by H.L. Singer
The first part of my YA retelling of the fairy tale "The Snow Queen."
| Chapter 1
I have almost all the pieces of the mirror.
After waiting so long…
Soon all the earth will all be white.
Snow and ice.
And summer will never threaten me again.
The only thing left is to piece the mirror together.
Get the last piece...
I look into my lake.
And see the last fragment of the mirror is tossed in my winds.
I fight the urge to seize it.
I could reach into the lake and grab it if it were any other object.
But I can not touch the glass.
It is one of the conditions.
My body shakes with cold rage, and I call for my chariot.
I stumble over one of the skeletons in my throne room.
I kick it away and the bones fly in all directions.
They make clinking sounds as they hit the ice fixtures…
I must have the skeletons cleared out.
They are ugly now.
But in a way I am thankful to them.
Each one gave me back a piece of my mirror...
But they are still ugly.
They must be cleared out.
I step into my chariot and it flies into the white winds.
There is only one piece of glass left.
I must be patient only a little longer.
Winter is lasting longer than usual this year. It has grown so cold that even the singing of the tea kettle and the crackling fire can’t chase the cold from my bones.
I shiver as I sweep the floor of the tiny kitchen while I wait for granny’s tea to boil. My parents died when I was four and I have lived with granny ever since. She’s very old. The oldest woman in our small village; some say that she is also the wisest. I think the cold is worse on her than on me. But she just sits in her rocking chair by the fire, warming her feet and drinking tea, and knitting pairs of gloves for Kai and I to wear outside when the frigid winds calm down a little.
Kai is the boy who lives next door and he and grandmother are my only friends.
The other kids at the village school don’t like me much, and Mr. Weston, our teacher doesn’t like me much either because I daydream during mathematics. I would have failed math and figures last year if Kai hadn’t helped me. He is a sort of genius with figures and can solve any puzzle invented. Even Mr. Weston, who is not inclined towards complements, says so.
I don’t know why Kai likes me. He is smart and well-liked and could be friends with lots cleverer people than I.
I am not clever at all. I have only one gift. Granny says it comes from my father.
I can talk to plants and flowers.
This gift may seem nice, but it is really not useful at all, because most plants, especially flowers, are actually quite stupid.
The daisies are flighty and always flirting with one another and the morning glories are so shy they hardly speak at all. To be sure the rose and narcissus are very talkative, but all they ever want to discuss is their own beauty, and if their heads look better tilted east or west.
My favorite plants to talk to are the oak trees. Most of them have lived hundreds of years and they are bursting with all sorts of fascinating bits of information. But during the winter the oak trees crawl deep into their ancient trunks and don’t talk again until the first spring thaw comes.
I peer into the teapot. There are little bubbles clinging to the metal bottom, but the water isn’t boiling yet.
I walk over to the window and press my nose against the frosty pane, trying to see into Kai’s house. He and his mother live in the little white house with green shutters across from granny and I. There is a sort of bridge that Kai and I built last year that runs from the roof of our house to his. In the middle of the bridge I built a big, green box for holding my plants. Most of my plants grow better on the bridge because they get more sunlight. But the bridge is slippery and dangerous in the winter, so we haven’t used it in months. I guess it doesn’t really matter since my plants are all dead anyway. I blow my breath against the window, and the frost turns to water and trickles down the pane. But I still can’t see into Kai’s house because his windows are so thick with ice.
I walk back over to the tea, which is finally boiling and carry a cup of it to granny, who sets down her knitting needles, and red and white yarn, and sighs gratefully. She points to the stool beside her with her gnarled old finger.
“Come sit by me, Gerda.” I sit down and put my feet as close to the fireplace as I can without catching my shoes on fire. Granny looks at me and smiles. Her smile is funny looking because she is missing one of her top middle teeth. But it is a familiar, comforting smile.
“And how’s my favorite girl doing?”
I take a red blanket from our tiny couch and wrap it around my shoulders like a shawl.
