“Daddy, Daddy, Santa’s coming,” the boy yelled on the twelfth day before Christmas, the day when lonely and disabled 43-year-old Santa and 25-year-old Don noticed each other. On Christmas Day, a 9-year-old boy discovers Santa really does exist. Next day, he, his widowed mother and younger brother meet a lonely widowed dad and his two similar aged boys. Do Santa and Don become friends? What happens on the twelfth day of Christmas? Does Santa come again?
“A neighbourhood friend is in similar circumstances, married twelve years when his wife died last year, collapsed from a brain tumour. Two boys, now aged eight and five. Chris also mentioned Robbie to me and why you’re here today.”
I smiled. “Play Stations. After an hour with Chris demonstrating them in the toy department, I think I’m an expert now.”
Mike chuckled. “Me, too, and the kids must have told me the title of every favourite game a thousand times.”
I paused, glanced down, then at him. “Are you married or have a partner, Mike?” I asked, observing him drop his gaze to his cup and grip his hands.
When he raised his head, I noticed a veil clouding his gaze. “Same here, I’m still single. Can’t find the right g…person.”
“I did enjoy a long relationship, Don. Ended four years ago.”
“Did you? Do you mind telling me what happened?”
“I’m sorry. I feel I’ve intruded.”
“I’d love to stay longer,” I whispered, seeing the boy returning, “but I’d better get Chris home before Lindy starts worrying.”
“I understand. Let me cover the bill, I get a staff discount.”
“You seem to have been through a war, Mike,” I mentioned on the way to the elevator, nodding to his limping leg and noticing a film of sweat on his brow.
“A stupid accident.”
In the car park, Mike paused and leaned on a pillar beside his old sun-bleached Toyota in order to take the weight off his leg, his face frowning in pain.
“Anything I can do?”
“No, Don,” he murmured, wincing, hopping to the driver’s door. “Once I sit, I’ll be okay.”
I liked him. I enjoyed his company, but he’s straight, so why proceed, what’s to be gained? No way would he be interested in me. I want a boyfriend, a lover, a partner, a person I can touch, cuddle and kiss, and do other stuff. I realised though, he would be a good friend to have, despite the age difference. He’s attractive, but not pretty with those acne scars and age lines. I pondered the pros and cons as we sat in traffic, selecting drive to proceed a block to the next lights. On the way, I remembered the farewell, his strong handgrip lasting a moment too long, a reluctance or pleading innocence in his eyes, his smile manly yet message laden, maybe seductive. I wondered if he was lonely or if his ex was tormenting him. And, come to think, what happened to his lisp?
A text beep interrupted my thoughts while I drove. “What’s this message say, Chris?” I asked, passing the mobile to him.
“R u free 4 dinner, 2nyt? M.” He peered at me, grinning when I glanced at him, the message surprising, yet intriguing.
“Please reply, yes. Mention, I’ll call him in an hour when I get home."
“Done,” he announced. “How do you spell excited?”
“Why?” I asked while slowing to stop at another red light.
“I thought I’d add that you’re really excited.”
“Don’t even try, you little wascal!” I said, chuckling, tickling his side to his squirms and squeals of laughter.
He quietened, gazing at me. “You like him, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do,” I answered, now regretting my impulsive haste to reply to Mike.
“I wish Mum could meet a nice friend, she’s lonely, you know. Do you think she might?”
“I’m sure she will and soon, let’s hope.”
“I hope so. Little Robbie sure needs a daddy’s lap to sit in, like Santa’s.”
“Mike’s a sweet guy, isn’t he, Chris?”
“Yes, and he likes you, too, and you know, he’s the gayest Santa I’ve ever met.”