A Christmas Smile, Non-returnable.

By V. Cavazos

Chapter Two
Sally remained in the aisles, gazing around herself, all she saw were greedy, and cold eyes. Searching to buy a present for a friend, or a relative, not because they wanted to, but because they had to. She didn’t see the warm smile found on Charles face, but anger and frowning eyes. She looked up, to see Charles giving her a quick wink, as he was helping a young man carry his package out of the store.

Slowly she walked back to her office, sitting at her chair, she stared out of her window, that looked out at the store. She silently sat there, thinking of a different crowd she used to look at. While sitting on her fathers lap. They were a happy crowd then, it was then when she realized what was missing.

The Children!

There were no children present, only young adults, who were living on the fast lane. People like her, who worshiped the almighty dollar, and have forgotten what Christmas was all about.

It was now close to closing time, but the store was still full. Susanna wiped a stray hair from her face. "I can’t stay late today," She whined to George. "I promised my kids I’d be home on time."

"You know she won’t close the store until everyone is gone." George said.

"But it’s Christmas day," Charles said. "I’m sure she’ll let you go home on time."

"Doesn’t mean a thing to that witch Charles," Gretche said, "Why I remember one time…" Gretche choked on her words, as she heard an announcement on the intercom, "The store is closing, please take all your purchases to the front. The Store will be closing in twenty minutes."

The three sisters looked to Charles, he just shrugged his shoulders in answer to their questioning gaze.

"Lets go ladies," Susanna giggled, "I’m going to set a record for how fast a person gets checked out."

"No, I am!" Sonia declared. With Charles help, they managed to clear the store in record time. As the last customer was being checked out, the lights in the store began shutting off.

Sally appeared with her arms full of coats, a large grin on her face. She handed the coats to her employees. They silently began to put them on, when they were done. Sally handed them each a small envelope.

"My thanks for a good days work," She said.

The three sisters tore their envelopes open, their eyes flew open in shock, when they saw a little something extra with their paychecks.

"My way of saying thanks," Sally explained, "I want you to take tomorrow off too." She said. Another shocked looked crossed all of her employees faces.

"Who are you, and what did you do to our boss?" George Laughed.

"What ever you did with her," Susanna said.

"Keep her there," Gretche softly said.

"Let’s just say, she’ll be on the back burner for a while," Sally said.

"I hope for a long while," Sonia whispered.

Sally ushered them out of the store, slamming the door, she smiled widely as she saw the Christmas decorations shinning brightly in the dark.

"Merry Christmas Sally," The three sisters called out, as they ran to their car. A light dusting of snow was falling from the skies. "Merry Christmas boss, thanks for the bonus," George said, as he was entering his car. Sally turned to Charles, he pulled his navy blue coat tighter around him.

"So Charles, will you be needing a lift? It’s the least I can do for my savior."

"I do need to go to the Northwest side."

"I’m heading there myself, hop in."

Sally walked Charles to her maroon beamer, the familiar bleep was heard as she disengaged her alarm. Charles opened the passenger door, sitting down, he pulled in his long legs, slamming the door, he waited for Sally.

As Sally closed her door, she asked, "Where are you headed?"

"Pulsaski and Milwaukee."

"You’re in luck, I pass right by that intersection." Sally said, as she started the car. She drove her car down the empty streets, most were with family now. The ride was very quiet, Charles began to hum Silent Night. Sally soon joined him.

"Are you going to visit your mother?" Charles asked.

"She asked me this morning to come visit her, I told her I was going to be busy for the whole day," She answered curtly.

Charles silently nodded his head, he let out a deep sigh. Sally was surprised to see a sad look cross his face. "What’s wrong Charlie, that’s the first time I’ve seen you without a smile."

"I was wondering how your mother feels, being alone on Christmas day, you see, I never knew my mother."

Sally nervously cleared her throat, she hated talking about her mother. "I was always closer to my dad." She said as an explanation. "Once he died, we kind of drifted apart."

"That’s sad," Charles said, as he turned his head to look outside the window. Sally could see his reflection in the window, she was surprised to see him almost crying.

"I guess I could go see her, but not much point. The day is almost done." The light turned red, she pulled to a stop. Turning to face Charles she softly said, "I’m sorry you never knew your mother."

Charles turned his head to face her, his ever-present grin was back. "Don’t feel sorry, I may not have known my mother, but I have hundreds of brothers." He laughed.

