Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
I want to wish you a Merry (Happy) Christmas! It's warm here in Florida, unfortunately, but I hope it's cold where you are -- or even if it isn't, I hope it's wonderful all the same. I will be spending the day with loved ones, and reflecting on why I love this hopeful time, and I pray that you are able to be with family and friends, too.
As a special Christmas present, I've written you a short story from the Snowflake Triplet series! Please enjoy the tale, and I'll be back after Christmas to give you some big, big publishing news.
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~ Shadows of Christmas Yet To Come ~
A Snowflake Triplet Short
By: Alexandra Lanc
~ ~ ~
One Wintry Christmas,
A Smallish City,
A Center for the Needy
Jack Frost didn’t know what bothered him more: the fact that his best friend, North – calculating and often overly right about everything, also the patron of the Northern Wind – had actually managed to convince him to come to the run-down building, or that he had allowed himself to be dragged there at all; it wasn’t like him, to be pushed around, even if it was for a supposedly good cause. And yet here he was, standing before the slightly dilapidated building – North beside him, casually sipping from a paper coffee cup – Jack feeling his throat growing thick with old memories.
This place, these people, standing in line outside in the mild cold, waiting patiently for their turn (and hoping to give their families a somewhat joyous Christmas at least), reminded him far too much of the past, of his old life, and most detrimentally, they reminded him of her--
Of Molly, his sister – now dead, forever gone.
Two years it had been now, and still the wound was fresh, raw, painful more than normal around this time of year, around Christmas.
“Remind me again why we’re in Florida of all places, in front of a building decorated for that cursed holiday,” Jack demanded of North, turning his icy blue eyes from the building and the waiting line to his only friend, who appeared calm and collected as ever.
North didn’t look at him when he spoke, but there was a slight smugness in his monotone voice as he spoke, before casually taking another sip of coffee. “We are here because it was requested of us. It is our duty to see if this center is in need of any provisions – subtly, of course,” he said, before he turned his haze to Jack, dark blue eyes holding an abundance of wisdom for his supposed age. “Don’t let your hatred of Christmas get in the way, please,” he requested, though it was more a silent plea.
If anyone understood Jack’s pain, it was North, and for that the patron of frost was grateful; at least someone understood him to some degree. And yet it was aggravating to be asked to try and satiate his hatred for the holiday, the very thing that had torn his sister from him.
“I’m going to find some way to destroy it, North, to get rid of it. The world would be better off, and you know it – I would be better off without Christmas,” Jack told his friend seriously, though he worked to remove the grimace from his face, transforming it into a grin instead. “I have a new plan this year, much better than last year. It’s nearly perfected, and just in time,” he said, referring to the devious idea he had constructed to destroy Christmas once and for all; he had yet to share it with anyone, even his only friend.
North sighed, took another sip of coffee, and spoke, still watching the people gathered in line, the line moving more slowly than one might have thought; this showed that the people inside, the volunteers, cared about the needs of the people they were serving, and that was a good thing at least, even if Jack didn’t like the idea that it was all in the name of Christmas. “You know, I believe therapy would be much more beneficial for you, instead of attempting to destroy a holiday that brings many people joy, despite its commercialism,” North continued, but when Jack shook his head vehemently, he relented – for once. “I hope this plan of yours is more creative than the last – lighting fire to the sleigh was not the wisest course of action,” he mused, a ghost of a smile appearing upon his face.
“That was poor judgment, I’ll admit,” Jack said quickly, before he frowned once more, and crossed his arms, turning his attention back to the slowly moving crowd. “So, what do I have to do so we can get out of here?” he asked, the thickness appearing in his throat again, as if he were going to allow tears to fall, though he didn't wish to succumb to the sadness he felt – not in a public place, anyway.
He spotted a young boy, there together with his father, and it was like he was seeing into the past, because once, that had been him. He had spent much of his childhood in places like this, and all because his father could not kill his bad habits, and his mother could not give up her addiction to drugs, to forgetting. Jack wondered, and not for the first time, how many people could have been helped, if his father had only decided to put his family first. How many people, like the ones waiting in line, most of whom genuinely appeared to need help, had been turned away due to that lack of responsibility?
Jack took in a deep breath, let it out, and attempted to shove his all too difficult struggle with the past into the past, where it belonged. He could not afford to let his thoughts get away from him. He may have agreed to come with North to help these people, and if there was something he could do to make their lives better (even in the name of Christmas, though it made him cringe), then he would do it, but ultimately, he had to focus on his goal of destroying the holiday; he couldn’t let anything get in his way, even the smiling faces of kids as they received a special, new necessity.
