Krunchy the Grumpy Christmas Elf
This is a whacked out Christmas tale if ever there was one. There is plenty of foul language ahead, but thats really about it.
Big thanks to my beta. Youre the best.
Noel swayed back and forth. Fuck. She was sober and had apparently been in a bar fight. Her head was unusually clear; her fists and the flesh around her right eye hurt. Staring at the pitted gray stone that made up the alley wall, she stepped over the unconscious body in front of her and wandered to the street in a lurching zigzag pattern. Her feet didnt quite know how to walk when they werent compensating for inebriation. This situation sucked almost as bad as the time her drinking buddy Hollander went to buy the next round and tried to slip her water. The tasteless liquid, missing of any barley and hop goodness, and the fact she could clearly see the bottom of her glass had given away his trickery. She had punched him and he had never done it again.
Noel was not a big girl but she made up for it by living up to the stereotype of her Irish heritage, although her mother had pointed out that they were German by way of Italy. Bloodshot eyes scanned up and down the street. Where the heck was she?
She wandered down the street. The street lamps lit up the night with warm white pools. Sounds of revelry floated on the nighttime breeze and flowed into her ears like a lovers panting breath. Her attention perked up; a party more than likely equaled booze. Like a hound dog she followed the sounds to a good-sized stone church. St the rest of the church title was blocked out by a white banner that proudly proclaimed the Morrison Wedding Reception. She grinned. No one knew their booze like the Catholics and Catholic men who, in theory, had given up the right to even look at another woman in lust. She staggered down some steps and practically fell through the open door. A young man with a pinched face dressed in some sort of man-dress caught her. She brushed his hands away and stood up.
"Thanks," she said with a grin before trying to move past him.
"Do you know the bride or the groom?" the unpleasant-looking man asked, stepping in front of her.
She huffed. A beautiful keg was set up along the back wall with a pack of young men standing around it; they were trying to look cheerful but a sadness had seeped into their bodies because they knew a member of their pack had been taken down. Noel eyed the man in her way with some annoyance. She figured that he should eat more prunes; it would clear up that pinched look on his face. "I know Morrison," she replied.
He rolled his eyes and, to her astonishment, managed to look even more pinched in the face. "Which Morrison?"
Oooo, he was a quick one. As she tried to come up with an answer, her mind grew bored and drifted to a Southpark episode she had watched at the bar last night. Oh my Gawd! They killed "Kenny!" she blurted out.
He sighed in annoyance but still didnt believe she was part of the wedding reception. "And how do you know Kenny I mean, Kenneth Morrison."
Her mind was humming away to that blasted Blame Canada song. "Canada," she hummed out rather loudly.
He sighed in defeat. "Fine, but you look way too small for a hockey player."
"What? Oh, hockey, right. Yeah, Im good with a stick, fighting, all kinds of drinking, and on a good day all three. Well, nice talking to you, um, eh."
"Ill be keeping an eye on you."
"Uh huh," Noel responded distractedly. Mmmmm, beer. She shuffled over to the keg. The young men stared at her suspiciously. She nodded politely. "Shame about Kenneth, eh." They relaxed and let her take a glass to fill with beer. She raised her glass and shouted, "To Kenneth. Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, Too-ra-loo-ra-li, and all that rot. Someday I want what hes got!"
The young men hoisted their glasses with a loud hurrah and slammed down the contents.
Noel drained her glass as well and took the hearty thumps to the back and "good job" comments the young men sent her way as she got a refill. With the ice broken, she proceeded to drink them all under the table. By the end of the evening everyone at the wedding reception was convinced that, she played hockey for the Canadian Womens League even though she didnt have an accent. She drank, she cussed, and shed groped a few of the bridesmaids. What else could she be?
The keg having been tapped dry, Noel had been sent by the boys to go steal some sacramental wine. Squinting, she wondered where she was. There was very little light to see anything and it was cold. There would be snow soon she mused to herself. Looking up, she realized she had somehow wandered outside and fell over a bush.
"Son of a bit " Her curse trailed off as she noticed two bare feet in front of her face. "Dude, you are seriously going to get sick walking around without shoes on." She stood up, brushing a twig and a few dried up leaves off her sweater. She gave a loud belch. "Oops, excuse me." With a sheepish grin she looked over at the stranger. It was a woman with a pale complexion wearing some sort of pale flowing dress thing. Firmly etched onto the face was a sort of sad pitying look.
"Whoa! Way to overdo the vampire Goth look."
The woman didnt say anything, just continued to give her that look.