“Aye, I can’t argue with that,” granny says. Her voice suddenly sounds very old and a cold hand seems to squeeze my heart. What would I do without her? I take her papery hand in my own.
“Don’t worry, spring should be here soon.”
“I hope so. It’s been so cold that even Kai hasn’t been over here lately. I miss that boy.” She looks at me slyly. “But I daresay you miss him more than I do.” I feel a blush spreading over my face and lean closer to heat of the fire to hide it.”
“I guess I miss him,” I mumble. Granny smiles.
“He’s a good boy, and you couldn’t do better.” My face becomes even hotter. I wonder if it is possible to blush so hard you turn purple. I pull the blanket more tightly around me.
“Granny, he and I are good friends and that’s all.”
Granny smiles again and yawns.
“If you say so dearie.” She lays her head back and her eyes shut. After a minute her breathing evens out and I take the empty mug from her hands and steal back to the kitchen. My face still feels hot. Granny is partly right, even though I would never admit it to anyone.
I do love Kai. I love him more than anything. But he doesn’t think of me that way. I think he spends time with me because I listen to him talk. He is very smart and all the pretty girls at school just give him blank stares and change the subject when talks about his experiments and figures.
But they’re all in love with him, even if they don’t understand a word he says. And I don’t blame them. He’s smart and sweet, not to mention good looking, with his dark hair sweeping over his forehead and deep green eyes. I set the mug in the sink and look into the tiny mirror on the kitchen wall and sigh. I don’t want to be beautiful. I just wish I was a little bit pretty. But the face that stares back at me is as plain as a loaf of the wheat bread that granny makes.
Unruly, mousy colored hair, white skin that turns a violent red at the slightest hint of cold or heat, and a mouth that’s as straight and long as a ruler. My eyes are dark brown, and while they aren’t exactly ugly, they aren’t strikingly beautiful either.
I force myself to walk away from the mirror. I am not going to waste time feeling sorry for myself. I pick up a picture book about different kinds of flowers that granny gave me for my sixteenth birthday, and curl up by the fire where granny is still snoring away. I have never seen some of the flowers that are in the book, and I wonder if they would be interesting to talk to.
Right now I’d be excited to talk to a narcissus.
I wish spring would get here.
I sit at the table and work on the puzzle mother managed to get me before the winter winds forced us indoors. For four months the snow has been coming down without stopping. It is up to the window ledges now. I hear the howl of the wind beating against the frozen window panes, and for some reason I feel a sudden, overpowering desire to run outside and breathe the icy winds deep into my lungs.
Fresh, clean. Beautiful…
I dreamt of her again last night. Her beautiful face...
Deep blue eyes, as pure a blue as ice. Her black lashes against her white skin. Her silvery, shining hair, crowned with an icy crown, swirling around her slender figure… so long it touched the silver slippers on her tiny feet. Her red mouth opening, whispering to me to come to her…
Then I had felt a searing pain on my arm and awakened with a cry.
I had walked into the kitchen stove.
Mother heard me cry out and hurried into the kitchen with a candle. She sat me down on a chair and ran to the cabinet to get ointment for my burn.
“What in the world were you doing? She asked brusquely, as she rubbed the salve into my arm.”
I closed my eyes against the pain.
“I don’t know,” I whispered. She laid her hand against my forehead to see if I was delirious and sent me back to bed with an extra quilt.
I pull up the sleeve of my sweater and look at the wound. It is long and nasty, and looking at it seems to make the pain worse.
But I am gratefully for the pain, for the burn that awakened me. If I hadn’t tripped on the stove I would have walked right out the door in my bedclothes.
I would have frozen to death.
I put the last piece of the puzzle into place and stand up, walking to grandfather clock in the living room.
It is almost three o clock in the morning.
I walk to my room and lie down in my bed, pulling my quilt up to my chin. I try to sleep, but fright keeps me awake. I feel cold down to the bottom of my stomach. What if I go to sleep and dream of her again? What if I try to get outside and don’t trip over the stove this time?
What if... My mind keeps me awake imagining all sorts of horrific possibilities.
