The entrance to the human world was a gate. The kind you find when entering Greenwich Park for example. A ramrod cast-iron lattice reaching up to an ivy swamped brick arch.
Rebecca watched the eternally white lawn. The snow had quality to it; like goose feathers landing on polar bear fur. Forever perfect. She looked through the swirling flecks, and pulled her hair back behind a sharp ear, reminiscent of a waning moon.
Later on, after the house work, she noticed a satchel on the pristine white lawn. She wrapped herself up in a forest green cloak with a deep hood, and walked out.
He often was too drunk to remember the incantation. Clinging to the gate, he was babbling a karaoke song. His plaited white beard was speckled with kebab. Rebecca chanted and the gate swung open. Santa crashed face first in the snow.
It took her an hour to have him in front of the deep hearth, floppy boots cast off, blanket over him. He was snoring loudly. Suddenly, he came too. His blue husky eyes rolled towards her with fear. “You’re back! I never thought I would see you again! Ye Gods elf! I missed you so much.”
She wiped vomit from his white beard as the tongues of flames danced behind them. Taking her ear plugs out she had just caught what he said. Then, his eyes rolling like a sea monster, she plugged them back in to escape the rolling thunder that was soon to erupt. Under her breath she said, “I know big bear, I know. I missed you too.” Her tear tinkled on the stone floor.
She never heard him whisper, as she dried her eyes.
He would remember none of this. The previous month, when she abandoned him last, he had gone on a reindeer urine binge. The others had found him, covered in mud. His white beard wrapped around his face and head, an ASDA jelly balanced on top of his cranium; hallucinating he was a Christmas pudding.
The ops-room was a picture of controlled panic. Santa was bellowing out orders, like a festive black-beard from his ships helm. A nearby elf spoke to Santa.
“Papa; Cambodia is celebrating a ghost month. The resurgent of pagan rites is still on the up rise in the United Kingdom.”
De-confliction with other spiritual deities was essential for the karmic forces of all. An American outreach programme to disadvantaged aborigine Americans had caused a pan-deity palaver when they donated Santa’s presents. Iroquois sky goddesses are hard to placate.
“Hello papa.” Rebecca entered the ops-room.
He turned. Seeing her there in front of him, his hate took wings. Another elf, in charge of the new-born lists, bumped into her, “nice to show up Rebecca.” Reams of fax paper unravelled. “Some of us can’t take holidays like you, please, we’re really busy, leave us to it.”
“Stop that now!” Santa gestured Rebecca outside.
The outhouse was a traditionally furnished igloo.
They had tried to be lovers. The rages and silences and her disappearances had taken their toll on Santa. One Christmas, DHL deliveries were not made, flights cancelled back to home countries and malls experienced power cuts during the height of Christmas shopping. Many turkeys were burnt. They were trying to be best friends now.
“You never even sent a robin.” Being the effective medium of communication this side of the wall, robins were cheap, charging only a fee of a few juniper berries out of season.
“I didn't know what to say. I didn’t want to hurt you anymore. I was so angry, I was only going to be mean. I should have sent word.”
Rebecca was the only elf that didn’t accompany him out into the human world. When she first had gone beyond the gate, a child had thanked her for an X-Box with a hug and she had flown into a temper and cried. She was courteous and sparkly with most customers. Although, whenever she experienced heartfelt emotions she would disappear for days raging within herself. With believers on the fall, Rebecca obviously couldn’t work front of house anymore. She now looked after the housekeeping. Cleaning soothed her. The inanimate clean objects would not scare her, or rouse the dragon that slept in her tummy.
Santa chose his words carefully. Certain words were banned. Anything that hinted at the depths of their feelings for each other would turn her into a banshee. The rude four letter word for them was love. It would damage them more than a hex.
“I was. I…expected more if you were to leave like that. Not even just for me, I’m angry you fled over the wall.” Elvish presences in the human world were invariably disastrous. Farmers fall in love and disappear for seven years, returning to leased properties. Giant fairy rings of bewitching mushrooms sprout up on corporate lawns, on velvet soft village cricket wickets. Experienced hikers wander into marshes.
“I can’t offer you anything. I can’t deal with these emotions anymore.”
“Oh, Rebecca. You will always have a place here with me. But you know that if you leave the wall again you will have to become human. It is your choice. Don’t be rash. Please.”
“I have to. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry for hurting you. I love you.” With a kiss, she fled the room, crying.
Christmas came every seven years for them. For various spiritual calendar clashes it came during the Earth’s Halloween. Santa would roll his sleeves up, tuck his beard away and serve the drunken elves.
He read the present requests individually and hand delivered each.
It was Christmas again and Santa was flying through the Earth’s atmosphere. He thought of all the people on his delivery rota tonight. Willing and eager to receive.
Taking a sealskin glove off a rein - well they flew themselves now really - he pulled out Rebecca’s requests. She was gone for good. He wondered if she would ever return and take the only present he wanted to give.
He let them spiral down through the night. Like messages in cracked bottles he thought; doomed.
If you were to see the ink in the moons light as they tumbled, you would notice the same word written on each: