Chapter 21- Belief
Pippa sat close to her fireplace, hugging her knees. She held her head straight as she gazed lifelessly into the flames lapping at the wood. Her eyes were half closed, dark areas staining the skin beneath them. She hadn’t been getting any sleep of late, due to the magnitude of nightmares that haunted her subconscious mind. She wondered why the Sandman hadn’t been bringing her dreams.
Had something gone wrong? Was he, and the other guardians for that matter, alright? Were they in trouble? Did they need help? She didn’t know. She, nor any of her friends, had heard from any of them over the past few days. Even Jack who used to visit them most days was nowhere to be found. It worried her thinking something might have happened but without any way to contact them, there wasn’t much she could do.
She couldn’t shake what Jamie had told her about his first encounter with Jack. She remembered back two years ago when it had taken place.
There had been nothing out of the ordinary about that day. Monty and I had been making barricades in the snow, just for a bit of fun. Suddenly, a flash of white shot through the air, knocking Monty face first into the ground. Before I could figure out what was happening, a second ball of snow slammed into the side of my face, causing me to loose my balance. I shook the snow off, glancing up at who had thrown it. Couldn’t say I was surprised when I saw him. I should have guessed. The culprit was none other than believer-boy Jamie. He and I had known each other for a long time, and were best of friends. But that was no excuse for what he had done. A sudden sparkle lit up in front of my eyes. It disappeared so fast, I wasn’t sure if it had been real or if I were imagining things. I felt all annoyance towards being hit vanish.
“Jamie Bennett!” I cried out. “No fair!”
Jamie laughed. “You struck first!”
Next thing I knew, I was in the middle of a merciless snowball battle. It was so much fun. Snowballs were even somehow magically forming themselves right beneath our feet. Everything was going great, until one rogue snowball flew passed Jamie, its intended victim, and hit Cupcake. I couldn’t believe what I had just done. How could my aim have been so off?
“Crud, I hit Cupcake!” I thought I was going to die.
“She hit Cupcake” Monty pointed at me fearfully.
Claude’s voice cracked with fear, “You hit Cupcake?” We all thought so. I was frightened for my own life but more so for Jamie, who lay flat on his back, with Cupcake standing over him. He was dead for sure. Until…
A second snowball hit Cupcake, right in the face this time. We were all stunned. Who had thrown that? It hadn’t been one of us, that’s for sure. We didn’t hesitate to assure her that. To everyone’s shock, Cupcake started to laugh. I exchange a confused and startled glance with the others. It didn’t take long for the fun to start over.
We chased each other through the snow. Laughter filled the air, until we slipped on a large patch of ice frozen over the ground. It was weird, I didn’t remember it being there before. We all fell over, except for Jamie who landed on his sled and skidded off down the road.
“Jamie! Turn, turn! That’s the street! What are you doing? Stop! There’s traffic!” We called out after him but it was no use. Jamie was out of control. We ran after him, watching in amazement as his sled made sudden sharp twists and turns. He shot up an ice ramp. He flew through the air, landing in a massive pile of snow.
“Oh my gosh!” I exclaimed as he disappeared amongst the snow. He staggered to his feet, much to our relief. He looked somewhat disorientated.
“Whoa! Did you guys see that? It was amazing! I slid - I did a jump and I slid under a car–” Jamie’s exultation was cut short as a sofa slid across the ice, taking him out.
“Ooh!” All of us cringed. That would have hurt; a lot. We waited anxiously for him to get back up. Our concerns were eased when we saw his hand rise up into the air, holding a tooth. He clambered up from behind the sofa. His smile made me smile. I was just glad he was ok.
They might not have seen him during the snowball fight but Jack was there nonetheless. He had watched over Jamie when he was on that sled, and assured he came to no harm. He continued to look after Jamie, even though he hadn’t seen him.
A thought that had been shadowing the back of Pippa’s mind finally surfaced. What if Jaz Flame was real? What if she had been the cause of the fire’s weird actions the other night? She didn’t believe in her, so did she still watch over her?
Pippa blinked her eyes a few times, drawing herself back into reality. She wanted to believe in Jaz Flame but she couldn’t force herself. She didn’t understand. She believed in all the other guardians, so why couldn’t she do the same with Jaz?
