How have you been this year? I’ve been well. We moved into a new town and a new house this spring. I’ll write down the address so that you won’t accidentally go to the wrong place. I didn’t think I’d like it here at first, but I love it. I’ve made new friends and my room is a lot bigger than it was. Mom seems a lot happier here too.
This year I’ve been good. I’ve done the dishes when mom tells me to, and I’ve kept my room clean. I also got an A in math, which I think should count.
I only have one wish this year.
I’d really like a dad.
I don’t know if that’s something you can make happen, but I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, so I guess I’ll spend my one wish on that.
If that’s not something you can do, then a Nintendo Switch.
Jack folded up the letter neatly, tucking and closing it into an envelope before handing it to his mom. On the back of it he wrote To Santa and put a reindeer sticker where the stamp would go.
"Here. Make sure you take it to the post so Santa will get it."
Jack loved his mom. That wasn't why he wanted a dad. It was because he'd never had one, and some of the kids at school had made fun of him because of it. His best friend, Pete Dameron had two dads. Jack hadn't even realised that was possible, but it sounded awesome. He wouldn’t have admitted it to anyone, but sometimes he was a little jealous of Pete. He got to have two dads while Jack had none. Jack thought his mom was great, but it would have been nice to have another guy around.
Of course there was Ben, but Ben wasn't his dad.
Ben was his mom's friend, and he was around a lot. He'd come over and have dinner, or they'd go to his place. He was cool, super tall and really good at video games. Ben was also funny and always played with him when Jack asked. He helped him with his homework - Ben was super good in English. He knew really difficult words and how to spell them.
Those were all good qualities to have in a dad, Jack supposed. He hoped that if Santa did give him a dad, it would be Ben. He would have been perfect. The only problem was that Jack wasn't really sure how that would work. If Ben was his dad that meant he would also have to love his mom, and since they were friends, Jack wasn't sure if that was alright. Were mom’s and dad’s friends? Probably not. How could they be friends when they also had to kiss and hold hands, which was gross. Jack would have never wanted to kiss his friends. Ben always covered his eyes when the three of them were watching a movie where adults kissed. “Cooties!” he’d gasp and Jack’s mom would laugh. Jack took that as a sign that he didn’t want to kiss her.
"What did you wish for?" his mom fiddled around the envelope, shining it against a light.
"Mom! That's for Santa, you can't read it!" Jack shouted, trying to grab the letter back to himself.
“But I’m curious!” she held the letter above her head, running around the living room coffee table. Jack chased after her, horrified. His mom couldn’t read the letter, she wouldn’t understand.
The front door opened and shut, and Jack saw a familiar figure taking off his shoes in the hall.
“Ben, help!” Jack sprinted to him, grabbing his arm.
“Hello to you too. What’s happening?” he was smiling, shrugging off his jacket while Jack dragged him to the living room.
“Mom took my letter! She can’t read it, it’s for Santa.”
“Opening letters that aren’t addressed to you is mail fraud.” Ben straightened up, his hands propping on his hips.
“Yea!” Jack cheered him on. He wasn’t exactly sure what Ben had said meant, but it sounded like he was winning.
His mom was grinning, holding her hands behind her back. She swung from toe to heel. “I don’t know what he’s talking about. I have no letter.”
“Liar!” Jack gasped and ran after her again. His mom giggled and ran around the room, the letter swinging in her hand above her head.
Ben blocked her from escaping the room, and he snatched the letter from her hand, now holding it above his head. He could nearly touch the ceiling. He was so big and tall. He once lifted the sofa when mom needed to vacuum under it. Also good qualities for a dad. Weren’t dads supposed to be big and strong? Jack thought so.
“Nice!” Jack cheered, pumping his fist into the air.
“Here you go, little man”, they high-fived, and Ben ruffled Jack’s hair.
Jack held on to the letter. He needed to get it to the post, but his mom couldn’t be trusted with it.
“Will you take it to the post for me?” he asked, offering it back to Ben. He puffed out a little laugh. Ben’s eyes darted to his mom, then back at Jack before nodding and tucking the letter to his back pocket.
“Sure. Can’t have your mom sneaking your wishes. Right, Rey?” Ben grinned at Jack’s mom. It was a little weird when he called her her name, but that’s what adults did. Sometimes Jack just felt like he forgot that his mom even had a name. She was mom. But Ben couldn’t call her that - she wasn’t Ben’s mom. That would have been weird.
“Fine.” she sighed. “I hope you didn’t ask for too much. Santa has a budget, you know.”
“I didn’t. It’s not expensive at all. I don’t think so.. “ Jack got a puzzled expression. Did dads cost something? Or could you get them for free if you had a grill and a car? Ben had both, but they were at his house. Maybe that counted.
