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Sophie Washington

Secret Santa


Tonya Duncan Ellis

©2018 Tonya Duncan Ellis

All Rights Reserved

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written permission of the author.

This book is a work of fiction. Places, events, and situations in this book are purely fictional and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Printed in the United States of America

Other Books by Tonya Duncan Ellis

Sophie Washington: Queen of the Bee

Sophie Washington: The Snitch

Sophie Washington: Things You Didn’t Know About Sophie

Sophie Washington: The Gamer

Sophie Washington: Hurricane

Sophie Washington: Mission: Costa Rica

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: You’ve Got Mail

Chapter 2: Secret Santa

Chapter 3: The Gingerbread House

Chapter 4: Ice Capades

Chapter 5: Hoop Dreams

Chapter 6: Christmas Decoration

Chapter 7: Deck the Halls

Chapter 8: Rhythm is Gonna Getcha

Chapter 9: Bus Stop

Chapter 10: The Pull Up

Chapter 11: Mystery Man

Chapter 12: Snow Day

Chapter 13: The Real Santa Claus

Chapter 14: The Other Side of Town

Chapter 15: Driving Miss Sophie

Chapter 16: The Big Reveal

Chapter 17: Knock Out

Chapter 18: A Gift for Santa

Books by Tonya Duncan Ellis

About the Author

Chapter 1

You’ve Got Mail

“Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg!”

“Be quiet, Cole!” I put my hands over my ears to muffle my brother’s out-of-tune singing and focus back on my laptop to finish my English essay. It’s less than three weeks until winter break and my teachers have been piling on the assignments to make sure we get our end of semester grades in.

There sure is a big change between fifth and sixth grade, workwise, at Xavier Academy, the private school my brother and I go to. Between all the essays and projects and studying for final exams, I feel I can barely take time to pat my dog, Bertram, when I get home; whereas, my eight-year-old brother Cole acts like he’s already on vacation.

Since we got home from school an hour ago, he’s been living it up, shooting hoops in the driveway, eating a snack and now playing on the handheld video game player that my mother would make him put up if she were downstairs with us. I ought to tell on him now…

Ding Dong!

The doorbell interrupts my thoughts.

“Can you get it, Sophie?” Mom yells from upstairs. “I’m putting some clothes in the closet.”

I would ask her why she wants me to answer the door, and not Cole, but I already know the answer: “Because you’re the oldest.”

Of course, that logic doesn’t hold when it comes to who gets the first dessert or who doesn’t have to do the dishes at night. As the baby of the family and favored child, my little brother has got it made.

I trudge to the front door in time to see the mail carrier heading back to his truck. He’s left a medium-sized box on the porch. Wonder what it is?

My mother sometimes has holiday packages delivered to the house, but Cole and I haven’t made our Christmas lists yet, so I doubt it’s anything for us. I open the door, pick the package up, and check out the label. It’s got my name on it in bright, red ink, “Sophie Washington.”

Who could this be from?

I never get any mail, except for birthday gifts my Granny Washington sends to our house in Houston from Corpus Christi when she can’t be here, and I don’t remember my parents ordering anything for us online. Granny is driving up to see us tomorrow, so I doubt she would mail presents here when she could just bring them with her.

“Mom, I got a package!” I call out.

“What is it?” Cole bounds from the family room to stare at the box as I set it on the kitchen counter.

“Back off, Cole, it’s mine,” I move him to the side with my hip and take a closer look at the delivery. The box is wrapped in brown paper, and there is no return address. It looks difficult to open with my fingers, so I pull a butter knife out of a drawer in the kitchen and slit through the tape on the side. A sweet, sugary scent fills the air.

“Cool!” exclaims Cole in appreciation as the brown wrapping slides off to reveal a box filled with packages of licorice, gummy bears, gum, and red and green M&Ms. I notice a typed note underneath.

Dear Sophie,

Hope your day is super sweet!

Your Secret Santa

Chapter 2

Secret Santa

Secret Santa? Who could that be?

