“Why aren’t they responding?”
I looked at the clock on the microwave and calculated the sixteen hour difference. “It’s two PM there. For us, this is a big deal. For them, it is Tuesday. We are probably not as big a priority as their existing projects.” I justified the wait as much for Nate’s lack of patience as I did for my own sanity. For good measure, I hit refresh on my email again.
Nate sighed heavily and reached for another slice of pizza. One bite in he quickly stood up, grabbed a beer from the fridge, and dropped back into his chair. “I should head home soon,” he said, glancing at the clock.
“Then don’t open the beer. Put it back into the fridge and drink it another night,” I ordered.
He looked at the bottle in his hand. “It’s only one…”
“I don’t care!” I snapped before he could finish.
He paused. “You’re right, I’m sorry. I forgot.”
I shook my head and held up my hand. “Let’s not open that can of worms again.”
“Understood.” Nate rose and slipped it back into the fridge before reaching for his jacket. I followed him to the door. “If you hear anything, call me.”
I held up my pinky. “I promise.”
With a laugh, he stepped out into the cold evening air and jogged to his car. I watched as his taillights disappeared into the darkness before finally closing the door.
“I thought he would never leave,” came the irritated voice of Demetri.
I scowled down at the cat. “You didn’t have to stay hidden the entire time he was here. That was your choice. He’s an animal lover, you probably could have scored more tuna.’
The cat gave me a look that conveyed a disinterested shrug. “The fewer humans that know about a talking cat, the better.”
“You could have opted not to talk?”
“Be serious! How else would I convey my distaste for the things you do?”
“Silly me,” I answered with an eye roll.
“I could do without your sarcasm. Please keep in mind when we move to Japan that you can’t do that,” he said dryly, sniffing around the bowl I had put tuna in for him that morning. “Tuna, please.”
“Excuse me?” I asked, startled.
“I said, ‘Tuna, please?’ ”
“No, before that?” I insisted.
“Oh, when we move to Japan, please try….”
I cut him off quickly. “When did I agree to move to Japan?”
“It’s understood that for you to fulfill your destiny you will go where they most need you.”
“Anyway, how am I going to afford to live there?” I asked.
“With your new manga writing career,” Demetri replied logically.
“Do you know how much a manga author or artist make?” I quizzed the animal, who had dug through the shelf during our conversation and was now rolling a can over to me.
“I don’t know, but it is a job.”
I took a deep breath. “I’m not an artist. I’m just a writer. I know how to storyboard for comics, but the artwork needs to be done by someone with talent. If I’m lucky, I will make twenty thousand a year, and that is a HUGE ‘if’. I most likely will make less than half of that.”
“Hmmm, you can buy a lot of tuna with that amount.” The cat’s eyes glazed over.
“Yes, but where will I sleep? What will I eat? How will I afford an internet connection to submit my work to my publisher?”
Demetri snorted at me. “Is that all? How much could that cost?”
“A lot more than your tuna. I can’t go to Japan. I have a decent job here. Maybe I could go for a vacation a few times a year if I planned, but I can’t live there.”
He rolled his eyes. “Open this,” he insisted. I was quiet for a long moment. “Please?” With a sigh, I leaned down to pick up the can and crack it open.
By midnight I still hadn’t heard anything from Mr. Sato. I closed my laptop and made my way to bed. I was exhausted. In fact, I was beyond any words I knew to express my level of tired. Outside of that, I had a deep feeling of disappointment. I knew it would probably take a few days to hear back, but that didn’t prevent me from wishing for a more speedy response.
I crawled into bed and didn’t even argue when Demetri snuggled in under the covers with me. He fell asleep with a soft drumming purr that relaxed me. Darkness engulfed me and soon I had fallen into a dreamland where I seemed to know what was going on even though nothing was familiar.
I jumped from storyline to storyline, encountering evil necromancers, giant robots, and ghost ninjas. I never had time to get scared because one adventure bled into the next. As I sat around a long table discussing plans of action for the newest threat to humanity, I heard a familiar song playing in the background. I asked if anyone else heard it, but all the dream characters shook their heads in confusion.
The more I ignored it, the louder it became. As I pondered its meaning, I remembered that I had once had a phone that played that song as a ringtone. “Wait, I still have a phone that….” I sat up in bed with a snap and fumbled for my blaring phone. I glanced at the screen. “Plus eight one,” I read out loud, only to remember a split second later that that was the international country code for Japan. Taking a deep breath, I hit the green button and lifted the phone to my ear. “Hello, this is Jordan Nakamura.”
“My inbox has exploded!” I stared at the number of unread emails.
“Yes, well, that does tend to happen when you go viral,” Demetri explained in a voice devoid of interest.
I glared at the cat beside me. “You could pretend to be excited for me since you are freeloading in my house and eating my tuna.”
“Will you give me more tuna if I pretend to care?”
“No,” I said flatly.
“Then there is nothing for me to gain by pretending that your web scribbles’ success holds any value to me. It is merely a means to an end.” Demetri turned away from me and curled into a ball before closing his eyes.
“What do you mean, a means to an end?”
“Your talent was confirmed by Shinto Shrine Publishing. I just pointed them in your direction,” he said lazily.
I scooped Demetri up so that my nose practically rested against his forehead. “You did what?”
