Emma moaned as she rolled over and pressed herself against her husband’s chest. It’s Christmas Eve and for the first time since moving into their new apartment, she and her husband finally got to sleep in together. They are both ER surgeons and neither of them is ever home at the same time. Neither of them wanted to get up, all they wanted at that moment was just to sleep for as long as they could or until the dull thud at the foot of their bed woke them.
Emma rolled over and sighed. Peeking at the time on her alarm clock, she whined, “Come on. Really? 8:30?” She rubbed her eyes, “Can’t I get some sleep ’round here?”
Her husband, Richard, groaned groggily. “What is it?” The thud grew louder and he bolted up, suddenly wide awake. “What was that?”
Emma swung her robe over her shoulders and hopped off the bed. Richard did the same. At the foot of the bed, they discovered a wrinkly cardboard box with a big red sticker on top. The white letters on the sticker read, “Open me, if you dare” Emma and Richard exchanged a quick nervous glance.
Richard made a move to open the box but Emma slapped his hands away. “Are you crazy?” She hissed.
“What? Don’t you want to find out what it is?”
“No.” Emma regret her answer slightly after it came out of her mouth. She was a little curious but she was afraid to admit it. At the same time, bad thoughts crept into her brain. What if it’s a bomb? What if it’s one of Richard’s pranks? She wondered. Richard did play a lot of prank during their college days. “Maybe I’m just a tad curious?”
“Then let’s find out.” Richard said. She grabbed one of the flaps of the box while Richard grabbed another flap and on the count of three, they pulled the flaps back and propelled backward by the force as the little white furry creature sprang from the box.
The creature wore pointy shoes, had large googly eyes, and a wide smile, revealing its only two teeth. “What are you?” Richard nearly shouted.
The creature cleared its throat and answered in a squeaky voice. “I am Noel, Santa’s elf.”
Richard shot Emma a look as if mentally saying to her, “I thought elves were tiny people, not this prehistoric-era-like creature.”
“You don’t believe me, do you?” Noel asked. “That’s because you’re not seeing my true form. It’s what happens when you don’t have the spirit of Christmas in ya.” Noel cluck his tongue, “People these days, they only care about shopping for Christmas and work. Your lacking of Christmas spirit is causing us elves trouble. Lots and lots of trouble.”
“How so?” Richard frowned.
“We elves depend on Christmas spirit. It’s where we get the energy to make presents each Christmas.” He retrieved a thermometer that seemed to be too large to fit in the lining of his jacket. “You see this spirit meter? It’s low on Christmas spirit.”
“Well, it can’t be just us.” Richard said.
Noel nodded. “You’re right, it’s not just you. Elves are being dispatched everywhere on Christmas Eve. We need to raise enough spirit for next year.”
“Don’t you think you’re holding the expectation just a bit too high? I mean, we’re so busy with our lives each day and to have just one day to be with each other and sleep in. Is that so wrong?” Emma said. “This doesn’t mean we don’t have Christmas spirit, it just mean we are choosing to celebrate the holiday a different way. Besides, isn’t being with one other part of the spirit of Christmas?”
“I’m afraid it’s not enough.” Noel replied.
“Then what is it that you need?” Emma asked.
“Ya know, the little things. Window decorations, Christmas trees, lights, meal with the family. Those will up my spiritometer.”
Emma looked around the room and then at Richard. “I guess we can decorate the windows and maybe bake some cookies. Would that satisfy your spiritometer?” Noel nodded. “Then you’ll leave us alone?” Noel nodded again. She again glanced at Richard and sighed, “Come on, Rich. If that’s what it take.”
Richard spent the day shopping for Christmas decoration while Emma stayed home baking cookies. She considered herself an amateur cook. After several frustrating attempts at making cookies, Emma felt her Christmas spirit dwindle. She even slammed the baking tray hard on the counter. “Don’t give up, miss. You almost got it this time.” Noel encouraged when Emma became enrage.
At last, after about the tenth try, a batch of rich chocolate cookies came out of the oven. “There,” Emma piled the cookies on the plate, “did that do anything to your spiritometer?” Noel showed her the large thermometer, it had risen a trace. “Still? What does it take to raise it up?”
“You just want me to disappear, is that what you want? You cannot be frustrated. Your frustration just makes it worse.” Emma placed her hand at her hip. Noel hopped off the chair and walked into the living room. “Okay, maybe cooking isn’t exactly your forté. Let’s wait until Richard comes back with the decorations.”
“In the meantime, why don’t you tell me more about yourself? I only know your name and you’re Santa’s elf.”
“I have a wife and three kids and I am a doctor at the North Pole.” Emma raised her brow. An elf doctor? He was going to say more but the door burst open and Richard staggered into the apartment, juggling two boxes in his arms.
The second he got into the living room, he half-dropped, half-threw the boxes on the floor. Out of breath, he pointed at the door and heaved. “There is one…more.”
About half hour later, a rectangular box laid open between them, inside were lights, ornaments, and sections of an artificial Christmas tree. “Now all you have to do is put it together.” Emma and Richard glared at Noel, who immediately threw his hands up. “I’m just saying.”
As the day wore on, the apartment living room became more and more colorful. The pre-lit tree stood in one corner and strings of lights hung along the windowsill. While Richard hung the lights and applied his finishing touch to the living room, Emma brought out the camera from one of the boxes and began taking pictures, admiring the decoration. As she snapping away, she became oblivious of the elf’s presence and began laughing at ease.
“Ah, finally finished.” Richard declared. He took a few steps back, admiring his work. “What do you think, honey?” He asked Emma.
“It’s beautiful. What do you think, Noel?” No response. “Noel?” They looked around. The elf was gone, nowhere to be seen. Instead, there was a note on the kitchen counter addressing to them.
Dear Emma and Richard,
Great work on the decorations! Thank you for raising your Christmas spirits and saving North Pole.
The two of them glanced at each other and then at the decoration. The camera still hung at Emma’s chest, she said. “You know, it sure was a wonderful relaxing day.” Richard nodded. For the remainder of the night, they just stood there, held hands and admired the lights.