Merry Finds Christmas
It’s the Christmas season in Calgary, Alberta. The streets of Stephan Avenue are crowded with families carrying Christmas gifts and store bags, just getting ready for their festivities. Meridian Curtis also known as Merry is loitering beside the Core Shopping Center wall watching everyone come and go from the store. She is waiting for the right moment to slip inside unnoticed. The security guards walk outside watch all the fancy people (especially the women) walk out. That’s when Merry slips inside the doors and walks straight into Holt Renfrew like she belongs there.
Holt Renfrew is a massive but modern department store filled with designer clothes, bags, and other desired accessories. Everywhere she turns, Merry sees something that sparkles in the light. These items all just scream at her, saying. “Take me! Take me!” If only she could. Merry knows that it is a risk to be shoplifting here again but with the Christmas rush and all the sales staff running around, trying to please all the rich people, it should be a quick in-and-out job.
Merry has been a thief ever since her mother died at the age of six and she never knew her father. She is the classic foster in-and-out orphan. She never had a real family or anyone that ever loved or cared for her. So, by being as neglected as she is, she had to find a way to take care of herself. Her criminal career started with shop-lifting and pick-pocketing but she is now able to slip in and out of businesses and fancy houses with ease.
The only reason why anyone would look twice at her is due to her bright copper hair which she will usually keep up in a hat like the brown fedora she is wearing right now. This hat matches the brown sweater she selected while the black jacket covers most of it but what brings it all together is the checkered trousers that she had just gotten a couple of days ago. Her aquamarine eyes which she keeps hidden behind some designer sunglasses are also a good way for her to get noticed. Luckily, she is cunning enough to make herself blend in. Merry is a very fit woman. She has to be in order to be the professional thief that she is. However, one thing Merry isn’t is a monster. She only ever stole what she needed and never regretted it, except that one fateful Christmas five years ago.
She broke into this posh but happy family’s house. She could tell that they are a good family by the pictures she saw of them all together. Oh, how she envies them. They have everything she wanted in life. A home, love, and a warm place to be welcome in. Merry let herself shed a tear when she gazed around the house with its beautiful decorations and Christmas tree. Snapping out of it, she goes straight to the couple’s bedroom to pocket all the mother’s jewelry which includes these beautiful opal earrings with diamonds surrounding it. They’re old fashioned but at least she would be able to eat for a year.
Alarms suddenly go off and she hightails it out of the house. She jumps out of the backyard window and runs into a wooded area that she knows a lot of people go through all the time. So not only can she blend in but the cops won’t be able to track her foot prints.
The family arrives back from wherever they were and the police are in the house interviewing them. Before she can turn and run away, she sees the look on the woman’s face. She was devastated with tears streaming down her cheeks. Anytime she ever stole something she has seen people scream at the police, annoyed by what was taken but never outright distraught. Merry inches closer to the window and hears the woman crying.
“My opal-diamond earrings.” She sobs shaking her head. “Those were given to me by my mother on my wedding day. They have been passed down for generations and now…gone.”
Merry could tell that this woman was not faking it because she is the master of it. She holds the earrings in her hand and studies them before looking back to the tearful woman. At that moment, Merry knew what she must to do.
After the police had left the property, Merry put the earrings on the stoop and ran to hide behind the tree across the street. She waited during the frigid temperatures for them to discover the earrings. Merry didn’t mind the cold, not only is she used to icy temperatures but because she felt like she should do some kind of penance.
By sunrise, she saw the woman open the door in her fuzzy pajamas and holding a cup of coffee. She looks down to grab the newspaper and Merry can see that she spotted the earrings beside it. Her eye’s light up and she had a smile so big that Merry found herself warming up despite the sub-zero weather.
Back in the present, Merry searches each counter until her eyes reach the Tiffany and Co counter. There she saw three sparkling key pendants of different precious metals. It is so hypnotic that she knows that if she can nip those items, she could be set for life. Suddenly without meaning to, Merry hears jingle-bells and looks up to see where they are coming from. What she sees is a Santa who walks in the store and starts chatting with one of the sales associates.
She doesn’t know why but as soon as she sees this Santa, she can’t take her eyes off of him. The way he smiles and moves, Merry wonders if she hasn’t seen him somewhere before. But that can’t be. The last time she saw a Santa has when she was eight years old and in the kid’s shelter. He asked her what her Christmas wish was.
Merry said, “A miracle.”
