Earth, 2140 I gave the hologram picture of my father reflected inside my goggles a sympathetic grin. Sorry, Dad. To think this nerd was supposed…
I put down the zombie book my AP English teacher gave me on the flat cushions stacked near the cabin’s window, trying to take in the unexpected scene of my hero dying. Authors were cruel. Through the snow-frosted window a blue glow caught my attention, like the same blue found on our Christmas tree’s lights in the living room. The light flew in circles and ribbons. That horrible fairy, Blue, was back.
As I turned my back to the window, the blue glow grew brighter. More urgent. So much it nearly called my name. Bailee. Ignoring him, I grabbed at my book and attempted to crawl back into zombie land.
I grumbled and whirled. Was that fairy throwing sticks at the window again?
Why wouldn’t Blue just go away? I hadn’t seen that fairy since Mom died, and I never wanted to see him again. Wished he would freeze in the snow. He’s actually really good at not dying too. I tried to squash him once with my boot. Wouldn’t perish.
A knock rapped on the cabin’s door. Slamming my book shut, I hurried to let my Dad in, and a carpet of snow followed him.
“Doing okay in here, Pumpkin?”
I was, until that horrible creature interrupted. “Need any help with that?”
Bending down, he stacked the firewood rack with more logs by the fireplace. “No. But, I will need help with the lights. What do you say?”
Anything but go outside where Blue lurked. “Don’t we have enough lights up around the porch?”
He frowned, pulling at his scarf as if it was making him sweat. “You can never have enough. Come on, I expect more from you. You know we always like to top our creativity every year.”
No, that was Mom’s thing. Why did everything about this stupid holiday push a machete into my heart? And why was Dad so eager to do these things without Mom?
Dad sighed and motioned for me to sit beside him on the sofa. I plopped onto the cushions.
“Come on. Do this for your old man.” He smirked, pretending to be wounded.
I leaned back against the armrest and tossed my feet on his lap.
“I miss her too, Pumpkin. But, we can still share this Christmas. All of us. Together. Like your mom would have wanted.” He pulled my feet to his chest. “She loved hanging the lights around the cabin. Made me so nervous seeing her on that ladder, but she insisted on it. Always determined. The apple didn’t fall from the tree.” He winked at me.
Shock filled me. It was the first time he’d mentioned her in what seemed like forever. And now that he had brought her up, I was torn between wishing he would and wishing he wouldn’t from now on.
“Fine.” I huffed. “I’ll help, but I’m a Pumpkin, not an apple.”
“Atta girl. Grab your jacket and let’s get started.”
I dashed to my room and plucked my heavy white jacket with faux-fur trim attached to the hood and cuffs. Before I could stop, I squinted at the window. Blue should stay far away.
“Come on, before it gets any colder! No time to diva yourself up,” Dad called out just outside of my bedroom door. Under his breath he mumbled, “No boys out here to impress, either.”
“I heard that!”
Glancing at the baseball bat I practiced with during my softball days, I decided I might need it against that fairy. I gripped it and tested out a swing that nearly took out the lamp beside my bed. Good enough.
I hurried, and he stopped me before I could go out the front door.
“Whoa. What’s with the bat?”
I shrugged. “I might need it for something.”
“Against what? Zombie bears?”
I gave him that just leave it alone look.
He held up his hands in surrender. “OK. Fine. Let’s go.”
The secluded cabin tucked in the Colorado mountains didn’t have neighbors for miles, the closest being my Uncle Jeff, who let us borrow the cabin. It was okay I guess to get away from home, but any sane girl who actually appreciated WiFi would pick the suburban lifestyle back home with friends. A good thing I only saw this place during special occasions.
“Are you helping me or what?”
Collecting snowflakes on his beanie, Dad was already halfway across the roof, clipping the lights on the hooks.
“Am I allowed up the ladder?”
He smirked. “How about you hand me the next roll of lights?”
Pulling out the colored lights, I froze. One of the blue lights was shining, and they weren’t even plugged in yet. I checked the plug just to be sure. The light grew brighter. I leaned closer, and out from behind the lightbulb popped out Blue.
I shrieked, sliding backwards into the snow. The fairy flew into the wreath hanging on our door and hid behind a pinecone. The nerve of him. Even boys at school weren’t that stupid.
