Chapter Description: Christina's visit to Santa doesn't go exactly as planned--or maybe it does.
Christina and her captor remained silent on the way to the big conglomerate of poly-fiber snow, jerky motorized plastic reindeer and white dime store Christmas lights that marked Santa’s place of residence during mall hours. Christina had long thought they should upgrade to a display with a sliding board like the one in that “Christmas Story” movie that aired for 24 hours each Christmas. But she wasn’t thinking about that now.
“What happens after this?” she said as they took their place at the end of the line of parents with screaming elementary schoolers who didn’t really believe in Santa (but were afraid of what would happen if they admitted it), toddlers who did and infants who didn’t really know what was going on.
“After this you go home. I told you, I’m not a bad man. You stole fifteen minutes of my life at the store, arguing over those silly gift cards, so now I’m borrowing fifteen minutes of yours. And getting a little entertainment in the process.”
“Making me see Santa is entertaining for you?”
“I just want to see the look on Santa’s face when we get to the front of the line and he realizes instead of putting up with yet another screaming, squirming brat, he gets to sit a beautiful woman on his lap and talk to her for two minutes about her fondest Christmas wishes. You are very beautiful, you know.”
Christina’s cheeks once again turned red. “I don’t want you calling me beautiful.”
“Maybe not, but I’ve said it, and I can’t unsay it. So I guess it’s out there.”
The camera flashed twice for each child posing with Santa, some more willingly than others, with an occasional sibling duo thrown in for good measure. The line moved faster than Christina would have thought. Thomas had said fifteen minutes, and barring any major delay...gum in Santa’s beard, a camera malfunction, a credit card being declined and a worried mother having to figure out some other way to pay the $29.95 for an eight-by-ten of her kid and a stranger dressed in a red suit...it seemed like his estimation would be fairly accurate.
“I want you to do something for me, Christina,” Thomas whispered. “I want you to think about the last time you wet your pants. Remember it in detail. Think about it, every single thing.”
Christina’s mind went blank for a moment, and then she remembered waking up several days after her twenty-first birthday. She’d had to work on the night of her actual birthday, so she and some friends went out that Saturday. It wasn’t like she had never had a drink before, but now that it was legal...well, it was just more fun. She hadn’t remembered returning to her bedroom that night, but assumed her roommate had something to do with getting her there. She rolled over to go back to sleep and hopefully quell the pounding in her head when she realized something wasn’t right. The bed was cold, almost as if someone had spilled something on it and left it there for the air conditioning to chill. A moment later, she also determined that she was still wearing her clothes from the night before... and someone had spilled something on them, too. Not really all of her clothes. Just her pants... and her underwear. And then it hit her: She had wet her bed. Slowly she got up and started to take them off.
“Christina? Christina! What are you doing?”
Christina blinked as the memory faded. But there was something still familiar about the whole thing. There was a feeling....
The family in line behind Thomas and Christina backed away as the dark patch on Christina’s jeans grew larger and made its way down her left leg. The residual liquid pooled around her shoes.
One of Santa’s “elves” picked up her walkie-talkie from the little shelf by the cash register: “Attention cleanup, we have a Code 20 at Santa’s booth, Code 20 at Santa.”
Christina had called in several Code 20s at her own store...radio slang for “A child has wet his or her pants, and we need someone to clean it up.”
“I’m so sorry! I...I don’t know what...”
“Christina!” Thomas yelled loudly enough so even those at the back of the line could hear. “Why didn’t you just tell me you had to go tinkle? Now someone has to come here and clean this up. You’ve been a bad girl, Christina! And Santa saw the whole thing!”
Indeed, Santa’s lips were tight, as if trying not to smile beneath his fake beard, and his “bowlful of jelly” was shaking.
“Come on, and let’s get you cleaned up. Honestly, at your age!” Thomas led Christina by the hand. She tried not to look at anyone else as they exited the line.