By Susan Stenfors
I sat down at a table, sipped at my fruity drink, trying to discern the flavor and watched as the others began to gather. Tonight Quilo would make his recommendations to the gathered, and we new ones would finally have our duties. I longed to sit on the beach, watching the waves rush in, listening to the silly humans swim and dash about as though they ruled the world. I knew better. Mother Nature would not have me. She hated me, and I didn’t know why. I was stuck, but I just didn’t know where.
Holly and Ivy entered the room and tension swept across me like a cold wind. The twins, in their matching skirts, one red, one green, barely covering what they should cover, giggled as they glanced behind them. Their eyes, greener than the evergreen they called home, scanned the room, narrowing when they caught me watching them. Hair, twisted in braids of platinum, twined with red and green ribbons, tended to be an envy of those gathered, though I never understood why. Eyes around the room followed them. Their long deer skin boots coming up beyond the knee, in a soft, doe color caused me to pause. How was one supposed to sit in those? I supposed I should envy them – the boys all thought they were beauties – but I didn’t. I didn’t envy their bubbly happiness. I didn’t envy them their brainless laughter and jokes. I didn’t envy them their life. I loved my life. Well, I would if I could just go watch the turtles swim and play in the great blue-green reefs of warm waters.
“Ooh, he’s so Frost,” a girl whispered.
I looked up to watch Jack Frost waltz into the room. Tight jeans, stone-washed and holey. I snickered. Holey, such a ridiculous feature. Why bother? His hair, white, frosted with silver to match his eyes, spiked as though Quilo blew it into place himself. Maybe Quilo had done that for him? After all, the North Wind was known to have a strange sense of humor.
I turned to the girl. “Just because he has frost in his name, does not make him so. In fact, because he declares himself to be frost means he is not frost. That is just how the logic works in this situation.”
The girl glared at me. “And I suppose you believe you are frost because you walk around in your black clothing to match your nasty black hair, deep brown eyes, and that skin. It was brown before, but it’s now even darker because I bet you snuck off to the ocean for a swim.”
I sat back. “I never said I was frost, thank you. Why do you think I dress dark? It’s dark green, by the way, not black. Anyone with any eyes could see that if they tried. My skin, hair and eyes are the color they are because of genetics, duh.”
“Besides,” the girl continued, “Frost did not name himself. Honestly, he cannot be held accountable for a Quilo-given name. Quilo named him, thus he is stuck ….”
I didn’t hear what else she said. He was stuck, as I would be stuck. I hated having something in common with Jack Frost. He had come my way frequently. I hated the attention, hated him, hated what he stood for. His attention disgusted me. No, I wanted the guy I had seen two days ago. Long, wavy black hair, almost to his waist. His skin, the same bronzed tone as my own, and eyes as black as midnight, I could just sink into them. His wings looked as though they were tree bark and leaves, and all he wore when I saw him were breeches made of deerskin. A lone wolf, white as snow, stood by his side. Now, if he showed up here for the naming, the reckoning, the defining of duties, he is someone I would ooh and ahh over. I wasn’t stupid, just picky. I’m allowed to be picky, aren’t I?
“Hello, Lumi,” Jack said. He leaned over to the glass pane and blew on it, creating an intricate pattern of frost all over the window. I hated how beautiful it was.
“Go away,” I said.
I heard the girl’s gasp. I allowed a half-smile to creep onto my face.
“When are you going to go out with me? I won’t keep asking,” Jack said.
“Good, quit asking. Go hit on someone your own . . . your own frostness. It isn’t me, so go away.”
“Come on now. You, me, what could be better?”
“Me and my shadow maybe? Me and myself and I?” I started to stand up but stopped as Holly and Ivy came to stand near us.
“Why are you even talking to her, Jack? It’s not like she’s going to get an important job. She can’t even do any magic. She doesn’t even have wings.”
I raised an eyebrow and fingered my jacket. Turning away, I tried not to listen, tried not to think about magic or wings. I tried not to be a fairy, envying the humans and their silliness that allowed them to swim with turtles in bright blue green waters.
Jack glanced at me one more time. “We will be together,” he whispered before walking away, Holly and Ivy on either side.
The room fell quiet as Quilo walked into the room and took his place up at the podium.
“Training is done. Training has been successful and we must now all fulfill our duties to the world. The humans need us. Today, you will learn your assignments. For some, you’ve been destined to follow into a path of continued learning. Others have been tested and we are ready to send you off to your duties.”
The twins practically bounced in their seats. “I hope that one of us gets named Winter Fairy,” Ivy said.
“I know, right?” said Holly. “The Winter Fairy is like the most powerful of us all. Well, besides Quilo. I mean, no one is more powerful than the North Wind.”
