Maude's Letter to Santa!

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Maude Laurent

The basement in

29, rue du Général de Gaulle

Carvin

North of France

France

Object: Naughty is the new nice.

Dear Santa,

Over the years, I've sent you over a dozen letters, but you never bothered answering any of them even though you and I have lots in common.

I live in the north of France in a small town nobody ever visits by choice. You're in the North Pole, a place nobody ever visits at all. And though we both endure bad weather, we maintain a naturally cheerful disposition.

Living in Carvin with the Ruchets, my evil foster parents, is hell.

Scraping the remains of Madame Ruchet's dinner is the only way I feed myself before curling up to sleep on a dank mattress in the basement. I'm forced to clean the entire red-bricked house until it's spotless. I look after the Ruchets' eight-year-old twins who think making me the target of their spitting contest is the ultimate fun. I always wondered why they got presents while I never did.

The only thing that kept me sane was my love for music and the hope that I would find a family who loves me for who I am.

But everything changed last October when my teacher announced the annual tenth-grader trip to Paris.

Paris!

I could already picture myself in the City of Lights, roaming in its little quaint streets, climbing up the Eiffel Tower, and grinning back at the Mona Lisa.

There was one big obstacle.

Monsieur Ruchet said he would sign my permission slip only if I got a good grade at my next Math test.

Now if he'd chosen any other subject, I'd have been sure to succeed. But Math is my Achilles' heel. I never managed to do better than a measly 5 out of 20. I don't think my teacher, Monsieur Martin, even looks at my tests anymore.

However, I refused to let this temporary setback bring me down. If there was the slightest chance that I could go to Paris, I was going to do everything in my power to make it happen.

I studied and poured over my Math book every night for two weeks. Using my flickering flashlight, I tried to ignore the rats scurrying in the basement, knocking themselves senseless against broken TVs and every other piles of trash in the basement.

Test day finally arrived and I thought I did OK.

But no!

A week later, the teacher had corrected our tests and my grade was only a 5 out of 20. Again.

I didn't have time to argue with Monsieur Martin or to convince Monsieur Ruchet that my teacher had it in for me. The next day was the last to return the permission slip for the trip.

That evening, after careful consideration, a solution emerged from the heap of rotten ideas piling in my mind.

Easy, quick, effective.

Naughty.

I fished my test and a red pen out of my bag.

That red 5 stood out more than Rudolf's nose when he catches a cold. I closed my eyes and opened them once more.

It was still there, taunting me.

I took my pen and with one decisive stroke, I added a 1 in front of the 5. My bad 5 became a brilliant 15 out of 20!

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