Ice Princess

1 Sep

By Kinri Watson
7th Grade

He is like a half-forgotten lullaby
Whispered and subconscious
A warm memory
She’s like a sad song
Whole and beautiful
And made of pain

I was there when he broke
Small cracks webbing their way across his sanity
Offering a new window to to look through with each piece shattered
I was next to her when she cried
Salty tears that melted the frost on his tombstone
I was there on the first Christmas
When she fell asleep next to his grave

When a person is so broken that they need a new heart
When you see them fall without standing
When they don’t care enough to cry anymore
Tell me then that there is a loving God in heaven

She was born in springtime
Eyes bright from the very start
She is every bit her father
From her laugh to her walk to her heart
She keeps her mother alive just by breathing
And her name is Hope

***

I was twelve when I found a way into the attic. Its roof was tall and open, and shelves lined the walls. In the third shelf from the right, I saw a box labeled with my name in sharp, angled letters. I stepped gingerly across the floorboards, not sure if they creaked yet. Sunlight spilled from the singular skylight, catching the dust in the air in an intricate dance. With each breath I could taste the delicate balance of dust and mold that populated the air. The box was made of coffee-colored glass, giving the illusion of swirling color.

It was really quite heavy, and it was stored on a high shelf out of my comfort zone. I stretched my arms and my courage trying to retrieve that box, but I really should’ve anticipated the sudden weight on my arms. All I could do to avoid getting my head bashed in was bend forward and stumble backwards, hoping the box would hit my feet instead. The heavy box hit one of the lower shelves, unbalancing the entire thing, and promptly ricocheted into my shins. There were several thumps behind me, but I was rather distracted by then. One last groan, and the heavy mahogany bookshelf tipped over, pouring onto me heavy, shatterable touchscreens.  When my vision cleared I saw the back of the shelf, glossy and illuminated in the sunlight.

“They came in a ship unmanned,” a voice said. “The ship was painted in green and blue, with white swirls added. Inside was the most precious cargo. Inside big crates were very, very fragile books. We opened the boxes right there, in the dock, but no one could read them. So we made up stories about what they held inside. I think the books have magic in them, Jade. Spells to change the way the world is. One day, my darling girl, we are going to know what the books say. And I know that when you grow up, you’ll be in the middle of all that magic. And I know for sure that you will shine.”

I opened my eyes to see my mother’s face, smiling and tenderly cradling my own. She had pulled me out of the wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood. She had a few tear streaks down her face, but she was almost laughing. “I’m gonna bring you the first book they ever translate, Momma.” My whisper is small and uncertain, even though I couldn’t have been less so. This was the moment that led me to the next.

***

The Misty Blue arrived in the winter. The ship was unmanned, flown here on autopilot. The press says it left a planet called Earth a little more than a thousand years ago. The cargo was very, very old. Packed together in crates fragile with age, the volumes came in bright, vibrant colors, faded little with the passage of time. The pages were musty but otherwise unharmed, inked with words the people of Helios could not understand enough to decipher. The volumes were deemed too beautiful to remain untranslated, so they were sent to the neighboring planet, called Glacier for its winters. It took thirteen years for the volumes to be deciphered.

Jade Greenworth’s comm unit buzzes that summer only once. The message is from the Glacial Emperor.

We have deciphered the books. Tell your people the Misty Blue is an ark for fiction. Ice Princess recovery mission leaving from Port Luna this spring.

Jade stares at the bright screen for a second, not quite sure what to do. But the one thing she knows is that finding the Ice Princess is her only hope of knowing what happened to her seven-greats grandmother.

“Her name was Donna.” Jade sets her mug precariously on her knee, being there was no space on the overrun coffee table between her and her friend Joanne.

Joanne’s cup rests on her knee as well, but she brings it to her lips in response. An annoying long sip of tea later, the reply makes it past her lips. “Donna Greenworth?”

“Yes. The family name passes through her.”

“Hmm. Must’ve been rather odd back then. Your point is?”

“I have definitive proof that she headed up the project that sent the Misty Blue past Earth’s atmosphere. The Glacial Empire is collecting a team to find its counterpart, the Ice Princess.” Jade takes a sip of the rather sharp tea, ready for the onslaught of questions she is sure are to come.

