Happy Holidays, everyone! Here's a little Winter Solstice 2017 present for all of you :)
This story takes place 3 years before Bookishly Ever After, when Phoebe is 13 and Trixie is 18. Half of the story is set at the Blue Cross RiverRink in Philadelphia, which is a rink set on the Delaware River waterfront. Click on the name to go to their page and check out pictures of the rink (and the menus for the lodge and the Franklin Fountain Cabin-- yum!!!)
**Please note that this was not beta'd or professionally edited, just a fun little story for my readers.
Fashionably Ever After
“I bumped into Luke at the Promenade yesterday,” I said in the general direction of my phone while trying to pin the roll of white faux fur in place. I’d kicked Phoebe out of our room to work on her Christmas present, and between my shaking hands and the fiddly silk velvet I’d picked up from a bargain bin in a basement shop in the Garment district, I was starting to think I was never going to finish. My hand slipped and I pricked myself with a pin. “Crud.”
“That… sucks.” I could practically hear Amani cringing over the phone. “Did he say anything?”
I stuck my finger in my mouth and inspected the fur to make sure I hadn’t gotten any blood on it. “He introduced me to his new girlfriend.”
“Of course, because he’s a jerk. You know, the offer I made on Thanksgiving to make you a dartboard is still open. My new printer can even do a high res print of his face.”
“He’s not worth wasting your ink,” I said, breaking into my first genuine laugh that day.
“It would be for a good cause. Does your sister want a blow-up of his face for her archery target thing?”
“Don’t encourage her.” Feebs would probably jump at a Luke-target, then complain about how it dulled her arrows or something. “Honestly, it wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t been so smug about introducing her, as if I’d been the one who broke up with him.” I took my frustration out by slamming a pin particularly hard into my pincushion. “’Oh, Beatrix, I want you to meet my girlfriend, Zane. She’s a fine arts major, like me.’” I disconnected the presser foot of my sewing machine with so much force the machine actually shook. “As if fashion design isn’t ‘real’ art.”
“You’re going to break your sewing machine,” Amani pointed out, then said, “Luke was always a jerk, but you were too into bad boy artist types to listen to the rest of us.”
“Rub it in.” I tossed the old presser foot into my sewing machine table drawer with a thunk.
“You know he’s wrong about the fashion design thing, right? Just like he’s been wrong about practically everything ever.”
“I know, but…” I took a minute to think as a I stared at my presser foot options. “It’s not really that, he just said it to hurt me. It’s—” I hesitated, then dived right in, “—it’s just that I thought I was over all this and it wouldn’t bother me so much.”
She made a tsking sound on the other end of the line. “It was only a month ago, Trix. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Look, I’m going with a few of my classmates from Rowan to the RiverRink tonight, you really should come.”
“I’m not going to crash your group.” I clicked on a more velvet-friendly presser foot and dropped into my chair. “Could you imagine how needy I’ll look? Hi, I’m just Amani’s dork friend from high school who needs cheering up because of her jerk ex.”
“You are not a dork. You are my super-cool elite fashion designer-to-be friend who is home for the holidays from New York City. And I really want you to come, I haven’t seen you in ages.”
“Umm, I saw you during Thanksgiving break?” I lined up the edge of the cape and faux-fur under the needle and dropped the presser foot, cringing at how high it sat on the thick fabric and praying it would still feed. Phoebe was going to get an exact replica of the cape Belle wore with her pink dress in Beauty and the Beast even if it killed my machine.
“Thanksgiving doesn’t count because you spent half of it in Boston and the other half crying into leftovers. C’mon, Trix. My friends are cool and you need this.”
I poised my foot over the machine pedal and pouted at my phone. She was right, as always. “Fine, what time?”
“We’re meeting at Lindenwold at six.”
One good—but sometimes annoying—thing about my little sister was that she rarely did things in halves, and when she really fell in love with something, she could sometimes be a little extra about it. That unfortunately included turning our bedroom into her personal library and yarn store the minute I’d left Lambertfield. Even though I’d managed to reclaim some of my half of the room on Thanksgiving, sometime between then and winter break, Phoebe had made herself a massive book and blanket fort that spilled out from her bed and practically onto mine, blankets propped on furniture, a coat rack, and columns made of books. With my toes, I gently nudged one of the hardbacks that had ended up right at the foot of my bed. “You know, I could trip on that in the middle of the night and break my neck.”
