"There is no snow", Samantha said. "How is Santa going to get here without snow?"
It took me a moment to understand what this was about. I must have looked puzzled, because she gave her impatient sigh that indicated, 'I am only five and can understand this, so why can't you?'
"Mummy, the sleigh!"
Oh, that. "Well, uhm... maybe Santa can ride on one of his reindeer?"
"And what about the presents?"
"He could use a carriage."
Samantha was not convinced. I could tell, although she did not respond. Of course she was not convinced, after all there was not a single image to be found of Santa in a carriage. And the poor reindeer, I mused, who would have to carry that fat bloke. I turned to face the tree in an attempt to hide my thoughts from her.
We were late, only putting up the tree on the 24th. There almost would not have been a tree at all, but I would be damned if I let the situation ruin my kid's christmas. The year had been tough enough as it was, and this was the only bit of magic left for her. A year or two from now and she would not buy into this stuff anymore, either. I wondered how I was going to distract her then.
It was getting dark by the time we finished putting lights and glittery bits on the tree, and the smell of pizza coming from the oven made my stomach growl. Sam had requested a special treat, and this was her idea of proper holiday food. Her grandmothers most likely would not have approved, but I was not planning on seeing either of them any time soon. If my girl wanted pizza, then pizza it was. I switched on the christmas tree lights, and we stood in the dark and admired our tree.
There was a sharp knock at the door, and when I went to open it, my ex stood on the front porch. Sam's father. The guy who had run off because he "was not ready for this". The guy whose mother had taken it upon her to inform me, back in September, that his new girlfriend was "classy" - something I really did not qualify for.
"What are you doing here?" I glanced over my shoulder to see whether there was any chance of getting out of this unharmed, but that very moment Samantha returned from the kitchen, her tiny hands in oven mits way too large for her, and squealed. "Daddy!"
He switched on that big smile and scooped her up as if she weighed nothing at all. "Hi there. Santa got stuck in traffic and asked me to deliver a few presents to a special little girl."
He nodded. "Really."
I gave up. "Come inside. There's pizza."
"Pizza?" Raised eyebrow.
"Christmas pizza!" Sam exclaimed. "All red and green, and with white cheese and sour cream!" She had even gone to the trouble to cut the salami in tree-shapes. It was a festive pizza.
He put Sam down and followed me into the kitchen.
"Don't you have anything better to do tonight?" I asked and pulled the pizza from the oven.
"Nothing special." He shrugged.
"This does not change a damn thing between us", I insisted.
"I didn't think it would."
Okay, then... "Put your jacket away. You are going to melt. I wouldn't know how to explain that to Sam."
He obeyed with that slightly amused expression - the one I had always loved and hated at the same time. I couldn't help but watch his backside as he went back into the livingroom. Great. Some habits are hard to kill.
While they were busy putting stuff under the tree, I put two mugs of mulled wine in the microwave. God knew I could use a drink right now. I leaned against the counter and stared out of the window, trying to find out how I felt about all this. The sky was black, and against the lights coming from the neighbors' property I could see huge snowflakes gliding down towards the ground.
Fine. He could always sleep on the sofa.