Black Christmas Full

The day Brianne encountered the strange, handsome man would have been as boring as Christmas in July. Griffith Bros. had forced the storefronts across the street out of business, and then bought up all their merchandise for a fraction of its value, so now there was a rush of people bigger than Black Friday buying up everything on the shelves. Come to think of it, there were more black trench coats and black scarves and black hats than anything else and it wasn’t even December, doing the Griffiths the favor of clearing the space for them as people rushed to grab whatever they could without a gift wrap in sight. It seemed like the opposite of a holiday, rewarding slick business moves made behind closed doors.

Brianne was unlike the thin and glamorous girls usually hired by Mr. Griffith and his sons. She had hair that was perpetually messy, no bust to speak of and a fat waist whose outline could be seen no matter what she was wearing. She had tenure but not superiority. She had spilled coffee all over her Christmas sweater already.

Brianne was so distracted as she crossed the street a speeding vehicle nearly ran her down, but she was pulled back at the last moment by an athletic, narrow-waisted man wearing a black one-piece outfit that looked like what Tom Cruise would wear to break into a supercomputer. As he pulled her to safety he spun around like Brian Boitano and released her arm with a flourish.

“I’m sorry but in another moment I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of knowing you.” his kind words were as out-of-place as his movements. She wasn’t sure if his face was more like Mark Wahlberg’s or Matt Damon’s.

“I’m from corporate.” he extended a gloved hand and again seemed to slide toward her like a dancer.

“I’ve never met anyone from corporate before.” Brianne admitted bashfully. “I’ve been here twelve years and I’ve only known the franchise to do whatever it wants.”

“Actually I’m here by my own choice. I’m a Level 4 and we can do that.” he used words that meant nothing to her. “Maybe it’s time for a change?”

The truth was she hadn’t heard the word “corporate” in so long she was barely aware it existed. It was widely known the Griffiths cooked their books, in fact she couldn’t recall the last time someone had questioned them.

“Did you say you’ve been here twelve years?” the man asked. “I’m surprised you’re not in charge of marketing by now. You should be spokeswoman as pretty as you are.”

“Say what…” her mouth started to hang open. “Is there something you want from me?”

“No but I’d like your hard work to pay off in some kind of benefits package.” he said frankly. “I’d think employee retention would be just common sense in any business. And another thing, you’re the only one wearing a Christmas sweater which tells me something about you. You should be a model for the advertising division.”

“Stop, you’re just saying that.” she raised a hand to her reddening face. “Especially since the girls they hire seasonally are actual models, not me.”

“I think you meant to say they’re molls.” he smirked. “Can you imagine a Christmas card with one of them sitting by the fire?”

A chuckle escaped her. Now was the moment she expected him to name what he wanted, but he simply introduced himself and left her to speak with the Griffith boys. “I’m J------ by the way.” a car horn blared at the moment he said his name.

She watched him sashay through the crowd like some kind of holiday elf and yet no one seemed to notice him. Then as her eyes followed him she heard something else out-of-place. A woman’s voice said “She’s stopped breathing. Can you hear me?”. Brianne turned around and not only was no one there, it was something none of the shoppers could conceivably have said.

Mr. Griffith and his sons were at the curb carrying boxes and beckoning her to hurry up as they always did. They always looked like they had been cut out of a black-and-white casino movie, that is if the movie had no plot, like Goodfellas if Joe Pesci and Robert de Niro just acted like their caricatures for no reason. Yes that’s what they were, a mafia of idiots.

“Hey Bree we don’t need to be giving out receipts!” the fatter one called out and tossed a wad of them over his shoulder into the snow.

“That’s not good business.” the mystery man who had just saved her life bent down and picked it up as shamelessly as they had spoken. “Just because they’re pre-holiday shoppers doesn’t mean they receive any less joy from their purchases. In fact I think this whole operation raises questions, I know it was a profitable acquisition but what kind of example are we setting here?”

The thug turned around in his black trench coat and looked down at him.

“Look pal, I don’t know who you think you are...”

Suddenly the man kneed him in the groin, causing him to lose the parcel he was carrying and in a combination move twisted his thumb around to the back of his hand and forced his arm behind his back. It was like watching Kevin Costner manipulate a guy twice his size in the movie The Bodyguard.