“They didn’t say anything about having any holiday parties in my homeroom,” I say to myself. “That’s just for the lower grades.”

I remember participating in a secret Santa gift exchange a couple of years ago in my fourth grade music class. It was fun to pick the name of a classmate from a red and white furry Santa hat and then secretly give him or her presents throughout the week. We couldn’t spend more than ten dollars. I chose my best friend Chloe. It was easy to find presents a prissy girl like her would want, like hair bows, fancy socks and other girly girl things. My Santa, a boy named Franklin Ruel, didn’t try to figure out what I would like and left boxes filled with gooey gummy worms, superhero comic books, and baseball cards at my desk. He might as well have bought me a bag of coal.

“It’s probably from one of your boyfriends,” says Cole, picking up the discarded box while chowing down on his tenth gummy bear.

“Would you stop eating all my candy!?” I complain, scooting the gift box away from his grubby fingers. “I won’t have any more left.”

“Both you kids need to put the brakes on the sweets,” says Mom, “or else you might get stomachaches. Why don’t you leave the rest of that up in the pantry?” she suggests, handing me a wicker basket to dump the candy in.

“I can’t think of who would want to be my secret Santa,” I say as I’m putting up my treats. “We aren’t doing a gift exchange at school, and no one has said anything about having any holiday parties.”

“I told you, it’s one of your boyfriends,” Cole says and puckers his lips, makes kissing noises. “Nathan Jones has liked you since the spelling bee last year. And what about that other new boy who moved here from Ohio… Tony?”

“His name is Toby,” I say, shrugging my shoulders. “And they both are my friends. I don’t have or want a boyfriend.”

“That’s right, Cole,” echoes Mom. “No one around here is old enough to have a boyfriend or girlfriend.”

“You’re the one who all the little ladies are after because of your basketball skills and your super fine ‘fro,” I tease, rubbing his thick curls.

Cole brushes me off, picks up his video game, and starts playing. “I don’t like any of them because they’re all ugly!”

“We’ll see what you say about that a few years from now,” my mother laughs.

The next day at school, I can’t wait to tell my friends about my surprise package. I zigzag my way through the crush of bodies, elbows out and head down, so no one stops me. As usual, Mariama Asante, Chloe Jenkins and Valentina Martinez are hanging out near my locker before class. We are all members of the cheerleading squad and the best of friends.

“Slow down, Sophie! All that schoolwork isn’t going anywhere,” jokes Toby Johnson, flashing a dimple and putting his arm on my shoulder to keep me from ramming into him.

“Sorry, Toby,” I blush. “I wasn’t watching where I was going.”

“No worries,” he says, then waves and heads off the gym to play basketball with the other boys before the bell rings for homeroom.

I walk over to my friends.

“Cute kicks, Sophie,” Chloe, ever the fashionista, says as she admires the new navy shoes my mother gave me this weekend as an early Christmas present. She usually buys Cole and me just three gifts, like the Magi got in the Baby Jesus Bible story, but my old school shoes had a huge hole in them so she caved and bought me something extra this time.

“That is so neat, Sophie!” exclaims Mariama after I announce the secret Santa news. “We didn’t have anything like that in my country.”

Mariama moved here to Houston from Nigeria last year. She celebrates Christmas, but I guess they do some things different over there. When she first came to our school she was really shy and sad that she didn’t have many friends, so Chloe and I let her join our dress-up team during Homecoming spirit week. Mariama’s mother made us long, colorful African dresses called ‘boubou’ to wear that everyone loved. She’s been in our friend group ever since, and we all tried out for the cheerleading squad together earlier this year.

“I wonder if your Santa is somebody from our class?” whispers Valentina, looking around the hall. “Did the package have any other information in it?”

“Just a short note that wished me a super sweet day,” I reply.

‘”Super sweet,’ maybe it’s from a boy!” Chloe exclaims, twirling around.