She crawled onto her knees, moving slightly closer to the fire.
“I want to believe” she murmured to the flames. “I want to believe in you.” There was no lie in the words she spoke, only desperation.
“Jaz Flame” She closed her eyes, whispering the name her father had dubbed an expression.
“I want to believe. But I can’t, unless I know you are real.” She paused for but a moment. “Please. Give me a sign. Show me.”
Pippa looked hard at the fireplace. There was nothing special about the fire in front of her. A crackling sound came from the blaze as it burnt through the wood but there was no flowing movement like she had seen a few days ago. No sudden extinguish before reviving itself. Just plain fire.
She sighed in disappointment. She let her head fall limp and sink into her chest. Dreadful but familiar thoughts started to swarm her mind. What if the guardians were nothing more than a figment of her imagination? After all, they were something almost all kids believed in but eventually grew out of. Were the nightmares she had been getting not a sign of the Sandman’s lack of existence? Whether the guardians were real or not, she didn’t know. But one thing was clear in her mind.
No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t bring herself to believe in something that wasn’t there.
Jaz came through the other side of the portal, falling to her knees. Her was breathing heavily, and took her time to regain her standing position. She knew she needed time to recover but this was something she had to do. And she had to do it now. It was because of her that the children of the world were now in danger. She cared for them all, and didn’t want to see any of them getting hurt. But there was one child she had to make sure was alright. She might not see her but Pippa was the only person who had ever shown an interest in her or what she did. If she had been harmed in any way…
The thoughts were too painful for Jaz to think about.
She staggered through the snow, over to her house. She eventually reached Pippa’s house. She looked in through the window, her hot breath melting the ice frosted over on the glass. She softly pressed her hand to it, pushing it open.
Pippa was inside sitting by the fireplace. Her head hung low.
Jaz moved close to her, feeling stronger when she neared the fire. She crouched down to her level, tilting her head low enough to see Pippa’s saddened expression. Jaz felt rage flow through her when she caught sight of her tired eyes. She had been exposed to the nightmares! However, that wasn’t what Pippa seemed to be troubled about.
“Jaz Flame” she whispered. Jaz jolted back when she heard her name. Pippa didn’t shift from the position she was in.
“I tried…but I just can’t believe in you.” There was a small pause in her sentence. “In any of you.”
Emptiness filled Jaz. The realization of what this child was talking about struck her like a hard blow to the chest. Pippa had been trying to believe in her. She hadn’t been there for her, and now she was loosing her faith in not her but the others as well.
Jaz didn’t care for the girl’s lack of belief in her. She had never had believers, and certainly didn’t deserve them after all she had done. But she couldn’t just stand aside and watch a child loose their belief in the guardians. She had to do something to restore Pippa’s faith.
She touched her hand to her belt.
But without her dagger, how could she? A memory filled her mind. It was of the fire in her past life. The images flashed by so quickly. She saw herself running, holding the hand of her brother. He tripped. She could have easily left him and run to safety but she was determined to save his life before her own. Her memory-self took hold of the hunter’s dagger and cut him free. It then skipped forward to her pushing him out of the path of the falling tree. The memory faded.
Her eyes looked to the moon, pale in the twilit sky. It was trying to tell her something, and she had a pretty good idea she knew what it was.
She darted over to the fire. She held her hands out, as if warming them. Her eyes closed; she concentrated hard.
Pippa, who had had her head down the whole time, suddenly looked up when the crackling sound vanished. Her eyes narrowed at something in the fire. She couldn’t believe her eyes when she finally made out what it was. In the middle of the flames, a faint image of Sandman flickered. Tiny streams of fire flowed from his hands, representing the dreams he brought. Her mouth dropped.
Jaz looked over her shoulder at Pippa’s shock. She smiled. She couldn’t move her gaze from the fireplace, astonished. Jaz wasn’t going to stop there. Sandy was easy but he wasn’t the only guardian.
She focused her mind, shaping Tooth’s body within the flames. Pippa gasped again. Fire Tooth flew around in the fireplace, a couple of mini fairies following her collecting flame teeth. North was next, soaring through the flaming sky on his sleigh. He was followed by Bunny, who hopped around, hiding little fire eggs. Jack was difficult to do. His fire-self glided through the flames, sending what Jaz made to look like blazing snowflakes flying up behind him.