Demetri rolled his eyes. “Cats in the office are all the rage in Japan right now. I needed to find a way to ensure your passage overseas. I merely sat on a keyboard to assure that a lead editor would see your site. From there the entire staff read your work and tweeted about it. I would assume one or more of those emails are from the publishing house.”
“I owe my webcomic’s success to your furry butt?”
“Yes, now keep that in mind and go get me some tuna.”
I sat Demetri down on the corner of my desk and went to rummage through my cabinets until I located another can of tuna. When I popped it open, he leapt from my desk and rushed at my feet. “Foooooood!” he exclaimed as he mashed his fuzzy face into the bowl. With the talking cat distracted, I returned to my email and began weeding through the thousands of messages.
The moment I found a company email from a Sato Daichi I stopped scrolling to open it. I blinked in confusion a few times, trying to process it. “It’s in Japanese,” I mumbled. I scrolled further down and breathed a sigh of relief. There was what I assumed was a translation.
I represent Shinto Shrine Publishing, a publishing company located in Japan. While we publish multiple forms of art, we specialize in manga and magazine release. We recently came across your webcomic Girl Without a Name and would like to discuss the possibility of translation and release in one of our monthly subscriptions. We would like to arrange a call as soon as possible if you are interested.
I re-read the email and couldn’t help but smile. My inner nerd rejoiced. My fans had always motivated me, but while I never thought I needed validation from within the industry, it sure felt nice to receive it. Knowing that my characters may get to live their lives in front of a larger audience nearly drove me to tears.
Without a second to lose I picked up the phone and called Nate. He answered on the second ring. “Yup.”
“Hey Nate, I know what happened,” I told him.
“You found out that the editorial team at Shinto Shrine Publishing stumbled across your comic and tweeted about it?” I could hear the grin in his voice.
“And one of their bigwigs has reached out to you about translating your comic for distribution?” he continued.
“Yeah, I already know. Wow, it took you that long to figure it all out? Old age has slowed you down considerably.”
“Hey! Listen you brat, a lot is going on. I don’t have time to sit around and read tweets all day,” I retorted.
“No! I don’t! I have a job!” I balled my fist as if to shake it at him.
“Haha, okay, but I thought you were a coder? Don’t you set your own hours? Or has your boss finally given you a permanent full-time position?” I hated that he was right. Why did he have to actually pay attention to the things I said? He never listened this well when I would lecture him as a kid. He cleared his throat and it snapped me back to reality. “Anyway, I have a regular job so I need to get back to work. Get the details and I will plan to come over after work.”
“Do you want me to order pizza? Are you going to bring Eva with you?” I asked, remembering that he had been neglecting his girlfriend while we worked on this project.
“Yeah, your girlfriend?”
“Ooooooooh, no. No, she won’t be available. Just plan for me. I’ll grab drinks.”
I chose not to comment but instead agreed and hung up. I looked back at Demetri, who was sound asleep by my feet. With a deep breath to cool my nerves, I hit reply on the email. I started to type.
Dear Mr. Sato…
“Wait, is Daichi a male or female name?” I asked myself. “I’m pretty sure it’s male.” I sat silent for a moment, having an inner debate if I should just call my father and ask. I glanced at the clock. “Eleven… that would mean it is two in the afternoon out east. I wonder if I could catch him?”
I picked up the phone and dialed my father. A sickeningly sweet female voice answered. “Hello, Capalo Hotel Manhattan, how may I direct your call?”
“Yes, Chef Nakamura please,” I said clearly.
“May I say who’s calling?” the woman asked politely.
“Please let him know it is Jordan… his daughter,” I quickly added, realizing that for a busy executive chef, Jordan may not be enough information. The phone was suddenly filled with the sounds of smooth jazz. There was a click followed by silence. Worried that the call had been cut off, I spoke up. ”Hello?”
“Yes, sorry Jordan. Just a moment,” answered my father’s strong voice. I heard a muffled conversation and then he was back. “Sorry about that. We are prepping for dinner. Is something wrong? Are you okay? Is Nate all right?” The normally stern tone of my father’s voice had an edge of worry.
“Dad, don’t worry. We’re both fine. I just have a quick question. Is Daichi a guy’s name?”
“You interrupted prep to ask about a name?” he questioned. “What is this about? Are you online dating?”
I rolled my eyes. “No, I’m not dating. I was contacted by a publishing house in Japan. They are interested in publishing me.”
“I wasn’t aware you were writing in Japanese,” he stated. “Are you still coding and working with computers? Keep doing that. Writing is a hobby, not a career.”
I sighed. “I am still coding, Dad. Nate and I have a webcomic. The company is interested in translating my comic into Japanese for publishing overseas.”
“And someone at the publisher is interested in dating you?”
“No, Dad. Nothing like that. I’m not dating anyone,” I answered in exasperation.
“Why aren’t you dating? You’re beautiful and smart. You have a good job,” he insisted. “What is wrong with this publisher that he doesn’t want to date you?”
“Dad, he’s not… I mean…ugh…”
“This is why he doesn’t want to date you. You don’t use real words to express what you are feeling or thinking. Don’t worry, Daddy will help. Give me his number, I’ll tell him he should date you.”
I took three deep breaths and reminded myself that he was torturing me out of love. “Dad, is the name Daichi a male name in Japan?”
He was silent a long moment. “Typically, yes.”
“Thank you!” I said before lapsing into my normal goodbye speech that would get me off the phone.
Finally hanging up, I turned back to my computer.
