My Christmas Gift to You, "The Snow Globe", (c) December 2013.
The Snow Globe
by Sofie Couch
(c) December 2013
A snow flake landed on her face, near enough her mouth that she could touch it with her tongue.
She spat. Artificial snow flakes, while not exactly bad for you, did not inspire her confidence to eat them. Just the notion that it was artificial and that what was really melting in her mouth was the substance used to make processed mashed potatoes wasn’t exactly appealing.
Margot brushed the “snow” from the tops of her thighs and shook her head. A deluge of white stuff rained down, intensifying the effect created by silent blowers and vacuums that were hidden in the “forest”. The same “forest” that hid the mechanical equipment, was masterfully constructed so as to hide the business end that inflated the life-size snow globe.
And every year, Margot set her own bar higher than the last. She wasn’t sure how she would ever top this – the life-size snow globe that took up the entire grand foyer at McPhelty’s Department Store. Santa would sit in his throne inside the snow globe – another design of masterful proportions – and greet children. And while they looked up at Santa in awe and wonder, too tongue tied to remember expansive lists of toys, “snow” would rain down on them from above, light and airy, just like a real snow globe. Well, like the real snow globe on her mantle at home, minus the glycerin gelatinous goo that snow in a snow globe floated in. This was better! Sans goo.
The snow globe at her home had always intrigued. This was a recreation of that miniature globe – the pathway, the snow laden trees, and Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause walking hand-in-hand through the woods. Margot took one last stroll through the Winter Wonderland, brushed off her clothes and shoulders, then pushed through the glass door to the curtained barrier between snow globe and grand foyer of McPhelty’s department store.
Pulling her phone from her back pocket, she checked the time, then quickened her pace. She would barely have time to rush home, change into her dressy clothes, then get back to the store in time for the grand unveiling.
Her lips pulled up into a smile as she saw, in the distance, the man who would be her Santa this Christmas. Jason McPhelty, the heir of the McPhelty Department store franchise, held court in… the food court. There were no purveyors of mass production hamburgers in the McPhelty Department store food court. Here, you could purchase chicken cordon bleu to carry out in gold cardboard boxes tied up with a gold ribbon for a “catch-your-breath” fee. Designer chocolates were sold by the pound and shipped all over the world in similar gold on gold boxes with the McPhelty flourish on top. Margot had designed that logo too.
But this year, Jason had given her every indication that the gift he gave her would come in a small, black, velvet-lined ring box. And sure enough, he was there, in the food court, holding court. He was holding a woman’s hand and admiring her ring. He ran his thumb across her knuckles. Maybe he was checking the size. He glanced both ways, left and right, then drew the woman’s hand to his mouth. Margot stopped walking. He kissed the woman’s hand, then inserted her entire finger into his mouth and….
Margot felt sick to her stomach, still trying to make sense of what she was definitely seeing. Maybe her ring was stuck on her finger? He could be trying to help her moisten it? Maybe?.
Jason glanced again, left and right, never noticing Margot who was standing practically in front of him. Well, she was beside and behind him, half hidden by a grotesque artificial tree that bracketed the doorway to the food court.
He pulled the woman to him, his arm around her waist and his hand fixed to her bottom like it was beginning to take root, making a concave dent in her plush tushy. He kissed her on the lips.
The scent of designer chocolates and twice baked chicken cordon bleu played a cacophonous duet inside her nose, and she felt bile trying to rise up in her throat. Margot spun around, her smooth soled tennis shoes making no sound, but giving her no traction either. She felt like she was walking on dust and she nearly fell. She caught herself on the hideous tree and then all but ran to the exit.
Outside, it was beginning to rain. Shoppers bustled around her, some staring at the woman who looked a little bit crazed, standing in front of the department store doors, wearing no more than jeans and a light sweater while rain pelted them. The shoppers wanted inside, around her, and she could not get outside fast enough. She barely made it to the street before she threw up in the gutter. A car sped past, throwing dirty vomit water back up on her shins.
Margot turned toward her home and walked.
