Chapter 1 : December 3rd
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I kept running crouched down, sneaking away at high speed from the shrill voice.
"Clementine!" the voice called yet again, and I ducked behind an especially large teddy bear, trying to catch my breath. "Get here this instant!"
I rolled my eyes and grimaced at the commanding tone, and then I was off sneaking away again. I snuck past elves painting faces on dolls, crept under a giant hanging mistletoes in the ceiling, jumped over dwarfs knitting red and green sweaters and sprinted up the stairs to the second floor. Only, I didn't stop on the second floor, I kept going up the second flight of stairs, all the way up to the "Wreck Room".
Also known as my favourite room.
It was actually more of a ballroom than a plain room. The ceiling may have been low, but the space was incredible. It seemed to stretch forever - well, in every direction but one. There was no fourth wall to this alleged "room". It was open and overlooked the entire buzzing maze beneath that was my father's workshop.
And I meant literally buzzing.
I now stood at the top of the stairs and started trekking to my favourite spot. The voice calling my name couldn't be heard now, and I knew I was safe from its searching eyes. So I walked at a slow and calm pace, now and then jumping over a giant, broken dollhouse or other defect toys that had been placed out of sight.
I had just made it to the spot with the most amazing view. I smiled to myself as I approached my usual seat, and while I climbed on top of the familiar bulky racecar bed, I gazed down at the overcrowded floors below.
The workshop was designed in a way that made it possible for me, in this particular angle, to see both the first and second floor. Well, only half of the first one, but it was enough for me.
The excitement and the noise emanating from the floors under me had fascinated me for as long as I could remember. And especially at this time of year.
Suddenly, a clatter erupted just behind me, and I almost fell off the bed in surprise.
"Wh-Who's there?" I croaked. It had been a long time since I'd used my voice, and I cleared it as I sat up straight. "It's forbidden for anyone to come up here."
"And you're an exception to this rule, then?" someone said back in a teasing voice. It was the voice of a boy. A man. But he was out of sight.
I didn't have a reply to this stranger's question, and decided not to give him one either.
"Who's there?" I repeated, feeling both curious and nervous. Even I could get in trouble for being up here.
"No-one of consequence," said the stranger.
"I must know," I said, my tone full of scepticism.
"Get used to disappointment," was his only answer. I growled.
"Then I'll just call one of the guards and tell them that-"
"Tell them what exactly?" he asked with a patronizing chuckle. "That someone refused to introduce themselves? How scandalous!"
He was mocking me.
"Then at least step into the light and stop lurking in the shadows like some sort of-of lurker."
I heard him chuckle at my eloquent demand.
"As you wish," was his reply, and I fixed my eyes to where the voice seemed to be coming from.
And then I saw his stepping out from behind an oversized tinn soldier, and I feared my face would give away my surprise.
He was really handsome.
I think I choked out some sort of greeting, but(luckily) the noise from downstairs drowned it out.
"So..." he said, smacking his tongue as he looked me up and down.
I stared at him, almost gawking like a common ninny. And I was making myself more uncomfortable than him, seeing as he was staring right back without blinking.
He was wearing the required uniform; green cap and shirt, black trousers and a red bow-tie. Which meant he was one of the workers. Yet, I hadn't noticed him before. And he was the type of bloke one remembered.
"Who are you?" I asked, eyes narrowed. "And what are you doing here?"
The lad's lips quirked into half a smile.
"I'm in wrapping. Just got promoted to head sash-ironer. I iron sashes," he told me with that weird smile of his. "As to why I'm here - I got lost."
"Lost?" I repeated, raising a sceptical brow. "There's a sign in front of the stairs going up here that clearly says that-"
"That only girls are allowed here?" he finished. I glared at him.
"No," I huffed and crossed my arms.
"Then I suppose we're both lost." The chap winked at me. I started sweating.
"I'm not lost," I argued, and slid down from my seat on the bed. I crossed my arms in front of my chest, and he surprised me by mirroring my stance.
We studied each other for a moment without saying a word. I pursed my lips in suspicion when I noticed the lad's hair slightly shifting colour.
"Are you a metamorphmagus?" The question fell out of my mouth before I could stop it.