Dear Mr. Sato,
Thank you for your inquiry about my webcomic. I am both flattered and humbled that you would take time out of your busy schedule to reach out to me. I would very much like to discuss the opportunity at your earliest convenience. I have attached my private contact information so you may more easily reach me.
I hit send and leaned back in my chair, highly satisfied with myself. I started working my way through the pile of fan mail in my inbox before I gave up and logged into the company servers to begin work. I was exhausted, but if I didn’t get my work done, I would have all the time I needed to sleep – without a job.
“Can we make his hair…spikier?”
“Uhhhhh, I’m not sure that is actually a real word?” Nate argued.
“It’s English, you can make anything a word in English,” I fired back.
Nate rolled his eyes before quickly moving his hand over his electronic drawing pad. “Ladies and gentlemen, Jordan Nakamura: inventor of words and Betty of Badassdom.”
I chuckled as I watched my character take shape on the screen. Giving ‘gentle’ instructions, Nate and I worked through the night making sure the newest installment for our web series was perfect. When the sun rose and we were finally out of coffee, I knew it was time to publish a new post and wait for the internet to explode. Of course, by “explode” I meant our three thousand fans would throw up their hands and rejoice at the birth of our new story arc that had taken entirely too long to produce.
I was thankful for our fans. Three thousand fans wasn’t enough for us to quit our real jobs and only produce content, but it did prove that we were, in fact, readable. We just had to keep trying to get out there, and I knew someday we would get our break. “It’s a numbers game,” I assured myself as I handed Nate his jacket.
“Sorry, did you say something?” he asked.
I shook my head to clear it as well as remind myself I had to stay awake long enough to crawl to bed. “Not really,” I answered while opening the door for him. “I mean, I was just saying it’s a numbers game. Eventually we will produce enough content that someone will notice… right?”
Nate reached out and ruffled my hair with a laugh. “Get some rest Jordan, our fans await.” The simple gesture reminded me of simpler times.
“Thanks, but they’re your fans too,” I insisted.
Ha paused long enough to give me a blank look. “Nope, I just draw what you tell me to. Anyway, good night!” Nate braced himself against the cold before opening the door and ducking out into the frigid February morning on the short jog to his car.
After closing and locking the door I stumbled back into my small home office. I looked over the new post one last time. “Well, here goes,” I mumbled, and hit the button to send it out into the world. Glancing at the clock I sighed heavily. “Seven fifteen…. Ewwwwwwh.”
I grabbed my phone off my desk then staggered to bed. I wiggled in an unladylike fashion until I had removed my bra and nothing else and collapsed into bed. Thumbing through the list of contacts on my phone, I found the one I was looking for and hit send. I prayed for a voicemail but instead got a singsongy voice on the other end.
“Jordan? Good morning, Jordan. How can I help you?”
“Mollie, I’m not coming into the office today. I was up all night working on a project.” I listened carefully as I heard my boss feverishly scribble something down on paper.
“Are you not working today? Or are you just not coming in?” she finally asked. The happiness was gone from her chirp.
“I’ll log in and work this afternoon, but if I don’t get some sleep none of my code is going to run without errors.”
She huffed a humongous sigh that had no doubt made her tiny frame shake. Hell, I almost shook on the other end of the phone. “This isn’t going to be a habit again, is it?”
“It may,” I admitted honestly. “If you could afford to pay me more for my coding, including some benefits, I wouldn’t need to freelance out.” I knew coming back to the age old arguments about workers’ rights would end the discussion quickly.
“Jordan, you know if we had a full time position available I would offer it to you?”
“On what planet is fifty hours a week not considered full time?” I growled.
“You know what I mean.” Mollie went quiet for a minute. “Oh, Jordan, I’m getting another call. Sorry, I gotta go. I’ll email you some specs. Just get some rest, then get those fingers moving.” In the next breath, she was gone.
I plugged in my phone and rolled over. I’m confident I was asleep before I actually closed my eyes.
Somewhere between my dream about a wild night with the entire cast of Thunder from Down Under and the dream where I rescued baby ducks from a carnivorous umbrella, I had a conversation with a talking cat. Most of my dreams feel like dreams, but the conversation with the cat felt strangely real.
Just when I was about to enjoy an encore performance from the glowing sex gods, the sounds of loud music ripped through my dreams. “Damn it, no!” I swore as dream-me made one last feeble reach for a leather G-string. I peeked through my lids and focused on the culprit.
My phone flashed and vibrated violently from where it sat on my nightstand screaming Bon Jovi at me. I flipped it over, revealing Nate’s photo on the screen. I hit the green button and squawked loudly into it, “What?!?!?!”
I was greeted with the faint sounds of keys clicking. “Uhhhh, Jordan? Did I wake you up?”
“Yes!” I snapped grumpily. “You interrupted a glorious dream involving a scantily leather-clad man who could tie cherry stems with his tongue….”
“So the guys from Thunder Down Under again?”
“Yes.” I sniffed that he so easily knew me.
“Sorry to interrupt what was no doubt another X-rated dream, but something is wrong with the site.”
I all but jumped out of bed and rushed to my laptop in the office. “Were we hacked?” I asked in a panic.
“No, but could you look at our viewership?”
I tapped my foot impatiently as my laptop loaded and I made my way to the site. I clicked on stats and flopped into the rolling chair beside me. I was in shock. “Does that really say forty-five thousand hits?”