Later that same night, long after Jack’s bedtime he woke up. He really, really needed to pee, so he got up and pitter pattered downstairs to the toilet.
It was four in the morning. He walked to the kitchen to grab a glass of water before going back to sleep. It was dark in the hall, but Jack swore Ben’s shoes and jacket were still where he’d left them when he arrived. That was weird since he’d not seen anyone sleeping on the sofa.
Jack rubbed his eyes. He was still too tired. He could investigate in the morning.
He climbed the steps back to his bedroom and tucked himself under the covers. He couldn’t fall asleep immediately, because why would have Ben gone home without his clothes? It was possible that maybe he’d forgotten. But who forgot to wear shoes when going outside? It just didn’t make any sense.
In the morning Jack woke up and nearly jumped out of bed to run downstairs.
The shoes were gone, as was Ben’s jacket.
He must have imagined it after all.
He walked to the kitchen, still baffled. He could have sworn he’d seen them.
His mom was in the kitchen, making breakfast. Her hair was down, which was unusual. She always wore it in buns, even in the mornings.
“Good morning sweetie”, she chimed. The kitchen was filled with the scent of scrambled eggs and coffee.
“Morning.” Jack climbed on the bar stool around the kitchen island.
“You look awfully serious. Did you not sleep well?” his mom put eggs on the plate for him and Jack poured himself orange juice.
“No.. I thought I saw Ben’s shoes last night when I went to pee.”
“Hmm that’s odd. Maybe you had a dream.” she circled the table to kiss the top of Jack’s head. Maybe she was right. Maybe he had imagined it, or had a dream. It had been dark. Maybe they were mom’s shoes he’d seen.
“Maybe.. “ Jack scooped eggs in his mouth, and watched his mom work around the kitchen. She seemed to be in a good mood, though she always was when it was still early. She called herself a morning person.
She was still in her pyjamas. She had to keep tucking her hair behind her ear because it was falling on her face over and over again. She had a strange red mark on her neck, right below the ear - like a bruise. Jack saw it and frowned. It was weird, but he decided to keep it to himself. Maybe she’d poked it somehow in her sleep, or maybe a bed bug had bitten her. Jack had fallen asleep on the sofa, so he couldn’t wish her good night.
Yea, that must have been it.
It was Christmas eve.
Jack was jittery. This would be the night. During the past month he’d been starting to get doubts. Santa probably wouldn’t bring him a dad. How would that even work? Would Santa put Ben in a box, or would Ben be sitting under the tree with a bow around his head? It all seemed wrong. Not to mention the disappointment if he brought someone else - like one of Pete’s dads! He had two, Santa would probably think he could spare one. Jack didn’t want a stolen dad, he wanted his very own.
The good sign was that Ben was still over when his mom drove Jack to bed, saying Santa couldn’t come if children were awake.
Jack wasn’t too sure about that rule, but why risk it when the stakes were so high.
At midnight, Jack woke up to the sound of thumping and jingle bells clinging.
He was immediately awake, sneaking out of his room to peek out of the staircase. The view to the living room was clear. The lights were out but the tree was luminating the whole space - and right there, in the living room, was Santa.
Jack’s heart was beating heavily. He’d never caught Santa before. He was beaming, looking quietly and curiously when the big man in a red fur suit placed packages around the tree.
No box was big enough to hold Ben in them unfortunately.
Santa’s face was covered in a white beard, but strangely enough he had some black hair sticking out the back of his red hat. Maybe it was the light messing with Jack’s eyes. He wobbled around the living room, bells clinging, steps heavy, and that’s when Jack heard it.
A bright giggle that belonged to no one else but his mom. She was in the living room with Santa.
Jack nearly gasped when he saw her, dressed in a night robe and fuzzy socks. She stood right under Santa’s nose and smiled, reaching up, up, up until her hands were around his neck, pulling his head down and-
Jack’s mouth dropped open.
Mom kissed Santa. Right on the lips. And then she laughed and tickled his chin.
This was horrible. This was the worst mistake that could have happened. Mom wasn’t supposed to be kissing Santa. She was supposed to kiss Ben.
Santa must have misunderstood his letter and thought Jack was asking for him to be his dad.
Jack scrambled out of the staircase, back to his bedroom, eyes blown wide. His breathing had turned to panting. This was the worst thing that could have happened.
It needed to be fixed, and there was only one way Jack knew how. It would require a little help.
“Merry Christmas!” Ben came over early. Good. He was crucial to the plan to make everything better.
“Merry Christmas”, Rey hugged him when he came in. There was still hope. Maybe Jack’s mom wasn’t in love with Santa yet.
Jack got up from under the tree, and walked to Ben with a serious face.