I get out of bed walk to the living room with my quilt around my shoulders. The fire is warm and bright and I sit down, cross-legged in front of it.
If only spring would come…Then I could sleep peacefully, and start back school, and go outside, and see Gerda…
I smile at the thought of her.
I wish I could go over to her house and listen to one of granny’s stories. I remember when Gerda and I were very little and I had gotten trapped at her house on a night much like this one. Granny had wrapped me in a quilt, handed us steaming cups of hot chocolate, and told us the story of the Snow Queen.
“The Snow Queen,” she had begun in her raspy but pleasant voice, “is an extraordinarily beautiful, but very selfish and evil queen.” Gerda and I had leaned forward, hot chocolate forgotten. Granny had pulled her red shawl tighter around her shoulders and continued.
“She drives a silver chariot, drawn by six silver unicorns through the sky. And wherever she finds great happiness she freezes the hearts of people.”
“But why would she do that, granny,” Gerda had asked.
“Because she is made of ice, and too much summertime or happiness or love would melt her.”
“Will she come here?” Gerda had asked in a small voice. Granny’s forehead furrowed.
“She could. She often appears on frozen window panes during the winter; trying to get into the warm houses and freeze the hearts of happy people. Gerda looked frightened and granny had smiled.
“But don’t worry my dearies. She can’t get in unless the window is open.”
Gerda shuddered and I put my arm around her, saying more bravely than I felt,
“just let her try and come here. I’d put her on the stove and melt her.”
Granny had looked at me with a raised eyebrow.
“Would you now…”
I stare at the fire, shuddering at the memory of that story. I feel my eyes growing heavy and lean against a pillow on the floor near the fire. Maybe the snow will slow down a little tomorrow and I can go see Gerda. I think of her face, but as I drift into sleep the cold, beautiful face of the ice woman appears in my mind. Then Gerda smiles at me and the ice woman disappears, a look of helpless rage flickering over her face. I turn to Gerda to thank her and she smiles again.
She smells like springtime.
I do not dream any more about the ice woman.
Anger rises within me.
The dreams are not working.
This one is smarter than the rest, and my beauty alone is not enough to lure him into the wind.
I smile at my anger.
What am I thinking?
I need him to be clever.
I have watched him through the frosty windows…
Watched him solve puzzles and figures that I myself couldn’t figure out.
He is perfect.
He is the one who will be able to piece back the mirror.
I will have to keep him alive longer than I did the others to do it.
That is no matter.
Once the glass is in his eyes…in his soul, he will never want to see his sordid little village again.
But first I have to get him into the wind.
I have a new plan.
I will pull back my winds and move out of the sun’s way.
He will come out to skate.
I am sure of it.
He and that revolting little girl that follows him around all the time.
I will take care of her to.
No…I will take him and leave her without him.
That is the worst punishment I can inflict on her for keeping him from me.
Once the glass is in his eyes it will all be over.
I touch my face.
I am not so beautiful for nothing.
When I crawled out from under my quilt this morning I couldn’t believe my eyes.
The snow had finally stopped.
I rushed around the kitchen making toast and eggs and tea for breakfast, and I dropped one of the plates in my excitement. I apologized to granny but she just smiled and told me to sweep it up. I brought her her breakfast, but I was too excited to eat any more than a bite of toast and a couple sips of tea. Then we heard a knock on the door and granny sent me to answer it. I opened the door. Kai was standing there in a green winter hat with his skates slung over his shoulders.
“Winter is finally over,” he said happily. And he promptly pulled me into his arms and waltzed me to the living room were granny was sitting. I felt my face turning the detestable, splotchy, red color it turns whenever I blush as granny smiled knowingly at me. I wriggled from his grasp and carried the breakfast mugs to the kitchen. He followed me.
“Aren’t you going say hello Gerda?”
I smiled a weak smile.
“Hello, I muttered.” He took the dishes from me and placed them in the sink.
“I came to ask you if you wanted to go skating.”
I twisted my hands behind my back.
