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I’m about to turn away when I catch Santa’s gaze. Despite the distance, I can see his eyes are a beautiful mossy color, clear and bright. There’s a pull in my belly, like a fishhook catching just behind my navel and giving a tug.
“If it isn’t little Ivy Sima,” he calls. “Santa has been waiting for you.”
There are a few giggles from the assembled crowd as everyone turns to look at me. Heat creeps into my face, prickling my cheeks. They might as well shine a spotlight on me. Dismissing my nerves, I raise a hand in a wave. “Hey there, Santa.”
The elf who’s currently on his lap stands up and motions to Santa. “I’m sure the others won’t mind if you cut the line, seeing as you’re our newest team member. There’s a reason we’re all on the nice list.”
I laugh, moving to stuff my hands into my pockets before remembering this dress only has a pouch for candy canes. I should really talk to Bree about that. I clasp my hands in front of me instead, shifting my weight. “That’s, uh, nice of you, but…” My mind races, searching for an excuse.
I never visited Santa as a kid. A few years ago, Bridget and I were out of town doing some Christmas shopping and she convinced me to get a picture taken with us sitting on Santa’s lap. We spent the rest of the trip laughing over the fact Santa smelled like peppermint schnapps—a good choice since most kids would probably mistake it for candy cane breath. Like many Christmas-related things, I only did it for Bridget. I don’t want to sit on this guy’s lap, though. All the other elves seem totally into it, but what if he’s some sort of perv who gets off on this? Like a weird two-way fetish with people who love Santa and a Santa who loves elves.
I’m saved from having to respond when all the elves suddenly start booing and hissing. I assume they’re jeering me until a flash of dark green catches my peripheral vision. I turn to see Celia walking toward me, still decked out in her Grooge costume. She gives an exaggerated growl and holds up her hands, which are covered in gloves that make her fingers appear long and sharp.
A few people laugh and one of the elves calls out, “Your cousin won’t come visit Santa.”
Celia scrutinizes my face. I wonder if my expression is pleading, because instead of selling me out or frog-marching me up there herself, she says, “Sorry, guys. Santa will have to decide some other time whether Ivy is on the naughty or nice list. We need to get going.”
I could kiss her. I know my hesitation is ridiculous and I’ll have to officially meet Santa at some point, but I don’t necessarily want an audience for it. Or to feel like I need to sit on the couch and chat with him while others are a few feet away. I meet Santa’s eyes and feel that weird pull in my belly again.
Oh god. Please don’t tell me my resistance is due to some latent Santa fetish that’s just waiting for the right opportunity to arise.
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