Happily Letter After Page 2

P.S. I know it’s summer. But I thought it might take a while to find the right special friend.

P.P.S. If you’re real, Dad can use some black socks. The ones he wore today had a hole in the big toe.

P.P.P.S. And if you’re really real, can you send me olives? The big black ones that come in a can. We ran out and Dad finally lets me use the can opener. I like to put one on each finger and eat them in front of the TV.

I blinked a few times, taking it all in. It was the sweetest, most selfless letter to ever cross my desk. The fact that the little girl lost her mom at only seven made my heart hurt. I’d been six and a half when my mom died of cancer. And oh my God . . . I’d just thought back to the last time I’d seen my mom and realized how I recalled my age—six . . . and a half.

Oh, Birdie. I totally get you. The years after my mom died, my dad rarely smiled, too. My parents had been high school sweethearts. On Valentine’s Day in ninth grade, he’d given her a diamond Ring Pop while standing in front of the pizza place down the block from their school. Five years later, he brought her back to that exact spot and proposed with a real ring. Their love had been the things little girls dream about. Though inspiring, their romance had a downside. My parents had set such a high bar for what a relationship should be, I refused to settle.

Sighing, I reread the letter. The second time around, I had tears in my eyes when I was done. I wasn’t sure what I could do for Birdie, but I had the sudden urge to call my dad. So I did.


Like a typical New Yorker, I didn’t go food shopping so much as visit the tiny grocery store around the corner from my house on my way home every day. Cairo, the guy who worked behind the counter, had moved here from Bahrain with dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian. He treated his customers like we were his test audience.

I started to unload the items from my basket onto the counter.

“Last night, I told my wife that she was drawing her eyebrows too high. She looked surprised.”

I chuckled and shook my head. “Cute, Cairo. But you know me, I like the dirty ones.”

Cairo looked around and then motioned for me to lean in close. “A girl noticed she started to grow hair between her legs. Not knowing what it was, she got nervous and asked her mom if it was normal. Her mom responded, ‘It’s normal, sweetheart. That’s called your monkey. It means you’re becoming a woman.’ The girl got excited. That night at dinner, she boasted about it to her sister. ‘My monkey has hair now!’ Her sister smiled. ‘Big deal. Mine’s already eaten a dozen bananas.’”

I laughed. “Keep that one in the act.”

Cairo pointed down the aisle behind me. “Did you see? I got more of those chocolate wafer cookies you like so much.”

I groaned. Hazelnut-filled Pirouline wafer cookies were my weakness. I was lucky that most of my weight went to my ass, and junk in the trunk was en vogue right now. “I told you to stop ordering them.”

He smiled and waved his hand. “Go. My treat.”

I sighed. But yet I made my way back down the aisle. Because . . . well . . . cookies. Cairo’s little local store had no rhyme or reason to the product placement. Sponges were stacked next to spaghetti and on the other side of that were the Piroulines. I grabbed the front canister, and as I went to turn away, I noticed a stack of cans next to where I’d just grabbed the wafer cookies from. Black olives. I smiled, thinking about Birdie, and started to walk back to the register. I made it only three steps before I turned around and grabbed two cans of olives off the shelf.

Cairo proceeded to tell me three terrible olive jokes while I finished paying for my purchases. I left with two bags of groceries, and I had no idea what the hell I was going to do with the olives, but for some reason, I hummed “Jingle Bells” all the way home.



“What the heck are you doing?”

The next afternoon, Devin came into my office and found me with a roll of Christmas wrapping paper laid out on my desk and a can in the middle. I shrugged and started to cut the paper. “Wrapping olives.”

“Uh. Why?”

I reached into the plastic bag sitting on my chair and held up the item I’d bought on my lunch hour. “How do you think I should wrap these? I don’t have a box.”

Devin’s bushy brows drew together. “You want to wrap men’s black socks?”

I set down the scissors and folded the red-and-white candy-cane-striped wrapping paper around the can. “Well, I can’t send the olives looking festive and not the socks.”

She plucked the socks from my hand and rolled them into a ball. “I have two brothers. My dad used to give me twenty bucks to buy each of them a gift at the holidays. Every year they got socks from the sale rack for a buck, and I used the rest of the money to buy makeup. They wrap best folded like this, into a ball.”

“Oh. Smart.”

Devin leaned against my desk and moved the tape dispenser closer to me. “So who are the olives and socks for? New guy I don’t know about?”

I shook my head. “No, they’re for Birdie.”

“Ohhhhh. Birdie.” She nodded as if it all made sense. “Who the hell is Birdie?”

“She’s a little girl who wrote to the Holiday Wishes mailbox. I want to make some of her wishes come true.”

“And she wished for men’s black socks and olives?”

“Yep. And a special friend for her dad. Her mom died of cancer a few years ago. So sweet.”

Devin frowned. “That sucks. But what’s her dad look like?”

“How should I know?”

She shrugged. “He’s single. And is about to have clean socks. That’s better than half the men you’ve gone out with lately already.”

I chuckled. “True. But I don’t think so.”

“Suit yourself. His kid sounds like an odd duck anyway. Who asks Santa for olives?”

I stopped wrapping and looked at her. “When I was seven, I asked for a rooster because I wanted fresh brown eggs.”

“But . . . roosters don’t lay eggs.”

“I didn’t say I was the smartest seven-year-old.”

Devin laughed as she walked out of my office. “I think you just made a case for why you should google Birdie’s dad. Sounds like maybe you’re a match made in heaven.”


I never ended up googling anyone. In fact, after I sent Birdie the olives and socks, I wished her well in my mind and never gave it a second thought. That is, until another envelope showed up at the magazine about a week later. When I noticed her name on the return address, I immediately dumped the other mail and ripped that envelope open.

A photo fell out of the letter onto the floor. When I picked it up, what met my eyes was a beautiful little girl with golden hair and a bright smile that melted my heart. It was a wallet-size school photo. Wow. This is her. It felt surreal to be looking at the actual Birdie. She was so pretty, with kind eyes and, from everything I knew, a beautiful soul to match. I put the photo aside and read the letter.

Dear Santa,

Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God! You are real. You’re really real. I got the olives and socks today. The holes fit on my fingers! Not the holes in the socks. The holes in the olives. The socks didn’t have holes. My daddy’s socks don’t have holes anymore. They were so nice and soft. You should’ve seen him when he found the socks in his drawer! He still doesn’t know how they got there. He said today must have been his lucky day because he found them. And I laughed. It was so funny! And then he took me to the ice-cream place next to his restaurant to celebrate our lucky day. I couldn’t tell him that I was too full because I just ate a can of olives.

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