“I’d like to but…I can’t just leave granny alone the first day the snow has stopped.”
“Oh yes you can,” called a raspy voice from the living room.
I ran to where granny was sitting and took her hand.
“I can’t just leave you…”
Granny’s eyes became slits the way they do whenever she is determined about something.
“But…” I faltered. Kai laughed.
“Come on Gerda. Granny has spoken.” He searched his coat pocket. “And I almost forgot to give her this.” He pulled out a skein of yarn in a beautifully delicate shade of blue. Granny smiled.
“Thank you.” Kai kissed her cheek.
“I figured this way I cold choose the color of my next pair of mittens.” Granny hit him lightly with her fist and I went and put on my coat, and scarf and hat, and roped my skates over my shoulder.
We skated for hours then sat down on the frozen bank drinking hot chocolate Kai had found at a little stand.
“So what have you been up to locked in a ssnow bound cabin, he asked?”
I took a sip of my chocolate and looked away from his eyes.
"Nothing much.” He frowned at my voice.
“Is their anything the matter?”
I shook my head and attempted a laugh that came out as a strangled cough. I looked out at the frozen lake and saw Merry Farrington, the prettiest girl in the village, gracefully skating figure eights around the ice. Her beautiful porcelain cheeks flushing a slight pink in the wind…her golden hair flying behind her, framing her oval face…Kai laid a gloved hand on my shoulder.
“What’s the matter Gerda?” I shook my head.
“Why aren’t you with her? I asked hoarsely.
“Merry Farrington.” Kai’s eyes widened.
“You think… Merry Farrington? That scatterbrained creature?” I stood up and walked a few steps away.
“Well she’s ever so beautiful, and all the boys are in love with her…and she’s the kind of girl you deserve… because she’s ever so beautiful, you see…” I trailed of lamely. He stood up and walked over to me, grabbing my shoulders and forcing me around to face him. I looked at my feet.
“Gerda, look at me,” he said softly. I bit my lip and looked up at him. Into his green eyes. He touched my cheek.
“Gerda, I don’t love her. I swear I don’t. How could I when I’ve been in love with you since we were kids.”
“You don’t mean that. You…you can’t?” My voice was trembling and I felt tears threatening to pour down my face.” He didn’t answer. Instead he cupped my face in his hands and pulled my face to his, kissing me softly. After a moment he pulled away and hugged me against him.
“Do you believe me now?” I backed away so I could see his face and found that my throat was too clogged to speak. So I nodded.
Kai smiled and pulled my back out onto the ice and we skated so long that when we stopped for a break all the other skaters had disappeared.
“We better go home before it’s completely dark,” I said.” He nodded and we skated to the bank. As I bent to untie my skates, suddenly out of no where, a frigid, blast of wind slammed against me, throwing me face down into a snow drift.
I struggled to stand, but only managed to get into a sitting position because the wind was swirling around me as if it was purposely trying to keep me there.
Then I heard an agonized scream piercing through the sound of the wind. Kai’s voice. I jumped up and in my desperation somehow managed to walk against the wind.
“Kai. Where are you? Where are you?” I screamed his name until I felt my throat must be slick with blood judging by the way it felt.
Blood. I looked down. There was a trail of it. Scarlet against the snow. I felt panic ripping at my chest.
“Kai!” I screamed his name louder than before, and followed the drops of blood. I couldn’t see in front of me because of the white wind but I could see the ground. I looked up and tripped over a form lying on the ground. Kai. I threw myself on the ground beside him and looked into his eyes.
I almost passed out in horror.
There was blood gushing out of his green eyes.
I steadied myself and yanked my scarf from my neck, tying it around his face with trembling hands. I put my ear to his heart to make sure it was still beating…
And that’s when it happened.
The wind came at me again as if it were angry at me. Tearing at me, trying to rip me off of Kai. A sudden surge of anger ran though me, strengthening me. I threw myself over Kai’s still body.
And held on with every once of strength I had.
