It was the very first day of winter.
This was the day when Jack Frost had to work the hardest. He had to bring the snow in at just the right times, in just the right amounts, and let it blend in perfectly with the wind speed. He didn't want the snow too watery or too solid. He wanted it to be soft, but not soft enough that when a kid went to make a snowball, the material fell right through their tiny fingers. It took absolute solitude and concentration to get the mixture just right.
Jack had been planning for weeks and weeks. He was going to let just a few snowflakes fall at first, to excite the kids, to get them to press their little noses to the school's windows and peer out with awestruck wonder. Then he'd push more snow, handful by handful, into the swirling air, until the kids stopped listening to their teacher, grabbed their coats, and headed for the playground for a snowball fight.
His plan was going perfectly. He chuckled to himself from his perch on top of the small school building in a village. The children's cloaks were wet, their cheeks flushed, and their laughter rung through the air with delight. Jack may have been a prankster, a troublemaker, and a young man himself, but he still loved to make children happy. If snow got their endorphins pumping, then snow they would get.
Seeing that his job was finished there, he jumped into the wind with ease and headed for the next town over. Then the next. A couple of towns later, he stopped in a kingdom called Corona. The kingdom had always been well-kept, clean, and all of its inhabitants were friendly. The children all believed in him here.
He swept his staff over the kingdom as he flew across the sprawling expanse surrounded by nothing but water. He'd heard that the fish trade here was good, as well as the seafood. Hmm, he thought as he watched yet another group of school kids run out into their play yard, I'll have to stop by in the summer and snag some of that seafood. I've always wanted to try it. And if the fish trade is as good as they say it is, they won't miss a couple of fish, now, will they?
With a final tap of his staff, the ground around the children iced over and they giggled with glee as their booted feet slipped and slid. He smiled to himself and pushed off of the building's roof.
Jack was leisurely heading to the next site, coasting just over the tops of the trees in a dense forest, when he caught sight of something out of his peripheral vision. Gliding closer, he realized that he'd never seen that particular tower before. Any human, with their poor eyesight, would have easily missed the covered entrance that led to the tower-which made him feel ashamed to have missed it. He wasn't some normal human. He was a Guardian.
The tower was encased on all four sides by sheer-faced rock cliffs that no man could scale without breaking his neck. Luckily, Jack didn't have to do such a thing. He simply let the winds guide him down into the valley.
This valley hadn't been touched by Jack. From the way the grass grew-tall, wild, and spring green in the middle of December-it probably never had. There was a slight chill in the air, but that was about it. Wildflowers of all colors sprung up around Jack's bare feet, swaying gently in the breeze he had brought with him. A bubbling brook was barely ten yards off, and when Jack dipped his big toe into the water, it wasn't cold. Maybe lukewarm at best.
Puzzled on how he could have possibly missed this valley, Jack kicked at a batch of dandelions as he walked along, headed towards the tower. The tower was about fifty feet tall, with ivy creeping like snakes up the side, twisting its fingers around the bricks in a chokehold. The faded bricks at the bottom were starting to crumble a bit. Touching the wall of the tower, he walked around the perimeter, searching for a door.
There wasn't one.
Frowning, Jack ordered the winds to carry him up to what looked like a window, hanging agape. He traveled slowly upwards, still puzzled by the state of this place. He'd have to set to work right away.
When his eyes came level with the window, he held back a frightened yell.
But the little girl didn't.
She screamed, loud and shrill, and just as he was reaching forward to slap his hand over her mouth, she shut the window on his fingers.
"Ow!" he screeched. Yanking his hand roughly from the window's threshold, he shook it out. Growling something incoherently and scowling, he rapped on the window's wooden door with his good hand. "Hey, you! Open up! I want to talk to you!"
The door didn't budge. He rolled his eyes, still holding his hurt hand. "Look, little girl, I won't hurt you." He glanced down at his hand. "But you sure as heck hurt me."
The window stayed motionless.
He knocked again, growing impatient. "Please, open up. I didn't mean to scare you. I was just curious and I wanted to talk to you . . . and . . . " he sighed. "I'm Jack Frost."
Jack waited in the dead silence of the valley until the window's door crept cautiously open. A big, emerald-green eye peered at him through the crack, followed by a soft voice riddled with a lisp. "Y-You promise y-you won't hurt me?" the little girl whispered.
He nodded slowly, reaching towards her. He landed on the window's edge on his knees. "I promise."
She opened the door a bit wider. "And you're Jack Frost? Y-You weren't lying?"
His impatience fell away as quickly as it had come. The girl was a beautiful child. She couldn't have been more than eight years old. She had golden, wavy hair; rosy skin and lips; and those eyes. Wow. He could fall into those eyes and never resurface.
When he looked closer, he realized that the young girl's hair was abnormally long-especially for someone so young. It had to be at least twenty feet in length, and trailed behind her as she moved.
Jack Frost wasn't usually a gentle guy, but as he crept across the window's threshold and into the tower, he touched the little girl's shoulder with utmost care. She had backed away from him bit by bit, but as soon as he touched her, she seemed to know that he wasn't there to harm her.
"I wasn't lying," he said softly. The little girl raised a speculative eyebrow-which he thought was adorable. Laughing, he knelt near her. "Let me show you." Raising his staff, he spun it through the air in a circle, and snowflakes, as delicate as a newborn, began to fall around the pair. The little girl gasped and touched one hesitantly with the tip of her finger. When the snowflake melted at her warm touch, her eyes grew even wider and she spun around to face Jack.
