Mitchell is unhappy with his relationship with his boyfriend John and his life in general. Then he meets his store’s latest Christmas elf, who is not exactly what he seems. Linwood fights to protect Mitchell but their differences may make forever impossible.
Glancing at his watch, Mitchell realised that lunch was nearly over and he needed to get back onto the floor where he worked. He looked up and glanced around at the bustling cafe. People rushed around, bundled up against the cold. Christmas wasn’t far away and his store was in full swing.
Carols and Christmas songs played in the background, there were decorations and trees a-plenty. Elves, of all shapes and sizes not only helped at Santa’s Grotto, but directed customers, carried their purchases, and even parked their cars. Management had designed an all-out assault to part people from their money and, so far, the ploy proved very successful.
Standing up, he sighed as he wished for the naivety of his childhood. Only the very young seemed really entranced by the magic of Christmas now. Most kids were like mini-adults with their street-savvy ways, and wanted designer label clothing and the latest in electronics. He’d been the same, so eager to grow up, to get out into the world.
His parents had been angry and dismayed when he revealed he was gay. He’d hoped for a better reaction, but it wasn’t to be. Fortunately, he’d waited until he was already living away from home and with a job to his name, before telling them. They hadn’t spoken in at least five years. No letter, no calls. He still sent cards; birthdays, anniversary, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Christmas. None came back. But he wasn’t going to be the one to give up on the relationship.
He sighed again.
That wasn’t the only relationship gone sour in his life. His love-life was a train-wreck of a disaster. A wave of despair and loneliness crashed over him, almost making him sit down again as his vision greyed.
“Are you okay?”
The voice he heard was soft, yet powerful in a way Mitchell couldn’t define. He felt a hand on his arm, squeezing gently. Taking a deep breath, Mitchell opened his eyes and stared into eyes that were the bluest he’d ever seen. He immediately thought of a clear, cloudless summer sky. He stared, unable to think of an intelligent reply.
“I thought you looked faint. Do you need some water?”
Mitchell shook his head and took a step back to see his Good Samaritan more clearly. The other man wore a grey woollen hat pulled down over his ears, a navy hoodie that looked too thin for the biting winter cold and jeans with holes that had nothing to do with designers.
Mitchell managed a shaky smile. He’d gone without breakfast to ensure he could eat at lunchtime, but he still felt a little light-headed.
“Wait here.” The tone of voice brooked no argument and, if Mitchell was honest, he knew he’d wobble if he tried to move. Only a minute or so passed before the stranger returned. He handed Mitchell a candy bar.
“Eat it. The sugar will help.”
“No, I-I can’t,” Mitchell stuttered, but the other man simply put his hands on his hips, tilted his head, and raised a blond eyebrow.
“You can and you will unless you want me calling one of the managers over and telling them you’re ill.”
Looking at him, Mitchell was certain it was no idle threat. He didn’t need that kind of attention, so he tore open the candy and took a couple of bites. He did feel better, in part from the sugar and in part due to the warm smile that lit the stranger’s face.
“See?” he said. “I told you.”
“Thanks,” Mitchell murmured as he finished another bite.
“Least I can do for a fellow employee.”
“You work here?” Mitchell asked. The store was huge, but he thought he knew most of the shop’s other workers. And I’d never forget eyes like that.
“Just started. My name is Linwood and I’m here to help you.” The words were recited in a sing-song voice that made Mitchell smile and yet there was something ... something indefinably more when their gazes met.
“You’re one of our elves,” he said and grinned, recognising the greeting.
“Yep. Starting today. I’m just off to HR for the initiation ceremony. ID badge, elf costume, elf protocol 101. Be seeing you around ...” Linwood’s voice trailed off and Mitchell saw an expectant look in the mesmerising eyes. With a start he realised what Linwood was waiting for.
“Mitchell. I’m Mitchell and I’m currently in electronics, but I occasionally get drafted over to toys.” Mitchell positively basked in Linwood’s warm smile.
“Good to meet you, Mitchell. Next time don’t starve yourself. Be seeing you.”
Linwood almost danced his way through the crowds and out of Mitchell’s sight. Mitchell frowned as he thought about Linwood’s parting words. Then he shrugged as he glanced at the wrapper in his hand. Given the way I’ve devoured the candy it’s not that surprising.