“Sounds like someone has a mucho grande crush on you, Sophie,” adds Valentina. “Toby was certainly eyeing you when you were coming down the hall.”

“Yeah, I saw him put his arm around her,” Chloe chimes in.

“That’s because I almost knocked him over,” I say, blushing. “Besides, everyone knows Toby likes you, Chlo.”

Here we go again. Since a few months ago everything has been about boys with those two. I guess it’s not hard to see why. They are the most popular girls in our grade. Tall and model thin, Chloe has dark curly hair and smooth caramel skin, and Valentina, whose parents are from Mexico, is funny, bubbly and cute.

“It could be from a boy or a girl,” says Mariama, changing the subject. “I say ‘super sweet’ all the time. Will you get other gifts?”

“When we did Secret Santas in fourth grade we gave presents every day of the week,” Chloe says. “But I’ve heard of some people who just give one Santa gift.”

The warning bell rings and she stops talking. The hall swells with kids rushing to class.

“Gotta go,” says Valentina, picking up her backpack. “I was late to homeroom last week, and I don’t want to get another tardy.”

“Tell me about it,” I answer. “I’ve already been late to homeroom twice this term, and Mr. Romano says if it happens again, the third time won’t be the charm because he’ll put me in detention.”

“We’re heading to art across the hall so we’ll go with Valentina,” adds Chloe, linking arms with Mariama.

“See you guys later,” I answer. “I need to grab a folder from my locker.”

My homeroom is just a few feet from my locker, so I don’t have far to walk.

“How’s it going, Sophie?” Nathan Jones, a boy I became friends with last year after we stood up to the class bully, catches up with me right after I slam my locker shut and start making my way to homeroom. “Anything interesting happen this weekend?”

“Nothing much, just the usual,” I answer. “What about you?”

Nathan’s pushes his sliding glasses up on the bridge of his nose. “Well, things have been busy at Fun Plex because there have been lots of end of the year parties, and my mom and I went to the post office to pick up and mail off some packages…”

The second bell rings.

“I’d better get into class, Nathan.” I cut him off and rush to the doorway of my classroom. “If Mr. Romano sees me out of my seat when the final bell rings, I’m in for it. Maybe I’ll see you at lunch.”

He looks disappointed that we have to end our conversation, which is odd since we’re friends but not besties or anything. I breathe a sigh of relief as I slide into my desk two seconds shy of the final bell.

Whew! That was close.

Chapter 3

The Gingerbread House

Another package is waiting for me when I get home.

“It’s a gingerbread house kit!” I exclaim after I open the box. I read the typed letter that’s tucked inside the bottom.

Dear Sophie,

Have fun making and eating this “home sweet home.”

Your Secret Santa

“This will be a fun activity for you kids to do with Granny Washington when she gets here tonight, says Mom. “I need to bake some cookies for Cole’s class party, so she can keep you two occupied and out of the batter while I’m working.”

“Your Secret Santa must want you guys to visit my office sooner than your next checkup,” jokes my father after he walks in and we show him the newest gift. “You’ve been eating more than your share of sweets lately.”

My father is a dentist with his own office in Houston, and my mother works with him, keeping the records and helping schedule patients. Since my parents see so many people with tooth problems, they limit how much candy Cole and I eat, and they pile on the veggies at meals. My dad eats so many salads that his teeth were tinted green at his last dental checkup.

My grandmother arrives at our house around 6:30 p.m. and Cole and I can’t wait to get started on the gingerbread houses.

“Yay! Granny is here!” Cole whoops, giving her a hug that nearly knocks her over. Our dog Bertram starts getting excited too, and begins to yip and bark.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” says Dad, holding his arms out to calm us down as we jump up and down. “Let your grandma get herself settled.”

“And I’m sure she needs to get something to eat before starting on that gingerbread house,” scolds Mom.

“That’s fine,” says Granny, smiling. “I ate a chicken sandwich on the road. Let me put my bag in my room and freshen up for a minute and we can get started.”