“Forty-five?” Nate asked. I heard him frantically clicking. “That’s three thousand more hits in the last ten minutes. I needed to refresh.”
“Oh-Em-Gee!” I cried into the phone. “Do you think something is broken? Or do you think a spambot got ahold of our URL?”
“I don’t know,” Nate answered in a distracted tone.
“It’s rather funny how neither of you has considered that your site is going viral?” said an unfamiliar voice. I whirled around in my chair to confront the intruder, but the doorway behind me was empty.
“Uhhh Nate, someone is in my house…” I trailed off before absent-mindedly hanging up. I heard panic in his voice just before my phone went silent. I jumped out of the chair and rushed into the hall. “Hello?” I called out to my seemingly empty condo. “Hello?” When my phone started singing again I let out a shriek before answering an undoubtedly worried Nate.
“Jordan? Jordan? Are you ok?” he cried into the phone. “Lock yourself in a room and call nine one one. I’m on my way.”
I turned the corner and looked into my bedroom and then my bathroom. “Nate, I think I just imagined it. I woke up really suddenly and I don’t think I was fully awake.” Just to be sure, I grabbed my old softball bat from the hall closet and headed into the living room. I quickly checked it and the kitchen. Nobody was there.
I heaved a sigh of relief. “Sorry to worry you, but I think I just imagined it. I’ve been through the whole house. Nobody but me is here.”
I heard Nate let out a long breath. “So you are okay?”
“Yeah, I think so,” I told him while nodding to myself for reassurance.
“Don’t scare me like that, Jordan. Mom and Dad would be so mad if I let something happen to you.”
“Yeah, let’s try and avoid upsetting the parental units if we can help it. It is nice to know that my little brother has my back though.”
“Little,” he snorted.
“You’re two years younger!”
“And you’re two feet shorter!” Nate fired back.
“I’m not that short…”
He snickered like he had just gotten away with something. “Fine, maybe you’re not that short, but if you aren’t suffering from a home invasion, I’m going to let you go so I can get back to work.”
“Thanks!” I said as I started a pot of coffee. I dropped my phone on the table and rummaged for a coffee cup. Coming up empty – I had avoided dishes for three days while we were in crunch time – I gave up and washed a mug.
I poured a cup and sat down at the kitchen table. I inhaled deeply to drink in the aroma before taking the first sip. “Damn, if coffee beans aren’t really magical beans, I’m not sure I want to believe in magic.”
“Well that is a charmingly naive point of view,” said the voice from earlier.
“Eeep!” I squeaked as I dropped my mug and watched it crash and break on the floor. “My coffee!” I cried despondently.
“Seriously, you’re our best hope?” came the voice again.
I looked around the kitchen in a panic. I wondered if I was having a nervous break or if I could reach a knife for safety fast enough. “Who are you? Where are you hiding?” The table in front of me shook slightly, bringing my attention back to it. In front of me sat a non-descript grey cat. Nothing about it seemed out of the ordinary other than it was sitting on my kitchen table… and I didn’t own a cat. “Will you please calm yourself down? We don’t have time to sit here while you have a panic attack.”
I blinked repeatedly. “Are you talking?”
The cat yawned before sticking me with a glare that chilled my blood. “You’re serious? We had a conversation for over an hour this morning, and now you choose to freak out over me being a cat?”
The cat sighed, causing its whole body to rise and fall. “This morning around ten we talked about why I was here. I gave you a whole rundown.” I continued to stare. “You know, the whole chosen one thing. I’m here as your guardian. You need to defend the world against evil. Is any of this ringing a bell?”
“You’re a talking cat!” I yelped.
The cat growled at me. “Humans!” It shook its head. “Fix another cup of coffee, grab a can of tuna, and sit back down. I guess we will go through all this again.”
In a few hours, the first chapter in the new serial blog A Girl Without a Name will launch. Our Elven Life Production Team (which you may see called ELPT) is very excited to present this new storyline for our readers.
This story is meant to read and feel like a Light Novel. For those readers who are not familiar with this genre of reading, a Light Novel is the novelization of a manga. This is partially being done because we are releasing our first light novel Demon’s Oasis Vol.1 this fall. It’s also because I enjoy writing them.
The stories that take place within this blog and the new series are set in the same universe as one another. With this in mind, you may see some characters crossover from time to time.
We are very fortunate to be working with a couple talented artists for these new adventures. William White and David Jones will be providing a lot of the artwork and commercial graphics for these projects. Please find them online and support their portfolios as they grow as artists.
Finally, a quick note about how this blog and others in the future will run. At the completion of a storyline (approximately 17-25 chapters), the stories will be published as a volume to Amazon Kindle Books. You will be able to purchase them on Kindle for a buck or two a volume. My hope is that readers will do this to help support our blog. The money we use to pay our artists, cover the cost of the blog and url comes out of our pockets. This has and will continue to be a labor of love for us but every little bit helps.
Thank you and welcome to A Girl Without a Name!
The blog title has changed but the address has not. Is this the same blog?
Yes and no. Yes, this is a blog brought to you by Elven Life Productions. No, the new stories here will not follow Kat, Dani, Hue, and Ian. However, these are still original works by Isabelle Saint-Michael, and as such they will still possess her first-person narrative style, wit, and design.
Is Girl Without a Name set in the same universe as the original Elven Life blog and Otherworld Realms books?