"Hey, fucking take your pity elsewhere." Noel was seriously starting to move away from the happy drunk phase to the angry drunk phase. The woman just stood there pitying her.
"Oh, now youre judging me cause youre so much better than me, Miss Im-to-dumb-to-wear-shoes-on-a-cold-night," Noel sneered. Again the woman said nothing. "Thats it. Im so gonna kick your ass." Noel shoved her sweater sleeves back. Cocking her right arm, she swung, overbalanced, and fell right into the womans outstretched hand, knocking herself out.
- - - - -- - - - - -
Chris stared at his lover boyfriend, boyfriend Glen was his boyfriend. He kept forgetting Glen hated the term lover, said it made him feel like an object of lust. Glen insisted he was much more than a good lay and Chris would do well to remember it. Chris figured it was pretty obvious that he did since they had been together now for almost four years, but figured Glen was just having a queen-out moment over something small so he let it go. He would just try to remember to refer to Glen as his boyfriend.
"Honey, you know you could have stayed home. Not that I dont appreciate you coming with me, but it is my sister and, if you remember correctly, you two dont get along."
Glen turned in the passenger seat of the rental car. Chris green eyes flickered to him then back to the road. "Yes, I realize your sister and I have not gotten along in the past, but this is important to you and I want to be here for you." Glen felt his heart do that gooey fluttery thing when Chris gave him a relieved smile.
Chris smiled and took his right hand off the wheel to give Glens knee a quick squeeze. It was sweet of Glen to try. He turned into the apartment complex and pulled into a spot. Looking over the detailed instructions his mother had given him for operation "First Noel", he found the apartment number.
They easily found apartment 302. Chris closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and knocked. Letters home from his sister had stopped four months ago; for the last month he and his mother had been trying to get a hold of Noel on her cell phone. Growing worried, he had volunteered to fly out and track her down.
"Just a minute," a female voice called out.
Glen rested his head on Chris shoulder. Chris kissed the dark curls and attempted to nuzzle but Glen elbowed him.
"Stop that. That hideous goatee thing youre trying to grow scratches."
Chris frowned; he rather liked his manly beard thingy. He was about to say so but the door opened. His frown deepened. He didnt know the woman standing in front of him. Had Noel and Trish gotten a roommate?
"Yes?" the woman said, eyeing them grumpily.
Green eyes slid to the apartment number. No, it was the right one. "Is No "
"Shirley, honey, who is it?"
His jaw fell open, then clicked shut, his teeth grinding together.
"Girl, that is so not cool. You are so dipping into someone elses honey pot while your womans away," Glen, tactful as ever, shot out.
Chris found his voice. "Trish, is my sister here?"
The tall blonde blinked, unable to process the commotion. She could swear that Noels brother and his lover where filling up her front doorway. Trish had always had a hard time wrapping her mind around the fact that Chris was gay; he was so, so, so straight looking. He had nearly white blonde hair cut short, sparkling green eyes, apparently was growing a beard, broad shoulders, and stood nearly six feet tall. He had played football in high school as well as college; her whole town had nearly given birth to kittens when he had come out of the closet. His lover - she couldnt remember his name - was slim like a swimmer and had short curly dark hair that framed his face and highlighted his blue eyes. He brought to mind a youth from a Renaissance painting, beautiful and out of reach. "Chris. What a sur "
Chris could give a fuck about pleasantries. "Is my sister aware youre fucking around on her?"
If Trish had hackles they would have raised. "Its been fun. Please leave."
"Not without speaking to my sister I wont."
Trish started laughing. "Chris, your sister hasnt lived here for nearly five months."
"She lost her job because she slept with the managers daughter and then I kicked her out. So dont you be pointing fingers."
"You heard me, so dont be threatening me when its your precious sister whos the screw-up here."
Noel had her faults but cheating wasnt one of them; she was a closet romantic and was more likely to poke her eyes out than to cheat on somebody. He gritted his teeth, then as calmly as he could, asked, "Do you have any idea where I might find her?"
"Try the row of bars on Ashford off of University. I heard from a girlfriend that she was working at one of those dives."
Chris started to say thanks but the door shut in his face.
"Honey, there is something rotten with that girl and I dont just mean her snatch."
"Glen, I really dont want to think about her snatch so lets just remove her from any future conversations."
Glen laughed and led the way back to the car.
- - - - -- ---- --
Chris was starting to get disheartened. Way too many bar regulars and bartenders were familiar with who his sister was. Hed barely get a description out - Blonde hair like mine, blue-green eyes kind of like an algae-filled pond - and theyd be like Oh, Noel. Nice right hook. Plays a wicked air guitar when drunk. Oh, she won a tequila shooting contest. Those were things he really didnt need to know about his sister. Although the bar regular that had commented on her tits would be drinking out of a straw but, since he was a lush, it wouldnt change anything.
