Chapter 1: Farewells and Snow Fights
Past the villages and across the cities, upon the place where snow coats any sight of green, lives a family of seven; away from the myths about dangerous hills and a glorious ice pond waiting at the end of the journey.
The animals frolic around, forgetting it’s hibernation time. The trees still have all their leaves and roses bloom every day, like spring in the snow. Squirrels shuttle across the ice like it’s full of acorns while blue birds sing good-morning songs. Deer prance and catch each other’s antlers, and little snow leopards scratch at the locked gates to the property’s front entrance.
Past the gates, a little wooden bridge, and acres of snow, the two-story mansion awaits. Away from the cities and towns of Switzerland, their house perches in front of one of the most monumental mountains. The nearest people reside in a city called Zurich, a few hours away. These hills and mountain isolate the manor of the Rubin family, providing them much privacy to live away from society.
Inside the house lives two parents, their five children, and their seven maids. The mother and father are Evelyn and James Rubin. Both parents stem from rich English families. Almost every morning, the two go to the city of Zurich so that Mrs. Rubin can go shopping while Mr. Rubin works a high-paying job. She shares hugs, pecks, and compliments as he strides along with a briefcase and handshake. Her golden-blonde hair shines like the sun during snowy days. His stature towers over hers like the skyscrapers hover above the city-streets.
Besides their general appearance and basic lifestyle, nobody knows much about these mysterious people.
The kids have fun without leaving their property and the five venture across their backyard almost every day. Fourteen-year-old Oliver leads the pack through the snow. Eleven-year-old Charlie tells jokes and lightens dark nights with his white-blonde locks. Eight-year-old Lizzy stays organized from her books to her hair, which combs straight down until it curls out at her neck. Six-year-old Eloise, or rather Ellie, picks souvenir flowers as the last, but not least, five-year-old Jeffrey tags along.
But alas, now it’s time to see the Rubin clan in their daily action, as the light rises upon the enchanted Rubin house. Little Jeffrey wakes first, and skips out of his room and into the hall. Let’s glimpse at how they’ll begin the day.
“It’s morning! Woohoo!” Jeffrey jumped up from bed and checked his owl clock. “Yep. Seven-thirty exactly.” He tromped down the second story hallway of the house and knocked on every bedroom door. “Wake up, wake up. There’s only so much time until breakfast, and after breakfast we play.” The rest of the family rolled over in bed and peeled their eyes open.
“Ugh, Jeffrey! I was about to reach the best part of my dream. You ruined it,” Charlie said. Jeffrey grinned while Charlie bounced back to try and sleep again.
“How do you know you were about to reach the best part of your dream when you didn’t get there?” Lizzy asked from her bed.
“I had a feeling, Miss Smarty-Pants,” Charlie said.
“I doubt it,” Lizzy said.
“Leave her alone, Charlie. Jeffrey, it’s too early to play, and you know better than to wake us up if you’re not dressed. Go dress yourself,” Oliver said.
“Yes, Oliver.” He fleeted back to his room and skipped over his train tracks. He kicked his animal toys aside and skidded into his closet, swapping his striped pajamas for trousers and a collared shirt. He wriggled a pair of white socks and Oxford shoes over his feet. “All ready!” he smiled. He frisked into the hall, but his laces tangled, and Jeffrey flopped to his face. “Help! I fell! Help me up!”
“Oh my,” Ellie said, “Jeffrey, will you ever learn to tie your shoes?” She knotted his shoe-strings and heaved him up.
“It’s too hard.”
“Really? I find it easy,” Ellie said.
“Well, good for you. Do you have to brag all the time?”
“You heard me. I’m sick of you!”
“Well then I’m sick of you too!”
“Fine,” Jeffrey stamped his foot and turned the other direction.
“Where are you going?”
“To breakfast. Would you like to come?” Jeffrey flashed a smile and skipped back to Ellie, forgetting their last argument.
“Sure, but let me grab Alice first.” She started toward her room.
“My doll, of course!”
“Oh.” Jeffrey stopped at her room’s entryway.
Ellie sauntered into her room and said, “How could you not know Alice? She knows you after all, and well, this is ridiculous. I don’t understand how you play with me so often, but not her and…”
Jeffrey formed a clam-shape out of his hand and clapped it up and down. “Why does she talk so much?”
