With a wave of a hand, regions of Winterland faded in and out of the orb’s vaporous depths. Slowly, the cloudiness lifted. A kemonomimi bobbed into sight, the half-girl scuttling through the permafrost. Her long, white rabbit ears perked up, listening for any hint of danger. With a furtive glance behind, Usagi broke into a run.
Eyes flickering with suspicion, the Snow Queen raised a finger to her viewing glass. Before the snow under Usagi’s feet could glaciate her, the scene blurred. A sharp gasp cracked the wind. The queen jolted from her throne. A new figure was emerging within her crystal globe.
The queen’s eyes blazed cold fire at the face A43C2 4E3R111111
My books dropped on my laptop, keying a string of gibberish into my fanfiction file. I quickly hid my Winterland manga back inside my Chemistry textbook and hit backspace.
I blew my black bangs out of my face. My gaze wandered from my desk, where I had spent the last half hour of lunch secretly working on my winterfic, to the girl who had just flounced past my shoulder.
Flipping her long, ombre locks behind her, Olivia separated from her girl squad and waltzed across the library. I eyed her lacy-tunic, Coach bag, form-fitting jeans, and Louboutins, then took in my own ensemble: striped tights, a sweatshirt much too big for me, a homemade Ravenclaw scarf, and worn-out sneakers with faintly drawn chibis. Even though I liked my nerdy style, Olivia had the uncanny ability of making me feel like a frump next to her.
To be perfectly honest, a small part of me wished I could dress more bravely. Maybe not in Louboutins, exactly, but I’d consider a badass cloak or a frilly Harajuku dress. Something that was still me, but slightly out of my comfort zone. The stuff of comic-cons.
Unfortunately, I knew myself. As much as I liked the idea of dressing up, I wouldn’t be able to handle the attention that came with it. My goal was to hide. Be invisible. Let girls like Olivia dress up. They could handle the spotlight.
I fiddled with my hair as the slender blonde sidled next to Andrew Lewis. Her free hand dropped to his arm.
“You’ll come early, right?” Two manicured fingers dangled a glittery card in front of him.
Ugh. Olivia’s annual ice skating party. Every year, snow or no snow, December rolled around—and everyone who’s anyone in Charles Dodgson High received a personalized invitation to the party of the year.
Not that I knew any of that first hand, of course. Olivia never invited…my type. The day I receive a snazzy invite with the name Alice Leira calligraphed on it will be the day my fictional characters came to life.
Andrew’s smile faltered. He stepped away from the desk where he had been printing swim try-out forms. He retracted his hand from Olivia’s hold and ran his fingers through his hair, like he was trying hard to make the gesture look natural.
Or maybe it was my wishful thinking again. Sighing, I bit my lip behind my laptop. I could watch him stroke that mussed, flaxen hair all day. It was no mystery why Olivia—and half of the high school—were so interested in having the head of the swim team around. Tall, toned, and trim, Andrew Lewis was like a 90-degree angle. Like the corners on the un-punctured edge of my A+ physics paper…
Right in every way.
Andrew’s face had been chiseled out in conformance to the golden ratio. The Vitruvian man had nothing on him. Of course, I wasn’t superficial enough to ogle over a boy just because of his perfect arrangement of atoms. No. Andrew Lewis was much more than that.
For starters, Andrew made the Honor Roll almost every semester, volunteered at the local aquarium in the summers, shared my zodiac sign of Gemini, and—according to my dubiously innocent Google searches—even identified as an INFJ, my favorite of all the Myer-Briggs types. His only tragic flaw was hanging with the likes of Olivia.
The pair had known each other forever. They even went out briefly freshman year before deciding to stay just friends. I should have been used to it by now, but seeing them together still nauseated me.
I clicked my tongue. Why was I getting worked up over them? As if Andrew and I would ever become canon. Even getting noticed by an out-of-reach senpai stood more of a chance. Still, my heart did a wicked little victory dance as I watched them interact. Something about their usual casual chemistry was off today.
“Wish I could, Olivia, but I can’t this year.” Andrew lowered his gaze to the papers he held. “Swim team is holding try-outs.”
