Gift Wrapped

Synopsis: A lonely but hopeful girl named Sasha writes to Santa about finidng a possible mate this season-little knowing the mall Santa has actually had his eyes on her all month long.

~*~CAST~*~

Sasha Bouvier:

Natalie Bouvier: (mom)

Jack Bouvier: (dad)

Aristotle: (dog)

Jennifer 'Jen' Goldman: (best friend)

Paul Valleria: (mall Santa)

Eduardo 'Eddy' Gonzalez: (mall elf)

Hanna Goldman (Jennifer's sister, another mall elf)

Charline 'Chaz' Cole: (another friend of Sasha's, mall elf)

John Redfox: (best friend of Paul)

Dermont:

Little Girl:

Nell:

Scene 1-Another Day, Another Dollar

Sasha: (driving to work, 'Scarborough Fair' is playing on the radio, narrating) Although I wanted to be an anthropologist, my studies carried me into the discipline of social work. I haven't acquired the job I truly wanted, yet, so, for the time being, I work at the mall at the sunglasses kiosk. Sure, it's not glamorous, but there are times when potential buyers pass on by aren't looking that I start trying on shades and pretending I'm a superstar, or Psy dancing to K-pop style music. It's Christmas once again and I do my best to put on a brave face for everyone. I smile as I am 'supposed' to, greet and wish merry Christmas to those who stop by my kiosk. Inwardly, I am crushed. It hurts to see couples walking by, especially those adorable, endearing old loves who have been together for years, swaying together to romantic Christmas songs. (groans) Ugh, not that song again. Anything but that song. It's just so...annoying !

('All I Want For Christmas is You' is playing in the background, and she pretends to be pleasant, grinning, effervescent)

Jen: Sasha ! I was hoping you would be working tonight !

Sasha: Yeah, well you know what they say, Jen...

Together: Another day, another dollar.

Jen: Exactly. All that money will add up. Have you done your shopping yet ? Mine's all done. Got all my Channukah gifts paid for. It's going to be off the chain this year !

Sasha: I always enjoy coming. I'm glad they don't mind a goyim crashing the party.

Jen: Nah, mom, dad and bubbe are tremendous. They don't mind giving you a bit of education on your 'true roots' anyway. (looks at her, knowing something's up) Oh, come on...why so glum ? You love Channukah, Christmas, Boxing day, and if I am not mistaken, you even celebrate Kwanza in your own little special way even though you're not of African descent.

Sasha: I know, I know. It's just difficult for me. Every year, it's the same thing. I've given so much of my life to academia and last year I really thought I had found my perfect match. Turns out the little twerp was only interested in me because I was an exceptional note taker.

Jen: You didn't need him. Forget him. It's Christmas, Sash. Anything is possible.

Sasha: I know you are going to think I am completely meshuggenah but I have been thinking of writing to Santa himself this year.

Jen: Whatever for ? You have everything going for you, honey !

Sasha: (wants to dislodge this burden from her shoulders but thinks better of it) Nevermind. Soon as my shift's over, we can head over to the arcade.

Jen: Yes ! (slaps her on the back in a friendly way, celebratory) That's the Sasha I know and love.

(Fastforward through the day through my yuletide version of 'Closing Time' called 'Christmas Time', scene shift...)

Scene 2-A Vision of Christmas Pagantry

Paul: (seeing Sasha pass by again, singing 'There She Goes Again' as she does)

Eddy: Dude, do you really need to that every time she passes ?

Everyone within earshot knows you have the hots for Sasha, even Jen's sister Hanna was wise to it long before I was. That girl, I swear, she's psychic or something.

Paul: She's so high above me, she's so lovely, as the song states. I could write a thousand sonnets it would never be enough. I've never had the spine to actually talk to her. What if she doesn't like me ? What if we have nothing in common ?

Eddy: Paul...PAUL ! Snap out of it, hombre. Look, just try talking to her.

Paul: (inhales and exhales slowly and serenely) It's worth a shot. My shift's over for the day. Richard'll be coming in to fill in for me for the graveyard shift. Where are the other elves, by the way ?

Eddy: Their shifts ended early tonight, even Hanna's. She's probably in the arcade with Sasha and Jen.

Paul: Alright. Time to make my move.

Eddy: (boldly, patting his shoulder) Go. Make me proud, Paul. For love, for country.

