As I peered into my computer screen, a low and modulated voice broke into my reverie. “May I sit down?”
I look up, and the cafe became solid again. A tall, slender woman with brown skin and fine black braids pulled into a sleek bun stood with her hand on the back of the chair facing me. She is dressed in a red skirt suit with sensible black heels. Her air of calm competence left me feeling a bit awkward.
“Sure,” I said, nodding to the chair.
She reached down to shake my hand. “My name is Sunshine Walton. You asked to see me?”
Oh, I thought. Oh. Of course I had asked to see her. I had thought I needed to see my characters for my latest book more clearly. I hadn’t guessed … “Yes — yes. I did ask to see you. I just didn’t expect you so — quickly.”
Sunshine smiled bemusedly. “Did you want to ask me some questions?” She sat straight, almost primly, in her chair.
“Yes. What is your background?”
“I’m a military brat.” She sobered. “I think we moved five times by the time I finished high school — no, six. ” She chuckled, a low pleasant sound. “I got to see the world. It was a strange childhood. It was hard to get to know anyone outside my family, because then they’d leave, or we’d leave. It was a vivid and lonely childhood.”
“Any romances in your life?” I wasn’t sure that was a good question to ask, but I asked it anyhow.
“Oh, I had a grand romance in high school — that was ages ago …” Sunshine chuckled. “I was convinced he was the love of my life, and then — “
“Then what?” I asked impatiently.
“We moved again. Apparently it couldn’t last long-distance. He never wrote. Since then, I’ve been too busy to have a relationship — college, finding a job in my field …” Sunshine gazed in the distance, then shrugged.
“What is your field?”
“Accounting. But I also have some management skills. I think I have an innate talent for management, but I thought accounting was safer.”
“Safer?” I queried.
“More likely to get a job. I don’t like the thought of starving.” Sunshine raised her eyebrows. “That’s why my dad ended up in the military, I guess.”
“One more question,” I stated. “How do you feel about Santa Claus?”
Sunshine laughed. “I haven’t believed in Santa since I was seven. I guess he’s a good thing for the children. I suppose if I have kids, I’ll do the Santa thing with them, but …” Her voice trailed off as she gazed into the distance, then she shook herself. She checked her watch. “I have to go — I have an appointment across town in fifteen minutes.” She stood in an efficient motion, nodded to me, and strode out the door.
I smiled. Sunshine’s studied calm was about to be upended by a bit of Christmas magic.