Full disclosure: I wrote this in just over half an hour for a Flash Fiction contest, then missed the deadline. It is probably terrible.
Also, this is the kind of place my mind goes when I hear “winter holiday celebration.” Deepest apologies.
A Heartwarming Story of Christmas Cheer
“Great, Gary, that’s great.”
“We’ve got others—I mean. If you prefer a red suit I can do red no problem.”
“No, no. Orange is fine. Really. She won’t mind.”
“You sure? ‘Cause I can do red. Still three days.”
“No,” I say, though my gut tells me yes, ask for a red one. You paid for a red one. Gloria specifically asked for a red one. It’s Christmas for chrissakes, and you know how Gloria is and the fuss she’ll make and how she’ll accuse you of not paying attention, or caring, or not caring like you used to, and–
“Orange is a bit like red,” says Gary.
But the suit’s very orange, and Gloria knows the goddamned difference between red and goddamned orange.
“It’s fine,” I say.
“Well, okay then. Sorry. I hope she likes it.”
“She will,” I lie.
Gary lovingly folds the suit along the slender lines that mark its seams. They won’t stay, the seams. Gary’s good about that. Once the suit is on, there’s never a seam in sight.
I make my way down Fourth. There’s a Santa Claus standing outside a department store, bobbing a rusty bell up and down like a character out of a bad Dickens adaptation. His skin is patchy, his flesh riddled with the cuts and stitches that come with too many re-skinnings.
A beautiful woman crosses his path and mine, and for a moment there’s a glow in his eyes of lust, or sadness, or of want. The beautiful woman turns and smiles, not at him, but at me, and I see that she, too, is full of stitches.
The woman drops the bag she’s carrying, stumbles as she tries to reach for it, and ends up in a heap in the road. I rush to her side, even as another, handsomer man in a green skin-suit stops to help her.
The man recoils when he sees the cheapness of her flesh. The mottled colour. As he moves off, I move in. I help her to her feet, peeking into the bag she dropped.
“It’s for my husband,” she says. She looks down at the ground, ashamed.
The suit is clearly secondhand.
“It’s all right,” I say. “I know a shop.”
“No. You don’t understand. I don’t have the money, and he–”
I notice for the first time the bruise on her cheek. I think of Gloria, and her yelling, and what she’ll do when she sees the orange suit.
The woman’s hand is worn, calloused. It’s been skinned before, then re-skinned. I lead her quietly toward Gary’s store.
I call Gloria and tell her to meet me at Gary’s shop. By then I’ve already slipped Gary a wad of bills, with a wink and a nod at the back room.
Gloria isn’t long. Gary tells her he has something in the back room. After half an hour he returns. The woman looks to Gary and then to me, questioning. I nod. I smile.
Gary and the woman are gone for some time. When Gary returns it’s not the woman with him anymore, but Gloria, blushing, touching her cheeks. There’s not a scratch on her. Not a stitch.
Gary’s good about that. Once the suit is on, there’s never a seam in sight.