Unfortunately nobody knew where he could find her. Glen was telling him how manly he was for slugging that guy, and Chris was massaging his left hand as they walked past a church, that seemed oddly out-of-place on a road filled with houses of sin.
Glen paused. "Do you hear what I hear?"
Chris pulled a face. "No. Some of us dont have super hearing."
"Its snoring. That statue is snoring."
"Good for it," he groused. As they got closer, Chris started to have a bad feeling. Please dont let my sister be passed out on the lawn of a church. A statue came into view; the Virgin Mary stared down with infinite sadness at the poor soul at her feet.
"I think we found your sister," Glen said with a giggle.
Chris rolled his eyes. Well, this beat the time she passed out in the ball bin at Chucky E. Cheese and woke up to terrify 14 toddlers.
Stepping over the small fence, which kept exactly zero people out, he knelt by the prone figure. "Noel." he said, shaking the figure. Nothing happened. "Noel," he tried again, a little bit louder.
"Is that yours?" an angry voice asked.
Chris peered around the statue at a dour man wearing a black dress with slacks. "Yes."
"Well, get her out of here before I call the cops. She caused quite a racket at the wedding reception, then her awful snoring interrupted what should have been a silent night."
"Bitch and moan. Bitch and moan," Glen muttered. "His Christian ass should have been out here to at least cover her up with something."
Chris grinned. "Im very sorry. Ill be taking her off your hands."
"That fellow seriously needs to embrace his gayness and come out of the church closet. Hell feel so much better if he does," on a roll Glen continued to bitch.
Chris felt his grin get larger. "Come on, Noel, up and atem." Sighing, he settled on picking her up. She snorted and cracked an eye. "Hey, Chris, hows tricks?"
He gave a whistle at her face. "Looks like you went a few rounds." He set her on her feet, holding onto her shoulders as she swayed.
"Oh yeah, some pious bitch totally kicked my " Her voice trailed off as she got a good look at the statue in front of her. " ass. I just got my ass kicked by a statue, didnt I?"
"Uh huh, girlfriend, looks like it."
Noel squinted at Glen. "And you brought the trick."
Glen huffed and looked like he was going to slap Noel. Chris stepped between them. "Noel, be nice to Glen or Ill leave you in the care of that priest who was moping through here."
"Fine, fine," she said with a yawn. "So what brings you to my little piece of hell?"
"Mom and I were worried about you. And she wants all the kids home for the holidays."
Noel squinted at the harsh late morning light and hocked a stale beer-flavored wad of spit.
Glen grimaced and bit out, "Charming."
Noel looked like she was going to say something but stopped when she caught Chris look. Too hung over to put up much of a fight, she let Chris guide her to the car.
Chris wrinkled his nose at the apartment she was sharing with a gentleman she called Hollander. "So, sis, whats the deal? You drop off the face of the Earth and Mom makes me run a rescue mission on your ass because shes certain that bad things are afoot. We dont get any letters and every time we called your cell phone you never answer."
Noel looked up from the duffle she was packing. Her greasy blonde hair had somehow been shoved from the sides to the center, giving her a faint rooster look. "I have a cell phone?"
"Yeah, that thing mom sent to you for your last birthday."
Perplexed, Noel dove onto the mattress and began rooting around; pulling out a small black object, she held it aloft in victory. "I thought it was an alarm clock. It kept going off every once in awhile and I kept trying to figure out what I was late for."
Glen laughed while Chris fought the urge to rush his sister to the closet rehab center. The only thing that stopped him was that the face of the phone did have a huge digital time display on it.
Duffle in hand, they headed out the door. Noel kicked the rumpled man on the couch that was doing an imitation of a pile of dirty laundry. She kicked him again. The pile snorted and bloodshot eyes opened. "Hollander! Im leaving; you can have the bed. Tell Dale I quit."
"Kay," it snorted before passing out again.
Chris herded his sister out to the car. "Wont your boss be pissed that you quit without notice?"
"Nah, he was paying me under the table," she replied.
As he buckled in Chris realized she had never answered his original question. What had happened to her?
- - - - - - -
Noel walked off the small plane, her duffle slung casually over one shoulder. She walked and talked like she was sober but Chris had watched her pound down three Bloody Marys and the flight hadnt been that long, plus he could have sworn she got the stewardess into the only bathroom for a quickie. He watched her shake hands with the stewardess and then place a small piece of paper in her pocket. He groaned, waiting for her to catch up. "Tell me you didnt fuck the stewardess."
