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     Once, there was a young girl named Ada who had never seen snow.  Ada lived in an exquisite manor on the outskirts of London, England during the year 1861.  The manor was surrounded by tall dark trees that stood around the manor like a barrier.  The manor itself was a tall pearly white structure with gold trim laced on the edges.  Its many windows were dark because of the long red velvet curtains that covered them from the inside.  The manor’s few inhabitants kept the curtains drawn all the time, so no one would look in or out.

     In the manor, lived Ada Rybon, the 12 year old heiress to the grand estate and Robert Goodwin, the mute butler and Ada’s trusted friend.  Ada had pale skin, hazel eyes, brown hair with a few streaks of black, and frequently wore a cherry red dress.  She always had a book in her hand, due to the fact that she had no companions her age.  Robert was a towering figure, with pale skin, wisps of gray hair, and pale blue eyes that drooped, always making him look sad.  Ada’s father, George Rybon, was a military general she only saw at Christmas.  He had pale skin, intimidating hazel eyes, and a mop of silky, brown hair always kept cut in a military style.  He used to be a cheerful young lad, always smiling and up for adventure.  Ever since his dear wife had died, it was as if the spark in Mr. Rybon had been buried along with her.  With his home too much a reminder of what he had lost, he signed up to be a soldier to keep himself distracted with the matters of war.  Unfortunately, he was away so much, he had forgotten there was still someone who needed him: Ada.

     As long as she remembered, Ada wasn’t allowed to go outside because her mother, Annabella, died in the winter of 1849 from frostbite, forcing her grief-stricken father to forbid Ada from leaving the manor or even opening a window.  One of the many things that kept Ada from the outside world, was an intricate lock that kept the front door locked tight every day, all day.  There were only two keys, one for her father and one for Robert.  Both men kept their key with them at all times, never giving Ada the chance to leave her lavish prison.    

     On Christmas Eve, Robert and Ada were decorating the inside of the manor and preparing Christmas dinner.  Just as Ada finished Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, there were suddenly three loud knocks on the door.  Before Ada even eased herself out of her special chair, Robert had already closed the door, welcoming the unexpected guest in.  When Ada finally reached the door, she quickly assessed the mysterious person.  After a few seconds, she realized it was a young girl about her age with curly hair as black as the buttons on Ada’s dress, smooth skin as brown and silky as chocolate, and wearing an old gray dress that was frayed at the edges with a thin black shawl and tattered gray shoes.  The stranger introduced herself as Mary.  When asked where she came from, Mary said that she had escaped from an abusive orphanage that was very far from Ada’s manor.  Ada just stood there amazed at Mary’s bravery, while Robert took her shawl and went to find something warmer for the poor girl.  As the two girls were left alone, Ada introduced herself and led Mary to the sitting room, where she showed Mary her special chair and helped her get comfortable.

     After that Ada asked Mary questions about herself, which Mary happily answered.  Mary was from the African country of Angola.  Her real name was Nzingha, after the fierce warrior queen who defended Angola from the Portuguese.  Her parents were Kasinda and Azekel, both of which were warriors who had instilled a fighting spirit within their daughter.  When she was five years old, her entire village had been raided by slave traders.  Mary escaped and stowed away on a ship headed to England, never to see her parents and home again.  When she arrived in London, she became an indentured servant for a rich family, who made her their maid.  When met with much defiance from their young house worker, they sent her to an orphanage as a maid and given the much simpler name, Mary.  After many years of abuse, verbal and physical, she had left the blasted place risking everything in hope of finding a safe haven.  After many days, she had found just that.  Moved by her touching story, Ada was compelled to tell Mary her own sad tale.  She explained that her one true wish was to go outside to see snow.  Mary wanted to help her new friend achieve this goal, so she quickly devised a plan in her head to make her friend’s dream a reality.  At midnight, they would sneak outside the manor to see the snow.

     As the day grew shorter, the girls finalized their scheme.  After Robert went to bed, the girls quickly but silently got out of bed, put on heavy winter jackets, and warm boots.  Before they even reached the bedroom door, Ada remembered the lock on the door, and knowing that there was no way she or Mary would be able to pick it, she started to cry.  Ada’s silent tears eventually turned into uncontrollable sobs because she knew there was no way they could get out.  Mary on the other hand, wasn’t about to let a silly lock ruin Ada’s dream, so she thought of a plan.  Then, she remembered the giant windows on the house that she saw when she arrived.  They were big enough to climb out of and if she was right, they should be able to hold both girls’ weight, just like the baobab trees back in Africa.  Mary just hoped that Ada knew how to climb.  After quickly consoling Ada, Mary relayed the plan to her and was relieved that she knew how to climb.  She was able to convince her to climb on top of the roof to see the snow.  They opened the window and began to ascend to the roof.

