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American Holiday Inspirational

It was just after midnight, and not a soul was in the store. I tapped my foot nervously on the floor, thinking of the family dinner I had missed taking this shift. The store advertised online and had placed signage at kiosks and displays announcing discounts for tonight only. Sales were double commission. This shift paid time and a half, and I desperately needed the money.

When I told my mother I would not be there for Thanksgiving, she blasted back at me with every blame she had in her. I hung up the phone and put it in the back of my mind. My older sister would be there with her husband and little boy. I couldn’t afford the gas to get there, anyway.

Charlie and I had broken up two weeks before. I felt about as good as the black dress I wore as my uniform. He took my box of tips from my second job when he left. I was saving for Christmas gifts and our honeymoon. I don’t know where he is now with my savings and heart.

It was going to be a long shift standing on my feet. Usually, off in dreamland this time of night, I brought a thermos of coffee to thwart sleepiness. I hoped my festive name tag and hair decoration would convey a cheerful Christmas spirit.

More than an hour passed before customers made their way to the men’s furnishings department on the second floor. This was my chance. If I did well tonight in sales, I might be able to move into a permanent sales position.

A young man a few years younger than myself looked lost, “I’d be happy to help you find something,” I said. 

“Oh, yeah … maybe a tie for my father,” he said as he turned toward me.

I led him to the tie display in the center of the Men’s Department. “What style would you say your father wears?” I asked, searching his familiar blue eyes.

“He wears suits for work. Otherwise, I don’t know,” he said.

“Will you be spending Christmas with him?”

“No, I don’t think so. He doesn’t have time,” he said, fidgeting like a bashful child.

“How much do you want to spend?”

“It doesn’t matter, I’m paying with a credit card,” he said.

“In that case, may I make a suggestion?”

“Sure,” he said.

“My father was always working when I was a kid and I hardly knew him. I understand your situation completely. Perhaps your father needs to be reminded of your love for him,” I said.

“I don’t think he cares about me,” the young man said.

“I’m sure he loves you!” I said. “The demands of his life get in the way.”

I knew the heart-wrenching emptiness the young man felt. Blowing out the candles on every birthday cake, my wish was for my father to surprise me and be there. He never was.

“Perhaps you could choose something memorable, he could wear every day? I suggested.

“What are you thinking?” he asked.

“What about a watch? You could engrave it with a personal message to remind him of your love.”

“That’s a great idea!” he exclaimed. “How did you think of that?”

I smiled. “Let me show you some of the watches in the case,” I suggested. “Take a look, I’ll be right back.” 

Another customer walked into the department looking at ties. 

Ties are such a personal preference, why do people think they are great gifts for the men in their lives? Any age, stature, or relationship—men get ties as gifts. 

“Anything I can help you with? I asked with a smile.

“Let me look for a minute or two. I’ll know when I find it. I buy one here every year for my husband! He always loves it!” the woman said.

“I’ll be over at the watch counter if you want to ring up your tie.”

At the watch counter, the young man was leaning on the case and twisting his head around to look at the watches inside.

“I can take one of them out for you to examine without neck strain,” I said.

“He stood up and laughed. You’re funny,” he said.

“Just trying to be helpful.”

It must have been the two cups of coffee I had because I felt pretty good now.

Taking the watch from me, he tried it on his wrist. “Tell me about it. Vintage, right?” he asked.

“Yes, it’s a 1969 14K gold Omega Seamaster. The lizard band is new.” I told him. “It’s been cleaned and overhauled by a master watchmaker.”

“Omega, that’s Swiss, correct?” he asked. “I like the simplicity of it and the way the elongated numerals are set around the face. Handsome.”

She was thinking he was handsome and blushed, feeling her face get hot. 

“Yes, a handsome and timeless watch. Well, perhaps ‘timeless’ is not the best description for a watch. Anyway, to wind or set the watch, you pull out the stem, you know, the old-fashioned way,” I explained as he looked more carefully at the watch. 

“Excuse me again, I’ll be right back.”

The woman that had been searching for a tie for her husband came to the register with a cashmere sweater, a package of briefs, and a tie. “Did you find everything you were looking for this evening?” I queried.

“Yes, thank you for your help,” she said.

“You’re very welcome,” I said. “That will be $162.50. May I put this on your store charge or credit card?”

“I’ll pay cash,” she said and counted out nine $20 dollar bills.

I made the change for her, gave her a box for the tie and sweater, and placed her items into a Christmas bag. “Thank you, have a lovely holiday!” I said as she was leaving.

Returning to the watch counter, the young man queried. “You said something about engraving?”

“Yes, the store will send the watch out to have your engraving done. It takes two weeks, and it would be back in plenty of time for Christmas,” I explained.

“I wouldn’t know what to engrave,” he said.

“Think of how you feel about your relationship with your father. Does any special time from the past come to mind? Something you can reflect on?” I asked.

The young man looked at the young woman helping him and wondered about her. She was clever and had those pretty blue eyes. She seemed to be going out of her way to help me.

“Oh, another customer, I’m sorry, I’ll be right back!” I said. I closed the case and went to help the other customer. “Think about what you want to say in the engraving.”

As I was helping the woman pick out and then ring up a shirt and sweater for her son, I kept thinking of a quote from C.S. Lewis. But it didn’t seem exactly right in this young man’s situation. I said it under my breath several times:

“… you can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

“Hi,” I said to the young man as I walked up, again. “Could I ask your name?”

“Sure, it’s Daniel.”

“So, Daniel are you still thinking about the watch? Do you want to see another?”

“No, I like this one, besides, my father was born in 1969, so it would have a little more meaning to him. 

“What a coincidence, my father was born in 1969, too.”

“Really. So, how much is it?” Daniel asked.