"Okay. I didnt fuck the stewardess," she said with a shrug and tripped up the stairs. She was saved only by Glen and Chriss quick reactions.
Chris hauled her up and dragged her down to the small parking garage. "Then what was that piece of paper she slipped you?"
Noel blinked. "What paper?"
"The one she slipped you when she shook your hand." As she continued to stare at him in confusion, he added, "The piece of paper you slipped into your pocket."
Noel stopped and reached into her pocket; she slowly pulled out a small note and opened it. Thank you for the mid-flight pick-me-up. It was signed Chrissie and there was a hastily scrawled number at the bottom. Apparently shed had sex with the flight attendant. Maybe she should re-think this whole functioning alcoholic thing; it didnt seem to be working and her functioning was becoming iffy at best.
"So?" Glen butted in, snagging the note. "Oh, the girl so scored."
"Bitch," Noel spat out.
"And dont you forget it," Glen said with a flourish that only a flaming gay man could do.
Noel huffed and crawled into the backseat of Chriss purple Toyota to pass out.
Chris frowned and got in. Cranking up the heater, he slowly backed out of the parking space and left the small airport parking lot.
"Think well have a white Christmas?"
"Huh?" Chris realized Glen had asked him a question.
"Its so cold. Do you think were going to get a white Christmas?"
"That would be nice," Chris said, halfheartedly participating in the conversation.
Glen leaned over and kissed a furry cheek. He whispered, "I know youre worried about her, but shes in the best place to fix whatever is wrong with her. With you and your mom hovering over her, she doesnt stand a chance at staying dysfunctional."
"You really think so? She was pretty messed up before she left home with Trish."
"Yeah, I think so. Now that she has a taste of the life she was rebelling for, she might appreciate home more."
"I hope so," Chris said, rubbing his tired eyes then focusing on the road. God, tomorrow he had to teach high school kids about American Government and prep them for a test. All the evil little bastards would be thinking about would be the 12 days of Christmas promotion going on at the local mall and the upcoming break. Oh, and Glen had the Winter Wonderland drag ball coming up. His life sucked. They drove out of Roseburg and down the highway to the small town where Noel and his mother still lived with their youngest brother Rudy.
---- -- -- -
Noel woke up just in time see the hideous sign welcoming them to her hometown. She shuddered; she hated that sign. When she and Trish had taken off for bigger cities and adventure, she had pulled over on their the way out of town and peed on its base. Now it looked like the sign was getting the last laugh.
Ho Ho Ho. Welcome to Christmas Town. We celebrate Christmas 365 days of the year.
That was just creepy. Why would someone name a small town in middle America after an over-commercialized holiday? Then the expectations of growing up in such a town. You were expected to be happy, jolly, and full of joy. Then there were the jokes. The fact that Toy Town Toys was the biggest employer for the small town just made it worse. Growing up there had given her a never-ending rash on her ass. Why the hell was she coming back? "Chris, I cant go home; pull the car over."
Chris glanced at her through the rearview mirror and hit the automatic locks. He wouldnt put it past her to jump out. "Noel, after the holidays you can do whatever you want, but right now youre going home and youre going to like it even if I have to pump you full of Prozac. You got me?"
That didnt sound half bad. "You promise?"
"Just what you need to do - mix alcohol with anti-depressants," Glen added.
Noel grumbled and tried to open the door so she could escape, only to be thwarted by the child safety locks. Now that the Bloody Marys were working their way out of her system, panic was starting to settle in. She was positive that nothing good could come from returning home.
By the time they got to their mothers driveway, her hands had started trembling and she was beginning to suspect blood was seeping into her alcohol stream. As soon as Chris turned off the car and released the locks, she bolted out of the car, past her mother who had opened the screen door with a nice cheery grin, and rushed into the bathroom to hurl the meager contents of her stomach.
Chris sighed, wondering if Noels homecoming could have gone any worse.
"Ms. Carter, nice to see you again," Glen said as he bounded up to the much smaller woman.
She gave a very girlish giggle and kissed Glens cheek. "Call me Mom, Glen. You know youre family."
Chris came up and leaned over so his mother could hug him. "I found her. Looks like you were right to worry. Something bad happened. She was passed out on a church lawn. Im not sure what happened. She wasnt living with Trish anymore. In fact Trish insinuated that she had kicked Noel out for cheating." He sighed, "I dont have a clue whats going on with her. But I think her liver will have no problem surviving Armageddon. Its probably pickled enough."