Lizzy sat in front of the mirror on her desk and twisted in a black headband. She tilted her head and stared at the mirror. “This one doesn’t seem right.” She lifted the headpiece in exchange for a beaded one. She glanced at her reflection once more.
“Perfect.” she grinned. I hope everyone else thinks so too. I can’t afford one imperfection. She stood and tucked in her chair before heading toward her closet. A button-down blouse and skirt replaced her nightgown. She fastened the straps on her Mary Jane’s and galloped past her shelves of sketchbooks and walls filled of her colorful landscapes. She scoped her room one last time. As organized as can be. There’s no way they could spot anything.
She found Charlie in the hall too and asked, “Since when have you risen from bed?”
“Since you couldn’t help but interrupt me.”
“Oops. I’m sorry. Where’d everyone go?”
“Ellie and Jeffrey went downstairs, but Sir Oliver demands his beauty rest.” Charlie winked. He and Lizzy chuckled.
“Well then, I’m off for breakfast. Shall you join me?” Lizzy asked.
“I better dress myself first. You know Oliver, always looking for any blunder of mine to criticize.
“I guess that’s true. I’ll see you later. Toodle-oo.”
Charlie turned to his bedroom. He yawned and pulled off his sleeping cap before wandering into his room.
Lizzy skipped to the stairs and tapped her feet on the staircase while clasping hold of the spiral railing. Duh-duh, duh-duh!
She skipped past the hallways full of paintings and delicate vases, and through the kitchen as her eyes teetered back-and-forth at the pans of food.
“There you are, Lizzy,” Ellie said. She pulled out Lizzy’s chair on her right and patted the seat beside her at the family nook. Their nook rested in the corner of their room where they stared out the window and waved hello to the birds who came to say good morning. Yellow curtains adorned the window while falling snow decorated the outdoors.
“Morning, Ellie, Hello, Alice, how do you do?” Lizzy said, seating herself.
“Do I smell breakfast?” Charlie interrupted. “I’d hate to miss anything.” He raced down the stairs and skidded inside the kitchen. He sniffed the air. Warm and cozy smells of fresh blueberries and crumbly muffins greeted Charlie as Betty grabbed them out of the oven with her snowman oven-gloves.
“Yep, my suspicions were correct, breakfast.”
“Dear golly Charlie, how do you ever smell the food from that far away?”
“You see, Lizzy, us Rubin men share a natural talent for sniffing,” Charlie said. “Ah.”
“No wonder. Jeffrey sure has caught on with this sniffing business,” Ellie said.
They all turned to him as he took in the passing air.
“Goodness gracious,” Ruth, one of the maids, said, “are you boys a bunch of baboons? Stop this you nitwits!” The brothers silenced. Ruth sighed and turned away. Charlie mimicked her scowl and wagged his finger. Lizzy, Ellie, and Jeffrey giggled.
“Ah, about time it’s somewhat quiet when I arrive,” Oliver said. He ambled to the kitchen and whistled to his chair.
“Two minutes til breakfast, my darlings,” Betty, a sweeter maid than Ruth, said. Eloise and Jeffrey perked up and smiled as Betty passed out a fork and plate to each spot at the table.
“Morning everyone! Mother and I are awake,” James said.
“We’re on our way,” Evelyn said. She sauntered to him. Together, they strolled down stairs to the breakfast table. “After you,” James said, drawing out Evelyn’s chair. She blushed, even though he did it for her everyday. She leaned in and pecked him on the cheek.
“Why, it’s calmer in here than usual,” James said.
“I know, Papa,” Oliver said, “it’s nice for a change, isn’t it?”
“Yes, Oliver,” Evelyn said, resting her hand on Oliver’s, “I like sitting down for breakfast without the usual ruckus.” She pointed to the younger children and grinned.
“Father, did you bring the newspaper from yesterday home?”
“No, but I’ll make sure to bring one today,” James said.
“Ooh, save the comics for me,” Charlie said.
Oliver rolled his eyes. “Maybe you could do something for your own good and read a real story.”
“Oh, Oliver, you’ll have to read me some. The paper is our only source to what goes on beyond this house. Why, I find it so fascinating,” Lizzy said.
“Believe me,” Evelyn said, “life is much better here. There’s no room to play outside with buildings and roads taking up every bit of land.”
“Oh yes, but my curiosity can’t help but wonder.”
“I know, dear, but you wouldn’t be so curious after the terrible news that happened yesterday. Did you hear about it, James?”
“Oh yes, tragic,” he said, sipping his coffee and shaking his head.
