“Watch where you’re going old, man.” Larry hated Christmas in the city. So many people clogging up the sidewalks.
“Pardon me, sir,” the man said. “I was just admiring the lights.”
Larry glanced at the front of the Dynamico building. The marketing folks had really gone all out with the Christmas decorations that year. He’d have to talk to them about their budget.
He pushed past the old man and started through the front door.
“Do you work here, young man?”
Larry stopped, trying to decide if the man was joking or not. Everybody in the city knew Larry Parker, youngest CEO in Dynamico history.
He sneered over his shoulder. “Do you know who I am, old man?”
The plump old codger nodded and winked. “That I do, son. That I do.”
Larry rolled his eyes and continued into the lobby.
“Merry Christmas!” the man bellowed after him.
Larry hated Christmas, period. It was a waste of time, energy, and money. A waste of hopes and dreams. He’d realized that on Christmas morning when he was five years old.
All the letters to Santa, the trip to the mall to sit on his lap, all the begging to his parents …
All Larry had wanted that year was Theo, a cute little teddy bear with green eyes, just like Larry.
But what did he get? Clothes. Books. There were no Theos to be had, his mother had explained.
Yes, Larry found out early there was no Christmas magic. It was just another day, and Christmas Eve was just another night to work late, to get ahead of the next poor sap who was home spending “quality time” with his family.
Larry blustered by the front desk, barely even noticing the security guard and his hopeful, “Merry Christmas, Mr. Parker,” greeting.
Larry jammed the “up” button on the elevator and read through a story on the front of his newspaper while he waited — a fluff piece for kids about how Santa was preparing his sleigh for that night’s ride.
He groaned and tossed the rag into a nearby trashcan in disgust as the elevator doors slid open. Inside, he jabbed the button for the fifteenth floor and rocked on his feet as the car rose too slowly for his liking.
When the doors slid open again, he let his shoulders relax and exhaled a breath of relief. The hallways were dark and quiet, and even the Christmas lights outside were far enough below him that they didn’t splash in his eyes.
Finally, Larry could get some peace and do a little work.
He walked toward his corner office, not quite as hurried as he had been before, drinking in the solitude. When he arrived at the thick wooden door, he slid his key in the lock and pushed into the dark interior.
Larry knew the office so well that he didn’t need a light. He hung his jacket on the hook behind the door, closed it, then walked around his desk and sat listening to the darkness for a few moments.
Outside, carolers’ infernal odes climbed the walls of the Dynamico building and seeped into the airtight windows, punctuated by the laughter of passersby and street-corner Santas ringing their bells.
Larry sighed and reached for his desk lamp. The hush had been nice while it lasted, but at least there was work to do.
He tugged on the chain, and warm yellow light spilled across his desk, glistening off the oak surface. He reached for a fountain pen but stopped cold.
There at the front of the desk, propped against the stem of the lamp, was a little brown teddy bear. Its green eyes sparkled in the warm glow. Next to it lay a slip of paper emblazoned with neat cursive writing.
Larry wanted to toss the bear and the note into the trash, call security … but instead, he reached out a trembling hand and slid the paper closer. He held it to the light, shaking like a scared puppy.
And read …
Theo has been good company for me on many long, cold December rides, but I’ve just been hanging onto him until you’re ready.
I think this is the year. I know you two will be great friends.
Your pal. –SC
Larry touched Theo’s velvety synthetic fur, and his eyes watered as he caressed the never-forgotten teddy bear to his chest.
Somewhere, a soft, familiar voice hummed along with the carolers outside, and after a few bars, Larry realized … it was his own.