The hallway was ablaze with the sound of laugher and the slamming of locker doors as Morgan Koda darted through another mass of students. She threw a troubled glance over her shoulder and her heart leaped. The gap between her and Owens twins had diminished since the hunt had begun.
Morgan knew she should have been watching where she was going, but the sight of the boys shoving their way through the knot of backpacks and their fellow schoolmates distracted her.
Her eyes widened as Mathew Owens spotted her and hurdled towards her. A young girl gave a terrified cry as he broadsided her, knocking her off her feet. The girl tumbled over backward and her shrilling cry slowed Morgan's flight down the corridor. She debated a few seconds over the child's welfare, and her need for a hiding place. Before she could come to a decision, another student had gone to the girl's aid and was helping to her feet.
Morgan’s eyes flew back to the Owens twins. They had closed the distance to within a few feet bellowing in excitement. Unfortunately, several of their friends had joined them in their favorite sport - Morgan hunting.
Morgan whipped her head around, but it was too late, her attention had been preoccupied too long. She never saw the boy bent down tying his shoe. She crashed into him, then sailed over his bent body. Her breath left her in a whoosh as she collided with the floor. She slid a few feet on her chest, finally coming to a sudden stop piled up against the wall of lockers.
She shot to her feet and took off down the hallway. Forcing air into her lung, and more speed to her trembling legs, she darted, skirted, and shot between still more students. She didn't bother looking behind her. She could feel the twins and their friends breathing down the back of her neck. Morgan was livid with herself for allowed them get so close.
She sprinted into another corridor faster than she realized. She felt her feet sliding out from under her. How she managed to stay on her feet, she never knew. Her arms wind-milled as she skated along the highly waxed tile, a huge gasp of air was all she had time for as she slammed into the lockers between two older students.
She was gone before either girl could do more than stare at the huge dent in the locker door.
Morgan knew her time was running out, with the girl’s restroom too far away to reach in time. She either had to find an unlocked classroom or make it out of the school before the teachers were alerted. The teachers had never been any help to her. Whenever she was caught running in the halls, hiding in the girl’s bathroom, or ducking into an empty classroom, - which was often, because Mathew and Steven Owens and their friends really enjoyed their daily sport. Morgan was sent to the principle’s office and cited for her refusing to obey the school rules. She thought this completely unfair. The Owens twins and their hunting party always seemed to fade into the background, or if caught, they or one of their friends would swear. 'Morgan stole something one of them'; or 'Morgan hit me' another would claim. But her all-time favorite was time she was suspended for a day, because Mathew had told the foremost of all his lies to date, 'Morgan poured milk over my brother, Steven's, head in the lunchroom' and sure enough, Morgan hadn't been surprised to see milk dripping from Steven's hair. It was always her word against them or their friends, and for whatever reason, the teachers always seemed to believe the Owens twins or their gang. She wished she had the courage to fight back, but the tiny voice in her head saying, ‘Why bother, no one will believe you anyway’ influenced her to keep her head down and mouth shut.
A classroom door loomed ahead and she shot glance over her shoulder, neither Mathew, Steven, or their gang had come around the corner.
She slid to a stop before the door, grabbed the doorknob and turned. It didn’t budge. Didn’t anyone ever leave their classrooms unlocked, she thought furiously, as she jerked on the knob. The door rattling in its frame, but remained firmly locked.
Morgan turned and headed for her only option - the double doors at end of the hall marked with the green ‘EXIT’ sign.
Skidding to a stop before them, she reached for the door handle. The door, however, swung open and one of her teachers, Miss Tia Thornley, walked over the threshold.
Morgan knew she was in trouble. Why can’t anything ever go right for me? She thundered silently, as she solemnly examined the melting snow around Miss Thornley’s boots.
Miss Thornley gave a small start of surprise as she nearly mauled Morgan down in her haste to get out of the blizzard. It took only a few seconds for her to note the sweat running down the girl's face and the sound of her panting for breath.
Movement at the top of the hall drew the teacher’s eyes as the Hunting Party charged around the corner. The boys were shoving students out of their way.
Steven slid to a shuddering halt, tried to grab his brother's arm to warn him that Morgan was standing beside a teacher. The gang piled up behind Steven. They turned and flew back the way they’d come. But before they could round the corner and disappear. Miss Thornley called loudly over the echoing hall.
