In some countries, turning 21 means gaining the right to vote and drink alcoholic beverages. For Claire Labraun, the Christmas after her 21st birthday would be beyond her wildest imagination.
Minelle and Matthew Labraun believed in a traditional marriage. Matthew was head of their household, and Minelle was his helpmeet. When it came to raising their headstrong 21-year-old daughter, however, they found themselves at a loss.
Minelle had always taught Claire to do the right thing for right’s sake. Claire, however, had different ideas. She rebelled against their rules, flaunted authority, and connived to get things she wanted.
She had never been spanked in her life; Matthew and Minelle kept that adult privilege strictly between themselves. But this year, a visit from Santa plus Claire’s newly adult status would change her idea of Christmas forever.
The beginning of the story: Claire
Claire flung her phone disgustedly on the table. “Missed a text again!” she groaned. Her friends had texted her with an invitation to drive an hour away to look at the stars, but her blasted phone hadn’t sent the message until just now. It was well past time for her friends to start on their trip. She sent a reply saying, “Stupid phone didn’t send the message. Have fun!” but secretly hoped that it would be a wash. Why was she always stuck without anything fun to do?
“Too bad!” came the reply from her friend Elis. “Time to buy a real phone!”
“Mom!” she exclaimed, barging into the family computer room. Her mom jumped and quickly minimized a screen on their computer. Claire didn’t notice, however, and instead threw herself dramatically into the beanbag next to the desk.
“What’s wrong, honey?” Minelle asked. “Is the sky too blue?” she chuckled.
“My phone sucks! Can’t I get a real one? No one uses these old junky ones any more.”
Minelle frowned. “When I was your age, I didn’t even have a cell phone.”
“Oh Mom, get real! When you were my age, you probably used paper cups with a string poked through the bottoms! Elis and Jackie and everyone are going for a midnight drive tonight, and I couldn’t go because of my stupid phone.”
“Thank goodness for that,” Minelle murmured. Claire glared at her.
“It’s not funny! Everyone has an iPhone.”
Minelle laughed. “Didn’t I cure you of the ‘everyone this’ and ‘everyone that’ stuff years ago? Stop,” she held up a hand to interrupt Claire’s angry protests. “If you’re earning so much money at the grocery store that you have several hundred dollars to buy the phone you want and pay for the monthly plans, then be my guest. On the other hand, maybe it’s time that you use that money to help your dad and me with some of your college expenses. You’re graduating soon, and it’s time you learned the value of money.”
Claire gave the beanbag an annoyed slap. The whole point of getting a real phone now was not having to “learn the value of money”! Once she graduated and moved out, who knew how soon she could get a job? Besides, the point of getting the phone was to enjoy her time with friends now. In a few months, they would all scatter to different jobs after graduation.
Minelle turned back to her computer. “Don’t forget it’s your turn to get dinner ready. And no, ramen noodles do not count as making dinner.”
Claire slammed the door on her way out.
“Well, maybe I did get kind of mad at my mom for not getting me a good phone, but everyone?”
“Shh, Claire, let me finish the story.”
“All right. But anyone would see that my mom was being unreasonable, right?”
“Whatever you say. Now if I may tell the story?”
“Yes, sorry. Go on.”
“All right. Here is the account of your first Christmas.”
CHAPTER ONE: Claire’s Turn
Claire’s Report: Casing the Santa Joint
My friend Ana tells me that I’ve been missing out for most of my life. I’m talking about this funny custom called Santa. Don’t get me wrong. My family wasn’t anti-Christmas; they just weren’t very interested. I think that I may have caught sight of a tiny tree in my parents’ closet once when I was small enough to play hide-and-seek, but after asking my mom what it was I never saw it again. I grew up scornfully glad that I wasn’t like the fools at school who thought they had to be good or get written onto the “naughty list” of some bearded fat guy. How silly was that? My parents were always calm, reasonable, and logical with me. If I did something wrong, they explained why it was wrong and what I should do differently next time. I learned from my mistakes and rarely made one the second time, at least not on purpose. I didn’t need a fantasy to make me behave.