“What’s wrong?” Dad glanced over the edge of the roof.
“Um, stupid bug,” I shouted, while eyeing the wreath in a death stare.
Dad shook his head. “You gonna leave me up here all night?”
I hurried to pass him the last roll of lights but kept guard for Blue. Dad climbed down to join me. We stood in front of the cabin and admired our work. Strings and strings of lights covered every edge of the cabin.
“Not bad, Dad.”
He pulled me into a sideways hug. “Picture time.”
I would’ve protested, but Dad was already going back into the cabin for the stupid camera and tripod. Why was he in such a hurry to take pictures without Mom? Sure it had been nearly a year, but I didn’t think I could stomach another piece of evidence that proved she was really gone.
This seemed to be important to him so I tried my best to go along with it.
He positioned the camera, and dashed beside me in time for the camera to snap a photo of our grinning faces and red noses.
A blast of snow stormed through, clinking the glass bulbs together. Dad and I rushed inside to warm up by the fireplace. He pulled out a deck of playing cards for a game of Go Fish. Said he used to play it with his dad, so I guessed that meant for whatever reason, he had to play it with me. I’d much rather play a first-person shooter game on PlayStation, but no electronics were allowed in the cabin, and were to remain back home. Kind of lame, but at least I got to keep my phone. Of course, that didn’t help much when there was no WiFi.
The fire crackled as I reached across the coffee table for more popcorn. “Do you have any threes?”
“Go Fish. And save room for dinner, okay?” He fiddled with the camera in his free hand to check the picture we took. “Do you want to look?”
“Sure.” I would humor him. I reached for the camera and tapped the wrong button. It brought up a photo from last year. Mom and Dad hugging in front of the cabin and squeezed in the middle, with a beaming, smile was me.
Before a tear could fall, I hurried to press the forward button to the picture Dad had just taken. And just like that, Mom was gone. Memories of her laying in the hospital bed seized me. Blue didn’t even help her. He’d promised he could. What kind of stupid healing fairy couldn’t cure cancer?
“Looks good.” I tried to shove the camera back to him, but then glimpsed something in the frame and yanked it back.
Something was above my head. I punched the zoom button several times. Blue had his arms spread, holding a sign that said MISS YOU. Gritting my teeth, I wanted to toss the camera into the fireplace. No, I wanted to toss Blue into the flames. Why did he return here? Could it be about that bond he made with me last year? I thought he was joking.
My finger smashed the trash can icon button. “Oops, I accidentally deleted it.”
After falling asleep to soothing death metal music, I woke to Dad gently shaking me awake and pulling the earbuds out while nagging about not sleeping with those plastic things.
“Breakfast is ready. Don’t wanna waste your Christmas Eve, do you?”
I grunted, waving him off. As I tried to pull the covers back over my head, they were yanked off of me, probably tossed across the room and draped on the rocking chair where I couldn’t reach it. Darn it!
I flopped on the bed like a dying fish.
Dad chuckled. “Get up drama queen.”
Fine. The gothic version of The Little Mermaid dream wasn’t any good any way. I dressed and parked myself at the table. Snowman pancakes smiled next to two pieces of bacon and fluffy white eggs. My mouth watered. I wolfed the food down.
A buzz whipped by my ears. I whirled with my butter knife gripped tight. Blue? The tug in my chest I used to get when ever he was near returned. I could feel him. He was here. Waves of rage crashed, turning my insides to boiling point. A chocolate chip fell onto my eggs. I looked up and lo and behold there was Blue, perched on the fridge. I couldn’t be here. I had to leave. Needed to get away.
Shoving the last bite of pancake into my mouth, I motioned toward the door. “Is it all right if I take the snowmobile out for a spin?”
Dad met my gaze. “Sure. I’ll ride with you—”
“No, I kind of wanted to be by myself, if that’s okay.”
His brows pulled to a frown. “Bailee, we’ve been over this.”
I held back a growl. “I know, I’m working on it. This isn’t me hiding, this is just wanting some free time.”
He studied me. He must’ve thought I was retreating again, back into my shell where I almost self-destructed after Mom’s death. Dad promised to never leave me alone again, and agreed to help me work through it with him, together. But I couldn’t have him there to see…a fairy.
“You have until noon. I want you back here by then, understand?”