No. This blog will fit into our new universe, centralized around the light novel series we will be launching in the coming months. (Editor’s note: That the editor is VERY VERY excited about.) It is likely you will see some crossovers between characters from both the books and blog.
Will you still be writing new content for Elven Life?
Yes! I am not done creating content for the Elven Life or the Otherworld Realms universe. However, all future Elven Life content – new storylines, expansions on old storylines, and old posts – will only be available through the new Elven Life books we will be releasing on Kindle. You have not seen the last of Kat, Dani, and Tessa.
If this blog is no longer the Elven Life storyline, will there be more books?
Yes. There are more Otherworld realms books coming. Some are completed and are just waiting for artwork. Others are lost in editing (Editor’s note: Sorry…), but will no doubt surface again.
What’s been the hold up on new content and books?
A lot has happened to me and my team in the last year or two. We’ve moved home and office locations five times between us. Kenzie and her husband just relocated to New Zealand while Lisa and I are choosing to remain in Korea. I’ve returned to figure skating after a ten to fifteen-year break and had the injuries that go along with that. We’ve traveled more and plan to do even more of it in the near future. All of these things equate to less time than we had before.
How often can we expect new content?
This is the big question. To start off with, the blog will get new storyline updates twice a week. As for books, the goal going forward will be to publish two a year, with the possibility of more. Life can be crazy and things can change. Writing is not a low priority, but our families and full-time jobs must come first until we are making enough to support ourselves exclusively with our writing. Thank you for understanding.
A cool chill blows across a forgotten keyboard. The ghostly sounds of keystrokes fill the air. “What could this be?” you hear yourself ask in a whisper that doesn’t sound like your voice.
Snow Pixie came out today for the Kindle. I am super excited to offer it first on Amazon Kindle. The hard copies will be available next week. Thank you all for those who have pre-purchased the book. I really hope you enjoy Suzy and Quint’s story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
As promised each Friday leading up to the release I will be posting a chapter of Snow Pixie. No part of this post or blog may be reproduced without written consent from Author Isabelle Saint-Michael or Elven Life Productions President M. Kat Thomas. Thank you for reading.
We arrived at Justin’s “cousin’s” home shortly after leaving the hospital. The home had actually been a piece of property Markus Kringle, the current Santa and Justin’s uncle, had acquired almost one hundred years ago in the city of Chicago because he got a good deal on it. Since then paper had changed hands to make sure it passed down through the family every decade or so.
Even now the Victorian brownstone was well maintained. Dark hardwood steps and banisters leading to the floors above gave it a warm feeling. Of course, Joy visiting each year to decorate it helped too. Reaching out, I gripped the back of a green overstuffed couch and smiled. It was the closest thing to home I had known for the last century before I fell asleep. Before that I stayed in drafty boarding houses each year.
“So where have you been all this time?” Justin asked, breaking my train of thought.
“I wish I knew. I just sort of popped into existence yesterday. I was expecting it to be nineteen fifty-four, not two thousand sixteen,” I explained.
“What happened all those years ago? We all expected to see you at the show Christmas Day, and when we arrived you were nowhere to be found.” His concern shone in his eyes. “We spent months looking for you.”
I thought about the question long and hard. “I thought Jerry was the one,” I answered simply.
“Your skating partner?” Justin asked as he ducked into the kitchen. I heard the sounds of clicking and clanking before he returned with a tray of cookies and tea. Walking into the living room, he set the tray down on the table and patted the couch seat beside him.
“You are so much like your mother it is as if Lucus didn’t play any part in making you,” I teased.
Flashing me a smile that showed off his dimples, which more than a few women found swoon-worthy, brought back happy memories. With a shrug he handed me a cup. “I think I’m all right with that.”
I laughed despite myself. I already felt lighter. “Yes, I thought Jerry was the one,” I said, and suddenly my memories turned sad and bitter. “He wasn’t though. That became painfully clear.”
I nodded. “He didn’t even show up.”
“That’s horrible. We didn’t know. I should have suspected something when he said he hadn’t seen you and then introduced us to his fiancé from the chorus line.” Justin’s face was a mask of concern.
“Brunette, red lips, and legs up to the sky?” I asked.
“Honestly, I don’t really remember,” he offered apologetically. “I think we all just assumed you had decided to spend Christmas elsewhere at the news your partner was engaged. Then year after year you didn’t come back.”
“I faded from public memory and soon from all of yours,” I finished his statement.
“Hey now, I never forgot you. The Kringles never forget anyone. It is both our gift and burden,” he said finally with a heavy sigh. His eyes turned apologetic as he stared at me. “So what really happened?”
“I went to my father and explained I had a challenger for my heart. Someone kind who would gladly resist the chill,” I shrugged. “He never came. I waited and he never came for me. I went looking for him and found him with her. So I left. I went and found my father, and told him I was done feeling. I was done with pain. I had him turn my heart to ice and then I shattered it.”
Justin stared at me slack-jawed. “So you are walking around without a heart? You mean figuratively, because last I checked everyone needs a heart. It’s why driving a stake through Vampires will kill them. Nobody survives without one.”
“The Winters do. Surely you’ve heard that Winter has no heart?” I pointed out.
“Yeah, but they mean the season, not the person,” he retorted.
“Oh, go suck on a jingle bell! There is no winter without my family. Just like there is no Christmas or Yule without the Kringles,” I couldn’t help but snap.
