Christmas shopping doesn’t bring out the best in people, but this year Cameron finds himself working with a very unusual partner as they help each other find what they really need.
A seasonal short story from Dan Hunter.
The jumper was perfect for the office Christmas party later that day. It was deep navy like a winter night’s sky and lined from neck to cuff with white stencilled shapes.
Cameron raised the sweater by the hanger and studied the design — an endless carousel of gingerbread people, Christmas puddings and candy canes. It was a feast for the eyes – if only it was in the right size.
With his free hand, he flipped through the labels on the rack. Not one would have fit. He chewed his lip. Maybe they had more out back, he thought. He scanned the busy store for someone to ask. But every face he saw was another lunchtime shopper bustling between the rails.
Beside him, a suited woman had a phone wedged under her ear. “Yes, the year-end figures are looking good. The report will be on your desk by the end of the day,” she rasped as she cradled a heap of wobbling boxes.
In the next aisle, a parent was bargaining with their teen: “If you really want it, why don’t you pop it on your Christmas list?”
Cameron would have to ask at the till. He slunk to the end of the snaking queue.
As he neared the front, a rough jingle burst from the front of the store. It was followed by a surprised yelp. Cameron spun his head. A holly bough was swinging above the shop’s doorway. Beneath it, a tall man was rubbing his forehead. He scooped a hat from off the floor.
“Sorry!” a shop assistant chimed from the till. “They’re a bit low this year, aren’t they?”
The man waved a hand with a rouged grin. He pulled a Santa hat over his ears and vanished among shoppers streaming by the doorway.
“Hi, can I help you?” the assistant called with a smile.
Cameron was next in line. He handed her the jumper.
“I love this sweater. However, I can’t find my size,” he pleaded. “Do you have any more out back?”
The assistant winced. “That one has flown off the shelves, I’m afraid,” she said with a sigh. “All the sizes we have are on the rail.”
She smiled apologetically, then pushed the jumper aside.
“OK, I’ll try another store,” Cameron muttered as the assistant waved the next customer over.
As he approached the doorway, he stooped to avoid the swaying holly bough. Something flickered above his head. He stopped and looked up. A white wisp of wool was snagged on the sharp leaves. He watched the thick threads flap forcefully towards the street outside, shimmering beneath the shop lights.