Olivia narrowed her eyes. “On a Saturday night?”
“No, but I’m meeting up with some friends afterward.” Andrew shifted his feet, not meeting her stare. “We already made plans to go to this event together.”
A frown marred her pretty face. “But my Christmas party only comes once a year. Plus, I’m putting a two-page spread about it in the yearbook—perk of being the yearbook photographer.” She peered at him through her mascaraed lashes. “You should have at least half a page to yourself.”
“Tempting, but I can’t bail on them last minute.”
Andrew shook his head, but this time he held her gaze. “Sorry, Olivia. I just can’t.”
For a second, I could’ve sworn Olivia’s winter blue eyes turned glossy. Before I could tell for sure though, one of the librarians shushed the pair, then disappeared into the office across the hall. Wordlessly, Olivia tucked the invite into her purse, letting her long, ombre locks conceal her face. She took a breath, collected herself, and sauntered back to her squad.
I frowned. A part of me almost felt bad for her. Almost. I found it hard to have sympathy for a girl who had dropped me as a friend in fifth grade…
Shaking off my thoughts, I returned my attention to my laptop screen and cracked my knuckles. I had more important things to do than fret over some silly, only slightly amazing Christmas party. Like uploading my fanfiction by midnight. After months of working on it, I had gathered a slew of Winterlanders on Tumblr who followed my fanfic updates regularly. I knew they’d be waiting for the newest chapter to go live tonight as promised. My lips curved into a small smile. One wouldn’t want to disappoint fangirls.
If only my internet popularity translated to the outernet.
With a wistful sigh, I adjusted my thick-rimmed glasses and resumed typing my rough draft. Head bent, fingers furiously clicking away, I was so absorbed in my winterfic that I hardly noticed the shadow looming over me until—
“Hey there, Hogwarts. What do we have here?”
My head snapped up.
I didn’t know how long Olivia had stood there, but it’d been long enough for her to find the Winterland manga hidden in my textbook. Her slender hand curled around its crisp, white pages, holding them captive. Distaste clung to her angular features, making her face look sharper than usual. She eyed me like I was that weird kid in class who liked anime—which self-admittedly, I was.
With two fingers, Olivia dangled my manga upside down as if to avoid nerd cooties. Her girl squad swarmed her. Claire, her best friend, and a pair of brunette twins named Isabella and Anastasia watched the scene in glee. Outnumbered, I mustered some bravado in my voice. “Forgot you don’t know how to read?”
“Oh, very funny, Alice.” Olivia flipped through the manga and scrunched her face. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Aren’t you a little old for Pokémon?” Her girl squad broke into an infuriating whisper-giggle, cupping hands around each others’ ears.
My cheeks burned. “It’s not Pokémon. It’s called Winterland.”
“Whatever.” Olivia crinkled her nose and flipped through more pages.
“Why do they all look bug-eyed?” asked Claire.
“Because it’s manga.” I tried to contain my indignation. Olivia and her lackeys were worse than internet trolls. “It’s a Japanese drawing style.”
“Spare us the explanation, Professor Wapanese,” Olivia drawled.
I stared at the Chemistry textbook on my desk and whispered under my breath, “Bismuth-technetium-hydrogen.”
Olivia raised a flawless eyebrow. “What did you say?”
“Nothing,” I murmured. If only the girl knew her chemical symbols.
Olivia narrowed her eyes. Tilting my Winterland manga, she displayed it to her friends. They took in the image of the kemonomimi—a half-human, half-rabbit character—named Usagi.
“Honestly, Alice, I don’t understand the appeal of this unless you’re a ten-year-old boy.” Olivia tossed the manga onto my desk in boredom. Her gaze drifted to my laptop screen. A shadow of a smile touched her lips.
“Well, well. What’s this now?”
“None of your business.” I protectively covered my laptop screen with my hunched form, glaring at Olivia over my shoulder. A shrill yip blared in my ear. I jumped out of my seat, only to realize that the twins had snuck up from my other side. Seizing her chance, Claire snatched the laptop and brought it to Olivia.
“Give that back!”