“Nobody pushes around me or my boys…” Mr. Griffith started to say as he and the other one dropped their boxes and went straight after him. Then Brianne watched him do a series of mises-en-scenes, twirling past them so quickly it looked like they were moving in slow-motion. He seized the brother’s hand and poked him in the eyes with his own fingers, then brought his arm like an iron bar across his stomach and pushed Mr. Griffith forward causing them to barrel into each other. All three were hunkered down in the snow wincing, and again no one in the crowd seemed to notice.

“As I was saying, deals that profit from the destruction of another business don’t show a very neighborly spirit.” he said calmly, not missing a beat. “The best you can hope for is being top dog in a pack of wolves.”

Mr. Griffith looked up at him with a pained expression and said “Who are you to tell me how to run my business?”

Brianne finally crossed the street after they were finished. No one had ever stood up for her before. This man whatever his name was, J-something or J-rod or Mr. J passed by her again with a grin that was simply for doing a job well-done. She tried to get a better look at him and he seemed older or perhaps his face simply had a lot of character to it.

When she reached her humiliated employers to help them out, the younger brother looked up at her and said something very strange to her. “I’m sorry I never really knew you when you were living.”


Brianne showed up for work early in the morning a changed woman, her hair permed and wearing lipstick and a red blouse under a black worksuit that belted around the middle hoping to see her new boss Mr. J (or perhaps it was just “Jay”), although she had no reason to expect he would still be there. She had a multitude of questions, not the least of which was that her last encounter with him and this moment seemed to blend right into each other.

She stepped into the vacant store across the shopping center, its interior stripped of all merchandise and shelving and painted black. To her surprise he was in there by himself setting up rotating stands of holiday cards meant to look like Christmas trees, gliding effortlessly from one stand to another.

“I didn’t know we were planning to use this space ourselves.” she said in wonder.

“I foresee it being our main customer service center, if you can imagine everything that’s dark and cold being light and full of cheer.” he stopped to look at her and she realized he wasn’t an older man as she had thought but a very young man, and he seemed surprised right back at her.

“You’ve changed your appearance.” he said.

“Yes, what do you think?” she asked, holding her breath.

“I think you look like management material.” he gave a very gentlemanly answer. “But I’m curious about something.”

“Yeah I’m curious about some things myself.” she breathed a sigh of relief.

“Then you go first.” he replied cordially.

“Well the way you handled those guys… I mean how does a corporate exec even know how to do that?”

“Simple, in their world the threat of violence is supposed to build street credentials, but martial arts makes that threat meaningless.” he answered. “It destroys boasting which really is all they do, and anyone can learn it which destroys preconceptions. It’s like bringing a dictionary to a spelling bee. Plus I was aware that things have become this way and that you’ve never been rewarded for your tenure.”

This last part surprised her more than anything else.

“But how are you allowed… I mean how do you get away with it?”

“Ah, that’s not so easy to answer.” he put a hand to his chin in thought. “I could say I serve a higher authority and the rules as you know them have changed. Was that your only question?”

“No, I’d also like to know why you think so highly of me.” she looked down at her shoes. “Or were you just being a gentleman?”

“Absolutely not.” he took offense. “There is a serious staffing problem here where less qualified girls are being hired for their appearance, which is what I don’t understand. I mean you’re much more attractive, I didn’t want you to try to be like them.”

Brianne was confused.

“What about me do you find attractive?” she asked curiously.

“I really shouldn’t say.” his face turned pink and he gave a congenial grin.

“You can tell me.” she seriously wanted to know. “I can’t imagine what it could be.”

“I’d think it would speak for itself.” he stepped closer to her face, reaching up and very lightly brushing a stray hair aside. “Where I come from every woman is like you. I keep thinking about yesterday when you spilled coffee on yourself and then stumbled outside and your stomach came out for a second. I’m guessing it hasn’t seen the Sun in a while...”

Brianne covered her mouth to conceal a laugh that was like a whinny.

“It was that moment that inspired me to take this assignment.” he continued. “I appointed myself, do you understand? I was certainly not being a gentleman.”

He looked into her eyes with a sincerity mixed with humility that was very… masculine.

“Well I can easily go back to the way I was before.” she took off her jacket with a smirk. “All I have to do is go to bed and wake up in the morning.”

“No don’t go to sleep!” he blurted out with concern, then recollected himself. “I mean you look fine the way you are now.”

Brianne hung up her jacket on a hat rack, then took off the belt that was holding in her midriff and let out her blouse for a more comfortable look. Then she took his outstretched hand and held it in her own.

“Have you ever imagined you’re living in a world where you’re the only real person?” he asked her quietly.

