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2015 anagram short fiction contest | THIRD PLACE WINNER 

LE REINE de L'HIVER (THE QUEEN OF WINTER) 
by Vivian Monteagudo


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She walked through the light snow, little piles lumping in her new footsteps. They caught on her entirety; her hair, her eyelashes, her scarf, everything but the little lump in her chest, which was guarded by her thick, white coat. The warm lump nuzzled into her chest. She had just found Kuuma earlier that year, but the pup was still so small. The winter breeze was fierce but silent. There weren’t any heavy winds, nor bitter frost. It was simply cold, like the looming presence of death. As the thought rolled over her thoughts, then came an empty chuckle. To Ayita, Death was nothing to be afraid of.

The two escaped the sky’s soft attack as they took the steps down into the metro.

She smiled, unbuttoning the top of her coat just enough for the puppy’s head to peek out, “Jocul Frost won’t get you down here.” But her only reply was a tiny head creeping under her scarf. She waited a minute or two for the train to get there. Dress rehearsal was in an hour, the last one before the performance that night, but though she should’ve been excited, everything felt hollow. Nothing stood out, nothing was bright, like all the color had faded to the white that covered her world. Everything was as white as the lights that shone in her eyes, blinding her softly.

She sat in the corner of the train car, surprisingly she was the only one. Kuuma was safely wrapped in her coat, dreaming away, leaving her to her own company. Dark hands idly rummaged through her bag. Then something sparked her attention, something hard, sharp, and deathly cold. Ayita pulled it out, but her heart sank when the oddity was revealed.

“Oh, it’s you.” She whispered, as if afraid it would hear.

It was her hair pin, the symbol of the prima-donna. Long, pale, and slender, branching out into sharp blue tendrils lined with rhinestones. Tonight she would dawn her crown and take center stage as the Daughter of Winter. She would be beautiful, glimmering like crystal under the stage lights stained white and blue. Her mother said it would be a grand step in her career. After all, how many teenagers were asked to perform with the Parisian Academy of Dance and Art in the most prestigious theatre in the region? This was her biggest performance yet. Bigger than Broadway. This could be her ticket to stardom and fame! So why did she dread her crown?

Before she knew, she was at her stop. Everything waited for her there.

Ayita entered without a word, walking straight to the dressing rooms. Dazzling lights were strung upon the ceiling across the grand hall, garlands of rich greens and golds lined the staircase to the balconies. The world around her shimmered in gold like the lights of the Spirit Realm itself, but she was blind in her daze. She took to the dim halls, and with the light to her back, she followed her shadow down the path to her dressing room. The dancer was alone once more in the empty room. She placed Kuuma in the box-bed they had let her keep in the dressing room. The dancer stared into the mirror as she shed her skin for the body of Winter’s child.

Soft white tights, shining with silver lines of frost, rolled up her dark legs. The skirt was long, flowing in white tendrils of translucent cloth all leading up to a sweet-heart collar. Then came the arms; billowing sheets of white as soft as the snow made her royal cape that would fly in her dance. Her chocolate curls were ties back in a regal bun that would hold her crown, presenting her majesty. But as she held it in her hands, they felt so cold. The elegant curves of silver in the light stained her tanned hands pale, and the tips felt sharp enough to stab her.

The cornered girl looked into the mirror. Her mother had done her make up before her departure. Lovely lines of blue flew from her eyeliner and onto her cheek, blending gracefully with the white frost of the eyeshadow. The words of her grandmother echoing in her mind: Pretty as a picture, my little dancer. Pretty as a picture, but this picture wasn’t familiar. It wasn’t a portrait of someone she knew, but rather a fantastic spirit her ancestors spoke of.

But a sharp voice broke her daydream.

“What are you doing?” It was the director of the event, “On stage, now.”  And the little dancer followed the woman.

The rehearsal went as planned. She was perfectly cold, but, in her role, that was preferred. She was to be as cold and mysterious as the winter breeze, emotionless and beautiful. It was strange being surrounded by older women, but having a more central role than them. It only made her think more. I’ve worked this hard for this long, she thought, it would only made sense.

Down once more she went to the dressing room, but this time accompanied by her fellow dancers. Kuuma was asleep still, and couldn’t busy herself to take her mind off of everything. She opened her locker and took her new gloves. They had just arrived in the mail that day, though from who she didn’t know. A gentle hand reached into place, but found something else. A note? Ayita unfolded it carefully.

I’ll be waiting for you. Meet me out on the terrace.

I want to see you before you take your place among the stars and snow.

