A Waffle Paradise Circulation: 155,374,198 Issue: 220 | 16th day of Celebrating, Y7
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Christmas With You: Part One


by hmlanden

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1st Day of Celebrating, Year 7

     Dear Diary,

     The snow is falling; the bells are ringing; and Christmas is approaching. Except that the snow is falling outside my classroom window, and the bells I hear are sending me to lunch. Yet still I sit here at my desk, watching the soft white flakes drift to the ground. It's a gentle snow, a true Christmas one. The skies are coated with pale grey clouds swirled with black and white. I can hear the screams of my fellow high schoolers drifting from the cafeteria, but I cut them out as I listen to the whispering wind outside. If only… if only…

     Miss Lanstrom has just ordered me from her room. I suppose I must go eat now, but I don't want to leave my snow…

     A tiny white Kougra slipped her pencil into a pocket and closed her diary tenderly, smoothing the rumpled cover. Miss Lanstrom glared at her and snapped, "I told you to get out, young lady. And I expect…"

     "…instant obedience," the Kougra murmured and hurried toward the doorway.

     His gold earring clinking, Jake leaned against the door to his English teacher's classroom and winked carelessly at Lizzy, a purple Kyrii (who promptly swooned). Ricky chattered on with Megan and Rachel about some sword-fighting match with Jeran he supposedly won, blissfully unaware that the girls' attention was riveted on the handsome pirate Kougra behind him, who was adjusting his dark red belt and smoothing his blue gray uniform. Then, just as Jake opened his mouth to add his well-thought out comment…

     CRASH. He tumbled backwards through the door as it opened, landing on top of a small white Kougra. Ricky cracked up, but Megan and Rachel scrambled to assist him. Dragging him to his feet, Megan pushed Jake to the other side of the hallway against a row of pale blue lockers. Rachel shoved the tiny Kougra against the wall.

     "What'd you do that for, Snowball?" the faerie Ixi snarled.

     The white Kougra looked as if she was about to cry. "I didn't mean to…" She looked at Jake, her eerie pale violet eyes shining, her paws clutching a filthy diary. "I'm sorry…"

     Rachel snickered. "Awww…poor widdle Snowball said she was sowwy…" Megan and Ricky joined in her cruel laughter as the white Kougra fled the hallway, tears dripping down her face. Jake stood paralyzed against the lockers and watched her go.

     "Who is she, anyway?" he asked a moment later.

     Megan, giggling as she preened her silky rainbow mane, glanced at the pirate Kougra and said, "Oh, we don't really know. Rumors are she lives in a shack at the edge of town. Never had an owner. Her name's Alix or something like that. Bookworm. Freak. General annoyance."

     "Oh. Whatever." With a dismissive gesture, he slung his paw around Megan's neck and strolled down the hallway.

     The nightmares began that night.

     The room was icy cold and bare. A set of metal bars loomed before him, accenting the grey walls. He stood up and pressed his face against the bars, straining to see out. It was like a prison: rows of cells stretching on farther than he could see, each one with a different pet in it. Sobs echoed down the empty hallways as rain pounded down on the tin roof. He started to turn around, seeing a flash of white, but then…

     BANG BANG BANG. "Jake, time to get up, ol' boy!" His owner knocked on the bedroom door. Shaking with fear, the pirate Kougra rolled out of bed. His face was bathed in sweat. It was time for school…he grabbed his backpack, ran a trembling paw over his mussed fur, and dashed out the door.

     The day flew by. On his way home, Jake was telling Anna, a gorgeous royal Aisha, his favorite joke about his owner and the pineapple muffin when he saw the white Kougra. She was carrying several thick textbooks and that old diary, her thin shirt flapping in the wind. Anna and he overtook her and, as they passed, Anna tripped her on purpose and laughed. Jake froze up on the punch line, let out a strangled sort of laugh when the Kougra's violet eyes met his, and fled.

     The room was icy cold and bare. A set of metal bars loomed before him, accenting grey walls. He stood up and pressed his face against the bars, trying to see if anyone was around. He knew this dream too well; there had to be a way out. Sobs met his ears as he frantically screamed for help. There was no escape. A flash of white caught his eye, and he whirled around to see…

     Jake's steel grey eyes shot open. His glowing clock told him that it was about one in the morning. Groaning, he pulled the thick blanket up over his eyes. It was the 15th day of Celebrating; he'd had this nightmare every night for the past two weeks. Each time it was the same. Something was haunting him…

     The room was icy cold and bare. She curled her tail protectively around her nose and listened to the sobs echo through the empty hallways. Was she really alone? She didn't dare turn around, for if she did, the dream would end, and she'd be isolated again. In this dream, someone else was there…someone cared about her. A flash of white caught her eye and, unable to resist it, she turned around…

     Across town from Jake's luxurious neohome, a white Kougra in a small, dark shack settled deep in a snowdrift woke up gasping. Her thin blanket was soaked in sweat and starting to freeze. Kicking it off, Alix pulled on her dry shirt and pants before grabbing her stained diary, worn pencil, and a small fire orb contained in a cracked glass lantern.

  15th Day of Celebrating, Year 7

     Dear Diary,

      It's in the middle of the night. I'm freezing cold, yet bathed in sweat. I just had that dream again…

      I've been having it for two weeks now, as you know. They started the day that pirate Kougra fell on me. He has the most amazing grey eyes, like blocks of steel, so calm and steady. They seemed so familiar…probably because I've seen him around school so much; he is one of the most popular guys at school. Always has girls dangling from every paw. But, moving on from that…

      I feel like I'm being haunted. I've been alone all my life, yet this dream feels like there's something else there with me, someone who cares about me. I want to sleep all day, just to have that feeling. It's almost like the ghost of my past memories has been awoken once more…

     ~*~

      Jake lay there all night, staring at his ceiling and clutching his Garin plushie. When the sunlight finally peeked in through his window, the Kougra had decided upon a course of action. Quickly dressing and preening, he dashed out to the kitchen to wait for his owner.

