"I…I think it's best that you go…" the girl said quietly, avoiding his eyes.
"When should I come back?" he asked, blue eyes hopeful.
Looking up, tears collecting in her eyes, she took a step back from him just out of reach.
"That's just it, Jack. What Pitch said is true, we can't be together, it just won't work."
Stepping forward, the winter spirit reached for her hand. "You can't trust what Pitch says! I'll never let him take you again, I'll protect you until my last breath! I promise." He added, taking her hand.
Ripping it away, the girl continued, struggling keep her voice from wavering; "That's my point! You'll be so busy protecting and worrying about me, you won't be able to look after the other children! You're a guardian and I'm just…I'm your weakness."
Bracing herself, she raised her brown eyes to his blue. "I'm a sixteen-year-old, I have constantly changing fixations and interests, and in two years I will be an adult. How do I know that what I feel for you is real?
"Because you said so." Jack Frost breathed into her ear, and circled his arms around her.
The brown-eyed girl leaned into his embrace, allowing herself one last moment of happiness, one last happy memory, and then pulled away, saying the thing that had been burning in her mouth since the start of the conversation, burning and twisting in her teeth like bile:
"I don't love you, Jack Frost. It's just a teenage crush on a childish dream." She was looking at her boots as she said this, already imagining the emotions streaming across his face: anger, horror, sorrow.
"You don't mean that, Emily, you don't!" the guardian pleaded desperately.
Taking her chin and forcing her to look up, his blue eyes searched her brown ones.
"Then say it to my face." he hissed
Staring defiantly, Emily tried to keep her eyes dry as she delivered the last blow.
"I don't believe in you."
In front of her eyes, the boy disappeared. The wind and snow immediately picked up swirling about her, licking up her hair and arms, but she stood stoically, eyes closed.
"It's just a dream." She told herself. "Just a dream."
She repeated the mantra over and over until she almost believed it, almost, because as the wind faded away, it sounded like a forlorn moan.
70 years later-
The old woman stared out the window. The entire world was covered in beautiful, sparkling, snow.
A nurse walked in with a platter, mashed potatoes, green pulp, and mystery meat.
"Anything you need?" she asked.
"Yes," the old woman replied, her voice creaking like a well-used door. "Could you open the window for me?"
The young nurse smiled and shook her head. "I'm afraid not, it's too chilly, what if you catch a cold?"
"I'm dying. So what if I get a cold?" The woman retorted, a twinkle in her brown eyes. The nurse still looked hesitant. Taking her hand, the old woman patted it before compromising: "I'll ring for you if I get too cold.
"Five minutes." Conceded the nurse as she drew back the curtains and slid back an inch of the pane, letting a small sliver of cold air into the hospital room. Then she left the room, pulling the door closed behind her to make sure no other patients were bothered by the cold air.
The old woman sighed as the cold stroked her face and arms. She longed to throw back her covers and let it envelop her frail body and carry her away, but she didn't want to worry the kind, young nurse.
Settling back into her pillows, she decided that today would be a good day to die. Her husband had died a year ago, and her first great-grandchild had been born the month before. Many of her organs already had to be supported by machinery, and she could felt her heart sputtering in her chest. Why hadn't she died yet?
A snowflake blew in from the window and melted on her nose. Oh, yes, that's why…
That day had been so many years ago, and she still felt a sharp pain from it, but never regretted what she had done. Her children and grandchildren had all grown up free from fear. The children of the world were safe. She just wished that they believed in the guardians too.
Closing her eyes, she sighed. She hoped Jack had understood.
Opening her eyes, the woman saw a boy with a pixie-ish face and snow-white hair leaning over her, an expression of cautious hope etched into his features.
"Jack Frost." She breathed, reaching up and touching his face.
Yeah, it's me." He mumbled ruefully, a quirky smile appearing.
The woman slowly smiled, then drifted into eternal sleep.
The door opened right as her body glowed and a rope of golden sand curled out of it, briefly forming into a vaguely familiar laughing face, then it swept out of the window, leaving behind an echo of pure, undulated joy.
Jack Frost slowly looked up and to meet the gaze of the nurse, however, it was that of a gray-eyed girl's.
"She's gone, isn't she?"
He nodded, too numb to wonder how the girl saw him.
She carefully walked over to the boy and gently took the woman's hand from his own, he hadn't realized that he'd been holding it against his cheek.
Gently placing it across the dead woman's chest , she turned to him.
"You're Jack Frost." It was more of a statement than a question.
He nodded again, still mute.
Turning to the body the girl murmured, mostly to herself, "I should get Lisa, but what's the hurry? Might as well let her rest a bit."
Sinking onto the bed with a creak, she patted the spot beside her, but Jack remained standing.
"I guess she moved on then, er, are you her granddaughter? You look like she did when she was younger."
"Yes, I am her granddaughter." She replied quietly, still looking at her grandmother's eternally peaceful face.
"So she was right, I really was just a crush." The winter spirit whispered to himself.
The girl whipped her head around, a line of worry folded into her face.
"Oh Jack, surely you haven't been thinking that all of these years?"
One week later-
"She made it pretty clear." He said bitterly.
"You're wrong, Jack Frost. She has always loved you."
"Then why didn't she say so!?" cried Jack. "Why did she push me away, marry someone and start a family?" He brought his face within inches of the girl's. "What part of that said that she loved me?"
The girl didn't flinch from his cold tone as she stepped up to the casket. "She told me that the children of the world needed you, that they wouldn't be safe from fear if you two…if you two…" her voice faded away as her thoughts derailed as she kissed her grandmother's cheek for the final time. "And I've never had a nightmare in my life, and she was happy, there was Aunt Rose and my mom and poor little uncle…she told us bedtime stories of your adventures and I was her favorite because I believed them and…"
Her knee bumped a small gravestone with a lamb on top of it. Absentmindedly, she stroked the lamb's head in apology. Looking down, she smiled sadly at the small grave.
"Look, Jack." She said quietly, rubbing lichen and moss from the white stone.
JACK - HEPSON
"OUR LITTLE - ANGEL"
B. DEC. 16, 2020
D. DEC. 19, 2020
As her hand removed the rest of the grime, the entire epitaph was revealed:
JACK FROST HEPSON
"OUR LITTLE SNOW ANGEL"