different times. I could see my sisters laughing at me from a distance. The older ones said, "I know it's you Uncle Jeff. It's nice to know that you're helping Santa this year." The younger ones didn't know it was me. I have to admit it was fun talking with them.
I was really happy when the first day was over. I have to admit I was worn out. I can't tell you how many hundreds of kids came by to see Santa. Ray came by, thanked me and bought me dinner. I didn't get to eat until nine o'clock in the evening.
We set up hours that Santa would be in from ten in the morning until seven in the evening. It was almost eight when I saw the last kid the first night. I only took a fifteen minute lunch break since it was so busy, and I wasn't about to shut down the line on the kids that had waited to see me.
On Saturday, it was a lot more manageable. We learned from our mistakes the first day, and there were fewer kids, but you would hardly know it looking at the line.
It was mid-afternoon when a little curly red-haired girl came up and sat down next to me. She probably was around five years old, and as cute as a button. I felt like I knew her, but couldn't figure out why. I would surely remember a little girl who was this cute and so very pleasant.
"Hi Santa, I'm Jessica but you probably already know that." She was so sweet.
"...and what would you like for Christmas, Jessica?" I asked.
"I would like a daddy for Christmas," she said calmly.
I was stunned. What was I supposed to say to a little girl like this? Oh my God! Now I realized why she looked so familiar. She looked just like my best friend, Sharon, from grade school.
I need to tell you the story about Sharon and I:
The Buckley's were our next-door neighbors when I was a kid. Sharon and I hung around together all the time. We started kindergarten and went through a lot of grade school together. We played and our families even took vacations together. She was my all-time best friend.
I never thought of her as a girl, but as my buddy. We fought now and then, but always got over it. Usually we always did boy stuff but every now and then, she wanted to play house or act like a girl. I usually went along with her because she was my best friend. She said she wanted to be a nurse when she got older.
One time we were at my house and she said we were getting married. I remember telling her as long as we didn't do the yucky stuff like kissing. My mom laughed and asked us, "Are you going to have children?"
Sharon said we were going to have two kids. I looked at her and said we were going to have three; I had to one-up her. She responded with, "Ok, you have three and I'll have two." That's the way it was with Sharon and I; we were always able to work things out.
When we were eleven, Sharon came over and said they were moving to the suburbs. Her Dad got a promotion, and they would be moving before school started back up.
I was devastated; my best friend was moving away. I remember the day they left. I hugged Sharon and we both cried. My Dad told me men don't cry, and I ran in the house. My Mom felt sorry for me and said maybe someday we could visit the Buckley's, but it never happened.
Life for me after that day seemed different. I can't put a finger on it, but it was as if I had lost the only person that I cared for. My sisters told me to get over it; they didn't understand. My parents told me to stop mopping around, that I would have other friends.
They were right, but I never felt that close to any other girls. I dated in high school, but never had that same feeling towards anyone. I guess I just wouldn't let them get that close; at least into my heart.
I enlisted in the army and spent most of my time overseas. I spent two tours in the war zones and became a MP, military police. I thought it would prepare me for a job after getting out of the service.
When you spend time putting your life on the line, it changes you. It makes you realize what's really important to you. I can't tell you how many times I thought about Sharon and what might have been. What was she doing now, and even wondered where she lived.
I went to community college after my tours of duty. I entered the Criminal Justice program since it just seemed natural to me. The job market was tight but since I was good in my field, and a veteran, it improved my chances of finding a decent job.
As I have already mentioned, Ray Binning gave me the job in security at the mall and after a year, I was head of security. It was a good job, paid well and I didn't have to take many unnecessary chances. I didn't have to put my life on the line all the time.
So, here I was playing Santa, and this little girl, Jessica, tells me she wants a daddy for Christmas.
I did my best to explain to her that Santa brings toys and clothes to good kids at Christmas. A daddy would be something that she would have to talk to her mommy about.