“I don’t think so.” Olivia scrolled the trackpad up. Her eyes flashed. “Usagi’s Flight—Draft #3.”
My palms went damp. She wouldn’t.
Olivia cleared her throat.
Shimatta. She would.
Hushed whispers traversed the library. A circle of students flocked around us. I could feel their eyes on me, watching, burning into me. I dug my fingers into my scarf.
Taking in the growing crowd, Olivia curled her lips into a twisted smile. She began to read aloud—making a spectacle of my fanfiction. She butchered the Japanese names, making every inch of me cringe. Her girl squad laughed to the flow of her cruel, satirical tone. I slunk down in my seat, wanting to melt.
Olivia’s glossed lips moved in slow motion, but the words no longer registered. Every laugh, every whisper, every nuance of sound magnified, then blended together. My senses grew distorted. Like watching a movie, I stared at the scene, aware of my surroundings, but disconnected from it.
Overwhelmed from it.
My heart thudded; my palms grew sweaty. Struggling not to spiral into oblivion, I scanned the sea of blurry faces in desperation, trying to find something to anchor myself on. It was then I noticed Andrew in the crowd.
He stared at my laptop screen, his brows slanting into two hard lines. Slowly, he eyed me with a disturbed expression.
That did it.
Face aflame, I veered away from his scrutiny. Not caring if I looked like an overgrown inchworm, I leaped awkwardly across the desk. I yanked the laptop from Olivia’s grip, breathing hard.
“Let. It. Go.”
“As you wish.” She released it lightly, sending me reeling on the floor. A burst of laughter hit my eardrums. I winced.
Face glowing, the girl towered before me. “Word of advice, Alice. If you’re going to spend all day writing like a little nerd, it could at least be something worth writing.”
I staggered to my feet, clutching the laptop to my chest. My mind struggled for a comeback, but the cat got my tongue.
A ringing pierced the air.
I heaved a deep sigh. Saved by the bell.
The librarian emerged into the room and paused. She lowered her glasses at our little crowd. Everyone began to disperse.
Olivia was about to join the murmuring crowd when she stopped. Her lips inched upward, her cheekbones sharp as glass. She whispered a single word to me. A word that made me choke back a gasp.
Waterworks obscured my vision. This was a new low. The girl had called me many things before, but this insult felt so personal…even worse, accurate. As much as I hated to admit it, maybe she had a point.
I rubbed my stinging eyes. Olivia was still watching me. Her brows tensed. Then, without another glance, she whirled around and made for the exit.
Andrew waited for her, leaning against the door. Without meaning to, we made eye contact. I held my breath. An uncomfortable silence hung in the air. Casually, he looked away and reached for his phone. He slipped into the hallway of students, texting as he walked alongside Olivia.
A hand squeezed my slumped shoulder. “There you are. I’ve been looking for you.”
A familiar red-head stood beside me—Deanna Kitlyn, a gap-toothed booktuber who happened to be my best friend. Concern tinged her features as she took in my expression. “Did something just happen?”
“Olivia happened.” I let my black tresses cover my face in angst. “She just read my fanfiction. Out loud.”
Sighing, Deanna brushed my hair back without missing a beat. I suppose that’s one of the duties that befalls a bestie.
“You know…high school pecking orders aren’t the end of the world, Alice.”
“Is this another one of your pick-me-up speeches?”
“Yes, it is. Your stories are wonderful. You know that, I know that…all your Tumblr followers know that. Don’t let a Spitzbub get to you.”
I blinked. “A what?”
“Spitzbub. It comes from the German word, ‘Spitzbuben’—Christmas cookies with evil little smiles.”
That’s an understatement.
“Trust me, Alice, one day that girl will find herself…and really, really wish she hadn’t.”
I forced a half-laugh. This time, my friend’s pep talk fell flat. I appreciated the effort, but as I crammed my belongings into my Totoro backpack, I couldn’t help but snap back.
“You’re right. Olivia might risk looking into a mirror one day and realize how pretty and popular and socially perfect she is. Thanks, Dee. You’ve really turned my opinion of this day around.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” she chided. “You speak almost as if Olivia is never not looking into a mirror.”