“You will not get him again,” I screamed at nothing in particular, and in the back of my mind I though, I must be going mad.
The wind tore at me, biting me, searing my flesh with cold until I was sure that if I looked into a mirror I’d be blue. It slammed through my coat and hit my skin like a million tiny needles, causing me to cry out in pain.
But I held on.
I had to.
Finally, after what seemed like ages, the wind stopped.
I lifted my head in amazement. The lake was as still as it had been that morning and there was a bird of some sort singing a cheerful song in a nearby tree.
I could have strangled its tiny neck. I rolled of Kai and took his face in my hands. It was icy and there was a tint of blue around his lips.
He stirred and moaned.
“Kai? Kai?” I shouted into his ear. He sat up with a start and pulled at the scarf around his eyes.” I grabbed his hands.
“No leave it there Kai, leave it there.” He must have recognized my voice because he stopped struggling and grasped my hands tightly.
“Are you okay Gerda?”
“Of course I am. But what happened to you? Your eyes…” I trailed off.
He pulled me against him, as if silently asking for comfort.
“I---I don’t know. I was bending down to tie my shoes one moment and being attacked by some sort of wind the next. And something sharp got in my eyes…and I think I passed out from the pain.” I touched his face.
“Everything will be all right. Do you think you can walk?”
“It’s just my eyes. The rest of my body is fine.” I took his hand and we stood up in the snow. Picking up both pairs of skates and placing Kai’s hand on my shoulder so he could follow, I started towards home. When we got there granny ran out to meet us. When she saw Kai’s eyes the smile faded from her face. She shouted at me to lead him to the couch while she made a poultice for his eyes.
I walked through the door and led Kai to the couch.
Then I fainted.
There is something I did not tell Gerda because I did not want to upset her.
I saw the Snow Queen in the wind.
She was so beautiful…
The most beautiful creature I have ever seen.
But I know she is evil…
I can’t see because granny has covered my eyes with a poultice.
My eyes still hurt.
They hurt worse than when I tripped over the stove and burnt my arm. They hurt worse than anything I have ever felt.
If it wasn’t for Gerda…
I try to blink and the pain rushes back.
It hurts worse than before.
There is something sharp in my eyes.
I try to pull of the poultice, so I can get whatever it is out of my eyes.
But granny tied it tight and I can’t pull it off.
Pain shoots through my eyes.
An excruciating spasm runs through my chest.
"Help…please…" I try to scream.
But it comes out in a broken whisper.
Then all I see is blinding lights. And all I feel is pain.
A thought runs through my head.
I must be dying…
Then I know no more…
She loves him more than I thought, that girl with the mousy hair.
More than I had counted on.
Otherwise she could never have fought my wind so long.
She could not have kept him from me again…
I clench my fist so hard that my nails dig into my palm.
A drop of my blood trails down my hand and falls…
Against the white.
The girl should not have fought.
It will do no good.
She does not know…
It is already over.
The glass is in his eyes…in his soul…
And his heart is mine.
By taking him home she will only worsen her pain…
For she will not only lose him.
She will lose her good memories of him…
And all she will know is crippling pain.
I look around.
A bird is singing in one of the trees.
And a shoot of green is breaking out of the earth.
I must bring my winds back.
It would not do if the Snow Queen melted on the brink of her triumph.
All I have to do now is sit patiently.
Wait for him to come.
It is only a question of how long it takes the glass to travel to his heart.
I awaken with a start.
Jumping from my bed I run to the parlor.
Granny is in her rocking chair, a ball of yarn in her lap, snoring by the fire as usual. If it were not for Kai’s deathly still form on the couch I would think I dreamed the whole episode.
I won’t wake granny. She must be exhausted after all that’s happened. And with me fainting on her too... I sit down next to the couch and take Kai’s hand in my own.
It feels like a chunk of ice.
My touch must disturb his sleep because he jerks his hand away and his body starts shaking. I run to my room and get and get an extra quilt to put over him.
His skin is so icy that if he weren’t moving I would think he is dead. As I cover him with the quilt and hear him whispering, moaning about something.