She smiled at me. "I know you're not the real Santa but I figured you might talk to him and maybe he could send a nice man to my house to meet my mommy. Can you at least talk to the real Santa and ask him for me?"
What do you say to a little girl? I figured the best I could do was tell her I would mention it to the real Santa, but that it might be a bit too late for this year, and that maybe next year it could happen. I felt like I was in the movie, 'Miracle on 34th Street' where the little girl wanted a house for Christmas.
I gave Jessica a candy cane, and she had her picture taken with me. As she left, I tried to see if I could see her mother, but it was so crowded that all I saw was the back of a red-haired woman wearing a black coat and a hat. For the rest of the day I couldn't get the little girl out of my mind. Who was she? Who was her mother? Where was her father?
I tried to forget about her, but I couldn't. I even asked the elf who took the pictures to give me a print of the little girl with the red hair. I told her it was my niece so I wouldn't look like a stalker.
Over the next couple of days I became obsessed with who this little girl was. I asked my mom and sisters if they had ever seen Sharon Buckley since they moved away many years ago. No one had seen her.
I went over to talk to my sister Cindy. She was an elementary school teacher and I showed her the picture of Jessica and asked her if she knew the little girl.
"Who is she, Jeff?" my sister asked.
I told her the story and that I was wondering if she could find out anything about the girl. I mentioned that I wanted to tell the girl's mother what she had asked for.
"Jeff, that's like stalking, what's the matter with you?"
"I'm sorry, Cindy! I just feel I have to do this. I don't know why. Can you just see if she is in your school? She would be in kindergarten, I would guess. Please, I'm not going to do anything crazy, I promise."
She said she would do it, against her better judgment. Cindy called me a couple of days later and said the little girl was Jessica Dilly; she wouldn't tell me anymore.
Ray had found me a replacement Santa, and I was back at my regular job. In a sense I kind of missed the kids; at least those that weren't brats. I was in my office looking through phone books, looking for someone named Dilly. I couldn't believe I was this obsessed over one little girl.
I knew the city and looked for any Dilly's that would be in the school district where my sister taught. There were twenty-two Dilly's in the district alone, and that was if they had a phone number listed. One name stuck out like a sore thumb. It wasn't even a name; it was a letter, S. Dilly.
All I could think of was Sharon Dilly. Could Sharon Buckley now be Sharon Dilly? The little girl wanted a daddy for Christmas; where was her father? Was her mother divorced?
I had to wonder if I was just going crazy. Was I making up a story, and putting all the characters the way I wanted it to be to fit my story? Should I call this woman, if the S. stood for a woman? What should I say? I was really getting myself in a frenzy.
I told my sister Cindy what I found out, and she told me I was crazy. She said wished she'd never told me Jessica's last name. I asked her for one more favor and if I were wrong, I'd drop my investigating.
"Okay, if you promise to drop this crazy idea. I love you Jeff and you're my little brother, but I don't want to see you get into trouble. What do you want me to find out?"
I smiled at Cindy and gave her a hug. "I need to know if Jessica's mother is Sharon Dilly and if she's divorced."
"Do you honestly believe she is Sharon Buckley? What if she is? You haven't seen her in what? Seventeen years!"
"Please Cindy, I'll drop it if it's not Sharon or if she's married, I promise."
Cindy came into my office at the mall a couple of days later. To say I was surprised to see her would be an understatement.
"Jeff, you need to stop now," said Cindy.
"Her name is Sharon isn't it? Is she married?"
"Jeff, her name is Sharon and her husband was killed in an auto accident before Jessica was born. I talked to Jessica's teacher who is a friend of mine. Jeff, I don't want to see you get hurt."
"I'm not going to get hurt, I promise you. I won't mention you, or where I got the information, it's just something I have to see through. I love you, sis and I know you understand; I'll be fine."
I wasn't sure how to proceed. If it was Sharon Buckley, how would she react? Would she even remember me? I knew I was walking on eggshells here. If it wasn't Sharon Buckley, I would be looking pretty stupid. I decided the best thing to do would be to call first.