“And you’d get to work so closely with Jack,” the other whispered.
I rolled my eyes. Jack Frost had been given his job the year before, creating the seasonal weather just before the first snow fell and full winter began. He also continued through the winter season, especially in the warmer areas that didn’t get much snow. He was busy, too busy. He loved talking about all of the travel he did and his importance. I looked out the window, but it was cluttered up with his showy, stupid frost.
Quilo’s voice rumbled through the room, a gentle breeze swishing with it, causing a chill to run over me. I hugged my coat tighter about me, and traced an image of the beach into Jack’s immaculate frost crystals.
“Holly and Ivy,” Quilo began.
I glanced in their directions. Disappointment was written all over their faces as they realized he wouldn’t call them both forward if one of them was Winter Fairy. I tuned out what was happening, daydreaming of the last trip I made to the beach. There was still hope. Maybe Quilo would allow me to be the end of winter, not the Spring Fairy – perhaps something that would allow me to bask in the sun and visit my beach.
Leaning against the windowpane, I glanced out and saw him. The boy from the forest was beyond the window, standing at a distance, watching. I stood up and started to walk toward the door.
Jack got in my way, putting his hand on my shoulder. “Quilo isn’t finished,” he whispered.
“I’ll be back; I just have to . . .” I stopped speaking as I realized that the room watched me, Quilo included.
Before I could react, Jack took my jacket off. My wings fluttered free, the first time they’d been allowed to be seen in public. Holly and Ivy gasped and others started whispering.
“They are amazing,” Jack whispered, running his finger along the edge of my left wing. “They look just like my frost crystals.”
Pulling away from him, I put my hand on the doorknob. He grabbed my shoulder and I was unable to stop my anger. Snow fell upon him, freezing him to the ground.
“Don’t touch me,” I hissed.
Again, gasps filled the room. I glanced up at Quilo, knowing I could not ask him for my dream job. Instead, I waited for the words of punishment to be uttered.
“Winter Fairy,” he said, the smile on his face glowing from every wrinkled cranny.
I closed my eyes, my punishment announced before the entire gathered crowd.
“Her?” Holly cried as Ivy screamed a battle cry.
Quilo laughed. “Winter Fairy,” he said again. “Come forward.”
“Punishment? For trying to leave? For loving the beach?”
Quilo laughed again. “Punishment? Everyone wants to be the Winter Fairy.”
“I hereby confirm you as Winter Fairy.”
“And if I refuse to do my job?” I asked, not worried about the whispered discussions happening around me.
“I’ll wed you to Jack before the night is out,” Quilo whispered for only my ears.
Crossing my arms, I glared at the North Wind. “Unfair.”
“Is it? Making the world a Winter Wonderland doesn’t sound like a bad job to me.”
I can feel another snowburst preparing to explode without control. Taking a deep breath, I stared at Quilo.
“What if I agree to do this winter thing from a time past harvest, until a time before new growth?”
Quilo rubbed his chin. “For part of the long year?”
“Yes, and during the other part, you allow me to go. . . to go sit on a beach and watch the turtles.”
“You have to work with Jack.”
I cross my arms.
“But I get to go to the beach?”
Quilo bit his bottom lip. “You can’t be afraid to cause blizzards, to call upon me to bring the coldest of winds down upon the fragile humans.”
“But, I get to go sit upon a beach, to watch my turtles swim?”
I turned my back on Quilo.
His silence cut through me like a slick knife of winter, cutting out any last piece of hope that I held onto, for even a moment. I saw him, the boy, just outside the window, watching me.
“You get to work with me,” Jack said.
I glanced back at him.
“Beach time, at least three of the moon cycles, and you keep Frost away from me.”
Quilo touched my face. “I always knew you’d come around. This, my faithful ones, is our Winter Fairy, Lumi.”
“One last thing,” I said, leaning closer to Quilo.
“What?” the old man asked, furrowing his white wispy brow.
“The boy, outside. Can you tell me who he is?”
Quilo peeked over my shoulder. A frown slid across his face. “Mother Nature’s son.”
My heart sank.
“He’s the reason she hates you. He’s been enamored with you since he first saw you, long, long ago. Tread carefully if you chase after this one, Lumi. We love you here, and I’d hate to see her wrath come down upon you.”
Nodding, I took a deep breath. “If you keep Jack away from me and I get to go to the beach, then I’ll create your winters.”
Quilo touched my cheek, blowing upon me with his frozen breath. I knew I bore the mark of the Winter Fairy, a single snowflake windburned onto my left cheek. With one last deep breath, I opened the door and strode into my new job, a trail of snow flurries following behind me.