"Christmas! Your sister doesnt need our judgments; she needs her familys support."
"Mom, I hate it when you use my full name; dont do that. Besides, all our family did was coddle her when she was teenager and it doesnt seem to have helped her any."
Felicity grabbed her eldest childs ear, pulling him down to her level. "I named you, young man, and I have the right to use your full name and I happen to think its a very nice name. As to your sister, I said support not coddle. Goodness knows your father did way too much of that in regards to her behavior, but now her ass is mine. He isnt around to get in the way; God have mercy on his soul."
When Noel failed to emerge from the bathroom, Felicity went in to check on her middle child. She found Noel asleep with her head resting at an uncomfortable angle on the toilet bowl. She checked her childs vitals. Satisfied that Noel would live, she left her where shed found her, figuring it would be a lesson best learned on her own. Making her way down the hallway, she knocked on Rudys door. "Rudolph?"
"Your sister is here. Shes passed out in the bathroom."
Rudy snorted. "Its like she never left."
"Yes, well, I just thought I would tell you so you wouldnt be startled."
"Thanks," he said, already turning back to his computer and making a face that his mother saw reflected in the monitor.
She sighed, knowing it would be hard to have them both underfoot. She knew he still blamed Noel for the accident. But she knew that Noel was in trouble and needed to come home. Her mothering radar was never wrong about these things.
- -- -- - - --
After that first morning waking up with the dog shoving her out of the way of the toilet bowl so he could get a drink of water, life pretty much returned to its normal waxing and waning around the Carter household. She and Rudy avoided each other. Her mother gave her pamphlets on AA meetings and dumped any alcohol she brought into the house even if it was clutched in her hand. The dog had taken over her old room as his den so she slept on the couch.
After four days of this her mother woke her up by dumping water on her.
"Oh my God!" Noel yelled.
"Mom, Im sleeping."
"Yes, youre sleeping your life away. Get up, get showered, dressed, eat breakfast, and get out of my house until you get a job."
Noel glared at her mother. "I had a job, until you sent Mr. Knight-in-shining-armor to drag me back home."
"Noel, you were living in the converted back room of a bar, and cleaning the bar at night after it closed for less-than-minimum wage and free beer. Yes, a lovely job for somebody who was working on a degree in computers and graphic design." Felicity sat down on the couch, avoiding the wet parts, and put on her most concerned mother face. "What happened?"
Noel looked down at her hands, becoming distressed when she saw them visibly shaking. "I," she started before stopping to clear her throat. "Everything went crappy all at once. I-I-I guess I should get going." She flashed a weak smile at her mother. "Got to put food on the table, I guess."
Felicity smiled back. "You should stop by and see your father. Oh, if you promise not to drink anything with alcohol in it, you can take my car to go job hunting."
"Thanks, I cant believe youre trusting me with the mini-van." Noel rolled her eyes.
Noel drove around town. Same crappy town. All roads lead to the Toy Town Toys manufacturing plant, show room, and amusement park.
Oh yes, Toy Town, like Hershey, had taken advantage of its location in Christmas Town and built its own little amusement park and Santa Village. Capitalism at its most bloated. She had tried to get a job at the two bars in town but her mother had beat her to the punch and called ahead. The bar managers, frightened of Felicity Carter, had told Noel thanks but no thanks. She had filled out applications at a grocery store, and a few electronics places; out of ideas and with no real bites of employment, she turned her car down Santas Village Lane to Toy Town. God, she was going to regret this; she just had that sort of feeling in her gut.
Noel stomped through the house.
"Hi, dear. How was the job hunt? Anything pan out?"
"You could say something panned out," Noel grumbled.
"Oh good. Whats your new job?"
Noel gave a long-suffering sigh and revealed her employee uniform.
Her mother couldnt help it; she busted up laughing. Rudy, curious as to what was going on, rolled into the kitchen; at the sight of Noel in her outfit he promptly joined in with his mothers laughter.
"Oh my god, youre an elf. My sister who hates all that is Christmas is Santas little helper."
Noel flipped them both the bird and stomped into the bathroom to change.
-- - - - - - - - -
It was incredibly unfair. The Santas were all drunk. Thankfully all they had to do was sit there and look squishy while the Helper Elves ran around wrangling kids, parents, and the next floorshow. Noel hated her job. It made her want to drink. Okay, just breathing on most days made her want to drink, but this was really pushing her limits. Maybe she would take up a nasty coke habit like a few of the other elves.
