I'm going to start this story by saying that I'm not crazy. No. Not really.
But I may not be entirely sane, either.
I guess it depends on who you ask, but since I'm telling this, we'll just assume I'm not crazy.
Except I might as well be, because I can see things—people—who shouldn't even exist. I can see them.
And they don't care about me.
"Ace, are you not ready yet?"
I wrapped the scarf around my neck until it bundled all the way up to my nose and pushed the door of my small, borrowed room open. My sister Claire was right outside, wearing that colorfully ugly sweater Mom got her last year.
She didn't look pleased.
"We were supposed to leave ages ago!" Claire, who was ten and short for her age, flung her arms up in the air, pouting.
I shrugged, shouldering my messenger bag and closing the door behind me. "I'm ready now, puppycakes. Where's Leo?"
She adjusted her crocheted hat, identical to mine, and nodded toward the stairs. "Downstairs playing with his DS."
"Let's go get the miscreant."
Claire smiled showing a row of teeth missing two and jetted down the stairs at a speed that would make Mom swear. "Leo! She's ready!"
Two seconds later I heard my little brother yelling, "Stop! I haven't saved it!"
Dad was sitting on the big couch next to the fireplace, reading something on his nook. He looked up, nodding in acknowledgement, but didn't say anything—he and Mom must have gotten into a fight again.
"Ace, tell her to stop!" Leo whined at me, all blue pleading eyes and sad face.
I sighed. What did I get myself into? "Let him save it first, Claire. Then we'll leave," I said. Claire looked offended, but dropped the thing on Leo's lap. I turned to him, "Don't cheat."
"Hurry," Claire let out, looking every bit like a tiny thug.
"There you are." I turned just in time to see Mom walking in from the kitchen. "Claire was about to have an aneurism waiting for you."
I smiled, if only because I could see it happening. "Patience is a virtue."
Mom bent down to adjust Leo's scarf as simultaneously batted her hands away and furiously pressed the buttons of the DS. "How would you know that? You don't have an ounce of patience, Audrey."
"Leo," I saw him stiffen with guilt. "That has to be the longest save ever. Turn that thing off. Don't you want to play in the snow?"
He scoffed like he very much didn't want to, but turned the DS off anyway. "Fine, let's go."
Claire smiled so big I feared her face might break. That child was scary, honestly.
"Be back before the sun comes down, Audrey," Mom said behind us as the kids followed me to the door like ducks. She inspected all three of us to make sure we wouldn't freeze. "Are you sure you can handle the children?"
"Mom!" Both Claire and Leo exclaimed, even though Leo didn't want to come a second ago.
I rolled my eyes. "It's not the first time I take them out, Mom."
She fussed. "Yes, but it's so cold outside—and all that snow. This is not like home, Audrey. It could be dangerous, there could be lions or—"
"We're in Burgess, Mom—not in the middle of the Amazon. The pamphlet said it was safe. We didn't come all the way here to stay holed up in a rented cabin."
At least I didn't.
She sighed. Victory. "Be back for dinner."
I hugged her, the kids jumping with excitement behind me. I patted the bag where I had their ice skates and grinned at them. "Ready?"
They were out of the door so fast I was suddenly glad they were dressed in bright colors.
I was pretty sure it took us longer to get out of the rented cabin than to the frozen lake that seemed to be the main attraction of the little town.
I now sat watching Claire and Leo play on the ice, regretting not having brought extra blankets to put between my butt and the snow. I was freezing.
I smiled. A snow day.
We'd been in Burgess for a little over a week, come here because Dad thought it would be nice to spend Christmas in a place where it actually snowed—plus Uncle Tim (everybody has one of those, right?) said he would rent us his cabin for basically nothing.
Also, I'd suggested it.
In that short time, it had snowed twice, this being the third time. So I sat, and waited. And waited.
Leo waved at me as he wheezed past, barely avoiding another kid who had slipped and fallen. Claire was spinning out of control on the other end. Twirl, twirl, and—she righted herself and laughed.
The place was teeming with kids, sliding and throwing snowballs as their parents sat around, blissfully unaware.
A wind blew, making those who weren't running about burrow deeper into their coats. The children slid faster, smiles wider. There he was.
I edged a little closer to the end of the blanket, my scarf sliding down a little, but otherwise kept myself in place. Normal. Still.
Some of the kids turned when the guy landed, left by the wind in the middle of the frozen lake. They rushed to him, hands up, and he swirled out of their reach, gliding everywhere and leaving a slippery trail for the children to follow. He laughed, a sound so loud it sent the few birds that stayed through the winter flying. It rattled me on the inside.
The other adults didn't notice. Not even all the kids saw him, I could tell Leo and Claire didn't.
I watched him entranced, filled with energy, more and more until all I wanted to do was dash to the ice and join their chaos. Enjoy their chaos.
But I just stayed in place, my eyes glued, my heart careening against my ribcage.
Claire was waving madly at me, a few feet from where the boy now stood sending slivers of swirling ice around the surface of the lake.
"Ace, aren't you going to come?"
I started to shake my head. No. No, I couldn't go there. I shouldn't.
I pushed up from the snow, moving on trembling legs and stepped on the ice without skates. I fell.
Leo and Claire were at my side in a blink, laughing and worrying at the same time. I laughed with them.
"This is all your fault," I said.
I clambered up, almost slipping twice before I managed to stand again. Then I patted my pants and, taking in a deep breath, let out the loudest, scariest roar I could.
Leo and Claire screeched, running away as if from a rabid dog. Good enough.
I ran after them in my inappropriate shoes, sure I would lose all my teeth before too long. "I will eat all your happiness!" I shouted after them and they replied with screams and more laughter.
I saw it too late.
Claire went left, skating gracefully away from me. Leo skated straight ahead, veering around children but right through him. And I was going in that same direction.
Except I wouldn't go through him. I couldn't.
My eyes widened as I tried frantically to stop myself, my arms waving wildly in the air. I was going too fast, the ice was too slippery.
I fell on my butt inches from his bare feet—I could even feel my nose going numb with how much colder it was around him.
I told myself I shouldn't look up, that I should act like he wasn't even there. But I didn't. He was so close, closer than any of the others had ever been and I just—I looked up. Straight into his ice blue eyes and his frowning face.
"Ace!" Leo slid toward me, kneeling down with his hands in my coat when he reached me. "You silly sister, you fell again."
He was looking at me, then at Leo. Then back at me. And every second I didn't look away was a second his face shifted into confusion. The wind stopped swishing about him, his white hair settling as he knelt down.
I could feel his breath freezing my cheeks. "You can see me."
Oh, no. No, no, no.
"What's wrong?" Leo was still next to me, clenching harder through layers of coats into my arm.
It came out of my mouth quieter than a whisper, nothing more than a breath of fog, "Jack Frost."
A/N: So here it is. Chapter 1 of this new thing I started solely because I saw RotG yesterday and dear God who didn't leave being more a child after that movie? Maybe I'll even finish it!
This is going to get a lot darker, guys.