Hattie ran ahead of her sister, Mattie, never looking back.
"Hattie! Wait! Wait for me!" Mattie cried in her little girl voice. She took a quick look over her shoulder to see if he was following. He was the class bully, Derek, and he had an ax to grind with Hattie. No one was really sure what that ax was exactly, but whatever it was, Hattie dreaded going to school everyday. And Mattie, the bossier of the two sisters, had just about had enough. "It ends now!" she said to herself.
Stopping dead in her tracks and dropping her books on the trail that paralled the flume, she turned around putting her chubby little hands on her hips. The seven-year-old twins were as opposite as they could be, one with the dark features of their Native American father, the other with strawberry blonde curls and freckles, mirroring her mother's side of the family.
Derek, close behind, was caught off guard by Mattie's sudden stop. He lost his balance trying not to run straight into her. Hattie, standing behind the huge evergreen that stood outside the fence surrounding their yard, was safe from Derek's view. She laughed, forgetting for the moment that her nemesis was standing just a few feet away. Instead she silently cheered her sister on knowing Derek would calm down and leave her alone for a while after today's encounter.
Mattie did not relish a face-to-face with Derek, nor he she. She was the toughest girl in their first grade class and none of the boysdared antagonize her, even in jest. She was not known for her dazzling sense of humor. Instead she felt the need to be her twin sister's protector. For some reason no one seemed to understand, Hattie was kind of a marshmallow when it came to standing up for herself.
"Derek, what do you want?" Mattie said, nose to nose with him.
"What's it to ya'?" He said with false bravado.
"She my sister, you big dummy." She said in her harshest little girl voice. "If you don't leave her alone, I'll, I'll..." She couldn't think of what she'd do so she said, "I'll push yuou right into that big rushing flume.
Derek looked to his right at the rushing water coming down from the falls on the south side of town. The waters were high with the snow melt. He swallowed, "Right. You wouldn't dare."
"Oh, yes I would!" she exclaimed. "Now get out of here."
"She can't hide under your skirt tails forever, Mattie Wright."
"That' it!" Mattie cried moving forward. And with one swift wave of her arm, Derek was floating down the flume. And all the onlooking children from school cheered.
Later at home, Mrs. Wright had told the girls' father about the incident. He very carefully explained to the girls that Derek's family didn't know about Jesus and even though, by all appearances Derek deserved what he got that day, that we are to be salt and light. Assured the girls understood, they went about their usual evening business of doing homework.
"Mattie," Hattie said tenderly. "I know what Daddy said is right, but you sure packed a punch today." She leaned across the bed they shared as they sat together doing their lessons and kissed her sister on the cheek. "Thank you, Sister. Thank you for loving me enough to protect me."
Many years later as Hattie recalled the day at the flume she was saddened to know that the only opportunity they had to show Derek the love of Jesus was squandered. The family lost the money they had made in the mines to the catastrophe of the Great Depression and were forced to move. She fervently prayed for him not knowing what happened to him. Little did she know he would re-enter their lives and they would never be able to forget him.