“Steven and Mathew Owens…” She couldn’t tell who was with them, so she added, “…And the rest of you.” She didn’t take her eyes off the boys as they stood glaring back at her. “Principle’s office, NOW…” She would deal with the boys for pushing the other students after she took Morgan to her classroom. “What’s going on Morgan?” She asked, but if she were to hazard a guess - The Owens twins were chasing her again. Miss Thornley knew there was a problem between Morgan and the boys. She waited for Morgan to confirm her suspicion. But Morgan remained routinely silent staring at the floor. She knew from experience the child wasn't going to tell her. “Come on Morgan, you can walk me to class.” This wasn’t the first time Miss Thornley had come across this scene, she always seemed to arrive a few minutes too late. Somehow, she had to get Morgan to tell her why the Owens twins were always chasing her.
Miss Thornley slid a side-glance at the child as they walked down the hall. She thought how sad and lonely Morgan looked. Her heart swelled with compassion, but she knew there wasn’t a darn thing she could do about it. Even though, this was a small school, even for
standards. The rules were the same,
and she hated the policy about not touching the students. She wasn’t even
allowed to offer a reassuring hand on the shoulder. Montana
Morgan refused to meet her eyes, and as soon as they arrived at her classroom, she went directly to her desk and sat down, watching as her fellow classmates file into the room.
Miss Thornley went on to the principle’s office to deal with the Owens twins and their friends.
Three hours later, Morgan was sitting at her desk in her English class listening to Tia Thornley give instructions for the day’s writing assignment. “You will write a Christmas letter...” Miss Thornley started, but didn’t get any further before her classroom erupted.
“There’s no way, I’m writing a letter to Santa Claus!” A boy said appalled at the very idea.
“We’re too old to write to Santa Claus,” Another student shouted.
“What do you think we are - eight year olds?” Another demanded.
Tia looked out over the twenty plus students, took a deep breath, smiled, then said, “Mr. Moore, this isn’t about writing a letter to Santa Claus. It’s a writing assignment… And for your information not all students find it offensive.” She paused and looked to her notes. “As I was saying, you are to write a Christmas letter. The theme can be anything you wish, and…" She added with a smile. "To whomever you wish.” She paused to see if anyone had any further objections. She received angry glares from most of her class. She shook her head slightly, and said, “The letter doesn’t have to be what you want for Christmas. It can be anything – maybe a wish, a letter to a grandparent, or some far away relative.” When no one moved, she added, “You may start.”
Morgan sat deep in thought for a few seconds, opened her notebook and started writing.
She felt a jab in the middle of her back, but ignored the boy sitting behind her.
“Must be your lucky day Koda, now you can ask Santa Claus for some new clothes,” Jordan Elliott whispered under her breath from the row of students across from Morgan.
brushed her straight blond
hair over her shoulder, staring at Morgan’s bent head. She knew what buttons to
push to get a reaction from Morgan. Other students within hearing range cackled
and added a few more whispered suggestions to Morgan about her clothing.
Nevertheless, Morgan kept her head down, and her teeth clamped firmly on her
lips, snubbing their comments. This was one time she refused be sent to the
Principles Office for letting them get to her. Jordan
This assignment was the answer to her prayers, with raising excitement. Her pencil flew over the page as she created her very first Christmas letter. Since, she had no one to address it to. She addressed it to Santa Claus. After a few minutes, she laid her pencil aside, reread her letter, then tore it from the spiral notebook, and carefully folded it. She slid it between the pages of her English textbook, then started another letter.
Morgan was adding her signature to the bottom of the second letter when the classroom erupted again. She watched her fellow classmates rush to the front of the room, and hurl their Christmas letters onto the teacher’s desk. Letters went sliding across the scared surface, then dropped off the other side, littering the floor beneath the desk.
Morgan climbed to her feet as her classmates sprinted from the room. Packing her things slowly into her backpack, she waited until the last student cleared the doorway.
With her second letter clinched in hand, she made her way to the front of the room and carefully placed her letter on top of the ones scattered over Miss Thornley’s desk.
Cautiously she approached the classroom door and peeked around the doorframe searching for the Owens twins or their friends. She saw a hall full of students, but couldn't spot the Owens twins or their gang waiting for her.
Her body all but seized up as a voice spoke behind her, “Morgan, do you need something?” Tia asked, she had been watching her since she’d left her desk, and was hopeful this time, Morgan was going to tell her what the problem was with the Mathew and Steven Owens.
“No, Miss Thornley,” Morgan said hurriedly, then gave her a guarded smile and disappeared around the door frame