To: The first child you see.
From: A friend.
Marianna looked down at the package she held, reading the tag, and stepped inside the orphanage. She looked up and saw a group of kids run out of the library, no doubt playing hide-and-seek. Marianna smiled as they passed, and looked back down at the package in her arms. The first child you see. She was fairly sure she’d seen Terrence first.
The whole group halted and looked at Marianna.
“Yes?” Terrence said, brushing a mop of brown curls out of his face.
“This is for you.” She held out the large box and Terrence looked between it and her for a moment in confusion.
Terrence reached out slowly and took it, setting it down on the floor and pulling off the masking tape that held it shut. The other children oohed and ahhed as he pulled out its contents. Two teddy bears, several candy canes, and a miniature Christmas tree. He looked up at Marianna, eyes wide. “I don’t need all this!”
“It was sent to you.”
“Then…” He looked down at the open box. “I’ll share it.” He looked at the kids behind him and smiled. “I don’t need all this, but I’m not the only kid here.” He handed candy canes to each of the kids, and it came out to perfectly the right number. The two teddy bears went to the twins Marcel and Maisley.
Someone else crept out of the library, leaning against the wall with her hands clasped behind her. Talia.
Terrence only took a moment to notice her and looked in the box for another candy cane, but there wasn’t one. Without a pause, he walked over and offered her his. “Here.”
She stared at the candy cane. “But it’s yours.”
“I want you to have it. I’ll be all right.”
She slowly unclasped her hands and reached out for it, her fingers resting on it gently for a moment, looking at Terrence as if for permission, before curling around the cane. “Thank you,” she whispered.
“You’re welcome.” Terrence smiled.
Marianna smiled as Terrence took out the Christmas tree, figuring out where to put it. “How about right here?” he said. “On the desk where everyone will see it every day.” He set it down and turned back, grinning at everyone. “Thank you, Marianna.”
“It’s not from me.” She picked up the box and took it out to the recycling bin. She spotted a little girl standing outside in a coat and mittens, her arms wrapped around her.
“Are you all right?” Marianna asked.
The girl nodded, looking over at her with earnest eyes. “Did they get my package?”
Marianna nodded, smiling. “They loved it.”
“May I… meet them?”
Marianna nodded again before looking around the parking lot. “Where’s your mother?”
“She’s in the car. I can go get her.” The little girl darted off, perfect black ringlets bouncing against her maroon coat. She came back holding her mother’s hand, and she made a beeline for the door.
Marianna held the door for the two of them and they stepped inside. When the little girl saw the tiny Christmas tree set up, she beamed. “It looks beautiful!” She turned her attention to the children, still smiling. “Hello. I’m Samantha.”
“I’m Terrence.” He held out a hand and she shook it.
“You got my package. I’m so glad. I wanted to give you something because I know you probably don’t get much for Christmas.” She looked over at Marcel and Maisley as they hugged their teddy bears. “Those two were my favorite. That one’s Lilac and that one’s George. I hope you like them as much as I do.”
The twins nodded, grinning.
“And candy canes are my favorite Christmas candy. I love peppermint. I hope you enjoy them.”
“Would you like to play hide-and-seek with us?” Terrence asked.
“Lilac and George can come along!” Marcel said.
Terrence beckoned for Talia to come along before the group rushed off to play.
Marianna smiled. This would be a Christmas to remember.