Have you ever wanted to stop time? Had a moment so perfect, you wanted to just stay in that moment, right there, for eternity. Or a day that you would happily live over and over, like Bill Murray in that movie? I feel like I’m living that moment right now but at any second it’s going to change. The moment will end and there is nothing I can do to change it. Because the sun is going to rise. No matter the shadows in my heart, no matter the wishes I made on stars, that big ball of fire is going to peek over the horizon and then, my moment is over.
I know I shouldn’t be feeling forlorn, dwelling on the end. I know I should be savoring every second, every breath, every touch, every kiss. I know I should be making memories, not regretting that there would be no more. But Nick’s soft even breaths let me know he was asleep so rather than roll over and wake him, I was dwelling, I was regretting, but I was savoring as well. How could I not enjoy the sensation of him wrapped around me, the way he held me close even as he slept. How could I not marvel that less than forty-eight hours ago he had walked through the door of my bakery and changed my life, forever…
I smothered a yawn as I flipped the sign from closed to open but wasn’t brave enough to open the door and peer out. It wasn’t that I was expecting a crowd, not on New Year’s Eve day when it was colder than it had been in years, but I usually liked to open the door and take in the sight of the quiet streets, the shops closed but waiting for eager shoppers, the sense of tranquility that never lasted long in a tourist town. But today, the cold that would keep numbers down also kept me from my usual routine. Instead, I shuffled back behind the counter to my waiting cup of coffee and ereader, my favourite way to pass the time waiting for customers.
Before I could make a selection, the gentle tinkle of the bell over the door sounded and I looked up with a smile, ready to greet my first customer of the day. The automatic ‘good morning’ died on my lips as my mouth gaped open and I stared. It was him, the man from the dream I’d been having since before Christmas. But it couldn’t be, it was just a dream after all. Just because he was tall and good looking in kind of scruffy way… any tallish dark haired man with a stubbled jaw would have reminded me of my dream. It’s not like he had… “Evergreen eyes,” I whispered as he looked at me with a smile.
“Good morning,” he greeted cheerfully, too cheerfully. He should be scowling and growling, like in my dream.
“Good morning Nick,” I replied and I don’t know who was more surprised, him or me.
His brows lowered into a frown as he came to a stop on the other side of the counter. “Excuse me?”
His voice was still polite so I grinned and repeated, “I said, good morning. Nick.”
“You shouldn’t know that,” he said with a scowl and I laughed.
It was lucky I was sitting down as I wrapped my arms around my waist and gave in to the feeling of relief that cascaded through me because I wasn’t going crazy. He was real, it was all real, not a dream. I really had found the North Pole and Santa, except it wasn’t the North Pole and Santa was Nick. And Santa’s head elf was a tall blonde man and he was married to Santa’s sister, Holly.
“This is fucking ridiculous!” he muttered.
Oh yeah, and Santa swore. A lot.
“I know,” I agreed as I wiped tears from my eyes. “You are Santa?” I pointed at him and giggled.
“It’s not that funny Ever.” He scowled again but there was a twinkle in his eyes. “I mean, did you really think some fat old man could do what Santa does?”
I shrugged. “It’s magic right? Anyone could do it.”
“I get no fucking respect,” he grumbled but a grin broke through as he crossed his arms over his chest. “I guess I didn’t work my magic on you.”
“I guess… I thought it was a dream, but it seemed so real. What happened? The last thing I remember is eating a really good sandwich. Then I woke up at home.”
“Then you wrote a letter?” he prompted and I blushed.
“Yeah I… it seemed silly but I couldn’t ignore the feeling that I had to do it. Did you like the cookies?”
“Best I ever had,” he said and on cue his stomach rumbled. “Got anymore?”
“Are you kidding?” I giggled and held my hands out.
He nodded and pursed his lips as he looked into the display cases. “Oh I see the muffins, and the cakes and lots of cookies, but none that look like my cookies.”
“Your cookies?” I echoed and he nodded. “I only make those at home. They’re too… rustic to sell.”
“Okay then. Take me home. What? You don’t trust Santa?” he challenged when I just stared at him in amazement.
“Pick something else to try, they’re all good,” I said even as I tried to think through the logistics of getting him the cookies he wanted. “I can’t just close up my shop,” I muttered even as the door opened behind Nick and a group of tourists came in laughing about the snow.
“I can wait Ever. Can I have one of those and a coffee while I wait?”
I nodded and Nick moved off to a table as my customers approached. I smiled and answered questions and made coffee and boxed some cakes for them, delivering Nick’s coffee and giant choc-chip cookie in between. He looked up from his tablet as I did so and whispered his thanks but I didn’t have time to linger as the bell over the door tinkled again. This time an older couple came in then a few of the locals then another group; holiday weekends were always good for business!
By mid afternoon I was sold out and doubting my sanity again since Nick was gone. I flipped the open sign to closed and locked the door then turned around and screamed briefly before I clamped my hand over my mouth.
“Nick?” I stared in disbelief at the man sitting at the corner table that come to think of it, had sat empty all day.
