Santa dropped his sack with a grunt and leaned against it. It had been a long night, and he hadn't even finished New Hampshire yet. It seem that with every Christmas Eve the nights just got longer and longer. He sighed and wiped his brow with his left sleeve. Standing, he turned back to his sack and began to rummage around for presents.
It was a soft voice behind him. The voice of a young one, but not too young. In fact, it was the voice of a girl just barely young enough to still believe in him.
"Crap," muttered Santa under his breath.
He spun around, planting a big smile on his lips and willing his eyes to sparkle.
"Ho! Ho! Ho!" he shouted in a deep, loud voice. "Merry Christmas!"
The twelve year-old's blue eyes grew big and round. Her mouth hung open.
She wore a standard flannel nightgown that reached down to her knees. It had the faded image of a once popular cartoon character on the front. He recalled bringing it last year. Somewhere in his pack, Santa had a replacement for it.
"What can I do for you, dear," Santa asked.
The girl looked away and brushed a lock of her long blonde hair from her face. Santa wanted to shout; he hated when they turned suddenly shy, but he held his smile and waited for her to work up the nerve to talk.
"Um," she finally started to Santa's relief. "Mr Santa. Well, you see... my little brother... he ate all your cookies. You know, the ones we leave out for you every Christmas. And... well... we don't have any more for you and... I don't want you to not have anything from us. And please, please don't be mad at my brother and not give him anything cause he's really little and he doesn't know about things like that yet. Mommy and Daddy said it would be okay and that I didn't, like, need to worry or anything, but I didn't want you to not get anything..."
The girl blathered on as if no other house in the United States didn't leave him enough cookies and milk to keep him overweight and on a diet for a thousand years. Santa held back a sigh and let the girl wind herself down. Eventually, the girl ran out of steam. She pulled an empty plate from behind her back and held it out to him with both her hands. Tears leaked from her eyes and ran down her cheeks.
"Ho! Ho! Ho!" Santa laughed with a little extra joy. "That's okay, dear. Ho! Ho! Ho! I wouldn't want to spoil my appetite. Mrs. Claus has a special dinner planned for me, you see."
"Oh!" She looked up at him, her blue eyes still big and now wet. "I just don't want to send you home, like, all disappointed."
"I won't be," in a second he recalled the girl's name from his list, "little Violet. There'll be plenty of cookies for me tonight. Just leave me extra next year."
"But that's next year and I might forget, you know. I'm not good at remembering things like that. I'm getting in trouble all the time about not doing my homework and things like that. Can I make it up to you this year? Please!"
Santa gave Violet his best reassuring smile. Violet smiled back at Santa.
"I'm a Girl Scout, Santa." Her smile turned to a grin. "And not one of those regular Girl Scouts. I'm one of those 'special' Girl Scouts."
Santa's smile disappeared and he didn't fight the sigh he released before he said to Violet, "I'll be right back."
Leaving a dazed girl behind him, Santa walked into the kitchen. He turned to the door to assure himself that Violet hadn't followed him, then reached into one of the pockets of his fur trimmed red coat and pulled out a small cell phone. He fumbled a second with the buttons of his stored numbers, before he pushed the send button.
.... There is more of this story ...