It's Christmas Eve and the Coldwater Canyon parking lot of Ralph's is jammed with cars. People rush into the store desperately hoping to find that last item which will make the holiday meal a success.
A very attractive girl decked out in an elf's costume stands near one entrance. She's next to a tripod which holds a black kettle and a sign that reads: Make the Holidays Special for Someone In Need. She rings a bell exclaiming, "Merry Christmas!" and "Thank you!" at people dropping money into the pot.
A man on a bicycle rolls by and waves at the elf. He's watching the girl and almost gets hit by a car. He swerves and crashes into a row of shopping carts. The girl gently laughs at him. "Very smooth," she says.
The man picks himself up and drags his bicycle back to the elf. "That's me, they call me Mr. Graceful."
The girl giggles, "Is that so?"
"Yes, it is." He smiles and holds out his hand, "And what do they call you?"
"Santa's helper. But you can call me Lisa."
Their hands touch and their eyes meet, but the moment is interrupted by a voice bellowing across he parking lot.
"Whaddya think you're doing. Get your hands off her."
The man with the bike turns to look at the voice. The voice belongs to an older man and he's dressed in a Santa suit. He barks at the girl, "I leave you alone for one lousy minute and you try to pick up a guy. You're a tramp just like your mother."
The man with the bike replies gently, "Nah, dude. It's nothing like that. I just stopped to make a donation--" He opens his messenger's bag revealing a wallet, his cellphone, some loose change and an envelope marked, "Deposit Only." He reaches in and pulls out his wallet, opens it. It's crammed full of 20s. "See?"
He glances at the girl and she returns the look with a flirty smile and mouths, "Want my number?"
The cyclist nods.
"Hey!" says the girl's father. He shoves the man with the bike. The cyclist staggers backward. The father closes in again. The man fends him off. The cute elf throws herself between the two men, tries to push her father away, "Stop it! He hasn't done anything! Just leave him alone! STOP!"
A crowd gathers.
The father breaks off the attack. He glances menacingly at the startled onlookers, grabs the tripod and kettle and storms off. The cyclist is a bit shaken, the girl appears mortified.
The cyclist and the girl have their moment. She touches her lips with two fingers, then presses them to the mans cheek, "I'm sooooooo sorry, sooooooo sorry... I don't know what to say." She backs away and mouths a phone number, and hurries off into the maze of parked cars.
The man calls after the girl, "Until we meet again." And waves at her.
The man picks up his bike, smiling as he watches her go. Then slowly notices something is wrong. He reaches for the messenger bag. Wallet. Gone. Cellphone. Gone. Deposit Envelope. Gone. He smiles, gets on his bike and rides off.
A block away from the Ralph's the girl in the elf suit climbs into the back of a van. She begins to take off her elf outfit and changes into her regular clothes.
Her father speaks from the cab, "You did good, kid. We took that guy for five thousand bucks, not including what's in his wallet and the cell phone. We're going to have some Christmas."
And at the moment the phone buzzes. It's a text message. The girl grabs the phone and reads: "Look at the ID in the wallet."
She opens the wallet and sees the ID.
"Let's get out of here," she says frowning. "We ripped off a cop."
The older man starts the van. As he does another buzz from the phone, "Stop! You're under arrest." Another sound comes from outside the van. It's the familiar blurp of a police siren. The side door of the van opens. The man with the bicycle smiles at the two people inside, "I knew we'd meet again," he says to the girl. "Merry Christmas."
~ The End ~
Jake James is a writer living in California.