“You had a busy day,” he said as he stood up and stretched his arms over his head. My mouth went dry as the tshirt he wore beneath his leather jacket lifted with the motion to reveal his flat stomach, the likes of which I had only ever seen on actors and models. “About those cookies?”
“Cookies?” The stretch of skin disappeared as he lowered his arms and I sighed. “Right, my place.”
He followed me home on his motorcycle where I insisted on food before cookies so we ordered a pizza and opened a bottle of wine and while we ate he entertained me with stories of the strangest snacks that had been left for Santa.
“So what happens now?” I asked as we sat side by side on my couch and lingered over wine.
“Cookies?” Nick said hopefully.
“Now?” I looked at the empty pizza box in disbelief. I’d ordered a large thinking there wold be left over for dinner but Nick had finished it off.
“There’s always room for cookies,” he said seriously. “But I can wait,” he added with a grin.
“Well, yeah, okay.” I stumbled over my words, disarmed by his grin and the touch of his hand as he brushed my hair back from shoulder. “I mean, what happens now, what do you do to make me forget this time?”
“Ahhh.” Nick nodded and leaned forward to set his wineglass beside mine on the coffee table before he settled back, his body turned towards mine. “Well the thing is Ever, I did my thing, and you resisted.”
“I guess resistance isn’t futile after all,” I quipped, sure he wouldn’t understand.
“Yeah, we are not the Borg,” he scoffed and my surprise must have shown. “Will is a big sci-fi fan. Anyway, I didn’t come here for that.”
“So you’re just going to let me walk around, knowing?” I asked in disbelief.
“Sure.” He shifted forward his eyes on mine as he smirked and shrugged and sifted a few strands of my hair through his fingers. “You want to be the crazy lady who talks about Santa being real, be my guest.”
“Well, when you put it that way…” I mimed zipping my lip and throwing away the key. “So why are you here then?”
He looked at me, his eyes tracing over my face, and his thumb brushed my lips. “I came for you Ever, for this…”
Then he kissed me like a song, with an opening refrain full of tenderness and restraint, slowly building to the elation of the bridge, until the verve of the chorus thrummed through my blood, over and over, before the fade out left me breathless and wanting to hear it all over again.
“Oh,” I whispered as I licked my lips and tasted Nick.
“Yeah, oh,” he repeated looking as stunned as I felt. “I only get two days, then I have to go back.”
“Two days.” I bit my lip as I had a quick internal debate before I stood up and held out my hand to him.
He tangled his fingers with mine but instead of standing he tugged me back down into his arms. “Where are we going Ever?” he asked his lips teasing my ear.
“My bedroom.” I arched my neck to give him better access and pushed my fingers through his hair. “We’ve wasted enough time Nick.” My words ended in a gasp as he stood with me held high against his chest.
“If you insist,” he said with a ragged grin.
“Oh I do, resistance is futile…”
If his kiss had been like a song, making love with Nick had been like hearing the best album ever for the first time. Full of revelations and surprises and when it was over you couldn’t wait to hear it again. Then each time was different, each time you found something new, heard a nuance you hadn’t noticed before, connected with a song in a different way.
And between times we had talked, about everything and nothing, lost in the wonder of each other, the bloom of new love, refusing to discuss the future, or the deadline hanging over us. Until it had come to this moment, the one I wanted to stay in, the one where I could breath his scent and feel his heart beating. The one where I was content and happy.
“I can hear you thinking sweetheart.” Nick’s gruff voice broke the predawn silence.
“Sorry,” I murmured as his lips brushed my bare shoulder. “I’m just thinking how I don’t want the sun to rise today,” I said with a sigh.
Nick’s chuckle ruffled my hair and I moved to my back to glare at him. “Fuck you’re cute when you’re angry Ever,” he said and I glared and huffed and started to slide out of bed. “Oh whoa, no you don’t!” He wrapped me in his arms and buried his face in my hair. “We’re not done Ever. I know I said I have to leave and I do, but I’ll come back to you as often as I can.”
“You can do that?” I asked as relief flooded through me.
“Sweetheart I’m Santa. I can do whatever the fuck I want,” he said so confidently I had no choice but to believe him.
“Oh well, what am I worrying about?” I wondered aloud as he nuzzled my throat.
“Exactly,” he agreed, the words a whisper against my skin.
I threaded my fingers through his hair to hold him closer as my eyes started to close. “Hmmm, you don’t mean like the joke do you?”
“What joke is that?” He lifted his head and I smiled into his evergreen eyes.
“You know the one? How Santa only comes once a year?”
Nick gave a short laugh. “Pretty sure I already proved that one wrong, but I’m more than happy to do it again if you like?”
There were no more words then and later as the sun rose and Nick pulled on his leather jacket and I smiled and kissed him goodbye, I was glad that I hadn’t been able to stop time. Because as wonderful as that moment had been, the next one had been better, and the one after that even better. And now I had so many more moments with Nick to look forward to, and I knew each one would be better than the last…
…and they lived happily Ever after.