Authors: Victoria Simcox
Copyright © 2009 by
Victoria Simcox. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any
means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without
the written prior permission of the author.
This is a work of
fiction. All names, characters, and incidents are a product of the author’s
imagination and any resemblance to actual people, places or events is coincidental
For my daughter Kristina
great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.
Kristina awoke when the jangling of her
alarm sounded right in her ear. She reached over to her night table and gave
her clock a good whack and then stuffed her head under the pillow. “I don’t
want to get up,” she mumbled.
It was the last day of
school before the Christmas holiday break, and it was so hard to drag herself
out of bed. Twelve-year-old Kristina wished she could have slept at least
Even with the pillow
over her head, she could hear the familiar sound of the old floorboards
creaking in the hall. Then she heard her door open, followed by her mom’s
footsteps as she approached Kristina’s bed.
“Kristina, I know
you’re awake. Please get out of bed before you miss the bus again—for the fifth
time this month,” her mom said while pulling the pillow off of Kristina’s head.
“Okay, Mom,” Kristina
replied sleepily. “I’m getting up.”
As soon as her mom left
the room, Kristina sat up. Her flaxen hair was tousled about her head as she
got out of bed and walked over to the window. There was a small crack at the
bottom through which the wind was whistling. She pulled her nightshirt sleeve
over her hand and rubbed the condensation off the window. Her pale-blue eyes
peered through the circle of clear glass, at the snow that was lightly falling.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the busses weren’t running today?
Then she realized it was highly unlikely that school would be canceled—the snow
wasn’t even sticking to the ground.
Kristina could not have
cared less about missing the last day of school. She didn’t have many friends
there anyway; in fact, a couple of the kids were downright nasty to her. It was
a good thing she had great parents who made up for her lack of friends.
Everyone said she looked just like her father, who had the same color blond
hair and blue eyes as her. He’d always say, “Don’t worry about it, if you don’t
have many friends. You’re a unique girl and if you find a few unique friends in
life, be grateful for that.”
Kristina Kingsly was
somewhat of a loner, spending a lot of time reading books, drawing, or playing
with her pet rat, Raymond. Even though she disliked school, there was one good
thing about it: her teacher, Miss Hensley; she was a really nice lady.
The sound of Raymond
drinking from his water bottle brought Kristina back to reality. She looked at
the clock on her wall. “Oh, great!” The time was 8:05 a.m., and the bus would
arrive at 8:30 a.m.. It took seven minutes to walk to the bus stop—maybe four
or five minutes, if she ran.
She got dressed as fast
as she could, pulling on mismatched socks because all the rest were in the
wash. She ran a comb quickly through her hair, and picked up Raymond and
stuffed him in a leather purse that she had just for him. She ran down the old
staircase to the kitchen, gulped down a quick bite to eat, grabbed her
loose-leaf binder with all its papers hanging out, and threw on her coat, hat,
and scarf. “Bye, Mom!” she yelled over her shoulder.
“Hey?” Her mom was
standing in the entree way, with her arms crossed, staring at her. “You’d
better be more on the ball next time.”
Kristina glanced back
at her. “I know, I know—I’ll try harder next time.”
Outside the wind driven
snow was making it hard to see, even a few feet ahead. Shielding her face with
her arm, Kristina started to run toward her bus stop. Just as she reached it
the wind came at her and knocked her loose-leaf binder out of her grip,
scattering her homework all about the snowy sidewalk and street. The bus was
heading toward her stop and the driver, Mr. Macgregor, a stout old Scottish man
with a missing front tooth, hadn’t caught sight of Kristina running in circles,
frantically trying to retrieve her papers. When she finally grabbed the last
one, her foot hit an icy spot on the sidewalk, and she slipped and fell. Mr. Macgregor
finally caught sight of her, lying half on the sidewalk, half on the street—he
brought the bus to a skidding halt. Kristina sat up and Mr. Macgregor let out a
sigh of relief.
winced. Even through her heavy winter coat, she could feel that she had scraped
her arm on a chunk of ice. She stood up and Mr. Macgregor swung the bus door
open. The children on the bus were looking out the windows, pointing and
laughing at her.