Sighing, she stepped out of the break room. Shoving her pointy hat at a jaunty angle on her head, she picked the tights out of her ass and made a beeline for the line of screaming kids and parents. "Okay, folks. Toys in Babeland " She blinked. That wasnt right. "Sorry. The Babes in Toyland show will start in 25 minutes. We will be opening the theater in another five minutes." She tried to sound cheerful but she just didnt do cheerful well anymore.
"Candy!" one child screamed and soon his cry was taken up by countless others.
Noel eyed them carefully and backed slowly away from the rope.
"Hey, lady, can you give my son a candy cane or something?"
"Sir, I seriously doubt your child needs anymore candy. Maybe some Valium to calm him down?"
"Are you implying that theres something wrong with my kid?"
Noel backed up a bit more. Yes, she would say there was something wrong with his kid. The poor child was vibrating as he stood in place, looking at her with candy addict eyes.
"Look, give my kid a candy cane."
Frantically she dug around in her pockets only to come up with a button and some lint. "I seem to dont move, Ill be right back." Turning, she sprinted for the break room. Throwing the door open, she grabbed the plastic sack full of candy canes off the table and hurried back to the angry mob. Exiting the door, she ran into somebody, shooting candy canes everywhere in a sugary geyser. The sight of the sparkly wrappers was too much and the children broke the line, diving for the candy like a school of piranha after fresh meat.
"Hey, thats my leg not a piece of taffy, you shit," Noel said with a yelp.
"Ms. Elf, we here at Santas Village do not use words like s-h-i-t around small children," a quiet voice filled with authority said from behind her.
Noel blew out a breath; strings of white blonde hair fluttered up and then back down into her eye. "Oh, its you. Well, its your fault these kids are overdosing from too much sugar. You should really watch where youre going."
"Excuse me? I believe youre the one who bolted out of the break room like your ass was on fire."
"Whatever." Noel turned, shaking a small boy who was attempting to recreate a scene from Lord of the Flies off of her leg. "Take it up with my boss Oh my God, youre hot." The primitive brain, which without alcohol was becoming more alert, had jumped in with its two cents. A frown marred the lovely facial features but the woman she had run into was beautiful. - long reddish blonde hair, hazel eyes which glinted angrily, tall (but Noel she dug tall chicks), and nicely dressed which meant that she was more than likely employed and wouldnt sponge off of her.
"Thank you, just the compliment I needed to validate my day. Crunchy the grumpy elf thinks Im hot. Oh, and dont worry, I will be seeing your boss about it."
As the woman tried to storm off, she nearly slammed into a wall sliding on some candy.
Noel laughed and called out, "Its Krunchy with a K." Walking carefully over to the rope, she unclipped it. "The theater is now open; please seat yourselves." She chuckled as the parents tried to scoop their children off the floor.
After the show had started Noel ducked back into the break room. She walked past some of the character actors dressed up in their costumes. She tapped some of the silver bells on Nates Christmas tree costume, listening to the bells jingle as she walked past him. "Thats some pretty paper you have for your costume, Monica," she said as she passed a huge present with legs. She was trying to practice this nice thing and bond with her fellow Santas helpers in hell. She grabbed a bottle of water, mildly distressed that her hands still got tremors; part of her realized it was detox. She would miss the alcohol as it slowly left her system. Unscrewing the cap on the water, she turned back around. Everybody in the break room was staring at her. She paused, water to her lips. "What?" She tried to be nice and this is what it got her.
"Dude, do you know who you told off?"
"When?" There were so many people she freaked out on daily.
"The candy and the insane children? It happened like 15 minutes ago."
"The lady you yelled at is Nora Wesley."
Noel nodded. She had no idea who Nora was or why she was important.
"Nora Wesley is The Ice Queen; she is the CEO of Toy Town Toys, rules it with an iron fist."
"Well, thats great," she said with a smile and a nod before exiting the break room. The rest of the employees looked at each other and then shook their heads. The girl was a nut.
Noel was changing out of her dreaded elf costume when Gwen came in. "Noel, get dressed and report to HR."
" Cause they want to see you."
Gwen rolled her eyes. "Just do it."
"Fine." Noel slid on her cargo pants and an old blue sweater that had once belonged to her father.
"Of course they make me finish out the work day before firing me," she grumbled as she approached the HR offices. Stopping in front of the plastic-looking secretary, she said, "I was told to report here."
"And you are?" the life-sized Barbie doll asked with a snap of her gum.
"Oh right. Follow this hallway to the elevators and take one to the 16th floor."
Once in the elevator she flipped off the security camera she knew was there and spent a few moments making faces at it for good measure. She walked off the elevator and knew she was in the lions den. It was swanky. She approached the pleasant-looking woman seated at the desk. "Krunchy the grumpy Christmas elf reporting for duty."