“What happened?” Lizzy and Oliver asked.
“Best not to say,” James said, “I’d rather keep those horrors from all your blooming imaginations.”
“Oh but now you have us too curious not to tell.”
“For your own good, Oliver. Would surely ruin everyone’s day to even think of,” James said.
“Let’s change the subject. What about you, Ellie. What do you think about the newspaper?” Evelyn asked.
“Well, Mr. Rabbit usually informs Alice and I of all the things going around our castle. Not much lately.”
“Ah, I always knew Mr. Rabbit was the wise one,” James said.
“Sure is,” Ellie smiled.
James glanced at his watch. “Oh dear Evelyn, we better get going or we’ll be late.”
“So soon?” Oliver asked. “We haven’t even had breakfast and we didn’t finish our conversation. You can arrive late once, right?”
“Business first, Oliver. You’ll understand one day,” James said.
“Betty, I’ll grab our muffins for the car. James, gather my coat, please,” Evelyn said. She picked up the muffins and scurried to Ellie and Jeffrey, squeezing them both and pecking their cheeks. She hurried to Charlie and Oliver. “Bye, my lovely Char, see you later, Oliver.” She embraced both and gave them a rub on the back.
“Mother, I thought we’d have time to practice the piano,” Lizzy said.
“I believed so too. I promise when your Pops and I return we’ll have plenty of time.” Evelyn offered a grin and hugged her daughter. “Love you, Liz-Liz.”
“Evelyn, ready?” James asked from the top of the stairs.
“Yes, honey. Love you children.” She blew them a kiss and headed to James’s side. The kids scrambled to the doorway.
“Bye, Papa,” Charlie said. James gave him a handshake and pat on the back.
“Bye, son. Lizzy, Jeffrey, I’ll see you at bedtime tonight,” James said, bending down and making room for both of them in his arms.
“Daddy! Don’t leave me!” Ellie said.
“Oh Ellie,” James said, lifting her into his arms, “I love you so much, darling…”
“You promised we’d play today.”
“And we will. Daddy keeps his promises. Okay?”
“Okay,” she said, frowning and making puppy eyes to her father.
“Please don’t give me that face. You know tempting it is.”
“Okay, I won’t,” Ellie mumbled.
“You see, Ellie, every time I leave you in the morning, I feel so bad. Part of me wishes I could stop everything at any time for you, but I can’t, and that face doesn’t help me move past the temptation.”
“Don’t be. It’s all on me. Goodbye, darling. Bye, Alice,” James said, kissing his daughter and her doll. He placed her on the floor and rushed to the doorknob.
“Father, you always instructed me to say a proper goodbye at all times,” Oliver said.
“Oh, uh, yes, Oliver.” James brought his son in and patted him on the back three times.
Oliver frowned while hugging his father. He almost forgot about me. And that didn’t seem to matter to him at all. Am I important to him? Or is business his only priority?
James let his son out of his arms and put his hand on Oliver’s shoulder. “Take good care of them today. We’ll return soon but we ought to head out. Right now!”
“But,” Charlie said.
“At this present moment or else…” James said, ushering him and Evelyn out the door. Evelyn and James raced down the steps, over the bridge, and Mrs. Rubin leapt into the passenger seat. Mr. Rubin opened his car door. Oliver darted toward them. He shivered. Snow pounded at him left and right, like a big bully. Frosty air swept to his nose.
“Wait! Wait!” Oliver said.
“Oliver, we don’t have time,” James said.
Oliver grabbed his Father’s arm. “You guys mustn’t leave now! Can’t you feel the snow pelting harder than usual? Quite a storm awaits,” Oliver said.
“Oliver, your mother and I would love to stay, but we can’t. I have a commitment in the city. We’ll turn up before you know it, don’t worry,” James said. He patted his son on the back and ducked into the driver’s seat.
“You can’t leave!” Vroom, vroom! “Wait!” Oliver chased the car to the end of the driveway, but his parent’s vehicle was off in the distance. Oliver clenched the poles of the black gate and sighed. What could be out there? What could be so great about the city and the business that makes them leave us everyday? Is there something more important to them than us?
He looked through the gates and gazed at the Momma and Poppa deer running around with their fawn from dawn until dusk. He examined a tree, a bit in the distance, where he could see a Mother bird teaching her children to fly. He even noticed Father mouse showing his young mice how to sneak inside other animal’s homes and hide inside the snow.
