Part Eight: Naomi visits Santa
Blair wiped the rainbow stacker, careful to remove every speck of dust. He was on his cocoa break and helping Jim in the woodshop. He didn't actually make, paint, polish or varnish any of the toys, but he was allowed to nestle them into their individual boxes.
He'd just closed the box when Naomi appeared. "Naomi, what are you doing here? Did you…?"
"Of course, sweetie, mission accomplished," she said, giving him a salute. "Now, I just need to have it out with Simon, and we'll be all set."
"Who's Simon?" Jim asked, walking over to her. "Hello."
"This is my mom, Naomi." Blair introduced. "Naomi, this is Jim."
Naomi held out her hand. "How wonderful to meet you, Jim," she said in a sultry voice. "I would love to hear what you did to lure my son away from University."
"Mom, don't start." Blair said, then turned to Jim. "I forgot to tell you. After you mentioned Cascade, I asked Naomi to find Mrs. Claus and convince her to come back." He turned back to Naomi. "So, you talked to her?"
"Indeed, I did, and she isn't 'Mrs. Claus'. She's Joan Banks, currently married to Simon Banks. But If he doesn't get on the stick, Santa's going be served divorce papers."
Blair gasped. "What are we going to do?"
Naomi crossed her arms, looking stern. "I'm going to see Mr. Simon Claus and give him a reality check. Where's his office?" She closed her eyes. "Never mind!" And vanished.
"What are we going to do?" Blair repeated, this time to Jim.
"We're going to listen in," Jim replied. "Come on."
They zipped to the rafters above Santa's office. Jim could see through a crack, but both could hear clearly because Santa was bellowing.
"Who the hell are you and what are you doing in my office?"
"What a charming greeting. Do you always treat your guests so well?"
"Oh, excuse me for being upset that you've broken into my Workshop." Santa said sarcastically. "This place is off limits to civilians."
"Well, I'm not a civilian. You can think of me as a recruit."
"Oh, and who recruited you?"
"Oh, shit, now I'm going to be fired for sure," Blair whispered.
"Shh," Jim whispered back.
"It doesn't matter who recruited me. It matters why. You're too pig-headed and depressed to see everything is falling apart. Your elves are unhappy, work efficiency is down--even your reindeer have indigestion. And it's all because you're not facing your personal problems."
"Wha--" Santa said, flabbergasted.
"How can you make children happy when you're not? They'll feel it--don't think they won't! Do you know what tonight is? The Winter Solstice--the longest night of the year. Appropriate, because if you don't fix your life right now, it will stay dark. I've just visited your wife, who could soon be your ex-wife."
"You've seen Joan?"
Suddenly, Simon deflated. "How are they?" he asked softly.
"You're going to see for yourself. I'm setting up a mediation between the three of you. But first, I need to know what you want--really want. I've already heard from them. Do you still want to be Santa?"
Simon nodded. "I love this job--if you could call it a job when it's so much fun. We've got a great Workshop and, truth be told, I like being away from humans. So many of them are sad or angry or miserable." He lowered his voice. "I wanted to be a cop, to put criminals away so people would be safe. But I think what we do--reminding people of love and joy--is important, too. I'd hate to give it up."
"And your wife and son?"
"I love them both. Daryl is becoming such a fine young man. I was hoping he'd take over the reins when I'm ready to let go." Simon sighed. "Joan just never seemed to like it up here. I don't know why."
"Well, lucky for you, I do. So, now we're ready to pow-wow." With that, she and Simon disappeared.
"I like your mom," Jim said. "She's a take-charge kind of person. Maybe this will get resolved."
"I just hope it gets resolved before anyone notices Santa is missing."
To distract themselves, they went to the kitchen, where Jim sampled Blair's new recipe for arctic char.
"Naomi's back," Blair said, feeling her distinctive tingle. They zipped to the rafters to listen. Naomi was talking to Santa.
"You'll continue your good work and Daryl will stay here with his friends and help his dad."
"And you can teach me the business, so I can take over when you're ready to retire," Daryl said happily.
Naomi continued. "And Joan will travel the world. I'll be her companion for now--show her the ropes. She'll come back for regular visits and, during the off-season, she'll take Daryl with her to broaden his horizons."
Joan nodded. "I wanted to come back to say goodbye to the elves and to bring Daryl back to where he belongs." She pulled Daryl in a strong embrace.
"The Workshop is running so smoothly, perhaps I could break away and join you occasionally?" Simon asked hopefully. Joan smiled and reached out to squeeze his hand.
"Well," Naomi said, clapping her hands together, "I think my work here is done. You know how to contact me if you need me. Happy Solstice!"
"Wait!" Simon cried out. "You never said who recruited you."
Naomi gave him a sly smile. "That would be telling, Santa." With that, she disappeared.
The next instant, Naomi, Blair and Jim were in the woodshop.
"That was awesome, Mrs. Sandburg," Jim said. "I bet this is going to be the best Christmas here in a long time."
"You're so sweet to say, Jim, and call me Naomi." She turned to Blair. "And now, young man, are you going to the university or what? I thought you wanted to learn Dwarven," she teased.
"Oh, Ma, this is even better. Jim's a sentinel! I think we'll stay here, at least through the busy season. Then..." he shrugged.
"Well, you two take care of yourselves and each other. You know I'm only a thought away. But for now, I'll paraphrase. 'Happy Solstice to all, and to all a good night!'" She gave them both hugs and disappeared.
Jim and Blair grinned at each other. They joined the other elves just as Santa, in his jolliest voice, called, "H, break out the champagne!"