“Ha, ha, ha.”
“C’mon, cheer up.” My friend’s gaze fell on my Probability & Statistics textbook in my bag. An elfin gleam touched her eyes. “Did you know you have a better chance of marrying your favorite K-pop idol than winning the lottery? If that doesn’t brighten your mood, I don’t know what will, Alice.”
This time, I laughed for real. Deanna grinned.
Ever since we had first met, back when we were just two little eighth-graders hiding out between bookshelves on rainy days, she made me believe that the best friendships are made in libraries. With her obscure words and amusing factoids, she always managed to pick up my mood when Olivia kicked it to the curb like a mangy puppy.
Deanna looped her arm around my shoulders, and I stood a little straighter as we weaved through the bustling hallway. As we stopped to part to our respective classes, I glimpsed a glittery card sticking out of her satchel. My insides turned hollow and cold.
Deanna’s face bloomed pink. “One of Olivia’s she-wolves gave it to me this morning. Obviously, I’m not going. Her Christmas parties are way overrated.” A pang of disappointment twisted my stomach. Her dismissive tone sounded so…feigned.
I squinted at the florid, calligraphed initials, D.K., on her invite. Why was she even carrying it around in her bag? Betrayal seeped under my skin.
“Maybe you should go. I know how badly you’ve been wanting to try ice skating.”
“What?” Deanna whispered. Hurt flashed in her eyes.
My insides pinged with guilt. “Sorry, it’s just…you skip Olivia’s party every year because of me. Why not go and see what the hype is all about for once? Live the fancy life for a day.” I shuffled my sneakers. “My weekend is booked anyway.”
“Rigght. Booked as in playing DDR by yourself and re-watching the dub of Winterland?”
Heat swiped my cheeks. “Of course not.” Sub.
“My weekend is booked. Literally. I have a stash of manga I borrowed from the library—it’s due Saturday.” Next Saturday, technically, but she didn’t need to know that.
Deanna cast me a skeptical glance. “You’re really okay with me going to this thing?”
All I had to say was no, and she wouldn’t go. My lips parted. Shimatta. I couldn’t say it.
I knew she could see through my web of white lies, but I couldn’t let her boycott the biggest party of the year again because of me. A real friend wouldn’t let misery have company.
“Get your skates ready because you’re going for once,” I said. “And that’s that.”
“I don’t want to go if you’re missing out on the fun, Alice.”
“…Having fun isn’t hard when you got a library card.”
Rolling her eyes, Deanna stuck her hand into her satchel and rummaged through her belongings. She pulled out two tickets—each with the shape of a crystal heart on the stub. A frisson of anticipation rushed through me.
“A weekend pass for Winter-Con.” She handed me my convention ticket with a smile. “Because your weekend needs to trump Olivia’s.”
“Get the flake out. I thought they were all sold out.”
She winked. “My brother knows a guy. He pulled a few strings for us. Consider it an early Christmas gift from me.”
“Deanna, my appreciation for you is like a limit approaching infinity.”
“But I’m your dork.” I glomped her right then and there, paying no mind to the onlookers in the hallway.
Deanna grinned until she glanced at her watch. “Shoot, almost noon. I have Lit.” She broke my chokehold and hastily zipped her satchel. “Maybe you can stop by my place later this week and help me with my costume.”
“Sounds fetch.” I curled my hands and raised them catlike, imitating my favorite Winterland character. “I’ve been updating my old Shiroi Neko cosplay anyway. You know, the white, stretchy cat-suit with the neko ears and—”
But Deanna didn’t hear the rest. She had run off to class, leaving me alone in a hallway echoing with snickers.
The rest of the day went by at a glacial place. When the final bell rang, I rushed to my locker. The hallways bristled with noise. I couldn’t make it from one corridor to another without overhearing someone speculate about the number of ice sculptures Olivia would have this year. As I skirted around some junior girls from homeroom fawning over the silvery monograms on their invites, I was reminded why books are better than people.
I fought a sigh as I collected my belongings from my locker. I didn’t understand what spell Olivia had cast for everyone to obsess over her like this. Nor did I want to understand. I just wanted to get away from it all.
