The tranquility of her short walk from home to school was the best part of her day. She loved the coldness and the snow. Where she’d lived before had snow, but not like this, where the streets had to be plowed daily, where green lawns transformed to white hills.
Her neighbors outside shoveled the driveway, they waved and smiled at her, and she waved and smiled back. It was her seventh home in two years, and she’d beg her mother to stay, at least through winter, if not for that fucking school.
A snowball smacked her in the back of the head. She turned around as the school bus passed her, heading in the same direction she was, then another snowball splashed in her in the face. Some of it trickling down her coat, inside her shirt. The anger boiling inside her overtook the ice freezing her skin. It took her a minute to calm down and resume course. She’d been at this new school only two weeks and she hated it. If today wasn’t the last day before winter break, she’d skip school and hang out at the park for eight hours. But she made it this far, getting out of bed, eating cereal, putting on layers of clothing and promising mom that it was going to be a good day. She had to follow through.
She was quiet; ate alone, played alone and kept her head down. Only the kids in her classroom knew her, everyone else ignored her. For the tenth day in a row, she was first to class, first to her seat; in the front row, how she liked it. Best place to avoid the bullies.
She took a deep breath before roll call. Then, the teacher started.
“Arthur Bailey,” she called.
She sighed, didn’t say a word, and heard scattered giggling behind her.
“Mary Christmas?” the teacher called again, and she slowly raised her hand.
The students responded. “Merry Christmas!” they sang.
A roar of laughter hit the room as it had since her first day in school. This time, on the last day, even the teacher smirked a bit. That put her over the edge.
The teacher calmed the students down and resumed roll call. And for the first fifteen minutes of class, all Mary could think about was the teacher having a laugh with the students, at her expense.
“May I go to the bathroom, please?” she asked.
The teacher gave her a hall pass and Mary exited the classroom, with her bookbag, the teacher didn’t even notice. As she entered the hall, her eyes started to water. In the bathroom, though, she let it all out. Falling against the door, slithering down to her butt, tears pouring out of her eyes, she buried her head in her lap and cursed her father for giving her this stupid name. He died when she was a baby, she never knew him, didn’t remember him, but she hated him. At ten-years-old, it was bound to get worse as she approached her teenage years.
As she cleaned herself up, she left the bathroom, walked past her classroom and went straight for the school exit. It was the last day before winter break, they couldn’t suspend her, and if they did, she wouldn’t care.
Trouble awaited her at home, but it wasn’t the first time she’d had issues at school because of her name. Wouldn’t be the last, or would it?
She was confined to her room; no games, no tv. She only had her books, but she was in the mood to write. Then, a light bulb went off in her head. It brought her so much positive energy that the days restricted to her room flew by. In that time, she wrote a letter to Santa.
She wrote him about all of her troubles, worries, fears; all of which surrounded her birth name ‘Mary Christmas’. Other than mom, she knew Santa would take her words seriously. Would be sympathetic towards her. At the end of the letter, she only asked for one thing for Christmas; a new name.
She folded the letter, slipped it into an envelope and wrote ‘Santa Claus, North Pole’ on the front. She handed it to her mother and pleaded that she mail the letter off.
“You’ve been a naughty girl, Mary. You really think Santa is going to bring you something?”
“When he reads the letter, he will understand,” she told her.
On Christmas Eve, Mary’s mother released her from the room. With the week spent in her room, with nothing but her books and thoughts, she had all the energy in the world. She conserved it for the night, though. Planning to stay awake, catch him in the act – to meet the man, the myth, the legend. But really, she wanted to know if he got her letter.
To sweeten the deal, she made a dozen cookies and a tall glass of chocolate milk. Then, she placed the tray on the coffee table in front of the sofa next to the tree.
Across from the living room were the stairs. Under the stairs were boxes, still unpacked from their recent move a month ago. For two years, this was the trend, poor girl had lived in six different places over that period. Some boxes hadn’t been looked in since, same boxes she hid behind. Her father’s bat was under there as well. A month before she was born, her father had used it one night to stop intruders from breaking in. Mom had always said that it saved our lives, mine especially. And she kept the bat for good luck. Every time Mary looked at the bat, she thought of her father in the positive way that she didn’t want. She moved the bat out of her way to avoid those feelings.
Her mom had scoffed at the plan, but didn’t mind it. Just told her to have a blanket and a pillow nearby.
Still energetic by midnight, but it only lasted thirty minutes. She started dozing off. In the darkness of her hiding spot, legs covered, her body resting on the box stack, her eyes became too heavy for her to lift. She fell asleep.
A loud bump in the roof woke her up. She jerked out of her comfy spot and crouched in the shadows under the stairs. Her heart raced as she heard bells clanking above her after each loud footstep. Then, a whooshing echoed from the chimney, ending in a thump. Thick dust erupted from the fireplace and fogged the room. She escaped the shadows for a better look behind the hallway wall. As the dirt cleared, a large man, tall as the room, as wide as the sofa stood.
“Oh my God. It’s him,” she whispered. A loud, uncontrollable, whisper and she smacked her hands over her mouth. As her turned her way, she jumped back, afraid. All the confidence had left her body. She questioned her plan of meeting him, thought it was a stupid idea and that he wouldn’t listen because of how naughty she’d been. But how bad was skipping school? In years past, she knew kids who’d done way worse than that and still get presents. Why wouldn’t she able to get what she asked for?
Her confidence returned and she took a deep breath before facing the man. Before she strutted out of the hall, into view, she heard another fall from the chimney. A much smaller one. She peeked, and saw a tiny person, half her size…an elf. His littler helper!
This didn’t change anything. She still planned to meet him, but this was a one and a kind discovery, so she remained hidden.
As Santa ate the cookies and drank the milk, the elf pulled out a list that rolled toward the other side of the room. “Okay, boss. Here we have Mary—wait. That can’t be right,” the little being stopped his speech.
“What is it?” Santa replied with a thunderous voice so loud, she felt the ground shake. It was a surprise that mom didn’t come rushing out of the room, down the steps. She turned her ear toward the stairway but didn’t hear a peep.
“This girl’s name is Mary Christmas.” The little elf’s voice started to break.
“Mary Christmas?” Santa asked.
“Mary Christmas.” The elf cracked a smile.
“Merry Christmas!” the elf sang.
“Merry Christmas to you,” Santa ho-hoed. Together, they laughed and laughed.
Her fists tightened and she narrowed in on Santa Claus and the stupid little elf having a laugh at her. Just like the bullies, and the teacher. But this hurt way worse. The only person in the world she thought could help her and here he was, another big bully. She turned to her hiding spot under the stairs and darted for her father’s baseball bat. She snatched it and ran into the living room, screaming and yelling, and swinging. She hit Santa in the head first, and he dropped. Then she started wailing on the little elf. Green blood squirted in her face, splashed in her eyes and flew into her mouth. But she continued bashing the little thing’s head in until it stopped moving, until there was no more head to bash in.
Then, she turned around and saw Santa as he lay on his back.
“Ho, ho—” he couldn’t finish it, just started coughing up blood. He wasn’t bleeding, but there was a sizeable lump on his head. “What have you done?”
“You are a naughty, naughty girl, Mary Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas to you, too!” Then she beat him to death with her father’s bat.