The woman laughed. Oh, she had heard all about this girl. Shed never seen her boss so pissed off. "One second." She buzzed the intercom. "Nora?"
"I have one Krunchy the grumpy Christmas elf to see you."
"What? Who? Oh, right, send her in."
She disconnected. "You may go right on in, Krunchy."
Noel laughed. She had finally found the only person other than her family that she could stand in this place. Squaring her shoulders, she marched in.
As she walked passed past, the secretary muttered, "Poor girl. Someone is going to have a blue Christmas."
Nora was staring at her programmer as he was stuttering out why their big video game release for Christmas wasnt going to happen. "Douglas, failure at this point isnt an option. Were already well into our advertising campaign, not to mention our pre-order sales. So you need to fix it and have this game in production in, oh, two days."
Douglas just paled and turned his head to the stream of code on the big screen over her desk. Somewhere in there was the problem but nobody could find it.
"Please, dont get up," a voice broke in, startling them both.
Noras lip curled back in annoyance. "Ah, Ms. Krunchy, please have a seat."
"Its okay. I figure I going to get fired so Ill take it on my feet. Its less wasted motion that way."
Nora shook her head; the girl was a bit much to take. She let Krunchy and Douglas fidget while she took a moment to get a good look at the woman she was going to fire. Young, nearly white blonde hair mashed to her head from the elf hat, blue-green eyes which seemed lifeless - there was an air of almost broken defeat coming off of her. The sense of defeat was hard to fathom. The girl knew she was getting fired and seemed resigned to the fact. Nora couldnt see how that would break the mouthy woman.
"I can see youre busy, Ms. Wesley. Ill just come back later," Douglas said, trying to use the moment to escape.
"Douglas, sit. This will only take a moment then we can go back to this troublesome code."
Noel squinted up at the screen. Strings of code and data tumbled through her head. She started to hyperventilate and she could feel a panic attack coming on. She was back in her college classes, staring at her final project scrolling past her on the screen. The short RPG video game was almost finished when the pressure of everything hit: taking classes, working full time to support herself and Trish, and her failing relationship with Trish - which had failed months ago if she was going to be honest with herself. Something in her brain snapped; the only outward sign was a ticking in the flesh around her right eye. With a few keystrokes she had reformatted the hard drive before shoving the computer off the desk on to the floor with a scream. With everybody staring at her like she had gone insane, she calmly picked up her backpack and walked out the door.
"Miss, miss, are you alright?"
A voice broke her out of her panic spiral.
"What?" She blinked, noticing two concerned faces looking at her
"Are you okay?" Nora asked.
"Yes, I think so. Your problem code is right there." She pointed at the screen.
Douglas huffed. "Right, like someone only qualified to play an elf can find a bad data string when me and my team couldnt."
Noel glared at the man and walked over to the desk. She removed Noras hand from the mouse and pulled the keyboard over. She scrolled to the point she needed and began typing.
"What are you doing? Stop it! Weve spent almost a year on that," Douglas shouted in alarm.
Nora was intrigued. Krunchy hardly gave her the respect she deserved and, par for the course, she was again acting in a manner totally unexpected. Nora figured it couldnt hurt. The game wasnt working; shed let the freak have her moment and then fire her.
"Douglas, the game doesnt work. I hardly see how shes ruining something that is already broken."
"Bu-bu-but " He shut up when she arched an eyebrow at him in annoyance.
"There. All fixed." Noel saved her changes and then typed in the commands to start the game. To Noras amazement the title graphics began.
"How did you ?" Douglas stuttered, just about swallowing his tongue.
Nora looked at the woman. "Why are you playing an Elf?"
"Does it matter? You fired me."
"Actually, Krunchy, I hadnt gotten around to it."
"Its okay. I quit."
Nora watched, totally flummoxed, as the woman walked out. Damn that woman! She never did anything Nora expected her to do.
--- - - - - -
Nora pulled up to the curb. Getting out, she looked at the house. What the hell was up on the housetop? She had heard about Felicity Carter; the woman was a legend in Christmas Town for her love of the holidays. No holiday went uncelebrated, especially Christmas. Nora was bemused to learn the legends were true. The rooftop was crowded with all sorts of Christmas decorations. She approached the door and, as she got ready to knock, she heard a voice yelling.
"Thats right, Rudy, run! Run Rudolph Run! Or wheel, or whatever. But Ill get you, you little turd."
Hiding a smile, she knocked on the door.
