It was Christmas. She was sitting on a sofa with other kids waiting for Santa Claus to come. Their parents were there too, all of them but one - her father was missing. She asked her mother,
"Where did Daddy go?"
"Don't worry, he will be back soon."
There was noise in the corridor and then Santa with a big red bag entered the room.
"Ho, Ho, Ho!!! Merry Christmas!"
The girl looked around searching for her dad but he still wasn't there. He had to hurry up, or he would miss Santa!
The Santa's bag was very big and he was giving presents to everybody, kids and their parents. After everyone in the room got a present, the bag was absolutely empty, there was nothing left. What a pity! Her Daddy got no present! He would have surely had gotten one if only he had been there.
When the time came for pictures with Santa she was the last one in line, letting every other kid go ahead. The fathers were taking pictures of their kids. She hoped her Daddy would come just in time to grab their camera and take her picture with Santa. But he didn't. Did he forget all about her at this very important moment?
And then it was time for Santa to leave. She tried to stop him, but after he explained that there were lots of other kids still waiting for Santa she had to let him go.
She was glad when her father finally came back. At the same time, she was upset that he came too late. She ran toward him asking,
"Daddy, where have you been? And for so long..."
"Did I miss anything interesting?"
"You missed Santa! He was here. He just left."
But she didn't want him to regret about it too much. So, when he asked about how good Santa was she said,
"He wasn't good at all. I didn't like him."
Her father seemed to get a little unhappy that she didn't like Santa, but she thought that was better than telling him the truth that he missed the best Santa in her life who gave her exactly what she wanted for Christmas without even asking.
* * *
A year had passed. She grew up a little and was old enough to be helping her father with moving chairs closer to the table so every guest would have one when they come. There was a big Christmas Tree by the fireplace, this year it was even bigger than the last one. They were going to host a Christmas party again. Last year her Daddy was not there to take her picture with Santa. This year he absolutely had to be there for her.
Her mother came into the room carrying a photograph in her hand. She was smiling.
"This is you and Santa last Christmas."
The girl glanced at the picture and said in a very serious tone,
"Daddy, you were not there when they took this picture. So, someone else's dad grabbed our camera and took the picture. Not you! And you didn't get your present. And you didn't see me opening mine. And you didn't get to see Santa! This year it should be different! You must promise me you will be there with me when Santa comes tonight!"
Her parents looked at each other as if she asked for something impossible. Her father was silent, her mother said something about being very busy in the kitchen and left.
The girl asked her father again to promise her to be there. He hesitated for a second and then said,
"You see, Santa and I cannot be seen in the same room at the same time. It can be either him or me. Not both of us together."
"What are you talking about?"
"I can't explain it to you. You are too young. You wouldn't understand."
"No. I'm seven. I can understand anything."
"Hmm, I don't think I should..."
The girl started to cry.
"Tell me, Daddy. I want to know."
He hesitated for a moment and then said,
"Maybe it's time for you to know the truth."
"There is no Santa. Grown ups pretend being Santa for children, dressing in red costumes, and saying Ho, Ho, Ho."
The girl looked at her father with her eyes still full of tears.
"I'm afraid so."
"I think I knew that. I heard other kids in school saying the same thing."
The girl stopped crying.
"But what about tonight? You must promise me you will be there with me when Santa, I mean a fake Santa, comes tonight!"
"Dear, who do you think is the man in the Santa's costume on that picture? Don't you know who he is?"
"No, I haven't seen him before."
"Look closer. See, Santa is wearing my glasses! I was playing Santa last year."
"No! Are you sure that was you? No, that cannot be true!"
She took the picture in her hands. That was true! The Santa was wearing her dad's glasses. The Santa had her dad's eyes. That Santa, the best Santa she had ever seen, was her Daddy! How could she not see that before? All this time she was wishing for something she had all along...
She turned to her father and hugged him.
"Daddy, are you are going to be our Santa tonight?"
"Yes, I was going to play Santa tonight for all our guests. But how about you? Do you want me to?"
"Oh, Daddy! Yes! Of course!"
She was holding a picture of a six year old girl with the best Santa in the whole world. The Santa was hugging her, looking at her, smiling. The girl was standing straight, with a sad face, looking into the corridor, hoping that her Daddy would enter the room right now... That was last Christmas. This Christmas, the picture was going to be different, with a very happy girl smiling like she knows a secret...