“Merry Christmas, kid.” he smiled, his face lined with dimples as he took off his winter coat and shoes.
“We need to talk.” Jack’s tone had nothing resembling merry. He took Ben’s wrist and dragged him away from his mom’s earshot, up the staircase and into his bedroom.
“Where’s your smile?” Ben knelt down so they could be face to face.
Jack felt a lump in this throat. This was awful. The worst thing he’d ever had to do. But it would have been much worse if Santa became his dad. He had to fix this.
“I’ve made a mistake.” Jack’s eyes watered, and Ben’s smile fell. He pressed his hand over Jack’s shoulder.
“Mom kissed Santa!” It came out in a shout. Jack was bawling, while Ben looked more confused than anything, and a little red in the ears.
“Well that’s.. Interesting.” He scratched the back of his neck. “Why are you crying?”
“It’s my fault! It’s my fault and I need your help!”
“I wished that Santa would bring me a dad! But I didn’t mean that I wanted Santa to be my dad, but he kissed mom and- and-” Jack was speaking fast, unclearly, words slurring when he tried to yell them out through his tears. “I didn’t want this! It was supposed to be you-”
Ben’s expression changed again. His mouth parted, brows drawing up like he was confused, but he looked sad.
“You should be the one kissing mom, not Santa.” Jack’s voice was stuck in his throat and he began to hiccup.
There was a moment of silence, after which Ben wiped Jack’s eyes dry to his palms and hugged him.
“Shh.. We can still fix this.”
“Let me get this straight- you asked Santa for a dad? And you meant me?” Jack’s eyes were still blurry from crying so hard but there was nothing wrong with his hearing, and Ben’s voice had definitely cracked a little. “But then Santa was the one who kissed your mom?”
Jack nodded rapidly.
“Wow.. Santa is a jerk for stealing her like that.” Ben sighed and stood up. “To think I almost got to be your dad..”
“You said we can still fix this?” Jack was looking up expectantly.
“Well.. We should probably ask your mom, right? I shouldn’t kiss her without permission.”
That made sense.
“Rey!” Ben got up and took Jack’s hand. He led them from the room and back downstairs. “We have a situation.”
“What is it? Baby, why are you crying?” Rey hurried from the living room and knelt down to cup Jack’s face.
“Ben, tell her.” Jack was still a little too weepy to talk.
And Ben explained. His mom listened, nodding along while soothing him. Finally she crossed her hand over her chest.
“That Santa.. I knew I shouldn’t have kissed him.” she seemed furious, and rightfully so.
“There’s only really one way to fix this.” Ben said with a serious tone.
Jack’s mom nodded very seriously. She turned to Jack, bending down on one knee.
“Are you sure about this? Are you sure Ben is the right one?”
Jack had to look up at Ben. He had a lot of great qualities. He was big and strong, fun, he was really smart and could count to at least a million. But perhaps the one thing that Jack had failed to pay attention to before was that he made his mom happy. She’d cried a lot in their old home, when it had been just the two of them. Now, she was always smiling and not once had Jack seen her cry. He believed a lot of that had to do with Ben. He made his mom smile. It seemed like the most central job for a dad.
“Okay.” She hugged Jack and got up. Ben laughed a little when she put her hands on his shoulders and pulled him lower until she smacked a kiss on his puckered lips.
Jack’s heart leaped.
“Does that mean you’re now my dad?”
“Well.. “ his mom was the one that hesitated.
“Let’s call it a dad-in-training. You can still call me Ben.” Ben chimed in. He reached down to pick Jack up, supporting him on one arm while the other one wrapped around his mom’s hip.
Jack nodded. That seemed fair. Ben had never actually been a dad. Jack was sure it took a lot of practice - like any other profession.
“So are you two.. In love?” Jack didn’t know why the question made him blush, but he had to ask. Moms and dads were in love. That’s how it was in movies.
“Hmm.. Yes.” His mom nodded, flashing a smile at Ben.
Jack’s heart was as light as a feather. He’d never been so happy. He smiled, but then he noticed that Ben’s lips were quivering a bit. He was looking up at the ceiling, blinking.
“Ben, why are you crying?” he asked with concern. Maybe he wasn’t happy after all. Maybe he didn’t want to be his dad.
“I’m just.. I really, really love you two. These are happy tears, kid.” he sighed.
It was a Christmas miracle.
The next hours passed quickly. Weirdly enough Santa had also brought Jack a Nintendo Switch, which was odd, but not an unpleasant surprise.
Ben and his mom sat on the sofa, Ben’s arm around her shoulder, her head resting against his chest as they followed how he opened gifts. They looked happy.
Jack couldn’t wait until Ben’s training would be over and he could start calling him dad for real.