Occasionally, however, I did regret that my parents didn’t believe in the Easter Bunny. I envied my friends’ chocolate rabbits and baskets of candy. If Santa gave out chocolate and candy, it might have been enough to convert me. But that is a story for another time.
After talking with my friend Ana about this custom of naughty and nice lists, I decided to do some investigating. I was lucky enough to sit down with the elusive red-suited guy and have a little chat. I was quite concerned about those lists of his, you see. Word on the street was that some “friends” of mine were putting in votes for me to be on the naughty girl list! Did you ever hear anything so flabbergasting? I hadn’t even believed in this guy, and already I was being told that I was in trouble! Can we say “unfair”? Clearly I had some damage control to do. So I pulled a few strings, put on my warmest Under Armour and parka, and arrived just in time to meet Santa outside his workshop. He took me to a quiet cafe nearby. Unbeknownst to Santa, I recorded our conversation. Here is the transcript:
Me: Hello Santa! I’m so happy to finally meet you! Thank you for all of the Christmas deliveries over the years. Not that I got any.
Santa: Ho, ho, ho, always glad to make a girl smile. Didn’t your parents tell you that the gifts were from me? I am quite disappointed. There were some years that you nearly got coal, though. Though it sounds like perhaps your parents needed the coal more than you! I am too much of a softy.
Me: Really? Can you be a softy again this year? Does that mean I get presents? I really want the new iPhone!
Santa: Now hold on a minute. For years you were too good to believe in me, then you claimed I didn’t give you anything, and now you’re demanding presents? Isn’t that a little brash? Are you telling me that you’ve been a naughty girl this year, young lady?
Me: Well, it depends on your definition of “naughty”. I’m too old to be “naughty” and anyway, I didn’t believe in you then! So it doesn’t count. I shouldn’t get fewer presents because I didn’t know you existed.
Santa: Evading questions, too! It sounds like the preliminary reports weren’t exaggerated, after all.
Me: Wait, that’s not fair! Who sent them? How could you get preliminary reports? I demand to see them! I want to know who is saying false things about me!
Santa: Sit down, young lady, and don’t raise your voice at me. You know I won’t give you names.
Me: It was Bas, wasn’t it? And Lillie! They’re out to get me just because I told them to stop bugging me and mind their own business for once.
Santa: Would they have had anything to say if you’d been perfectly behaved?
Me: Er, maybe not. But it’s still slander…
Santa: Since it’s written down, technically it would be called libel. If it were untrue.
Me: Well, maybe it’s mostly untrue. How about that? And, anyway, I told you that I didn’t believe in you! This is all monstrously unfair!
Santa: Sounds like “mostly untrue” and “unfair” are Claire-speak for “true but I still want to get presents”!
Me: Aw, can’t you give me a break at all? I bet you can’t stay out of trouble for a whole 365 days at a time.
Santa: That’s what Mrs. Claus says. Now, I need to get back to work soon. Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?
Me: That I’ve always been a fan and you are wonderful and please don’t give me coal or switches?
Santa: Attempting to influence list placement with flattery? Outright lies? Do you think it’s going to get you anywhere with Santa? That’s going to cost you, girlie. You run along home and try to be a good girl, and come Christmas time Santa will see what he has for you. In the meantime, you might want to look into buying a coal-burning stove.
Me: That’s not fair! Come back!
Santa: Be good!
That’s right! Santa ditched me! He claimed that I was on a “naughty list” that I never believed in, and he even had the nerve to suggest that I might be getting coal!
I’m not exactly sure what happens to girls who get coal. Do I want to find out?
” Ana, you’re making me sound stupid! Everyone knows what happens to girls who get coal.”
“They do, hm? So I guess you want to find out? Should I write that next?”
“No, no! I thought you said you wouldn’t pick on me.”
“I could have had Santa spank you right then and there, you know.”
“?and bare your bottom for all of the elves to see, and call Mrs. Claus out to help finish the job, and then you’d have to sit in the snow afterward to cool off?”
“Merry Christmas, Claire.”
“I’m gonna Merry Christmas YOU!”
“Oh, I’m scared. Not.”