He graduates from NYU in December and needs a fill in job before he starts the one he has lined up.
His friend’s friends hook him up with a department store Santa job.
She works in the same store. She loses a bet with her friend and has to go sit on his lap for a picture.
She does and it’s not a big deal until it is…
Chapter One: Drayer
A gloved fist hit jaw and the bar around us went wild. I looked up from my phone idly, barely remembering to let out a whoop before returning to what I was doing.
“Dude, what the hell?” Nick asked, leaning over to look at my phone. “You normally love watching MMA. What’s up?”
I looked at my companion with very tired eyes. Twenty-three with dark hair and eyes, we looked fairly similar, and some mistook us for brothers instead of best friends, but I didn’t mind. The only big differences between us were my build was muscular and hard-earned from all the time I spent in the gym, while Nick had always had that skater sort of lankiness to him that he had never grown out of. My face was a bit square, his a bit more angular, and I always kept my hair a bit longer.
“Why are you staring at me?”
“No reason.” I returned my attention back to my phone for probably the fifth time.
“I’m not gonna ask a third time. What’s up with you? You’ve been acting stressed out and distant for, like, a couple weeks now. Didn’t you just land some fabulous job? Shouldn’t you be over the moon and living it up right now?”
“I should be,” I answered somewhat sourly. “But I’ve got a gap before it starts, and I’m going to be totally broke if I wait until mid-January to get a paycheck. I need something to cover the bills over the holidays, but who hires for just Christmas?”
“Oh, is that what you’re doing? Looking at job openings online?”
“Yup, pretty much.” I scrolled to the next listing, hitting the quick-apply button. “Been applying to things for weeks, but most of them have a month or two hiring processes, and I don’t have that kind of time.”
“What kind of jobs are you applying for?”
“Oh, you know, casual stuff. Office admins, paid interns, drivers, even a couple of food places. None of them are biting.”
“Hey, if you’re willing to tolerate the hell that is fast food, then you’re good with retail, right?”
“I’d rather not, but desperate times and all that.” I sighed. I was graduating from NYU in a couple of weeks, and I should have been living large and partying hard. I even managed the impossible and got a job in my field right out of college. But the issue was, since the semester had already wrapped up for much of the school, my on-campus job was gone. Although I still had a little money for food and transportation, I certainly didn’t have enough for my ridiculous rent, car payment, phone payment, or insurance. I had always liked to think of myself as a fiscally responsible adult, but the sudden lack of numbers in my bank account left me feeling stupid and unprepared.
“You know, the store where I work is hiring a Santa for the month of December. I could probably try to give you a bit of the hookup since I’ve worked there for so long.”
“Since freshman year, right?” I asked, recalling all the times Nick couldn’t do something because he only got his schedule every two weeks and often had no idea what shifts they would have him work.
“Yeah, exactly. I’ve managed to build up some brownie points.”
“Sure. You ask around and get some positives, and I’ll look into it.”
“Good. Now, will you put the phone down and enjoy the sight of two grown men beating the absolute shit out of each other like a normal human being?”
I laughed at that and slid my phone back into my pocket. One of the things I always liked about Nick was his way with words. He had this flippant, rapid-fire way of speaking that was absolutely hilarious to me. “I’ll try my best. Heaven forbid I miss out on any of the gratuitous televised violence.”
“Good. That’s my man.” He clapped my back and then turned his attention back to the TV. My eyes went to the program as well, but no matter how much I tried, my mind stayed focused on my job prospects.
Hopefully, things would turn around. Who knew? Perhaps this Santa thing would be a Christmas present to me.
I yawned and rolled over in bed, getting used to the idea of not having to rush to a class or get myself to a shift. Although it sucked facing possible complete broke-ness, I didn’t mind lounging about.
Lazily, I reached for my phone. It was past ten thirty, and a few weeks ago, I would have had to vault out of bed and rush to my first class of the day. Now I lazily checked my notifications to see what I had missed in my sleeping hours. First thing I noticed was a text from Nick, which I opened quickly.
Talked about u with Manager. Come fill out app ASAP.
Well, what did ya know? It looked like I was going to have to vault out of bed anyway. As quickly as I could, I rushed to my dresser, grabbed some clothes, and practically sprinted to my bathroom. I splashed some water on my face, dabbed it off, and then brushed my hair back enough to look somewhat professional.