“The price is $4500.00,” I told him. “You can fill out one of the discount coupons on the counter to get 25% off tonight.”

“Oh,” he said.

I wasn’t sure if that was a good “Oh” or not, but I waited for Daniel to make a decision. I saw a couple wandering the department, but I didn’t want to leave right at this moment.

Then Daniel asked, “Could you help me figure out what to say in the engraving?”

“Yes, of course, we can figure out the perfect thing to say,” I told him.

 I breathed a sigh of relief, handed him a coupon to fill out, and excused myself to help the couple now looking at gloves.

After ringing out the gloves for the couple at the register, I returned to Daniel waiting at the jewelry counter. “Are you ready to ring up the watch?” I queried. “Did you fill out the coupon?”

“Yes. Why does it ask about my shopping practices?”

“I explained to him it’s a way to learn about which signage works best in the store and how you found out about the store sales.”

“Oh, okay,” he said as he pushed his credit card into the terminal. I added the coupon, the register calculated the total and he signed electronically. 

“Let’s take a few minutes and work out what to engrave on the back of the watch,” I said as I handed him the receipt, our eyes meeting. His eyes were damp with tears.

Somehow, his sadness was squeezing my heart right out of my body. It was making me feel the hurt of my father leaving all over again.

I touched his hand in a reassuring way, telling him how my father divorced my mother when I was seven. “He rarely came to see my sister and me after that,” I said. “Somehow, I thought it was my fault.

“I wrote my father a childish poem and gave it to him the last time I saw him.”

It started something like this: Please come back and visit for a while…

“Sara, I’m sorry your father left you and your sister. I wish fathers knew the pain they caused their children.” Daniel said.

“Me, too, but it was a long time ago,” I said.

Daniel looked into my eyes as if searching for something. “Can I ask you where you live?”

“I live here in the city,” I said. “You?”

“I’m here at NYU,” he said. “My Junior year.”

“What’s your major?” I asked.

“Economics,” he said. “I’m minoring in Computer Science.”

“Both good choices. You should be employable right out of school!

“I hope to be,” he said. “Did you go to college?”

“Yes, for a time. You know, I may have another customer at any time. Why don’t we work on the text for the engraving?” 

“Okay,” Daniel said. “I wrote some things down while you were with customers, but it needs polish.”

“Let’s see,” Sara said. 

Sara and Daniel worked on the text for the engraving for a few minutes until a customer came into the department. Sara left Daniel to work on it himself.

“May I help you find something?” Sarah asked the customer.

“Yes, I’m looking for a scarf, preferably cashmere.” the woman said.

“Right this way,” I led the woman to a display of scarves in many colors.

Sara and Daniel worked on the text until he felt it carried the message he wanted. The order for the engraving was ready to be sent the next day. Daniel left the department. Sara was feeling the weight of no sleep and still had several hours to go on her shift.

Sara was not at the store when Daniel picked up the watch. He wanted to thank her for her help and left a little gift for her thoughtfulness. On Christmas day, Sara opened gifts with her mother, sister, and her family and they ate a meal together. She never told them about the money Charlie had taken, but she mentioned the nice young man named Daniel she met at work one night.

Daniel mailed the watch with a Christmas card to his father. His father was moved to tears by the gift and the engraved message from his son. 

—Dad, there are better things ahead for us if we can start again. I love you, Daniel—

He called Daniel. “Son. I am so sorry, there are no excuses for shutting you out of my life for so long. Would you be able to take the train out and spend Christmas with me today?” he asked.

“Yes, I can do that,” he said. 

Daniel was thrilled at the invitation! He pulled on some clean jeans and a sweater and rode his bicycle to the station in Queens to catch a train to Penn, then to Long Island.

Daniel’s father picked him up at the train station. They had a good hug and then went to the car. 

“Tell me what’s been going on at school— how are your classes going? Your life? Do you have a girlfriend? I want to know everything,” his father queried.

“Dad, everything is going well at school. I met this young woman at the department store where I purchased your watch. Actually, she was the salesgirl. She is smart, clever, and very nice.”

"That’s good you found a young woman you like. Do you think she might like you?” he asked.

“I’m not sure, I was going to talk to her when I picked up your watch, but she wasn’t on the floor. Her name is Sara.” Daniel said.

“Did you get her last name?”

“No, but she said her father was born in 1969 like you were.”

“Really,” he said.

“Tell me more about your conversation,” his father insisted.

“She explained that the last time she saw her father, she was about seven,” Daniel said. “She told me she had written a poem to him and recited a few lines, something like, ‘Daddy, please come back and visit, I want to talk to you…’”

“Oh, no!” his father said.

“What is it?” Daniel asked. “Are you all right?

“I’m all right, but this may be hard for you to hear.” his father said. 

Daniel’s father got up, walked to the kitchen, and picked up his wallet from the counter. Sitting next to Daniel, he pulled out a fragile piece of paper and unfolded it revealing Sara’s childish words of longing as tears slid down his cheeks:

To Daddy

Please come back 

and visit for awhile

I want to talk to you

and see you smile

Please hold my hand  

and go for a walk 

I want to hold your neck 

and never let go

I love you so much


“I was divorced before I met your mother. After Sara’s mother and I divorced, we had a horrible argument, and she never let me contact the girls again. I have carried this note from Sara all this time, hoping someday I could be her father again.” he said.

The End

November 26, 2022 03:55

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1 comment

Jeannette Miller
17:34 Nov 27, 2022

A solid first submission to Reedsy! Welcome :) I like how you hook the reader into feeling sorry for Sara and her situation working during the holidays then perk her up when she meets Daniel. You wove Sara's job duties into the story very naturally and it worked to give Daniel time to think about what he was buying. I kinda saw the end coming but the way you handled it worked. Good job :)


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