Of course, that didn’t happen but Merry didn’t remember that until now. Suddenly, he looks at her, smiles, and winks. In surprise, Merry looks around to see if he could be looking at anyone else but no. He is looking right at her. Alarms in the store go off unexpectedly and everyone starts to freak out as they rush to leave the store. She doesn’t know what to think of this situation.
The store associates calmly shepherd the customers outside. Her adrenaline is up and she runs with the crowd but she takes the time to look for that man dressed as Santa. She can’t see him anywhere. When everyone goes to the emergency location at the Calgary Tower. Merry stands off to the side and puts her hands into her pocket. Feeling something unusual in her right pocket. Merry pulls it out and sees what looks like a business card.
It says, “Find me here at Center Ave and Center Street. You’ll find what you’re looking for.”
Although it could be a bad idea, Merry’s curiosity gets the better of her. She is definitely albeit cautiously going to check this place out.
That night dressed top-to-toe in her night thief gear, Merry scopes the place out. She slips off her red and black parka that she keeps to look like an ordinary person when the authorities looking for someone completely dressed in black. Merry has always had an affinity for red. She slings the jacket on the tree and checks the rest of her outfit which consists of a black zip-up sports shirt with straight-legged black pants and a reflective belt which she uses to trick alarms when needed. Strapping her backpack back up on her back, Merry prepares herself for the task ahead.
By the look of the place, it’s not going to be an easy task. It is a big building that looks ancient and not of this world but still so luxurious. Tall arched windows, strong stoned steps leading up to dark wooden double doors, and long columns that look like they were once white but due to the passing of time have turned into a gentle grey. The snow falling from the sky surrounds this place like she is in a snow globe. It’s so magical. This is something she doesn’t see everyday.
She looks around and makes sure no one can see her. Merry slinks her way like a slithering snake towards the building. She looks in the windows and it looks dark like no one is home. She pulls out her night vision binoculars and sees all this furniture illuminated in green. Again, this in not out of the ordinary when she is on the job but her gut tells her that not all is as it seems. She looks for any triggers, switches, or lights that would indicate a security system. She finds nothing. A big ritzy house like this with no home protection.
“This is weird.” Merry thinks to herself as she strokes her chin.
Still she is here and intends to follow through. Merry takes out her crowbar from her pack, jams it into the bottom window pane, and nudges the window slightly open. Silent and swift, she lands her feet on the floor, feeling carpet underneath her. Quietly, she closes the window and starts to belly crawl across the ground. She doesn’t even make it to the center of the room when all the lights come on and shines brightly around her.
Completely spooked, she scrambles herself against the wall and darts her head around the room. It is so beautiful and decorated like the spirit of Christmas came to decorate. The walls were white as snow with a bright vintage lantern hanging on it. What really catches her eye is the Christmas tree, all lit up with lights, golden ornaments and ribbons randomly placed on it. Then there is the light up golden reindeer statues which she knows weren’t there before. As she looks down at the presents under the tree, she hears someone walking in.
“Ho Ho Ho!” Says this big booming masculine voice that startles her to stand up against the wall. “I was wondering when you were coming. You are later than I thought.”
Merry sees that same Santa she saw at the store only this time he is wearing ordinary clothes and soft slippers on his feet. He walks into the room from the archway and sits in a big high-backed chair. He allows himself to get comfortable while Merry is still up against the wall, not knowing what to do.
“Please join me my dear. I have a hot chocolate waiting for you.” The man says smiling as he waves his hand over to the end table where a steaming hot cup sits.
Was that there before? Merry thinks as she slowly and reluctantly walks over to the chair close to the Santa man. She takes the chair beside him and looks from him to the hot chocolate waiting for her. It is a steaming white cup with dark liquid chocolate with a generous helping of whipped cream and curled chocolate shavings on top. The smell of the rich chocolate and gingerbread tempts her into picking it up and bringing it to her lips. The taste has her feel something that she never has before; warm and safe.
“I understand your trepidation when it comes to this current situation.” The man says. “I promise you that you are safe here and free of judgement.”
Merry sets the cup on her lap and looks to this mysterious man. “Why am I here?”
“You’re here because you didn’t make a lot of good choices in your life.” He begins. “I mean you have been a thief since you were so small.” Merry is about to pipe up but the man raises his hand to gently placate her and continue with what he is saying. “I also am not blind to how much you have suffered and the fact that you had to take care of yourself at an age when you should have others to do it for you.”
