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It wasnt the usual Cascade weather. Habitually Cascade was rainy, or as Blair put it, it was cold and wet, very wet.
But it was December, Christmas was 2 days away. The air was crisp and the sky had an incredible whitish hue. It was snowing. A white fluffy blanket was slowly covering the town. All was muffled, peaceful, and almost unreal.
Looking towards the vault of heaven, Jim felt himself lost in that quiet atmosphere. Serenity swept over him, enveloping his soul, cradling his heart.
Being a practical man, Jim knew that those sensations only lasted the space of a night so he wanted taste every moment even if this meant staying awake till morning.
Wouldnt have been a sacrifice, though. Such a night it was a rare gift, it couldnt be wasted.
To give a further magic touch was, maybe, the crackling fire in the sojourn, the scented candles with their flickering glimmering. The sweet note of a Christmas song fluttered in the loft like autumn leaves.
There was just one discordance in that almost perfect idyll.
Something was missing.
Someone with whom Jim wanted share those feelings.
In fact he was alone in front of the balcony. Blair wasnt there with him.
The anthropologist had preferred to enjoy the snow by going out for walk. At least this was what he had said in the note left on the kitchen table for his Sentinel.
So, the detective wasnt worried, a bit lonely maybe and after allowing himself another few minutes in the warm apartment, Ellison took his jacket and scarf and went out to join his Guide.
It wasnt a long walk from the loft to Blairs choice to contemplate the white show. In fact Jim found the student in the little park two blocks from the loft.
Snuggled in his heavy parka, hands tucked in the pockets, he looked lost in the space. Blair seemed at peace with the whole world though he resembled a rather funny snowman too.
Slowly approaching the bench where Blair sat, Jim took a place near him mirroring his position.
The duo stayed without say a word, just basking in each other 's company.
"Wonderful night, isnt it?"
"Yeah. I'd say perfectly timed for this period."
"A white, peaceful, not too cold night before the eve." Blair remarked with a content sight.
"You seem so relaxed, Chief. Its good to see you once in a while so quiet although I have admit; its odd association, the term quiet and you in the same phrase."
"Brr, enough to make your flesh creep, I bet!"
A grumbled smartass and a swat to his friends head was the Sentinels answer.
After some time, Jims voice to vibrated in the night.
"Sandburg, is there something that worrying you? If so, can I help you in some way? You know that you can speak with me about anything"
"Yes, big guy, I know it, thanks but its all right, honest! Im just in an introspective mood. There is something in the air "
"What? Love is in the air, maybe?"
"Ah ah, you know, you could undertake a new career if you want, anyway yes, there is love in the air too, after all its Christmas. Though isnt just that. I dont know what something magical."
"We're entering into a full reflection of the religious, spiritual and historic aspect of Christmas in the various world cultures since the Roman Empire till today, are we? Because, otherwise, my friend I could strangle you with your muffler, and in a trial surely the jury would grant me self-defence..."
"According to ?"
""The valiant protection of my ears from your inexhaustible ars oratoria."
"Kettle call pot "
"What do you mean now?"
"You called me funny, huh? Well, after your tirade I have the absolute certainty by now: you are totally certified!!!"
"How dare you insult your sentinel," the cop protested pretending to be outraged, and to avenge himself he didn't hesitate to suddenly tickle the very sensitive Sandburgs ribcage.
Caught on the hop, Blair didnt succeed immediately to counterattack fairly, though the heavy parka that he wore limited the action of the very dangerous digits.
The fight lasted mere minutes, leaving sentinel and guide panting and laughing from their stunts,
Meanwhile the police observer tried to get a grip on himself, Ellison got his breath back and resumed investigating the young man's attitude.
"Chief, are you alright?"
"Yes, Jim, Im fine, Im just a bit overwhelmed, thats all."
"Overwhelming by what? Do you mind processing your thoughts for me?"
"Its this period, Jim "
"Do you mean Christmas? The holiday season?"
"But I though that you loved them. Hell, since Thanksgiving, you've been in the Christmas spirit and you are trying to infect the rest of the world with your wait what do you call it? Oh yeah euphoric sentimentalism, whatever that means..!"
"Oh man, havent you ever seen Starsky and Hutch?"
"What that got to do with it now?"
"Never mind! The fact is that Christmas, the present Christmas has become so materialistic. People are worried about buying useless gifts, lots and lots of food, pretending to donate money to charity, organizing sumptuous parties, wasting in this way thousands of dollars. Its nonsense. Christmas isnt this. Christmas is for family. The Christmas tree, the Crib need keep on being symbols, not a competition for the most beautiful. Christmas is the faith to believe that something special can still happen in our life."
"Is it this reason that you have a letter for Santa in your pocket? "
With a little smile the student extracted the coloured envelope from his parka, holding it reverently between his gloved hands.
