The snow blanketed down on New York City as the night engulfed all that was not artificially lit. Near West 110th, Central Park looked especially entrancing with its sidewalks slicking over and the tree limbs lying like ivory coffins. White and still. It was 11:55 at night on the 24th of the year’s last month. In a few minutes, Christmas morning would arrive as quiet as the truth.
Atop the icy mirrors that had frozen along the walkway, Taylor paced back and forth puffing
diligently on a Camel Crush. She shivered in her jean shorts as she eagerly waited for a vehicle to slow. Taylor kept her blue eyes sharply attuned for one of the many lonely men of the holiday season.
About a minute before midnight, a pearl Hummer limousine gently creeped in front of her before coming to a halt. The tinted, charcoal window rolled down quickly to reveal a face that Taylor had seen before. Her heartbeat slowly sped.
“Nobody should be alone on Christmas, right?”
He spoke the words with an infectious smile dressed in an all-white tuxedo with matching white shoes of soft suede. His straight auburn hair concealed his forehead, stopping just before his eyes. He was a handsome man with defined features and his smile was unexpected yet genuine.
Taylor smirked back taking a quick drag from her cigarette.
“You make a very good point.” She replied slyly before scuttling over to the opposite passenger door. She moved carefully, watching for hidden patches of ices as she walked. Popping open the door, she lowered her head inside the car, watching the man sitting comfortably across from her.
“Do you care if I smoke in here?”
“Not at all. Please, have a seat.”
Taylor’s smile broadened while she adjusted her shorts and sat firmly on the black, leather surface,
closing the door behind her. The limo’s idle purr then revved into ignition as they cruised down Manhattan’s increasingly perilous roads. Taylor put her lips on the filter again as she smiled deviously at the confident yet quiet man. He had a half-full bottle of Patron Silver in his lap but didn’t seem particularly inebriated. He locked eyes with the twenty-something girl looking back at him with acertain assuredness.
“You know who I am, don’t you.” The man asked abruptly.
Taylor nodded with the biggest grin she’d managed yet.
“Hell yeah, you’re Steven Mitchell! I have all the albums you did with The Dictators and most of your
solo stuff, too. I almost fainted when I saw you sitting there, I really still can’t believe I’m here now.”
The man’s smile receded a bit as he reached into his tuxedo jacket’s front pocket.
“I figured you did. I appreciate the support; it means a lot that my work has meant so much to you.”
“Ha, no, thank-you! Your music is inspiring and I can’t get enough of your voice.” Taylor raved as she inched gradually closer to the man. The car drove over a speed bump that briefly stole her attention before she refocused on Mr. Mitchell. He had revealed a manila folder with a bit of weight to it and placed it on the girl’s lap sensually.
“You’re much too kind. But I know you’re a busy woman, it being Christmas and all. Let’s make sure
you’re happy with what I’ve brought you.”
Taylor licked her lips unconsciously and gazed studiously inside the folder. Her eyes then widened as she looked back up at Steven.
“…how much money is in here?”
“About eleven thousand dollars.”
Taylor started laughing nervously as she placed the money on the seat.
“I don’t typically charge this kind of money for what I do. Hell, I’ve never even held this much at one time. What exactly are you looking for, babe? I know you’re a big rock star and all, so I’m guessing you want something out there. But for a man of your talent, I’ll do it. I’ll do whatever you want me to.”
Taylor placed her hands on Steven’s chest with her baby-blue eyes half open. The man took a quick glance outside his window to see a homeless man rolling snowballs near a closed Italian restaurant. He looked back at the girl.
“Well, it being Christmas, I definitely want to do something memorable.”
He bent down, reached under his seat and revealed two red & white Santa hats made of velvet and silk. The girl giggled as he gently put one of the hats atop her head and the other on his own. He placed his hand on her bobbing, smooth leg. Her leg stopped moving.
“Alright. I need you to do two things that are going to make me a very satisfied man.”
“Mm. Do tell.”
Steven grinned and looked deeply into her eyes.
“First, I’m going to ask you something. And when you answer, I want you to be as honest as you’ve
ever been about it. Honest enough to warrant the type of money I’m giving you.”
Taylor’s eyes shifted back and forth before she giggled again.
“Alright, sure. Everybody’s got something weird that gets ‘em going.”
Steven adjusted his Santa hat never breaking eye contact.
“You’re correct in that. So tell me: What is the best Christmas you can remember having in all your time alive?”
Taylor’s smile shortened a bit for the first time since they’d begun talking.
“Are you-are you being serious right now?”
“…Alright…” Taylor pondered on the question for a few seconds before reaching into her bag to pull another cigarette. Taylor dropped the box back into her bag before loudly sighing and sitting back in her seat.
The vehicle ran over another speed bump as it turned left onto a darkened street. No streetlights.
Taylor rubbed her forehead momentarily before beginning to speak.
“Honestly, the last Christmas I ever enjoyed was probably when I was twelve years old and it’s not an exciting story, I don’t think.”
“That’s fine. Some of the best stories of our lives are boring to hear.”
Taylor lifted her hand off of the man’s leg. “I was in 6th grade and my dad had just been taken to prison for some sort of drug operation he was running, never really heard the details. He was sentenced around the 19th of December so it was going to be the first holiday that he wasn’t there for, though it wouldn’t be the last. My mom and I woke up Christmas morning and we didn’t even
have a tree, so we had stacked the few gifts we could afford in front of the fireplace.
My dad would always crack some lame joke after I opened each of my gifts and this time he wasn’t so when I started unwrapping the first one, I just lost it and started crying in front of her. That’s when she told me all the things that had created this strong will within her.
She told me about how sometimes people make decisions we can’t change and that all we can control is how those changes affect us. She told me about how a day like Christmas will always make you think of family and how you might as well be there with them to enjoy it. She taught me how people need one another to stay strong. She taught me that I would never be truly alone. I don’t know why I remember that day as vividly as I do, though. Especially since me and my mom haven’t spoken in so long. It’s kind of boring in retrospect, like I said it would be.”
“Didn’t bore me.”
Taylor smirked. “Thanks.”
“Now, I want you to do something else.”
“I want you to find your mother, no matter where she is and no matter what kind of problem you may
have with one another, and spend the rest of today together. See if you can’t top your old Christmas. If my music has really meant that much to you, hopefully you’ll be able to do me this one favor. Also, with that money, I’d like it if you took the rest of this week off from working, if you catch my drift. Maybe re-evaluate some things. Can you do that for me?”
Taylor’s smile had faded and she was now looking concernedly into the man’s eyes. She didn’t respond.
The limousine started to slow as Steven reached across her lap to open the passenger door.
“We just circled the streets around Central Park, this is exactly where I picked you up.”
Taylor silently picked herself up and walked out of the vehicle, looking back at Steven as he stared into her. She still hadn’t spoken. “I won’t be there to see if you can do me my favor, but I trust that you will. I trust you because you have the tone of a powerfully-willed woman who harbors more honor than people might suspect. Tell your mother she raised a daughter with a fine taste in music, too. Merry Christmas, love. It’s too cold to be walking out here.”
With that, he pulled the passenger door shut as the car gained momentum down the curving black pavement.
Taylor gawked as he drove farther away before finally answering his question, though by then, the man could not hear her.