     Mary went first with Ada following.  It was simple, all you had to do was put your foot in a secure spot then reach for a window pane, transfer your weight and repeat. The brave friends did this over and over, until they reached the roof.  When the girls reached the summit, they balanced themselves on the roof and sat on it.  It was pitch black all around them, except for the stars twinkling in the sky.  Ada was awestruck, but when the snow started falling, she felt like she was in Heaven.  There were thousands of little white specks drifting in the wind as they fell towards the ground.  Ada caught some with her hands, seeing each snowflakes’ intricate pattern before it melted.  She felt as if her mother was right there with her telling her that the world was too beautiful and precious a place not to enjoy.  With a new sense of happiness, bravery, and determination in her, Ada sat there and hugged Mary, thanking her for everything.

     The next day, the girls quickly threw on robes and rushed downstairs to look under the tree, only to find a middle-aged man in the living room.  It was George Rybon, Ada’s general father who had arrived for a short holiday visit.  As soon as Ada saw him, she ran up to him, embracing him tightly.  As Ada pulled out of the hug, she stared into her father’s deep eyes.  With those eyes staring intently back at her, all the previous day’s events came tumbling out of her mouth: Mary, the plan, the climb, and the snow.  George’s calm face quickly twisted in a furious scowl as his daughter told him of the events that occurred the day prior.  As he lifted his face, he was met with the frightened gaze of a little black girl wearing one of Ada’s robes.  He realized that this girl was Mary, the insolent orphan who dared to defy his rules.  How dare this little urchin turn his own daughter against him!  In a bout of impulsive rage, George angrily got up, grabbed Mary by the arm, practically dragging her towards the door.  Ada ran in front of the door, blocking her father from taking away the only friend she ever had and told her father how she felt when she was outside.  She explained to her dad why she needed Mary and expressed the pain she felt whenever he left.  Astounded by his daughter’s testimony and guilty from the heartrending pain he had left his only child to deal with, released Mary from his tight grip and apologized to both girls.  Right then and there, he lifted the ban and promised to never forbid Ada from doing anything that made her happy.

     George then turned to Mary, looked directly into her eyes, and asked her who she was, where she came from, and why she wanted to stay there.  Mary answered each question in depth while keeping her gaze fixed on Ada’s father.  After studying her a bit more, George opened the door and motioned for the girls to follow.  On the driveway, was Mr. Rybon’s horse-drawn carriage which he promptly got in, while the two little girls took their time observing it and eventually clambered in and they were on their way.  Mr. Rybon made his way through the twisting and turning road that led to the bustling city of London.  As he made his way through the city, Ada’s father pulled up at the orphanage that Mary had run away from.  Mary turned pale at the thought of being returned to that dreadful place, but Ada’s gentle and reassuring look prompted her to leave the vehicle.

     As the small group made their way into the rundown establishment, a tall, thin woman wearing a black dress with purple accents with pale skin, sharp, gray eyes, and a face that looked like it was permanently stuck in a frown started towards them.  She was the owner of the orphanage and the cause of Mary’s departure.  Her gaze was fixed on Mary, who seemed to be shrinking with each step the woman took towards her.  Before she could reach Mary though, Mr. Rybon stepped in front of the woman, introduced himself and stated that he would like to adopt Mary.  All three females gasped and were shocked at Mr. Rybon’s proclamation.  Eventually, Ada and Mary’s shock turned to happiness as they followed the flabbergasted woman to her office.  The trio watched with smug smiles as the surprised woman quickly wrote up an official document for Mary’s adoption.  When Mr. Rybon finished signing the paperwork, thanked the woman, collected the document, and made his way back to the carriage.  Once they were back in their vehicle, Mary embraced her new family, thanking them for giving back what was stolen from her so long ago.

     Once they got home, the new family (and Robert), went outside to play in the snow.  They made snowmen, snow angels, and even had a snowball fight.  Before they went inside, Ada felt as if the falling snowflakes were giving her a gentle, maternal kiss, just as her mother once gave her long ago.  She whispered to the falling snow,” Merry Christmas Mom.’’    


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