The mall closed at 9pm sharp. As she locked the store’s front door, Summer was excited because tomorrow was Christmas Eve, and this was her last night working at Macy’s. They hired extra staff every December, and Summer grabbed two shifts per week, hoping to make enough money to buy an important gift.
You see, Summer’s grandmother gave her gorgeous Tiffany pearl earrings one Christmas long ago and she wore them constantly. Showing more faith in others than common sense, she left them in her locker at the gym while she showered one day, only to find them gone when she returned. She was devastated.
Her husband, Brad, was a carpenter and made a decent living, but not enough to replace $1,000 earrings. Each night, he’d come home exhausted and carefully clean the antique tools he inherited from his father—ancient chisels and mallets laid out carefully next to his tattered old tool belt. His tools were so special that more than once he was offered a small fortune to part with them. Because they were his dad’s, he always politely declined.
After locking up, Summer made her way through the mall and passed Santa Land. There was a beautifully decorated tree next to a large, red, velvet chair, where, for twelve hours a day, a fellow wearing a red suit and cap and a fake beard would hear the Christmas wishes of children.
The mall was empty now, except for a chubby older man, dressed in street clothes, looking with admiration at the tree.
“Isn’t she a great one, Summer?” he said, as she walked by.
Summer was surprised, stopping to ask, “Do I know you, sir?”
The man turned, his eyes twinkling above his plump red cheeks, as he answered, “I’ve known you since you were a little girl and wanted a pony.”
Summer played along with the phony mall Santa, responding, “Yeah, I never did get one, did I?”
The man looked at the payroll check in Summer’s hand and asked, “Money for a special gift?”
Summer smiled. “Yes!” she answered. “It’s a surprise.”
The jolly man smiled and said, “Two surprises, I suspect. You two really are perfect for each other.”
As Summer walked away, she stopped and turned back to ask what the man meant, but he was already gone.
On Christmas morning, Summer and Brad sat on the black leather couch in front of a roaring fire to exchange gifts.
As Summer handed him a brightly wrapped box, she said, “I know I told you I worked at the mall to replace my earrings, but I wanted to get something for you instead.”
Brad tore open the paper, revealing a vintage (and expensive) Sandusky leather tool belt. It was the finest you could buy.
“Now your dad’s tools have a proper home,” she said.
Brad’s eyes filled with love, as he chuckled and handed a small, neatly wrapped box to Summer.
She slowly peeled back the paper, seeing the familiar light blue color of a Tiffany’s jewelry box. Inside were pearl earrings identical to the ones that were stolen.
She held up the gift, her eyes filling with tears, asking, “How?”
Her husband smiled, then replied, “I needed new tools anyway.”
The next day at the mall, Summer saw a man tearing down Santa Land.
“Who are you?” she asked.
The man replied, “The guy who played Santa.”
He was not the man Summer had spoken to three days before. As she scratched her head with confusion, her husband Brad sent a text.
It read: Get home quick. There’s a pony in the yard.