He knew exactly what Christmas was, and why it needed to be gone: it promised something it could not deliver – happiness for all – when it was only those who could afford it who ended up ‘happy’. North was wrong about this one thing.
North laid a hand on his friend’s shoulder briefly, as if sensing the inner war being waged, before he indicated the waiting line with an incline of his head, gaining Jack’s attention once more. “I believe you will find a way to aid if you stand in the line and speak to some people. I will travel inside and inquire about what may be done,” he said, before he withdrew his hand from Jack’s shoulder, and quickly did just that, disappearing into the smallish building with a grace that reflected the wind; fitting and humorous, really.
Jack grumbled beneath his breath, hunched his shoulders in annoyance, and started towards the line, ending up at the very end of it. He waited a moment, staring at the back of a woman’s head, before he cleared his throat, and suddenly the woman turned around. There were bags beneath her eyes, and her hair was slightly displaced, her sweater a bit worn, but her eyes themselves were bright and hopeful – as were the eyes of the girl whose hand she held, who stared up at Jack with wonderment, her gaze zeroing in on his oddly spiky, snowy white hair.
Jack was used to the stares.
“Hello,” the woman greeted, her lips curving into a smile. “It’s a busy day, isn’t it? I hope we’re able to get in,” she said, an inch of worry creeping into her gaze.
Jack rushed to assure her, without even thinking about it, saying: “Oh, I’m sure you will. My friend and I are here to, um, donate, actually,” his frown dipped further downwards out of embarrassment, but the woman simply laughed, her smile growing.
“Thank you so much. They really do need it, the center. It’s just so hard, you know, keeping up with everyone, attempting to meet everyone’s needs. Sometimes there’s more than they can use, but most of the time there’s less, and it makes it difficult,” she said, a sadness Jack understood all too well creeping into her eyes, a weight that only one who had seen the bottom of the barrel understood. “I don’t know where we would be without these amazing people, and their help. I’m trying my best,” she said then, looking down at her daughter, who couldn’t have been more than six, gripping the child’s hand a little bit tighter in hers.
Jack’s chest constricted, and he rushed to assure her once again, this time consciously. “Don’t worry, it doesn’t last forever,” he said, pouring experience into the sentence. “Things will get better. It just takes time,” he finished, somewhat lamely.
But obviously, the woman understood. Tears pricked at her eyes as she nodded, telling him: “Thank you.”
Her daughter spoke up then, breaking the silence with an observance only a child could make humorous as she said, rather plainly: “Your hair is like snow. It’s pretty,” still staring up at Jack’s white locks, pointing with her free hand.
“Thanks,” he said, managing a smile as he looked down at her, and then crouched to her level, like he had done with his sister...before; she had been quite a few years younger than him. In fact, this little girl reminded him much of Molly. “You don’t mind coming here, do you?” he asked her then, surprising himself.
He had always been embarrassed, ashamed, both because his father was purposefully cheating the kind, giving people who helped them, and because he could do nothing to make his situation better – to make his sister’s situation better. By the time he had been able to make anything better, even the smallest bit, she had died.
The little girl grinned, shaking her head. “No, I like it!” she said joyously. “Mr. Mark is nice, and Miss Johanna is nice, and everyone else, and the last few weeks there has been a bigger girl helping, too! She’s really nice, and so pretty, like a doll,” she said, grinning when speaking of her friend.
“Good,” Jack managed a grin, too, as the young girl reached out to tug on a lock of his snowy hair, and he chuckled; that never did get old. “It looks like you’ll be able to have even more fun with your friend today,” he added as he patted the kid on the head, and then began to stand, casting a icy glance at the line, which was starting to pick up pace a bit – a subtle sign, he felt, that North was calling him away.
Yes, they still had a job to do, and after that...he still had a plan to implement. He was glad that children like the one before him were getting something out of the Christmas season, but he knew all too well how many children didn’t, and he couldn’t ignore that.
They had, through his father’s scheming, managed to make it through tough Christmas seasons when he was a child, but that did not make up for what they had lost. Never had the infamous Santa Claus visited their home, and never had someone come to take them away from the life they had endured. It was perhaps wrong to blame Christmas for the faults of others, but Jack couldn’t see past his anger, even for moments like this--
He wasn’t sure if he would ever be able to see past it, for anything.
“Later, kid,” Jack said, throwing a hasty wave the girl’s way, and earning a grin in return, before he started off, quickly meeting up with North, who waited at the corner of the next street, a new cup of coffee already in hand.
Jack shook his head at the sight, and North fixed him with his blue, blue gaze. “If you are entertaining the idea of finding humor in my drinking coffee, slay the idea now,” North said, slight smile in place, before Jack could even speak.