Mostly, she plotted revenge. She pictured herself, a knock-out in her new dress from McPhelty’s, the one that was hanging in her closet with tags still dangling from the left armpit. She would walk into the invitation only party tonight and she would exact her revenge. She would find a man – another man - and flirt shamelessly. Of course, no sooner than the plan began to take shape, she knew she didn’t have it in her to carry it out.
She tried to imagine herself as the vamp. The picture would not gel.
Jason would be there, looking like his usual dapper self. He was supposed to be her date, but they had agreed to arrive separate. Margot recalled it was his idea to hide their attachment from everyone until the last minute since it would raise eyebrows if everyone knew they were a couple before Christmas bonuses were handed out. Come to think about it, Jason had discouraged their being open about their relationship last Christmas too. Something about it being easier if they were more gradual in revealing it to everyone at work and at home. His home. Margot didn’t have anyone with whom to share the good news.
She popped two antacid tablets, stripped down to nature, and stepped into the shower. She was washing away the old Margot, the doormat Margot, the Margot who accepted people at face value and was sucker punched when someone lied to her.
The hot water scalded her skin and it felt good. It made her sensible to the fact that she had been played. A show tune of similar theme popped into her head and she put her hand to her head to do as the song suggested, and wash the man out of her hair. The water ran. She ran her hand through her hair… and she noticed something else out of sync with her usual routine. Her hair - it was slimey. She pulled a long side piece around to look at it. She had to squint without her reading glasses. There was something horribly wrong.
She put her hair to her nose, and then it hit her. Potatoes. Her hair was sudsing up with a nice heaping helping of instant mashed potatoes – the main ingredient in the snow globe’s artificial snow.
“Oh no.” She washed. She lathered. She rinsed. She repeated.
A half-hour later, Margot debated whether she should snap the tags off of the dress and arrive as planned, or skip the big unveiling and return the dress in the morning. She could not see herself continuing at McPhelty’s. Without her job and Jason, what did she have? She shook herself. She felt surprisingly relieved. Before seeing Jason with the other woman, she had been nervous about the looming proposal. Because it had not been definite and predictable, it had kept her in a perpetual state of unrest. Margot liked things spelled out. She did not want the promise of a surprise. It was sort of like Christmas – the Christmas – the one on which she had found out, with all too much realism, that Santa Clause was not real. That same Christmas, she had lost both parents in a Christmas holiday post-party crash. She was eight years old. Her only gift that year had been the snow globe that held a place of prominence in the center of her mantle. There was no Christmas that year and although she had already begun to figure it out, it was a rude awakening to find out that, not only had she lost both parents, but she lost Santa Clause too. But rather than being scarred by the event, she had embraced Christmas and ever since, had been trying to create a “last Christmas” for children all over the city – one that they would always remember, even after they lost the magic.
And the life size snow globe was as much her glimpse of the magic as it would be for the shoppers of McPhelty’s Department store. She resolved to see it through. Margot stepped into the dress and pulled the side zip. She turned in front of the mirror. Now, in the dull light of her bedroom, it was not so spectacular as it had been in the store. The black dress, instead of the dream image of sexy, just sort of made her blend into the background. That, coupled with her hair that despite repeated washings, still held the body of hair washed in mashed potatoes, made her look lank. She pulled a limp curl to her nose. Coconut… and mashed potatoes.
She was late. She slipped her feet into the black flats, then thought twice about it. She wore the flats for Jason’s sake. They were the same height unless she wore heels, so she always wore the flats out of deference to him. She tossed the flats into the back of her closet and pulled out her heels – the ones that were ridiculous for anything other than selling yourself on the street corner. Just a splash of perfume…. Margot sniffed the air. More than a splash, perhaps, to overpower the smell of the mashed potatoes. She gave herself an extra spritz that bordered on over-powering.
Finally ready, she dashed out the door, armed and ready to face Jason.
Doormen, paid extra for working overtime at the party, stood outside the department store doors. They were looking particularly smart in their black suits with the red piping and hats. Each doorman held an umbrella and met attendees at their car on the curb, escorting the ladies with their umbrellas to protect hairdos that defied gravity. The gentlemen ran to the doors, brushing rain from their lapels.
