Bryan turned and saw a little boy running full speed toward him. He couldn’t have been more than five or six, but he was alone. Bryan sat back down and nodded to his elves to stay with him for a few more minutes. They escorted the boy up to him while Bryan kept his eyes peeled for a parent.
“Hello, young man, how are you tonight?” he asked the boy on his lap.
“I’m tired Santa, but I had to see you. Before my mom gets here, I need to tell you what I really want for Christmas. Can I tell you now?”
“Of course, I’d love to know.”
“You can’t tell my mom,” the boy said in all seriousness, looking deep into Bryan’s eyes.
Bryan focused on the boy’s solemn brown eyes and nodded, silently agreeing to keep his promise.
“I want my mom to find a new job. She works really late hours, which is why we’re just getting here now. She needs to be home earlier because I miss her. She’s always tired. It’s not fair to her.”
Bryan’s heart slowed as he listened to the boy who had to much faith in Santa he asked for a better life for him and his mother. He was sure she worked a thankless, low paid job. He hated that the little boy in his lap would miss time with his mom, and he wondered if there was something he could do.
“Bobby! Bobby, where are you?” a woman shrieked.
“That’s my mom, Santa. Can you help? Cuz she’ll be here in a minute so I’m gonna have to make up other stuff I want so she doesn’t know. You won’t tell, right?”
Bryan swallowed the lump in his throat and nodded at Bobby.
The woman came closer, the elves calling her over, and Bryan watched as she walked toward him. Her long brown hair fell in soft waves halfway down her back. She was bundled up in a winter coat, but Bryan could see long slender legs encased in boots that met the edge of her jacket. She was running toward them and with each step, Bryan felt his heart beating harder. He wanted to hold her, tell her that he kept her boy safe, make things better for her.
“Come on, Mom,” Bobby said when she got to the front of where the line would be, “ask Santa for something.”
She looked up at Bryan and his heart stopped. He wanted her more than he’d wanted any woman before. She was stunning with flushed cheeks, blazing green eyes, and that hair he itched to get his hands on.
But he would never have her. Because he knew her. And knew she’d never be his.