As I made a beeline for the entrance, a glitz of silver made me stop in my tracks. An empty envelope with beautiful calligraphy lay strewn on the floor. I picked it up.
My fingers dented into it. Just as I was about to dispose the crumpled envelope into a nearby trash can, I caught the initials A.L. on it. My hand froze.
Hesitantly, I stole a glance around me. I reeled my arm in. With an unsteady finger, I traced the sleek, cursive lettering and bit my lip. Before I knew what I was doing, I had pocketed Andrew Lewis’s envelope and bolted through the exit.
“Holmes, sweet Holmes.”
At the sound of my voice, a white cat with a long, bushy tail sauntered into the living room. I kneeled down, letting him nuzzle against me, and stroked his fur.
“At least I have you, Catpernicus…”
He purred and rested his head atop my lap, as if sensing my despondent mood. I could always count on Catpernicus to be there for me.
I ruffled his white fur. “Want a treat?”
After feeding him, I grabbed some comfort food—Pocky and a steaming mocha—and dragged myself to my bedroom. I slammed the door, and a zig-zaggy “D” fluttered down from my favorite decal. Now, it just read “UMBLE.” As I stretched up a hand to re-tape it, I read the phrase above the door frame.
“Don’t let the muggles get you down.”
I drew in a deep breath and repeated the quote to myself like a mantra. I needed the reminder now more than ever.
Slowly, I turned around. My fangirl safe haven welcomed me like a warm, tight hug. Three full shelves of YA novels lined my bookcase, each decorated with Sailor Moon dolls, empty beakers, and the occasional plastic Tardis. Fanart of my OTPs coated the walls: Jelsa, Sebaciel, Johnlock, Dalix, and my favorite ship of all—Winterland’s Sanbou. Well, second favorite ship.
I walked up to a holographic print featuring my fictional crush. Akihiko the Winter Prince. Since junior high, I had shipped him with me, and now, five years later, the ship was still sailing strong. His eyes glimmered at me as he rested a hand on his Vorpal sword. I trailed my finger along his elfish ears. If only he’d stop being the square root of -1 and become real. Sighing, I backed away from my husbando.
Once more, my fandom world invited me with open arms when the rest of the world cast me aside. It was the place I found my feet again, the place I always found my inspiration.
The place where I could escape reality.
At the same time, fandoms have always been my gateway to understanding reality. With anime and manga, I could enter a world free from judgement, form new friendships, embark on fantastical journeys. Fanfiction let me delve into a character’s head, explore relationships and different identities—all while giving me a place to release my daily stresses and anxiety. My fandom world was a balm to my psyche. As an Aspie, I took refuge in that.
I flung my backpack onto a mountain of Winterland plushies on my bed. I maneuvered to my closet, stumbling on fabric pieces of my Shiroi Neko cosplay. After changing into my cozy FANGIRL sweatshirt, I cleared the Japanese stationery and art pens cluttering my desk to make space for my laptop.
“I…am…Sherlocked,” I murmured, keying in my password. Obvious, maybe, but a safe enough choice at my school. No one there besides Deanna and me could pick a non-Turing Cumberbatch out of a lineup.
The thought of school sent an unpleasant shudder through me. No. Repress it.
I turned on my fanfic playlist, trying to set the perfect mood to delve into my fanfiction. The buoyant, upbeat tune of Not Literally’s “I Ship It” blared. Loud as it sounded, it still didn’t drown out the laughter echoing in my head.
Distraction. I needed distraction. I opened my Tumblr. There, I found a message from Winterpuff.
Perfect timing. A fellow fanfic writer (who specialized in crackfics) and always the first to review my chapters, Winterpuff never failed to leave me with a toothy smile. I clicked the notification.
11:56 AM Hey. Just wanted to tell u how psyched I am for the new ch. I know it’ll be totally awesome—just like it always is.
Below the message, an anime gif of the Winter Prince winked at me. With his lips quirked, eyes lit with mirth, long, sculpted fingers on the hilt of his sword… I blushed at my computer screen. But then my face fell. I closed the tab. Winterpuff was right. My fanfic was good, and I felt proud of it. Just one teeny issue remained.