Paul: Eddy, sometimes you are totally nuts.

Eddy: Yep, and that's why I'm your best bud. Now, get movin', Master Chief !

(Paul rushes over to the arcade. There he sees Sasha and Jen squaring off in spirited competition playing DDR Extreme. Jen rushes off somewhere and Sasha is there alone. A more romantic, sweeping version of 'Christmas Waltz' instrumental.)

Sasha: Did you want to play ?

Paul: Actually, I was sort of wondering if you would want me to engage you in some competition. I'm Paul.

Sasha: I'm Sasha. (raises eyebrow) Have I seen you in the mall before ?

Paul: (can't help but grin, a bit dreamily) Yeah. (clears throat) I'm the mall Santa.

Sasha: How can you tolerate it ?

Paul: I love it ! I do it every year. Other than my typical job at the Foot Locker, I'm working on becoming a respitory therapist.

Sasha: (impressed) You must be enervated by the end of the day.

Paul: Sometimes yes, but there is a certain inspiration that keeps me going.

Sasha: (laughs) Whatever could that be ?

Paul: Y-you...Yuletide ! You know, tis the season ! (awkward, unsure laughter)

Sasha: I can see how that would be enough to stoke the spirit in anyone, honestly. Come on. You, me, Paul. One on one. (Joker impression) Mano y mano !

Paul: (Tone-Lock impression) Let's do it.

(They dance to a hyped up version of 'Jingle Bells' on DDR Extreme and Jen returns with Hanna. They nearly drop their moolates in shock, both their mouths are agape.)

Hanna: (taking her aside) Jen was telling me earlier about your winter woes, and now look at what showed up. It's almost like he appeared out of nowhere.

Jen: Practically gift wrapped.

Hanna: Can you feel it ? The spirit's really working in this place tonight !

Sasha: Girls, be polite.

Paul: I know who your friends are. We've never actually met, but Hanna's one of our elves.

Hanna: Ironic considering I'm Jewish, but like Whitey says in Eight Crazy Nights, that 'doesn't stop me from celebrating different holidays'.

(They all laugh)

Jen: Funny we should all be meeting like this.

Hanna: (whispers to Jen) Maybe we should leave them be for a while ? We can go mall crawling together.

Jen: That's not a bad idea at all. (to Paul and Sasha) We're going off on our own awhile. Hope you don't mind.

Sasha: You two have a good time, catch you later.

Paul: It was a pleasure meeting you two officially. Ciao bellas !

Hanna/Jen: (chuckling girlishly as they depart) Ou revouirs !

Paul: (an instrumental version of REM's 'Texarcana' as they leave the arcade) So, where would you like to go first ?

Sasha: Do you like Chinese food ?

Paul: Like it, adore it.

Sasha: I know a really good place...

Together: Panda Express ! (they laugh)

Paul: Looks like we have something in common other than video games and holiday jobs.

Sasha: Indeed. Come on, Paul. I'm starving. I could use some pineapple chicken.

Paul: Say no more. (takes her arm into his) I'll escort you properly.

Sasha: Why, how gallant. Thank you.

Paul: Mom and dad raised a gentleman, it's common curteousy. Besides, I like the idea of a beautiful woman on my arm.

Sasha: (lowers head bashfully and giggles in spite of herself)

(Scene fade)

Scene 3-Each Other's Perfect Gift

Sasha: (narrating as 'Sleigh Ride' plays in the background, while the two friends and blossoming lovers are chatting with each other) You know what they say, love will happen when you least expect it. I don't think it has come to that point, yet, but Paul and I have quite a few things in common. We're both geeks and enjoy the same types of music. We have the same taste in food, movies and TV shows. I haven't laughed this hard or this frequently for such a long time. I had forgotten what pure joy felt like. Seeing him smile, hearing him laugh, it's contageous. The anguish I felt has melted away like a snowflake on my tongue. Our first date is soon ending and I know that we'll have to part, but I'll get to see him tomorrow. For now, I know I have gained a friend, but there is a part of my heart that feels a unfamiliar twinge and enveloping warmth. If I didn't know any better, I would think that Paul is starting to melt my cynical heart.

Paul: Here's where we say our goodbyes. It was a treat to eat dinner with you. Maybe we can do that again sometime.

Sasha: That would be marvelous. Goodnight then.