I lean closer but I can’t make out anything except a few fragmented sentences.
“Beautiful…, but no I can’t. No… NO…”
A chill runs though me.
What is he talking about?
He starts thrashing again and I put a hand on his forehead. It’s as hot as the fire I’m sitting in front of.
I realize he must be delirious. I tuck the quilts more tightly around him and get a put a cloth with cool water on his forehead.
I take his hand back and this time he does not fight.
I lean against the couch, fear rising up in me.
He has to be alright…he has to…
A wailing sound comes from outside the door.
The wind is back.
I am first hot.
I can not see except for an icy blue color.
I thrash in confusion and pain.
I am hot again.
This time I stay cold.
The coldness relieves the burning in my eyes.
I grow used to it.
And begin to like it.
I stay like ice.
The heat does not come back again.
I sleep now.
I have looked through the frost on the window of the little house.
His heart is nearly frozen.
Soon he will awake.
And I will call to him…
He will not be able to resist my voice this time.
For when he sees through the glass,
everything he loves will become distorted…
And ugly in his eyes.
He will long for a cold beauty.
A perfect beauty.
He will long for ice,
for my palace,
And he will come.
But I won’t call to him just yet.
I will leave him a while longer.
The girl, after what she has done to me,
deserves more than just losing him.
I will break her heart.
When Kai woke up in the morning and granny felt his forehead she said his fever had broken. When she took the poultice from his eyes I steeled myself for the sight of black swelling, and blood.
But his eyes were clear and un-bruised, as if nothing at all had happened to them. Where was the blood that had been trickling down his face just hours before? I reached out and took his hand.
“How are you feeling, Kai?”
He snatched his hand from mine.
“I’m fine you stupid girl.”
I drew back and smiled, waiting for his familiar teasing laugh after the words.
It didn’t come.
I looked at granny and saw the lines around her mouth tighten, the way they did when she was worrying about something. I desperately wanted to ask her what was wrong but I didn’t want to upset Kai so I clamped my mouth shut.
I tried again.
“Kai, do you remember what happened to your eyes?” When I said this, he looked at me with a look that said he wasn’t going to waste his breath answering such a stupid question. That’s when I actually looked into his eyes for the first time. I gasped.
“Kai, your eyes are blue.”
He sighed disdainfully.
“Of course they are. What other color would they be? The color of a slimly mud puddle like yours?”
He laughed as he said this. A cruel, mirthless, laugh. I knew that it wasn’t really Kai saying it. I knew there was something wrong with him. That whatever had gotten into eyes must also have affected his mind somehow…But I still had to fight the tears that threatened to pour down my face at his words. I felt granny’s claw-like grip on my shoulder and that strengthened me enough to resist the tears, and look into Kai’s cruel, icy, beautiful blue eyes.
“What is the matter,” I whispered, trying to see past the blue wall and into the part of Kai that was him. Not the alien blueness that hid him from me.
He stood up, pushing me away from him roughly. My body slammed against the floor and an aching pain started in my back as I hit the wood. But it was nothing compared to the aching in my heart. I couldn’t hold the tears in anymore and they ran down my face.
“Kai, please tell me what is the matter,” I begged desperately. “Please, just tell me what happened to you…What’s wrong.”
He was walking to the door but when he heard my voice he stopped. He turned around and I could hear the soles of his shoes clicking against the floor as he took calm, measured steps to the spot where I was huddled on the ground. He looked down at me and his look was ice. When he spoke his voice was even.
“You want to know what is the matter with me?” he asked.
I looked up at him and nodded. His mouth compressed into a straight line.
“I’ll tell you then. You are what is the matter with me.” I froze. The tears stilled in my eyes.
“What to you mean,” I whispered. I looked over to granny for help and realized she had hobbled out of the room. Kai smiled down at me sardonically.
“You really want me to explain further then?” I curled my knees to my body.
“Well, Gerda. I am sick and tired of you following me around all the time. I don’t run a charity for homely little girls no one else likes.” He smiled. “Understand?”
