Authors: R.L. Stine
I knew I could count on Pam to have plenty of Christmas spirit, Reva thought sarcastically. I guess she's happy just to have a job.
Pam's mother had been laid off most of the year. And her father had to give up his drugstore and go to work for someone else.
But, thought Reva, Cousin Pam seems as bright and cheery as ever.
And who is that
she's talking to?
As Reva entered the stationery department, she saw that Pam had her hand on the shoulder of a dark, very handsome boy in black denims and a white sweater. He had straight black hair pulled back in a short ponytail, a broad, tanned forehead, and intense dark eyes that were locked on Pam. He was smiling at Pam, the most beautiful smile Reva had ever seen.
“Hi, guys,” Reva said, stepping between Pam and the boy. Pam was forced to remove her hand from his shoulder and take a step back. “How's life in the stationery department, Pam?” Reva asked, her eyes on the boy.
“Great!” Pam replied. “It's an easy job. Not bad at all.”
“Way to go,” Reva said. She still hadn't taken her eyes from the boy.
“Have youâuhâmet Victor?” Pam asked. “This is Victor Dias. My cousin Reva.”
“Hi.” Victor gave Reva a shy smile.
Wow, Reva thought. What a smile! What a
I am totally
by this guy, Reva told herself.
“Do you work in the store?” Reva asked, returning his smile, training her blue eyes on his.
“Yes. For the holiday,” Victor replied. “In the stockroom, usually.”
“The stockroom? I have to work there every day from three to five,” Reva said. She absolutely hated working in the stockroom. But now, she thought, studying Victor's handsome face, maybe she'd enjoy it a lot more.
“Do you like it here?” she asked him, eager to keep the conversation going.
“Be careful, Victor,” Pam broke in. “Reva's father owns all the Dalby stores.”
Victor smiled. “I
working in the stockroom. I hope to work there all my life!” he joked.
Victor glanced at his watch. “I'd better get back. See you later, Pam.” He turned to leave.
“I work in the perfume department,” Reva called after him. “Come say hi sometime, okay?”
“Nice to meet you,” Victor called over his shoulder. He disappeared into the crowd of shoppers.
“Isn't he terrific?” Pam gushed.
Reva finally faced her cousin. “Seems like a good guy,” she said casually.
Pam's face was flushed. Her green eyes flashed excitedly. “I think this is the real thing, Reva,” she whispered, grinning. “I mean, I met Victor only a few weeks ago. But IÂ .Â .Â .Â wellÂ .Â .Â .Â I'm just nuts about him.”
“That's great, Pam,” Reva replied without any
emotion, as if Pam had just told her it was cloudy outside or something just as dull. She raised the backs of her hands to her cousin. “How do you like my nails?”
“Huh?” Pam seemed confused by the sudden change of subject.
“Will these drive Ms. Smith wild, or what?” Reva demanded, holding the black-dotted purple fingernails in Pam's face.
To Reva's surprise, Pam reached down and picked up a silver-bladed letter opener from a stationery display. Pam raised the letter opener high.
“Pamâwhat's that?” Reva cried.
“Here's what I think of your nails!” Pam exclaimed. And she plunged the letter opener into Reva's chest.
eva uttered a choked gasp.
She raised the letter opener and pushed the blade two or three more times into Reva's chest. “Gotcha,” Pam cried, her green eyes sparkling with excitement in the bright store light.
Reva took a step back, her eyes still wide with fear. She stared at the fake letter opener, realizing that it had a sliding blade. The blade slid into the handle when it was pressed against anything.
Still grinning, Pam pushed the blade into the palm of one hand. “Do you believe this joke letter opener is the biggest seller in the stationery department this Christmas?” Pam declared, shaking her head.
“It'sÂ .Â .Â .Â very funny,” Reva said weakly. “Glad you're having fun, Pam.”
“It beats last Christmas,” Pam remarked, eyeing Reva meaningfully.
“For sure,” Reva muttered.
Reva said goodbye to her cousin. Then she walked as slowly as she could back to the perfume counter, thinking about Victor.
â¢Â â¢Â â¢
After work Reva made her way up to the executive offices on the sixth floor to meet her father. She passed the luxurious reception area with its leather couches, fresh flowers in tall glass vases, and fabric-covered walls studded with modern paintings.
Following the hall to her father's office in the corner, Reva paused as the balcony came into view. The balcony from which she could look down on all five floors to the first one. The balcony where she had almost met her death.
Feeling a cold shiver down her back, Reva held her breath and jogged the rest of the way, her eyes straight ahead.
Mr. Dalby was standing in the doorway to his office, a stack of files in his hands. He smiled as Reva approached. “How's it going?”
Reva's father was a trim, handsome man who worked out every day and took very good care of himself. He was forty-six but appeared younger. The only signs of age were the creases at the corners of his dark eyes and the sweeping trails of gray on the sides of his black, closely trimmed hair.
“How's it going? Not great,” Reva complained.
She followed her father into his office and sat down in front of his wide blond-wood desk.
She turned the photo in the Plexiglas frame on the corner of the desk to peek at it. She had seen it at least a thousand times, but it still made her feel sad. It was a snapshot of Reva, her little brother, Michael, and their mother on the beach at the Cape. It had been taken five years earlier, just six months before Reva's mother had died.