"Dinner time must be very interesting," Sally chuckled, the light turned green, the car began to move again. As they drove on, the conversation turned to other things. Sally was really beginning to enjoy Charles company, he was funny, smart, and most important of all. He was a complete gentleman. Coming to a stop, Sally banged the steering wheel. "Damn it, how do I wind up in a traffic jam on Christmas day?" There were cars stopped half way down the block.

Charles rolled down the window. Sticking his head out, he spied the problem. A car turned over in the middle of the road.

"Looks like we might be here for a while." Charles said, "I know a short cut," He offered.

"Show me the way," Sally pulled her car through a Dunkin Donuts lot, going through several fast food lots, she turned down a one way street. The snow was falling hard now. As she rode slowly down the side street, she spied someone familiar. It was David, his arms were loaded with presents. He was running up a staircase, to the second floor of a dilapidated house. Two small girls, and a very gaunt looking woman was standing in the doorway. The girls were jumping and squealing when they saw him loaded with presents.

"Nice looking family," Charles said.

"Yes, but the wife looks sickly," Sally observed, she slowed her car down, to get a closer look, dark circles were under his wife’s eyes. Sally also noticed that the children looked pale, and unhealthy.

"I think the whole family could use a good meal, instead of presents." Sally said, as she moved the car faster.

"Sometimes the heart needs to be fed more than the stomach," Charles softly said. Sally was about to comment about that, when she saw a light blinking in her purse.

"I forgot to check for my pages." She said, taking out her beeper, she began to click for the messages. Her eyes going from the beeper to the road. As she read the messages her face suddenly turned pale. There was a message from the Minutemen. " 10 am, 12-25-99: Sorry, couldn’t find anyone to help you on Christmas day."

Sally’s head flew up, her eyes trained on the road, slowly she pulled her car to the side. Turning to face Charles, she said in a nervous voice.

"Please, don’t hurt me."

Charles gazed at the beeper still held tightly in her hand. He saw the message flashing across it. A sad look washed across his face.

"I had hoped I would have more time," He sighed.

"Time for what?" Sally asked, she knew she would not have enough time to leave the car, before he grabbed her.

"You see Sally, someone very close to you asked me to help you," Charles began, as his explanation.

"Who is that?" Her hand was clutching the car door handle, if he tried anything, she would try to get out of the car as fast as she could.
"Well," Charles laughed, "He told me to tell you not to eat so many muffins. He knows he called you his little honey muffin, but if you keep it up, you’ll be his jumbo Honey Muffin."

Sally’s mouth dropped open, she blankly stared at the man that sat next to her. "My…my…" She stuttered.

"Your father used to call you that," Charles finished for her. She numbly nodded her head. "How did you know that?" Her hand released the door handle.

"He told me," Charles said.

Now Sally was frightened, "How the hell?"

Charles began to chuckle, "No, I can truthfully say that hell had nothing to do with it."

"Who are you?" Sally demanded.

"Sally," Charles said, "Remember when you were a little girl, and when Christmas time rolled around, there was a movie that was your favorite?"

Sally nodded her head, "Christmas Carol," She replied.

"There was one character in that movie, that was your favorite." He continued, spreading his arms wide. His face glowing in joy Charles stated. "Look Upon me, you have never seen the likes or me before." For a split second, Sally saw Charles image waver, he seemed to grow in size, his goatee grew to a full beard. He grew heavier. Then he returned to his former image.

"Don’t tell my you’re the Ghost of Christmas present." She scoffed.

"That’s my job!" Charles laughed.

"But, that was something made up in a Christmas story, written by Charles…"

"Dickens," He finished for her, "My father," Charles said with a solemn bow of his head. When he saw Sally’s jaw drop again, he tried to explain to her.

"Sally, I was born out of want and need," He began, "The world has changed so since my creator was born, Christmas has changed. It has become cold, and so…used," Charles sighed. "I am here for one day, to spread holiday cheer to all." His smile returning, Sally again felt warm by it. "Christmas Cheer," She said in wonder.

Charles nodded his head, "My first brother used the horn of Generosity, I simplified it by just using my smile."

Sally shook her head, "I am finding this hard to believe."

A small frown parted Charles lips, "I really don’t like to show off." He said, "But I guess, the time calls for it."

With a snap of his fingers, Sally found herself sitting alone in the car. She jerked around, when she heard a tapping at her car door. She let out a gasp, as she saw it was Charles, motioning her to open the window.

