When the coffee started to flow through my veins, vigor flowed back into brain cells dormant from the Christmas sleep. Nikki sat at my small dining room table watching me, patiently.
“I don’t get it,” I said finally.
“What is there to get?”
“Oh, well, you can have m—”
“Not that! I mean the hat. Why are you so curious about it?”
“I’m not curious about the hat, exactly.”
I sighed, taking another sip of coffee. When I looked back up, she still had that patient look. “Then what are you curious about?”
“Do you know, Matthew, the sheer number of experiences and stories I have? For centuries I have flitted about this planet experiencing nearly everything the world has to offer. I have been a member of court, a simple washer-woman, a goddess, a consort, the object of immortalized art, and more.”
She ignored that. “In all of that time, I have heard wild superstitions about Nicholas, but nothing concrete, until you. Two different holidays I have received gifts from the man whom I thought was nothing but children’s fantasy, and you now have a hat from him. You will be employed by him. You have given me a curiosity, which I cannot turn aside from.
I pointed back to the couch, taking time to mull that over as we walked back.
I could make a remark. I could be sarcastic about it, but she is genuinely intrigued.
“You know I don’t understand everything about what’s going on, right?”
“That lack does not prevent you from deducing the proper course throughout your profession.”
“I get it wrong, sometimes.”
“Yet you are still alive, a testament to your ability.”
“Okay, here goes. I was flying back to Florida for Christmas. . . .”