I have decided to share my first attempt at fiction-writing. I welcome feedback – both positive and negative. I just ask you to be kind.
It was the last day of school before Christmas vacation, and Melissa couldn’t take her eyes off the clock above the teacher’s head. 12 minutes to go. 12 minutes and 23 seconds to be precise. 22. 21. 20. “This is taking forever!” she thought to herself.
To help keep her mind off the time, she tried to remember everything she had put in her letter to Santa this year. She knew she had asked for the latest Nancy Drew. And a pink sweater (like the one Elizabeth Wilson had). Some clothes for Barbie and Ken. Oh, yeah – and a new sled!
Although it hadn’t yet, she was hopeful that it would snow before Christmas. If she got a new sled, her mom would take her to the big hill near where her dad worked. It was the best hill in town – long and steep enough to be fun, with a wide open space at the bottom, so there was no danger of running into a tree!
Finally, she heard Mrs. Allen say, “OK, students, put your papers away – you can go get your coats and scarves on. I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas!” Brrrinnnngg. The bell sounded better than any bell ever had – it was Christmas vacation! 2 whole weeks without school – no homework to do, no uniforms to wear, no carpool to meet. Melissa almost danced a jig on her way to the coat rack at the back of the room.
When her mom picked her up from school that day, Melissa could hardly stop chattering on about everything she wanted to do while school was out. “Can we make gingerbread houses this weekend? When are we going to grandma’s? Can Elizabeth come for a sleepover tomorrow? If it snows, can we go sledding?”
Her mom patiently answered each question – “Yes, we can make them tomorrow.” “We’ll go to Grandma’s on Sunday – she’ll give you your presents then.” “No, this weekend is too hectic – maybe she can come next Saturday.” “Of course we will go sledding! I heard it is supposed to snow on Monday!”
“Yay! I hope Santa brings me a new sled – the old one doesn’t really work. It gets stuck too much – plus I don’t want to have to share with Henry.”
“Well, we’ll have to wait and see, won’t we? Christmas is Tuesday – the snow should still be there.”
The weekend was fun and passed quickly. Melissa and her mom made gingerbread houses. They also made some gingerbread men to take to her grandma, and on Sunday, along with her dad and little brother, made the hour drive to Baltimore. Grandma had made cookies, so after lunch, Melissa and Henry were each allowed to choose 2 to have for dessert. Grandma also put some in a tin for them to take home. Even though all she gave Melissa was a scarf and some socks, the cookies made up for it. And there was still Santa – surely he would bring fun stuff!
Sunday night, as her mom tucked her into bed, Melissa asked, “Is it still supposed to snow tomorrow? I really, really want to go sledding if Santa brings me a new sled!” “Yes, dear,” her mother replied, “the weather man is saying we should get 4 to 5 inches – plenty for sledding down the hill.” “OK – goodnight, Mama.” “Goodnight, sweetheart. Sweet dreams!”
Monday morning, Melissa slept late – her first real day of vacation. She woke up to a quiet house and the smell of eggs and bacon. Running downstairs in her pajamas, she looked out the kitchen window and saw big, fluffy snowflakes coming down. “Whoo-hoo! Snow!”
Her brother was already scarfing down his share of the eggs. Melissa sat down and ate quickly too. They both rushed upstairs to get dressed in warm clothes and their winter jackets. “Can we go outside and make a snowman, Mom?” asked Henry. “Well, there isn’t much snow on the ground yet, but that’s fine,” Mom answered. “I’ll call you in later to have hot chocolate. Remember, you have to take a nap this afternoon, because we are going to Midnight Mass.”
Before she had even finished her sentence, Melissa and Henry were out the kitchen door and down the steps to the yard. “I bet I can make a bigger snowman than you!” taunted Henry. “Yeah, right,” thought Melissa, “we’ll see whose is bigger when we’re done!” Silently, she just kept on rolling her first ball of snow.
Within 30 minutes, there were two, kind of scrawny, snowmen sitting on the patio. Melissa found some sticks in the corner of the yard and stuck them in as arms. She wrapped her own scarf around her snowman’s neck and put rocks in for eyes. Henry put his baseball cap on his snowman, hoping it would help make it look taller – Melissa’s seemed a bit bigger, and he didn’t want to admit it.
Their mother came out with a camera just then and said, “The hot chocolate is almost ready – let me get a picture of you with your snowmen!” “Mine is better,” yelled Henry. “I don’t think so,” countered Melissa. “Mine is taller!” “Is not!” “Is so!”
“Stop – both of you! Now stand by your snowman and I will get a picture of each of you.” Once their mom had snapped a few photos with her instamatic, they all went inside. Melissa and Henry stripped out of their snowy, wet coats and gloves, and made their way to the kitchen table. “Can I get marshmallows in mine?” asked Henry. “Me too?” echoed Melissa.
