A Christmas Surprise

by Karen Morgia

It was so cold outside, the warm air inside the apartment crystallized and formed magical geometric rainbows almost as soon as it came in contact with the Glass of the French doors leading to the terrace. The snow lay deep upon the terrace floor, making the doors impossible to open. Even if Vincent did show up tonight Catherine would be unable to let him in.

"Damn!" She turned away from the fairytale sight of sparkling lights flickering across the city and sighed deeply. "Blasted storm!" she muttered angrily.

She turned and wistfully glanced over at the small Christmas tree standing in the corner. Its lights blinked merrily, but Catherine didn’t feel particularly merry. Her eyes came to rest upon the gold foil-wrapped package with its large green bow, lying beneath the tree. She had so wanted to see the expression on his face when he opened it.

Vincent was supposed to come to the apartment tonight, to collect his Christmas present, but now she realized he would not be able to come. With the weather so bad there was no way he could scale the building, and she couldn’t go Below, because Joe was bringing over some files for her to work on over the weekend. She had sent a message via her bathroom pipes, that she would not be able to come Below. It had only added another dimension to an already dreary week.

Catherine had been sick with a bad head cold for the past four days. Since her work was piling up, Joe suggested he drop by with a few files for her to catch up on at home. Like a fool she had agreed. Now she could kick herself for having made that decision. If she hadn’t, she would have been able to go Below to be with Vincent, instead of stuck in an apartment seventeen stories above.

She couldn’t meet Vincent Below; he couldn’t come Above. She was miserable.

Feeling sorry for herself, Catherine turned away from the gaily blinking tree and went into the kitchen for a cup of tea. She felt so down she hadn’t even turned on the evening Philharmonic concert, instead, she had turned the radio to a station playing Christmas music. Somehow, it didn’t help her moodiness, but the volume was low so she wasn’t even aware of it.

The whole apartment was so quiet, even with the soft music playing, that Catherine was aware of every sound coming from the hallway outside her door. Her musing was interrupted by the elevator bell clanging for attention.

"Finally!", she thought excitedly, "that’s got to be Joe." She practically ran to the front door and peeked down the hallway through the peephole.

Coming down the hall toward her door, she spied two men; one, medium height, brown hair, brushing annoyingly at the snow on his head and shoulders&endash;Joe. The other man was entirely different. Tall, dressed in a Santa costume, complete with white hair and full white beard, he stood quietly observing his companion. Over his shoulder he carried a large red bag that appeared to be quite full.

Joe was talking so excitedly, that his words could be heard through the front door.

:Jenny Aaronson hired you, didn’t she? It would be just like her to pull something like this on Cathy. You’re supposed to be some kind of Christmas surprise? What are you…one of those male strippers or something?"

The tall man said nothing, but threw an exasperated, if fearful, glance at h is companion, and reached out a gloved hand to knock on the door.

Even with the disguise, Catherine would have recognized those blue eyes anywhere. She hurriedly unlocked the door and opened it for her visitors.

"Joe!" she greeted, smiling, but her gaze fastened upon the tall Santa. "Thank you for bringing the files," she said, taking the stack form his arms. "I’ll see you after the holidays." She grabbed ‘Santa’s’ hand, pulled him into the apartment and closed the door; leaving poor Joe standing in the hall with his mouth hanging open. He shrugged, shook his head, and made his way back toward the elevator.

"Are you out of your mind?" Catherine demanded, her heart only just moving back down from her throat to her chest, where it belonged. "What are you doing here?"

"Well," Santa began, taking off his hat with its fake wig and pulling off the fake beard, "when the children realized that you and I would be unable to meet tonight, they came up with a solution. Your message earlier said you would not be able to come Below and the weather was too bad for me to come to you, so…they concocted this masquerade in order for us to be together." Vincent smiled lovingly as he took off the rest of his Santa costume and stood before her in his holiday finest. "The costume was Jamie’s idea. I am your Christmas present from the children, Catherine. The bag contains your gifts from those Below. We…," he hesitated slightly, then continued, "I…did not want you to spend Christmas Eve alone." He lowered his beautiful gaze at the embarrassing admission.

Catherine’s eyes glistened with tears of joy at the very sight of him.

He looked up and beheld the look of delight on her face, then spread wide his arms to welcome her into his loving embrace.

She nearly leapt into his arms, wrapped her arms high around his neck and burrowed her nose into his name, nuzzling against his neck. Maybe this won’t be such a bad night, after all, she thought. "Christmas has always been my favorite holiday," she whispered, kissing him along his jaw line. "Now I know why…I love surprises," she giggled, happily.


Submitted/published in Chamber Cameos, Dec 1991