Martha waited day after day for Chris’s return. She waited through the rest of long, cold winter, through the new bloom of spring, the scorching hot of the summer, and the encroaching chill of fall. Eventually the winter came again with a whole new layer of snow on the ground. The lake outside of Martha’s village froze once again and white covered the ground.
After the first snowfall, Martha became more and more anxious. She was now a year older, but none of that year mattered to her. Only the one day. The day Chris would return.
She was counting the months, days, seconds until Chris would return.
The day Chris would return, she sat in her room. She held the stuffed bear Chris gave her last year in her lap and she was preparing for his return. Martha had her fur coat, mittens, and hat on. She had the deep, red scarf that Chris gave her wrapped around her neck.
Martha was taking deep breaths trying to calm her nerves. One part of her couldn’t believe that this was the day Chris would come back. The other part of her thought that this year seemed to take forever.
Martha got up from her bed and looked out the window. No sight of Chris. Just a snow covered road outside her house.
She let out a sigh and began pacing around her room. She returned to her window and looked outside.
There standing in the street was a boy about her age wearing a heavy, black fur coat with a red scarf tied around his neck. He was holding a pebble in his hand.
He dropped the pebble and gave Martha a wave.
Martha smiled and ran to her door. She tried her best to keep quiet running across her house and to the front door. She opened it in a hurry and closed it behind her.
Chris walked around the corner.
“Hello Martha,” Chris said with a large smile.
Martha ran up to him and gave him a hug.
The force of the hug almost knocked Chris over, but he held firm. He embraced Martha.
“I’m so happy to see you,” Chris said.
“I missed you,” Martha said laying her head on his shoulder.
“I missed you too,” Chris said laying his head against hers.
They embraced in the middle of the street for a little bit before Martha and Chris finally let go of one another.
“What, no flying reindeer this year?” Martha asked.
“Don’t worry,” Chris said. “This time I have something much more impressive to show you.”
“More impressive than a flying reindeer and fancy lights in the sky?” Martha asked.
“I guess you will have to find out.”
Martha crossed her arms.
“What about an explanation for where you’ve been all year?” Martha asked.
“I promise I’ll tell you everything, but we -”
“…have to hurry,” Martha finished Chris’s sentence.
“Well lead the way,” Martha said.
Chris reached out his hand and Martha took it. They strolled hand in hand through Martha’s village out to the evergreen forest.
“You remember this place?” Martha asked.
“Of course,” Chris said with a smile. “This is where I saved your life.”
Martha rolled her eyes.
“That’s a little dramatic,” She said.
“But completely factual,” Chris said.
They both laughed and their happiness spread throughout the entire forest.
Chris and Martha emerged from the tree line and there sitting on top of the frozen lake was a large, red sleigh with a team of eight reindeer.
“What is this?” Martha asked.
“Well you know Prancer,” Chris said guestereding towards the sleigh. “Well, this is everyone else.”
“You…you have a whole team of flying reindeer that pulls a sleigh?”
“See? I told you that it would be impressive,” Chris said.
Martha turned towards him.
“You are more and more impressive every time I meet you,” Martha said.
“Yeah, eventually even I won’t be able to top myself,” Chris said with a smile.
Chris continue to lead Martha out towards the sleigh, but Martha stopped once the snowy ground became the surface of the icy lake.
Chris turned back towards Martha.
“What’s wrong?” He asked.
“The…lake,” Martha said sheepishly.
“You haven’t been back on it since you fell through,” Chris guessed.
He squeezed her hand.
“Don’t worry. I won’t let you fall,” Chris said.
Martha was unsure. For the past two years she had avoided this lake. She didn’t swim it during the summer and she didn’t dare stand on it in the winter.
She took a deep breath and walked out with Chris onto the ice. Martha squeezed Chris’s hand so hard, it became sore.
They made their way to the center of the frozen lake without any trouble.
Chris pointed to each of the reindeer and identified them.
“There we have Dasher, there is Dancer, then Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder, and Blixem,” Chris said.
“That’s quite a team,” Martha said.
“Yeah I enjoy their company and I think they enjoy mine,” Chris said.
There were a few snorts from the reindeer, but Martha was unsure if that was agreement, disagreement, or just reindeer sounds.
“Well, shall we get going?” Chris asked.
“Of course,” Martha said.
Chris helped Martha up into the sleigh and then climbed in after her. It was a large wooden sleigh painted red with golden trim and shiny, brass runners. It had a wooden bench to sit on with soft, red cushions.
“Do you want to steer?” Chris said handing the reins to Martha.