Oliver sighed. “Why can’t we have it like all those animals do?”
He plodded to the cobblestone steps and plunked himself on the top step. He stared at the empty driveway. His heart took a plunge. A snowstorm looms. He heard his siblings squeaking their socks across the hardwood floor. They have no clue how dangerous this storm is. So lucky they don’t worry of all this. He heard the door open behind him. Click clack, click clack.
“Come inside, Oliver,” Lizzy said. She wrapped her coat on tighter. Goosebumps popped up from her legs like groundhogs in February.
“Oliver? What’s wrong? Say something.”
He turned to her. “It’s just…I, I worry, Lizzy.”
“Worry about what?”
“Mom and Pop. Can’t you see this awful storm? I don’t think today’s a good day to drive.”
Lizzy stepped to the end of the stairs and lowered herself on the top step. “You can’t think like that. Those thoughts distract you from all the fun you could have.”
“But I have a feeling this time, and it’s not good.”
“Nothing bad has ever happened before. Why would it happen on today of all days?”
“I don’t know, but I don’t want to chance it.”
“Oliver, if you get scared, then so will everyone else, because we notice when you think something’s wrong. I don’t want anyone to panic, so that’s why I’m telling you it will all turn out okay. I believe there’s nothing wrong.”
He stared at her for a second. “Maybe you’re right. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“I do. You miss them, that’s all.”
“It’s true. Imagine if they never left us, if they never went to the city. What would you do?”
“I could fill all the world’s land with water from my tears of joy.”
“They miss out on every adventure we take, almost everything we do. They never see anything good I do.”
“What do you mean? Of course they see good things you do.”
Oliver shook his head. “Not nearly as much as you’d think. They’re so critical of all I do. One mistake, and I’m in trouble.”
“They’re expectations for me are so much higher. They only want you four to have fun, but I’d have to accomplish things or start my own business to even get their attention. The most aggravating part is I try much harder to impress them than you four do.”
“But I see all the good things you do.”
“You’re the only one.”
“Is that not enough?” she lowered her eyebrows and glared at him. “I thought what I saw mattered to you.”
He shrugged. “No, it isn’t most of the time, because you’re not the one holding me to expectations. I only wish we could forget about accomplishing things and spend time the seven of us at home, all day and everyday.”
“And I wish so too. Just this conversation makes me a little sad to think of what we could have,” Lizzy said. Her eyes watered. She covered her eyes and walked away from him.
“It’s okay to tear up, Liz.”
“No, I can’t and I won’t. I’ll refuse to cry in front of someone, especially not you.”
“Don’t worry about that, Lizzy. Tell me how you feel, what’s on your mind.”
“I can’t. Nobody can see me this way or I’ll be like the rest of you.”
“I’m not quite sure what you’re saying, but if you really can’t tell me what you feel, share your thoughts.”
“Well…” she seated herself next to him again, “sometimes I wonder…wonder if they did stay home all the time, if we’d even find it special, or want to hang around them all day, every day. Would we appreciate it, or notice how great it is? It’s like, is what we want, what will make us truly happy, and satisfied?” She turned to her brother.
“Probably not. We wouldn’t care if they stay around all the time.”
“It stinks, it stinks how we have to lose something to understand how much it really means to us,” Lizzy said.
“I’d rather not care and have them all the time. I wouldn’t endure the pain.”
Lizzy nodded. She shivered and huddled further inside her coat. “Can we go inside? It’s chilly out here.”
“Of course. Whatever you want, Lizzy.”
He followed her inside. He creaked the door shut and strolled pasts the vases and paintings to reach the living room. A fire seeped warmth across the room’s sofas and coffee table.
Charlie, Ellie, and Jeffrey rolled around the carpet in their wool blankets. Lizzy cozied up to a book as Oliver rocked on the rocking chair.
“Children, I have hot cocoa for you all,” Betty said. The four youngest swarmed around her.
“Me first,” Ellie said.
“No, me first,” Jeffrey said.
“Sit on the sofa and I’ll put them down at once, dearies,” Betty said.
She placed the tray of hot cocoa on the table. Splish, swish. Each child ripped away their mugs, allowing several drips to spill.
“Hey, I wanted to sit there!” Jeffrey said to Charlie.
“Jeffrey, sit here with Alice and I,” Ellie said. She scooted to make room for him.
“I don’t want to sit near that dumb doll,” Jeffrey said.
