Arwin found that driving the 'Santa Special' was more of an adventure than she had expected...
A half hour later they were on the road, and eating the lunches that Mrs. C. Laus had packed. When the children were fed... Arwin had hoped they'd all take a nap... but they were just too wound up. Soon the bus was in a loud uproar again. So Arwin continued her story. "o.k Children... Are you ready to explore more cities???" They all yelled yeeeeeeees.. and soon Arwin was flying the bus to America.
They visited many cities in America and Mrs. C. Laus and Arwin made sure to ask questions about each place. Suzie knew almost all the answers and Arwin was starting to feel a fondness for the little girl, she hadn't felt since her neice died. She wondered how Suzie had ended up in the orphanage. She made a note to ask Mrs. C. Laus when they were alone later.
With America's presents all sorted and delivered... the children were anxious to play another game. Arwin suggested they sing Christmas carols! Yes... she felt like SINGING!!! "Let's sing the Fa la la la laaaa song," she found herself saying.... and she sang louder than all the others on the bus. Deck the Halls... Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer... Silent Night... and other songs made the time go fast, and before long they were back at the orphanage.
The children all thanked Mz. Elf Lane for taking them to see Santa. Suzie was the last child off the bus. "Mz. Elf Lane... could you come back and visit me sometime?" Arwin looked at her with a tear in her eye. She knelt down next to Suzie and handed her the small box she had cherished for oh so many years. "Tomorrow morning is Christmas," she said to Suzie. "Wait to open this until then. Keep it in your pocket and remember me when you open it." "What is it?" Suzie asked. "Ah.. just a present I know you will like" said Arwin. Suzie gave Arwin a big hug and a bunch of thank yous and was out the door.
Mrs. C. Laus had seen the whole thing from the doorway. "Thank you Mz. Elf Lane" she said. "Suzie has been so quiet since she got here. She lost her parents in a car crash last year. She has no family... only us for now. This is the FIRST time she's shown any interest in any kind of grown-up. She likes you. I can tell." Mrs. C. Laus motioned Arwin to come in and collect her BONUS before she started back to the garage.
Arwin had forgotten about the BONUS. Somehow the shoes she had dreamt about buying on the way to the orphanage seems so frivilous. How could she think of shoes or anything else for that matter.. when these children all needed homes and families? Mrs. C. Laus handed Arwin a candy cane striped envelope. "You can look at it now or read it later," she said. Arwin looked at the envelope... it even smelled like peppermint. She decided to open it then and there. Inside was a candy cane certificate that said... "ARWIN LANE (that was strange... how did they know her name?) FOR GOING ABOVE AND BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY... THIS CERTIFICATE ENTITLES YOU TO 1 FREE CHRISTMAS WISH!" And it was signed... SANTA! "Santa???" Was this a joke? Mrs. C. Laus saw the stunned look in Arwin's face. "Yes.. Santa is my husband," she said. Arwin had not realized... Mrs. C. Laus???? duhhhh "Mrs. Claus!!!"
This HAD to be a joke. There was no such thing as Santa or Mrs. Claus for that matter. "The storm you went through to get here is a portal to the North Pole," Mrs. Claus explained. "When you put on the elf costume... you were magically transformed. You became a real elf and the bus knew where to take you. Didn't you feel the tingle in your ears??? And the jingle in the shoes???" Arwin noded in disbelief. She had to admit she DID feel better with the costume on. All her humbugness had gone away the moment she put the elf costume on. She just thought it was the hot chocolate. Why not Santa??? This whole trip had been magical to say the least. She had fun today... and Suzie was a big part of that fun.
Well Arwin didn't have to think hard to know what she wanted. Forget shoes... forget a new car... those could wait. Before she knew it, she was blurting out... "I wanna adopt Suzie!" Mrs. Claus smiled. "That can be arranged. Come back tomorrow and we will start the paperwork." Arwin agreed and soon she was on her way back to the garage.
No one was at the garage when she pulled in to park the bus. She gave it a nice pat as the door closed, and she walked out the door to find her things in her locker and change her outfit. She hung the elf costume neatly on its' hanger. She hated to take it off. She liked the way it made her feel. The clothes.. the ears.. even the jingly shoes. As she took off the ears a tingle ran down her spine. Soon she was her old self again. Plain ole Arwin. She took the costume to the dispachers' office. "Did you have a good time with the children," the dispacher asked? She nodded yes and handed him the costume. She walked out the door in a daze. Was it all a dream??? Did she really say she'd adopt Suzie??? The day spun in her head as she drove home. She had just enough energy to change into her pjs before plopping into bed. She drifted off to sleep almost immediately.
When Arwin woke.. the sun was shining. A bird chirped outside her bedroom window. It was Christmas Day! No bus driving today. She had made plans to visit her sister later that day... so she had the whole morning and afternoon to herself! She grabbed a quick shower, found her mp3 player and hooked it up to the speakers. She felt good today... better than she had felt in ages. Someone had put Christmas Carols on her player. "Must be sis," she thought to herself. Sis was ALWAYS trying to make her feel better on Christmas. Arwin let the carols play... today she didn't care.
The doorbell rang. A short elfish looking boy stood at the door and handed Arwin an envelope. "YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED TO GO WITH TWINKLES TO VISIT SUZIE AT THE NORTH ORPHANAGE." Signed by Santa again. So it WASN'T a dream... Suzie WAS real... Santa WAS real... the whole bus trip WAS real! She could feel the excitement of the day already. Twinkles drove Arwin up the same route she had taken with the children on the bus the previous day.
Suzie greeted her at the orphanage door. "They told me you'd be back," she said, "I've not opened your gift yet. I held it close just like you said." She pulled Arwin to the tree in the main room. The other children all greeted Arwin. She wished she could take them ALL home... but she kept THAT wish to herself. Suzie sat on her lap as she opened the little box. Her eyes lit up as she saw the necklace. "OH MY... It's a necklace like the BIG GIRLS wear." She hugged Arwin for what seemed hours. They spent the day laughing and singing and when it was time for Arwin to go visit her sister... she took Suzie aside and said "How would you like to be MY little girl?" Suzie yelled "YEEEEEEEEEES".. and they hugged and hugged.
As Arwin and Suzie headed off to Arwin's sister's house... Arwin thought to herself... "hummm... Driving the 'Santa Special' was more of an adventure than I expected!"