A few mornings later, I was expecting my usual first sight of Rapunzel's hair dangling in my face. I'd been expecting it every day for the past five days. But she was gone, off to see the floating lantern's gleam, as she'd told me once. Today was the day that we all piled on a bus and made our way to camp. Odd time to go to camp, considering that we were now three days away from Christmas. Jack and I sat together on the bus, naturally. He caught me up on our plans for causing joy through the use of snow. Then he explained some more about how he'd saved the world.
"Remember when I told you that I had nobody before Rapunzel and you? Well, it was even worse than that. Nobody believed in me." The way he said it made it sound like his whole family had been slaughtered, not just that nobody believed in him.
"And that's a bad thing how?" I asked, confused.
"When you're like me, if people don't believe in you, they can't see you. They can walk right through you and they can't hear you. I went three hundred years completely unnoticed. The first time someone mentioned me, they said I didn't exist, that Jack Frost was just an expression. It took three hundred years for a kid to believe in me. Can you imagine how lonely that was?"
I was about to say yes, that I could, but that would make me sound insensitive. I just shook my head and grabbed his hand.
"Like I told you before, I believe in you Jack."
He smiled down at me. Merida was sitting across from us. I wouldn't have bothered mentioning that, except that her head was whipping from side to side and she seemed panicked. She stood up.
"We forgot someone!" she yelled frantically.
"Who?" the bus driver said in reply.
So this was when I had to tell her. I gulped with anxiety, but then I steeled my nerves and took control of my emotions that were flopping all over the place lately. Ever since Jack got here, I've been behaving really weird. It's getting a bit awkward. But that's not important right now. I turned to Jack.
"Go sit with Hiccup."
"I've never asked you for anything, just do it!"
"But Merida's sitting there."
"That's the point. I need to talk to Merida about the Rapunzel issue. I shredded the note that Rapunzel left her. I have to tell her."
Jack stood up and took the step forward that it would take to get to the next seat. Merida stared up at him in confusion. Before she could say a word, Jack had used the crook of his staff to swipe Merida out of her seat and next to me. Jack gave me thumbs up and sat. Hiccup stared at him with a look like "Um, okay then." Merida looked over at me.
"What is goin' on? Is Jack just on a rampage or did you tell 'im to do that?"
"I told him. Look, there's something I have to tell you. About Rapunzel." I took a deep breath and decided to just say the two words I'd been denying this whole time. "She's gone."
Merida looked confused. "What do ya mean gone? As in, she's dead, or she's left us?"
"She went home. A very long time ago." I counted on my fingers. "Five days now. You never noticed before?"
"Well, we don't have any of the same classes, so I was just assuming that she was getting up early and coming back to the room after we were asleep."
"What about lunch and dinner? You didn't get suspicious when you never saw her there?"
"I thought she was just helpin' a teacher. She was always helpin' someone."
Merida looked hurt, kind of the way Rapunzel had looked when she saw Jack and I kissing. I hugged her and she started crying.
"Why'd she go? Did I do something wrong?"
"No, no, nothing like that. I did something wrong. Well, not really wrong, there was just a misunderstanding. See, I was in the courtyard with Jack and he showed me how he came to be Jack Frost. We were kind of having a moment, and Rapunzel saw us kissing. She thought that Jack wanted to be with her, so she felt hurt, and she decided to just go back to her tower to see those lights that come on her birthday. She wrote you a note, but if you would have read that, you would've hated me."
By that part Merida had lifted her head and was glaring at me with pure hatred. I knew then that I had only delayed the problem. She was going to get mad at me one way or another. At least this way, she would get over it. Hopefully.
"She left me a note?!" The whole bus turned to look at us. "Och, what're ya'll lookin' at? Find somethin' else to do, ye great gawks!" Everyone turned away. "Why didn't you tell me? No, I don't even care why you didn't tell me. All that matters is that you didn't. I can't believe we were actually starting to be friends."
"Merida, I didn't…" She cut me off.
"It doesn't matter. I thought you were an example. I wanted to be like you."
"Meri…" I tried again.
"Well, now I'm not going to be like you. You're a beast! That's what you are!"
"I'll never be like you!"
"Just listen to me!"
"I'd rather DIE than be like you!"