I had no chapter.
At least, not a good one. I slumped over my desk and bit into a Pocky stick. I’d already written three different drafts. But they just weren’t right. I couldn’t let Winterpuff and my other readers down like that. They deserved better.
Exhaling, I opened my fanfiction profile. My eyes skimmed the various fandom groups I had written for.
Adventure Hour (1)
Blitz on Titans (1)
Cadet Moon (5)
Daphne Holmes (6)
Grey Butler (5)
Kiss Me, Not Him (1)
Light Note (3)
Lore of Lora (1)
Our Host Club (3)
Revolutionary Maiden Umena (1)
S.H & J.W (5)
Stevie Galaxy (1)
Totally Spy (3)
Umaru - kun (1)
Victuri on Ice (7)
I hovered the mouse over the last entry and clicked. I opened the unfinished draft of Usagi’s Flight. The cursor blinked at me. I blinked in return. An unsuccessful staring contest ensued. Tch. Nothing was coming to mind. Not even the usual plot bunnies.
In an attempt to overcome my writer’s block, I donned my NaNoWriMo Viking helmet. Elbows propped on my desk, Pocky stick balanced along my cupid’s bow, I meditated on my story so far.
Long ago, the kemonomimis of Winterland lived together in harmony. Then, everything changed when the Snow Queen attacked. She froze over their world, condemning it to eternal winter. Nobody could break her curse. I frowned. But where was Usagi running off to? And what did the queen see in her globe that made her so upset—
My door swung open. I jerked up, hitting backspace. The Pocky stick dropped to the floor with a sad little crack.
Lori barged into my room. Catpernicus and Earl Grey in hand, my older sister took in my crooked Viking helmet with a look that said, ‘I’m not even going to ask.’
With her sophisticated pixie cut and priggish manner, Lori was my polar opposite. If I was, as Olivia kindly put it, a ‘weaboo,’ then my sister was a ‘teaboo.’ She preferred British classics, adopted British spelling whenever she could—and had once roasted her teacher in iambic pentameter when her poem got a B. For two sisters, we couldn’t be more different.
“Easy on the ears, Alice. Pianissimo. I can’t concentrate on my SAT prep with your K-pop boy bands blaring through my wall.”
“It’s not K-pop,” I murmured, turning down the volume. “This time.”
Lori didn’t look the least bit impressed. “Can’t you wear headphones? Fur Elise is sensitive to your loud music.”
“Funny you mention that as Catpernicus loves watching me write to this song.” On cue, the cat meowed and jumped from my sister’s grasp.
Glaring, Lori folded her arms across her tartan dress—another outfit she had probably copied off her beauty muse, Kate Middleton. Her gaze drifted to my laptop screen. “Let me guess. More fanfiction?”
My sister leaned over my shoulder. Her eyes twitched at the screen as though she had stumbled across the weird part of the Internet again. She read the tags on my fanfiction homepage. “One Shot, Coffee Shop AU, Crackfic, NSFW, OOC, Fujoshi, Drabble, Lemon… Honestly, Alice, all of your fandom things sound like a foreign language to me.”
I almost giggled, but then Lori turned to me.
“Nothing,” I blurted before scrolling down the page. I didn’t dare correct her mispronunciation. Some things are better left unsaid—especially yaoi.
Rolling her eyes, Lori straightened back to her full height and took a sip of her tea.
“I don’t understand why you waste so much time on fanfiction—it hardly qualifies as literature if you ask me.” Great, she was doing that Lori thing again. “Why you can’t you read something real and write something that has…substance?”
“Fanfiction does have substance,” I replied indignantly. “You would know since you read it all the time.”
“I most certainly do not.”
I smothered a snort. Lori turned pink, which was comforting. It was nice to see that she was a little self-aware when she crossed into unbearable pomposity.
“You do read it, Lori. In your AP English class.”
“You know that’s not true.”
Catpernicus purred at our feet. At least someone was entertained by our squabble.
