Note: This is my first attempt at a family story in a long time, as well as my first QL family story in a really, really long time. (I repeat I gave up the soap-buiness.) It is also a Chrismas story. (yeah, I know it's July, but Chrismas is my favorite holiday and it kind of is the only holiday which would give special meaning to my story.) Please, tell me what you think about it. I really want to know, because some of my upcoming stories depend upon what you think about this one. Anyway, I really really want to know what y'all think of my stories, period. (Genre: Family Drama. Rating: TV-G) "AN ANGEL FOR CHRIS-MAS" PROLOGUE The first thing Sam smelled was the strong smell of evergreen pine coming from the Christmas tree, decorated with red and blue ornaments, and hung around as garland over the large bay window and wood-framed mirror above the couch in the suburban early-American den. He also smelled fresh gingerbread cookies baking in the oven, which the two young women in the house had early made. A young boy, who looked about four or five years old, shook a small box wrapped in red and green holiday gift wrap, trying to guess what was inside. The boy looked up at Sam curiously, shyly trying to hide behind the box. "Where's Grandpa?" the boy finally asked. A woman in her early-thirties dressed in a long, green dress from the 1950's walked out of the kitchen. "What do you mean 'where's grandpa?'" She smiled at the boy. "He's right here, Chris. Right, Gramps?" she addressed Sam, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder. Sam looked at his reflection in the mirror above the couch, where Kelly was stretched out while talking on the phone to her boyfriend. Looking back at him was an elderly, chubby man, his hair bald on top and forming two snow drifts in a U-shape on his head and cascaded into a beard and mustache. "Oh, boy!" CHAPTER ONE "Of course, I'm grandpa," Sam told the young boy. Chris looked up at Sam, his young mouth opened as his large blue eyes gazed puzzled up at the two grownups hovering over him. "That's not Grandpa!" The woman shrugged while walking back into the kitchen, blaming everything on her son's vivid imagination and figured if he was left alone his silly game would stop. Sam grew nervous about the young boy seeing him. He knew that the only people could see him -- besides Kelly, on occasion but he could somehow tell she could not see him now -- are small children like this young boy. He found that out when he leaped into a single mother and was faced with a little girl about the same age as Chris who could see through his aura and see Al as well. He tried to remember what he and Al told the girl about who he was, and could not figure out what they said to explain it. "Ok. You figured it out. I'm not grandpa," Sam whispered, smiling, as he bent down to Chris's level to look at him face-to-face. "Can you keep a secret?" The boy nodded. "I'm actually Santa Claus." The boy did not know whether to believe the man or not. "You don't look like Santa." His grandpa looked more like Santa than the man standing before him. It was Christmas time, after all! Why couldn't he be Santa? "Well, that's because I lost a lot of weight, shaved and don't have my uniform on, but I'm really Santa." He hoped the boy would believe him time. His eyes brightened like two light bulbs as his mouth gasped open with extreme surprise and joy. "Wow!" Chris said understanding and believing Sam's cover-up. He knew his daddy always looked different when he was dressed in his Naval uniform compared to when he was wearing his civilian clothes -- why not Santa? He turned around to face the couch, as Sam stood up again. "Kelly. Kelly. Kelly," he repeated, trying to get the teenagers attention toward him and away from the phone. Although she loved her cousin, she did not want to be bothered when talking on the phone. She knew that if she did not answer him now, he would keep bothering her until she did answer him. The phone's receiver was moved slightly away from her lips. "What is it, Chris?" "Santa's here!" She giggled and smiled softly at him, finding the four-year-old's behavior adorable. "You mean Santa's coming. He can't be here, yet. It's not midnight." Chris looked up again at Sam, who he truly believed was the real Santa Claus. "But, Kelly." She did not respond, but chose to ignore him. " Kelly. Ke-" "Remember it's our secret," Sam interrupted his call. "Oh!" Kelly looked over at her nephew and "Grandpa" Dave, who was Chris's grandfather on his father's side, not her blood's. She noticed the long piece of shiny gold garland which Dave was taking off of the tree before Sam leaped in. "What are you doing?" she said, growing annoyed at Sam. "Huh?" Sam responded. He saw that she was looking at what he was holding, and finally noticed the garland which he held in his hands which was half off and half on the tree. "Put it back on, Gramps," she commanded as if the tinsel was a matter of life and death. She put the phone up to her lips again. "Grandpa is taking the tinsel off our tree," she told her boyfriend. She was extremely glad he was able to stay in port longer than expected since he was going to be shipped off for six-months of sea duty on the day after New Year's Day instead of December 15. Now, he could spend the Christmas holidays with her, something which she wished for ever since they started to seriously date each other back in October. "You know how