Peri, Tink, and I had been flying for hours. We’d seen no sign of Vanessa, and we had no idea where to even start looking. We were flying over the kingdom from where Vanessa and the rest of us had come and I saw so many familiar places and people. There were the ruins of the school. There was the camp. There was Mickey’s castle. There was the village that Vanessa and I had made a snow day in. There was little Josey Bryant, still being a trouble maker, shoving snow down people’s shirts. There was the lake that Vanessa had died in. There was Vanessa, asleep on the bank, her hand freezing over the lake. I kept flying for just a second and then stopped. I looked again. Sure enough, it was Vanessa, white hair and freezing powers and all. She was wearing a blue sweater, just like mine.
“Guys, hold up! I found her!” I called out over the wind.
“Really? Where is she?” asked Tink.
I pointed down next to the lake and Tink gasped. She started to fly towards her but I held my staff out in front of her to stop her. She looked back at me in confusion.
“I need to go alone. I have to apologize to her for being so insensitive.” She nodded in agreement.
“Can I come? I want to meet her,” said Peri. I shook my head. I needed to go completely alone.
She sighed and I flew down alone. By the time I got there another girl had woke her up. I smiled, waiting for Vanessa to see me. I expected anything but what I got. She didn’t even look at me. It was like I didn’t even exist.
“Vanessa? Can you hear me?” I asked. She just stood there, staring at the girl, who was on her knees chipping the ice, with confusion. When she finally said something, it wasn’t to me.
“Thimble, are you okay?” she asked the girl. I couldn’t help myself. The name was just so weird that I burst out laughing. I was waiting for her to start laughing. I don’t know what I was expecting to have happen.
Thimble turned to face us and I saw that her eyes were really a sandy black. No, that couldn’t be right because Vanessa gasped.
“Help me. I need you Vanessa. Derek needs you. Your friends need you. Jack needs you. Thimble needs you. The first step; keep Thimble safe. Promise me you’ll protect my daughter.” Her voice wasn’t right. In fact, it wasn’t even her voice. That voice was the voice of Pitch.
“Who are you?” asked Vanessa.
“You really haven’t figured it out? Very well, I’m Pitch Black. This is Thimble Black. She’s my daughter. Keep her past harm. When she offers to go, don’t let her! I’ve been searching for her for hundreds of years. Now that I’ve found her, I’m being powered by love and not jealousy, or loneliness. I need her safe to stay sane. Just do it for a desperate father, please?”
“Just do it.” Then Thimble’s eyes cleared and they were green again. She stood up and stared at Vanessa. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Do you literally know everything?”asked Vanessa.
I stood there a long time pondering what Pitch had said. The twelve-year-old girl was his daughter? I hadn’t even known Pitch had a daughter. Did the other Guardians know? I didn’t think so. By the time I snapped out of it, Vanessa and Thimble were flying away. I shot up after them and followed them. They flew all the way to an exact replica of the school. Thimble and Vanessa each flew into two separate windows. I followed Vanessa. I made no further attempts to make her see me; she had simply stopped believing in me. She sat on her bed for a while, staring at the floor, occasionally muttering something that I could never hear. Then someone knocked on her door and she opened the door. I gasped because the person at the door was Derek. She greeted him as though they were best friends, even though he had our friends and Jamie captive.
“Can I come in for a minute?” he asked.
“Uh, sure.” Vanessa opened the door wider and he stepped inside. “What is it?”
“It’s about your friends,” he said as he sat down.
“Did you find them?” Vanessa asked anxiously.
“Well, yes, but the opalvirgins are still holding onto them. Snow’s working triple overtime on the forces, trying to get past their boundaries, but their tough. A third of my armada was destroyed on the last attempt.” He put his head in his hands and groaned. “I’m trying Vanessa. I’m trying for you. You don’t know how hard this is.”
“Is it about as hard as fighting a war against the hobogoblins?” He lifted his head.
“Vanessa, you know that’s different. I told you once I would do anything to get what I want. If sending an army of hobogoblins would get me what I wanted, I would do it.”
“What did you want? What could you possibly hope to gain from killing all our…I’m sorry, my friends?”
“You need to read an article about how to send clearer signals, because all I got from that was that hobogoblins were going to kill me and everyone I’d ever cared about.”
“So you didn’t care about me.”
She stopped midsentence and looked at him in shock. She walked over to him and punched him right in the eye. He fell off the bed and onto the floor. She glared at him.
“Don’t you dare say that! I cared about you Derek! I cared more than you could even begin to imagine. You needed me! You needed me and I would have done anything for you. You are ungrateful and evil and broken and scarred and messed up and a liar! You’re pathetic and a weirdo and demented and twisted and freaky! You’re confusing and you freak me out! I love it all. I love everything about you…and…I think…” She took a deep breath and helped him up. She was slowly calming down. He looked down at her in confusion. “I think I love you.”
