I seem to have started last year saying that Chuck Wendig hasn’t emerged from his hibernation, and the same is true today. I’ve stolen another random title from the lists he gave us just before Christmas – after all, with 20 half-titles in each of two lists, that gives us 200 combinations (I think) since they are supposed to be used in the correct order. Mind you a few could be turned around…
I’ve been writing 50 word and 150 word stories in the last week or so, and could only get to 890 with this one. I hope you enjoy it, even so.
The Thirteenth Snowflake
Merrilee gazed from her room into the nebulous clouds that were freezing and shifting around outside.
“Oh, when will we be able to go out and play?”
Her plaintive comment got no response from her sister, who was busily sewing gossamer wings onto her nightdress. Merrilee sighed again.
“You can stop sighing. Nobody’s listening.”
“Please, Lizbeth, please let’s go outside and play.”
“No.” Lizbeth put aside her costume, put her needle and thread carefully away, and turned to look at Merrilee. “We can’t go out until it’s safe. You know that.”
“But it looks safe. It looks comfy and friendly out there.”
“It’s snow forming, and it’s never safe when snow is forming.”
“You know why not.” Lizbeth swept up her costume and shimmied into it, smoothing the soft satin over her hips, twirling around and checking her wings in the looking-glass.
“You look lovely. Will I look like that one day?”
“Yes, dearest,” Lizbeth’s face softened, and she picked up her sister, smoothed her curls and kissed her cheek. “Just as long as you stay safe. Don’t go playing with storm clouds. And now I have to go. You stay here; Gabriel will be along soon.”
Merrilee watched her sister dance from the room, envying her grace and poise. Although she was only a few months younger, it could have been years in terms of their development. She wondered whether the snow clouds would still be forming when she was old enough to fly.
She turned back to watch the clouds, the pinks and soft greys looked inviting, and the occasional flashes of pale green and lemon yellow as the light caught different aspects made her wonder whether there were tunnels to explore in them. A noise behind her made her turn.
“Gabriel! You’re here!”
She ran over to the young boy, grabbed him by the arm and pulled him back to her viewing point.
“Look! Aren’t they pretty today?”
“Yeah, I s’pose so.”
Gabriel’s usually sunny face was drooping, his cheerful voice a monotone. “I have to go to school.”
“But everyone has to go to school sometime. I’ll be going soon too. … Are we not going together, then?” Merrilee’s thought seared through her; she had always thought she and Gabriel would go everywhere together.
“I’m going tomorrow. I’m going south on the next jet stream.”
“South? But… I’m sure I’m not supposed to go south.”
“No, I asked. You’re staying here. You belong with the snow. I have to go south, to the temperate forest, where the rain falls and makes all the vegetation grow, and it gets all green and warm, and flowers bloom and everything.”
“Green? Warm?” Merrilee shook her head. These concepts meant little to her. The only green she had seen was as a flash of colour in the clouds. Things ‘being’ green was a puzzle. “What makes things green?”
“My mother said it was because there was enough sunlight to warm things up, it stays on the earth instead of bouncing off. The plants use the sunlight and they turn green.”
“Will you turn green, too?”
“I don’t know.” Gabriel looked more mournful than ever. “Maybe.”
“But… will you come back?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. If I end up in the right place in time for winter.” Gabriel hung his head. The Maybe was a big one. He had been told he wouldn’t see his mother again, and he shouldn’t expect to come back. He just didn’t want to tell Merrilee that.
“I hope you do. I couldn’t bear to never see you again.”
The pair stood side by side, looking out at the snowclouds. The dangerous time was passing; they could see snow crystals forming.
“My auntie said, if you hold onto the thirteenth snowflake, you will go further than anyone has ever done. The thirteenth snowflake is the biggest one.”
“What happens if you miss it?” asked Gabriel.
“Then you start counting over again. Every thirteenth snowflake is a magical one, one that will take you wonderful places, and bring you home again. So you watch out for snowflakes in your new home, Gabriel, and grab hold of that thirteenth snowflake. Then you’ll come home.”
“You’ll remember?” Merrilee held his arm as Lizbeth came back in the room.
“Time to go, Gabriel,” she said.
“Gabriel, remember!” Merrilee said anxiously, losing touch of his arm but feeling the warmth of it on her hand.
“He’ll remember, dearest, he’ll be okay,” said Lizbeth, as Gabriel just mumbled something, hiding his tears from his best friend in the whole world. Lizbeth led him from the room, and Merrilee turned back to watch the clouds, turning over his words in her mind and trying to understand where he had gone.
* * *
Three months later, Merrilee finished sewing the gossamer wings on her own nightgown and slipped it on, just as her sister had done.
“Are you ready, dearest?” Lizbeth asked softly. “I wish I could go with you, but you are a snow fairy, whereas I’m only a cloud nymph.”
“You’re the best cloud nymph in the world,” Merrilee replied, hugging her. “Can you count with me?”
“Of course,” Lizbeth replied, smiling at her sweet sister. “One, two, three….”
“… eleven, twelve – Go!”
And Merrilee flew onto the thirteenth snowflake, and started her amazing adventure into the world.
(c) J M Pett 2015