Ellie clasped her hands over her mouth and squeezed Alice to her heart. “What’d she ever do to you?”
“Break it up. There’s no reason for you two to not be the best of friends. And Jeffrey, you know better than to use such a word. Come near me,” Lizzy said.
“Fine.” He scuffled to the couch’s edge and Lizzy perched herself between Ellie and him.
“Ha, ha, ha, it’s hot!” Charlie’s mouth erupted hot cocoa like a volcano, spewing drops on anyone in the vicinity. The children giggled.
“Charlie!” Ellie and Lizzy said.
He shrugged. “Oops.” he smiled.
Oliver shook his head. “Worse than a three year old,” he muttered.
“It was an accident,” Charlie said.
“And you shouldn’t make those accidents at your age anymore,” Oliver said.
“Well sorry.” Charlie said. Oliver ignored his brother’s response. Betty arrived with a washcloth to wipe Charlie’s chin.
“I win! I finished first,” Jeffrey said. He stuck his tongue out at Ellie.
“Oh yeah?” Ellie spat her remaining cocoa on him. “I’m done too.”
His mouth dropped open and tears swelled his eyes as Ruth and Betty entered. “Ellie spit on me!”
“Eloise, what have you done? Say you’re sorry and clean your brother up!” Ruth said.
“Sorry, Jeffrey,” Ellie said. She sneered at him and stuck her tongue out.
“Ellie, that’s not being sorry. The whole point in apologizing is to say you regret what you’ve done,” Oliver said.
“What if I don’t regret it?”
“You should,” Oliver said.
“How would you feel if I tossed my hot cocoa on you or your doll?”
“Why would you do that?” Ellie backed Alice away from Oliver.
“See, you wouldn’t feel very good either if someone did that to you, huh?”
“So why do you want Jeffrey to not feel good?”
“I never said that.”
“Well then you better apologize and mean it, so that he won’t get mad at you.”
“Okay. I’m sorry, Jeffrey. Please don’t be mad.”
“I’m not. What did you do anyway?” Jeffrey asked. He tapped his chin and tried to remember.
“Silly Jeffrey,” Lizzy said.
“Much better,” Oliver said. He gave Ellie a pat on the back and stood up.
“Go outside and play while we clean up. The storm has calmed for now,” Ruth said. She snatched all the cups of cocoa as Betty wiped their spills.
“Put on some warm clothes first, children,” Betty said.
All five marched to the stairs. Lizzy and Ellie skipped up hand-in-hand, tapping their shoes against each of the steps. Click-clack-clunk-click-clack. Charlie juggled a few cards between his hands, dropping one every five steps while Jeffrey sucked his thumb.
“Get that out of there,” Oliver said, slapping Jeffrey’s hand out of his mouth. Jeffrey’s eyes widened and he hurried away from Oliver.
Charlie slipped into his room next to the stairwell while Oliver escorted the younger ones across the hall.
Oliver pulled Lizzy aside. “Lizzy, what do you want to do in the snow today? It’s your choice.”
She peered down at her feet. “You know,” she said, “I want to see the ice pond.”
He sighed. “I would love to show you there some day, but you know we don’t have any ideas where it is.”
“Aw, will I ever get to go?”
“Certainly, one day,” Oliver said.
“When’s one day? How am I sure one day will ever come?”
“Because you’ve got to have faith.”
“What if faith doesn’t get me there? What if I never see the ice pond and my dreams never come true?”
“Don’t say that, you know dreams always come true.”
“Do I, Oliver? How do I when mine haven’t?”
“Because I promise we’ll find it one day. Run along and get changed.” He shook his head as she trudged to her room. If only I could truly make her happy. Find her that ice pond. That would be the greatest feeling in the world.
Oliver went into his room as Jeffrey frisked through the halls, knocking on doors. Jeffrey’s shoelaces tangled. “Help!”
Ellie scampered out. “Jeffrey, what’s with all your pea-brained stumbles?”
“I can’t tie my shoes!” he glanced at her, “well, are you gonna help me?”
“Nope.” She shook her head and turned to Alice. “Mr. Rabbit advises us not to aid tattle-tales.”
“I’m not a tattle-tale!”
“That’s it! I’m after you,” Jeffrey took off towards Ellie, but Charlie stepped in between.
“Haha. I’ve got you now, Jeffrey,” Charlie said.
“Help!” Jeffrey said.
