The sound of the bell carried through Dandelion’s tiny kitchen surprisingly loudly.
“Ho ho ho, the feast is served!” The elf called out in his finest belly voice attempt.
Cordlelia chuckled to herself softly. He was being very over the top, considering Winterfest was not till tomorrow and it was only the two of them in the house. But she wasn’t complaining. The only real Winterfest festivities she cared to think back on where the ones with her mother, back when she was little.
Sure, the various foster families she had stayed with in Gibbs Hill celebrated the holiday, but all that ever ended up in was her feeling like she didn’t belong, as if she watched strangers’ lives unfold from behind a glass window. And in the recent years, after practically the whole village turned on her, she spent the day on her own. So this… this felt like the real deal.
Dandelion piled up mountains of food on her plate s soon as they sat down.
“It smells divine, Dandy,” she told her friend. “I can’t believe you made all of this on our own.”
“I wasn’t sure what to make, so I figured I’d make everything.” The elf said with a sheepish smile.
She shook her head, smiling. “That’s not what I meant! You should have told me to come earlier, I would have helped with the cooking!”
“No, that’s ok,” he shrugged. “It’s my treat today. Besides, I bet the Charms will serve you up something real tasty tonight and tomorrow morning, so I wanted to go all out… not that I can compete with it…”
So she still hadn’t exactly told him that there was no Winterfest dinner and brunch at the Charm house, or rather, none that she’d been made a part of… but it wasn’t exactly like she could reveal that now. Last thing she wanted was for Dandelion to feel guilty about his holiday trip to the magic realm.
“Mmm, these pancakes are to die for.” She exaggerated with her mouth full. “Your best yet, I’d say!”
Thankfully, that was enough to distract him. Dandelion spent most of the brunch between trying to perfect his belly laugh and enthusing about his upcoming celebrations with L Faba. Cordelia was happy for her friend, she’d never seen him this giddy. His smile only faltered at the end of the meal when he realised it was time for him to set off.
“Oh, wait, there’s one more thing!” Cordelia grinned, having saved her surprise till the end of the visit. “I have something for you…”
She handed the carefully wrapped present over to him.
Dandelion’s eyes widened in surprise. “A present… for me? Wow… oh no, I didn’t get you anything!” He realised, looking embarrassed. “I… I sort of forgot that people give each other gifts this time of the year. I’m so sorry, Cordie!”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” she said swiftly. She didn’t really care if he got her a present or not. All she could feel was her hatred of L Faba amplifying, after all, if Dandelion had forgotten the festive custom, it was L Faba who was to blame for that. Cordelia pushed her feelings down, determined not to ruin the moment. “Well, open it!” She encouraged him.
“Oh my goodness!” The elf exclaimed as he examined the contents of the box. “It’s a violin!”
“I know it’s not exactly the real deal,” Cordelia told him, self-conscious. “But it’s as close as I could get… Do you like it? I figured, with how much you enjoyed L Faba playing to you… maybe it’s time that you made your own music.”
“I love it!” He beamed. He picked the violin up to give it a test run.
So… perhaps he had a bit of practicing to do, Cordelia thought to herself as his “music” made her ears feel like weeping. Still, he seemed so overjoyed. It was worth it.
“This is awesome, Cordie!” He grinned at her. “It’s the coolest violin I’ve ever seen too! Where did you get it?”
“I made it,” she confessed. “Hopefully I got kind of close. I don’t really know much about violins, I just went off this book…”
“It’s perfect!” he assured her. “I don’t deserve this, Cordie…”
He wrapped her in a tight hug. “I wish you could come to the magic realm with me. It would be the perfect Winterfest if you could come along…”
“Hey, I’m sure it will still be the perfect Winterfest.” She told him. As much as she would have liked to spend Winterfest with him, between going to the magic realm to spend time with L Faba and being on her own, Cordelia knew the latter was the far superior option. Of course, Morgyn would be there too, a sneaky voice inside her head said, but she did her best to ignore it.
It was only just past midday when she emerged from the tree passage. No matter. Cordelia was good at keeping herself busy. She spent a good hour or so shovelling through the snow to clear a path between the road and her shack, and then even decided to make a snowpal… who was to say she had to be completely alone today, anyway?
The Glimmerbrook woods were so quiet. There were not many people about, most probably huddled up in their homes to spend time with families. It’s fine, she told herself. You’ve done this before. Just last Winterfest… She stopped herself. Thinking of last Winterfest was no better than concentrating on this one.
She shivered. The sun was starting to set, and she hadn’t bothered to put her coat on after returning from Sylvan Glade. She decided to cook some dinner before the night took over.
There was nothing particularly festive about hot dogs, of course – it was what she ate most days. But that was exactly the point. It’s just another day, she said to herself firmly. It doesn’t matter you’re on your own…
But she wasn’t exactly alone.
Of course the sprites decided to swing by today. How could they not… they came to mock her, didn’t they? She thought of Dandelion, L Faba and Morgyn in the magic realm, likely having a blast.
Then again, the sprites were the only company she had. She loathed them with her very core, but today was one of those days when she felt close to being somewhat glad for their company.
They fluttered right before her eyes. What was worse, spending the Eve of Winterfest with the fae that killed her mother, or the fact that a small part of her was thankful they were there?
She tried not to think about it. She leaned back, trying to will herself to sleep. Just sleep through the night, and tomorrow it will all be a distant dream.
She closed her eyes, but she could still hear their wings flapping above her.
The sprites were gone when she woke up, thank the watcher. It looked like a sunny day outside. She could smell the snow. But there was something else. She heard something. Someone? She wasn’t sure. She raised her head, propping herself up.
It was the mailbox. Odd. Dandelion was with L Faba, it was unlikely she’d be sending him a Winterfest postcard. But what else could it be? He didn’t really have any other friends… unless the post was for her? Was Grace sending her Winterfest wishes, perhaps? Nonsense, Grace didn’t know where she lived, Cordelia reminded herself.
She ventured outside. There was no postman of any kind around… maybe it had just been the wind. Still, she went to check the post box anyway.
There was something in there, alright. An envelope, and a box shoved at the back… She reached for the envelope first. It was addressed to her. Cordelia furrowed her brows as she ripped the envelope open.
The Sage of Untamed Magic kindly requests the presence of one Cordelia Blackwell at the annual New Year’s Eve ball at the Von Haunt Estate, Windenburg. Please arrive at the chateau promptly at 7pm on 31st December.
In the fairly likely event the guest does not possess appropriate attire for a formal dance, the sage has graciously provided a suitable option.
Was Morgyn writing about themselves in third person? More importantly, why where they asking her to attend a New Year’s Eve party with them? Cordelia’s hands were shaking as she reached back for the box.
Inside it was the most beautiful gown she’d ever seen, made out of a material so soft she was afraid to touch it. Her head was spinning. This had to mean something…
Something was telling Cordelia that this year would end like no other before it.