We get a really nice hotel room for Christmas, all at the top of a hotel and I kind of tweak bindings so we get it but I don’t tell Charlie. She called her family and they all don’t want her to visit and she has sad-faces over that she’s trying to hide but I can feel them in our bindings so I totally cheat the world for some nice comfy beds and room service. And! I pull off a Jay and badger Charlie loads and lots until she gets a tree in the room and even puts up stockings for Santa.
She doesn’t want to but she does and humans are like that a lot. But Charlie is really good at being lots of things at once, maybe because she eats gods and has a god inside her or because she’s friends with me and Honcho a little and we’re all kinds of not-normal. Charlie and I got each other gifts and we’re being all sneaky-fun about hiding them and Charlie says if I try and find mine from her using bindings she’s going to do something really mean to me and she’s not hiding at all. (I almost want to find out what it is – but kind of not enough to find out what it is.)
Charlie drinks lots of wine and stuff and I get some really nice hot chocolate, all chocolatey and milky and tasting of awesome and we don’t talk about Honcho, since he’s travelling with Dana, or her family, but we talk about a lot because I always have questions about the universe, being from way Outside it, and I can’t see anymore because my eyes are all broken so that lets’s me ask even more questions, which keeps Charlie all sorts of busy.
I’m really good at it, too! Enough that Charlie might wish I still had a lisp and didn’t ask as many at all but she’s all Charlie-nice – though she’d blame it on the wine – and doesn’t say mean things and we watch Christmas movies she likes and she tells me stuff I might miss just hearing them and it’s a giant snuggle-fest of bindings on the couch because we’re friends and Charlie ruffles my hair after and drinks more wine and says she is going to go to bed because I’m probably going to wake her up at six for presents, and if I try and wake her at just after midnight she might have to throw me out the window and see if I bounce on hitting ice from twenty stories.
And I’m all tough and stuff but I don’t know if I’d bounce and Charlie totally tells me I’m not allowed to try even if she suggested it. But probably just because humans would definitely notice that, even if I only bounced a little and I’m really good at hiding what I am am but even a Jay isn’t that good. Maybe. I’ve never tried and I think Charlie would be hurt-mad if I did so I say I’m staying up and waiting for Santa.
Charlie pauses as she gets off the couch. “You have read articles on the internet, Jay. You know Santa isn’t real.”
“I don’t know that he isn’t isn’t real,” I say, which almost makes sense even to me. “And and and, even if Santa isn’t real Mrs. Claus might be!”
Charlie stops, halfway to the one bedroom. I hear her turn back. “Mrs. Claus might be real even if Santa is fake?”
I nod. “Of course. Because lots of women get really oppressed and bummed out by men and they might have made her into a man because they figured only men could bring gifts to all those kids!”
Charlie mutters something I think she doesn’t want me to hear about banning me from tumblr and all goes to bed.
I stay up and order three more hot chocolates at close to midnight, and use a binding to keep two warm while I drink the third. Our hotel room has a fireplace and chimney and the fire is warm and toasty even if I’m too tough to be turned into toast if I stick my hand into fire. But I’m really good at hiding, so I wrap that all about myself and my clothing, and air, and dark glasses and my white cane and I wait. I don’t even check my phone or use it for anything and pay attention while I wait better than humans can.
The human figure that is beside the stockings is simply there, not coming down any chimney or even stepping out of a door to some other place, and even I might not have sensed them at all but they’re hidden almost as well as me but I hide really good, so I undo their binding and my own.
The figure spins. Unlike the really bad stuff I found on the internet, I’m pretty sure Santa doesn’t have claws, but the voice is a lot closer to Charlie than to Honcho. “Most people cannot see me,” the figure says slowly.
“Oh, I can’t anyway because I can’t see,” I all explain, because I am an explaining machine. “And maybe that’s all why I sensed you and stuff, but I don’t know. I’m Jay!”
“I am Mrs. Claus,” the figure says. “I don’t deliver as many gifts as I used to, child. So few believe, and often the gift I leave is destroyed by the unbelief of the parents: the ripples that can make in the world can be dangerous but to not give a gift is also a danger.” She lets out a laugh that isn’t a ‘ho ho ho’ at all. “I am trying to justify myself to a creature from Outside the universe. That’s new.”
“Hello? You’re all Santa and you shouldn’t have to at all, but! you might want to be quiet because Charlie eats gods all up.”
“I am not a god,” she says.
I consider that. “You’re not a – one of the really big pieces of the universe given form, are you?”
“No, I am no embodiment of such forces,” she says.
“And you’re not a magician or fae at all, because I can tell what those bindings are.”
“Do you need to know what I am?” she asks gently. “I imagine you could find out, if you really tried, but the world is a far better place when there are mysteries in it.”
I scratch my head at that. “And you might not bring presents if I know what you are?”
“There is that, too,” she says, and is clearly amused, but I am a very funny Jay.
“Okay. Can you leave a present for Charlie, too? She’ll think it is from me and that won’t make bad ripples in the world at all, please?”
“All right.” And she does something and the stockings are full. “Merry Christmas, Jay.”
“Merry Christmas, Mrs. Claus,” I say and she is gone and drank her hot chocolate on me, so I drink mine and don’t try and sense what my gift is at all as I go to bed.
And I am almost, almost certain that wasn’t Charlie in a disguise because I like the idea of there being all this stuff I don’t know and I am almost asleep when I hear footsteps sneaking across the floor, and Charlie puts the stocking on my bed and there is another gift in it and she sneaks out and I think about how sad Charlie is underneath and how much giving me things is helping that and how much fun I had giving her gifts. They’re not big gifts, not like magic, but they change bindings in gentle ways and I think I understand a little more now.
Or a lot less, and that’s okay too, because I fall asleep all deeply and almost forget to feed one of Charlie’s presents before she wakes up, but it turns out to be all okay!