“Hey, stop that, Charlie,” Lizzy said, releasing her brother from Charlie’s grip. “What were they doing to you?”
“Charlie impwisoned me and Ellie called me a tattle-tale,” Jeffrey said.
“See, what a tattle-tale. Am I right?” Charlie said.
“Hey!” A tear fell down Jeffrey’s cheek. “I’m not a tattle-tale!”
“What a cry baby! He just wants you to sympathize with him.”
“Oh, Charlie, that wasn’t nice of you to say. They shouldn’t have hurt your feelings, Jeffrey,” Lizzy said, giving him a hug. “Charlie, Ellie, you can’t say these things. He’s the youngest. He takes it harder.”
Jeffrey wiped the tears off his face.
“Come on guys, let’s go outside already,” Oliver said, emerging from his room.
“Last one out’s a rotten egg!” Charlie said. He raced to the front as Lizzy inched her way by.
“No way!” Jeffrey and Ellie tried pushing through but ended up cluttering through the door. Oomph! The oldest four escaped, but to no one’s surprise, Jeffrey stumbled down the back steps.
“C’mon, Jeffrey! We’re leaving without you!” Oliver said, marching his troops towards the tall redwood trees which loomed over their backyard.
“Wait.” Jeffrey stood. “I’m coming, I’m coming.” Jeffrey trotted to his siblings.
They moved from the flats to the lower hills. Blue birds painted the cloudy sky, flying from one tree to another. Wooden logs splayed on parts of the snow. Some branches stuck out, while others remained hidden for stumbles.
Whop! A tree turned loose and a white ball collapsed on Charlie’s hair. The one thing worse than the icky snow tangling his locks; when his siblings fall on the ground and laugh their tails off.
“It couldn’t have been that funny,” Charlie said.
“C’mere Charlie, I’ll sweep the snow out your hair,” Oliver said. Charlie dawdled to him and he chipped away the snow.
“C’mon guys, let’s play snowball tag!” Lizzy flung a snowball at Jeffrey. War on.
“Get back here, Lizzy!”
“Never. I have to win! Losing is not an option for me,” Lizzy said.
“Run!” Charlie said.
“Let’s go, Alice!”
“Wait up, Ellie,” Lizzy said.
“Slow down, everyone. Erg,” Jeffrey said.
Oliver sprinted to West Bark. Redwood and oak trees made up every corner and square in the area. He snuggled into a tree hole, hiding from his siblings.
“I can’t find you guys, I quit!” Jeffrey said. He crossed his arms over his chest and began marching toward the house.
“Jeffrey, you can’t quit,” Charlie called from out in the bushes.
Jeffrey jumped around. Aha! That’s where Charlie is. Jeffrey dashed towards Charlie’s voice in the bushes. He peered inside the bushes. Where is he? Where is he?
Charlie caught a glance of Jeffrey’s shoe. He widened his eyes. Uh oh! I can’t get out by Jeffrey. I’ll be the laughing stock. Charlie crawled away from Jeffrey, trying to escape from the bushes. Ouch! Darn these bushes.
What was that? Jeffrey noticed some of the bushes shake. He ducked down. A shoe wiggled between the leaves. Charlie! “I see you!”
“You’ll never catch me!” Charlie reached the end of the row of bushes and sprung up.
“Get back here!” Jeffrey hopped and sprinted toward Charlie. Charlie looked back. Jeffrey gained distance on him. Charlie turned right. Jeffrey changed directions to get Charlie diagonally. Jeffrey pumped his arms. He held on his snowball for dear life. Charlie looked forward. There was nowhere left to go. A fence cornered him. Charlie shook and whipped his head left to right, searching for a way out. Jeffrey cut him off. He threw the snowball. Pelt!
“I got him! I got him!” Jeffrey said, jumping in circles and grinning.
Charlie could hardly keep from steaming. He clenched his teeth together and stomped to the side. He thrashed snow together. His feet weaved in new snow while his hands formed the clump into a ball. He squatted down. He lifted the sphere with two whole arms. He zigzagged across the plains of trees as his eyes raced across the landscape. The corner of his eye caught a boot. He licked his lips. He charged at the shoe and Jeffrey bolted off.
“Help!” Jeffrey said. Charlie sped up like a cheetah. He leapt up over a log, zipped between a tree, and shortened the distance between him and Jeffrey. Jeffrey closed his eyes. Please miss, please miss. Oh goodness, if he gets me then everyone will laugh at me again. I wish I wasn’t always the loser. Maybe they’d make fun of me less. Charlie’s snowball started to wither away, but he zoomed in at his target anyway. Charlie rocked his arms back, but couldn’t finish the throw. Whop!