“Hurry, young lassie,
before ye catch yer death,” Mr. Macgregor said, looking very concerned. “It’s
more’n a wee bit nippy out.”
With wet papers hanging
out of her binder, her hat on lopsided, and a discouraged look on her face,
Kristina trudged up the steps of the bus. Before she turned to walk down the
aisle she squared her shoulders and held her head high. Then she headed to an
empty seat, not once glancing at the other children, who snickered and laughed
as she passed them. One girl, Hester Crumeful, smirked at her and whispered,
“Aw, rat girl has a boo-boo.”
Kristina couldn’t stand
Hester, a slightly chunky, spoiled, rich kid, who always wore a scarf around
her neck and had a different colored one for each day of the week.
Kristina sat down in
the back of the bus and opened her purse to look at Raymond. “Are you okay
Raymond?” she said quietly. Raymond was huddled in the corner of her purse,
breathing rapidly. She ran her finger over his little head to calm him. “At
least Miss Hensley will be happy to see us.”
Miss Hensley let
Kristina bring Raymond to class. She said it was educational for the children
to observe him. He even had his own special cage with toys in it.
Kristina liked to be
the first one to come to class so she could visit with Miss Hensley before the
final bell rang. When she entered the classroom she put Raymond in his cage.
After feeding her pet, she organized her damp assignment as best as she could
and placed it on Miss Hensley’s desk. The final bell rang, and the other kids
came running into the classroom. Graham Kepler, Hester Crumeful’s thirteen-year-old
cousin, made a paper airplane and threw it at Kristina. It hit her on the
forehead; she scowled at him but didn’t tell Miss Hensley―snitching was
only what nerds did. Graham tossed his carrot-colored hair and grinned, like a
Cheshire cat, at Kristina. He had so many freckles on his face; they resembled
the stars in the sky on a clear night.
Why is he such a jerk
He probably thinks that Miss
Hensley likes me better than him.
She smirked at Graham.
I think she
does. Actually, it’s pretty easy to like anyone better than Graham.
Finally, the clock on
the wall said 2:15 p.m—only fifteen more minutes until the final bell. School
would be out, and the Christmas break would begin.
Miss Hensley had
finished grading everyone’s papers and was passing them back to the class.
Kristina could hardly believe her eyes—she got an A on her paper. This was the
best mark she had ever gotten. When all the graded papers had been passed back,
Miss Hensley went back to Kristina’s desk.
“I was really impressed
with your work. Great job!” she said.
“Thanks, Miss Hensley!”
Kristina said, beaming up at her teacher.
“Could you please stay
a few minutes after class? There’s something I’d like to give you.”
Kristina shrugged her
shoulders. “Yeah, sure.”
After the final bell
rang and all the students had been dismissed, Miss Hensley went to the storage
closet at the back of the classroom. She unlocked the door and stepped inside.
She pulled a string connected to a light bulb. The storage room lit up, and a
large spider skittered up the light bulb. Kristina watched from her desk as her
teacher pushed a step stool toward the dusty shelves along the wall. Miss
Hensley reached up to the top shelf. “Ah, there you are.” She pulled out a
dusty, burgundy hatbox and brushed the dust from the top of it. “The time has
come for you to be passed on,” she said quietly.
Kristina left her desk
and went to stand by the storage room door. She watched patiently as her
teacher blew more dust off the old hatbox and then walked out of the storage
room and over to her desk. “Come here, Kristina,” she said. “I have a present
replied excitedly. “What is it, Miss Hensley?”
“I wish that I had time
to tell you about it, but I don’t want you to miss your bus.” She handed
Kristina the hatbox.
A smile spread across
Kristina’s face. “Thank you, Miss Hensley.”