“You won’t,” she said in a muffled tone, not even looking up from her book.
“Why? I don’t have book radar like you.”
“Glow in the dark cover.”
Right. “Of course, why didn’t I realize that?”
Phoebe finally looked up at me, a wry smile stretching across her face. “Well, it was a limited edition. You probably were thinking of the regular hardcover.”
I scrunched my nose at her. The munchkin was really growing into her sarcasm skills. “Definitely.”
“Besides, do you want to talk about all the pins I’ve found in the carpet since you’ve gotten home?” she asked, arching her brow over the top of her book.
“That’s what happens when I’m trying to sew your present in the nonexistent amount of space you’ve left for me in here.” I gestured to one of her knit projects that was currently draped over my dress form and some of the yarn that had snuck its way onto my fabric shelves.
“Hmm.” She looked a little guilty, but seemed to push that away and studied me for a second before saying, “That’s a really pretty coat.”
“Changing the subject?” I asked, pointedly picking up a crochet hook from my nightstand and dropping it onto hers. She at least had the courtesy to give me a sheepish shrug, shoulders practically touching her ears. “And thanks,” I said, pulling up my massive hood and striking a silly haute-couture model pose. I’d thrown the coat together in a flurry of post-breakup energy, a cross between some of the mod styles I’d been studying in my history of fashion elective and a little futuristic warrior influence straight out of one of Phoebe’s books, with a strategically curved asymmetrical zipper and angled seams placed to fake myself a figure. “It’s my own design.” Between the felted wool and super-warm kasha satin lining, I was already starting to sweat.
“It’s really cute, like a super modern Little Red Riding Hood. That looks kind-of like what Emerald wore when she stormed the winter palace in An Empire of Starcastles and Photons, except if you made it in green, it would be perfect. Just like Emerald’s.” Phoebe started making those cute little puppy dog eyes she knew I couldn’t resist. That expression had already cost me years’ worth of Halloween costumes and way more money spent on books than I could count. “You know how much I love you, right? And I’d love you forever, Trix, if you’d…”
“Nope, no, don’t even try it.” I turned away from her grey gaze before she could totally melt my defenses and focused on bundling myself up as much as possible. “I’m already making you a Christmas present. Anything else has to be on commission.” I pulled a pair of red legwarmers Phoebe had knit for me over my black leggings and slipped into some Ugg rip-offs I’d picked up on Canal Street. “And no peeking while I’m out. I’ll know if you looked.” I popped on fuzzy red earmuffs, grabbed my old skates, and checked my pockets for money, lipbalm, and all the other things I’d need.
By the time I looked back up at her, Phoebe was pouting. “Fine.”
I paused at the door to dig through the wicker basket Phoebe had filled with random knit things and came up with a grey cabled scarf and mittens that would look perfect against my coat. “See you later. No peeking.”
“Have fun. Storm a castle and fall in love with a dashing rogue emperor in disguise while you’re out there so I can live vicariously through you.”
I shook my head and laughed. “Will do, kidlin.”
Sometime during Senior year, probably while I was going through my “everything needs to be a contradiction” phase, I’d decided gluing rhinestones in fire-y swirls all over my skates was a good idea. What high-school-me thought was cool now made college-me cringe over the tropey fire-and-ice theme and the half-clouded and scratched cheap plastic rhinestones I’d used. I finished lacing up my skates and pulled my legwarmers down as far as I could to hide them, the swirls on the toes of my skates glinting maliciously up at me as they reflected the outdoor rink’s twinkle lights. I narrowed my eyes at them, wishing my glare could melt the hotfix rhinestone glue.
Between Luke and the skates, I really hated high-school-me at the moment.
“Need help?” Caleb, Amani’s school friend, asked, holding out an arm in an over-the-top gesture I guessed was supposed to look gallant. “Getting up and skating, I mean.”
Amani snorted from her spot next to me on the bench. “If anyone knows how to skate, it’s Trix. She’s practically a pro.” She finished lacing up one of her rental skates and moved on to the next.
I waved away his help and shook my head at her comment. “I took Learn to Skate for a season when I was ten. I’ll be lucky if I remember how to stop.”