He stared at her in shock. He opened his mouth to say something, but then he closed it. He did that so many times, he started to look like a fish. Vanessa bit back a laugh. He started to say something, but he snapped his mouth closed again. She sighed and hugged him.
“I love that too,” she said softly. Then she kissed him. I gasped. Since when did she have feelings for that thing? He moved his hands up to her back. After a minute she pushed Derek away with a gasp and fell to her knees. “Damn you Manny.” she groaned.
“Vanessa, what’s wrong?” She didn’t answer Derek. She steadied her breath and closed her eyes. “Vanessa?”
“I…I’m okay. Now. It’s Manny.” I put her hand to her forehead.
“The man in the moon? Why is he giving you headaches?”
“Because he’s a jerk, that’s why. He’s getting back at me for kissing you. I don’t hear a problem in there, but to Manny…you and I could never be together.”
“I’ve got Advil.”
“This is a magical headache; do you really think Advil is going to get rid of it?”
“I was hoping it would. You’re the only girl who’s ever cared about me. You’re also the only girl who will hang out with me and stay around voluntarily.”
“You’re okay to be around. Lighten up a little maybe. You still use dark magic, don’t you?”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a book. It was just a little grubby.
“This was actually pretty helpful. There’s a shadow summons spell in there that helped me find someone to help me.”
I stopped listening to try to figure things out. Vanessa had asked Derek if he’d found our friends, which meant either he’d lost them or someone had taken them. Vanessa cared about Derek, the boy who’d sent hobogoblins after her and kidnapped her friends and taken Jamie. She’d kissed him. Manny had given Vanessa a headache for kissing him, meaning basically that she wasn’t allowed to have contact with him. It left a little bit of hope for me, I suppose. As far as I could tell, Derek had a little black spell book that had summoned Pitch. So not only was he evil alone, now he had evil friends who were going to crush everyone underfoot. I looked back up and Vanessa was just coming out of the bathroom in pajamas. She settled down under her blankets. I kneeled next to her, just staring at her wondering. Then her teeth started to chatter. She got up and closed her window, then her door. She put other clothes on under her pajamas and got more blankets. She just couldn’t seem to get warm. Finally, she got a teddy bear down from the closet. I don’t know how that was supposed to help. I finally realized that I was the one making her cold. I was getting all emotional and the room was getting colder and colder. I calmed down and the cold vanished from the air. Vanessa pushed herself against the wall, and I saw that as an opportunity. I slowly and gently slid in next to her. She was already asleep. I settled in and moved her so that it felt like we were close, even though she couldn’t see or hear me. Her arm was around my neck and her head was on my chest. I put my arm under her and I could almost feel a connection between us. It was completely one-sided though. I knew that it wasn’t possible that she felt anything.
I babbled all night long, telling her stories that I’d never told her before. I knew she couldn’t hear me, but I missed her. Nobody else in the whole building could see or hear me. I heard several footsteps pass the door and once a maid poked her head in, but nobody ever said anything. I told her about when we went to the Indian camp shortly after she left. Merida had sung with the Indians. Princess Tiger Lily taught them a song in her language, called Lean on me. When the song was finished, Merida said “Oh, aye. Truer words were ne’er aspoken.”
Then the sun started to come up and I remembered about Peri and Tink. They were probably worried sick. I got out of the bed and flew out the window. I flew over the lake and saw a campfire on the banks. It must have been them. Tink was asleep on the ground and Peri was sitting up next to the fire. I landed on my feet next to her. She looked up at me with a smile.
“There you are! We’ve been waiting for you all night! I was so worried…” She paused. “I mean, we were so worried.”
“Well, I know where she’s staying, at least. There’s a little bit of an issue though. She’s…with…Derek,” I replied.
“Is he that awful boy who kidnapped all your friends and Jamie?”
I nodded. “I understand it about as much as you do.”
“Well, what took you so long?”
“I was with Vanessa.”
“Did she fight with you?”
“No, she didn’t even see me.”
“Then what did you do all night?”
“I just…laid down next to her and rambled for the whole night. I nearly forgot about you guys, to be honest.”
Peri rubbed her arm and looked down at the ground. She took a deep breath and looked back up.
“Do you love her? I mean, like really? Would you do anything for her? Would you risk anything to get her back?” She had a curious look in her eyes.
“Of course I would. I do love her. No matter what, I’m still going to try to get her back.” Peri looked back down at the ground. Her eyes may have been a little sad, but the look was gone before I could register it.
“Well, I guess we should just make sure that she doesn’t get herself killed. Are you going to let her know you’re there?”
“No, I want her to start believing in me all alone. I’m going to have to ask Jamie not to tell anyone that I’m there.”
“Since you’re here, I guess I’ll get some rest. Good night.”
She stood up, walked over to Tink and plopped down next to her. I sat there and stared up at the rising sun. I was making plans as to how to get Vanessa to start believing in me.
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