In the meantime, Ellie and Lizzy slid across the ice at Rosie’s pond. The girls lifted their legs, waved their hands, and spun around. Poof! They lost their balance and fell face first into the snow. They rolled over in unison and wiped their cheeks.
Lizzy and Ellie opened their eyes. Red roses and rocks surrounded the pond’s edge. Little ladybugs crawled on top of the rose petals while butterflies hid underneath and flapped their colorful wings. Chips of ice, shaped in diamonds, sparkled and reflected their smiling faces.
“Look at them,” Lizzy said. Leaves sparkled into her eyes.
“They’re lovely. One of my favorite flowers,” Ellie said. “What do you think, Alice?” Ellie held her up to see. “I’m glad you like them too.”
“Ellie,” Lizzy turned to her sister as they lay on their backs, “what’s your dream in life?”
“I want to be a dancer, Liz. A princess and a dancer. And my kingdom will certainly get along with Alice’s.”
“That sounds incredible, but what if none of that happened? What would you do then?”
Ellie remained silent for a moment. “I, I have no idea. I couldn’t imagine anything else.”
“Yeah, me neither. I don’t believe I could truly be happy if my dream didn’t come true. Why dream if it won’t come true?”
Lizzy sat up. “I’m surprised they haven’t come chasing us yet,”
“Me too. I’d thought they’d come look for us.”
“Oh well. Too bad for them because we get to enjoy this lovely scenery.”
“Lizzy, Ellie, get over here right away!” Oliver said.
“Did you hear him?” Ellie asked.
“Yeah, I wonder what’s going on,” Lizzy said, “C’mon. Let’s go check it out.”
“Quick!” Ellie said.
Lizzy and Ellie hopped off the snow and sprinted across the straightaway. They zigzagged between the trees. “Oliver?” Ellie called.
“I’m over here!” Ellie and Lizzy hurried to Oliver’s side and released some running breaths.
“What’s going on?” Lizzy asked.
“Charlie’s chasing Jeffrey. I wondered what happened, so I came out from hiding to find him going after Jeffrey like a maniac,” Oliver said.
Charlie raged down the path and Jeffrey skidded the other direction. Charlie charged at Jeffrey through the other trees as Jeffrey huffed and puffed.
“Help!” Jeffrey squealed.
Oliver slid into the snow. A grin lightened his face and his eyes followed their every move.
Lizzy stepped in front of Oliver. “Oliver, why aren’t you doing anything? Most of the time you tell them to stop their mindless acts and behave,” Lizzy said.
Oliver’s eyes continued to wander on his brothers. “Sometimes it’s fun to laugh at them. I’m quite enjoying this,” Oliver said.
“Oliver, c’mon. Let’s end this and do something else. Please,” Lizzy said, crossing his view. Oliver stood.
“What’s wrong with a little fun? Why must you nag me?”
“Oliver, you know better. It’s not nice to laugh at them and I don’t want them getting hurt. Do you?”
“No, I gather you’re right. I’ll stop this. Just wait one minute,” Oliver said. Jeffrey and Charlie zigzagged around the forest. “I’ll stop this, Lizzy,” Oliver said. “But not without a laugh,” he muttered. He hid behind a tree as Jeffrey scurried by. There’s Charlie. “Boo,” Oliver said, jumping ahead of Charlie’s path.
“Ah!” Charlie dove over Oliver, plowing face-first into the snow.
“Well, well, well. How ironic, huh? I knew as soon as I saw you chase him, you would get hurt,” Oliver said. “Let’s get you up.”
“Oh Charlie,” Lizzy and Ellie said. Jeffrey huffed and puffed behind his sisters. He peaked at Charlie from afar.
“Vengeance doesn’t suit you,” Oliver said.
Charlie stared up at all his siblings. He stood himself up and sighed. “I suppose I’ll stop,” Charlie said. He released a snowball to the ground.
Oliver, Ellie, Lizzy, and Jeffrey tossed snowballs to the ground too as the white flag waved in the distance. Smiles swelled their cheeks, and dimples scarred their faces.
“Come here, everyone,” Lizzy said. She opened her arms to embrace all her siblings.
“Liz, you’re the best,” Charlie said.
