The wind whispered through the dark, empty trees like a warning in a foreign language. Winter was coming, and with winter came Santa Claus! I have been a good girl all year.. Well, except when I was at a pool party over the summer. A girl named Ingrid pushed me into the deep end on purpose.. because she’s jealous! So, I put a water beetle in her ice cream. She deserved it. No regerts! I skipped three grades last year. I have a robust vocabulary, sure, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have my immature moments. I don’t have many friends in my high school AP classes. I am all the teachers’ favorite, though, so that’s something, I guess.
“Franny, are you ready to go to the mall?” Mom called from the bathroom as she carefully applied her scarlet lipstick. I lost track of time staring out the window! I was admiring the dripping icicles and sipping on my hot cocoa (with mini marshmallows!) while I was writing my letter to Santa. I got sidetracked because of.. Ingrid Petrillo. That brat. Bet she’s on the naughty list!
I signed my letter, shoved it in my pocket, and shouted, “Coming!” I slid out of my room in my Christmas penguin socks and down the hall towards the bathroom. I rhythmically frolicked about while singing Jingle Bell Rock to my Mom’s back. She smiled at me through the bathroom mirror. She sang along with me and booped me on the nose with her makeup brush. “Hey! Can I put on some makeup too?” I asked.
“Wh- -, no, not til you’re in high sch- -,” she trailed off.
“I. Am. In. High. School.” I stated matter-of-factly.
“No,” she laughed in between words. “I mean.. Y- -yes, you are.. b- -but I- -I meant when y- -you’re.. older,” she replied.
I paused. “Sooo… how about now? I’m older!” I teased as I checked my watch.
“Very funny, young lady!” She bent down and pinched my cheek.
“Mooooommm!!!” I swatted her hand away. I loathed being treated like a child. I put my hands on my hips and gave her the look.
“What? Oh! C’mon..” She teased and resumed applying her makeup. “How’d your letter come along? Did you write it in crayon or with a feather quill from your new calligraphy set?” She winked at me and bumped my hip with hers.
“I wouldn’t recommend submitting my letter to Santa for the Nobel Peace Prize, but yet.. it is satisfactory,” I plopped myself down onto the tub’s ledge and plucked loose strings from a towel hanging up nearby.
“Aw! I’m sure it’s more than satisfactory! I bet it’ll be deemed Fridge Worthy. I shall make a copy of your letter and showcase it properly for all to see in the kitchen!”
“Abigayle Lynn Brighton!” I threatened.
“Francesca Lily Bri- -” My Mother mocked.. me.
“You two ready to skedaddle?” My Dad interrupted from the hallway.
“Hey yo, Daddy-O!” I sprung up and gave him a tight squeeze.
“Oh! I missed ya Franny! Ready to see ol’ Saint Nick?”
“I am, but I don’t think Mom is,” I announced.
Mom froze mid-stroke while applying her mascara and leered at me.
I whispered into my Dad’s ear, “She’s been naughty and Santa’s planning to put coal in her stocking.”
“I heard that!” Mom blurted and stuck out her tongue at the both us.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the line to meet Santa Claus was shorter than it was last year! My parental units bid me farewell and wished me luck whilst they shopped nearby. As I tried to calculate the estimated time that I would reach the front of the line.. I noticed.. Ingrid Petrillo and her gaggle of Mean Girls were there without any parental supervision. Maybe their folks were shopping nearby as well? Who knows..
“Well, well, well.. look who it is! Franny the Tranny!” Ingrid chortled as she and her posse got out of line and surrounded me.
“Well, hello Ingrid.. and ladies. I’ll have you know that that is politically incorrect. The appropriate term is “transsexual,” which.. I am not because I emotionally and psychologically feel that I belong to the sex I was born, female. Thank you very much. If you could be so kind as to step aside so I may rejoin the queue,” I stated as I folded my arms across my chest. I maintained eye contact.
“What a freak! I mean, like.. you don’t even know how to speak American,” Ingrid spit back.
“It’s called English, but how would you know? You failed fourth grade.. twice,” I muttered under my breath as I pushed past Ingrid and her fellow comrades.
“What did you say to me?!” Ingrid barked as she grabbed my shoulder and swung me around to face her.
“Hey! I don’t want any trouble, okay?” I pleaded with my hands up.
Ingrid scoffed and stepped closer. “Listen here, you little dork,” she grabbed my collar. “You better watch your smart mouth because.. Santy don’t visit the funeral homes.”
I cowered while thinking about what she said. It sounded familiar. “Isn’t that a line from Home Alone?”
“Ugh! You’re gonna get it!” Ingrid raised her right fist back at a forty-five-degree angle towards my squinty face.
