A great big blanket of pure-white snow festooned the city. The first sight of winter weather painted an inky portrait of downtown, a Norman Rockwell of sorts. Bustling shoppers filled sidewalks, crossing avenues, in dizzying traffic, taxis carried tourists, and there was a general buzz in the icy air.
As toasty, even nostalgic as the background behind me is, I only felt the bitter cold bite my toes. My scarf didn't do itself justice either, worn purely as ornament, like a brilliant star atop a Macy’s window display. Practicality was never my virtue, but ridiculous fashion sense is.
It was him. Below that white curly beard, sat a pair of half-glasses, half falling off his nose, Stuffed to the gills into a bright red overcoat, I tossed my coat down to follow the line of small children in wait.
“Don't stand there gawking, fucker, get that hat on and help me,” Luke whispered through his beard, with a grin. I waited till the small portly boy leaped off his lap, and tossed on the elf ears and moved beside Luke.
“Luke Yates, this whole time I thought all that moxie and sexy talk was just a farce!”
“Give each one of these little shitty-pants a candy cane.”
I took that command as his answer to me. Seldom does one show the vulnerable side or wear it like a medal. For Luke, his was tucked away somewhere, along with a keen understanding and a badge of courage. That was something I had lacked during the past few weeks, while crying over the twice-spilled milk of a relationship that went sour and curdled.
I lost count of the canes that I dispensed, as I took one for myself. Grady, Marc and Will also arrived to spend the afternoon, as the charity offered a hot lunch and a free food pantry. I met Nathan who, via introductions from Luke, worked during his free weekends at the shelter. I liked him.
“I didn't expect kids.”
“Believe it, that‘s the hardest,” Nathan answered, with a frown.
“You know, every day I pass this homeless guy, with cardboard boxes stacked up, and I think, what did he do to get himself in such a jam? Maybe he is a drunk or pretty foolish to be on the street. Then, the other morning, a little girl was with him and she called him ‘Dad.’”
It was a quiet few seconds, when Luke was back to being himself, a black pea-coat hung over his arm.
“Hey, Santa, nice job!”
“I didn't get the chance!” Nate said, shooting a comical snarl at Luke.
Will rolled his eyes with a grunt.
“Yeah right any day that Luke plays Santa, I would eat my hat.” Grady laughed, as I stood silently.
“With Luke as Santa, the only thing on that lap would be a piece of ass,” Marc joked.
The twinkle in his eye and the slight blush of his cheeks might have gone unnoticed to some, but the smack on my ass, as the six of us headed for the street, bonded another layer in our friendship. I never told the guys that Luke was Santa and he never revealed his true intention, which was for me to meet Nathan.
Nate and I walked ahead of the others, as his warm arm found the small of my back. I looked back to see Luke and the guys in conversation. Grady held Marc’s gloved fingers. All the while, a frosted moon seemed to follow us.
“Thanks babe” I mouthed back to Luke as we turned onto the avenue….