I glanced at the clock. That gave me two hours. “Yup.” I rushed in to hug him and then made my way out the door after squirming into my insulated boots and snowsuit.
Finally. Air. Space. A magical white realm I could run into.
I buckled my helmet and lowered the goggles. This was going to be fun. Mounting the snowmobile, I turned the ignition key and blazed my way out of there. A path we cleared for our own personal racing enjoyment wrapped around within the cabin’s property for a good ten miles. But I wasn’t about to follow the path.
The force of the breeze splashed against the windshield, as if trying to stop me. I embraced every second of it. Making a turn, I deviated from the trail, slipping through trees that were crowding the snowmobile’s tracks. I should’ve eased off the accelerator and been more cautious of the trees whipping by, but I didn’t care. A buzzing sounded by my ear. I glanced to the side. Stupid fairy.
With skin like ocean blue, and wings like petals, the five-inch fairy held up his hands, motioning for me to slow down. My gaze back on the path, a tree was about to act as a steel street pole. I jerked to the right, hammering a snow mound. The impact shot me off of the seat and into the snow.
Laying on the ground like a busted snow angel, I tried to set up. A sharp pain exploded in my wrist and I yelped. It was bent unnaturally. My stomach revolted and I nearly retched.
Blue landed beside me, running to my now swollen wrist. “Be still.” He stretched his hands out. A yellow light of warmth streamed from his palms and wrapped around my wrist, bending the bone together.
I nodded, testing out my wrist movement. It was perfect. I narrowed my eyes. “Heal me, but not my mom?”
Blue’s chin dropped. “I tried, Bailee. You have to know that.”
I pushed up. “I don’t want to hear your excuses. You’re a healing fairy. It’s what you do.”
“I’m also bonded to you, remember? It’s why I keep returning to you.”
“If that’s true then I want the bond broken, okay. And for you to leave me alone.”
The color drained from his tiny face. “You don’t mean that. Once a fairy creates a bond with a human, it can be difficult to become undone. Some don’t survive once their human dismisses them. Are you sure you want that?”
He was being dramatic, trying to manipulate me. I wouldn’t fall for it. “Of course I’m sure. Don’t ever come back.”
My heart raced. Were those my own words? I sucked it up. I crossed my arms and hitched one eyebrow up.
A shade of blue faded from the fairy. “If that is your wish. I will no longer bother you.” His color completely drained, turning him silver and he dropped on the snow as if tiny hands popped up from the snow and yanked him down. He pushed up, exhausted. “It’s done.” His wings picked him up weakly, and he flew off into the forest, out of sight.
I took a deep breath. If it was what I wanted, why did I feel like I’d kicked a dog? I inhaled another deep breath and released it to steady my nerves. Blue would move on, just like I would.
Making my way back to the snowmobile, I moaned. The stupid thing was stuck in a steep slope for good. I tried rocking the Yamaha to loosen it, but it would barely budge. Digging it out did no good because the engine wouldn’t even start. Left my phone at home too. Great.
Looked like I was walking home. Pulling out my portable GPS that Dad always kept tucked into my snowsuit, I walked towards the cabin. My boots sank into the snow. At this rate, Dad would have already had a panic attack.
Stupid. I remembered the GPS emergency locator on the device. After switching it on it didn’t take long for Dad to find me. His snowmobile sped my way, and he flung himself off to wrap his arms around me.
I spilled my guts.
Dad grounded me. What else had I expected for going off trail? But in the true spirit of Christmas, the punishment would take place once I returned back home. Great. More prison time away from my devices and friends.
Days passed, and not a sign from Blue. No hints of his presence. Good riddance. It did me no good to see something that reminded me of Mom.
A coldness gripped me as I sat on the porch swing one afternoon. An emptiness gnawed at my sides. Blue must really be gone. I couldn’t feel him anymore like before. It was like I would always know when he was around, even if I didn’t see him. But now, that was gone. Our connection broken, replaced by static filling my chest.
I had to remind myself breakups in relationships weren’t a walk in the park, and that it would get easier. A bestie I had in junior high dumped me once we started freshmen year. She said we grew apart. We both learned to move on without animosity. Same could be done with Blue. I just had to give myself time.