By the time Margot arrived, she was truly regretting her choice in shoes. Her feet were killing her after walking a dozen blocks from her home. The party was already in swing, but they would not do the unveiling until after she arrived, so she knew she had not missed anything. Still, there would be a nervous knot of upper management – a genetic brew of McPhelty’s – all wondering and worrying about her late arrival.
Margot hiked up the hem of her dress and dashed up the steps to avoid being delayed in the rain behind an elderly couple who were being cosseted by a doorman. She dashed up the steps. Unfortunately, her heels did not lend themselves to dashing. Halfway up the steps, her heel snapped.
“No, no, no!”
“Here. Let me help you with that.”
Suddenly, the rain stopped as an umbrella placed over her head deflected it. Margot looked up from her broken shoe, taking in black, shiny shoes, incongruous with the jeans they were worn with, the black turtleneck, and the handsome face. His eyes were young and smiled at the corners, but his silver hair suggested a different age.
He took the shoe from her hand.
“You think you can fix it?”
“Absolutely...” he turned it over in his hands, “…not. Sorry. But I can give you my arm up the steps.”
So it was with one hand on his arm, and the other holding up her dress, Margot made her lopsided entrance to McPhelty’s Department Store’s annual Christmas party. The man at her side was more under-dressed than she was with her one shoe. This was a black tie affair.
“You’re going to want to replace those.” He pointed down to her naked foot.
Her panty hose had given up along with the shoe and her walk up the steps had severed a large enough hole that the stockings were beginning to ride up over her foot like a pair of leggings.
Margot’s shoulders drooped.
“No matter. Follow me,” and taking her hand, the under-dressed man led her around the edge of the party behind a curtain and pushed open the service hall door that was hidden there.
“So, you work here?” He must, if he knew where the service hall was. Thousands of shoppers per year visited the store and never knew about the underbelly of McPhelty’s, the maze of hallways and “employee only” and “management only” doors. Part of the McPhelty franchise’s success was the sense of magic and drama.
“Sort of. I’m just temporary, seasonal help.”
Most of their seasonal help were made up of young people still in school or retirees – those who had the freedom to work irregular and piece-meal hours. Maybe he was older than his eyes indicated. Except for his hair, he did not look old enough to be retired.
“Well, you are one of Santa’s elves tonight. Thanks for the hand. I can find what I need from here.”
“You sure?” He let go her hand. “So you work here too?”
He was very seasonal if he did not know who she was. As the art director, she turned up in every department at some point during the holidays, bringing her craft bag of magical displays with her wherever she went.
“Yes. I, er, have access to some tools and I may be able to mend my shoe.” For the first time, she felt a hint of nervousness. Afterall, no one knew she was here yet and she had allowed this man to lead her down the service hall. This man could torture, rape, murder and rob her and no one would find her for hours – maybe not until the store opened again tomorrow morning.
“You’re sure?” He glanced down at the watch on his wrist.
Her nervousness subsided. He was probably late for changing into his doorman clothes and relieving the men outside in the rain.
“Yes. Thank you. You’re a knight.”
“Always happy to help.” He tapped his watch. “But I should get going. See you later.”
Margot turned right, down the corridor that led to the back of the art department studio, while he made his way left toward the rear entrance to the men’s department.
Margot worked better under pressure. Barely thinking about what she was doing, she tugged off her pantyhose, tossed both high-heel shoes into the fifty-gallon trash can at the end of the work bench, and pulled a shank of faux leather from a bolt on the wall. With a piece of chalk, she outlined her foot directly onto the back of the pleather, then cut it two inches larger. She threw it on the industrial sewing machine and fed in a long piece of ribbon as she sewed until what she had created was a very flexible, black flat moccasin. She snagged a bit of black trim and hot glued it on the top of the toe, hiding much of the home made look of the shoes. The end effect would have been cute with a pair of jeans. With a dressy black number, it was… serviceable. And the flat shoes made her dress hang a bit lower, so the shoes were less noticeable.
When she suddently “appeared” from behind the velvety curtains in the grand foyer, she was able to meld into the clutch of upper management without a grand entrance. She was on the side of the circle farthest away from Jason when she was finally noticed.