"Boy is it cold out here," He chuckled, as she rolled the window down.

"How the hell did…" He snapped his fingers again, this time she saw him disappear right before her eyes. That was how he put the decorations up so fast. She felt a tap on her shoulder, whirling around, he was sitting next to her. "Ta Da!" he said.

"My god, you are him," She whispered, "But why me?"

"I told you, your father asked me." Charles pulled out something small from his coat pocked. "I found this in the store, your father told me were it was hidden." Sally’s eyes lit up in joy, for dangling at the end of a string was a silver bell, engraved in it was Sally’s name, along with her favorite Carol. She reached out for it. Clutching it to her chest, "I thought I lost it." She cried.

"So did your father," Charles said. "He thought you lost your Christmas spirit, It was my job to help you find it." Sally heard the car door open, "Visit your mother Sally," Charles said, "She loves you very much,"

"Where are you going?" She asked him, clutching the bell harder to herself. "Where I’m needed, there are a lot of souls out there that have lost the Christmas spirit, I told you, it’s my job to find it for them."

Sally leaned over, giving Charles a peck on the cheek, "Thanks," She sniffled. Taking her chin in hand, his deep brown eyes pleaded with her, "Go visit your mother Sally. As much as you loved your father, there was someone else that loved him more." Sally’s eyes dropped, unable to look at his accusing eyes, she heard him say. "Christmas is not about presents, and making money Sally. Its about family." He gently said, "And being with the ones you love." Charles began to back out of the car. Her head jerked up, " I can’t visit my mother, the day is almost done."

"I have to go now," Charles held the door open, "So much time, and so much to do." His grin was now etched in her mind.

"But Charles, the day is almost over, how will you be able to help anyone else?"

"Over?" Charles laughed, "Why it’s just begun." He left the door open, walking slowly back, she saw him fading into the snowfall. She wanted to say more to him, thanking him for all that he’s done. Scooting over, she ran out of her car.

She found herself fumbling with her keys, juggling a bag of muffins, and large double Latte.

"Will you hurry," George mumbled, stamping his feet, as he tried to warm them up, "I’m freezing!"

Sally whirled around, it was morning! She was standing outside of the store.

"Excuse me," Sally saw David coming up to her.
"Do you think you can spare a few bucks, it’s Christmas," His eyes gazed at her in a pleading way, his hand stuck out in hopes of getting a few coins. "Don’t remind me," George moaned.

"Of course I can." Sally said. The shocked look on George’s face nearly made Sally laugh. "Wait," Sally said to Davie, "I think I can do you one better. Are you out of work?"

"Yes ma’am." David stuttered, the cold was going right through his threadbare coat.

"In two days I want you to come back here at seven A.M.. When you do, I’ll have a job waiting for you."

"You will?" David’s voice was overcome with joy, "Thanks Ms…?"

"Just call me Sally," She said, as she stuck out her hand. As he shook it, he felt something being slipped in it. Looking at his palm, he saw a fifty-dollar bill. "Call it an advance in pay," She said with a wink. "Thanks Sally!" He cried, as he ran down the street. "7 A.M., you won’t regret it!"

"That’s the last you’re going to see of him." George grumped.

"I don’t think so," She said with a smile.

"George, I’ve decided not to open up today, tell the ladies when they come, to go home." As George was about to say something, Sally beat him to it. "Don’t worry, I’ll pay the four of you a full days wages."

"Who are you, and what did you do to my boss?" George asked.

"She’s on holiday," Sally laughed as she ran to her car. "Forever!"

As she slammed the door, she used her cell phone, "Hello Mom, think you could use some company today?" She let out a warm chuckle. "Yes Mom, It’s really me, I’ll be over in half an hour." Clicking the cell phone shut, she saw a small bell hanging from her rear view mirror. Flicking it with her finger, she whispered, "Thanks Charles, thanks for finding what I lost so long ago."

Shifting gears, she rode down the road. George scratched his head in wonder, as he could swear he heard his boss singing Carol of the Bells. As he waited for the three sisters to arrive, a pleasant looking young man walked up to him. His smile was so warm, he couldn’t help but smile back.

"Hi, my name is Charles, your cousin said I would find you here." His warm grin made George feel so good inside, he wondered which cousin sent him here. He only had two cousins, and one was dead. Guess it had to be the live one, Heaven knows, it couldn’t be his dead one….could it?

The End

Chapter One
 Chapter Two

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