long it took us to put the tree up? Now, he's ruining it. . . . I know the tinsel looks cool, Albert." Sam studied the Christmas tree while he placed the gold tinsel back up, placing it over some branches which made it sag over others. In a way, it gave a certain tacky characteristic to the tree, a kind of fingerprint telling him that Albert Calavicci was here. The garland was just as tacky on the beautiful tree as the outfits Kelly's present boyfriend would wear when he got older, outfits which Sam could never picture him without. Kelly listened to Albert talking to her on the phone, telling her that he would be able to come over to her Aunt and Uncle's house, where she lived, for Christmas Eve as well as Christmas. She could not wait for him to kiss her under the mistletoe two days in a row. "See you in five minutes," she told him. Even though she would have to wait a few days until then that didn't mean that she could not see him. Since they started dating, they seemed to spend all of their time, when he was off-duty and she wasn't working at the diner, together. She placed the phone down, got off of the couch, grabbed her pink windbreaker from the wooden coat rack near the door. The door was opened and she was beginning to walk outside where she was going to wait for Albert to pick her up, when she got called back. Chris's mom walked out into the den, spotting her niece with her coat on. "Where are you going?" she questioned. "Out with Albert," she said, brushing her golden hair away from her face while looking at her Aunt Patty. "Do you have plans? Or, can you take Chris to the park for a while?" Kelly rolled her eyes at the older woman. She did not want her aunt imposing on her plans, even though she did not have any at that moment, and Albert and her were going to decide what to do once he picked her up. "Kelly, it's important. I have to go shopping for Chris's G.I.F.T.S. alone, and you know how much he loves you and your boyfriend." *Probably, because we spoil him too much -- especially Albert,* she figured. Albert was always buying him ice-cream, candy and trinkets or playing with him when they were all together. The Beatles said you can't buy love, but maybe it can be leased. Maybe, it can't, since he certainly did not buy her love. He really surprised her, since at first she believed that he was only spoiling Chris because he was her cousin and he wanted to get close to her, but he honestly seemed to have a gift for being around children. Maybe, in the beginning, it was because he wanted to be near her, especially when she just moved down to Pensacola and was still engaged to Samuel, and Chris seemed to accompany them sometimes as their little chaperone. But, now she and Albert were seriously dating, and when she had to babysit Chris and ended up bring him along with her, Albert still acted like a daddy, big brother and playmate all rolled into one. * * * * * * * * * * * * Twenty-three-year-old Albert Calavicci stood in back of the swing set at the playground, pushing Chris, who sat on a black swing held up with chains, so he would go forward and back on the swing. Chris's legs tried to push him like the older kids were doing on the swing set next to the one he was on. Kelly sat on the swing next to her nephew, her body turned sideways, her arm wrapped around the chain. She looked up at her boyfriend, who she considered to look as cute as a cuddly teddy bear as he pushed Chris, and his piercing dark eyes looked sweetly across at his girlfriend, as he smiled at her--the only woman who captured and he held in his heart. Albert could not believe how hot it was for the day before Christmas, and guessed, that being a native New Yorker, he would never get used to the hot Southern winters. To him the weather felt like it was more of a Northern spring or fall day, rather than the dead of winter. It was nothing like the snowy days he witnessed in New York City, where the snow drifts sometimes seemed as big as the building or at least the first floor of a building. He doubted that northern Florida ever had a snow storm since the Ice Age. Well, it was hard for her to picture Florida without sunshine. . . . just like he couldn't picture his life without Kelly . . . especially due to the way he felt toward her now, her warmth of her smiles and love being the only warmth he would need to last through any freak storms that might happen. While taking a walk up the street, Sam spotted Chris telling Albert to stop the swing, which he did, before the boy ran away from the swing set and toward the sandbox. Sam remembered how during the leap he was thinking about before Al had struck up a real friendship with the leapee's four-year-old daughter, singing a lullaby to her in his off-key voice and showing her projections of dinosaurs from the handlink. If he didn't see it back then, he would have really noticed it in the park, especially since now he knew what to look out for. *Al, you finally found your calling,* he joked to himself, spying the young couple knowing that, somewhere past wedding bells, twelve kids like Chris -- except only eight would actually be boys -- would be somewhere on the horizon of their Destiny. He knew Albert would make the perfect daddy someday, and knew the perfect mommy was sitting on the swing. The imaging chamber door opened next to Sam. "Just got here. Didn't even have any time to check any data on Ziggy," Al announced, slightly annoyed. "My