“Of course,” answered Mom. “Dad will be home for lunch – he gets off work at noon today. After lunch, I want you both to spend at least an hour in your room, resting. If you can, try to take a nap – it’s going to be a late night.”
That night, the family bundled up against the cold – the snow had stopped, but several inches had accumulated on the car, so Dad went out to brush it off before they all went to church. On the way home, a sleepy Melissa said, “We have to remember to put out some milk and cookies for Santa.” When they got home, she picked 2 of Grandma’s cookies and a couple of the gingerbread men she had helped to make, and Henry offered his favorite G.I. Joe cup to use for the milk. Once they were sure Santa was all set for his midnight snack, they allowed themselves to be guided to their rooms and got ready for bed.
When the sun was barely up, Henry came bounding into Melissa’s room. “Get up! Get up! Santa came!” Melissa didn’t need any more encouragement – together, they ran downstairs and saw piles of presents under the tree and stuffed stockings tugging at their hooks on the mantle. Mom and Dad were sitting in their chairs, drinking coffee. “Where have you two been? We’ve been up for ages, waiting on you,” Dad said.
As they tore into their presents, squeals could be heard. Melissa got not one, but two Nancy Drews, Henry got a G.I. Joe coloring book and 5 new army men for his collection. And best of all, they both got brand new, red plastic, flexible flyer disc sleds.
“Can we go outside?” two voices said in unison. “Not yet. We’re having pancakes for breakfast – after we all eat, you can go. This afternoon, we’ll go sledding by Dad’s office.”
Even though pancakes were Melissa’s favorite, and Mom always made hers in the shape of an M, she really wanted to go outside and try out her new sled. She ate quickly and then put on her coat and the new scarf from Grandma (her old one was still on the snowman she built yesterday). She grabbed her sled and raced outside, not waiting for her brother.
When she got to the sidewalk out front, she put her sled down and started to step onto it. The neighbor had shoveled part of the sidewalk yesterday, but overnight, the layer of snow that had started to melt had re-frozen, and the sled started sliding out from under her. She stopped, pulled back, and turned around. As carefully as she could, she sat down on the sled and realized that the brick sidewalk wasn’t going to work as a sledding surface. The tree roots had pushed some of the bricks up and it was just too uneven.
Just as Melissa had decided she would wait until her mom took her to the big hill later that day, Henry came rushing out with his sled. He was bundled up too, with his favorite Redskins ski hat pulled down past his eyebrows. He threw his sled down next to hers and stepped right in the middle of the sled.
“Wait, Henry – you can’t do it that way…” before Melissa could finish her sentence, the disk slid backwards, Henry’s foot went with it, and he fell face first onto the sidewalk. Melissa scrambled out of her sled and went over – “are you OK? I’m going to get Mom.”
By the time Melissa got inside and brought her mother back out front, Henry had turned over and was sitting in his sled. A faint shimmer on his left cheek was the only sign he had been crying. “I’m OK, Mom. I promise.” “We’ll see – let me take a look.”
When she took off the ski cap, blood started running down his forehead. “Oh, Henry – that is not OK. I think we need to get you to the doctor.” “I hate the doctor – do I have to go?” “Yes – that’s a pretty deep cut on your forehead. I don’t want to take any chances.”
Melissa’s dad decided he wanted to go too, and since the doctor’s office was closed, the family headed to the nearest emergency room. After a long wait, the doctor on call finally saw Henry and decided he needed stitches. Melissa had to sit in the hall while it was done, but with her grandmother’s sewing skills as her only experience with stitches, she kept picturing Henry’s head being pushed inside a giant sewing machine.
“This isn’t fair,” she thought to herself. “We were supposed to go sledding this afternoon. Henry is so dumb. Why didn’t he listen to me – he should have turned around and sat down like I did. Then we wouldn’t be here, and I would be able to go sledding.”
It was finally time to go home. Henry was groggy from the pain medication, so his dad carried him to the car and he slept the whole way home. Melissa sat in the back seat, pouting about how the whole day was wasted and glaring at her sleeping brother. This was all his fault.
“I’m sorry, honey,” mom said. “I know you wanted to go sledding today – if Henry is feeling up to it, we will try to go tomorrow.”
“Yeah, but if he had just listened to me, we would have been able to go today. It’s not fair.”
“Life isn’t fair, Melissa. But you can’t blame your brother – it was just an accident. It could just as easily been you who was hurt. You wouldn’t want him blaming you if it was, do you?”
“I guess not. Is he going to be OK?”
“Yes – he’ll be fine. He will probably have a scar, though, so none of us will ever forget this Christmas!”
And to this day, Henry’s forehead bears the reminder of that slippery, uneven brick sidewalk. The scar by his eyebrow – that’s a story for a different day!