Six year-old Caleb Matthias knelt beneath the table, quiet as a mouse, watching his mother wash dishes. He scrunched up his face and stuffed his fist in his mouth to stifle a sob. Every time his ma cried, Caleb wanted to cry, too. And these days, crying was all his ma seemed to do. Sometimes, she cried because Sir or Ma'am yelled at her, and other times, like now, she cried for no reason. At least no reason Caleb could see.
With the help of a little gnomette, Caleb helps to make his mother's Christmas the best it's ever been!
"I hate Christmas," he said. "I hate Sir and Ma'am."
He rolled over on his back, swiping the tears from his face and staring angrily at the ceiling. "I hate Johnny Dietz, and I hate, hate, hate Santa."
"What kind of a thing is that for a sweet, six year old little boy like you to be sayin', eh lovey?"
Caleb sat up so quickly, the stuffed bear his ma had made him for his birthday last month flew off the bed. It landed right at the feet of a kind-looking little woman. A very little woman, not much bigger than the bear. The lady had on coal black pants, a long, green shirt tied with a bright red belt, and a matching pointy hat. She looked just like the little people in the book Miss Adams read to them during circle time last week.
"You're a…" Caleb gulped, staring wide-eyed as the tiny woman nodded and smiled. "You're an elf!"
"I'm Lola. Lola Lewinsky. And you are Caleb Matthias. Pleased to meet you, little man." Lola walked toward the bed, her hand extended.
"Pleased to meet you, ma'am." Minding his manners, Caleb shook Lola's hand. "But how did you – I mean, how do you know my name?"
"Oh, I know everything there is to know about you, Caleb. You and your ma…and those nasty old grandparents of yours." While she spoke, Lola climbed up to join him on his bed. She sat beside him, crossing her legs Indian-style.
"You mean Sir and Ma'am? You know about them?" he whispered. "Better not let them hear you say anything bad about 'em. No one says bad things about Sir and Ma'am."
"Humph. Never you mind about that. I'm not here to talk about them, anyway. It's you I came to help. You and that pretty, lonely ma of yours."
"Ma's not lonely." Caleb addressed the one thing Lola said that stuck in his head. "She has me!"
"Of course she does, lovey." Lola patted his knee. "And she's luckier than a four leaf clover to have you. But sometimes grownups need more than just their children to not be lonely."
"You mean like a daddy, don't you?" Caleb looked down at his hands. "We don't have a daddy. He got deserted before I was born, and no one knows where he is."
"I know all about that, too, lovey, and that's part of why I'm here. I want to help you and your ma, but first I need you to do something."
Caleb raised his gaze, eyeing Lola warily. "What?"
"I need you to see Santa."
"No!" Caleb scooted back until he hit the wall. "I hate him. He goes to all my friends' houses, but he doesn't bring me nothin'. Not ever. Not even when I was good for two whole weeks."
Lola smiled and her eyes sparkled like they had stars in them. "You were good for two whole weeks?"
"I was. I didn't even stick my tongue out behind Sir's back after he yelled at me, and I finished all my veg'tables at supper – even them brussel sprouts." Caleb looked down again, his vision blurring as tears welled in his eyes. "I hate Santa. I won't go see him. I won't."
"Alrighty, then. I guess that's that." Lola slipped down from the bed. "But here I was, thinking you were a big boy, and would want to make your ma happy."
Caleb glanced up as Lola turned away. He blinked back his tears. "If I see Santa, Ma will be happy?"
Lola turned, grinning. "Yeppers, lovey. Well, not immediately, mind you. It'll take some time. A few days, maybe a week. But everything starts with you meeting Santa."
"Okay." If Santa could make Ma happy, then he'd do it. He'd do anything if it meant his ma wouldn't cry any more. Maybe, if Ma were happier, he'd be happier, too. Maybe they could leave Sir and Ma'am's, and get a house of their own. He nodded, his decision made, hope blossoming in his heart. "I'll do it."