Strangely enough, Jaz wasn’t feeling at all weak. Actually, she felt stronger than ever. Pippa’s belief may have returned but the joy and fascination that had been reflected in her eyes when Jaz first saw her was still missing. The optimistic girl she had grown so attached to had not yet returned. An idea came to her.
She clenched her fist. As she opened it, she blew upwards at the spark she had formed in her palm. The small flame drifted through the air, its shape expanding and forming into that of a flaming butterfly. It fluttered around the room, brightening every light. Pippa watched in absolute amazement as the butterfly flew around her living room. She ducked as it came passed her head, unable to stop smiling. Jaz laughed. She couldn’t believe it had actually worked. Blaze had been the only fire she had ever brought to life before, and had only been able to achieve that through her dagger.
The butterfly reached the highest point in the room, between Pippa and Jaz. With a flap of its wings, its body exploded in a beautiful display of light. Embers rained down in the room, disappearing when they touched the ground.
“Jaz Flame?” Pippa whispered, gazing at the scene in amazement. Jaz had been too caught up in the sight before her to hear what she had said. A stray ember floated away from the others. The breeze blowing in through the open window carried it all the way over to Pippa. It gave off a small explosion.
A figure started to appear in front of her. It was blurry at first but became clearer. Her eyes became wide when she saw her completely.
Jaz stared at Pippa, with Pippa staring right back. She wondered what she was looking at. Was the fire doing something behind her? She couldn’t feel its movement change.
Pippa blinked a few times, struggling to piece together what she was actually seeing and what she thought she was seeing. It took her a few moments but she soon realized they were the same.
“Jaz Flame” Pippa’s mouth moved, though she wasn’t sure if she had actually said anything. Jaz stepped back, stunned. She had heard her that time.
“What did you say?” she stammered. “Did you…Did you just say…” She swallowed. Could it really be true?
“You said my name.” Pippa’s eyes blinked multiple times. Jaz’s jaw dropped open.
“You can see me?” Jaz whispered in disbelief. Pippa nodded her head, trying to find any words at all.
Jaz couldn’t believe it. A child saw her! Strong winds suddenly gushed through the windows as Jaz’s uncontrollable emotion was released. The fire started to burn intensely bright. The wind carried Jaz all through the room, flipping and bounding off walls. Pippa’s smile beamed watching her. She had never seen anything like it, and still struggled to believe it was actually happening.
“You’re real!” she exclaimed, once they had both calmed down slightly. “I thought you were just a myth! A metaphor!…”
“An expression?” Jaz laughed, finishing her sentence.
Pippa giggled, embarrassed. “Sorry about that.” Her face lit up.
“You were there” she realized suddenly. “It was you who controlled the fire!” Jaz nodded, knowing she was referring back to a few nights earlier.
Pippa jumped in delight. “I can’t believe you’re real!” She could hardly contain her excitement. She gazed over at the fire briefly. It had returned to its normal state.
“How did you do that?” she asked. “Can you shape fire into anything you like? What about heat? Do you control that as well? How were you flying like that?” Jaz felt overwhelmed by all her questions but she couldn’t blame her. One minute she doubted the existence of the guardians, and the next she was talking to the spirit of fire.
“Whoa. Slow down” Jaz said, smiling at her enthusiasm. Pippa struggled to calm herself but stayed keen.
“One more” she requested. Jaz chuckled, gesturing for her to ask.
“Am I your first believer?” She waited as patiently as she could for her to answer. Jaz avoided making eye contact with her. Her heart was racing. Taking a deep breath, she slowly looked up at her and nodded. Exhilaration engulfed Pippa when she did so. Her smile somehow grew larger, and she could no longer stay still. Jaz was surprised by her reaction.
“I’m your first believer!” Pippa exclaimed. Even though it was what she had wanted, she never dreamed it would actually happen. Jaz was no less thrilled by the circumstances. She had wanted a believer so badly, and now she had one. Better yet, it was Pippa, the girl she had grown so fond of.