Thimble and Jamie rode back to the barracks with Snow on Danzi. I flew. Thimble blew my mind. She knew everything? Then…did she know if I was stupid for letting Jack go? I didn’t want to ask her. The answer might be yes. When we got back to the barracks and explained everything to Derek, he started talking to himself. One voice was his, but the other was that of a much older man, perhaps twenty some years older. They weren’t speaking in English, so I couldn’t understand. Only once did I understand, when the older man said “I just want my daughter back.” I didn’t understand why I suddenly understood. It confused me. Snow walked quietly back to her tasks and I took Thimble and Jamie up to the school.
“There used to be another place that looked exactly like this one, but it was burned down while we were at camp,” I said, although I didn’t need to explain to Thimble. She knew everything, apparently. Probably not literally everything. Maybe just nearly everything.
“So, Vanessa. What do you do?” asked Jamie.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Jack can make snow. What can you do?”
“Oh, I can do that too. But I also have this other thing with sparkles. Watch.” I concentrated on the image of thousands of golden sparkles all over the place and they appeared. I gathered them up and made something that just popped into my head. A sled. Jamie saw it and his eyes lit up.
“Whoa, a sled! How did you know I missed having one of these?” asked Jamie in amazement as I handed it to him.
“I don’t know. I think North can do the same thing.”
“You call him Santa Claus. We Guardians call him North.”
“You’re a Guardian? What do you do?”
“I’m the Guardian of Strength, according to Manny.”
“Who’s…?” Thimble didn’t let him finish.
“He’s the man in the moon. Now, if you’ll excuse us Vanessa, I already know which rooms you were going to lead us to. I’ll see you again in exactly five minutes and seventeen seconds.” She took Jamie’s hand and they walked off.
“I’ll be counting each second!” I called at their retreating backs.
“No you won’t be! You’re going to go get changed and almost be late!” said Thimble. They rounded a corner and were gone.
I looked down at my dress and realized I did need to change. The dress was stained with dirt and sweat and food and blood, it was full of holes and tears. My hair must have been a rat’s nest. I found a room with a sign on the door. The sign said Vanessa so I assumed I was the right Vanessa and went inside.
Inside, it looked exactly like my dorm room back at the school, even the triple layer bunk beds. How he’d managed to get every detail right when he’d never been inside the room before, I’ll never understand. I suppose it’s better if I didn’t. I opened the closet and enough dresses to suffocate a llama were inside. Why suffocate a llama? I don’t know. I didn’t feel like wearing a dress right now. I opened the drawers on the dresser. I sighed in relief because there were shirts and pants inside. I grabbed the first shirt I touched and did the same with the pants. The shirt was a black v-neck and the pants were desert camouflage. I hated them instantly and immediately put on another pair of pants. Jeans. They were surprisingly comfy. I reached into the bottom of the closet and blindly reached for a pair of shoes. It took me about five minutes to find a pair of shoes I liked, black flats with light blue toes. Then a cold wind blew through the place and I shivered. I looked under the bottom bunk, where we kept the sweaters and grabbed the thing on the top. I slid it on without looking, grabbed a comb, and started running it through my hair frantically as I ran into the hall. I made it there just before Thimble and Jamie came in. Jamie was in fresh clothes, however, Thimble was not.
“See, I told you you’d almost be late. Am I ever wrong?” asked Thimble.
“Don’t be an ass about it. Now, can I just finish combing my hair?” I asked.
“By all means, continue. Ivory gets the tangles right out,” said Thimble.
I stopped combing my hair. I moved the comb slowly into my line of vision and saw that it was off-white and had been carefully carved by hand. I moved my hand away from the handle and I saw the word Vanessa carved into it. It was the comb Jack gave me a lifetime ago.
“That must have been a very expensive birthday present. Second only to that pretty little ring on your left hand. Did Jack…?” I didn’t let her finish.
“Don’t even mention him right now. I know in your little eyes you think that you know everything, well, you don’t understand anything, you little punk!” I exclaimed. I didn’t know why I was so angry at her. It wasn’t her fault I had the comb and it wasn’t her fault the ring was stuck on my finger. I just didn’t like her attitude.
“Okay, okay! Fine! If it upsets you, then I won’t!”
“Guys, please! Stop fighting! Thimble, can you at least pretend that you don’t know what everything is all about? For me?” pleaded Jamie. Thimble glared at me one last time with eyes that said “I either trust you, or I don’t. I’m just not sure which yet. So watch your back until I figure it out.” Then she went over to Jamie. “Okay. Oh and Vanessa? If mentioning Jack gets you so upset, then why are you wearing a sweater just like his?”
I looked down and sure enough the sweater I had put on was a dark blue drawstring hooded sweater. I just groaned and stuffed the comb in the front pocket. I stalked away to the front doors. I was so ticked; I blew them open with a giant gust of freezing wind. I walked and walked and walked until I got to the edge of a lake. I crossed my fingers and hoped that this wasn’t the same lake. All my hopes were shattered when I saw the campgrounds across the lake. I was so livid; I curled my hands into fists and screamed, long and loud. Then I turned around and punched a tree. It hurt, as you would imagine. I collapsed into a ball and held it. Now I was mad at the tree. What the heck was wrong with me? I was angry at everyone, but for what? What had Thimble done to me? What had that tree done to me? What had Manny done to me? What had Jack done to me? Nothing that I hadn’t deserved.
“But Terence didn’t have to die because of me,” I muttered. I stood up, reached into the hoodie pocket and closed my fist around the comb. I pulled my arm back and whipped it into the lake. I felt surprisingly better, for some weird reason.
I took in the landscape around me. The tall trees whose leaves shaded my eyes from the afternoon sun. The clear blue lake. The ferns and bushes. The camp in the distance. Then I sat back down and breathed in the clean air. I remembered the hobogoblin war. Derek had caused it. Jack and I had won it. I took off the sweater and set it down on the ground. I plunked my head down on it and got a good jab from something. I checked the pocket and pulled out my ivory comb. I was going to toss it back into the lake, but I stopped myself. I leaned back onto the sweater and wondered how the comb had come back. Probably Manny. I closed my eyes and let my mind wander.
My mind is a recognized traitor, and therefore wandered to memories of Jack. His first day at the school. When I kissed him for the first time. When he showed me how he became Jack Frost. When we kissed the other time and Rapunzel ran away. When we went to the dance together. When we drank root beer floats together. When he saved me from the hobogoblin. When we rode on the bus together to camp. When I fell through the ice. When he saw me as Vanessa Frost. When I kissed him right before I fought the hobogoblins. Pretty soon my mind just wandered to every single time we’d ever kissed. The last image I saw before I passed out was of him and me kissing in those woods in the dark of night, while the moonlight made the ring on my finger sparkle and glisten. My fingers curled even tighter around the comb as I fell into a dark, dreamless sleep.
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