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Grandads Gift

I didn't believe him at first, I looked at him on the playground through squinted, suspicious eyes.
"There's no such thing as Santa Claus!" he'd said and laughed at me. Of course, if he was right then I'd been lied to through all of the 9 years of my life.
But I was a clever boy, and I could understand why, if it was true that there was no such thing as Father Christmas, all parents would collude with each other to create this magical present bringing character.
But I didn't want to hear it from the biggest idiot in the class on the last day of term. If my holiday was going to be ruined and Christmas was never going to be quite the same again then I needed to hear it from someone that I could trust. Which is why when my Grandad collected me from school that day and we walked to his car I asked him if it was true that Santa Claus wasn't real.

"Goodness me, m'boy" he snorted "Of course Santa Claus is real, and it really annoys me when people pretend that he isn't!" Now this surprised me, my Grandad was never one for pulling punches. If something needed saying he was the one to say it. I knew him to be honest because it was him I had asked earlier on in the year about the tooth fairy and he'd just smiled and said "Believing in the tooth fairy is a great game that parents love to play, don't spoil it for them just yet, not until you think they're ready." And so I hadn't, but I expected the same response about Santa so to hear him say that Santa Claus was actually real gave me an odd mixture of excitement and disbelief, which must have shown on my face because he then said "I think we need to take a little detour on the way home" and no more was said about it.
I didn't know what to think. Where were we going to go on this detour? Surely not the north pole, that would be crazy. Does Santa have some warehouse or office near us?
Oddly, we pulled into the supermarket car park and as I was trying to get my head around what was going on my Grandad took out his wallet and pulled a £5 note from it he held the note in front of me and said
"I want you to think of someone. Someone you maybe wouldn't normally think about. Someone who you think needs a present." I leaned back a little in the seat and looked around the outside world for inspiration. It was a cold afternoon and although it was quite bright the sun was beginning to go down and any warmth was disappearing as quickly as everyones collars could be turned up.

That's when I remembered Emily.

Emily had moved to our school in the summer, she didn't talk much about it but her parents had separated. She didn't see her dad very much she'd said, he lived near her old house but Emily and her Mum had moved in with Emily's Grandparents and that's why she'd had to move schools. They lived in a flat above the hairdressers near our school and I saw her most days climbing the steps up to it as me and my Grandad drove past.
I remembered her because earlier that week it had snowed and it was good snow too, real snow, sticky snow that meant you could make a snowman as quickly as roll a tennis ball. So during the school lunch break that's what we all did on the playing field. We built snowmen, snowwomen and even snowdogs. Every one got involved, even some of the teachers. We pulled on our gloves and mittens and sculpted the funniest of things.
At one point Emily stood next to me with her hands in the pockets of her light pink coat as if waiting for something.

"What's up?" I said.
"Nothing" she said with a smile "Just warming up my hands a bit." And then took her hands back out of her pockets, grabbed a handful of snow and squashed it onto the side of a snowman to make a kind of ear shape. She wasn't wearing any gloves, and when I asked her where they were she said "Don't really need them, not when I've got pockets" and she rubbed her hands a little before stuffing them back into the pockets of her coat.
But I watched her whilst we played and she did need some gloves that much was obvious even to a 9 year old.

As I sat in my Grandad's car thinking about what had happened that day there must have been a change on my face because my Grandad said "Thought of someone have you?" and I nodded.
"Emily." I said "She really needs some gloves." My Grandad smiled and handed me the note.
"Right then" he said "Best get to it m'boy" and so I put the five pound note in my trouser pocket as he opened the car doors and we trotted across the car park to the supermarket.

The clothes section was near the entrance and there was a whole section just for winter things, so it didn't take long to find a selection of gloves. There were thick ones and thin ones, fingerless gloves and mittens. But there was one pair that was exactly the same colour as Emily's coat, they were light pink with a white stripe across them and came with a hat that matched. They were just under £5 and were ideal.
I grabbed the pack and showed my Grandad with a smile. "These are perfect" I said.
"That's great" he replied "I'll meet you at the doors." And he gestured me towards the tills and wandered off towards the exit.

Now, I'd been shopping too many times to count with my Mum but I'd never gone through a supermarket checkout by myself before and it felt quite overwhelming to be looking up at the lady on the till as she scanned in the hat and gloves. "Are these a present?" she said with a smile.
"Er..yes" I replied "For a friend."
"That's lovely" she cooed "Santa's alive and well after all then" and she winked.

I met my Grandad at the exit and I walked back to the car with a spring in my step, I felt different for some reason. Not excited as such, it was something else and it was a while before I realised what that feeling was.

My Grandad had a cupboard at his house where he kept his gift tags and wrapping paper and when we got there he went straight to it and pulled out some thick, shiny silver wrapping paper and a tag for me to write on. "What shall we write?" he asked. I sat for a moment thinking about the reason why this whole event had happened.
"I'll write 'To Emily, From Santa'" I said and grabbed a pen.

We wrapped the gloves and the hat together and taped the tag to it, then my Grandad stood up and said "Best get back into the sleigh then m'boy" and we headed back out to the car.
I showed my Grandad where Emily lived and he parked a little further down the the road. It was a cold evening and as I got out of the car, clutching Emily's present from Santa to my chest, I could see my breath in the air and my heart was beating quite fast. I half expected to see Emily on her steps, so in my head I began preparing an excuse for why we were there just incase. But I needn't have bothered, there were lights on in the flat but no one was outside. "You take the present" whispered my Grandad "And I'll hide here" he disappeared behind a row of bushes and I was left on my own with the present and a racing heart.

I sped up the steps, swiftly but quietly, and put it down outside their door. I glanced back to see if my Grandad was watching, but if he was I couldn't see him. Then I rang the doorbell and raced back down the steps to the bushes and quickly hid with my Grandad.
I could see the door open and a woman appeared, it must have been Emily's mum, and she looked around at the empty space where a visitor would be for a moment before she noticed the present on the step. It took a few seconds for her to realise what it was and she bent down to pick it up. She stood in the doorway for a moment not quite wondering what to do before she disappeared back inside and slowly closed the door with a soft click. My heart was still racing, but not with any concern about being caught. I was excited, I was happy and I had that same feeling I felt when I first bought the present. Only now I knew what it was.

Pride.

I was proud of myself and proud of my Grandad for showing me that Father Christmas really is alive and well and as long as everyone continues to believe in him then he always will be.

© Richard Nicholls
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