“Get back to work,” a fat voice bellowed.
Sherry Wintersleigh yawned, stretched her arms wider and opened her eyes.
“What, what, what,” she began.
“He’s always like this,” whispered a passing elf.
“But Christmas is…,” Sherry said. The shadow standing over her shook his finger at her.
“You heard what I said,” bellowed Santa. “On your feet.”
“Finished,” whispered Sherry as she stood. Santa scowled down at her.
“Well, ho, ho, ho,” he replied. “To the mailroom. Now.”
“But, but…” said Sherry as she uncurled her arms and rubbed her eyes.
But by then Santa had gone.
“Better hurry,” said another passing elf.
So many passages, so many corridors, so many wrong turns, Sherry said to herself, as she wandered, only occasionally lost now through the North Pole.
Until finally she found it. Mail Room. She tried the door handle. It turned and clicked but didn’t open. She looked up. There was a handwritten sign that said, Press for entry.
She pushed the door bell.
“Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,” the door chorused.
Christmas is so over for you now, she thought.
She opened the door, pushed aside a Santa sack which and stepped inside.
“Glad you could make it,” said a friendly voice.
“Alabaster,” she said. She couldn’t see him for the room was filled, floor to ceiling with Santa sacks. She pushed another sack aside to see better. It fell to the floor with a gentle bump.
A wizened grey elf was crouched over a trestle table. His face flickered. Santa’s administrator. She heard scratching and leaned forward to see. He was writing.
The candle next to him sizzled. Sherry jumped.
“What, what, what,” Sherry began.
“Sit down, and I’ll tell you,” Alabaster said.
Sherry crept forward, bumping into and stepping over sacks, pulled out a folding chair and sat opposite.
“All these letters,” he gestured around him.
The mail was late this Christmas, Sherry thought to herself.
“Are from children who,” he paused.
Sherry leaned forward.
“Don’t believe in Santa anymore,” he finished.
Sherry looked down at her hands. Oh no, she thought. Not the Naughty List.
Alabaster looked up and smiled.
“No, not the naughty list at all. An opportunity instead.”
He held up a letter.
“We write back to them. We tell them the truth.”
Sherry gasped. The Naughty List was now starting to look like the best job at the North Pole.
“What, what, what do we tell them?” Sherry whispered.
“That the person who gave them the present works for us. And yes sometimes they get gift-giving wrong. But only you can make it right. By giving love and joy and peace until next Christmas day.”
Sherry stood up, clapped her hands and shouted for joy.
Alabaster pushed a pile of letters, a pen and pad towards her.
Sherry began writing.