Paul: Tomorrow, and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace day by day... (unknowingly squeezing her hand) Oh ! Sorry.

Sasha: It's alright, I don't mind. See you again, Paul.

Paul: Fare thee well, fair maid.

(scene fade)

Scene 4-Guys' Night Out

(Silver Bells plays in the background. Paul is doing well with kids coming up to him with their lists and questions about Santa's workshop and all. Charline is getting annoyed with the kids who are even brattier this time of the year.)

Charline: (under her breath) Oh, come on, twit ! You're getting to see Santa this year. Shouldn't that be enough ?

Paul: I'm sure if you're a good little boy, Dermont, you'll get all the toys you've asked for this year.

Dermont: I will ?

Paul: (pressing his finger to his nose) Santa never lies, child.

Off you go. (through his teeth, with joy in his voice) Chaz, give him a lollypop, would ya ?

Charline: (non-plussed, a bit sour) With pleasure. Merry Christmas, little boy.

Dermont: I'm not a little boy, Miss Elf. I'm soon to be 12, I'll have you know.

Charline: (sarcastically) Color me impressed. Soon, you'll be an adult. Enjoy it while it lasts, kid, cuz it's all downhill from here.

Dermont: (ponders this and then bursts out in tears, running to his mom)

Paul: Charline, was that really necessary ?

Charline: I don't like sugar-coating things for kids, Paul. I mean, someone's gotta give 'em straight facts, and it sure as heck isn't going to be their parents ! Most of these parents are the most sickenly sweet, naive dunderheads that...Oh hey, we have another customer ! Hello, little girl !

Little Girl: (snidely, with a hint of mischeif in her posture and expression) Hey, elf. (kicks Chaz in the shin hard and takes a lollypop from her)

Charline: (in a bit of pain) Charming little...thing isn't she ! (straining to keep herself from blowing a gasket) This job is possibly the best birth control I could ever have wished for.

Paul: You are encouragable, Chaz. (helps her up)

Charline: The only thing that is wounded is my pride.

Eddie: Don't let those little snots get you down.

Hanna: Yeah, they're just children after all. You were a kid once, Chaz.

Charline: I know, guys. I know. (seething a little) I just hope my shin didn't bruise. That little turd kicked me pretty hard.

Hanna: Chaz ! Language. Young ears.

Chaz: (under her breath) Screw young ears ! (mock crying) When's this gonna end ? It's been like this all flippin' day !

Paul: The day's almost over. Stick it out. We're all in this together.

John: (approaching Paul) Hey, Santa. I've got this wicked long list that is going to take you for ever to read. Wanna read it ?

Paul: Very funny, John. What are you doing here ? You know I'm not off work yet.

John: I heard you were dating ! When did that start ?

Paul: Only yesterday.

John: I knew it. I had a sense that something extraordinary had happened to you.

Paul: (slightly hurt) What you didn't think it was possible for me to find someone ?

John: Not at all. I just like to rattle your cage sometimes.

Eddy: You're a trip, John. Looks like the Musketeers are together again.

John: Yeah, I know. Been a long while. I've been wanting to get my game on over at the lanes down the street. I'd school you two so hard, so fast your great great grandchildren would be telling stories about it long into the future.

Eddy: Oh yeah ? Wanna bet on that, Redfox ?

John: I am not a gambling man. And I find that offensive. (laughing) Just kidding, Ed !

Paul: What are we standing around here for then ? Let's get bowling!

(Flash to bowling alley where swing versions of Christmas music are being played on the PA system)

Paul: BOOM ! Another strike. What would you guys do without me ?

John: Probably get more gutter balls and 7-10s...

Eddy: (feigning being hurt) That's unnessecary. Hey, John.

John: What ?

Eddy: Did Paul tell you about Sasha ?

John: No. (surprised) You tell me everything. Dude. How long have we been friends ?

Paul: Since kindergarten.

Eddy: Work's been keeping all of us busy, John.

John: (slaps him on the back) No worries, man. We've all been friends since we were tots, so I can't hold it against you. Much.

(they laugh) How long have you known Sasha ?

Paul: I've known her for what seems like decades. I didn't actually start dating her until a few days ago. We have oodles in common.

Eddy: Pity she doesn't have sisters, hombre.

Paul: (mock punch in arm)

Eddy: (pretending to be in pain) Ow, man. Watch the biceps, will ya ?