“Well, then, you’ll have to teach me. I never took any lessons, just ran off my God-given, natural talent. Maybe we can give each other tips,” Caleb said in a flirty tone that I blatantly ignored. Thankfully, he’d been waiting for me to get off the bench so he could put on his own skates, so if I hurried to get on the ice before he could, maybe it would kill any of his ideas about us skating together. He seemed harmless, but his over-the-top flirting was starting to get on my nerves.
“Maybe, If I don’t fall,” I shot back as non-flirt-ily as possible, forcing a polite a smile his way. I picked my way to the rink entrance and carefully stepped onto the ice. RiverRink always looked like something out of a “welcome to Philly” ad. The lights from the Ben Franklin, Philly, and Camden were sharp against the clear night sky, and played on the river like Swarovski crystals on dark blue and silver shot silk. A breeze picked up off of the Delaware and I pulled up my hood. It was magical, and wintry, and cold, and exactly what I needed.
Taking a deep breath, I pushed off with the side of my blade, my muscles remembering what I’d thought I’d forgotten in a year. I had time to finish one shaky lap before Amani and the rest of her friends finished lacing up and maybe, by then, I could focus on having fun and not on whether or not I was going to catch my toepick and faceplant. The cold air bit into my cheeks and stung my eyes as I picked up speed and, once I felt steady, I put my feet together and let myself glide, my arms out, like I was flying.
Until I actually was.
Someone slammed into me from behind. My feet went out right from under me and I was airborne. Horror ran in chills down my spine as I realized I was probably about to break my neck, one second my heart dropping straight into my stomach as a loud thud filled the air and the next, breath whooshing out of me as I landed on something soft.
“Ow,” the soft thing under me moaned, and I turned around to realize that I was actually sitting on top of someone. A very red-faced someone who looked like he was having trouble breathing.
As soon as my brain switched off from its “ohmigosh I’m falling to my death” mode and started functioning again, I scrambled off and knelt on the ice next to a boy about my age. “Oh, wow, are you okay?”
The boy took a few deep breaths, but still didn’t sit up, instead rubbing at where I’d landed on his stomach. “I forgot that I do not know how to stop,” he squeezed out, before starting to shake with laughter, punctuating each laugh with an “ow.”
Amani slid into a hockey stop beside me and looked down at us with a horrified look on her face. “Oh my God, Trix, are you okay?”
“I’m fine, I landed on him,” I gestured to the boy, who was alternating laughing and cringing, and looked back up at Amani, fear gnawing at my insides. Who laughs that hard after a fall like that? “Should we call an ambulance? Maybe he has a concussion or something?”
“No, I am—” the boy punctuated sitting up with a small groan, “—okay. I did not hit my head.”
Amani’s expression went from concerned to death glare in a nanosecond. “Well, then, you should look where you’re going. You could have killed someone,” she said sharply, then snubbed him completely as she reached down to help me up.
Once I was standing and wiping ice shavings off my knees, I guiltily debated whether or not I should offer him my hand. Yes he had plowed into me, but I had landed on him. What if I had broken one or two of his ribs or busted his kidney or…?
Before I could decide, he pushed himself up to standing. Once he seemed to be steady, he rotated his wrists and cringed before looking down at me and Amani. “I’m sorry,” he said in a slightly accented voice. His satiny dark brown eyes met mine and I was struck by how pretty he was. Pretty—dangerously pretty—like he would fit perfectly in one of the Renaissance paintings I’d studied in art history, from his strong chin and nose to his soft lips and warm expression. My hands itched to draw him and I curled my fingers tight into my gloves to stop the feeling. Sandy brown hair that looked a little bit overgrown flopped dangerously close to his eyes and he reached up to push it away before saying, “It has been a long time since I have been on skates.”
It took me a second to catch my breath and stop staring at him. “I hope you didn’t break a rib or anything.”
He poked experimentally at his ribs through his thick wool sweater. “No—”
“Good, then. Next time try not to crash into other people, okay?” Amani said, grabbing my arm and pulling me away from the boy, who, in a really wobbly beginner-skater fashion, toddled his way over to the boards and started wiping the ice shavings off his back and butt. Amani’s narrowed brows smoothed out at his departure and then furrowed again as she looked back over at me. “I am so sorry. I talked you into coming here to cheer you up, not to nearly get killed by a bad skater.”