“Yeah,” Jeffrey said.
“Aw, well I’m glad we’re all friends again,” Lizzy said. They stepped out of the hug and smiled amongst one another as the winds swooped in.
“C’mon kids, get inside now! The storm has returned!” Ruth said. She slammed the door.
“What a mood-killer,” Charlie said. Giggles rang about.
“She sure is, but we do have to get going,” Oliver said.
Oliver flipped Jeffrey over his shoulder and Charlie swept Ellie away. They clutched at their coats, wrapping them on tighter. Jeffrey wriggled up Oliver’s shoulders. Ellie and Jeffrey’s eyes batted open and closed until they stopped opening.
“Are they asleep?” Lizzy asked.
“Yes. These chumps tired themselves out,” Charlie said. Lizzy giggled.
The breeze and chills caused them to shiver. Animals scurried to shelter while snow demolished pretty rose leaves. Oliver quickened his pace. “Come on, guys. We got to return before the storm fully kicks in.” The five-some trooped through the plains. Snow crossed their every step, but they trudged on. Oliver slogged up the back porch and allowed Charlie and Lizzy in the door first. Squeak!
“Are we back?” Ellie asked. She fluttered her eyes open and Charlie released her to her feet. Oliver laid Jeffrey down in the other room.
“Let’s play Monopoly, Lizzy,” Charlie said.
“Sure. I’ll get the box,” Lizzy said. “Oliver, would you care to join?”
“No, but thanks for the offer. Lizzy, would you like it if I put on a little music?”
“Love it. It’s been some while since we played a little music, but won’t it wake Jeffrey?”
Oliver shook his head. “Your brother can sleep through almost anything. What tunes should I put on?”
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe some yodel or classical piano.”
“Classic piano it is. Yodel isn’t for me.” Oliver moved to the mikiphone and selected the record to put in. He wound up the machine and the classical sounds played across the house.
“Music’s magnificent, isn’t it?” she asked, moving her head to the rhythm.
“Stuff for the ear’s pleasure, that’s for certain.” Oliver took a seat in the rocking chair.
“Sometimes, it’s all I need to help forget about everything.”
“What do you need to forget about?”
“How much I miss Mother and Father. If I think too much of it, it begins to sting. And music also lets me forget about staying organized and keeping everything perfect. I worry so much sometimes that it drives me bananas.”
“I understand what you mean. Do you ever use anything else to help make those things go away?”
“Speaking of playing, hello!” Charlie said, poking both Oliver and Lizzy.
“Oh that’s right. Sorry, Charlie. I better get playing Oliver, before I make him wait any longer.”
“Roll to see who goes first,” Charlie said. Lizzy flung the dice on the board.
“A seven,” Lizzy said. Charlie threw the dice. One die displayed a five. The second rolled and rolled over its side, like a dreidel.
“It’s a one.”
“I go first,” Lizzy said. She shook the dice in her hands and rolled. A five. She moved her top hat five spaces to the Reading Railroad. “I’ll take it.”
“That’ll cost you $200.” Charlie said.
“Fine with me.” Lizzy placed the cash into the bank and pulled out her new property. Charlie grabbed the dice and prepared for his turn.
“You rolled a five,” Lizzy said.
“Erg.” Charlie placed the thimble six spaces ahead, rather than five, for he tried avoiding to pay Lizzy rent.
“Nice try Charlie, but that’s one more than five. Pay up. You could never trick me,” Lizzy said.
“One of these days you’re bound to crack,” Charlie said, throwing the money in her face.
“Never!” Lizzy said, lifting the money and counting every dollar. “At least you didn’t try and cheat me this way too.”
“I vow to defeat you one of these days.”
“Good luck with that,” Lizzy said.
Oliver shook his head and seated himself in the rocking chair. Creak, creak. Rushing snow behind the window caught Oliver’s attention. White kept falling. His eyes shifted to the chair. Creak, creak. There his mind wandered off, so how ’bout we wander too?
Let’s venture away from the pleasant and peaceful Rubin household to the outside world where a dangerous storm brews in. Don’t worry, you won’t miss anything. Lizzy and Charlie’s Monopoly game will take some time, Ellie will continue learning to read and playing with Alice, Jeffrey will nap on, and Oliver, well, he’ll enjoy some quiet time to himself. As we trot away from the cozy home, we warn of dangers that may lurk ahead. So what’s the wait for?
Let’s head out!