One of David’s earliest memories was about Christmas. Lately, he had run the memory through his head over and over, wishing he could make it ‘sticky’ so he could live it again. With so much missing, this memory of his childhood felt like a nugget of gold in his brain.
The Vandergraffs didn’t celebrate Christmas. As a child, he would have at least known why. They would have celebrated the Solstice, instead. Although, of course, he didn’t remember any of that. He just remembered the absence of Christmas and how much he hated his parents for not letting him have Christmas like all the other kids. Even as an adult, he never forgave them for this, especially since, as an adult with no understanding of wizardry, he had seen this as an arbitrary cruelty, a child abuse in its own right, one of the many things that had made Amanda’s job of gently removing the Vandergraffs from David’s life easy. As she had said, she had removed only memories of the actual physical abuse. David still had plenty left in his mind about his parents to piss him off, and no Christmas topped the list.
In first grade, right before Christmas break, all the kids talked on and on about Santa Claus. David remembered asking his teacher, Miss Atwood, why Santa Claus didn’t visit his house and if that meant he was naughty. He remembered this in part, because Miss Atwood cried when he said this, and he hadn’t seen many grown-ups cry. She had seemed old to him at the time, but David guessed Miss Atwood had just graduated college, in her early twenties. She had very curly blonde hair and wore glasses.
She told him, “No. It doesn’t mean that you’re naughty. You’re a very good boy. Santa tries very hard to visit every child, but sometimes even Santa makes mistakes. Sometimes he will spill milk on parts of his list or he will accidentally leave pages at home. He has a very hard job, you see, and he’s very old.”
The next day, she pulled him aside before recess and said, “I called Santa, and he wanted you to know he’s very sorry for missing your house. He said one of his reindeer ate some pages of his list. The missing pages were from the Nice List, and you were on it.”
“Yes. He wants to make sure he doesn’t miss you this year. So he wants you to write him a letter telling him what you want for Christmas. He said to give the letter to me, and I’ll make sure he gets it.”
David rushed home that day and told four-year-old James all about how Santa Claus had missed them by mistake and would come this year. They just had to write him a letter. James opened his eyes wide and ran to find David a piece of paper and a marker. David carefully wrote two letters, one for him and one for James, starting with Dear Santa and followed by a list of toys. When he couldn’t write the words, he drew pictures. He signed their names. James leaned over him and watched carefully to make sure he got it right.
David took the letters to Miss Atwood so she could give them to Santa. On Christmas Eve, he started to get nervous. They didn’t have a fireplace for him to come down. They didn’t have a tree or stockings where Santa could put presents. He should have warned Santa in the letter. Maybe that’s the real reason Santa had never come. He saw their house and thought they didn’t believe in him.
But lo and behold, Santa came right before dinner on Christmas Eve. Since they didn’t have a chimney, Santa rang the doorbell. David remembered a blast of fear and happiness at once when his father opened the door and saw Santa Claus, complete with the red suit, white beard, and bag of toys. He wished Santa had known to come at night while his parents slept, as he did for the other kids.
This bizarre appearance probably baffled David’s father so much that he forgot to be angry right away. He said, “I think you have the wrong house.”
“Is this the house of David and James Vandergraff?” Santa asked in a deep, authoritative voice.
“How do you know my sons’ names?”
“I’m Santa Claus,” Santa said, and then he winked at David’s father. Grown-up David couldn’t help but laugh at this ridiculous act.
“We didn’t ask for this,” his father said. “You need to leave.”
“Just take the presents,” Santa said, in a less Santa-like voice. He took a wrapped package out of his bag. “James, this one’s for you.”
James approached Santa like a squirrel trying to take a piece of food out of someone’s hand. Then Santa gave a gift to David.
“Merry Christmas,” Santa said and then left quickly.
David feared his father would take away his present. He looked at his brother and said, “Run.”
They ran out the back door before their parents could react and into the wooded area behind their house. They ran until they had to stop and catch their breath. He had worn only socks, and his feet hurt from running across the rocky ground, but he didn’t care. He and James sat down on the ground and opened their presents. David got a Lego set, and James got a toy car. They played with their toys in the middle of the woods until their hands got stiff with cold. David didn’t remember what happened after that.
The grown-up David figured that memory had stuck with him for a reason. A far more important memory than his little self would have ever guessed. It would have shown little dark wizard David that good magic existed, too. Because if Santa Claus wasn’t an example of a good wizard, he didn’t know what was.
Semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Review Awards and #1 category bestseller in coming of age fantasy.
David Vandergraff wants to be a good man. He goes to church every Sunday, keeps his lawn trim and green, and loves his wife and kids more than anything.
Unfortunately, being a dark wizard isn't a choice.
Eleven years ago, David's secret second family went missing. When his two lost children are finally found, he learns they suffered years of unthinkable abuse. Ready to make things right, David brings the kids home even though it could mean losing the wife he can’t imagine living without.
Keeping his life together becomes harder when the new children claim to be dark wizards. David believes they use this fantasy to cope with their trauma. Until, David's wife admits a secret of her own—she is a dark wizard too, as is David, and all of their children.
Now, David must parent two hurting children from a dark world he doesn’t understand and keep his family from falling apart. All while dealing with the realization that everyone he loves, including himself, may be evil.