Granny lives in Corpus Christi, which is about a three-hour drive from our house in Houston. She comes to visit us three or four times a year and we always have lots of fun with her. Every summer we stay with her for a week at her house and have a blast playing on the beach and swimming in the Gulf of Mexico each day. When she comes to our house, she brings us neat gifts and makes us all our favorite things to eat.

“Wash your hands and clear the placemats off the table so you can get started when Granny comes out,” instructs Mom.

Inside the box are gingerbread pieces shaped as the roof and sides of the gingerbread house, frosting to hold the sides together, and peppermints, and gumdrops to decorate the house with.

“Okay, let’s make sure we get this straight,” Grandma peers at the instruction sheet through her glasses.

Don’t eat all the candy!” I fuss at Cole as he sneaks a gumdrop.

Then I slide a red gumdrop from my palm into my mouth to sample. Not bad, I wonder whether the green one is lime or peppermint-flavored?

Mmmmm, Mmmmm, Mmmm…Bertram starts begging once he sees my jaws moving.

“Just glop a little frosting on to hold the side up,” suggests Cole, as he watches our grandmother trying to line the edges of the gingerbread house up perfectly.

She sighs as the piece for the roof falls off for the fourth time.

“We want it to look like the picture on the box,” she says.

“All I want to do is finish making the house and eat it,” I answer.

“Check in the pantry and see if there is any more frosting,” grandma instructs, ignoring my comment.

“I have some extra that I’m not using with the cookies,” offers Mom.

Cole gets it, and Granny Washington furrows her brow and keeps a steady hand as she uses the frosting to line the flat cookie up just right on the candy rooftop.

“Let’s get back now,” she shoos away Bertram who is still underfoot.

This is a side to my grandmother that I have never seen. When she takes over a project, Granny Washington means business. Dad once told us that his mother always kept things in order when he was growing up, but she usually plays with me and Cole and lets us make all kinds of messes during her visits.

My mother pulls three or four dozen cookies out of the oven, and we still haven’t finished the gingerbread house.

“Can’t we eat any of it yet, Granny?” Cole starts to whine.

“You all can put the gumdrops on,” she lays the picture of the completed house on the table. We try to follow the pattern that is shown. Cole puts more gumdrops on one side of the roof than the other, and it starts to lean.

Grandma is getting more and more frustrated.

“Here, let me fix this,” she says, adding more frosting to even things up.

“I’m going upstairs to take my bath,” says Cole.

Granny Washington and I work hard the entire 40 minutes he is gone.

By nine o’ clock, our gingerbread house looks just like the one on the box.

“Wow! That’s great!” Mom exclaims. “Let me get my phone out to take a picture.”

“Is the house ready to eat now?” Cole bounds in the rooms with a panting Bertram right behind him.

“Slow down, Son,” warns Dad, “You’re going to…”

“Cole, stop!” I yell.

“Uhhh ohhh!” My brother starts sliding in his feet pajamas and bumps into the kitchen table.

“Noooo!” I yell.

Things appear in slow motion as the gingerbread house shifts to the edge of the table, then stops.

It’s still standing tall.

We all breathe a sigh of relief.

Suddenly, Bertram jumps up and chomps off half the roof.


“Oh no!” Granny Washington exclaims.

Cole swipes a fallen chunk of gingerbread from the table, starts chewing, and grins.

“Mmmm, this is delicious, Grandma.”

Granny just shakes her head.

“It’s the perfect example of ‘home sweet home,” laughs my father, helping clean up the mess.

“Maybe we can get some individual gingerbread men that each person can decorate on their own, tomorrow,” says Mom, patting my grandmother on the back to console her.

Bertram looks up with a mouth covered with white frosting as if to smile.


Chapter 4

Ice Capades

Saturday morning, Chloe texts before I put my feet in my fuzzy, bunny slippers, inviting me to go ice skating at a rink near the mall.

[My mom can pick u up @2] says the message.

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