"So, it's Christmas Eve," I say. My characters are gathered before me. I press on. "Target will be closed in two hours. What the heck do you guys want for Christmas?"
Calder White rolls his eyes.
"I'm serious," I say. "Give me a clue."
“Freedom," he says, a teasing smile twisting at this lips.
I put my hands on my hips. I don't have time for this.
"What?" he asks. "Too intangible? Okay, I’ll take a new car and a full tank of gas."
"Seriously," I say.
"Fine, fine. Something simple... how bout a nice pair of wool socks, or maybe a coffee mug that says World’s Greatest Son. What about you, Lil? Tell Anne what you want."
Lily shrugs. “You don't have to get me anything."
"I insist," I say. "You guys have made this the best year ever. It's the least I could do."
"Well, if you insist," says Lily Hancock, considering her options. "A new journal and a real pen and ink set...y’know...the kind with an actual ink well? That would be cool.”
Maris White butts in. "If you're giving gifts, I'll take a little cooperation. For once in my life. That would be a real treat.”
"Anne is shopping for real gifts," says Pavati. She furrows her brow, deep in thought. “I’ve never really thought much about Christmas. My father celebrated Pancha Ganapati. But . . . I’d never turn down a gift. Maybe something shiny?”
"Shiny," I say, writing it down on paper. "What about you, Tallulah?"
Tallulah steps between Calder and Lily and says, “Something sentimental and romantic would be nice, particularly if it came from someone who matters.”
I suspect she's not referring to me. Tallulah never cared for me much. "Jack?" I ask.
He glowers at me from the corner. “You can’t give me what I want.”
"Never mind him," says his sister, Gabby. "Here’s my list." She shoves it into my hands. "I’ve made copies. A 4G phone, a pre-paid credit card, and a bus trip to the Mall of America. A digital camera, those boots that everyone’s wearing, Jimmy Choos, diamond studs, and permission to get a nose ring. Also, I like those chocolate Santas, but the solid kind. Nothing hollow.”
I'm about to leave, when I see a small figure playing in the corner. "Sophie," I say. "I didn't see you there."
She barely looks up. “Christmas Barbie and a scientific experiment kit. Thanks.” And then she's back to whatever she was playing, and I'm out the door to Target. There's only a little time left.