What a photo, she thought, turning it back. So happy and so sad at the same time. She always wondered how her father could bear to keep it in front of him all day.
Mr. Dalby sat in his chair and leaned over his desk, studying Reva's face. “Ms. Smith complained about you this morning,” he murmured.
Reva shrugged, as if to say who cares. “I really don't want to work here this Christmas, Daddy,” she said, not meaning to sound as whiny as she did. “I mean, it's not like we need the money.”
Mr. Dalby frowned. He tapped a pencil on the desktop as he continued to stare at her thoughtfully. “I really want you to work,” he said softly. “For your own good, Reva. I know it brings back bad memories. But I feel you have to get over them.”
“I really need a rest, that's all,” Reva insisted. “Why can't I go to Saint Croix with Michael?”
“Because the Harrisons didn't invite you,” her father answered bluntly. “They only invited your brother.”
Reva blew a strand of red hair off her forehead. “Bummer,” she muttered.
“Tell you what,” Mr. Dalby said, tossing down
the pencil. His expression brightened. “Stick it out here in the store this Christmas, and we'll go somewhere warm in February.”
“Really?” Reva pulled herself up from her slouching position in the chair. Her blue eyes brightened.
“And you can take a friend along,” he added. “You can't get a better offer than that.”
Reva laughed. “Is this what you might call a bribe?”
Mr. Dalby nodded. “Yes. It's definitely a bribe.”
Reva jumped up, leaned over the desk, and kissed his cheek.
His dark eyes grew wide with surprise. He wasn't used to receiving much affection from his daughter.
“Okay, so I'm letting you bribe me,” Reva said, smiling. “I love being bribed, actually.”
“And you'll keep the job in the store?” he demanded.
“Yeah. Sure,” Reva replied.
“And I won't get any more complaints from Ms. Smith that you're being rude to the customers?” he asked, raising his eyebrows.
“Heyâdon't expect miracles!” Reva exclaimed. She started to walk over to the coat closet against the wall. “Are you coming home?”
Mr. Dalby sighed and pointed to the stack of files on his desk. “I can't. I have to work late. I have all these inventory reports to go over.”
Reva pulled on her coat. “Okay. See you later.” She stopped at the door. “Thanks for the bribe, Daddy.”
Humming to herself, Reva made her way down the hallway toward the two service elevators that were for store employees. Most of the offices she passed were empty. The desks out front were empty too. The secretaries went home promptly at five.
Her voice sounded hollow in the silent hallway. She stopped humming.
She didn't like being out there all alone.
Feeling her heart pound harder, Reva stepped up to one of the employees' elevators. The doors were shiny aluminum. She could see her reflection in them. Two Revas stared back at her, slightly distorted, both a little anxious, a little frightened.
She pushed the button.
The doors to the elevator to her left slid open.
She started toward it.
But a loud voice behind her uttered a sharp cry.
And strong hands grabbed her arms from behind.
REVA IS AFRAID
eva felt herself being dragged back.
With a desperate burst of strength she jerked herself free and spun around.
“Huh? Daddy?” she cried.
“Don't use the employees' elevators,” he told her, watching the doors slide shut. “I've been having trouble with both of them. I've had the company working on them.”
“Daddyâyou frightened me!” Reva exclaimed.
He was panting loudly. He had run all the way down the hall to stop her. “I'm sorry, Reva. They could be dangerous. They were supposed to put a sign up.”
“Wow!” Reva exclaimed. “Wow.” Her heartbeat was slowly returning to normal. “It's never dull around here.”
She said goodbye to her father once again and made her way to the bank of main elevators. She rode down to the first floor, covering her ears to shut out the
of “The Little Drummer Boy” playing over the elevator loudspeaker.
The store had been closed for nearly half an hour. The blue-uniformed cleaning people were noisily hauling out their mops, buckets, and enormous vacuum cleaners. Several floor managers were rearranging shelves.
Reva hurried through the aisles to the employees' exit. The store always gave her the creeps after the customers had left. The air was too still. The aisles too empty. The mannequins all seemed to be staring at her.
There were too many frightening memories.Â .Â .Â .
Zipping her coat, she stepped out into a clear, cold evening. The violet sky sparkled with a thousand tiny stars.
Her blue Dr. Martens thudded against the concrete as she made her way across the wide loading dock and down the shallow steps. A gust of wind rattled the chain-link fence that surrounded the asphalt lot. Fat brown leaves scrabbled against the fence as if trying to break through.
Why does the employee parking lot have to be so far from the store? Reva wondered. She raised the collar of her coat and began to jog. It's so dark back here, she thought with a shiver. It wouldn't kill Daddy to put up a few lights.
The gate at the end of the loading area came dimly into view. Beyond the gate stretched a narrow
alleyway between two buildings. The parking lot stood at the end of the alley.
Reva stepped through the gate and made her way quickly through the narrow passageway. The two buildings formed tall, dark walls on both sides of her.
Her shoes crunched over broken glass and old snow. The wind whistled through the alley, pushed against her as if trying to drive her back.