“Oh no! I don’t…that wouldn’t be a good idea,” Martha said.
“They are pretty smart. Can basically lead themselves,” Chris said.
He snapped the reins and the reindeer started to run forward across the icy lake.
“On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen On Comet, on Cupid, on Dunder and Blixem!” Chris yelled out while snapping the reins again.
The team of reindeer pulled the sleigh off the ground and they were now floating above the ice. The sleigh continue to climb faster and faster as the reindeer pulled it through the air.
Martha looked over the edge. The tree tops of the evergreen forest surrounding the lake were getting closer and closer.
“Look out!” Martha said grabbing onto Chris.
The sleigh climbed and climbed narrowly missing the top of the trees.
“Don’t worry. I’ve taken off from much worse places and I’m still here to tell you all about it,” Chris said.
“Well I haven’t and I would appreciate it if we could avoid colliding into trees,” Martha said.
“Requested noted,” Chris said.
Now that the sleigh was above the treeline, Martha could take in all the sights. In front of her was a team of flying reindeer pulling them along. Below them was the sight of her village, the evergreen forest, and the frozen lake. She continued to hold on to Chris’s arm.
“So where are we going now?” Martha asked. “To see the lights?”
“Not this time,” Chris said shaking his head. “I want to show you where I’m from.”
“You live in a far away place, right?” Martha said.
“Kind of,” Chris said. “Not far in the traditional sense.”
“Don’t worry, it will be easier to show you than tell you,” Chris said.
“Ok,” Martha said still confused.
Chris raised one hand and started waving it in the air.
“Come on, let’s go home,” He said.
There was a flash of light almost like lightning about 50 yards in front of them. There were the light flashed was now a shimmering hole almost like an entrance to a cave except made out of glass. It just shimmered there in the air without moving.
“What is that?” Martha asked. “Did you do that?”
“That’s how I get home,” Chris said. “It’s a wormhole.”
“A what? Like earthworms in the dirt?”
“Think of it as a doorway between my world and yours!” Chris yelled.
The ‘wormhole’ buzzed with a loud hum as they got close to it.
“We’re..going in there?” Martha was on edge.
“Don’t worry, it’s safe. I’ve done it…a dozen times now,” Chris said.
“A dozen times!?”
Martha was not convinced.
“Just hold on to me, you’ll be fine,” Chris said.
Martha did what Chris said and clung to him and his heavy, black fur coat.
Chris snapped the reins one more time and they disappeared into the wormhole.
Martha’s whole body felt fuzzy for a moment and her stomach bounced up into her throat. She opened her mouth to scream or yell, but no sound emerged.
A second passed and see seemed to be flying through the air once again.
“Wooh!” Chris yelled out in excitement.
Martha looked around. The world seemed perfectly normal. Except she was looking down at snow-capped mountains. Large snowflakes drifted down from the clouds above and they clung to Martha and Chris.
“I never want to do that again,” Martha said.
“Don’t worry, you get used to the feeling,” Chris said who looked a little pale.
Martha looked over the edge again and saw a sprawling village down below about ten times the size of Martha’s village.
“Is that your home?” Martha asked pointing towards the village.
“Yeah that’s my village,” Chris said.
Chris snapped the reins to the reindeer again and the team started their decent. They circled around the village a few times while making their way to the ground. Martha saw tons of people walking around in the snow carrying lumber, cloth, toys, clothes, food. She couldn’t believe so many people were active during the night.
“What is everyone doing up so late?” Martha asked.
“There are people working around the clock,” Chris explained. “Of course everyone takes shifts and we make sure they can spend time with friends and families.”
“What…what do you do here?” Martha asked.
“A little bit of everything. We are a mass producer of all types of goods,” Chris said. “Don’t worry I’ll show you.”
The sleigh and the reindeer touched down outside large red barns. There were a few people standing around which waved at Chris and Martha as they landed. They looked similar to Chris with the same pointy ears that Chris possessed.
“Hello, Sir,” One of the men said.
He stood there holding a clipboard in one hand and was looking at it.
“Hello, Islo,” Chris said.
The man named Islo looked up from the clipboard.
“You’re back early Sir,” He said and then turned to Martha. “And…you brought a visitor.”
“This is Martha,” Chris introduced her.
He turned toward Martha, “This is Islo. He is my personal assistant. He basically runs the place.”
“Hi,” Martha said shyly.
“Hello,” Islo said.
‘Islo, let everyone know that I have arrived. We want to make sure that Martha here gets a chance to see everything,” Chris said.
“Sir? Are you sure we should…” Islo began.