I jumped up and grabbed his sleeve.
“But you told me you loved me.” Kai’s eyes darkened and he threw me off him. I fell against the stove and cried out as the iron burnt a line into my arm. I looked at Kai through the tears that were blinding me and thought I saw a flicker of remorse, of concern in his eyes. Then they hardened again. His voice was still flat, with an almost undetectable cruel edge to it.
“You really think I would dream of loving an insignificant, little mouse like you when I have seen her?”
I bit my lip so hard I tasted blood.
“Who are you talking about?” I faltered.
Kai looked ahead, staring at nothing.
“She is everything that is perfect; everything that is beautiful…Her hair swirls around her, her dark lashes and red lips are the only color against her white skin...”
He broke of and stared into the air.
I felt as though a dagger had been stuck though my heart. Merry Farrington… I sank down to the floor.
“Why didn’t you tell me,” I whispered, inwardly cursing myself for the way my voice was cracking.
Kai smiled as though he were pleased with himself.
“I didn’t tell you, did I? I did what she wanted me to.” He looked at me. “Listen Gerda, listen. Can’t you hear her beautiful voice?”
He closed his eyes as if listing to music.
“Kai there’s no one there,” I said dully. But he was looking towards the window and ignored my words.
“You see,” he said. “She is calling me. She is so beautiful that she could have anyone in the world, and yet she chose me.”
Kai opened the front door and walked out of the house without saying another word. I didn’t have the strength to go after him. I couldn’t have stood up if the house had been burning down around me.
I buried my head in my knees as uncontrollable sobs wrenched my body.
She is calling me, I can hear her crystalline voice singing in the wind.
Why did I fight her last night?
She only wants to take care of me.
I hear the tinkling of sleigh bells and look up.
She is in a silver sleigh; pulled by six, snow white unicorns.
I walk closer to the sleigh…
Closer to her voice.
Her silvery hair floats around her in the wind, and she reaches out a hand to my cheek.
Her hand is cold.
But I do not mind cold anymore.
She speaks. And her voice is like the sleigh bells.
“Come with me, Kai.”
I start to climb up into the sleigh.
Then a thought.
The Snow Queen looks at me and I see fury flicker across her chiseled face.
“Would you stay with her,” she says, “when you could have me?”
Then she leans out of the sleigh and kisses me.
I close my eyes.
Her lips are silk against mine.
The cool bliss of her kiss travels to my heart.
I look around at the village.
I realize with disgust that it is not so beautiful a place as I once thought it was.
There is dirt everywhere, spoiling the whiteness of the snow, and the paint is peeling from some of the houses.
The snow queen puts out her hand.
I look at her face.
Compared to her, Gerda is ugly.
I am foolish to sit here waiting.
I put my hand in hers, and climb into the sleigh.
He was much more difficult than the rest.
But he is clever.
I am certain he can piece the mirror together.
I touch his dark head lying against my white robes.
He has fallen asleep.
I have kissed him.
Now, he is mine.
I sat on the floor, curled up in a tight ball and cried until no more tears would come. It was as if I had cried myself dry. Granny came into the room and dropped a red blanket around my shoulders and handed me a cup of some sort of hot tea.
Looking up at I noticed the lines around her mouth were tighter than I had ever seen them. She knelt beside me and examined my arm with her gentle, old hands.
“You’re a lucky one,” she said. “This burn isn’t nearly as bad as it should be.” The tears started pouring from my eyes again. She sighed and pulled me into her arms.
“Granny, what did I do? Why does he hate me so much,” I sobbed.
She smoothed my hair.
“There, there dearie. It’s not your fault.”
“Then why was he so angry with me?” Granny stood up and held out her hand.
“Come sit with me on the couch. These old bones of mine can’t take sitting on hard wood for very long.” I stood up, wiping at the tear streaks on my cheeks. We snuggled under a big blanket and she slipped an arm around me.
