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In Your Dreams
It was the dreariest day Luke Fraden had ever woken up to. He didn’t think anything could compare to yesterday or last Monday, but he was wrong. His nanny dragged him out of bed and into the same bath, where his hair was washed with the same shampoo that it had been for the past two years. He then put on his boring private school uniform and brushed through his slightly damp hair. Everything was routine in the Fraden household, and though he was only eight years old, Luke knew they would never change.
When Luke heard the double beep, he knew it was time for his favorite part of the day, the limo ride to school. His chauffeur, John Paul, enjoyed to tell Luke of the good old days, and Luke loved to hear them. John Paul would take the scenic route to school taking a total of ten minutes, but that was enough for Luke. John Paul told him stories from long ago that brought back memories Luke didn’t even know he had. The tales were of two young boys, Luke and Marcus, who loved pulling pranks and causing mischief. The boys were best friends and had the best life possible, two loving parents, the biggest house in all of Lake Forest, and most of all they had each other.
Luke leaped into the black limo and pleaded to hear his favorite story. Twenty-two. Luke had counted how many times he had heard the story and he wanted to hear it a million more times. JP (Luke’s nickname for his chauffeur) was in a good mood, so he told the story exactly how he had the past twenty-two times. Slow and steady was the key to John Paul’s stories.
“Back in the good old days, when everything was all dandy, you two boys wanted to have a little fun.” he started in his slow, deep voice, “My favorite day was Friday, now could that be right? Friday. Was it maybe a-“
Luke jumped in with laughter, “It was Thursday, JP!”
John Paul smiled in recognition, “Yes, yes my boy, it was Thursday. But why was Thursday my favorite day you may ask?” he paused for effect, “Because that was the day you, me, and Marcus played pranks on the household staff!” cried Luke and JP at the same time.
“Now, now my boy, the best prank we ever did play was just about three years back in the summer. You boys had come up with a plan the night before and came rushing out of your mansion to tell me. Marcus told me the plan with a sinister look on his face, and I knew that this would be the most risky prank we had ever played.”
Luke then cut in and spoke the words Marcus had three years ago, verbatim, “Luke and I will sneak into the kitchen; Luke will hide in the cupboard underneath the sink and I will hide in the top left shelf. JP, you will walk in and ask the chef to get you two pitchers of water. Then, I will tell Luke the exact moment that the chef is turning the water in the sink on and Luke will make the water shoot out all over the chef!” Luke cracked up at the end, barely able to finish.
“That it exactly right,” JP restarted, “and to my surprise, it worked! The water squirted all over the chefs face, and then he looked underneath the cupboard and you jumped out and ran for your life.” He chuckled at the thought, “Then Marcus came shooting down for the top shelf and was right on your tail! You boys were faster than a cheetah, I swear to it you were!” As they pulled up to the private school, Luke was still laughing and could barely get out of the car. He said thanks to John Paul, and was his way to school.
The only hard thing about hearing those wonderful stories was that they were memories from the past which is where Luke wanted to live. Marcus died in a car accident two years ago leaving Luke, a mere age six, brother less. Luke went to morning kindergarten so he came home way before sixth-grader Marcus. That day Marcus had promised Luke that they would make paper snowflakes, but on that July 8, 2008, Marcus did not come home. JP was driving Marcus home when a huge SUV spun out of control and into the side of the car. The side Marcus was sitting on. The side that would soon be filled with blood and sadness. Marcus was taken to the hospital and the doctor said he was in a coma. Luke did not understand, his brother was only eleven, how could he be so close to his death? Luke couldn’t believe it, he just kept on screaming, “WHERE’S MY BROTHER? HE CAN’T BE GONE!” and then he would get quiet say, “Where’s my best friend?” Every night Luke would pray that his brother would wake up and come home and sleep on the bunk above him. Marcus died six months later, and Luke was done. Done with the world that made people sad. Done with the world that took his brother.
Luke shook the sadness from his memories away and he put his jacket and lunchbox into his cubby. He went through Science, Math, and Social Studies just sitting slumped over, staring at the clock. Finally recess came, and Luke brought his Santa and Rudolph action figures outside to play with. Three of the boys in his class came over by him, and he knew what was coming next. Luke is short for his age. At eight years old he is 3’ 9” and weighs 47 pounds. He is quite pale and the only color to his complexion is the freckles dotted on his nose. His eyes show hope; they show that maybe the ordinary Luke Fraden is more than he seems to be. The color: bright blue, the most striking attribute to the young, gaunt boy. His brown wavy hair is shampooed and combed everyday by his nanny. If it weren’t for Matilda, his nanny, he wouldn’t ever even bathe claiming it to be “not worth it.” This look made him the target of torment and there was also his obsession.