“Oh, there you are. We were beginning to wonder.”
“Just doing some last minute touch-ups.”
“Great.” Old Mr. McPhelty, the patriarch and leader of the family franchise nodded before turning to his grandson, Jason. “And you, did you get our Santa situation resolved?”
“Yes. He’s in the back getting dressed.” He turned to Margot. “We should probably head back to collect him, so you can take him to his post before the unveiling.”
“Alright.” What else could she do?
Jason offered her his elbow and led her back through the crowd, down the same hall she had just traversed, but this time, turning left toward the men’s department. “I didn’t see you come in. Where were you?”
“I was… tweaking a few things last minute.”
Jason pushed through the door that led directly into the men’s changing room. And there, the man from outside, the one with the prematurely gray hair, was just pulling up red suspenders.
“And here is the man of the hour. Are you about ready?”
Santa spun around, seeing Margot in the mirror and his smile went all the way to his eyes. “I am. Well, I’m having a little bit of an issue with my ‘bowlful of jelly’, but other than that….” And his jelly kept sliding down inside his red pants.
“Hello again. Here. I can help with that.”
Margot walked up behind Santa and put her arms around his waist. “It’s the catch at the back. I think the hook and loop tape is weak, but I’m pretty sure we can fix that.”
“You two know one another?” Jason asked.
“We do,” Margot answered. “Santa and I met outside.”
“Cinderella had just lost her slipper and I was just in the right place at the right time.” He looked down at her feet. “Lovely. Did you find those in the shoe department?”
“I found them in the art department – which is where I work. I didn’t know you were playing Santa.”
“Last minute,” Jason supplied. “Peter, Margot. Margot, Peter. Peter’s a friend of the family. Our usual Santa fell and broke his hip. Peter agreed to step in at the last minute.”
Margot, with her arms around Peter’s waist to adjust his “belly”, froze. “My goodness. A broken hip? That’s awful.”
“Looks like long-term convalescence for him. But Peter was free to step in.”
“Well, so long as it’s only temporary. Like I said, it’s a pretty busy time of year for me.”
But Jason wasn’t listening. In fact, he was already moving toward the door to the employees’ corridor. “Now, not too much longer, Margot. I know what a drama you like to make of the whole unveiling.” And he was gone.
Her brow furrowed. Drama? Was that her doing? That was her job, wasn’t it?
“I’m sorry, Peter, but you’re going to have to pull out your shirt so I can get to the back of your belly padding.”
He smiled at her through the mirror. “If you can make a pair of shoes out of scraps from the art department, I can’t wait to see what you can whip up for Santa’s round belly.” He began pulling out his shirt tail, and Margot went to work on the mis-aligned catch.
“Are you comfortable?”
“Are you kidding? This is the Cadillac of thrones.” Peter ran his hands over the arm rests. “Is this walnut?”
“It is. I re-purposed an old sleigh bed. I have a pretty small budget for this size production.”
“I would say you had exceeded expectations.”
She smiled as she helped him adjust his beard. “You’re the real star on the top of the tree. How do you know Jason?”
“Really? Jason never talks about his old college buddies.”
“We weren’t really that close in college.”
Margot was sure there was a story there, but she didn’t press.
“It was a surprise to get a call from him, but I guess, you know, it’s the….” He pointed to his hair.
Peter smiled. “It’s hard to remember that when you’re a twenty-something college student and already going gray.”
Margot handed him his Santa hat. “Too bad your beard isn’t real. You could make a killing at this Santa gig.”
Peter looked around the interior of the snowglobe. “Too bad you’re not given a bigger budget. You could make real magic with skills like these.”
“The magic is in making something from nothing.”
He was studying her face. “Yes. I know what you mean.” He patted his belly and let out a “ho, ho, ho.”
Margot laughed. “Pace yourself, Santa.” She gave a faux fir tree one last twist of a branch. “Are you ready?”
“Bring on the ‘kiddies’.”
Margot lifted a tuft of greenery. “Hold on to your boots, Santa.” She flipped the switch and the potato flake snow began to gently rain down on them.
