The next morning, I opened my eyes groggily. Then I remembered that that was the day of the Bubble Ball. I guess I'd always secretly wanted to go to it, but there was the issue of breathing underwater. Now I could go. I sat bolt upright in the clam shell bed Tink and I had shared. There weren't enough rooms to fit all of us one to a room, so I was paired with Tink, Rapunzel with Merida, and Melody offered to share with Wendy. Terence was with Peter and Hiccup was with Jack.
I swam out of the bed, waking Tink up in the process.
"Get up; the Ball is in an hour! We don't have time to sleep in!" I was swishing around the room, giddy and laughing like a fool. I must have scared Tink a bit, because she just screamed and flopped back down, pulling the blanket firmly down over her head. Okay, so more than a bit.
I threw on a shawl and a pearl necklace and swam as fast as I could to the ballroom. Everyone was down there except Tink and the seven hundred other guests. The king was impressed. He was proud of Ariel and grateful for our help. Word had spread amazingly fast about the hobogoblin battle. The girls hadn't said anything to him, but he knew anyways.
"Vanessa Frost, it is truly an honor just to be sitting at a table with you," said Triton, shaking my hand.
"Well, you're the king of the ocean. I'm honored to be shaking your hand," I replied with a smile.
"I'm not going to be the king for much longer. I'm abdicating in favor of Ariel tonight. Don't tell her, I want it to be a surprise."
I kept my lips sealed and soon I was sitting at the head table with Ariel's family and all my friends. The food and drinks were all being enjoyed avidly and the band Jack and Peter and Wendy had put together was performing. They were spectacular. Many of the guests were dancing already, and Triton hadn't even spoken yet. Ariel had, and her speech had gone perfectly. Ariel's sisters were all behaving themselves and if they didn't want to be there, they could have fooled me. Then came the moment that Triton would announce the abdication to the other guests. He held up his hand and closed it into a fist. The band stopped playing and everyone dancing swam quickly back to their seats. He got up out of his chair and all eyes were on him.
"I have some good news for the kingdom of Atlantica and her subjects. I have ruled this kingdom for forty years, I have eight lovely daughters, and I have suffered the loss of my wife. A lot has happened since my coronation and I have to do this now, tonight." He reached up onto his head and grabbed the crown on it. "Ariel?"
She swam to him, a look of confusion on her face. When she was next to him, he took her tiara off and lowered the crown onto her head. As he did so, it magically became a silver tiara set with pearls and diamonds and every other gem you can think of. She looked into his eyes and he smiled. She grinned so wide and turned to the guests.
"I present to you my daughter Ariel, Queen of Atlantica," said Triton. Ariel hugged him.
"I promise to be fair, impartial and exactly as my father was. We can address our issues and solve all of them diplomatically and without taking up all our resources. We can make Atlantica a better kingdom and I will do all that I can to make sure it happens. You won't regret this!" She turned to face the rest of us. "I'd like to thank my sisters for not disrupting the Ball like they normally do. I'd like to thank Terence and Vanessa and Melody and anyone else who helped make the food. I'd like to thank Merida and Hiccup and Rapunzel for decorating. I'd like to thank Rapunzel for writing my speech. I'd like to thank Peter and Jack and Wendy and the band for arranging and performing all this amazing music."
"Who's the heir now?" asked some random person from the crowd.
"Someone deserving. Melody, of course," replied Ariel. It was Melody's turn to nearly faint.
"Her? But the rules say either your oldest child or sibling!" complained one of Ariel's sisters, Alana, I think.
"Or the one most deserving, and that is you."
Ariel took her old tiara out of her father's hands and put it on Melody's head, which had nothing on it before that. She smiled up at her so big that it looked sorta like her face had split open. Then Ariel snapped and the band restarted their song. I laughed a wee bit and went to join everyone on the dance floor. How mermaids could dance, I'd never figure out. They managed though. I was dancing with Jack when they asked for someone to sing. He pushed me up.
"Jack, I am not singing here," I insisted.
"Sure you will," he replied.
"Nope, I'm not." I looked around and saw Wendy. She was a singer. "Wendy! Here!"
She came over and grabbed the mic. She started singing and I punched Jack on the arm.
"I DO NOT sing in public," I said.
"Okay, okay, fine!"
The Ball was over before I knew it. Also, the elixir thingy ran out as soon as it ended. We all went back up to the beach with Melody. The guys all got their regular pants back when they got their legs back, but the girls all got new outfits. I won't torture you with the exact details of everyone's outfits, but these are my memoirs so I will tell you about mine. It was an ice blue high low dress, the high just above my knees, the low trailing behind me. The sleeves were thick tank top sleeves, and there was a thick silver belt around the waist cinching it in. I had no jewelry or shoes, but I didn't need shoes. I preferred to be barefoot. My hair was in a ponytail. Simple and elegant. Perfect.
"We'd best get back to the hideout. We have to make sure Kida hasn't killed any of the Lost Boys yet," said Peter. "I quite like those boys."
I waved to Melody and we all ran back to the hideout. When we went back inside, Kida was tied up on the floor as the Lost Boys were painting on her. Peter sent the Lost Boys to their hammocks (because it was actually the middle of the night, 3:00 am) and we let her loose.