“Who are you? Santa? God?” She snips at him. “Either way, I ought to punch you in the mouth.”
“Lets just start with Nick.” He says gently. “I can tell you are in a lot of pain but also I can see that under all that hurt is a good, kind heart. I saw that many times in you.”
“Like when?” Merry eyes him suspiciously putting the hot chocolate back to her lips.
“Like when you gave those precious earrings back to Candace Whitman that Christmas five years ago?” He says raising an eye brow. “Or even just last week when you stole that pot pie from the deli and instead of eating it yourself, you gave it to that homeless man that you bumped into a few blocks away. Do you want me to go on? Because there is more.”
“I was only trying to do the right thing.” Merry says. “I don’t want to destroy anybody but I need to make some kind of living. I mean I didn’t even finish high school because I could not afford supplies or even food. At least with this I can get some food and clean clothes.”
“What if I told you that you can have everything you ever dreamed of and didn’t have to steal for it?” He asks jollily.
“I’d say you are either a liar or a butthead.” She replies archly.
Nick could not help but chuckle. With a shake of his head he looks Merry right back in the eye. “You are a tough chestnut, aren’t you?”
Merry gives him a small smile and shrugs her shoulders.
“It’s the truth Merry.” He leans over and nearly whispers.
“How do you know so much about me?” Merry asks him. “And if you know this much, why would you want to help me?”
“I have looked after you ever since you were born.” Nick explains. “After everything you have been through and the fact that you still have that heart in you. I figure it’s time you finally get a break. All you have to do is watch the signs and take a chance.”
“Taking chances, I’ve got no problem with.” Merry explains as she puts her cup back on the end table. “But watch the signs? What do you mean by that?”
“Its no different than you finding that perfect item to steal or that perfect building to slip in and out of. You have to look at things that have this positive light around it and think how it will affect you for the better.” There is a pause between them and Merry looks a little confused before Nick continues. “I’ll help you out with that don’t worry.”
Merry nods at him and finds herself feeling a little more comfortable around Nick. Something about him just makes her feel safe. He’s nothing but nice to her and he is asking for nothing in return. Both things she is not used to. Maybe she should listen to him.
“What do I have to do?” Merry asks him.
He takes out a small card from his pocket that is nearly identical to the one she found in her coat pocket before. It says, “Need Help? A good path awaits you at the Chinook Learning Centre. Bring this card to the front desk at any of our locations and get your education back on track for free.”
“I promise you that a better life will start there if you so choose.” Nick says kindly and asks. “Do you need a lift back to the woman’s shelter?”
“No thanks Nick. I got it.” Merry says and stands up from the chair. She stands and walks towards the archway before turning and looking at Nick again. “Thank you… For this.”
He only smiles at her and says. “The rest is up to you so instead of thanking me start by entering in and out of doors for a change.”
Merry snickers at him and walks out the front door. The snow is still falling but Merry is focused on that card. Suddenly, everything goes dark again. She turns and looks at the building only to find that it is no longer a nice-looking place but a dilapidated old warehouse. The shock hits her first and she is unable to reason with this. She leans over the stair railing to look back into the window she climbed in. She sees nothing at first and gets out her night vision binoculars only to see that this place is completely empty. No furniture, no fireplace, just a plain bare room.
Her breathing quickens until she stumbles down the stairs and looks up at the sky to see this bright star moving across the sky. Its beauteous shine takes her breath away and she can’t take her eyes off of it. She remembers Nick telling her to watch for the signs and it looks like she has seen one. As soon as the star moves over the building, she can no longer see it. With her heart so full and tears in her eyes, she just realizes something. Her Christmas miracle has finally come true.
Special Thanks to:
Holt Renfrew/Tiffany and Co. at the Core Shopping Centre: For a beautiful store and fasinating items. 510 8 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2P 4H9, https://www.holtrenfrew.com/en/
Ten Degrees Chocolate: For that excellent gingerbread hot chocolate. 818 16 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2R 0S9, https://www.tendegreeschocolate.ca/
Fairmont Palliser Hotel: For beautiful Christmas decorations and atmosphere. 133 9 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2P 2M3, https://www.fairmont.com/palliser-calgary/
Calgary Tower: For just being awesome!! 101 9 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2P 1J9, https://www.calgarytower.com/
Chinook Learning Centre: For also being awesome! Various locations. https://www.chinooklearningservices.com/