"I am," he answered calmly, not at all put out by my invasive question. "What are you?"
What am I? What sort of question was that?
"Erhm," I swallowed, "a girl?"
The shapeshifter barked out a laugh at this.
"I noticed as much," he teased. "What I meant was: In the workshop. What's your position? What do you do?" Then his prying eyes swept over my figure again, but this time he furrowed his brows. "Where's your uniform?"
I shrugged as I looked away.
"I-I'm... I'm Clementine," I said meekly. It was true, my name really was Clementine, but it wasn't the answer to his question. I could see he knew I only wanted to change the topic, but he didn't call me on it.
"Clementine," he repeated, as if he was tasting how my name felt on his tongue. Then he put his hand out in front of him. "I'm Theodore, but people call me Ted."
I stared at the outstretched hand for a solid thirty seconds before I knew what to do with it.
"Oh." I took his hand, and was taken aback by how large his hand was compared to my own. "Ehm, hi."
"Hi," Ted greeted back.
We were still holding onto each other. We had stopped shaking, so now we were basically just holding hands.
While hypnotized by the warmth of Ted's large hand, I was also being pulled into his dark eyes.
Almost black eyes, now that I thought about it.
Tall cheekbones, smooth skin with a tiny amount of stubble, dark brown, wavy hair, broad mouth and pearly white teeth.
I knew the colour if his teeth because he was grinning down at me right now.
"If you want to make out with me, just ask... I will say yes," the obnoxious 'Ted' suddenly said, causing me to gasp as I jumped away from him. I lost contact with his warm hand, but it was for the best.
With wide eyes and and an open mouth I began blubbering. In my flabbergasted state I stuttered violently while incoherent and non-existing words just fell out of my mouth like unstoppable vomit.
With a great deal of force, I managed to shut my mouth. I had made a sufficient fool of myself, and most likely would have to bury mysef underground for the next decade to get over the humiliation.
I was just about to turn around and exit dramatically when I managed to trip on a jumprope. With my lack of balance, only one thing could possibly happen as a result: I hit the floor with a rather unfeminine grunt, limbs flailing about ungracefully and with a loud tearing noise. The loud tearing noise was my pants. In the buttock area.
Yes. I'd managed to split my pants right down in the middle of my arse cheeks.
I felt so wonderfully smart, indeed.
The tall and annoyingly good-looking boy was by now barking with laughter, and my face reddened with every echo it made.
I cursed under my breath.
"Tsk, tsk! A pretty girl like you shouldn't curse like that," Ted reprimanded playfully.
After giving him a scolding glare, I got to my feet(ignoring Ted's outstretched hand).
My fingers found the large hole in my trousers, and I pouted like a small child.
"Blast!" I muttered under my breath. "They were my favourite pants..."
"Now they're your boyfriend's favourite pants," said the handsome stranger.
"For your information," I told him while my hands tried to cover the gaping tear, "I have no boyfriend."
"A sweet girl like you? I find that hard to believe." He winked after saying this. I furrowed my brows.
Was he flirting with me?
"Lets just say... Most guys find my situation a bit...intimidating." I chuckled darkly. Truth was, my father scared them all off. Having "Santa Claus" as your father does put a slight damper on your love life.
Or any life, really...
"Why's that?" Ted asked curiously. "Single mother of six? Large warts on your arse? Are you a Werewolf? Cause I gotta tell you, it would be really weird if you were a Werewolf, because-"
"No," I cut in. He'd made me chuckle.
"'No' to what?"
"All of it."
"Then what's so intimidating about you? You don't look like a very intimidating person, to be honest. No offence."
"None taken," I sighed.
"Then," he started, but took a pause while fishing out a packet of smokes, putting one in his mouth and lighting it, "what's wrong with you?"
I squinted my eyes while I watched him blow out a large cloud of smoke. I coughed loudly, but he didn't take the hint and just kept right on puffing.
"Why do you assume there's something the matter with me?" I asked, waving the smoke away from my immediate sphere.
He shrugged while taking a deep drag of his cigarette.
"You know," I started in a reprimanding tone while nodding to the smoke, "you're in trouble if they catch you doing that."