Peter looked up at the plastic, transparent, domed ceiling with awe. “Magical,” he whispered.
Margot held up her two crossed fingers for luck, then disappeared around the snowy path of evergreens and woodland creatures.
The curtains were pulled back and there was a second of silent awe, followed by applause. This Christmas display was the jewel in her crown. Margot’s least favorite part of her job was this – the meet and greet the art director. So as soon as it was possible, she melted into the background of the crowd, disappearing from the McPhelty family clutch. She took two steps back from the main entrance to the snow globe and one step to the side and she was all but hidden. She had intentionally devised a giant evergreen with a special hollow on one side of a plaster boulder to provide her a vantage point to watch the crowd as they took their tour of what was sure to be talked about for years to come – the McPhelty Department Store’s giant snowglobe.
The crowd of party-goers slowly folded in through the door in single file. From outside, she could hear the laughter as men and women dressed in their party finery turned their faces upward to feel the “snow”. And their enjoyment almost overshadowed her disappointments of this same day. At least, it would have if the source of her disappointment had not appeared in front of her at that very moment.
Jason and the woman from the food court stood not more than a few feet away from her, having moved into the corner half hidden by evergreen trees.
“I want to meet your family.”
“That would probably be best left until after Christmas. Then you can be introduced more gradually.” He looked over her shoulder to ensure they could not be seen. “Believe me, I’m doing you an enormous favor in not springing them on you all at once. The McPhelty clan is best taken in small doses.”
Words that were all too familiar to Margot.
He tried to nuzzle the woman’s neck, but she was resistant.
“That is not the impression I have of your family. If I had to guess, I’d say you didn’t want to introduce me to your family.”
“Ridiculous.” He tried again to nibble on the opposite side of her neck.
To her credit, she put up her hand between them. “I think that shows a decided lack of faith in me on your part. In fact, it sounds like a ridiculous excuse to deflect any form of commitment.” She was an iceberg and Margot applauded her. “I pride myself on knowing where I stand in a relationship. So far, it seems like this relationship is going no where.”
“I’m hurt!” He played the role of a wronged man.
“I think you’ll get over it.” She started to move away, but Jason reached out and grabbed her arm.
“I won’t get over it. You’re the one, Margot.”
Her expression froze. “Except my name isn’t Margot.”
His mouth fell open. There was no way to pull his foot out of it.
“Margot? I didn’t say… who is Margot?”
“Your art director, unless I’m mistaken. The mastermind behind your holiday décor. You’ve mentioned her before, only you’re usually more tactful and don’t supplant her name for mine when we’re making out behind the ficus.”
He shrugged. “It’s an evergreen.”
“So is a ficus.” She slipped out from behind the faux woodland and rejoined the party. Jason waited a moment before he too left the relative privacy of the corner forest.
And Margot felt a bigger fool than she had before the party began. Everything that had come out of Jason’s mouth was part of his shtick to woo the ladies, have a bit of fun, but never, ever commit to anyone. What only made it worse was that she had never really committed to him. Perhaps a small part of her had known all along. Jason was unreliable. He was good for dinner and a movie, but because it was all very secretive to avoid the appearance of nepotism, it had not been enjoyable.
So she determined in that instant that for at least this night, she had no expectations of him, any exclusivity she may have felt was a fiction, and she was perfectly justified in wanting to party a little – especially tonight – on the biggest night of her year. She stepped out of the alcove behind the tree and fake boulder, straightened her shoulders, brushed potato flakes from her shoulder, and headed out into the throng.
“Margot! Where have you been?” Jason asked as he caught up to her.
“Partying, Jason.” She lifted her glass. She felt liberated. She spun around on the marble floor and took a sip. “My duties have been fulfilled and now I’m taking a little break.”
“Yes, well, while you were partying, I was looking for you.” He tried to step into her arms and join her for a dance.
But Margot pulled her arms back and spun away from him.
“Nope. From now on, I’m partying alone. You’re not on my guest list, Jason.”
He stopped moving, stopped trying to match her dance moves.
“What are you talking about?”