Uncle Jeff pulled into the long private driveway and met me and Dad at the porch. He pulled me into a hug. “Hello, Bailee. Feliz Navidad! I heard someone had quite the adventure on her snowmobile.”
Heat crept into my cheeks. “You could say that.”
Dad handed his brother a cup of coffee. “Jeff, how’s it going?”
“Busy. You know, parts to deliver.”
Dad sipped his cup. “A shame. Working Christmas day too?”
“’Fraid so.” Uncle Jeff handed Dad a yellow envelope.
I peeked over the rim of it to try and read the front but it was blank. “What’s that?”
A gentle smack from Dad’s envelope struck my head. “Nothing, nosey.”
Uncle Jeff chuckled. “Will I be seeing you two before you head out?”
Dad nodded. “Of course.”
“You guys be careful tonight. A nasty blizzard is supposed to run through here.”
“We will,” Dad called out. “You take care, brother.”
“Bye, Uncle Jeff.”
He waved us off as he left.
Dad worked on the snowmobile I busted while I remained glued to the porch swing. He’d mention it might be smart to fix it in case of an emergency.
I recalled when I flipped the snowmobile. Blue’s tiny face returned to me. I winced. Maybe I shouldn’t have said those words to him? But him being in my life did me no good. It was over between us.
The last words he uttered singed me. Some don’t survive once their human dismisses them.
Shutting my eyes, I buried my face into my palms. It was fine. He would be fine. I would be fine. Without him. But could I risk losing someone else?
The roaring blizzard blew in just like Uncle Jeff predicted. I hugged my knees by the fireplace on the couch. The monstrous wind tussled the snow about, knocking off our Christmas lights. I was ready to go home. So tired of this place. These cabin walls were closing tighter each second.
As if sensing my stress, Dad patted my knee. “It will be okay, honey.”
“It’s not that.”
“Not the storm?” He lowered his magazine.
I shook my head. “Nothing. I’m gonna go to bed.”
He frowned. “Not coming down with something are you?”
“No. I’m fine.”
He huffed. “You know I hate that word.”
I glared. Fine, as he once told me, was the word that gave you an excuse to say because you were too scared to admit the truth.
“Well, it’s the truth this time. Goodnight.”
Another sigh of exasperation. “Uh-huh.”
I gave him a kiss goodnight on his cheek. As I made my way down the hallway, something twinkled inside the Christmas tree. It wasn’t the colorful lights. It was more deliberate than that.
I inched closer on the white fur carpet. Something was stuck deep in the tree branches. I reached in, pulling out an intricate wooden ring I’d never seen—a brown wooden band and at the head was a miniature snow forest, as if trapped in blue glass. The sky inside the mini forest swirled, as if alive.
The ring fit me perfect. Uncanny. Glancing inside the tree, something else hung by a golden thread. I plucked out a letter the size of a business card.
A little healing power to you. May it heal your heart.
My pulse quickened. How come I’d never seen this before? Had it been here the whole time?
Christmas Eve was snowman pancake day. So much closer to ending this trip and returning home.
Yawning, I glanced at Blue’s ring under my table lamp. I had no clue what I would do with it. It was mesmerizing though, watching the blue sky over the white-covered forest swirled. The starry sky gave a magical aurora. Had he inserted some kind of energy into the ring? I shook my head. For now, I hid the ring inside the pebble beach house resting on my nightstand, and made my way outside to find Dad on the roof.
Unbelievable. This man would give me a heart attack. Wrapping my neck with a scarf, I embraced the gentle snowflakes gracing the top of my head.
All I could do was just shake my head at Dad. “What are you doing?”
“Trying to fix these blasted lights. I’ve tested every bulb. Not sure why they aren’t working.”
“Maybe it’s a short?”
He mumbled under his breath. Just as he was about to pivot, his right foot slipped. Falling back, he tumbled down the angled roof and then rolled off, crashing on the ground right in front of me. As if in slow motion my world seemed to shatter, my heart taking a permanent beating in my throat.
I screamed as I rushed to him. “Daddy!”
He moaned. “My legs…I can’t move them, Bailee. Call an ambulance.” Panic flooded his face as he balled his hands into fists.
My fingers and legs trembling, I ran inside to try the cell phones. No service. I tried the cabin’s phone but couldn’t get through. The storm’s repercussions from the previous night.
