Frost - Jaclyn Osborn


Nineteen Years Ago

I’m going to die.

The snow crunches under my feet, soft like powder but slick too. I lose my footing on a small hill and slip, yelping as I roll down to the riverbank below. I come to an abrupt halt right before I reach the water’s edge.

Luck must be on my side. I can’t even imagine how cold that water is. My teeth chatter at the thought alone.

Groaning, I stand and look around with bleary eyes, my lashes sticking together from the snowflakes clumping in them. Snow falls heavy from the white sky, yet the woods are quiet. Still. My skin is like ice, and I shiver so hard my teeth clank together.

“Mom?” I call out, stumbling forward. “Dad?”

For Christmas, my family took a trip to a winter cabin in the mountains. That morning, I went exploring, and while pretending to be on a super-secret mission shooting aliens and ice monsters, I somehow ended up lost.

And now I’m stumbling around in the frigid cold with no idea which direction to go.

An hour passes, maybe two, as I stumble my way through the frozen world of ice and snow. My belly rumbles with hunger, and my lungs burn. I wore gloves when I first set out, but I lost one of them a while back. My bare hand is red and tingling, and I shove it into my coat pocket to try to warm it, but it doesn’t do much good. When my legs can no longer carry me, I fall to the ground and curl up into a ball.

“Momma!” My voice cracks as I start to cry. The tears freeze on my cheeks.

How long does it take to freeze to death?

I’m going to die here. Alone. Hungry. Scared. My eyes squeeze shut as snow falls on my face.

“Boy,” someone says from nearby.

I shoot upward and search the trees above me, seeing nothing but bare branches and a glaring white sky. “H-Hello?”

“Over here,” the voice says, but from the other direction.

I whirl my head around, looking for the man who spoke. Blue and gray dashes across my vision, and I blink a few times to try to see better. That’s when he appears before me, kneeling in the snow not even two feet away.

Silver hair falls across his forehead, and the ends rustle in the wintery breeze. His eyes remind me of ice caps, a soft pale blue flecked with white.

“You’re n-not wearing shoes,” I say, noticing his bare feet. “Aren’t you c-cold?”

“Not at all,” he answers with a smile, then holds out a hand. “But I see that you are. Come on.”

I glance at his outstretched hand but hesitate in taking it. “I’m not ’sposed to g-go anywhere with strangers.”

“Very well. Suit yourself.” The man withdraws his hand and rises to his feet. He dusts off his blue sweater, and my eyes trail to the rest of him. He’s wearing gray pants—like the tights I wore last year when I played Peter Pan in the school play—and his pale skin seems to shine a bit, like when the sun touches freshly fallen snow. “I guess I’ll leave you be.”

“Wait,” I call out as he starts to leave. I try to stand, but my legs are heavy and it’s hard to move them. I fall back to the cold ground.

He turns his head back to me, a sly grin upturning his lips. “Yes?”

“Who are you?”

“The name’s Jack Frost.” He puts his hands on his lean hips.

He reminds me of a winter Peter Pan, and I smile at the thought. “I’m Luka.”

“Luka,” Jack says, as if testing the way my name sounds on his tongue. “Your name means bringer of light. Nice.” Then, he holds out his hand to me again. “Well, you can’t stay here forever, little light. Come with me.”

I slide my hand into his without a second thought and let him pull me to my feet. I should be afraid, but there’s something comforting about him. Familiar, almost.

“Hold on tight,” Jack says before lifting me up and throwing me on his back.

Before I can say a word, he jumps up and we’re soaring through the air toward the nearest tree. He jumps from branch to branch, his steps light as if we weigh nothing. I hold on to his neck, my breaths stilling in my chest as he moves to a different tree. My stomach drops as he descends toward the ground, then shoots back up toward the sky like a bullet from a gun.

We’re flying.

This can’t be