From there, I got dressed and hurried to my very cold car, which, of course, I would then have to sit in for ten minutes while it warmed up. On second thought, I decided to take the subway. With the holiday rushes, it would take me forever to get to where Nick worked, and it wasn’t like I could afford all that gas anyway.
Heading back to my house, I grabbed the monthly metro pass my parents had left behind when they visited for a week after Thanksgiving. Then I walked to the nearest subway entrance. Thankfully, it wasn’t that far, so I was only half of a human Popsicle when I finally arrived.
My slightly shaking hands slid my card through the reader, and I was infinitely grateful that my start was underground. I would hate to have one of those outdoor stops or worse, the elevated outdoor stops like the first half of the Woodlawn line.
Looking around, I saw hundreds of people going about their day, living their best lives while they huddled under layers and layers of clothes. I couldn’t blame them. Even with my extra mass, I was feeling the bite of winter winds getting down to my bones.
Of course, looking around meant I couldn’t avoid spotting several couples walking hand in hand together or snuggling up on the subway. Sure, it was sweet, but it made me feel a bit lonely.
While I’d never really had trouble with the ladies, I had pretty much put all relationships on the back burner while I focused on my senior year. And obviously, it had paid off, considering I already had a job and all, but now that the big finish to graduate was over, I couldn’t help wishing I had someone to cozy up to.
Sure, I had my booty calls and sex friends I could call up. In fact, they were pretty much vital for me to get through the more stressful times of the school year. I had a pretty strong sex drive, and nothing helped me unwind from a test better than a little horizontal tango.
But I could have as much sex as I wanted, and it still wasn’t the same as having someone to cuddle, drink hot chocolate with, and go see movies with. Now that I was moving on into the world, I wondered if it was time for me to move on from friends with benefits to real relationships.
I didn’t quite have an answer to that before my ride was over, and I stepped off into a station only a block away from Nick’s work. I texted him that I was about ten minutes away and headed out, feeling hopeful for the first time in a couple weeks.
I arrived without any incident, and I checked my phone to see that he had messaged me directions on where to go to ask for an application. He was sending a manager my way. Taking my coat off and straightening my sweater, I headed in the direction he told me.
I found my way easily enough and saw a bored looking teenager trying to paste a sincere smile on her face as she stood behind the customer service counter.
“How can I help you today?” she asked, her voice clearly strained from over-niceness. If everything went according to plan, that would be me soon.
“Hey,” I answered. “I would like to apply for your open Santa Claus position?”
“Oh, of course! Let me find that application. It’s different from our last one because it’s seasonal and involves both costumes and specific hours.”
“Thanks. I appreciate it.”
She disappeared under the counter, and I could hear her opening various filing cabinet doors until she finally let out a noise of triumph.
“Ah! Here it is,” she said, slapping it onto the counter with a flourish. “Do you need a pen?”
“Brought my own, actually,” I answered with a bit of a smile.
“Ah, good. Well, I’ll leave you to it.” She took a couple of steps away, of course still having to remain behind the counter, but I appreciated her attempt at giving me privacy. Leaning over the counter, I started filling it out.
“Hello. I hear you’re interested in our Santa position?”
I had barely gotten a couple of lines filled when I heard someone speaking behind me. I turned and glanced at the man to see he was wearing a manager’s tag. “Oh, yes! Hi, I’m Drayer. Nick told me you had a position open, and I was definitely interested.”
“Have you ever had any Santa experience before?”
Dammit. Well, I was an honest person, so I might as well tell the truth instead of trying to get by on a lie.
“No, I haven’t, but I’m a quick learner, and I have been told I take direction well.”
“Honestly, that normally wouldn’t be enough, but we’re in a bit of a jam. We’re really about to get into the Christmas swing, and I need a Santa by tomorrow. I had to let our last one go on Friday, so it looks like I don’t have much of a choice. If you can start tomorrow, it’s yours.”
“Y-yes! I absolutely can!”
“Good. Looks like you’re hired. How about we go into the back and start filling out paperwork? You got two forms of ID?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“Great, that will make all of this much easier.”
The man walked away briskly, and I followed him, still in a bit of shock. After all my searching and applying, slowly going further and further down the job ladder, I couldn’t believe I’d just walked into a seasonal job.
I guessed I owed Nick big time. He saved my holiday.