Celebrate life, die righteously, prevail over sorrow, and give thanks.
These are the words Emma Stone’s mother used to say. Or still does, she supposes. Meaning, she would if she could. But she can’t. The cancer makes her too weak to talk much. They’ve gone to many doctors, trying a bunch of different treatments, but, in the end, they all say the same thing: three months at best. That’s it. They’re not taking it very well, Emma and her father. Especially her father. That’s why, when her mom still had some strength left, her mom convinced her dad to move them to Burgess, so they could be with family. Emma’s dad has no family to speak of; he was in and out of foster care until he turned legal age, and her mom’s parents passed away when Emma was really little, so it’s her mother’s sister’s house that they’re at now. Aunt Marcy, with a ten-year-old son named Jamie and a little four-year-old daughter named Sophie, already a handful to take care of by herself. Still, she kindly took them in.
Emma lugs her suitcase onto Jamie’s/her bed with a sigh, causing the bedsprings to creak with the sudden weight. She feels bad about Aunt Marcy giving her Jamie’s room, he isn’t too thrilled with having to share a room with his sister, either, but she appreciates the sacrifice. Sure, it still has his outer space bedspread, dozens of colorful crayon drawings are hanging on the walls, and the floor is littered with some of his toys, not exactly her kind of decorating, but it’s her own place to sit and think. Emma figures she’s probably going to need the space in the weeks to come.
Emma starts to mechanically unpack her clothes, placing them in the dresser drawers that have already been emptied for her use, trying not to think about how her dad is helping her mom get situated in one of the twin beds in the guest room downstairs. They had to transport her in an ambulance since she can’t walk or even sit up and is permanently attached to a machine that helps her breathe. A kind nurse from the hospital she was being treated at back home came along with them to help get everything set up for her. Emma’s dad probably could have handled it himself, but since the diagnosis he’s been drinking. It hasn’t gotten bad. Yet. He’s been more sober than drunk; that usually waits until late at night. But it’s bad enough to where Emma is worried. Emma’s just glad her mom is asleep most of the time now, both so that she can escape the pain in the land of dreams and so that she doesn’t see the state her husband is in.
About an hour later Emma finishes unpacking the rest of her things and contemplates on what to do next. Winter break just started so she has no homework to do. She could work on some drawings, Jamie’s room has a good view of the street and she can see a little park a couple of blocks away, but her heart just isn’t in it today. Her eyes then fall onto the stack of books on her desk. She runs her hand along the titles on the spines lovingly, wishing she could have brought more. There are ten of them, mostly fantasy, nowhere near even a fifth, or even a tenth, of her entire book collection, but her dad told her she had to be conservative while packing.
When Emma’s hand strokes the soft leather book on top she sighs, shoulders slumping slightly. It’s a collection of fairy tales and other myths her mother gave her when she was little. Emma picks up the book and goes to sit on the bed, flipping through worn pages of stories she now knows by heart. There are the classics, like Cinderella and Red Riding Hood, and then there are the childhood myths, like Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny.
Emma pauses on her favorite story, delicately caressing with a slender finger the name Jack Frost. She has always loved winter, but has never seen snow. Often as a child she would wish for Jack Frost to visit her in Florida, but as the years went by she knew that her wishes were falling on ears that do not exist.
Setting the book aside, Emma goes over to the window and opens it, the hinges squeaking slightly. A frigid breeze fills the room and her lungs, causing her long brown hair to fly gently around her head. Emma doesn’t have a jacket on to protect her from the cold, but she doesn’t care. She has always found the cold invigorating. Some people look out onto the small town of Burgess and see the dead, leafless trees, the dull houses barged against the icy claws of the air, and a cloudy gray sky, but Emma sees life in everything, life that is being bundled up in a cocoon for the winter, waiting for spring to come when it can spread it’s monarch wings and fly. It is an anticipation that becomes sweater with each passing day. Each day of winter, that life stirs with the joy and fun people have while being together for the holidays, especially the children. Already Emma can hear the distant squeals of children laughing in the park as they play.
Emma looks up at the sky again, watching as it grows darker with the setting sun. It is plenty cold enough for snow, she thinks, but the clouds refuse to give up their load. A familiar prayer comes to her lips, one not spoken in years. She bites her bottom lip, hesitating, but then lets the words come forth in a whisper, “Please, Jack Frost, let it snow. I could really use a little magic right now.”
While Jack Frost floats through the air, debating on if it is too early in the winter season to give the children of Burgess some snow, he notices the open window of Jamie’s room. Deciding to pay his first believer a visit he flies over, but stops when he sees a stranger standing inside instead of the boy, staring out into the encroaching night. She’s about seventeen, if Jack had to guess, around the age he was when he died and has been for the past three hundred years. Too old to be a believer, unfortunately, but it means he can get closer for a better look without freaking her out.
“So, stranger,” Jack says aloud even though he knows she can’t hear him. “What are you doing in my friend’s room?”
Jack floats about a foot in front of the girl and studies her. Her long brown hair dances in the breeze, reminding Jack of autumn leaves. She is short for most girls her age, only coming up to his shoulder if Jack were to actually stand on the floor next to her. She has a small frame, but by the way she carries herself and the fire in her green eyes Jack can tell she is tougher than she looks. There is also something else in her eyes that Jack notices. Something hidden, buried deep down so no one sees it. Except now she is alone, or so she thinks, and is letting her guard down, if only just a little. Jack peers closer, their noses only inches away from touching. He can see a loneliness and sadness raging inside her. It reminds Jack of how he used to be before he started to be believed in and seen, before he became a Guardian, before he had a family. And yet it is a sadness far worse than no one even knowing you exist.
The girl’s brow furrows and she bites her lip, fighting some conflict within herself. And then she speaks, barely a whisper, “Please, Jack Frost, let it snow. I could really use a little magic right now.”
Jack jumps back away from her a few feet, eyes wide. “Do you see me?” he asks. When she doesn’t answer he sighs. “I’ll take that as a no. But you do know my name. Has Jamie told you about me?”
Jack flies into the room, careful not to touch her. He knows he’ll only pass right through her, but it is an unnerving feeling that Jack tries to avoid. Looking around, he notices a few things that were not in Jamie’s room the last time he was there, a suit case, a stack of books, a laptop, a family photo of the strange girl and people Jack can only guess to be her parents, smiling at the beach. A book opened on Jamie’s bed catches his eye and he floats over to it. “Ah,” Jack says as he looks at his own name staring back at him on the page. “So that’s where you know me from.”
Jack ponders for a moment how all of the spirits, like him, who are not well known, have made it into storybooks. He suspects it might me Man in the Moon’s doing, lying a bit of groundwork so that they don’t have to start entirely from scratch getting people to believe in them, but Jack never bothered to ask the other Guardians.
“Please, Jack Frost,” the girl says again. Jack turns back to face her. Her sorrowful eyes are still gazing at the sky, hoping beyond hope.
“I don’t think I could say no even if I tried.” Jack slips back out of the room and into the cloudy sky. With a flick of his wrist his Sheppard’s hook begins to glow a soft blue, feeding ice into the clouds, and a gentle blanket of white begins to fall.
not too early in the winter season after all.