My bottom lip wouldn’t stop quivering. I rushed back outside after trying the phones again. Kneeling over Dad, I thought the worst: he was paralyzed. “I can’t get through, Dad!”
He panted for breath. Please, God help me. He’s in too much pain! A sob burst from me. “Daddy, please, I don’t know what to do.”
“T-try—” His heavy breaths shoved a spear through my chest.
I gripped a fist of my hair as anxiety pumped my chest. “I’m going to get help. Just hang on. I’ll be right back.” I pressed my cell phone into his hand.
Without a helmet or jacket, I hopped on the snowmobile and shot to the place I’d first met Blue.
“Blue!” Must have circled the frozen pond three times. He wasn’t here. “Blue, please! I need you!”
I turned off the ignition and tried to listen for the fluttering of his wings. Birds squawked in the distance. The breeze rustled the stiff brush near the pond.
“Please, Blue, I’m sorry! I need you. It’s my dad. He’s hurt really bad. He needs you.” My head swayed. Blue was gone. Probably on the other side of the world by now.
As I turned, a tiny cough sounded. I strained to listen. It sounded again, near a driftwood resting by the pond. I sprinted and searched the area.
“Blue?” The cough again. I leaned over a knot hole in the log. “Blue?” He was curled in a ball as white as a ghost.
He weakly lifted his head, his eyes widened when they met mine. Reaching inside the knot hole, I carefully scooped him out. Despite his tolerance for winter weather I’d never felt his body so cold before. “What happened to you?”
Blue’s chest rattled a dry cough. “I told you. Sometimes fairies don’t make it without their humans.”
No. It couldn’t be. I was the reason for his misery. He was dying. A flash of my mother dying on her death bed seized me. No. Not again—
“Tell me how to fix it. Mend our bond again. Please, don’t leave me too.”
“Too weak to mend it. You need to leave me.” His little hand waved me off. “Leave. Don’t watch me like this.”
“I’m not letting you go.” I yanked my scarf off and wrapped him in it, practically swaddled him until every inch of his freezing body was covered.
“I’m going to fix this.”
“How?” His tiny cough punctured holes in my heart.
“The ring. It’s a piece of you, right? Surely, it has some energy you can take from it.”
His weak eyes widened. “I can try. But I’m not going to promise anything. Not this time.”
A fist filled my throat. He was referring to Mom. Was I a fool to make him promise me he could heal her cancer? Especially after he had said there was a chance his healing powers might not take away her type of disease. But I’d made him promise me, because a promise was the guarantee I needed to hang onto my fading hope.
Sliding back on the snowmobile, Blue tucked into my shirt, I cut across the snow like butter, nearly tipping us when I made a sharp turn toward the cabin. Without turning off the ignition I lept off, still cradling Blue and slammed on my knees next to Dad.
He remained stiff in obvious discomfort with snow beginning to pack on his pants and jacket. “Dad, I have help. I’ll be right back, I promise.”
I rushed into the cabin, climbed up the stairs, and burst into my room. Unraveling Blue onto my nightstand, I plucked out the wooden ring with shaky fingers and placed the ring near Blue’s hands. He hugged the wooden band, resting his cheek on the head of the ring, near the swirling snow.
Sprinting back to Dad, I tripping down the stairs, and crashed onto my elbows. My pain would wait. I shoved up and sprinted toward him.
“Dad. Can you hear me? Blue’s going to help you.”
“Who?” His eyelids fluttered.
I pried the phone from his cold hands and tried to dial out again. “He’s a fairy. He has healing powers, and he will help you.” The screen still showed no bars.
“Please, Blue,” I whispered under my breath.
Dad let out a groan, followed by a sharp yelp.
“Dad!” I didn’t want to touch him, thinking it might cause him more damage. “Dad?”
Fluttering sounded in the distance. Glowing as a solid blue light, Blue burst out from the threshold of the cabin and raced toward my Dad’s side.
“Remember, Bailee, no promises,” Blue said.
I nodded and slid across the snow to give them space. Blue aimed his hands at my Dads stomach and expelled a stream of yellow light. I clutched my chest. Dad’s body rocked involuntarily, the scene drying my throat to sandpaper. His groaning and breathing lessoned as Blue’s stream of light wrapped Dad like a mighty hand.