Paul: I'm happy for you. What did I tell you ? It'd happen when you least expected it.

Eddy: I've never seen him this happy before.

John: Have you met her folks yet ? Or has she asked you ?

Paul: (with some anxiety) No, not yet. This is undiscovered country gentlemen.

Eddy: Boldly go, dude. Boldly go !

Paul: (snickers) I haven't even had the guts to ask her if she wants to spend Christmas with me. I was hoping one or the other would breech the subject.

John: Let her ask you.

Paul: My parents are supportive, whichever way this goes.

(singing) Christmas is just around the corner, you know. (cell phone rings playing the Dr. Who theme)

Eddy: (singing with the theme) You're a dork, Valleria.

Paul: Ssssh ! (answering phone) (mouthing) It's her !

Bowling. What about you ? Barnes & Noble, huh ?

Eddy: (clutching heart) Ugh, envy. You cruel and heartless crone !

Paul: Mmm-hmm. (stammering a bit) Of course I would like to meet them for Christmas.

John: Crisis averted.

Paul: Alright. Love you too, my constant comment.

Eddy: Cute nickname. Tea drinker ?

Paul: That's incredible. And you deduced that just from my phone call which you shouldn't have been eavesdropping on.

John: I'm no better. We're passive listeners in this, but we have your back. You know that, brother.

Paul: I know, but I'm a little freaked out. I mean, what do I bring ? What do I wear ?

Eddy: Just be yourself. You know what she likes. For them, I'd take some snacks along, make a casserole. You're good at that.

Paul: I do make a mean pizza casserole that is fantastico !

Eddy: See, they will love you for that !

John: Just try to relax and know your bros are thinking of you. As for us, we're batchin' it this holiday.

Eddy: Ain't no party like an Ed and John party, what what what !

(laugh)

Paul: Then I have a lot of work to do. Better get to baking as well as shopping.

John: Make us proud, man.

Eddy: God speed and may the odds ever be in your favor.

(scene fade)

Scene 5-Overlooking an Overly Friendly Dog

Sasha: (narrating as everything seems to go by in fast motion. The full version of the 'Can Can' plays in the background as the shoppers hustle and bustle by) The weeks have been a blur. I have enjoyed my time with Paul off of work but have noticed him carrying around bags full of brightly colored tissue paper. I know he's hiding my gifts, as well as my parents' in those vibrant bags. I told him about Aristotle, our Airedale. Wonder if he got him something too ? Guess I have to be patient and find out, because Christmas is nearly here.

I've already enjoyed Channukah with Jen and Hannah. We watched Eight Crazy Nights, exchanged small gifts and had the most laripant food one has ever eaten. I probably gained 5 pounds just looking at it. I'm still recovering from the feast there and the presents I have enjoyed, like my latest 3DS game, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask. It keeps me occupied when I'm on my breaks. Puzzles tend to keep my mind engaged. Otherwise, I'm looking across the mall and fantasizing about Paul under the mistletoe. (blushing darkly)

Paul: (walking up to Sasha's door, ringing doorbell)

Jack: Are you going to get that honey ?

Natalie: Sure, Jack. Do you think Aristotle will be comfortable with a new face around the house ?

Jack: He's been fine with company before, and he didn't complain when we put up the tree and decorations. Don't see why he'd find Paul threatening. Sasha said he loves animals, so he's got my vote already.

Natalie: I'm eager to meet this gentleman. If he is everything you said he is, I'm sure we'll all get along splendidly.

Sasha: That's my intention. (inhales and exhales slowly) I don't know why I'm so edgy though. I feel like a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs !

Jack: Don't worry, just be yourself. You're charming enough as it is, little cherub.

Sasha: (embarassed) Don't let him hear you call me that. It's mortifying.

Jack: Noted, dearest.

(Paul is greeted at the door and Aristotle 'greets' him in his own special way.)

Sasha: Aristotle ! No ! Bad, bad pervy boy !

Paul: I knew I had animal magnetism, but this is overkill. (laughing)

Sasha: (pulling him away) No !

Natalie: (spraying the dog with a water spritzer) He won't do that to you again any time soon.

Jack: He's neutered...why would he do that anyway ?

Sasha: (mouthing to her dad) Dad, drop it.