Jack shook his head, stuffing his hands into his coat pockets as he leaned against the trunk of a small tree, somewhat bare in the mild cold, the tree fitted into the sidewalk to make it look as though nature was still important in such industrial times. “I wasn’t going to say a thing,” he lied, before fixing North with his signature stare. “So, where are we off to? What do we have to get?” he asked then, wanting to get the job done.
Christmas was closing in, and he only had so much time to begin work on destroying it.
“Follow me,” North said, mysterious as ever, before he began to lead on.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Some time later found Jack staring at a doll, neatly nestled in its packaging, wondering if the young girl he had seen earlier would like it – or if she would even be at the center still when he and North returned (assuming that they did; they could have it delivered, he supposed). The toy didn’t appear especially special to him, as most toys did not, but in its own way, he supposed it was a thing of beauty, and more than anything...it reminded him of his sister once again, causing another pain to ripple through him.
His sister had liked dolls, even more than she had liked the action figures Jack had as a child, which he had saved simply in case, worn as they were. She had wished for one, in fact, for years as a child, and though he had done his best to make her one, finding odds and ends, and picking up the rare, usually heavily worn doll at various centers they had visited, he had never been able to get her a new beauty, like she wished. He had attempted to convince his father one year to buy the present, even going so far as to say that he would skip eating, gaining new socks – anything, so his sister could have what she wanted most...but his pleading had only gained him a bloody beating.
Santa had never helped. Christmas had never helped--
And worst of all, Jack had once again been unable to do anything. He was still unable to do anything, save dream of destroying Christmas, of hopefully ending his sorrow, of living the rest of his immortal life in a somewhat happier state than he did now.
Sometimes, Jack wondered if destroying Christmas was worth it – but then he remembered his sister’s lifeless eyes.
He had been unable to do anything then, Molly already gone, but now...now, perhaps, he could do something.
Jack made a decision, and pulled the doll from the shelf.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Jack clutched the package he held a little bit tighter as he hurried along, loafer-clad feet moving swiftly over the pavement, so anxious and excited and yet strangely sad, icy frost appeared wherever he stepped. The center was now in view, the line still there, the sun above beginning to wane a bit, and just when Jack was sure that he was too late, that his unforeseen kindness had been all for naught, he spotted the young girl from earlier, sitting at a small, child-sized picnic bench that had been placed in the withering yard out front, her mother not far off, speaking with someone he was sure must have been a volunteer. The girl sat alone, and she was busy coloring a picture, but the paper and crayons across from her hinted that another child, perhaps the friend she had spoken of, was in the vicinity.
Jack stopped, took a deep breath, nervous now for reasons he did not understand, and then made his way to the young child, who had yet to notice him.
He had promised to only be a few moments, North waiting for him in the same spot he had occupied earlier – drinking tea this time – and he did not intend to be longer than that. He had a flight to catch, as did North, Jack on his way to spread more frost across the globe, and to still find a way to sneak to the North Pole to end Christmas.
Maybe St. Nick would call a council meeting – though Jack didn’t fancy the idea of seeing the Sugar Plum Fairy right now....or any of the other council members, for that matter.
Stepping towards the child, still nervous, Jack cleared his throat, and abruptly the girl turned to face him, eyes widening. “Snowy hair!” she shouted joyously, obviously what she had dubbed him, not knowing his name, before her eyes landed on the package he held, and her mouth dropped open a bit in hopeful surprise.
“Well, I saw this, and thought you might like it. The rest of the provisions are being dropped off by a truck, but I figured I’d deliver this in person, to make sure it got to you,” Jack explained, completely unnecessarily, because by the look of both shock and joy on the girl’s face, she hadn’t heard a word he’d said.
Instead, the girl slid from her seat, standing to face him. “Is that...for me?” she inquired, eyes still large, so full of hope that it nearly broke him.
This is what he was destroying, what he was ridding the world of: Christmas.
Or...or was it? Jack wasn’t doing this because of Christmas, because he had to, because the commercialistic view of the holiday told him he should – he was doing it because he wanted to; Christmas, the holiday he hated, had nothing to do with it.
Jack wished then, looking down at the girl, that he could give up on being filled with anger and sorrow – but he knew he couldn’t. He simply wasn’t strong enough, not yet. Perhaps some day he would be, but right now, it felt as if that day was so, so far off.
Until then, he would put everything into his goal. He would not relent. He had promised his sister, upon the day of her death, that he would avenge her, that he would not let her death pass unnoticed.
Tomorrow, or the next day, or some day after, he would destroy Christmas--
But, for today, he was bringing brightness, not cold or darkness, and it did his heart good to see someone happy, more than any present received ever could.