Chris held up his hand.
“Martha is my guest and we will treat her just like you would treat me,” Chris said.
Chris hopped down from the sleigh and then helped Martha down. There were teams of people unhooking the reindeer from the sleigh and taking care of their every need.
One girl about Martha’s age came up and handed Chris a metallic cylinder of some kind.
“Thanks Betty,” Chris said.
He raised the cylinder to his mouth and took a sip.
Chris then handed it to Martha.
“Hot chocolate?” Chris asked her.
“Hot? Chocolate?” Martha asked confused by the proposal.
Chris’s eyes widened.
“You’ve never had hot chocolate?” Chris asked. “It’s a delicious drink. You’ve got to taste it. But be careful, it’s hot.”
Martha raised the cylinder to her mouth. She took a sip. The warm, sweet liquid filled her mouth. It was the most delicious thing she’s ever tasted.
“That’s amazing,” Martha said taking another sip.
“I’m glad you like it,” Chris said.
“What is this?” Martha said tapping on the metal cylinder that held the hot chocolate.
“Oh. That’s a thermos. It’s a container that keeps things hot. Like soup or hot chocolate,” Chris said.
“Cool,” Martha said with a smile.
Martha and Chris walked away from the barn through the village. Behind them was an entourage of people. Islo took lead of the group behind Martha and Chris and gave different order to the people.
As they walked through the village, people would stop and wave at Chris and Martha. Chris waved back and seemed to know everyone by name. He was thank them for their work or give them compliments as they walked. Martha waved shyly. She guessed this is what it must be like to be a Princess.
“You know all these people?” Martha asked.
“Of course,” Chris said. “It’s important as a employer to know all your employees.”
“All these people work for you?”
“How many people live here?” Martha asked.
“Well we’re an ever growing organization,” Chris said.
He turned back to Islo.
“Islo! What’s the population count?” Chris asked.
“Well Tyrra had a baby boy today,” Islo said. “That makes 30,512.”
“That’s a lot of people,” Martha said.
“Elves,” Islo corrected.
“What?” Martha asked.
“You keep saying people. Like humans,” Chris explained. “Everyone who lives and works here is an Elf. Not a human.”
“You’re not a human,” Martha said.
Chris tugged on one of his pointy ears.
“See? Elf. Not human,” Chris said.
“Right,” Martha said.
“Sir. We just got a new load of lumber this morning for rocking chair production,” Islo said.
“Wonderful!” Chris said. “You’d like to see that, right Martha?”
“See what?” Martha asked.
“See our Elves in action. Making rocking horses,” Chris said.
“Uh…yeah I guess,” Martha said.
“Great,” Chris said. He turned left pulling Martha along with him and the whole entourage followed him.
Chris and Martha walked hand in hand towards a large building near the center of town. It was a large wooden cabin similar to the ones in Martha’s village, but on a much longer scale.
“Shall we?” Chris asked.
Chris opened the door to the building and Martha walked in. Chris walked in behind her.
They were looking at a large workshop full of different tools and a ton of people. There were stations set up where each Elf was working on different parts of the rocking horses. Then there were other stations where Elves were assembling the parts into a finished product.
“Hello everyone!”Chris acknowledged the hard-working Elves.
“Hi, Santa!” All the Elves responded.
“Santa?” Martha asked Chris.
“Santa Claus,” Chris explained. “It’s a old, family name passed on person to person. It’s like a title.”
“Who’s this?” One of the Elves asked Chris.
“This is my very, good friend, Martha,” Chris said.
“Hi, Martha!” The Elves said.
“Hello everyone,” Martha said with a shy wave.
“Maybe Martha would like to see the Candy Cane forest,” Islo suggested.
“Excellent idea,” Chris said and he lead the group away from the woodshop.
Chris and Martha spent a few hours touring the entire compound. They saw the Candy Cane Forest, the massive kitchen, the Elves’ living quarters, the many shops where the Elves constructed toys, clothes, and other goods, and finally the Reindeer barns. It was almost too much to handle.
Chris ended the tour by taking Martha to his house which was also massive compared to Martha’s home back in her village.
“Well here it is,” Chris said guestering to the massive living room.
“It’s incredible,” Martha said in awe.
“Well I’m glad you like it,” Chris said with a smile.
“I can’t believe you live here,” Martha said with a laugh.
“Yeah,” Chris sighed. “I guess it is pretty cool.”
“Cool? You’re living room is as big as my entire house,” Martha said.
“Yeah I guess that’s true. I…I just think it gets lonely sometimes,” Chris said.