      It wasn't long; Ron usually got up at five. When the teenage boy strutted into the kitchen yawning, he was shocked to see his pet awake. "Hey boy, what's up?" Running a hand through his black hair, Ron pulled some toast and jam out of the fridge.

      "Where'd I come from?" Jake's heart pounded so loud he thought it would wake the dead.

      "What do you mean?" Ron looked confused.

      "Did you get me from the pound?"

      "Yes, I did. Why?"

      "I've been having these nightmares…there's someone else with me in my cell at the pound. Did I have…"

      Ron looked quickly over at the clock. "Oh, look at the time. I have to go start restocking. We'll talk later, okay?"

      Jake picked at his toast, his appetite gone. "Okay…" he murmured, his mind swirling with images of someone he'd never known…

      Alix quietly watched the snow fall as she walked to school that morning. A thin blue scarf was wrapped snugly around her head, fending off the chill wind. Other pets passed by her, bundled in many layers of sweaters and gloves. Overhead, she could see the air faeries playing catch with the snowflakes, her eyes alone enchanted to behold what others missed. Smiling, she stepped into the front door of her neoschool and scurried to her homeroom.

      Jake stayed a cautious distance behind the mysterious Kougra the whole way to the academy. He watched her glance at the sky and smile, so he looked up as well. There was nothing there but clouds… she was odd indeed. Frowning, he dashed up the steps and into his first class just as the bell rang.

      All day he stalked her. His friends tried to talk to him, but he brushed them off. He studied her every move, scribbling notes in his Sloth notebook. She seemed pretty normal, except for the occasional quirky move. For example, during first break, she ran outside to the elementary school playground. Suddenly, snow seemed to swirl about her, and she danced, a gentle smile blooming on her face. At lunch, she sat alone in the art room and painted. By the time he left to go eat, the picture looked like it was going to be a portrait of some kind. Finally, when school let out, she stayed behind, sitting on the steps and writing in her diary.

      The wind had lessened by then; the pure white snowflakes drifted on a breeze, caressing her cheeks. Jake still watched her, his mind confused. All day long, she had been taunted and pushed around, never fighting back, but her misery showed in her eyes. Yet, when he'd seen her dance, he'd seen someone like he'd never seen them before: an untainted joy bubbling inside a troubled soul. Somehow, he felt connected to her, a strange Kougra with a murky past. He had to know…

      Stepping out of the shadows, he plopped down beside her. Alix jumped, her diary flying out of her paws; with a graceful stretch of his arm, Jake caught it and handed it back to her. "Umm….hi," he said shyly. "I'm…"

      "Jake. I know," she whispered. Her voice was softer than the falling snow. "You're the most popular guy in school."

      He flushed. "Err….yeah, I guess I am. Hey, listen, are you doing anything in the next couple hours?"

      Her eyes met his. "No."

      He felt his neck start sweating. "Weeeeeell…"

      "I have homework to do," she said abruptly, leaping to her feet and dashing off.

      Jake felt the iciness of the wintry world sink into his bones. He'd been so close…but wait, was that her diary on the ground? Maybe he could find something out there…

     ~*~

      Jake felt bad about reading her diary, but not horrible enough to make him not do so. His curiosity was too strong. Plus, his owner had totally clammed up since their conversation, so he was useless.

      Jake's room was pitch black as he waited patiently for his owner's snores to reverberate around his walls. Finally, he pulled out a match and a small candle. By the flickering light and his own shame at delving into her private feelings, he cracked open the small book and began to read…

1st Day of Celebrating, Year 3

      Dear Diary,

     It's so cold outside…I've never felt such a chill. It's like my own inner feelings are being frozen by the snow..

      Yet I still love the snow. It reminds me of someone I can't quite remember. They had eyes as grey as a mountain swept clean of ice…

      Jake flipped forward in the diary.

  13th Day of Running, Year 4

      I miss the snow. I'm having these really weird dreams. I think I'm going to have to move even farther away from Happy Valley. It seems like these ghosts are haunting me from there…

      Jake coughed hard in shock. This had happened to her before two years ago? What, was she spreading her demons to the local population? Yeesh…he kept reading.

4th Day of Celebrating, Year 7

      I haven't written in ages. I've been too scared to do so. These…weird things have been happening to me. Those dreams I told you about years ago? They're back, and stronger than ever. Ever since I ran into Jake, anyway…That guy's really weird. I don't know why I think so, I just do…the snow's back…I should be happy….but I'm so cold…

      Jake flung her diary across the room, blew out the candle, and flopped onto his bed. His nimble mind already saw the clichéd truth, and he didn't want to see it…

     ~*~

      Alix ran to school faster than ever before, her breath coming in ragged gasps. The sun was just beginning to slip out above the far sight of Terror Mountain; three feet of powdery snow coated Neopia Central. Somewhere, a pteri cawed. She had to find it…where could it be?!?

      She raced up the freezing steps of her neoschool and tripped right where she and Jake had sat the day before. No diary. Tears slid down her face, melting the ice where they fell but freezing on her cheeks. Who'd taken it? What person out there would now have access to as much of her past as she could remember? A more important question: who cared?

      Alix sat there, sobbing. The bell at the elementary neoschool rang; it was eight. Soon, high schoolers began arriving. They mostly ignored her, except for a few well-placed comments, and she ignored them. It was a silent arrangement.

      But many strange things were destined to happen. The shadow that fell onto Alix's shaking figure was merely the first.

To be continued...

 
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