“Gerda, I’m afraid that there is something wrong with Kai, something that he himself can’t control…” she trailed off. When she spoke again her voice was firm.
“Gerda I need you to tell me everything that happened last night.”
“I don’t really know what happened,” I whispered. I was bending down to untie my skates, when a sort of wind started blowing. It was so strong I fell into a snowdrift…”
“Then I heard Kai scream and somehow I managed to fight the wind and get to him.” My voice was wavering. “And there was blood…coming out of his eyes…in the snow…a whole trail of his blood…”
“And then what happened?” Granny prodded.
I shivered and pulled the blanket tighter around my shoulders.
“Then the wind attacked me, almost as if…as if it was angry with me. But I threw myself over Kai and…somehow I held on…Then it just stopped. And I brought Kai to you.” I looked up at her. “Granny please…if you know what’s wrong with him tell me.”
Granny’s face was white to the lips. But her voice was steady.
“It is the Snow Queen, Gerda.” I pulled away from her.
“How can you be so cruel,” I cried. “After everything that’s happened, you are mocking me.” She grabbed my hand and pulled me down on the couch with a strength I didn’t know she had.
“I am not mocking you, Gerda. Though I wish for Kai’s sake I was.”
“What do you mean?”
Granny took my hands in hers.
“Do you remember the story I used to tell you about the Snow Queen?”
“Everyone thinks she’s just a legend, Gerda. But she isn’t.”
My heart went cold at her words.
“What do you mean? I whispered.
Granny wrapped her arm around me.
“She was once the queen of our beautiful land.”
“What happened?” Granny’s face clouded.
“There was a wizard named Dartmouth in the king’s court, who had more influence with the king than anyone else. Until the king married his new queen.”
“And Dartmouth got angry?”
“He sat in his workshop, brooding for weeks. Then he had a brilliant idea.”
“He built a magical mirror. Ten feet tall and five feet wide, and gave it to the queen. The queen thought it was very beautiful and thanked the wizard. But she didn’t know that whoever looked in the mirror would be changed. You see, Gerda when someone looked into the mirror, their vision of the world was distorted; the things they thought beautiful, became ugly to them, and evil things looked beautiful.”
“Why didn’t she just get rid of the mirror?” I asked.
Granny gazed into the fire.
“Dartmouth had cursed it so that whoever looked into it would become dependent on it. After a while, when he was sure the queen couldn’t live without it, he threw it over a cliff and the pieces scattered in the north wind and blew through the whole world. Then he told the queen that if she could piece the mirror together again, and stand before it, the whole world would obey her.”
“And she listened to him?” I asked in amazement.
“By that time her heart was frozen, and everything that she had loved, everything around her seemed ugly. She fled to the North Pole where her heart of ice would not melt and started looking for the pieces of the mirror.”
The mirror…glass… Kai’s eyes…. The thought seared my brain. I jumped up from the couch and grabbed Granny’s hands.
“That’s what happened to Kai’s eyes. The glass…that’s why he acted the way he did.” I grabbed my coat. “Granny, I have to go tell him.”
A look of pain came over Granny’s face.
“It’s no use Gerda. He’ll be gone by now.”
I whirled around to face her.
“What do you mean?”
“He will have already left with her,” granny whispered.
I felt as if someone had punched me low in the stomach.
“Then we have to go after them,” I said desperately. “It’s only been an hour or so and they can’t have gotten far.”
Granny looked at me with pity in her eyes.
“They aren’t walking, Gerda. The Snow Queen drives a sled through the air. They are probably already at her palace by this time…I’m sorry.”
Fear grabbed at my throat.
“I have to find him, granny. I have to. I love him. If it wasn’t for me…if I would have just kept him here a little longer…but I just let him go…into the wind…straight to her…because I was jealous of Merry Farrington... when he wasn’t even talking about her at all. I was stupid… I have to find him…I have to…
“You are right. But I don't want to lose you child. You're all I have and she wouldn't hesitate...”
I choked back a sob.
“I don’t care if it’s hard. I don’t care if I die. I have to go after him…