Luke Fraden was in love with the legendary Santa Claus. Santa was his hero, his role model, Luke venerated him. He thought that it was so cool for a man to fly around and give children everything they ever hoped for. His room was filled with posters and drawings of St. Nick and other related objects. The list that hung on his ceiling explained everything:
Favorite Animal—Reindeer (specifically flying)
Favorite Food—Christmas cookies (must be Christmas otherwise yuck)
Favorite Person—Santa Claus
Favorite Color—Red and Green (I can’t really choose between the two)
Favorite Movie—Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas
Favorite Book—Polar Express
What I want to be when I grow up—Elf
Only one person shares this obsession with Luke, and that person has been gone for two years now. Everyone else calls him “loser” or “freak” or sometimes even “elf boy” (Luke doesn’t really mind that one—he actually takes it as a compliment). Luke just wants everyone to leave him alone, but judging by the looks on those boys’ faces, he knew that’s not what they had in mind.
“Hey!” Luke yelped as the boys took his action figures away.
The beefiest boy made his voice like a cartoon and said, “I’m Rudolph and I’m a loser who has no friends and loooves Cah-rist-miss!” The way he bantered about the man Luke loved made him shiver.
The other boy exclaimed, “Ha ha! No I think you have your names mixed up, that’s Luke!” They threw the toys on the ground and walked away snickering.
Luke picked up his precious figurines, brushed all of the dirt off of them, and hugged them close to his heart. “You know, I am gonna meet Santa some day,” he tried as they walked away.
“Yeah, sure, in your dreams!” they yelled back.
Luke walked into the biggest mansion in all of Illinois. There were hundreds of rooms, big and small, and yet Luke choose the smallest room in the house to be his bedroom. He walked into his little nook and began to draw. He drew Santa Claus with a Superman cape, soaring across the sky and dropping down toys to all of the children. He put it in the pile with the rest of his drawings and went to go find his parents. He walked into his mother’s office to see her hunched over her laptop.
“What’s for dinner tonight?” Luke asked earnestly.
“Oh, right, dinner,” she said as if she forgot dinner was a meal, “Go ask Chef Michael to make you something.”
“You’re not eating with me?” he asked again with just the slightest bit of hope.
“Not tonight, too much work,” she managed to mutter before she got back to her laptop. Luke’s mother is the top real estate agent and is always busy with clients. His father runs a law firm downtown and is always on his Blackberry. Ever since Marcus’s death, they pay no attention to poor Luke.
Luke finished off dinner with Crème Brule after having an extravagant three course meal and went to his third floor bedroom. His nighttime Nanny helped him get ready for bed and then read him a story. It was one of Luke’s favorites, The Night Before Christmas, and he was so glad to hear it. He stayed awake through the whole story, though his eyelids begged to close. Once the story was over, Luke’s mother and father yelled goodnight from their offices and Luke was fast asleep.
Luke was trudging through the thick, white blizzard wondering where he was. Was this a dream, or was this reality? He hoped it was real because then he saw a sign looming off in the distance that read “NORTH POLE STRAIGHT AHEAD”. He saw a nice little house, and then a huge factory. Luke fell down almost passing out at the sight of what could possibly be Santa’s Workshop. He did a triple knock on the little house and prayed it was who he thought it was. Luke was disappointed, but curious. The man before him was older for the hair on the top of his head was white, as was his long beard. He was fat, but jolly with rosy red circles taking over his cheeks. The man wore red pants, held up by green suspenders, and a white button down shirt.
“Who might you be?” he said in a deep booming, but friendly voice.
“Well…” Luke’s parents told him to never talk to strangers, but this man just had something familiar about him, “I’m Luke Fraden. Who are you?”
He replied in a most peculiar way, “I am who you believe I am.”
Sniff, sniff, mmmmm. “Are you baking cookies?”
“Well, yes but not just any kind of cookies. I’m baking Christmas cookies, “ the man said to Luke’s delight, “Would you like some?”