After a moment a small woman with dark hair and green eyes opened the door; she had generous laugh lines around her mouth and a merry twinkle in her eye.
"Yes, can I help you?"
Nora cleared her throat. "Yes, Im "
"Im well aware of who you are, Ms. Wesley. I doubt theres anybody in this town who doesnt know who you are."
"Oh." Was it genetic? Did this entire family have the ability to stagger her?
"So can I help you?"
"Yes, I was wondering if Noel was around."
"Yes, come on in and have a seat. Ill see if I can find her. To tell you the truth, Ms. Wesley, Im not sure if my daughter should be dating yet. Her psyche is still kind of fragile and, well, then theres her drinking problem."
"What?" Noras mind was trying to process what was being said. "Wait! You think Im here to ask your daughter out?"
Felicity just nodded her head at her.
"No, I came to talk to her about a job. Dating your daughter is the last thing on my mind."
"Yes, but its still on your mind. Give it awhile." The woman gave a sweet smile and went off to find Noel.
Nora opened her mouth then shut it.
Felicity got up and moved into the kitchen. "Noel, come here "
Rudy wheeled into the kitchen and slammed to a stop half an inch from his mothers leg. Noel, who had been drinking until Rudy had snatched her six-pack, was chasing so close behind him that she was unable to stop. She tried to change direction but she clipped his left wheel with her foot and went flying. She spun into the Christmas tree and then fell at Noras feet, tangled in tasteful white lights.
"Rudy, go dump that into the sink. Young lady, what have I told you about drinking in the house?"
Noel shrugged as she tried to stand up. "Not to."
"Yes. By the way, you have a visitor."
Nora couldnt help but laugh. Noel looked pissed off, embarrassed, and cute all at the same time. "Thats a good look for you."
Noel blinked. Great, it was her ex-boss. "What?"
"The lights. Its a good look for you."
"Thanks. Um, not to be rude but I quit. Why are you here?"
"Ive been doing some checking on you and Im here to offer you a job working in the Games department."
"Look, you dont know anything about me but trust me; you dont want me designing games for you."
"But I do, Noel Carter, daughter of Felicity and James Carter. Your father used to work for Toy Town Toys until he was caught embezzling money. Hes now on his fifth year of a 30-year sentence. You left here with a nearly a full ride to the university to study computers and graphic design. You were in the middle of finishing your final project, Golden Hammer, when you had a nervous breakdown, most likely from stress, and smashed the computer you were working on. You walked out and basically fell off the face of the planet."
Noel opened her mouth and then shut it. She opened it again and then shut it again. "I guess you pretty much know it all."
"Yes, but you barely looked at a piece of code, not really having a clue what was going on, and saw the problem. You didnt freeze and you were brilliant. Thats the sort of person I want working in our Games department. So make me a happy woman and say yes."
"She wouldnt be dumb enough to say no," her mother butted in.
"Mom," Noel whined.
Nora frowned. "However, we dont tolerate addiction problems unless its caffeine and sugar. Toy Town Toys will pay for a rehab program."
"Hey, I dont know what my mother told you but Im no alcoholic."
Behind Noels back, her mother mouthed, Yes, she is.
"Excellent. Come in on Monday and fill out the paperwork."
"Screw you. I wont be there. I dont want to be one of your video game drones."
"Shell be there."
"Mom, stop undermining me," Noel whined.
"Hush, its a family tradition to help make toys for children. Why, your great uncle Curtis was a foreman "
Noel frowned, God, her mother was into one of her rants. "Um, Ms. Wesley, would you like to go grab a cup of coffee?" Please say yes. Please.
Nora started, and stumblingly said, "Um, that would be fine as long as theres only coffee in your cup."
Noel sighed and followed Nora out the door. "Take the fun out of it. Oh, and its on you."
Nora looked up from where she was unlocking the door; she was almost done over being surprised by anything that came out of the womans mouth. "Why am I buying?"
"As a thank you for saving your video game."
Nora slid behind the wheel. "Yes, youre right. I do owe you a big thank you. You saved our Christmas sales; that game is going to be our big seller."
Noel laughed as Nora drove off down the street.
"Whats so funny?"
"Let me tell you the tale of how Krunchy the grumpy Christmas elf saved Christmas for all the good boys and girls "
Nora laughed. God, the woman was a freak. But she was a cute freak and, theoretically, Noel in a way she was right. She had saved Christmas.
The end for now
Songs used -
5-Do You Hear What I Hear?
6-The First Noel
8-Home For the Holidays
18-Run Rudolph Run
22-The Twelve Days of Christmas
23-Up On the Housetop