Jack nodded, gently handing the girl the present, which she took reverently, handling it as one would a baby. “Yeah, it’s for you. Sorry I didn’t get to wrap it,” he said, not really sorry about the wrapping, another bit of Christmas. “Just take good care of it, okay?”
“I will! I will! Thank you, Mr. snowy hair! Thank you!” the girl said, before she turned, set the present down upon the picnic table, and rushed to hug him, making Jack feel warmer than he had in quite a while. “Merry Christmas,” she added, stepping back after a moment.
Jack had vowed to never say those words again, but this time – just this once – he allowed himself to break that vow. “Merry Christmas, kid,” he said, actually meaning it, before he stepped back, taking a mental picture of the happiness he had brought to someone, and all with a simple gift, before he turned, and left the scene for good this time, not wishing to spoil it.
A place of happiness and new beginnings was not a place for one filled with such sorrow, made tragic by too many endings.
* * * * * * * * *
Jack did not stay long enough to see the young girl’s friend return, but if he had, he would have witnessed a girl of perhaps twelve appear, lightly curling brown hair tied back, her large doe eyes widening as she saw the young child’s gift.
“Look at what I got!” the younger girl cried, holding up her prize for the older female to see, earning a smile in return. “A man with snowy hair gave it to me,” she added, grin all aglow with Christmas cheer.
The older girl peered at the doll, and was instantly reminded of something, of someone – her mother, who had died only a few years previous, what seemed like such a long yet short time ago; the doll resembled her quite a bit. Their family had made it a tradition to come to the center to volunteer, and this year, she had dragged her father from his gloom to continue the tradition, though he didn’t have the spark he used to as he helped organize and distribute goods to the needy, the absence of his wife deeply felt by both him and his child.
Still, seeing the smile on her young friend’s face, the older girl couldn’t help but feel what she was doing, how she was helping, was worth it. She felt strangely closer to the woman she had lost than she had in quite some time, doing something that had been important to her mother.
The elder female touched a hand to the doll’s packaging, feeling tears prick at her eyes, seeing her mother’s likeness. “It’s beautiful,” she said, and then asked the younger child: “What are you going to name her?” curiosity evident in her tone.
The younger girl appeared to think, before suddenly she blurted: “I think I’ll name her after you! Would that be okay?”
“Of course it would! Thank you,” the older girl replied, feeling delighted as well as a bit sorrowful.
She wondered if, when she was older, she would look like the doll – would look like her mother.
The younger child laughed a bubbling laugh, the older girl helping her to unwrap her doll before her father came to fetch her, and they left with a goodbye, his volunteer shift over. Once the doll was in the younger girl’s hands, and she had waved to her friend, she looked down at it, and made it a promise:
“Don’t worry, we’ll be together forever. It’s you and me, Clara.”
* * * * * * * * *
Upon seeing Jack’s face, as his icy friend returned from delivering his gift, North knew precisely what was wrong, and precisely how to fix it – in a roundabout way, as was his specialty.
“Having second thoughts concerning Christmas?” North asked, handing Jack a paper coffee container, actually filled with tea – peppermint, Jack’s favorite. He knew the question would rile Jack, but that was exactly what he was hoping for.
The Time was, in the grand scheme of things, quickly approaching.
Jack snorted in response, something North found unbecoming, as he took the tea, a scowl alighting on his lips. “No, of course not!” he said loudly, though the reply was obviously a lie. “I’m the one who’s going to destroy Christmas, remember? I’m not changing my mind!” he vowed, before taking a long, heavy swig of tea – only to choke, because it was still quite hot.
North chuckled, shook his head slightly, and was about to reply when something caught his eye--
From the same direction Jack had come, there now came a father and daughter, headed down the sidewalk in the opposite direction. By chance – or perhaps by fate, whichever was to be believed in – the father turned his head North’s way, and their eyes met briefly, before he ushered his daughter onwards, and they disappeared into a car down the road.
North took a sip of his own tea, contemplating, before he focused once again on Jack, all ruffled and angry and annoyed. “You know, Jack,” he offered, the image of father and daughter still fresh in his mind, “I believe that, one day, you will meet someone who will change your mind about destroying Christmas.”
“Never going to happen – and besides, Christmas won’t last until next year, not if I have anything to say about it!” Jack insisted, his scowl only growing, before he ordered bossily: “Now, come on, North! We’re going to be late for our flights!” purposefully striding away quickly – away both from the conversation, and from his conflict.
North shook his head once more, watching as Jack stomped off, walking behind him at a slower pace. “Oh, my dear friend,” he said, even though Jack could not hear him, “you are quite wrong about the future – I have seen it, and it is an interesting place.”
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I definitely believe that we can make such an impact without meaning to -- and there, how much more by meaning to? The gift of hope is what Christmas is all about.