Chapter 2: A whisper from long ago
Chapter 2: A whisper from long ago
The door swung shut with a muffled thunk and Jack had to dig his heels into the ground to slow himself down before he crashed into the coat rack right inside the hallway.
"Whew!" He wiped his forehead in relief that he had gotten through and- more importantly, he hadn't lost anything vital in the process. Wait, had he?
Jack immediately started clapping his legs and chest, making sure everything was in its proper place and only when he was fully satisfied that he was in fact all there did he actually glance around and take in his new surroundings.
The house was really nothing to sneeze at. The outside made it look like quaint two-story cottage that could be found in any fairy tail, but the inside reminded him much more of a typical Burgess house. There was a hallway with several doors leading off to various rooms of the house, and right inside the door beside the coat rack was a framed portrait of a younger Lily and a lovely woman with short wavy hair and a hardened gaze.
Jack inspected the picture while the elder sister hung her coat and went on to help Lily take hers off as well. Suddenly, Lily's bright voice shot through the air.
"Luna! Luna!" the little girl squealed.
At the same time, Jack's attention was taken form the picture as he felt a warm, soft something rubbing up against his leg and he looked down to see a slightly plump, fluffy cat winding its way down the hall. Its coat was a smooth mix of calico and tortoiseshell; black and brown and reddish orange splashed upon white fur. It was undoubtedly a very round, very well-fed cat, judging by the shape of its body and the gleam on its smooth coat. But despite its apparent fluffiness, this cat wasn't one of those overly obese cats - it looked this feline could still scale a tree and catch a bird within seconds if she had wanted to. He smiled and reached down to pet it. Jack had never taken any special liking to cats (not that he minded them, he didn't) but this one was very peculiar. It had this pompous, high-and-mighty and narrow-eyed complexion that made one think it was looking down on its nose. Jack thought it was one the funniest smug-looking cat in the world.
However, much to his surprise and indignation, the cat brushed him off and went towards Lily's sister. It shamelessly stepped on her toes and tugged at her affectionately.
Seeing this, and perhaps wanting the same attention, Lily dove down and tried to run her fingers through Luna's glossy fur. To her dismay, the feline expertly dodged the attempt and simply slid away.
Lily, equally stubborn tried to catch up with the cat, but her sister firmly held her back.
"Hold still now." she said sharply. "We need to take the coat off, otherwise you might get sick. And we wouldn't want that, would we?"
Lily quickly complied, though she was still eyeing Luna, undoubtedly looking for the chance to get a hold of her. Meanwhile, the cat sat down lazily besides Lily's sister's ankle, tail swishing about.
"Good kitty." she bent down and scratched the cat's chin briefly as it wrapped around her leg and meowed plentifully.
"How come Luna only lets you pet her?" Lily pointed out, a bit sulkily.
"Because I never pulled her tail when I was young." her sister replied with nonchalance.
Afterwards, she stood up and went straight to the house kitchen. Lily followed her sister like a duckling, and Luna and Jack trailed behind them both. An odd little scene to see to be sure; two sisters, a bratty cat licking her paws and a flying snowy-haired spirit.
As they went further into the house, Jack discovered it was entirely empty of other people. Neither one of their parents appeared as they made their way through to the kitchen and the house was so quiet Jack swore if he couldn't fly, the sisters would hear his light steps.
But they didn't.
And, for the girls at least, the night progressed as normally as it could with no knowledge of there being a winter spirit in their house.
When they reached the kitchen, Lily's sister started getting out things from the fridge and pulling out knives from the wooden knife-block beside the toaster. The small room was filled with heartening sounds: the rhythm of a mincing knife against the cutting board, the simmering whisper of pots and pans, the flush of water from the sink as Lily's sister began dinner, accompanied by the equally rhythmic yammering and abundant singing of her sister who was sitting at the wraparound bar that framed the outside of the kitchen.
Jack took a seat on the back of one of the chairs, watching them both expectantly, waiting for something to happen to justify his presence here. Surprisingly, the sisters didn't seem bothered at all by the house's lack of people. Now that he paid attention, Jack noticed that the house was well looked after, despite being occupied by only. Everything was clean and neat, no dust on the shelves nor toys scattered across the floor... Though they apparently live alone, they seem to have things in order and got well used to it.
And, apart from the strangely clean house and the freedom of parental presence, Jack couldn't see anything strange about this home or its inhabitants.
"Hey! Mysterious voice," Jack shouted, "what now? What do you want me to do?"
But the air, as far as he was concerned, was conveniently silent.
Sighing, Jack sat down next to Lily, who was trying to catch Luna with her small hands. It is a nice place here, Jack thought, absent-mindedly. Somehow, this atmosphere brought up a fuzzy feeling in his chest. Was he reminded of a time very long ago, when he too had his own family, his own little sister? The time was hard to remember even after he had recovered them. The memories seemed only a shadow of the past, a souvenir of a time 300 years ago.
Yet, by some great and untold means, right there and then, better than any recall he attempted before, Jack could feel those memories flowing through him. It was like he was living again somehow. The warm glow, the banter exchanged between siblings, the steam, the smell of dinner cooking... this small family somehow reminded him so much.
