Tina stood quietly, leaning against the wall, watching. A group of girls looked out the window, jumping up and down excitedly, “They’re here! Look! Mrs. Pearson is bringing the package in now.”
Tina didn’t care. She crossed her arms and turned her face towards the wall. It’s all stupid; Advent calendars, counting the days ‘til Christmas. Who cares!
Looking at the other girls she knew they all cared. But they had someone coming at Christmas, someone to take them home to celebrate. Her aunt didn’t want her at “home”. She’d only taken her in because her mother had left enough money for boarding school. To her aunt's relief, the will said nothing about loving her and having her intrude on their holidays. She would stay at school as usual, with Miss Blackburn, who was as dark and searing as her name.
Mrs. Pearson came cheerfully into the hall and was greeted with excited screams. “Girls, girls, calm down.” Her bright smile pushed her apple cheeks up, squeezing her eyes into tiny slits. “I will hand out the calendars after dinner.”
A unanimous groan greeted the announcement. “Can’t we have them now?”
“Tomorrow is December 1st. You don’t need them until then. After dinner it is.” She left them with a smile and wave.
The girls dispersed, grumbling, but still excited. Tina moved from her solitary place. No one noticed her, as usual.
“Tina, I’ve been looking for you.” The voice of her only friend, Karen, stopped her. “The calendars just arrived!”
“So,” Tina responded dryly.
“Tina! There’s a piece of chocolate behind each door!” Receiving no response, Karen reached for her friend’s hand and swung it between them as they walked down the hall.
At her room Tina jerked her friend to an abrupt stop, twisting her hand out of Karen’s. “Karen, I don’t care about counting the days until Christmas, OK? Just go to dinner. I’ll come in a minute.”
Karen knew she wouldn’t. “OK. I’ll see you later.”
Tina plopped down on her bed, brushing a tear from her eye. Dumb! It’s just dumb and I don’t care! She turned over, hugging her knees to her chest.
The knock at her door broke her solitude. Before she could say, “Come in,” Karen opened the door. “I brought your calendar. I already found the door for day one. I’ll show you.” Karen held the calendar out to Tina.
“Just put it down. Leave me alone, OK?” Tina turned over to face the wall, her back to Karen. Karen left quietly, heart heavy.
The next morning she stopped at Tina’s room. Tina was standing by the window, brushing her long hair, pulling it back tightly into the same pony tail she wore every day. Her eyes were puffy and empty; seeing, but not caring.
Karen was sure her news would change that. She couldn’t wait to tell her. “Tina, you can come home with me for Christmas,” Karen burst out. “My older sister got married last year and she has to go to her in-law’s house in Ohio for Christmas this year. My little sister is going to stay in her old room and you can stay with me. It’s perfect!”
Tina’s face remained blank. She didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for her. She was alright by herself! “No, Karen. I’m not going to intrude. I’ll just ruin your Christmas. Christmas is for families.”
“And friends,” Karen added. “You won’t ruin anything. My parents are excited to have you come. They won’t miss my older sister so much with another girl in the house. Come on! You don’t want to be here with Miss Blackburn! That’s the worst!” Karen begged her friend. “And you’ll save me from my little sister! Save me, please.” She laughed and Tina’s lips turned up in an almost smile.
Her heart opened just a crack. Christmas with a family? It had been so long. Suddenly she wanted it so much. She looked at her friend. Karen really wanted her to come! Being wanted felt strange, but good. “OK,” she agreed, still hesitant.
Karen ran over to hug her. “Tina, get your advent calendar! Open the first door. We’ll open them together every day until Christmas. Mine had a bell behind it. What’s behind yours?”
Tina opened the little cardboard door and found a chocolate angel behind it. An angel? People said that everyone had a guardian angel. Did she have one? She looked at Karen with her sparkling eyes and loving smile. Maybe she did.
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