"I'm not in trouble, dearie, I am trouble," he whispered to me with a sardonic smile. I rolled my eyes at how lame that sounded. But, the truth was, I couldn't help but believe him. He probably was trouble.
"Then what am I doing here talking to you?" I asked rhetorically.
Ted shrugged again. "Most girls are usually fascinated by and attracted to that kind of danger and trouble." He said this as though it was common knowledge. An undisputed fact.
"I'm not like most girls," I informed him.
"Yes, you are."
"I assure you I am not."
"Come on; you're the very epitome of bad boy-lover," he said with a smirk.
"How do you figure that out?" I asked and folded my arms over my chest.
"Look at yourself," he said and waved a hand in front of me.
I glanced down at my attire: A pink cardigan with snowflakes embroided on the sleeves, light blue(now ripped) trousers, white slippers and the curly, blonde hair braided down my back was tied with a pink bow.
"What?" I asked, my eyes daring him to say anything negative about my cute ensemble.
"You look to cute and sweet, looking at you almost gives me a toothache," he said. It wasn't a compliment.
"And that means I like bad boys?" I asked, curving a sarcastic eyebrow.
"Exactly." Ted nodded and took one last drag of his cigarette before throwing in on the floor and stepping on it.
"I don't think that's true," I argued, standing my ground.
Then, after giving me a strange sort of look, and an even stranger smile to go with it, he sauntered over to me and stopped only when he was close enough for me to feel warmth emanating from his body. I swallowed hard, and my vision blurred.
His dark gaze made my skin tingle, and I suddenly had this maddening desire to run my fingers through his hair.
"Still don't think it's true?" Ted asked in a dark whisper.
I think I shook my head.
The only thing I noticed was how this strangely hypnotic boy was leaning closer to me, causing my mind to turn to a porridge-like substance.
He was now so close I could see specks of brown in those otherwise black eyes of his, and I involuntarily started closing my eyes and prepared myself for -
"Miss Clementine Claus!"
My eyes snapped open, and I turned to look at the person whose voice had brought me back to the land of the living.
It was Geraldsson, father's main guard. His eyes were ablaze with horror, and he glared at Ted.
Ted, on the other hand, was staring at me.
"Claus?" he whispered with a perplexed look in his eyes. I shrugged apologetically.
"Mister Lupin," Geraldsson got Ted's attention, "are you aware that you're in a restricted area, boy?"
Ted adopted a feigned look of confusion and distress. I almost laughed.
"What?" he gasped. "I assure you, Offiser Geraldsson, that I under no circumstances would knowingly enter a restricted area, and would never purposely disobey you or any-"
"Enough out of you," Geraldsson sneered. "And you," he turned to me now. I gulped. "Your mother has been running around looking for you. And running in her condition..." He shook his head, lokking disappointingly at me, and I lowered mine in shame. My mother was eight months pregnant, and I suddenly felt terrible that I'd hid from her.
"Now, Miss Claus, you go downstairs to your mother without any more dawdling, and I'll refrain from telling your father about this." I put my feet to good use immediately. "But if I catch you up here once more, I'll have to alert Mr Clause. Are we understanding each other?" I nodded jerkily. "Good, now, off you go."
I'd just put one foot ahead of the other when I heard someone behind me mutter something, and I felt the tear in my jeans close together. I glanced quickly over my shoulder and I caught Ted winking at me while tucking away something into his pocket.
I coughed, and went back to walking away from the scene of the crime.
"And you, I heard Geraldsson say in a strict tone, but I was out of earshot after that, and couldn't hear the rest of his reprimand.
On my way down, as I descended three staircases and maneuvered myself through the maze of witches, wizards, elfs, giants, dwarfs and squibs, my mind was repeating what had just happen upstairs in the "Wreck Room".
I'd almost gotten my first kiss.
Huh, I thought to myself as I walked outside and rushed to the large cottage at the end of the busy, snow-covered street, maybe this Christmas will be different.
And all because of a metamorphmagus called Theodore Lupin.
It's officially christmas time! This is going to be a short and sweet story, and is meant to only leave you with good and warm feelings ^^
Thanks for reading!