"You really are Jack Frost," she murmured, amazed. They stared at each other for a whole minute before she suddenly threw her short arms around his neck and hugged him. Startled, he didn't know how to respond at first. He patted her back awkwardly as she whispered in his ear, "I've never seen snow before. Mother won't let me outside the tower."
When the child pulled back, releasing him, Jack frowned. What kind of mother did this girl have? All the mothers he had ever seen loved to watch their children frolic in the snow and play with the other children. Was this woman just overprotective or insane?
Jack felt bad for this girl. Snow days were mesmerizing. They turned your fingers blue and your toes purple, and at the end of the day, when you were thoroughly exhausted, you got to come inside and warm up by the fire with your loved ones. This girl, stuck in a tower in the middle of nowhere, had never had a snow day before.
Jack thought this downright pitiful.
He patted the girl's head. "Well, then. Guess what, little lady? I'm gonna give you the best snow day ever."
Her eyes lit up. She grinned and tugged at his pants. "Really?! A snow day?"
He nodded. She hugged his leg, jumping up and down with joy. He began to guide her towards the window, when she suddenly stopped dead in her tracks.
"Wait, do you mean outside?" she asked. Her eyes were as big as saucers now.
He nodded again, turning to see why that was causing the problem. Didn't the little girl want to go outside, after being banned from it?
The little girl bit her lower lip. She met Jack's eyes with a kind of guarded terror in them as she said, "Mother won't let me outside the tower, remember?" The girl sighed and toyed with her super long hair. "No snow day for me."
Jack shook his head. "Looks to me like your mother isn't here."
The girl glanced around. Sure enough, there was no sign of the girl's mother. The girl, obviously running out of excuses, whispered, "But I don't want to break the rules. I never break the rules, Jack Frost."
"Well you can break them today," he prompted. Jack was the exact opposite-he loved to break the rules. Every day of every week of every year.
The girl sighed heavily and stomped her foot. Tears gleamed in her eyes as she raised her voice.
"Jack Frost, I'm scared of the outside," she told him. Her chin wobbled. "There's horrible people with pointy teeth out there trying to cut off my hair so that they can stay young forever and I don't want to go outside."
Surprised, Jack jumped back slightly but grinned.
"You're quite the little firework, aren't you?" he chuckled. He was a little confused about the horrible-people-wanting-to-cut-her-off-her-hair-to-stay-young-forever thing, but decided not to ask just yet.
An idea popped into his head as the little girl continued to cry. Smiling still, he came closer and took the girl's small hand into his. She peered up at him hopefully.
"Guess what, little lady?" he said in a secretive voice. Kids loved secrets. "You don't have to go outside to have a snow day."
She sniffled. "You don't?"
He shook his head. "No. You don't. We can have one right here. Inside your tower. Wouldn't that be awesome?"
The girl brightened some. Smiling at Jack in return, she nodded. "Yeah. Really awesome."
Jack raised his staff again. "Close your eyes, okay? I want it to be a big surprise."
The girl did as he said. Concentrating, he worked his magic harder than he had that day. He coated each and every surface in the room with blankets of snow, including the stairs leading up to the second floor. Patches of eyes slicked-up the stone floor. Snowflakes fell around the girl's head again, landing on the tip of her button nose and her stretched-out tongue. She giggled, her eyes tightly shut. Her hand squeezed his.
"Are you done yet?" she questioned.
His tongue poked out of the corner of his mouth. "Not yet . . ." He added the last few touches and then whispered, "Done."
Her eyes flew open and consumed everything around her. She didn't squeal, she didn't laugh, she just stood still with her mouth hanging open, her hand clutching Jack's.
He laughed. "You like it?"
She nodded dazedly.
He squatted beside her. "Then, go play."
For the rest of that day, Jack and the little girl built snowmen, made snow angels, had snowball fights and drank hot chocolate. They laughed, joked, played, and once, she got hurt. He had to make a small snowball and press it to her bruising knee from where she had slipped on the stairs. A few tears sprang into her eyes and he had to wipe them away.
"Hey, it's gonna be alright," he whispered, pushing the hair back from her eyes . Curious once again, he asked, "What's your name?"
The girl smiled. "My name's Rapunzel."
Something inside of him, deep in the pits of darkness, seemed to bloom. Something he had never felt before. Something alive, new, and . . . warm. Jack had never been warm before.
The rest of their time went by too quickly as he learned more and more about Rapunzel. Like, how she loved to paint and sew, and she had a pet chameleon named Pascal.
Soon, too soon, her mother called out her name from outside the tower. Rapunzel had rushed Jack out, demanding for him to clean it all up. She was scared that her mother would see him; but he assured her that if her mother didn't believe in him, she wouldn't see him. Relieved, Rapunzel pushed him out of the window with a whispered: "See you soon!"
Jack, laughing, took that as a rolled out welcome mat. As he flew away, he only caught a glimpse of Rapunzel's horrid mother. She was acting too sugary sweet at the moment, but Jack could see through that like glass.
After that first day, Jack often returned to Rapunzel's tower deep in the woods. Not every time did he bring snow, but often, just friendship or comfort. Rapunzel grew more and more with each visit, and Jack found himself going back more often than not. It was a secret for both of them, one they both treasured and kept locked up tight in their hearts.
And that's the tale of how Jack met Rapunzel.