If it was the Sharon I knew, it would be much easier than talking to a complete stranger. I got up the courage to call and got an answering machine. I thought it best not to leave a message. Later that evening I decided to try to call again.
The phone rang and my stomach began to churn. A female voice answered the phone. "Hello!" came across the phone.
"Hi there!" I said. "I'm sorry to bother you but I was looking for Sharon Dilly."
"This is she, how may I help you?"
"Well, actually I was looking for an old friend I haven't seen in years. By any chance are you the former Sharon Buckley?" I said very nervously.
There was quite a pause and then the voice asked, "Who is this?"
"I'm sorry! My name is Jeff Warren and I was looking for a Sharon Buckley."
"Oh my God! Jeffery! Is it really you?" the voice replied. It was full of emotion.
I knew I had tears in my eyes. "Yes, it's me." I answered.
"How did you get my number? How did you find me? My God! I have so many things to ask you. Where do you live and work?"
"It's a long story and I would like to come and see you. We can talk about it then."
"I'd love to see you again. Are you married? Do you have a family?"
"Easy, Sharon! First, I'm not married and have no children. I moved back in with my parents after returning from Iraq. I went to college and work at the mall as head of security."
"I always go to the mall. Did you see me there? I had a call on my answering machine from the mall. Was that you?"
I was now laughing. "I saw your back and met your daughter, Jessica. She reminded me of you when we were little. She seems like a sweet little girl."
"I don't understand. How did you talk to Jessica at the mall?" She almost seemed worried.
"I was playing Santa when she came up and sat down. She looked so familiar to me, and I couldn't figure out why. Then it dawned on me. She reminded me of you."
"Jeff, that sounds a bit creepy. I don't know what to think."
"Sharon, I just got this feeling that she might have been related to you. I used a few contacts, and got your number. Honestly, if it hadn't been you, Sharon I was going to forget about it. You have to believe me!"
"I believe you, Jeff but what made you want to contact me? If I had a daughter; that means I was probably married. Why would you contact a married woman?"
"Sharon, I'm not sure how to say this, so I'll just come out and say it. Jessica said she wanted a daddy for Christmas. That's it! She said she knew I wasn't the real Santa, but would I pass the message along to the real Santa."
"My God! I can't believe this!"
"It's true Sharon!"
"I believe you; it's just that my daughter wants a daddy for Christmas. She told me she asked for something special, but wouldn't tell me what it was. I'm so embarrassed."
"What did you tell her?" asked Sharon.
"I told her I would tell the real Santa but that she should talk to her mother about it." I knew I was smiling and Sharon could probably tell.
"It's not funny, Jeffery!" I knew she was smiling too.
"Well, that's the story. Can I come and visit you?"
"This is crazy, but I would like to see you again. I've always wondered what ever happened to you. How about Saturday evening? Can you stop by then?"
"That would be great! Let me take you to dinner and we'll talk over old times. You can bring Jessica if you like."
"She would ask too many questions." I could hear Sharon lightly laughing. "Do you need my address? I figure if you found my phone number then you know where I live."
I was at her door Saturday evening. I was nervous; it's been so long since I've seen my old friend. When she opened the door, I knew I had tears in my eyes. I had never been so happy to see someone in my entire life. She looked so beautiful, all dressed up and those curly red hair that I always remembered.
We hugged and I never wanted to let go. I stepped into her house, which was beautiful. As she went to get her coat, I glanced around and could tell she lived well. We went to dinner at the Red Lobster and asked for a corner booth so we could catch up on our past.
She had taken Jessica over to one of the neighbors earlier. She said Jessica had a best friend there and they often took turns watching each other's kid. Later I found out Jessica's friend was a boy in her class. His name was Gene. It reminded me of Sharon and I growing up.
I couldn't stop looking at her. All I could think about was how much I missed her. We ordered drinks and began talking about our pasts. We laughed repeatedly about our antics while growing up. After that and during dinner she told me about her life.