Everett Peterson thoughtfully rubbed his chin as he looked the jolly, round man up and down. He turned to Matthew Franklin, who was staring out the window. “What do you think, Boss?”
The department store mogul shook his head as if to wake himself from a fog. He glanced at the auditioning Santa and waved his hand to Peterson. “Whatever you think.”
Peterson turned to “Santa”. “Say ‘ho, ho, ho.’”
The bearded man put his hands on his ample tummy and let out a deep, jolly chuckle. Peterson smiled. “You’ve got the job, but don’t lose any weight and don’t shave your beard before Christmas.” Peterson dismissed Santa and then turned to Franklin. “What’s wrong, sir?”
Peterson was silent for a moment, trying to interrupt his boss’s words. “The city? Do you want to put a store in England, sir, because if you do–“
“Not the city. My daughter, London. She’s got me worried.”
“Oh, of course, sir. London. What’s the problem?"
“It’s about her Christmas present.”
Peterson smiled knowingly. “What does she want this year? I’m sure you’ll find a way to meet her request just like you do every year. Remember the year you were able to get her a pet giraffe?”
Franklin smiled at the memory. “Yes, that wasn’t easy.”
“So, what does London want this year?”
“She said she doesn’t want anything.”
“Nothing? From the girl who requested diamond monogrammed cell phone when she was just seven?”
“See why I’m worried, Peterson?” The two men stared at the floor for a moment. Then Franklin glanced at his Rolex watch. “What’s next on the agenda?”
“The marketing people want me to run a few Christmas slogans by you, just to make sure they’re on the right track.”
Peterson read from his clip board. “Franklin’s...we wrote the book on Christmas.”
Franklin stroked his beard. “Nice. What else?”
“This one will read ‘You only thought he had everything’ and then there will be pictures of a few of your higher priced novelty items: 24-carat gold iPod, diamond encrusted computer mouse, Lamborghini’s Premium coffee maker..”
The men were interrupted by Franklin’s phone. He held a finger up to Peterson when he saw his wife was calling.
Franklin’s wife, Gloria, was crying on the other end of the line. Franklin could barely make out her words. “What’s wrong, dear?”
“It’s London,” she finally chocked out, “I think she’s joined a cult.”
“I asked her why she’d been acting so different. She said it was because she became a Christian.”
Franklin put his hand on his head. “What is she talking about? We’re already Christian.”
“I’ll try to be home early today. We’ll talk with her tonight at dinner.”
“She won’t be home tonight,” Gloria sniffed. “She’s going with her cult friends to serve food at a soup kitchen.”
“Oh my,” Franklin’s face paled. “This is more serious than I thought. We’ll talk tonight.”
Franklin hung up the phone, then sat down heavily in his leather office chair. “Peterson, we need to find out what’s gotten into my daughter.”
Peterson removed his pen from behind his ear and starting scribbling on his notepad. “I’ll get right on it.”
“And while you’re at it, figure out what she wants for Christmas.”
Over the next few weeks, London continued to display unusual behaviors that baffled her parents. She spent hours reading her Bible, got up early on Sunday mornings to attend church, and was kind and respectful to her parents. While they couldn’t deny the new London was a refreshing change, they were suspicious of her behavior.
One morning at breakfast Gloria asked London when she wanted to go shopping for an outfit to wear to the annual Franklin’s Christmas party.
London looked down at her plate. “Actually, I was thinking I could wear something I already have.”
“What!?” both parents cried in unison.
“I thought I could use that money to buy presents for a needy family.”
Franklin cleared his throat. “London, I’d be happy for you to help the underprivileged, but you don’t have to sacrifice to do so.”
Gloria sat up, “It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a new dress.”
Franklin held up one of his catalogs. “Remember, your old man wrote the book on Christmas,” he chuckled.
London stared at her parents silently for a minute. Finally, she spoke. “Mom and dad, there’s something I’d like to tell you....” she began.
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