Jack: (giving a thumbs up)

Paul: I brought some casserole. I hope you like pizza.

Natalie: We adore it. One of our favorite staples around here. I'm Natalie. That's Jack, my husband. You've already met Aristotle. (awkward, light laugh)

(Aristotle is contemplating his behavior and sulks for a bit)

Sasha: (narrating as events go along in a snapshot fashion) Aristotle didn't act up for the rest of the evening. He was fine with all the activity, even with my mushiness with Paul. Paul got my parents a new Kitchenaid mixer. I couldn't figure how he had deduced they needed one, since he had never been to our house. Maybe it was because I had been talking about it and mentioned that the old one was about ready to go kaputz. Whatever it was, Paul was sensationally astute and incredibly brilliant. His intellect more than matched mine in many ways. He gave me one object I felt was the sweetest present I had ever recieved. It was a long-sleeved sweater that fit me like a glove. He knew red was my favorite color and even told me it 'suited me'. He bought a scarf to go along with it. Being a Whovian, the scarf was a perfect item to keep me warm as well as to be used in cosplay for WhoCon later. Now I had someone to attend with me for the first time in my life and my euphoria could barely be contained.

(Christmas lights are on, Natalie and Jack are asleep, as well as Aristotle)

Paul: Singing can certainly wear one out after a while.

Sasha: Definitely. I'm beat. By the way. (wraps the scarf around both of them) Thank you so much for this.

Paul: It suits you. Your vibrant, cheerful, warm, and a million other adjectives. One adjective alone is insufficient...(is pulled into her embrace while she kisses him)

Sasha: I missed the touch of your lips against mine.

Paul: As did I. I'd like to think we'll be companions for a long while. I don't know what the future will bring, but for the present, I can comfortably say I have never been more content than by your side.

Sasha: Agreed. (kisses his cheek) It's late, and sadly, we both have to work tomorrow.

Paul: Count your blessings. We have work, and each other.

Sasha: I love your optimism, it's so contageous.

(Walking in the Air plays, which they dance to before they fall asleep together on the couch and he realizes it the next day. Scene fade.)

Scene 6-Christmas Present

(All of this culminates in a video of a memory presented in the future, where a little girl is watching along with her grandparents, whom we soon figure out are Sasha's parents as well as Paul's.)

Nell: Then what happened mommy ?

Sasha: Over the years, we grew closer, even though school kept us apart. We had time to learn more about our likes, dislikes and how strong our love was for each other.

Nell: What happened to Chaz, Joe, Eddy, Hanna and Jen ?

Paul: (sits Nell on his lap) Well, they're all here and your courteousy uncles and aunts. You remember, right about the time you became sick with an ear infection, we asked for help from Jen and Hanna since they had the day off...

Nell: Yes, I remember, daddy. And Chaz, Joe and Eddy come around for poker night every so often, or play billiards in the basement. I never get invited. Mom says it's 'guys night'. I don't really get it, I guess.

Paul: I'll teach you how to shoot pool and play poker someday. I'll give you tips about changing oil.

Sasha: All while being a lady.

Nell: (laughs) You're both nuttier than trail mix, as grandma likes to say.

(they all giggle)

Sasha: Are you ready for presents ?

Nell: Yes ! I've been extra special good this year.

Paul: (tweaks her nose) You're that way every year, little cabbage.

Sasha: (narrating, 'Wonderful Christmas Time' is playing in the background as she does) I had never thought that one little change in our lives would amount to this much joy. My wonder was rekindled and my eyes reopened. My perspective had been transformed to that of a young child once again through little Nell Marie. She was only 7, but she knew how to melt your heart. Both our parents adored her and she didn't ask for much. In fact, she was always giving to others and many of her presents she had donated to charity because she had so much. It made us proud (well, we use the word lightly) knowing she had a magnanimous heart. She demonstrated the true meaning of Christmas, sharing with the Goldmans' children, as well as Ed's, Chaz's and Joe's. Needless to say, it was noisy around the holidays, but the ruckus was jubilant. No holiday should be any different.

(The End appears on the screen as the title did in its 'wrapping paper'. A variety of Christmas Carols plays in the background as credits role and bloopers are rolled a the end as well. A dedication to everyone and everything that have inspired and enlightened me will be written in the credits for observant viewers. Without these objects and people, I would not be the writer or bear the creative prowess I possess.)