I sat there in shock. I had tried to be a good friend. I wanted to protect her from the hurt that would have come from that note, but I should have just let her find out on her own. This would have all blown over by now. But that was no call for getting in my face like that. I felt my anger boil up until I just exploded.
"I was just trying to help! Have you ever helped anyone besides yourself?!"
"I tried to help you! Maybe I should have let Mulan cut your hair off when you were sleepin' instead of bein' a good friend!"
"What?" I asked, all the anger rushing out of me like a balloon. It was so bizarre, I had to laugh. "She wanted to cut my hair? While I was sleeping?"
"Yes, and I should have…let…" Her anger seemed to be rushing out of her as well. She giggled a bit. "Her." Merida finished. Then she shook her head and the anger was back on her face. "I'll never forget this Vanessa. I'll let it go for now, but just remember. When you need my help most, I will not help." She stood up and stared at Jack. "Get. Out. Of. My. CHAIR!" With each of the first four words, Jack leaned back a bit more. When she yelled, he fell off the bench and scuttled over to the seat next to me. Merida continued on as though nothing strange had happened at all.
"Does she freak you out as much as she freaks me out?" Jack asked, leaning close to me to both get as far away from Merida as he could get, and so that nobody would hear what he was saying.
"Are you just kidding?" I asked. With him, I could hardly ever tell what was serious and what was a joke.
"No. Don't ever leave me alone in a room with her. I don't know what would happen. Most likely; she'd kill me."
"What? You're scared that Merida is going to kill you? It's me she's angry with, not you."
"But she's so brutal and… not like most other princesses."
"None of us are. The Disney dorm is chock-full of weirdness."
"But she's the only one that scares me."
"Jack, you should be more afraid of Snow White. She creeps me out."
We both looked over at her. She was talking to a bird, actually having a conversation with it. Whenever it chirped or tweeted, she'd say something like, "How interesting! And what's she like?" When we turned back, we both shuddered with the willies.
"Not so scared of Merida anymore." We laughed.
Then the bus groaned to a halt and a couple of girls squealed. I looked out the window, expecting a winter Wonderland… and was severely disappointed. Not a snowflake in sight. It was actually lush and green.
"This is December twenty-third, right?" asked Jack. I nodded. "Then where's the snow? The ice? All of the stuff that comes with winter?"
"This place was blessed by the fairies a long time ago. It's never winter here anymore." said Jasmine. "Unless some force greater than the fairies comes along and makes it snow, we get a pocket of summer no matter what time of year it is."
"Hmm. I wonder if…" Jack opened the window and puffed a breath outside. It turned into a mini tornado, swirling with snow. Then it erupted, scattering a few dozen snowflakes on a rock. "Yes! We can still have fun after all!"
He scooped me up in an unnecessary bear hug. I wasn't expecting it, so I nearly had a heart attack. When he put me down, I was still trying to catch my breath.
"You should really warn me…the next…the next time that you wanna pick me up without warning." I chastised, out of breath.
"You just made absolutely no sense. If I warn you, then I won't be picking you up without warning."
"You know what I meant!" I exclaimed.
"Yeah, I did. Let's get off. We're holding up the line." I looked back and indeed there were a couple grumpy looking students behind us, Merida included.
Once we were off the bus, I turned a full circle, imagining what this place would look like covered in snow. The windows of the cabins would be frosted over, of course. The ice would be frozen, people skating around, having fun. Then the field would be a fully fledged war zone, snow balls flying from every which way. Jack and I would be on the same team of course. We'd be undefeatable. Whenever I would be about to be smacked by a snowball, Jack would call out "Vanessa, look out!" Wait a minute. Daydreams don't actually call out to you. I had barely just snapped out of it when a soccer ball nailed me in the face, knocking me backward into the dirt.
"Are you okay? You were kind of staring off into space there for a minute."
"That's what you're concerned about? I just got hit by a soccer ball!"
"I know, but the staring thing concerns me more." He reached down and helped me up onto my feet.
"Are you hurt?" He was serious, but I just shrugged.
Knees and elbows are scraped and I'll probably have an octagon pattern on my face until I'm forty, but other than that, just hunky dory.
Of course, I didn't actually say that out loud. That would have made things weird. The girl's chaperone asked for all the girls to follow her at the same moment that the boy's chaperone asked for the boys to follow him. We kissed and waved as we headed separate ways.