“Actually, there is both a Christmas and a Yule without us. We had nothing to do with either of those. We just add to the season.” He said it with such a matter-of-fact tone I felt like flicking him in the forehead.
“You know what I mean,” I argued.
“So, you’re heartless. Is that what made you so cranky? Shouldn’t you be all emotionless?” he asked.
“I don’t know, according to you I should be dead.”
“You should be! If your heart was destroyed, you should be dead. I totally believe that there is a magic that would allow you to remove it and even freeze it to keep from aging, but destroying it should kill you. I mean, it kills Vampires and they’re nigh indestructible. It even kills Dragons. How can a Pixie not die?” Justin had stood up and cleared the teacups. Somewhere in all this chatting I had consumed cookies and tea without noticing.
“Snow Pixies aren’t real Pixies. We’re Elementals. You know that!”
Then Justin did what he did best. He defused everything with a warm chuckle and a big hug. “You get so wound up. I’m just glad to see you back.”
“Hmmpfff,” I responded, crossing my arms.
“Well what do you say we get you settled in to this new world, then we can worry about everything else? Do you want to stay here or the Pole?” he asked, clapping his hands together.
I took a deep breath through my nose and exhaled slowly. Taking my time I looked around the brownstone and ran my fingers over the many smooth wood panels. “I think I belong here. I can do the Harbinger job from here.”
Justin suddenly looked uncomfortable. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“We have a Harbinger,” he explained.
“Really? Is Jack finally helping out?” I asked hopefully. It would be wonderful to see my brother.
“No, not so much. He’s been preoccupied. His oldest just started university this year.”
“Wait, my brother? Jack Frost? Mr. I’m-never-settling-down, I’m as frozen as father, has children?” I couldn’t believe what I was asking.
“Yup. He met a nice girl about twenty years ago and settled down. They have three daughters,” Justin couldn’t help but give one of his goofy grins when he told me.
“Wow! What about Dad?” I was compelled to ask.
“I don’t know lately. I haven’t seen him in over ten years. It was when Gwen and I broke up. Uncle Mark and Dad both see him a couple times a year. I’m sure I would know if anything was wrong.” Justin reached for another cookie but he stopped instantly at the sound of a new voice.
“Don’t you dare! You had to suck it in at your last tux fitting. If I have to avoid cookies for the next several weeks, so do you.” A warm but firm female voice snapped at him from the doorway. Justin dropped the cookie back on the plate like he’d snuck it out of Grandma’s cookie jar.
I turned to look at the owner of the voice that could successfully command Justin Kringle to do anything. Short and curvy with a long tangled mess of chocolate-brown curls stood a woman that could only be “the fiancé”. I smiled and stepped forward, extending my hand. “Hi, you must be Justin’s fiancé?”
At first she stared at it and I was afraid I had offended her. Then with what appeared to be a sniff in my direction she relaxed noticeably and took my hand. “Yes, I’m sorry. I’m Grace. I hope I didn’t scare you. Justin has gained almost ten pounds in the last month and it is enough to make his tuxedo pull.”
Despite myself I laughed and shot him a mocking look. “You’re not supposed to start working on the Santa physique until you are officially promoted.” Grace snorted beside me.
“How do you know I haven’t been?” he said, shifting back and forth from foot to foot.
“Easy, you would have sent someone else to check on me. Santa is way too busy this time of year. Honestly, I’m surprised you have time with the Holidays rapidly approaching, and from the sounds of it, a wedding,” I pointed out.
“True, I am busy, but I couldn’t just let someone you didn’t know come.”
Grace wrapped an arm around his waist and gave him an affectionate squeeze. “I wouldn’t want one of my friends waking up after a sixty year nap and not seeing anyone they knew.”
“You’re both sweet, but I’ll be all right. I just need to get to a bank and then call back Officer Flynn so I can give him a statement. Can one of you tell me where I can get a ‘sell’ phone and what I do with it once I get it?” I reached for the little gold bag that Justin had handed me.
The two of them engaged in a quick discussion composed of only meaningful glances before looking back at me. Grace turned to Justin. “Why don’t you head back to the Pole? I’ll stay and help Susan get settled in.”
“Suzy,” I said, correcting her.
Grace blinked at me. “I’m sorry?”
“Call me Suzy. This time of year I’m Suzy Snowflake,” I explained.
Grace looked back and forth between Justin and I. When he nodded she shrugged and looked back at me. “Like Suzy Snowflake the song? ‘Here comes Suzy Snowflake dressed in a snow white gown’…” she started singing.
“Yes, Rosemary Clooney sang that after meeting me at a club one night People loved it.” I laughed at the memory of getting tipsy and frosting all our martinis.
“Ok, Suzy Snowflake it is. If you wouldn’t mind my company, I would be happy to help you get settled in.”
As promised each Friday leading up to the release I will be posting a chapter of Snow Pixie. No part of this post or blog may be reproduced without written consent from Author Isabelle Saint-Michael or Elven Life Productions President M. Kat Thomas. Thank you for reading.
The next time I awoke it was to the grinding pain of the worst headache I could remember ever having. The throbbing started at the back of my head and radiated down my neck, into my chest, and then out from there. Beside me there was a steady beep from some kind of machinery. I flexed all the muscles in my body, only to realize my fingers were wrapped tightly around something. It made them tingle and sent a feeling of warmth spreading through my body.