The sisters ate together for a bit in the kitchen, then the powerful urge of this generation took over and they headed to the living room to watch TV. Lily's sister constantly had to remind her of her food whenever the little girl was too distracted by the television and, after finishing, she set aside a portion of the food- for their parents coming home, maybe? -while unbeknownst to them, a white spirit was accompanying them the entire way.
When that was done and the leftover food was in the fridge, Lily grabbed her sister's hand and headed for the stairs. Laughing, Jack followed them.
"She's sure got you wrapped around her little finger, huh kid?" He asked as they rounded a corner and bursted through a door that he assumed led to one of their bedrooms.
"Come with me, Lele!" Lily squealed.
"Wait! What is it?" her sister asked, trying to slow her down in vain.
When both spilled into Lily's room, the child looked around and then at her surprised sister. Suddenly, Lily was fiddling with her cuddly teddy.
"Lele, will you play with me?" She asked, letting go of her hand just long enough to grab a cuddly teddy-bear and show it to her sister.
Her sister ruffled her hair.
"Sorry, little bear. I've actual work to do today." She told her, sounding like she would very much like to stay and play with her sister but, like so many children these days was saddled with duties and responsibilities that made her forget to have fun.
Lily looked heartbroken. "No! Just a little." Lily clung to her sister's leg, looking up at her with pleading eyes. "Come on. Just a little."
Her sister was clearly a little conflicted and seemed to be calculating whether she could finish her work in less time than she had planned. Slowly, she patted Lily's head.
"Alright, just this once."
Lily brightened and jumped happily with a squeal of "Yay!"
Her sister raised a finger in warning and the little girl immediately calmed down. "But a little is a little! 20 minutes, that's all." Her sister crossed her arms sternly, though actually she was quite amused.
Lily immediately beamed and nodded vigorously, letting out a cry of delight as she scooped up her Disney's Alice in Wonderland picture book and deposited it on her sister's lap.
"Lele, read for me!"
She picked up the book and opened it in amusement.
"20 minutes, remember. No more." she reminded again, then sighed as she flipped through the pages.. "Sometimes I think I spoil you too much."
"A book? Come on, no fun! What era are you guys living in anyway?" said Jack Frost, rolling his eyes. It was something from his old life that followed Jack when he became a spirit - he never had much patience with books.
But the sisters were already snuggling into a small sofa, curling up. Lele, or so Lily's sister was childishly nicknamed, began to read. Her reading voice, Jack had to admit, was pretty...catchy. It had a quality that seemed to gently guide you through and draw you in with grace; and she pointed to the pictures to help her sister through the story. Lily listened intently and with wandering imagination, only asking a few questions every now and then.
Shortly into the adventure story, Luna the cat entered the room (and could it be Jack's imagination, or did it just throw him a rather dirty look?) and settled itself in right next to the sisters' lap. Jack supposed this was close enough to a 'family activity' these sisters get.
Bit by bit, Jack's stubbornness wore away and he became drawn to the story. His mother used to read for him. Was it this story? Jack tried to picture Mrs. Overland's face. He sat down on the floor in one corner of the room and leaned on his staff. Quietly, the spirit of winter listened.
The sisters read with each other for a good long while, before the elder one paused for longer than usual, and said:
"Lily, I have to study now. You be a good girl, okay? Then maybe tomorrow I'll take you down town, it'll be Friday after all. How's that?"
Well, Jack was a little disappointed that story time had to end so soon (not that he'd ever admit it of course). He guessed Lily felt the same, too. But she didn't complain. After all, her sister promised to continue the story another day.
Lily continued to play house while her sister settled herself in front of her desk. Once in a while she would glance over and silently watched her little sister, and her stern eyes would soften and her face was enveloped in a tender smile. It was as if Lily's small presence anchored her to something dear, something real...
Finally, tired after a long day, Lily's eyes became heavy and she swayed where she sat like a litte tower, ready to topple over at the slightest gust of wind. Her sister noticed and stood, reaching down to cradling her in her arms.
"Bedtime then." She murmured, sliding her onto the couch and slipped pillow under her head. The child immediately turned on her side and curled into a bundle beneath her blanket. Her sister switched off the lights, leaving the room in twilight as the outside moon's glow seeped in. After a still moment, Lily's sister exited the room and went downstairs to clean the dishes with the cat dutifully behind her heels.
Jack lingered in Lily's room. He was still sitting in that same spot, which, it should be noted, was weird because one does not often see Jack Overland Frost to sit so still for so long. But he did.
He could hear Lily's soft, even breathing. Glancing at Lily, he could almost see the work of the Sandman, a thin glowing line of gold leading to a bubble which had her and her sister playing house together, and the little dolls were moving and dancing of their own accord - an adorable and innocent dream. Then Jack noticed the moonlight softly spilling through the window's curtains and he followed the trail until his eyes alighted on the moon itself. Even the dark of the child's room was peaceful and cool. For a while, Jack felt very human, very safe..
First chapters are always the trickiest to write. This chapter turned out to be a lot more mildly paced than I expected. In order make it up to you, the events in Chapter 2 is crucial to the entire story and is packed full of action. So I hope you're not too angry :D
I'm motivated by reviews *hint *hint ;)
Next chapter: "...The man who took my sister. There's a connection between you two. I know it!"