Luke nodded his head and walked in. The cookies were the best Luke had ever had even though his mother said that their chef was an expert in cookies. “Are you Santa Claus?” Luke asked after he gulped down his third cookie.
“Do you think I am?” the man replied with a grin on his face.
“Either your Santa, or I’m in heaven.”
The man did not laugh, no, he gave a hearty, “Ho, ho, ho!”
“Luke! Wake up for school!” his nanny cried. He looked down and saw that he had his snow boots on. That’s odd, I could have sworn I’d taken those off before bed last night. Luke gave this a hard thought, but then just brushed it away. During breakfast, he told his mom how he had met Santa, or maybe just some old man, but probably Santa.
His mother was actually paying attention for once but she just said, “It was just a dream, all in your head.” It couldn’t have been a dream. No, it was all so real. He had felt the whipping wind in the blizzard on his face. He had smelled those delicious cookies. But most of all, he had felt a real connection with this man. Luke just had to find out if this glorious man was his hero or not.
All day he told people of his encounter with St. Nick, and all day he got the same response.
When he told his teacher, “I’m sure it was a dream, kiddo.”
When he told his classmates, “Loser! It was a dream!”
Even when he told JP, “I don’t know Luke. It seems kind of out of this world. Maybe it was just a dream.” Luke was fed up with the non-believers. He would show them all that Santa Claus existed. After tonight, he was sure he would know if this was a dream, and if this was the real guy. He went to bed early that night, because he didn’t know the time change from here to the North Pole, and he didn’t want to keep Santa waiting. He was told a story, and then Luke went straight to bed.
He picked up right where he had left off the night before, wiping the crumbs off of his jacket. The man offered Luke more cookies, but Luke denied the offer. He needed to get down to business and figure out whom this old fellow was.
“So Mister, what is your favorite color?” a basic question but quite effective in this sense.
“Well, I do not like to choose favorites, but red and green really do seem to top all of the rest.”
Good answer, thought Luke. Then he just started spitting out questions, “What is your favorite food?”
“Favorite mode of transportation?”
“That’s not one you hear everyday but sleigh, I guess.”
“Christmas!” he shouted with joy. Hmm…this man sounds like Santa, but there is just one more test.
Luke woke up to the smell of Christmas cookies, but sadly there were none prepared for him. The day went by as most days did. He went to school, told his peers about his time in the North Pole, got made fun of but didn’t care, and came home to neglecting parents. None of the bad things seem to matter though because he actually had something to look forward to. He ate a quick dinner and got ready for bed in record time. He didn’t even ask for a bedtime story, he just turned off his lights, got into bed, and forced himself to go to sleep.
Luke had to give “Santa” the final test. He knew he could get in serious trouble for this, and maybe even be put on the naughty list, but it would all be worth it.
Finally Luke built up his courage and asked, “Can I have a tour of your house?”
“Sure thing,” he replied. This was it. Luke knew he had to do it now or his chance would be gone forever.
Luke asked nervously, “Can I see the factory behind your house?”
“Oh, son. I don’t think you want to see all of that boring factory stuff,” he said trying to sound nice but forceful at the same time.
Luke knew this would be the case so he switched to Plan B. He ran. No, more like he sprinted out of the man’s house and to the factory. He walked in and his jaw dropped.
The factory was the most colorful place Luke had ever seen. Millions of little people with pointy ears ran around frantically working and Luke looked at them with jealosy. The factory was congested with toys and the whole place smelled like freshly baked cookies. There Luke stood in the middle of it all, gaping with his eyes wide open, not even giving the slightest hint to close. One of the elves came over by Luke and looked very nervous. “Um, hello little boy. What are you doing here?” Her voice reminded Luke of the time one of the girls in his class got stung by a bee and was yelping for hours, but this elf was even higher pitched.
Santa came running in, panting, and finally catching up to Luke. “Oh, Luke was just leaving.”
He woke up and his bed was covered in snow. There was a note on his bedside table that read,
I’m truly sorry that I had to make you wake up. We were having such a wonderful time but too many secrets were getting revealed. You will not be punished for running into my factory, as long as you tell no one of what you saw. I know some kids do not believe in me and will call you mean names because you do. I want you to know that I chose you for a reason. You were the one I wanted to come see me. I am real, and so was the experience we had together.
Luke new that his life would get better from then on and that being in reality would be better than being in his dreams.