“I’ve been a good girl this year, haven’t I?”
Margaret stroked her daughter’s dirty cheek and said, “You’ve been an angel.”
“Then do you think Santa will bring me what I want most in the world this year?”
Margaret turned away so Shelly wouldn’t see her tears. She knew Shelly had asked the shelter Santa to bring her daddy home last year. Margaret had hoped Shelly would ask for something else this year.
“I don’t know, baby,” Margaret answered. “Santa always tries his best to bring good little girls what they want.”
Shelly smiled. “Last year I wasn’t good all the time so I didn’t get my present. I tried to be extra good this year. I washed my hands before we ate at the shelter.” She gave her mother a worried look before she said, “The bathroom at the shelter isn’t very clean though so that might not count.”
“Oh, baby,” Margaret whispered and hugged Shelly close.
Shelly hugged her mother back. She loved cuddling with her mother. It was the only time she really got warm, especially when it started snowing like it was that night.
“I ate all my food, too. Even the yucky green beans they give us all the time. I didn’t eat them all last year. I’d dump them in the floor sometimes,” she admitted quietly.
Margaret squeezed Shelly even closer. She didn’t like the green beans either, but she knew they both needed to eat whatever they were given. Who knew when they would get another meal?
Shelly pulled away slightly and looked at her mother. “I even helped Mrs. Brandon go to the bathroom the other day,” she said and grimaced.
Margaret laughed despite herself. She knew it wasn’t right to laugh, but Mrs. Brandon was the most cantankerous person she had ever met. Not to mention that the elderly woman hadn’t partook of the shelters shower facility in who knew how long.
“I’m sure she appreciated that,” Margaret told Shelly. “It’s always nice to help others.”
“I hope Santa saw it.” Shelly thought a minute and then said, “Not Mrs. Brandon going to the bathroom, but that I helped her.”
Margaret didn’t know what to say. Shelly was only nine, and Margaret wanted to keep the magic of Christmas alive for her, but to let her believe Santa was going to bring her daddy back to them seemed cruel.
“Baby,” Margaret started to say, but when Shelly looked up at her, hope shining in her soft brown eyes, Margaret lost her nerve. At the questioning look Shelly gave her, she said, “Try not to be too disappointed if you don’t get everything you want this year.”
Shelly’s lip quivered, but she said, “I will try, Mama, but I really hope Santa was watching.”
Margaret hoped Santa had been watching, too, but she really hoped God had decided to keep a better eye on them that year, because only a miracle would bring Shelly her Christmas wish.