“No hard feelings. Hey!” She raised her glass to the woman from the food court and from behind the evergreens. She was a good distance away from them, but she had been watching Jason operate. “He’s all yours!” She pointed at the woman then at Jason. She spilled a little bit of her champagne. “Oops. Sorry ‘bout that.”
“How many champagne flutes have you gone through?”
“Just this one.” She looked down at her half-full glass. “Well, just this half glass.” She nodded back toward the other woman. “Oh, don’t worry about me and my reaction to finding out about her.”
“You know. Miss Food Court.” She put her finger in her champagne, then into her mouth and sucked the clear liquid, imitating what she had seen him do just a few hours ago in the food court. “It’s only tawdry if you don’t own up to it. And it sounded as if she’s not going to take that sort of dismissive behavior from you. I may have been willing to accept your crumbs, but, hey, introduce her to your family and she might come around.”
“I don’t have any interest in that woman. Margot, what are you talking about?”
“Don’t, Jason.” She put her hand to his chest when he began to move in again. “Mr. McPhelty, I can see now that any relationship with you would make for awkwardness in the work place, so consider this my two weeks notice. I will tender my resignation to human resources tomorrow morning bright and early.”
Jason took her arm and spun her to face the wall rather than the other employees and guests. “What are you doing, Margot. You can’t leave. Not like this. They’ll know.”
“How could they possibly know, Jason? You were so careful to keep your romantic dalliances separate from your family life. All toward your desire to avoid commitment. Isn’t that what Miss Food Court said? I didn’t see it before, until I overheard you give her the same lame excuses you’ve been giving me for two years. Only she’s smarter. She saw them for what they were – excuses to avoid commitment.” Again, Margot raised her glass to the other woman, but she had gone. “She’s smart. Smarter than me. Smarter than you, for that matter. She’s a keeper. Too bad you didn’t.”
“Margot, the family will know it’s because of me that you’ve left. Granddad will be devastated.”
She shrugged. “Then maybe you should settle down with someone – someone else – and give him what he wants. Grandchildren. For now, if you’ll excuse me, this is sort of my celebration. I have given a little bit of magic to the world and for tonight, I get to have a glimpse back in time and remember what it was, to know the magic of Christmas.” And with that, she walked away from Jason.
The crowd had died down outside the doors to the massive inflatable snow globe, so she was able to walk right in to her own creation without jumping ahead of the line. And this was where the real party was happening. “Snow” slowly spiraled down from above and sifted white winter on the partyers heads and shoulders. There was a substantial amount on the artificial trees and the floor was covered. Only the red-brown pebbly pathway was clear in places where it was shuffled and blown by the guests and their feet.
She walked down the path and the effect was magical. Guests stooped to scoop up handfuls of potato flakes and hike them at one another, the flakes retaining their light fluffiness and slowing before they could be pelted at anyone. One woman lay down in the middle of the floor and made a snow angel, leaving behind her outline and taking with her a large quantity of “snow” stuck to the back of her evening gown.
Santa was a huge hit. Peter posed for photographs with a buxom woman who took up much of his lap, hiding the pain well. Margot smiled when she caught his eye and waved. He whispered something to the woman, who left his lap. And he waved Margot over.
Margot moved to the side of the sleigh bed throne.
“You look like the giant elf himself.”
He patted his leg. “Care to tell Santa what you want for Christmas?”
Margot laughed. “World peace, an end to famine, … a job.” She did not take him up on his offer of a seat/
He sobered. “Are you serious?”
“World peace and famine are very serious.”
“And the job?”
“Less serious… but it will be a very real issue in the very near future.”
He nodded. So your work is seasonal too?”
“Well, it was full-time with benefits, but after tonight…” She shrugged. “This is going to be the last Christmas I bring a little bit of magic to the shoppers at McPhelty’s Department store.”
“I take it this wasn’t exactly planned?”
“Inevitable, I suppose.” She shrugged. “I’ve had a good long run of it though – a venue to bring magic to children at Christmas – before they stop believing in magic forever.”
He frowned. “Is that what you think? That we lose the magic of Christmas once we stop believing in Santa Clause?”