“Take your textbook,” I said. “Dante’s Divine Comedy is a self-insert fanfic where he hangs out with his dream-girl, an OC named Beatrice, and befriends his senpai—aka his favorite poet, Virgil. And Virgil wrote fanfics for the Homer fandom. The Aeneid is a fanfic sequel to The Iliad. It was all in this Tumblr meta I read in clas—”
“Right, because Tumblr is so academic.”
She’d be surprised.
Ignoring my sister’s scowl, I picked the larger half of the Pocky stick up off the floor and balanced it back on my cupid’s bow. “The post was saying how all the greats got inspiration from the works of others. It’s just that fanfic writers are more honest about their inspiration.”
My sister’s eyes flashed. “Don’t drag the greats into this, Alice. They wrote works that actually had worth—literature with artistic and intellectual value. Fanfiction doesn’t have that. It’s sub literature.”
“Poorly written, lacking depth.”
“Unoriginal, no plot, full of slash—”
“Peel back that poster behind you.”
Her eyes narrowed at my 3x4 periodic table. She turned up an untaped corner and coughed on her tea. Her eyes went wide as saucers. I wish I could’ve photographed her. Like a mannequin in shock, she stared, unblinking, at my poster-sized fanart.
Two bishounens greeted her. One, with amused green eyes and alabaster skin, the other with coy amber eyes and a rich, bronzed hue, the young men complemented each other like the sun and the moon. Eyes heavy-lidded, arms entangled, waist to waist, Winterland’s Sanbou ship stood before her in full, unabashed glory.
Lori flushed. “W-what is—”
“Yaoi,” I replied. “You did ask.”
“Son of a biscuit. Come here, Fur Elise.” My sister scooped the mewling cat into her arms and stormed out of my room. A moment later, her bedroom door slammed shut.
Well, that settles that.
Satisfied with my petty victory, I returned to my fanfiction. The familiar sound of muffled violins told me Lori was playing Tchaikovsky next door. I exhaled. Still nothing. Even after that impassioned fanfic speech. Nibbling on Pocky sticks, I turned off my own music and listened to Lori’s classical soundtrack instead. I hoped it might help me focus—but again, zilch. My shoulders sagged. A bad case of writer’s block felt worse than any book hangover.
My hands hovered over my keyboard, but the only thing that came out was a Google search for baby penguins. Well, this was going nowhere. I flicked the empty Pocky box and rose from my desk.
I grabbed my Winterland manga for inspiration. I plopped onto my bed and nestled myself in a blanket burrito. Lori’s classical music drifted into my room. Its whimsical tunes cast a soothing spell on my senses. Languidly, I flipped page after page.
My eyes grew heavy-lidded as I stared at the manga panels. Fairy-lights from my bed frame bathed the page in a soft, ethereal glow. Winterland’s snowflakes shimmered with invitation. My Usagi bookmark seemed to leap off the page and bound soundlessly around my room.
A stream of silver light trailed behind the kemonomimi as she circled my bed. The streaks of silver blurred together, forming the walls of an ice tunnel. Usagi slid through it. I found myself sliding behind her—at a terrifying speed.
In seconds, flurries of white swallowed Usagi from sight. A small circle of light emerged overhead. It grew larger and larger and larger—until I shot out of the tunnel like a human cannonball. A scream froze in my throat. The world below me glistened as I tumbled toward it.
Everything went black. And then, my alarm clock rang.
I panted with relief. The fall… It had been some Pocky-induced lucid dream.
Rubbing my eyes, I sat up. Cold air slid through my fingers as I reached for my duvet. Whiteness flooded my vision. When my eyes adjusted, I sucked in a sharp breath.
Instead of a warm duvet, my hand clutched a fistful of snow. I staggered to my feet. A blanket of snow surrounded me, stretching over the endless white expanse of… I swallowed hard.
Author's Note: Thanks for reading along! ^^ If you like to read the rest of Alice in Winterland: A Fangirl Novel
, you can get your very own copy on Amazon. The book comes with Alice's 'fanart' illustrations for every chapter and features a -ton- of easter eggs.
Happy fandoming! <3