                                                      -L’Illustrateur

“L’Illustrateur.” She whispered to herself. The Illustrator. Suddenly a flash of color burst like lightning behind her eyelids. Violent and loud they clashed before her in a sound of their own, all within a blink. Her heart was racing now, it had been four years since she had been in Paris. Four years since she’s seen him. The color sang in her mind, fast like the beat of her hear and she sprung forward. The dancer dashed out the door in a frenzy, excitement flooded her chest. Reds and golds flooded her photo receptors as the wild music in them gave her speed. She flew down the stair case in a single leap, soaring past an elderly couple who applauded her spirit, but the sound was nonexistent in the wake of the wild music of color. The doors of the grand entrance burst open, this wisp of winter ran into the menacing cold. Out to the terrace she looked for the lost friend, but the colors suddenly died. Once again she was alone. Ayita waited by the railing, blood rushing through her to keep her warm. It must’ve been half an hour before she was called inside. The performance was about to begin. The director woman was appalled by her actions.

“How could you wait out in the snow like that? You’ll catch death out there with nothing but gloves!” But her words were empty, and the colors of the hall were faded once more.

Back stage she waited patiently. She wouldn’t enter the dance until the middle of the second act, so she had a while to wait. She looked beyond the curtain and saw the masses who came to see. Not only her family, but people from all across the country, and even some from other countries. Her heart began to beat faster. One-two-three-jump! It kept in time with the step being carried out on stage. One-two-three-jump! Wait something’s wrong. One-two-three-jump! It’s getting faster! It’s going out of time, but why does the dance look perfect? One-two-three-jump! No, that’s not the dancers. It was her heart! One-two-three-jump! It was no longer with the step, it was in a frenzy of its own! Something’s not right It’s getting harder to breathe. The walls are looking taller. No, they’re stretching! This can’t be right! Ayita’s breath was short and audible now.

“I have to get out.” She whispered. The dancers beside her drew towards her, all rambling words she couldn’t understand. “I HAVE TO GET OUT! She shrieked and took off. Out to the front hall and through the back doors. The wind had begun, sending snow and ice into her face, attacking the flesh exposed. Her delicate slippers dashed through the frozen ground, but her once faithful shoes betrayed her when they slid from beneath her. At last the wild beating in her chest had ceased leaving her a child face-first in the snow. The fragile ribbon holding her tight bun had faltered in her fall and wild curls danced in the monstrous wind.

Dark fingers clutched the snow beneath them, and there was no sound; all but the wind there was. She could’ve stood, but the cold had taken hold of her. The pain and burns of ice were a comfort to what was left of the dancer. Suddenly, there was a crunch. A footstep? No, two steps. There again! She tried to speak, but her throat was raw from breathing the winter air. Then came a sudden gasp as a blurry figure knelt beside her. She shuddered at the warm touch against her shoulder, but she already gave up. The figure then grew a voice.

“Please stand?” The voice had a soft French accent. It was worried and warm with familiarity. “Please stand, mon danseur.” No one called her that. None but one.

“Nathanael?”

He lifted her to sit and the blur became the boy she once knew so well, “I said I’d meet you.” The boy smiled weakly, and held her close. “What happened?”

Ayita told him everything; about the performance, her anxiousness, her fears of the future, everything that built up to that moment. And for the first time in a long time, she felt safe in the arms of her best friend.

He stroked her long hair, “You’re okay, mon cher.” It had been such a long time since he’d called her that.

She remembered when they first met. Ninth grade, and she was sent to study her high school years in Paris. He was the boy with the long red hair who drew the world he hoped to see. He’d seen her dance, he drew her, and she was amazed. There light encounters grew into a friendship worth more than gold, and they were truly happy. But it could not last, and she returned to America. But he never forgot her.

She took a closer look at his mittens; hand crafted, nearly identical to the ones in her locker, right down to the three circles of color in the corner she knew to be his signature motif.

“They were from you, weren’t they?” the girl asked holding his hands. All he could do was smile a wonderful smile. His eyes glowed a shimmering blend of blue and green, a teal more perfect than the paint her mixed. The mittens were as sweet as his smile, and clearly smitten she gave a gentle kiss beneath the overcast, for she’s the kind who overacts. And he held onto her like he was going to lose her.

“I missed you, mon danseur.” ‘My dancer’ Nathanael whispered.

“Me too, mon illustrateur.” ‘My Illustrator’ she whispered back.

They wanted to simply be there a moment longer, but she had crown to dawn.

“Go.” The artist said releasing her, “They need you. They need the queen.”

Eight minutes until she was due. She gazed into the dressing room mirror. Her cape was tor, her hair wild, and make up teary from the snow. However, the face in the mirror was no longer a stranger. She returned to her locker and looked at her gloves, only to find another note.

Claim your stage, princess.

The last ice cream is yours.

                                            ~ N.G.P

She laughed, for Nathanael Garion Ponton never really did have a good hold on English.

At last, her time had come. With wild eyes and a soul complete, she took center stage.

La Reine de l'hiver.

                 
                                                                                                    THE END

        
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