Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus sat at the table with two of the elves sorting stacks of mail into bins labeled NAUGHTY and NICE. The spicy scent of freshly baked gingerbread cookies mingled with hot cocoa and wafted through the room, lifted on the sweet notes of carols floating from the iPod speakers — a gift from the elves last Christmas. Mrs. Claus peered over her spectacles to find Jingle and Tingle frantically whispering to each other across a sheet of pink stationery, their normally rosy complexions had turned as white as the snow.

“Is something wrong, boys?”

“Oh, no, Mrs. Claus,” the elves answered in unison.

Santa dropped a letter in the NICE bin, and noticed work had ceased. “What’s going on here? No time for shirking. Christmas is only a few weeks away.”

Tingle shoved the letter at Jingle, who threw it back as if it was a hot potato. After several rounds, the paper began to show signs of wear.

“Give it here.” Mrs. Claus stretched out her hand, wiggling her fingers in a gimme motion and waited.

“It’s nothing Mrs. C.,” Tingle said. “We just aren’t sure which bin it belongs in.”

“Give it to Mrs. Claus, boys. She’s a fair judge of these things,” Santa said, as he perused the next letter in the pile. Jingle handed the wrinkled letter to Mrs. Claus, then hurried back to work.

Mrs. Claus pushed her glasses up on her nose and began reading. When she’d finished, she laid the letter on the table and slowly removed her eyeglasses. Her fingers drummed over the paper, making it crackle like chestnuts on the fire.

“Tingle, Jingle, leave us alone for a bit.” Though her tone was pleasant, there was an edge to it that sent the elves scurrying.

“What’s wrong, dear?” Santa asked.

“Who is Barbie?”

“Barbie?” Santa looked confused. “Why, she’s a doll, dear.”

“Not the doll — Barbie LaRouche. Who is she?”

Santa frowned, trying to make sense of the question. He tapped his chin, mentally reviewing his lists.

“She says in her letter she loves the ring you left her last year. That she’s been practicing ‘being good’ for you. That she can’t wait to see you on Christmas Eve. And she’s been saving THE BELT YOU LEFT AT HER HOUSE LAST YEAR!”

Santa’s eyes grew as big as Christmas cookies. “Are you accusing me…?”

“You did make up that story about Blitzen chewing your belt when I asked you about it what happened to it last year. It seemed unlikely then, and in light of this,” she waved the letter in his face, “I think you owe me an explanation.”

Without a word, Santa walked to the shelf where he kept his Big Book of Records. He opened it to the Ls and ran his finger down the page. “LaMoore, LaRose… ah, here it is! LaRouche, Barbie. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Eight years old. Very good girl. 2019-Beauty & the Beast ring.” He held the book out to his wife.

Mrs. Claus flushed with embarrassment. “I’m sorry, Kris. I shouldn’t be so jealous.”

“That’s all right, dear. I know it’s only because you love me.”

~Elise Skidmore ©2020

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