Suddenly they were interrupted by the sound of blaring sirens out front. The Griffith brothers were standing outside the garish windows with a couple of bandaged hands, accompanied by their father and the police. The blinding light through the plate glass was so cold and bright it looked like it was about to consume the room. Mr. Griffith held a megaphone up to his mouth.

“I know you can hear me in there!” he shouted. “Squeeze my hand if you understand!”

“Get behind me.” J stepped in front of her, protecting her with his body. “There are so many of them this isn’t going to be pleasant.”

“I don’t want you to fight them.” Brianne put her hand on his shoulder and he seemed to melt at her touch.

“Very well, then we’ll sneak out the back.” he led her by the hand through the back of the store to an emergency exit, and she followed him out eagerly.


Brianne and the mysterious Mr. J spent the evening in his apartment where they would make love the entire night. The risky business game they were playing made it the most exciting and dangerous thing she had ever done. He assured her no one could possibly find them. The small space was cluttered with antiques and crystal, gilded books, miniature dollhouses and dioramas of his travels, stories she would never know, all of it collecting dust because of how little time he spent there.

“What if someone came in and discovered us like this?” Brianne said playfully, tossing her blouse aside as she kneeled on the bed, his hands moving up and down her body. Then she lie down on her back so he could crawl over her, his muscles were the most taut thing she had ever felt against her, his hands moving up to stroke her face.

“Well then they would see a naked lady…” his lips touched every part of her from her mouth down to her soft stomach giving her a fit of giggles, wriggling as she did a little victory dance underneath him.

When his face turned upwards again she saw the eyes of the most serious lover she would ever know. He did everything as if he was conducting a symphony, a desire she wanted to understand.

When they were finished it was morning and multiple pages of Brianne’s life had been turned. Her eyes stared openly across the pillow. Her lover was standing at the foot of the bed looking into a gilded mirror, his thoughts miles away. In his reflection she could see lines on his face like the ghost from A Christmas Carol that lives for just one day.

Brianne wrapped the patchwork quilt around herself and got up to join him. He turned to look at her and she placed her hand on his face.

“There’s no way we can go back to work is there?” she asked him.

“There is, but we have to move farther away from reality.” he replied.

“I don’t know what that means. Promise you will stay with me?” she pleaded.

“As you wish.” he kissed her lightly on the cheek.


It seemed like a year had passed; Brianne was manning the front desk of the brightest, most luxurious sales floor she had ever seen, a manager’s pin on her sweater. The display stands looked like glittering snow-covered mountain peaks adorned with gold tinsel as sunlight found every corner of the store. An employee she had hired herself was wearing a green elf hat with a bell on it as she wiped the glass counter.

“Tell me about Mr. J, the man who made all this happen?” she asked Brianne curiously.

“Oh he’s… he’s undescribable.” she said thoughtfully. Then it seemed to her she hadn’t touched base with him in a long time.

Brianne took the elevator to the top floor of the sales tower. She entered a gleaming, spacious office with a wall-to-wall desk. The armchair swiveled around and there he was, an unbelievably old man with a cane.

“I’m so sorry I made you keep your promise.” she rushed to embrace him, a tear falling down her cheek. “You may go if you like.”

“It’s been a pleasure sharing this dream with you.” he said in a raspy voice, creaking like an old door as he stood up to peer out the windows. “There’s something you should know. There are forces of nature out there against which you and I are powerless…”

The room started to vibrate as if an earthquake was building, sales trophies rattling on their shelves. Brianne helped Mr. J to the elevator, returning to the ground floor and out the main doors to see what it was.

The beautiful Winter landscape was shaking violently, the land undulating in the distance like waves on the sea moving toward them. Mr. J hobbled forward and shouted “Back!”, striking the ground with his stick and immediately the rumbling ceased and everything was still. The sales tower was surrounded by rolling marshmallow hillsides and tall, snowy conifers decked with golden lights like the steeple in the center of a snow globe.

“What was that?” Brianne demanded.

The old man turned around regretfully and looked at her.

“A force of nature everyone must face, I won’t say its name.” he answered her. “I have to go now and find a way to deal with it. I’ll be back in the morning, fresh as a daisy.”

Brianne rushed forward and embraced him tightly.

“You’re a perfect person.” she said tearfully, kissing him on the nose.

“So are you.” he replied. “I haven’t run out of ideas to keep this dream alive, and we will succeed!”

He raised his fist as if he’d found some new energy. Brianne kissed him, and he walked off into the sunrise.

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