"Arent you a bit too old to send a letter to Kris Kringle. What could you ask him? Perhaps to succeed finally to persuade Terri in administration to go out with you?"
"Already accomplished, mon ami! December 28, at 6 pm.," the observer confessed mischievously, wriggling his eyebrows.
"You are you are so impossible, Chief! So, what is the story behind that letter, because Im sure that its a long history. Am I right?"
"Actually thats right. This is sort of tradition. You see, when I was a child, mom and me travelled non-stop. One place after another, so it happened that I have always spent my Christmas in different localities and ways from the last. Werent important the presents or what there was on the table. We were together, that was enough. Anyway the letter for Santa was a tradition. Naomi helped me to write it and I was so happy that anywhere we were at the moment I could send my letter."
"Can I know what you asked Santa for back then?"
"Above all, to have always my mom with me, then some books, to go see the Grand Canyon, the African continent, the Coliseum or a real home. To stay finally in a stable place, to have some friends "
"Im sorry, Chief, apparently your wish hasnt been fulfilled."
"Oh no, Jim, well, not all of them perhaps, but some yes!"
"Come on, Chief, I believe that there is something else."
"Well, obviously when I became older I stopped writing my letter even if I have kept on believing in the Christmas spirit, then I entered Rainier and after some months I met this girl, Julia."
"I knew that there was a girl involved. There is always a girl in your stories."
"Shut up, envious. However, she was a rather solitary person. She was a shorty, like me, long curly brown hair, glasses and a nice smile with dimples."
"It sounds to me like you in feminine version."
"In fact many believed that we were brother and sister. I was 16 years old, she was 18. We became friends. It was a good time. That Christmas, while we studied in the library, an envelope fell out of one of her books. It was addressed to Santa. She was embarrassed that I saw it but I told her that till some years before, I too sent my letter to Papa Noel. She relaxed a bit and she asked me if I thought it was crazy to carry on that custom even if the our childhood had ended quite before. There was such tenderness and expectation for my opinion that I answered firmly, no. She smiled and the issue ended for that time. The day after, though, I found in my mailbox, an envelope. Inside there was a letter for Santa ready to write."
"So, since then you resumed your correspondence with Kris Kringle?"
"Chief, this ritual, I mean, you are an adult now, youre a teacher, you work with me in the field and you are writing your diss on Sentinels. In short, its odd also for you."
"Perhaps, but its what symbolized this act that I valued. Not the material wishes, but some wishes nevertheless."
"For example, you!"
"Me, would you mind translating that?"
"I didnt always tell you that you were a lifetime dream?"
"So, Im a present from Santa?"
"Santa, God, any god of any religion. Isnt important the name, its the faith that counts. To believe resolutely that one day your dream could become reality."
"Are you serious? Did you really ask in your letter to find a sentinel in the flesh?"
"We are here, or not? Do you mind?"
"What?! To be the long time childs dream finally fulfilled? Im honoured, Chief. Thanks for waiting and for having so much trust."
"You are welcome, big guy, you have been worth."
"So now that Im here with you, what have you been asking for these last few years?"
Turning the letter over his hands, Blair lost himself in his thoughts. "Do you want really know?"
"Uh uh! If you can, I mean, as long as saying it doesnt jeopardize the coming of Santa."
"I dont think that will be a problem. I asked him to be able to help you every day with your senses, to be a good friend, a valid teacher. Those and a few others things."
"They are beautiful wishes even if I think they arent necessary. You are already all these things."
"I guess that also your friend Julias wishes werent materialistic."
"Exactly. She was an only child and except for her parents she didn't have any other relatives in Cascade besides she was, she is, in poor health. She has a congenital disease, lots of problems, and do you know what is still her first wish on her list.? To have a thicker head of hair. On account of her illness, actually she had very fine hair and this is her worry, the only real sadness for her ill health, so every year, even now she hopes to have a Christmas gift, her wish satisfied, if just a bit."
"Sorry, Blair, I didnt want to be intrusive."
"Are you still friends? You never mentioned her before."
"She doesnt live in Cascade any more. She moved about 6 years ago though we mail each other regularly."
A puff of cold wind caused a light tremor in Blair and the Sentinel decided that the outing in the park was finished and that a hot chocolate in front of a crackling fire was mandatory.
"Alright, Chief, its time to go home now, Lets go."
"Do you know that many years ago Julia and I spent Christmas Eve on this bench waiting to see Santa pass with his sleight and reindeer?. Even that night it snowed like now. A magic night. Unforgettable!"
"Did you manage to see him?"
Bouncing on his feet, Sandburg, smiling joyfully, put his hand on Jims shoulder and answered simply: "You are here, brother and Im here too, so "
Meanwhile the snow, slow and solemn fell covering like a sweet white blanket, the two friends, two souls bound to share their fate trudged towards home in the enchanting Christmas atmosphere.
If thanks to Santa, God, the fate or whatever, well, maybe it isnt so important.