"I'll see you at dinner! We have a pond to freeze and a Winter Games competition to start!" Jack called as he walked away. I waved a final time, then turned and followed the rest of the girls.
We were settled down into our rooms. As it turned out, there was only one bed per room, so I didn't have to share with anyone. It was also weird, because there were dozens of us, but oddly we had enough rooms for everyone to have their own room. It was actually a nice cabin to stay in for two nights, if you thought about it. Real nice.
"Okay, now that you're all settled, it's time to…" The chaperone never got to finish her sentence. Through an open window, a snowball flew in and smacked her right on the back of the head. Her face started to get an angry look, but then blue glitter formed around her face and then vanished. She smiled and then laughed "Go outside and have a snowball fight!" She finally finished. I could tell that she wasn't originally going to say that, and that it was Jack who threw the snowball, but I wasn't going to argue.
Once outside, I saw that Jack had already gotten to work on winter-fiying the place. That and he was nailing everyone with snowballs. It was funny to watch, actually. They didn't stand a chance against Jack. He'd had three hundred years to do nothing but practice. When he saw me, he lowered his hand, a snowball at the ready resting in it, and smiled. I laughed.
"You didn't waste any time, did you?" I asked with a laugh.
"Hey, I froze the pond! Wanna go ice skating?" he asked eagerly.
"Okay!" I had never gone ice skating before, not even when I lived in Canada. Which was sad.
I got a pair of skates from a closet in the dorm and laced them up fast. When I was back outside, Jack was standing there waiting for me.
"You ready?" he asked.
"Of course. Are you gonna bring that staff with you?" I wondered.
"No. I shouldn't need to fly."
"What does that staff have to do with it?"
"It's what enables me to control the winds, which is the real way I fly."
He threw his staff down and raced onto the pond. I took that as a challenge and ran as fast as I could towards the pond. Once I was on, Jack grabbed my hand and attempted to skate with me, but I fell flat on my face instead.
"What was that?" he asked teasingly.
"I don't know how to skate. I never learned." I blushed as he helped me up.
"That's okay. I'll teach you. Start like this."
We spent nearly an hour out there, but I finally managed to learn how to skate. I was so thrilled, I skated to the middle of the pond and did so many twirls, and I got dizzy. I stopped, swooning. Jack laughed and came up to me. Just as he was close enough for me to reach out to me; I heard the ice crack beneath his feet. He looked down at the ice then back up at me.
"Um, this is trouble. How do I save myself? Right, hop scotch." Just as he was about to start, I told him to wait. I said an x-ray spell to check the density of the ice. It wasn't promising. All around him, the ice was too thin to walk on. If he moved at all, he would fall in.
"Jack, don't move. If you do, that ice is going to break." I warned.
He froze where he was. I stood there, wondering what it was that I should do. If I went towards him, all that would happen would be that I would fall in and so would he. He couldn't fly us out of danger, and I didn't know any spells that would help. My magic was also low, so even if I did know something, I couldn't have done anything.
"Jack what do we do?" I asked, tears brimming in my eyes.
"Hop scotch. It's as easy as one, two, and three. You can do it. Just have fun with it."
His voice calmed me down enough for me to think clearly. I took a step forward. The ice didn't crack. Another. Nothing. One more. The ice cracked and I squealed.
"Jack, I'm going to fall in." I said voice full of fear.
"Just look at me. Don't look down, just look at me."
It then occurred to me that he was saying the exact same things to me as he had to his sister. I looked into his eyes and started singing the song that Rapunzel sang to me that day in the woods. I stayed focused on Jack's eyes, the song covering up the sounds of ice cracking at each step. Then my arms were around Jack, tears of relief flowing down my cheeks. Jack might not be a big crier, but I certainly was, if you couldn't tell.
"It's all right. Now we can figure this out together." Jack stroked my hair comfortingly.
I swallowed my tears and wiped my cheeks. We both looked around in circles, trying to find an escape route. We were too far away from everyone else for calling out for help to work. Walking wasn't an option.
"I'll try to get back to the camp. Wait here Jack." I started singing again, eyes focused on Merida's curly mane of red hair, tiny in the distance.
I seemed to have gotten past the thin part. I looked back at Jack and cheered. He gave me a thumbs up and shouted for me to keep going. I took one step forward and the ice gave out beneath me. My last sight was that of the moon.
"Welcome home, Vanessa Frost." said a deep voice I didn't recognize.