The snowflakes melted off my dad, Blue’s energy warming him. Gasping, Dad opened his eyes. His gaze met mine as he slowly rose up. He straightened, legs wiggling and everything, free from pain.
“What just happened?”
“Dad!” I rushed in to hug him. “Don’t freak out, but a fairy just healed you.”
“What?” He pressed a hand into his back. “Impossible. I was sure my lower spine was down for.”
I searched for Blue. Where had he run off to? “Blue. It’s okay. You can come out. Please, it’s only fair my Dad meet you.”
Dad stood, and reached to hug me again. “Who are you talking to?”
“Blue. He’s the fairy who healed you.”
Blue flew down from the roof and hovered right in front of Dad. Dad took a step back, pulling me with him. “What is that?”
“Nice to meet you.” The fairy bowed and extended a hand.
Dad leaped back like a cat, nearly tripping me.
“Dad, stop. He’s harmless.” I winked at Blue.
“Merry Christmas!” Dad burst into my room as I cracked my eyes open, all smiles, a camera fixed in his hand. The flash caused dots to botch my vision.
“Dad…” I pulled the pillow over my head. “Get out.”
“Are you seriously going to do this on Christmas day? Get up party pooper.” He yanked the pillow away. Another flash in my face.
Blue shot out from the pebble beach lighthouse, glowing brilliantly. “Don’t we get snowman pancakes again?”
Dad snapped a picture of Blue. “You will take getting used to. Get her behind up, would you?” He winked and left the room, wagging a finger at me.
Blue saluted. “Yes, sir.”
The fairy danced on my forehead. “Get up. Get up!”
I rolled to my side. “Remind me again, why I re-mended the bond?”
Blue shook his head. “Because you’re nothing without me, face it. And I am nothing but a corpse without you.”
Ugh. Why did he insist bringing that up again. Maybe it was payback. I shivered at the memory, his body white and near the arms of death. To think he could forgive someone who nearly killed him. A body so tiny held a heart so big.
After I dressed and gave into a little rock-and-roll dance, I exited the room with Blue fluttering beside. From around the hallway corner a camera flash blinded me.
“Dad!” But he was already gone and giggling away like a child. That man was in rare form and it was totally too early for this.
I dashed out and slid on the wood in my socks to make a grand entrance into the living room where the Christmas tree and Dad were at. On his knees, Dad was holding a present down from shaking.
“Pumpkin, you’re going to have to open this one first, please.”
Oh no. What had Dad done? Kneeling down on the fur carpet, I carefully lifted the lid off the box. A peanut butter colored Papshund wearing plush reindeer antlers popped its head up.
I gasped. “No way!”
Big brown eyes stared back at me. The sweetest I’d ever seen. He had a butterscotch coat with long hair. He pressed his front paws on the rim of the box. I lifted him up and placed him in my lap. His tongue found my arm and began showering it with saliva. He’s perfect!
Dad flashed his camera again. “Meet Tyson.”
I glanced up at Dad. “He’s really mine?”
Another blinding flash. Dad chuckled. “Of course silly. And he’s your responsibility now. You’re mom and I had talked about getting you one two Christmases ago. I thought it was about time.”
My first dog. I hugged him into my chest.
“So do you like him?”
I shot up and wrapped my arms around Dad. “I love him! Where did he come from?”
“Well, I told your uncle I was in the market for adopting a dog. When he showed me the picture of Tyson I knew he was the one. He’s a rescue. About nine mouths old. Already potty trained.”
Tyson sniffed around the Christmas tree and then lifted his leg to squirt the pine tips.
“Tyson, no.” I hurried to pick him up and carried him outside, giggling the whole way.
“Wait,” Dad called out. “You’re gonna need this.” He tossed me a dog jacket and leash.
Oh, his own little jacket! Fastening the jacket straps and leash, I jogged outside with my new puppers.
Blue meet me outside to inspect Tyson, and then shot a gentle bolt of yellow light for Tyson to chase. “So what do you think, Bailee? Is this one heck of a Christmas or what?”
Blue mounted the back of Tyson’s back and sat like a king. I giggled at the two goofballs.
“It is, and I’m thinking the three of us could get into a lot of mischief back home. What do you say? You still wanna follow me to the ends of the Earth?”
The little fairy smirked, the kind that said bring it on.
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