I turned my head to take a closer look and immediately regretted it. The entire room rocked and I let out a groan. “Oh good, you’re awake,” came a groggy voice beside me. I forced my eyes open to stare into the face of the officer from earlier. “How do you feel?” he asked, reaching to grip my hand with both of his.
My pulse spiked and the beeping to my left grew faster. It was then I suddenly realized the beeps matched the beat of my heart and I began looking around cautiously, trying to avoid moving my head. I shouldn’t have a pulse. Why do I have a pulse? Clearing my throat, I met his gaze. “I feel like…” I caught myself. Pain. I hurt? “My head hurts,” I told him. “Where am I?” I asked.
“You’re at Northwestern Memorial Hospital,” he explained. “When you fell you hit your head quite hard. I didn’t realize you were injured until I saw the blood on the ice.” I shivered and he cut himself off. “Are you cold? I can get you another blanket.”
I waved my free hand. “No, it’s all right, I don’t really feel the cold.”
“Ah, because you are a figure skater,” he said, brandishing the excuse as if it were the missing puzzle piece that completed an unknown picture. Humans could and would believe anything that didn’t challenge their views of the real world.
“Exactly,” I confirmed.
Just then a doctor came in the room and gave us the once-over. “Excuse me officer, I came to check on the patient.” The doctor’s eyes slid over to me. He was a middle aged man whose skin was even darker than that of the gentleman beside me. “Miss, I’m Doctor Jacobs. Officer Flynn brought you in after you sustained trauma to the back of your head. Do you remember the accident?”
I paused and thought about what Dr. Jacobs was asking. “I fell on a patch of ice at the bottom of some stone stairs.”
“When Officer Flynn found you, you weren’t wearing shoes or a coat. You fled the scene of a crime. Do you remember any of that?” he asked, politely waiting for me to process the memory.
“Yes, a man held me at gunpoint and demanded I give him my wallet and cell phone.” Out of the corner of my eye I could see Officer Flynn nodding alongside me in confirmation.
“We were unable to find any identification on you, but we were able to locate a small purse with what appeared to be a business card inside. We contacted the Justin Kringle listed on the card in hopes that he could help identify you. Do you know him personally?” the good doctor asked.
I smiled. “Yes, I’ve known Justin since he was a kid. He’s a close friend,” I explained. I was startled when Officer Flynn’s grip tightened on my hand for a split second, but I did my best to avoid showing it by averting my gaze.
“All right then, would you mind answering a few questions for us then, so we can get your information?” he asked as he leaned down, shining a light in my eyes.
“Isn’t that what we’ve been doing?” I asked.
Doctor Jacobs stopped suddenly and stared hard at me. “Well yes, I suppose it is.” Stepping away he scribbled a note on a clipboard before turning his attention back to me. “What is your full name?”
“Susan Ross,” I answered.
“And your birthday, Miss Ross?” he asked politely.
“January first,” I answered.
“The year?” he prompted.
“Doctor, it is poor form to ask a lady her age!” I said with a huff.
Dr. Jacobs looked confused and I could hear Officer Flynn chuckle beside me. The sound made my insides feel like they were glowing with warmth. “Miss Ross, I must insist that you provide us with the information we need.” I started to argue but a knock at the door halted our conversation.
A deep male voice said, “Excuse me, is this the room for Susie Ross?” We all turned our focus to the man in the doorway.
Standing at about five foot ten, with shoulders broad enough to almost fill the doorway, stood Justin Kringle. His eyes sparkled mischievously, and his long sandy colored braid tumbled down his back. Dressed in a plaid flannel shirt, jeans, a navy blue pea coat, and a pair of duck boots, it was hard to believe this was the kid that had stolen Santa’s sleigh for a joy ride. “Justin!” I chirped happily.
He shuffled into the room and shook hands with the doctor before coming over to stand beside me. Clearing his throat he handed me a gold purse. “I stopped by the rink and picked up your things. It took me a while to find them, otherwise I would have been here sooner,” he said apologetically.
I unzipped the purse and pulled out what appeared to be a wallet. I fumbled through the brightly colored plastic cards within before pulling out what I assumed was my identification. Susan Creasting Ross. DOB: January 1st, 1986. “EIGHTY-SIX,” I squawked loudly as I crunched numbers in my head. With this new information I realized I must have been gone over sixty years.
The doctor, Officer Flynn, and Justin all looked at me with confusion. Grimacing, I apologized. “Sorry, I just realized how old I was getting.” Understanding lit Dr. Jacobs’s face and he scribbled the missing information down on the clipboard. Justin nodded along with Officer Flynn as if getting the joke. Sighing heavily, I handed the identification over to Dr. Jacobs and settled my gaze on Justin. “It’s been a really long time. I’m sorry that this was the reason for us getting back in touch.”
Justin waved away the apology. “A good friend is like good wine. It doesn’t matter if you enjoy them every day or only once in a while – it is still good.” His eyes sparkled with memories. He leaned over to the doctor and waved him to follow him out into the hall to speak. Justin, like any good Kringle, had a powerful gift of suggestion when it came to Humans. That’s why children always told Santa what they wanted for Christmas and how he knew if they were naughty or nice.
Officer Flynn still sat beside me with my hand in his. When he cleared his throat, I jumped. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. Once you’re discharged, would you mind coming down to the station so we could get your statement?”
“Do I really need to, or could I give it here?” I asked, not wanting to linger. I had a lot to get caught up on if I had been gone since the mid-fifties.