Martha stopped examining the room and turned to Chris.
“Lonely?” She asked. “But there are so many people and they all seem to love you.”
Chris smiled a bit.
“That’s a little different. Those are my employees. There’s no problems between us, but they aren’t….”
Chris’s words faltered.
“Me,” Martha finished.
Martha stood there not knowing what to say.
“Look, Martha. I know you have a family and a life in your village,” Chris said. “I was just hoping that after you saw all of this, you might want to…to move here. With me. You can have all the hot chocolate you want and cookies. And we can go ice skating or we can take the reindeer out for a sleigh ride.”
“Chris,” Martha hung her head.
Martha took a deep breath.
“Chris, I can’t. I can’t just leave my family behind,” Martha said.
“Of course,” He said. “I shouldn’t have said anything. I’m sorry.”
Martha walked over to Chris.
“Don’t be sorry,” She said. “The offer is very sweet. But I just can’t.”
“I understand, no need for an explanation,” Chris said.
Martha put her arms around Chris and hugged him.
“I’m glad you showed me where you live,” Martha said.
Chris sighed and then returned the hug.
“I’m glad you like it.”
They stood there in each other’s arms for a moment before Chris took a step back breaking up their hug.
“Well now that you’ve seen everything, I guess it’s time to get you back,” Chris said.
“Yeah I guess so,” Martha said.
“I wish you could stay longer,” Chris said. “But the wormhole, the doorway between my world and yours, cannot stay open for very long. It can only be open one day a year when our worlds are close together.”
“That’s why you can only visit one day a year?”
“If I would stay for longer, the doorway would close and I would be stuck on your side of the world,” Chris explained.
“I see,” Martha said.
There was a brief moment of silence broken up by Chris opening the door.
He began to walk out when Martha grabbed a hold of his hand.
He turned and gave her a small smile.
They both made their way back to the reindeer barns where the sleigh was already hooked up and ready to go. Islo stood nearby making sure everything was ready for Chris and Martha’s return to the other side.
“All set, Sir,” Islo said.
“Wonderful, Islo,” Chris said. “See you soon.”
“Of course, Sir.”
Chris helped Martha up into the sleigh and then he climbed in after her.
“Bye everyone, see you soon!” Chris said waving to everyone and everyone waved back.
Then Chris snapped the reindeer’s reins and the sleigh took off. Just like before they rose into the sky faster and faster. Then Chris waved his hands and the shiny, portal opened up in the sky.
They flew through it and Martha’s stomach lurched. She was suspecting that a belly full of hot chocolate and other sweets didn’t really help in this situation.
Both Chris and Martha were quiet for the entire trip back to the frozen lake and then for the trek back to Martha’s home.
Martha and Chris stood in the middle of the street outside of Martha’s home.
“Well, I guess this is where I leave you for another year,” Chris said trying to muster a smile.
“Yeah I guess so,” Martha said.
They both stood there not sure what to say, but neither of them wanting to say goodbye. However, Chris knew he didn’t have a lot of time left before his way home would cease to exist.
“You could stay here with me,” Martha blurted out.
“You. You could stay here and be with me,” Martha said looking up at Chris.
“I…I can’t stay here,” Chris said. “I have thousands of people reliant on me. A whole business infrastructure that depends on me.”
Chris took a deep breath.
“Look, Martha. It’s obvious that we both want something to happen here, but we just can’t right now. We both have stuff going on and…”
Chris was cut off by Martha pulling him close and kissing him. Chris went silent as soon as their lips touched.
Martha pulled back from the kiss.
“Promise me you’ll be back next year,” Martha said.
“I promise,” Chris said.
“And the year after that,” Martha said.
“Of course,” Chris said.
“And the next year and the next year. Every year I’ll be back,” Chris said.
“Good,” Martha said.
Martha kissed him again and this time Chris kissed her back.
“I really have to go,” Chris said breaking off the kiss.
“I know,” Martha said.
“I’ll miss you, Martha,” Chris said.
“I’ll miss you…Santa Claus,” Martha said with a smile.
Chris just shook his head. He gave Martha a hug and then made his way back to his sleigh on the frozen lake. Martha waited outside her house for the next few minutes. Eventually she saw a blur of red through the sky and she knew that was Chris.
Martha just stood there in the street with the biggest smile on her face. She missed Chris terribly, but she was happy that Chris had showed her so much of his life. Martha was just so happy to have Chris in her life and she would wait another year to see him again.
Header Photo Credit to Hello Magazine’s Article about spotting Santa’s Sleigh.