“And the Ice Princess carries what, exactly? And why is it so important that you need to go, when anyone can see that the President needs you?” Joanne presses a firm point. Jade is an essential part of the presidential team, being the Secretary of Affairs.

One thick swallow shows her nervousness. “The Ice Princess contains nonfiction, the first access to classical nonfiction. It could be the greatest discovery of the century. You know we have no records of humanity until about 600 years ago, but we know virtually nothing about our pasts. We only retained the technology, Joanne. This may be our only chance to recover the past.”

It takes a moment of silence for Joanne to have a verdict. When she finally speaks, her voice is sure. “So, you want, what, an ally?” Jade opens her mouth to speak, but Joanne presses on, paying little heed. “I can support this decision, for the sake of your childhood dreams and our friendship. Anyone can tell that the president can survive okay without you. I mean, she has Indira. The work won’t suffer. But you realize what a strain you being gone will put on your girlfriend? I mean, she’ll have the work to distract her, but really? She’ll just have to come into work every day, and see you not at your desk. It’s going to hurt her, Jade. Just because she’s strong doesn’t mean you can torture her. And it’s going to hurt you, too. Every day, waking up without her. Are you sure the two of you are going to survive?”

Jade looks taken aback for a moment, and then she chuckles.

“What?” Joanne shifts defensively, forgetting about the now-cold teacup on her knee, sending it tumbling onto the carpet, spilling cold tea onto her socks.

Jade’s chuckling intensifies into outright laughter.

“Shut up!” Joanne puts her socks in the sink and returns to sitting with Jade. “So what’s funny in the first place, then?”

“Just that you talk about the President and my girlfriend like they’re different people.”

Joanne shrugs, and Jade responds with a raised eyebrow. “Might as well be,” comes the muttered reply from across the table.

***

 “And you’re sure she set up the Misty Blue Project?”

“Quite. My family has kept all of her correspondence. She said in her will that she wanted to leave the contents of the Misty Blue to the future people of Helios.”

“What’s your point, Madame Secretary? I’m assuming you’re not just here to tell me what I could have found in a comm message.”

“Well, Madame President, in several of her letters she mentions another ark, this one for nonfiction, called the Ice Princess. The people on Glacier have planned a retrieval mission, and they’re asking me to head it. I’ve already talked to the ISIS project, they’re funding the mission, and they’re sending a couple of kids to help out. Indira is perfectly capable of covering for me while I’m gone, and she needs the practice. All I need is your stamp of approval.”

The President sits back in her chair, a bemused expression occupying her face. “I’m going to double your workload the first month you’re back.” She is favored with one of the Secretary’s rare smiles. The first crack she has ever seen in the facade they put on for work. When Jade turns to leave, she finds words forcing their way past her lips. “Promise me we’ll talk, okay?”

Jade turns and offers a salute. “Promise.”

***

She’s so beautiful in the starlight, Jade thinks. She’s always been that beautiful. And now I’m leaving her. Their romance has been planned and careful. Jane is Jade’s boss, after all. For all Jade has talked about being excited to go, to rediscover human history, she’s distraught at the thought of leaving Jane. Smart, strong, beautiful Jane.

A swarm of doubts invade her. Why is she doing this? Surely the ISIS Project could handle it on their own? What could make history worth more than her future with Jane?

“You’re having second thoughts, aren’t you?” says Jane, studying Jade’s face. “Sweetie, you have to go. I know it’s going to hurt, but you’ll come back with our history in your arms.” She moves to embrace Jade. Jade goes along willingly, her nose filled with the sweet-and-spicy scent of Jane’s perfume.

One of the representatives of the ISIS Project steps onto the dock. It’s a young man, not much over legal age. “Miss Greenworth, you’re gonna need to wrap this up, we’re just about to cast o—” He glances at Jane and abruptly snaps into a salute. “Um, sorry, Madame President. I didn’t know you’d be here. Take your time, of course.” Jane nods at him over Jade’s shoulder.

They savor their silent goodbye for as long as they can muster, until it starts to hurt in an I-miss-you-already way. “I’ll wait for you,” Jane whispers in Jade’s ear. She separates them, turning her feet to the gleaming Capitol Building.

They part, holding onto each other’s hands for as long as their separate paths allow.

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