“You’re very welcome.”
Miss Hensley returned the smile. “Now hurry along.”
Kristina glanced up at
the clock. “Yes, I’d better hurry.” She turned and began to walk to the
Hensley called out to her.
“Aren’t you forgetting
“Oh, yeah, of course! I
almost left without him!” She quickly went to put Raymond in his purse.
As Kristina headed out
of the classroom, Miss Hensley said, just barely loud enough for Kristina to
hear, “Hope you have a wonderful Christmas holiday.”
Once again, Kristina barely got to her
bus in time, and when she did finally get on, she headed straight for the back
seats. On her way there, Graham Kepler stuck his foot out into the aisle and
tripped her, causing the hatbox to slip out of her arms and roll down the aisle
toward the front of the bus. Hester Crumeful snatched it up, just before it
rolled down the bus steps. She stared at Kristina with a devious, smirk on her
“Give that back to me
right now, Hester Crumeful!” Kristina said in a raised voice.
Hester didn’t answer.
Instead, she threw the hatbox to Graham, who caught it like a football. The
rest of the children watched with great enthusiasm to see what the next play
would be. When Mr. Macgregor looked through his rear-view mirror and saw what
was going on, he quickly brought the bus to a halt at the side of the road. He
got out of his seat and went down the aisle toward Graham. Graham sunk down in
his seat, holding the hatbox in his lap, looking very cowardly.
Mr. Macgregor pointed
his stubby finger at Graham’s face. Squinting one eye, he said in a heavy
Scottish brogue, “Now ye listen t’me, young laddie. Anymore trouble outta ye,
an’ it’ll be the last time ye ride the bus for the rest of the year!”
Graham handed the hatbox back to Kristina. Then Kristina quickly sat down
in the last row of seats. Mr. Macgregor went back to his seat, and when Graham
was sure he wasn’t looking, he turned to Kristina and whispered, “Just wait;
I’ll get you back. You’ll see.”
Kristina ignored him
and looked out the window.
“Teacher’s pet. Sissy
baby! It’s probably just something for self-improvement in there anyway, like a
book on how
to look like a nerd,” Hester scoffed as she chomped
loudly on her chewing gum. She blew a huge bubble that popped and stuck to her
Kristina looked over at
Hester and couldn’t help but laugh.
Graham and Hester knew
that Kristina had been given a gift from Miss Hensley, because they had been
eavesdropping at the classroom door the whole time Miss Hensley had been
talking with Kristina. The two of them got off at the stop just before
Kristina’s, and as the bus drove away from the stop, Kristina watched from the
window as Graham made a large snowball and threw it at Hester, hitting her in
the back of the head. Soon after, Mr. Macgregor pulled the bus to a stop and
opened the doors. “Now you an’ your critter have a merry Christmas, an’ try to
stay out ay mischief,” he said as Kristina exited the bus.
Kristina smiled up at
him. “Thanks Mr. Macgregor. And you have a merry Christmas as well.”
~ ~ ~
Kristina’s mom came
into the entryway just as Kristina came through the front door. “Put your
things away upstairs and hurry back down,” she instructed Kristina. “Your
dinner is on the table. I have to leave here in fifteen minutes to meet your
father for his office Christmas party.”
Kristina placed Raymond
in his cage and then shoved the hatbox under her bed. She wanted to take her
time with opening it and enjoy the moment so she planned to do it after she
ate. Then it dawned on her that if her mom was going to her father’s office
Christmas party, she’d be getting someone to stay with Kristina. Usually
Kristina would stay home by herself when her parents went out, but because
there was a break-in, three houses down, only the night before, her mom didn’t
want Kristina staying home alone.