“I’m okay.” At her disbelieving look, I laughed. “At least now I have something to tell everyone at school when I go back. Seriously, how many chances in life will I get to fall on top of random hot guys?” I tried to ignore how incredibly wrong that sounded and was just glad my little sister wasn’t around to hear that or to see Amani’s eyebrow creep up suggestively.
“He was cute, wasn’t he? Sorry if I pulled you away too fast.”
I held up a finger to stop her from going any further. “Believe me, thanks to Luke, I’m not looking to start anything new anytime soon.”
“Good, because the last thing we need is for you to fall for some bad boy—because we both know that’s your type—who can’t even stay upright.”
I started skating again, pulling ahead so she couldn’t see my face. “I do not have a type.”
“Please, you can fool your mom, but not me.”
“And, besides, this guy doesn’t seem like a bad boy at all,” I shot back, thinking of his ridiculous laughter and the honest and open way he looked down at me as he apologized. I pulled up my scarf to hide the warmth I could feel creeping across my cheeks.
She didn’t let me get far, picking up speed so she was next to me again. “Not like you’re going to give him a chance, though?” She pressed her lips together to hide her smile, but it peeked though, anyway.
I wasn’t falling for her bait. “Nope. Philly’s a big city. He’ll probably leave the rink, go back to wherever he lives, and I’ll never see him again. Two ships crashing into each other on the ice in the night.”
“Okay, good. But if you do need a fling to really get Luke out of your system, Caleb,” she gestured with her chin towards him, “thinks you’re really hot and I know for a fact that he doesn’t get attached. No long distance drama.” She shook her finger at me and I burst into laughter.
“Uhm, I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Can I buy you a hot chocolate?” The accented voice came from behind me on line for the Franklin Fountain Cabin. When I turned my head, I was eye-to-eye with the boy from the rink, who was wearing the most sheepish expression I’d ever seen. “To apologize.”
I waved my hand in what I hoped was a ‘forget about it’ motion. “You don’t have to.”
“It’s the least I can do.” He pulled into line next to me and continued, “Your friend was right, I was not careful and I could have hurt you. You don’t even have to drink it with me, I promise. I will just buy it and leave.”
“You’re probably more hurt than me, but,” I shrugged, pulling up a little bit of the boldness I’d learned from my few months living and going to clubs in NYC with my friends, “I won’t turn down a free cocoa.”
“I have more of a bruised ego than anything else.” He thought for a second, cracking a self-deprecating smile, and added, “Except for possible internal bleeding. Your elbow is very pointy.”
“Runs in the family,” I muttered out of habit.
“Petur Steffanson,” he said, slipping off his glove and holding out his hand.
I awkwardly took his hand in my mittened one and shook. “Trixie Martins. But,” I added, “I have to warn you, I just came off of a breakup in November and I’m not interested in seeing anyone.”
His eyebrows shot up in what I guessed was surprise at my announcement. “It is an apology, not a date request. Anyway, I am only here for the year, I certainly do not plan on dating anyone in this country.”
“Fine, just saying.” I tried hard not to smile, but found myself echoing his grin.
He nodded, poorly faking a serious expression. “Good to know.”
After a minute of weirdly comfortable silence, I tilted my head at him. “So, Petur, what do you have against dating Americans?”
His expression dropped and he froze for a second before seeming to realize I was teasing him. “Because I have not met anyone who has yet to convince me I should.”
“Good thing I’m not planning on trying to convince you otherwise.”
His snort carried a hint of suppressed laughter. “Very good thing.”
I made a show of studying him, squinting my eyes and tapping at my chin with my mitten. “I’m guessing from you’re accent that you’re from… Norway? Denmark?”
Before I could overthink it, I decided to dive all in. He was cute, but it wasn’t like we’d ever see each other again after tonight, anyway. New York and Iceland were pretty far apart. I was absolutely safe. “Well, Petur Steffanson from Iceland, as soon as we get the cocoa, would you like to platonically join me and my friends at our fire pit? We’re getting the s’more kits and I hear they go really well with cocoa.”
He lit up in a way that made my ridiculous heart race, and then said, “I’d love to, Trixie Martins from—”
“Trixie from New Jersey, it sounds perfect.”