kid decided to miss the bus. So guess what? Daddy dearest, here, ended up being late for work." "No problem, Al," Sam said. He would rather have his best friend be late because he was bothered by the hassles of fatherhood with one of his children in his new life than be late because he was enjoying the pleasures of bachelorhood with one of his girlfriends in his old life. Chris and another playmate from his pre-kindergarten class approached Sam and Al. "This is Santa, Timmy," the boy introduced, indicating Sam. "No, it's not. It's only your grandpa," Timmy responded, before going back to the sandbox. Al looked at Sam quizzically, smiling at his best friend and cousin. "Santa?" Al asked Sam, laughing jovially at his identity. "Yeah, that's Santa," Chris said, looking up at the older man whose happy eyes looked very familiar to him although the rest of the man did not. "Who are you?" Sam finally remembered what the little girl believed was the identity of the two strange men who came to visit her. "He's Angel -" "Bob," Al said, quickly cutting Sam off, not wanting the boy to find out anything about who he really was so it would not be broadcasted throughout the child's known universe. "I'm Angel Bob." He smiled at Chris sweetly, as he spotted Kelly calling for Chris to walk with her back home. "Now, I have to talk to Santa alone. Tell him what a good kid you were this year, Chris. So, why don't you go over to Kelly now?" "Why? I want to be with you, Angel and with Santa." "Well, I promise to visit you later, and Santa promises to leave you something special under your tree, if you go now. Promise, Santa?" "I promise, Al." Al shot Sam a look, telling him not to use his real name in front of Chris. "I mean I promise, Angel Bob." "You promise, Chris?" "Ok," Chris agreed, happily anticipating the visit and the special gift. As he ran off toward Kelly and Albert, Sam noticed an extremely saddened look in Al's eyes. "What's the matter, Al?" Sam asked, trying to find out what was bothering him, somehow sensing it had to do with the boy who was talking to them a moment ago. Al remembered the event that took place that Christmas, some happy and some sad, all happening at the same time. He wished there were only happy events. Destiny decided to partially sacrifice a young life in equal exchange for his good life, as a gift for two special occasions. He looked at the handlink, and was gladdened by the fact that one of those gifts will be taken back. He only hoped that Sam could complete his assignment to make his Christmas wish come true. "Kelly's nephew," Al answered. "He's going to get into an accident on Saturday, the day after Christmas, of all times. What kind of present is it, when a little boy has to spend his entire life stuck in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the neck down!" Sam could understand immediately how Al felt, even he was partly saddened that the cute, outgoing kid was going to be disabled for life. He spent part of his internship working with people who were in wheelchairs or had other disabilities. He met and worked with many of these people as his patients, and a co-worker at Project Star Bright was also bound to a wheelchair. Even though they were fully functional and his co-worker was almost as intelligent as he was, it was still hard for them or even impossible to do the things completely heathy people took for granted, like moving from one place to another or taking care of one's needs. He did not realize how much he took things, like walking for granted, and hoped that Chris's chubby legs could always carry him quickly away like they did at that moment as he ran toward his cousin, Kelly. "Most disabled people lead normal lives, Al," Sam informed. "Not in 1957," he said, remembering a time when all "special people," whether they were wheelchair bound like Chris or retarded like his younger sister, were treated like outsiders to the community and the rest of the world. "That's the year?" "Yeah, the day before Christmas, 1957." Al tried to break a smile. "It's Christmas time back at the Project, too. What's the chance of that? You're Dave Williston. We used to call him 'Gramps' or 'Grandpa,' even though he actually was only Chris's grandpa." Sam spotted Chris, meandering toward the swing set where the young couple still were. "How did the accident happen?" he asked, truly wanting to know. "Chris was playing around in the park on the monkey bars." Al indicated the towering, twisting metal bars where a group of grade school children was climbing. "He ended up slipping and fell right on his back, breaking several bones in his spinal cord. "I'm telling you, you have to watch kids every possible second, and even that's not too often, since the moment you turn away something happens," he said handing out his parental tip of the day, as well as giving information about what happened to Chris. "That's terrible, Al," Sam commented. "Imagine a four-year-old kid, paralyzed for life! Those quacks they took him too said they couldn't do anything about it. " He felt his heart breaking all over again, although this time he had assurance that Sam would be there. "All of us, our entire family back then, spent so much money for a bunch of damn doctors, not to do what we want and cure Chris," he stated, angry at the doctors for not doing anything about it. He made his Christmas wish. "Sam, maybe you are the one doctor who can do something for him."