"Two days! They tied me up three minutes after you left and I've been on the floor for the full two days you were gone," said Kida, grabbing the front of Wendy's dress, shaking her as if to make her understand. "TWO FULL DAYS!"
"Okay! We're sorry! SOMEBODY had to watch them!" said Wendy.
"Yeah, but why me? Why not you?" questioned Kida.
I laughed and decided to leave while they were all distracted. I had only made it ten feet before I was picked up mysteriously for no reason. I almost screamed, but I didn't want to give whoever was picking me up the satisfaction of knowing that they were getting a reaction. Instead I crossed my arms and put a look of boredom on my face. Then a man in black robes stepped out from behind a tree. I couldn't see his face because his hood was covering it.
"Well, well, well, if it isn't Vanessa Frost. Fancy meeting you on Neverland. I didn't think that you would actually come here," said the guy in the robes.
"Yeah, fancy meeting me here. Come on, get on with it," I said, actually sounding bored.
"Get on with what?" he asked.
"What do you want? Are you going to rob me? Kidnap me? Hold me for ransom? Blackmail me? Mug me? Threaten me? What's your deal?"
"Yes! God, you're so dumb! What do you want?"
"Uh…" His resolve seemed to have wavered. His poise diminished until he was hunched over. His voice dwindled from brave to unsure.
"Come on, you have me held captive. Don't be freaked out by me right now. Give me your evil monologue, and then we can get back to me being intimidating."
"Oh, well…I…" He stood back up straight and cleared his throat. "You are Vanessa Frost, formerly Vanessa Clemens, daughter of Trisha and Bryce Clemens. Your mother married King Karter Kane. Your step sisters are Kirsty and Kayla Kane. They did not survive the hobogoblin war, and you really don't care. Your boyfriend is Jack Frost. You used to like Derek Simmons. You ran into the mist without a thought for him. You rescued him. He died. And now here you are."
"Done? Okay, would it make you feel like more of a success if I pretended I was scared?"
Instead of replying the way I was sure he was going to reply, he laughed. He laughed so hard he fell over and started rolling on the ground. That meant he couldn't have been much older than me, if not younger. When he stood back up, he pulled back his hood. I saw those big, round, grey eyes. That messy brown hair. That mouth that was normally smiling. I wasn't pretending when tears sprung to my eyes and my voice caught.
"D…Derek? But…but…I thought that… we all thought that…" I couldn't finish.
"Yup, it's me. So, Vanessa. What have you been up to? I see that your hair is white. I see that your eyes aren't purple anymore. I see that…"
"Why aren't you dead?"
"Straight to the point. Just the way that I remember you. I faked my death, obviously."
"Because you broke my heart. I thought everything was fine between us. Until you came into that gazebo. All I wanted form you was for you to come with me to that dance. You didn't even let me finish the question. You stomped on my heart before I was even done offering it to you. Then I heard that you didn't even cry when you found out I was dead. You just drank root beer floats with… with that thing. Then you moved on!"
"Don't try to apologize! I don't want your sympathy. I only want one thing from you."
"Come with me. Leave Jack and all your friends behind. I'll return your other friends and stop causing all that trouble. Like the hobogoblins."
The hobogoblin part set in.
"You sent the hobgoblins? Derek, almost all our friends died fighting them!"
"You mean your friends? I had no friends! It was just your friends! I was angry. You don't think I felt bad when I went to go see all the graves on the mountain? You don't think I felt regret when I went to Mickey's castle and kidnapped my own sister? I did! I always wondered how to make me watch, well, watch me now! Come with me and everything can go back to the way it was before you ran, before I supposedly died. Come with me!"
"Are you insane? You think that you can just come up here and threaten me, blackmail me, leave me in tears and I would love you like I used to? It would take a long time for me to love you like that again. Just go Derek!"
"You won't come? Fine. But know this. Jack only managed to save the world with the help of a seven-year-old boy. That was five years ago. Go back and tell your precious Jack that I have Jamie. Tell him that!"
"I told you why! You have six days to make your choice. You can only save one or the other. Your friends are in one place, Jamie is in the other. What are you willing to sacrifice to do the right thing? You have six days. That's ample time to make up your mind. Just know that we are still an option."
"We have to go save Jamie!" exclaimed Jack when I was finished.
"Are you crazy?! What's one boy against a whole bunch of people we grew up with? We have to rescue our friends!" insisted Rapunzel.
"I say she just goes with Derek," said Tink. Everyone quieted and stared at her. "What? It's the simplest option. He lets everyone go and then Vanessa could run away when he's asleep. She'd be gone before he'd ever know."
"NO! That would never work!" yelled Jack. Tink drew back with a look of shock on her face. Then she burst into tears. Wendy rushed forward to hug her.
"Jack, what was that all about?" asked Wendy, sounding slightly angry.
"I'm sorry…it's just…look, I love Vanessa, and I love Jamie. I just want to keep everything right." apologized Jack.
"We can't save Jamie because that means all our friends remain prisoners," said Merida.
"Enough. Nobody's getting left behind, not on my watch. We have six days, we can figure something out," I replied. They all nodded in agreement. "Let's get planning."