I prepared for the worst. I thought about the defrosting steaks in the fridge at home.
“Santa’s not real,” Ingrid breathed in my face as she let go of my collar.
I fell on my buttocks and yelped as I met the tile floor. I finally opened my eyes and felt tears streaming down upon my fire red cheeks.
“C’mon girls,” Ingrid called as she glared at me. “Later dweeb. Go cry yourself a river.” They disappeared around the corner towards the Food Court.
I eventually managed to stand up on my unsteady feet, dusted myself off, and wiped my wet face. I sulked over to watch all the other kids take turns sitting on Santa’s lap and telling him what they wanted for Christmas. Oh, my.. Ignorance is bliss. Those poor kids. I hope they find out the truth in a better way than.. I did.
A voice behind me interrupted my internal dialogue, “Honey, why aren’t you in line?.. Or did you already see Santa?!”
I steadily turned around to face the fabulists. “Is it true?” I whimpered.
“Oh, sweetie, what’s the matter?” My Mother.. Gayle bent down to comfort me.
“Is it true?” I loudly repeated.
“What? Is what tru- -” Gayle shook her head in confusion and caressed my wet cheek.
“She knows, Gayle,” my Father.. Wallace interrupted.
“Aw, Franny,” Gayle whispered as she guided me away from the crowd to a bench.
“Why? Why did you lie to me?” I cried and pounded my fist on my thigh.
“Well, I- -” Wallace hesitantly exchanged a glance with Gayle. “We. We wanted to treat you like any other eleven-year-old kid.. not like a prodigy. We wanted you to experience the joyous Christmas spirit because Santa is.. a special figure who represents the religious holiday.”
“That’s right,” Gayle took over. “Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings formed the basis of Christianity.”
I pondered this new information I was fed and paused with a finger on my chin. “So, Jesus Christ isn’t real either?”
Wallace and Gayle exchanged another glance. Their mouths were agape. Their lack of response made me feel uncomfortable. The longer it went on, it became unnerving, so I had to break the silence. I straightened up, wiped my face, inhaled, and exhaled deeply.
“Ooookay.. I’ll do my own research on the subject and let you know what I’ve concluded,” I gingerly rose from the bench, and headed towards the Food Court. “I could go for a high fructose corn syrup confection.”
I twirled around and asked, “You two coming?”
“Okay, it’ll be your treat,” I said over my shoulder as I trotted along.
“How was your day at school, Franny?” Gayle asked absentmindedly as I entered the house shivering off the snow from my hand-me-down parka, mittens, extra large scarf, over-sized hat, earmuffs, leg warmers, and galoshes.
“It was enlightening to say the least, Gayle!” I announced.
“Mom. Franny, please call me Mom,” Gayle pleaded. She still couldn’t even look at me. Disappointed in herself, I’m sure. “I’ll take Mother at this point.”
“Okay, Mother. I’ll have you know that I’ve completed my research, calculated all the data, and have come to a conclusion about the Santa Claus debacle.”
“You have? And?”
“I consulted with my Science teacher. I interviewed my high school classmates. Chatted with Mrs. Farley, you know her. The lunch lady, I sit with.”
“Mister White stated that his religious beliefs conflict with his Scientific findings, therefore he declined to comment.”
“My high school acquaintances shared their stories of how their guardians deceived them as well. They had various theories as to why. Some believe their parents felt obligated to conform with societal expectations or pressured by commercialism to taint their offspring.”
“Wow, okay. And what’d Mrs. Farley have to say?”
“She simply stated that adults utilize the mythical Santa Claus to trick adolescents to.. behave.. all year long!”
“Oh? So, what have you concluded?” My Mother, Gayle, finally turned around and noticed my rough condition. She gasped with both hands over her mouth.
“I concluded that,” I paused for dramatic effect. “I will be naughty whenever I please!” I cheered and pumped my bloodstained mittens in the air. I smiled widely with ichor smeared across my teeth and it spewed down my scratched chin.
“Francesca Lily Brighton! Wh- -what happened to y- -your mouth?!” My Mother exclaimed in sheer terror.
“I ran into Ingrid on the way home. She was alone. I decided she needed to meet Coal and Stocking,” I responded, still holding my fists in the air.
“Coal and Stocking?” Mother inquired as she tilted her head curiously and examined my fat, bloody lip from afar.
“Yes!” I kissed my left fist. “Coal.” I kissed my right fist. “Stocking.” I roared into laughter and victoriously pumped my fists in the air again.
“Just wait til your Father sees you, young lady.”
“Oh, relax, Gayle,” I pulled off my over-sized hat, brushed aside my long bangs, and unveiled my black eye. “Wallace will be proud.”