He shook his head and looked around the interior of the snow globe. “Then you need to take a minute to enjoy your own magic. What you’ve created here is truly magical.”
Margot joined him in people watching again. Everyone was having a great time, and it was, in large part, due to her effort to create this small bit of what Peter called “magic”.
“Thanks.” She nudged his arm. “I’m sure Santa deserves a break about now. Care to join me at the bar? There aren’t any kiddies here tonight to be scandalized by Santa having a little reprieve.”
“Maybe just a little egg nog?”
“We’ll see what the bartender can whip up.”
Peter offered his arm, Margot accepted it, and arm-in-arm, they strolled through the winter wonderland, down the path and to the snow globe’s exit.
Once outside, she realized just how warm it had begun to get inside the globe. The inflatable dome required internal blowers, but the moderate heat from the blowers, and the greenhouse effect of the globe under the department store lighting, in conjunction with the fact that it had to be sealed to keep the snow inside, was something of an unforeseen technical difficulty. She would have to see if she could resolve the problem with some portable air conditioning and filters – before the end of her two weeks.
The air from the grand foyer felt cool on her skin and someone else who had noticed the temperature change decided to open the quadruple doors that led into the store. The breeze from outside felt good, but the rain was coming down now in a great torrent. As they moved toward the open bar, another technical problem became very apparent.
Between the guests romping inside the snow globe in ways it had never been intended to be used, enough “snow” had been brought out on their shoes to create a dusting of potato flakes across the grand foyer. That, now mixed with the rain that was being tracked inside from outside, began to mix and stir. The scent that rose up from the floor was undeniable. Mashed potatoes. As one of the deparment store manager’s waited at the door for the doorman to bring her an umbrella, she touched her hair in distraction, concerned over it getting wet. When she pulled her hand away from her head, an offended look came over her features and looking left and right, she surreptitiously put her hand to her nose and sniffed. She scrunched her nose.
Someone else, just inside the door, slipped on the mashed potato floor and only barely recovered. Quickly, the word began to spread as those nearest the doors and the slip-slidey mashed potato mush began to realize it was caused by the snow mixed with water. The floor manager with the wet hair conferred with another partier. It wouldn’t take them long to trace the goo to its source.
And just as Margot began to turn toward the senior McPhelty, to own up to her mistake in using potato flakes for snow, Peter put his hand to her elbow.
“I think we should get our egg nog to go.”
“I have to tell them. To explain to Mr. McPhelty….”
“I think they already know.”
Jason was conferring with his grandfather, pointing to the mush on the floor, the manager’s hair, the snow globe with its still swirling snow.
Peter did not give Margot time to think. He pulled her with him, slipping once at the mushy entrance, but recovering and helping Margot to recover her own footing. Still wearing the department store’s Santa suit, he blazed a trail through the partiers who were beginning to slip-slide in earnest. On the street, the rain was coming down and Margot knew what would happen to her hair, as well as Peter and everything he was wearing. He was about to turn into one giant, red, slimey potato skin.
As her hastily made shoes became water logged, Peter led them in beating a hasty retreat until McPhelty’s department street was a rainbow reflection on the black, rain slick street.
“Okay, I feel a little bit bad about that.” Margot stopped smiling. “If anyone should get hurt….”
“They won’t,” Peter assured, but how he could know that for sure was anyone’s guess. Still, Margot believed him.
Somehow, as they ran, then stopped running to only occasionally glance over their shoulders, their hands had become interlocked. Now that they were walking slow, it felt natural. Margot had never had a hand-holding relationship. Certainly not a relationship with Jason whereby she was free to hold his hand whenever the mood struck her. They always had to be careful about who saw. But as they walked down the street and people passing glanced their way, they smiled their approval at the woman who was walking hand-in-hand with Santa Clause.
They crossed the street at the park, and as they left the noise of the street behind, the rain turned to snow. Evergreens crowed them on either side and the setting began to look familiar. The life size snow globe was not magical. Neither was Margot’s small duplicate snow globe at home on her mantle. This – walking down a wooded path, with snow swirling down around them, as they held hands – a duplicate of a time when she believed in Christmas., that was magic.