“I suppose I could take it here. We will still need you to come down to the station but I guess…” I cut him off by pulling my hand free of his and causing the beeping machine beside the bed to let out a high-pitched sound.
I looked around frantically as the doctor and several nurses came rushing back into the room. “Quick, check the patient,” said Dr. Jacobs before he saw me sitting up and blinking at him. Reaching over, he switched off the machine. “Miss Ross?”
I shrugged at him. “I’m sorry, I’m not sure what I did.”
Dr. Jacobs reached for my hand to find the clip on my finger was still in place. “Hmmmm, it must be faulty equipment. When they first brought you in, you didn’t have a pulse, but seemed to be breathing without any problems. Officer Flynn here helped us move you because we were concerned we were going to have to take action, and sure enough your heartbeat showed up.”
“Technology, what are you going to do?” I said, hoping I sounded more confident than I felt.
Dr. Jacobs chuckled and reached for his stethoscope. “I should still check, then we can start the discharge paperwork.” As he leaned in close to me I reached back and quickly grabbed Officer Flynn’s hand. I heard him gasp a little at my forwardness, but he gave it a warm squeeze.
Once again the sound of my heart pumped in my ears and I could explain neither it, nor the warmth that spread through me just touching the officer’s hand. The cold stethoscope touched my skin and I inhaled a deep breath. Normally cold sensations didn’t faze me, but they had been since I arrived back in this waking world.
“How’s she sound, Doc?” asked Justin from behind Dr. Jacobs. His eyes were intense on mine.
The good doctor laughed and lowered his device. “She sounds healthy as can be. If you’ll excuse me, I will have a nurse in here to get her on her way shortly.” With that the doctor promptly left.
I turned back to look at Officer Flynn, who now had his fingers laced between my own. “I think I would like to go get changed. Thank you for bringing me here and making sure I was taken care of.” He gave me a nod before I tossed my feet over the side of the bed. I started to stand up, but the clip on my finger slowed my process. Pulling my finger free, I began searching for the skating dress I had been brought here in.
The officer cleared his throat. “They were afraid you might have taken internal damage of some sort. I believe they cut your dress off. I can go check and see if I can find you something in the gift shop?” he offered.
Justin stepped forward, handing me a bag. “I wasn’t sure what the case would be, but I grabbed one of Grace’s outfits and brought it with me,” he explained. I made a mental note to ask who Grace was before nodding and heading towards the bathroom.
I unzipped the bag Justin had been smart enough to bring and pulled out the clothes within. I tugged on the jeans, which clung to my legs but gapped at the waist. I then pulled on a camisole and a thick grey sweater. I swam in the sweater, but it was clean and smelled like cinnamon and honey. Giving the mirror one more look, I worked my fingers through my hair and freed it from the remains of the braid and bun. The doctors must have pulled part of it down to look at my injury because it was a total mess. Sighing heavily, I turned back to the door.
As I started to push it open I could hear Officer Flynn and Justin speaking. “I’ve known Suzy forever. We met when I was still a kid.”
“She seems like she spooks easily,” Officer Flynn said with concern. “She doesn’t seem like she’s from around here, nor do you for that matter.”
Justin chuckled. “Oh, I have family that lives in the area. Suzy has been to Chicago quite a bit over the years. She skates here every winter. She’s better then Sonja Henie,” he said with a laugh.
“Better than who?” asked Officer Flynn.
Justin laughed again and apologized. “Sorry, she was a figure skater a long time ago. Suzy used to enjoy watching her old movies when we were kids.”
“Oh, gotcha. Uh, I have a question and it may not be appropriate. If it is out of line, I apologize,” Officer Flynn said, almost hesitant.
Justin didn’t give the police officer a chance to ask anything. “There is nothing between us but friendship. I’m getting married this Christmas. Suzy and I really are just friends.”
“How did you? I mean… was it that obvious?”
“I just happen to notice things others don’t.” Justin started to say something else but I pushed the door open, trying to pull on the shoes that were in the bag. Both men looked at me, a bit startled. “Do you need help with those?” Justin asked.
“No, I’m fine,” I said, quickly snapping to an upright position. The entire world swam around me and I grabbed the wall for support. Both men rushed forward but I held up a hand to stop them. “Just a bit woozy still,” I assured them.
“I should get you back to my cousin’s place so you can rest. The nurse said it’s been over twelve hours, so you should be okay to sleep,” he explained.
I turned my eyes to Officer Flynn, suddenly processing the new information. “How long was I out?”
He shrugged. “It was about four yesterday afternoon when we brought you in. It’s about nine in the morning now. You’ve been awake for about an hour or so now.” He looked at his watch and visibly had to think. “About sixteen hours give or take. Sorry, I’m a little tired, so my math skills aren’t up to par.”
“You stayed here all night?” I asked.
“Yeah, it just seemed like the right thing to do since we couldn’t find any next of kin or anything. Nobody should wake up in a hospital room alone without knowing why they are there.” He offered me a warm smile, revealing two rows of perfect white teeth.
“Thank you, that was very kind of you,” I told him.
Reaching forward, he squeezed my shoulder and I felt warmth spreading through my body again. Why his touch had such a reaction on me I wasn’t sure, but it was rather unnerving. “I’ve got all your contact info from Justin and if you wouldn’t mind, I would like to stop by this evening and take your statement.”
I looked at Justin, who gave me a slight nod, and agreed.