Oh, I hope it’s not Davina Pavey coming
Davina was two years
older than Kristina—fourteen and a half, to be exact—and she lived down the
street. Whenever she came to stay with Kristina, she’d spend her time either
eating the cupboards empty or following Kristina around the house, hoping to
see her do something for which she could snitch on her to Mrs. Kingsly. Kristina
could just imagine it: Davina, with her long, greasy, black braids, Coke-bottle
glasses, and beady little eyes, standing in her bedroom doorway. She’d be
eating potato chips that would get stuck in her braces, and she’d watch every
move that Kristina made.
Kristina entered the
kitchen, where her mom was busy doing dishes, and sat down at the table to eat.
At least dinner was a plus—macaroni and cheese out of the box; her favorite.
“Oh, I forgot to
mention to you,” her mom said as Kristina squeezed large amounts of catsup onto
her macaroni, “Davina Pavey, is coming to hang out with you tonight.”
“I have to hurry and
get ready.” Her mom headed out the kitchen, just as the doorbell rang. “Would
you get that, Kristina?”
Kristina walked to the
front door and peeked through the peephole. “Just as I expected—Davina.” She
opened the door. “Hi, Davina,” she said flatly.
Davina wiped her nose
with the back of her hand and walked into the house. “Where’s your mom?”
ready.” Kristina stood there uncomfortably for a few minutes until her mom
appeared at the top of the stairs.
“Hello, Davina,” her
mom said brightly.
“Hello, Mrs. Kingsly.
Wow! You look so pretty.”
Kristina batted her
eyes in disgust. Davina would always try to butter up her mom.
“Thank you, Davina.”
Her mom slipped on her long coat. Then while staring into the entryway mirror,
applying her lipstick, she looked at Davina out of the corner of her eye and
said, “Help yourself in the kitchen.”
As Kristina started up
the stairs, her mom looked up at her. “Grandma’s coming tomorrow and I would
like to have the house looking at least half decent, so don’t go to bed later
Kristina replied softly.
“Did you hear
mom. I did,” Kristina retorted, staring wide-eyed at her mom.
tell. You looked like you were spacin’ out.” Her mom looked at Davina again and
then back at Kristina. “Anyhow, you two have fun.”
returned a fake smile.
As soon as Kristina’s
mom left, Davina headed for the kitchen to see what type of food she could
devour. This meant that Kristina finally had a chance to open her present
without being bothered—or so she thought. She got the hatbox out from under the
bed, but just as she was about to open it up, she heard Davina’s heavy steps
coming up the stairs.
Davina opened the door
and sauntered into Kristina’s bedroom, eating a large corned beef sandwich
drenched in mayonnaise.
“Have you ever heard of
knocking?” Kristina said irritated.
Davina ignored her
remark. She was much too interested in the hatbox that Kristina had pushed
behind her back. Smacking away on her sandwich, she sauntered over to Kristina,
and asked, “What’s that you’re hiding?”
“It’s none of your
business,” Kristina said coldly.
Davina placed her
sandwich, still oozing mayonnaise, on the dresser. Then she reached behind
Kristina and grabbed the hatbox.
“Give it back!”
“Does your mom know
your hiding this?” A chunk of bread flew out of Davina’s mouth. “Your mom will
thank me for catching you sneaking around like this!”
As Davina started
prying at the clasp, Kristina felt anger bubbling up inside her, and she
clenched her fists, wanting to punch Davina.
“What’s wrong with this
thing? Why won’t it open?” Davina eyes grew very squinty and her face turned
plum red. When she couldn’t open it, she tossed it back to Kristina. “Well, if
I can’t open it, than neither can you. Have fun.” With that, she picked up her
sandwich, licked the dripping mayonnaise off its edge, and sauntered out of the
Kristina got up and
slammed the door behind Davina. Then she picked up the hatbox and tried to open
it, but it was no use; the clasps wouldn’t budge. “Figures! Why did you have to
give me this thing, Miss Hensley? It’s caused me nothing but trouble, and to
top it off, it’s so darn old that it won’t open anyway.” Frustrated, she shoved
the hat box back under her bed.