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This was written pretty quickly to be part of the Christmas Challenge, so it wasn't beta read sorry.
A thousand wonders
Once upon a time, Young Jarod was alone in the simulation lab, pretending to be reading some engineering textbook while thinking about many things, none of which related to engineering. He thought about Sydney, who once again was leaving him alone for a few days at the end of December. Jarod knew what that meant – Sydney was spending the holidays with his loved ones, and Jarod wasn’t one of them. He then wondered about these holidays. He didn’t understand the concept. Why should people wait one specific day to be with all their loved ones and share one special day? Jarod would do that every single day of the year.
He suddenly heard a noise and straightened up on his chair, startled. A laughter emerged from behind him and a familiar voice echoed: “Don’t wet your pants, Jarod. It’s just me.”
Jarod turned around, a smile on his face at the sight of his friend. “Miss Parker! How are you? What are you doing here?”.
Little Miss Parker approached the table in the centre of the lab where Jarod was reading, her smile disappearing. “I’m waiting for Daddy. He said he had some things to do at the office before going home.”
Jarod saw in her blue eyes that she wasn’t very happy about the situation, but said nothing. He then noticed her hands obviously hiding something behind her back. He stared at her with a puzzled expression, waiting for her to say something. She just smiled. Curiosity kicking in, he had to ask: “What are you hiding there?”
“A surprise” Little Miss P answered, her smile only growing wider. Jarod frowned. “A surprise for you.” A present wrapped with green paper and a red knot appeared in front of him. Miss Parker handed it to him, but Jarod didn’t reach for it.
“Why?” Jarod asked instead.
“Why are you giving me a present?”
“Because it’s Christmas day, genius.” Little Miss P took two seconds to think, and realised her mistake. His friend probably didn’t get a Christmas Advent Calendar, and was probably not used to receiving presents. “I’m just giving a present to a friend, that’s what people do on Christmas.” But Jarod still didn’t reach for it.
It was Miss P turn to frown. She could hear Jarod’s thoughts. “Ok, stop that. Here’s the deal. For now, I’m Santa. And one day, once you’re out of this place, you will be my Santa. I will be expecting many – many – presents, every year. Deal?”
A genuine smile appeared on Jarod’s face. “Deal.” He took the beautiful green present and stared at it for a few seconds. “What is it?”
“It's not a surprise if I tell you, Jarod.” Little Miss P said. “Now, will you please open it before Mr. Raines loses his hair?”
Jarod looked up at his friend and laughed. He was enjoying this moment and wanted to make it last. He slowly untie the red knot and placed it on the table. He then pivoted the green present, searching for the best spot to quietly unwrap it. He was about to proceed when two beautiful hands snatched the present from his own hands. “Oh my god Jarod, just rip it off! That’s like half the fun.”
Jarod chuckled and nodded. He took back his present from his friend and did as she was miming him. The beautiful green gift wrapping met the floor a few seconds later, torn apart. Jarod was now holding a large book in his hands.
“1000 Wonders of the World”, Jarod read. “What story does it tell?”
“There’s no story, Jarod. Only pictures from all over the planet. You need to see the world outside these dark walls, until the day you can see it with your own eyes.”
Jarod didn’t know what to say, and so he said nothing. But Little Miss P didn’t mind. Witnessing her friend’s amazement for just a book, seeing the sparkles in his brown eyes and the wide smile on his lips was better than any words.
The two children sat on the floor against the wall near the airvent, knowing someone else will probably join them soon. Young Jarod glanced at his amazing friend, and thought about the concept of Christmas, much more understandable now. He opened the book.
Many years later, the no-longer-little Miss Parker was still waiting for Daddy, all dressed-up in a black cocktail dress. She was rearranging her Christmas tree one last time before Daddy’s arrival. But he never came. One quick phone call and she was alone for Christmas. Even Sydney had plans, she thought, still a little bit curious about the nature of these plans. She turned off the lights of her tree and went to her room. She took off her dress and put on her silk pyjamas, convinced that her night would only get worse if she didn’t go to sleep.
To match her thought, she heard a bell. A bell? Miss P shook her head, but the sound echoed again. She raced to the living room and was greeted by the previous emptiness of the room. She was about to turn around and leave when her Christmas tree lighted up. Parker spun around in the room searching for Santa’s newest elf. “Show yourself, Ratboy! I know you’re here!” But he wasn’t here anymore. Instead, she noticed the large present at the base of the tree, a present wrapped in green paper and with a red knot. The elf’s identity confirmed, she took what was probably his latest twisted mind game and sat on her couch. Miss Parker ripped off the paper and opened the gift. Inside was a plush bunny wearing a beret and holding a picture showing Montmartre and its beautiful Sacré-Cœur. A “Jarod was here” was written with a marker in the parisian sky. She then took the card and read it out loud: “1 down, 999 to go.”
Miss Parker smiled.
Merry Christmas and happy New Year to everybody in our beautiful Pretender family.