Snow. A voice. A face.
That is all that I remember from that day. I don’t know who he was; all that I know is that he saved my life...and that he wasn’t human.
That was when I was ten years old, the day that I almost lost my life in a whiteout blizzard; I’m seventeen now, and I haven’t stopped believing that he exists, despite what everyone else has told me. For the past seven years, it’s been one of the few things that’s driven me to near-obsession, one of the few things that finds its way creeping into nearly every waking moment.
After all, there was no way that I should’ve survived being lost in that blizzard, and I wasn’t going to stop until I knew exactly what ended up happening on that day and who that boy was that saved me. And while I don’t know his name or even how or where to begin my search, I do know one thing: I will find him again.
A voice singing in my ear ripped me out of my deep contemplative thoughts.
“Hey, V~! Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey!” Kristi sang out, nudging my shoulder.
“Come back from La-La Land, Val,” Ian whispered from my other side. “Class is almost over.”
S tupid best friends . Regardless, their antics still managed to coax a smile to my face as they pulled me out of my daydreams. I still love them anyways.
Currently, we’re sitting in our senior mythology and folklore class. Now, normally, I would never advocate for wasting valuable class time with daydreaming, especially with as much as I love mythology. But I suppose you might be able to call this a dire situation.
After all, we had been in the class for just over two months now, and other than being assigned reading chapters out of the textbook, we hadn’t actually learned anything. Our teacher, Mr. Grayson, was a good man and a loving husband, father, and grandfather, and I’d had the pleasure of holding several engaging conversations with him when he’d visited my mother’s office at the school, but whenever it came to teaching our class? He somehow always managed to magically fall asleep mere moments after assigning our work, no matter how loud the other students became.
As much as I didn’t want to be at school sometimes, I had been really looking forward to this class in particular…
The final bell rang overhead, the entire class surging out of the room to escape the school. It only made me shake my head as Ian helped me up from my desk where I had spent the class period daydreaming. His hand was warm on my arm, and I couldn’t help the way that my heart fluttered in my chest, aching whenever he pulled away, that breathtaking smile plastered across his face.
God, I’m so helpless…
“C’mooooon, slowpokes,” Kristi called from the doorway, waiting for us as we eventually filed our way out of the classroom.
As we headed to our lockers, I zoned out as Kristi and Ian began discussing their upcoming plans for Halloween, which was only right around the corner. For them, it might’ve just been a regular holiday, but for me, it was a reminder of the supernatural and beings that only existed in myths and fairy tales. Just another reminder that they were real and that maybe...just maybe...I’d be able to find the one that had saved me.
By the time we had gathered our things and headed to the parking lot, the topic of conversation had ended up shifting to one that was much more mundane. Homework…
“So who wants to help me with my homework?” Kristi asked, bouncing in front of us and using her green puppy-dog eyes as a (usually) effective means of persuasion.
“I can’t,” I said, shooting her an apologetic smile. “I kinda have… What’s the word? Prior commitments.”
Ian snorted softly, rolling his eyes as he gently elbowed me. “You mean your ‘blog’?” He lifted his fingers in air quotes as he said it.
“Noooo, you jerk.” I smiled, elbowing him right back and sticking my tongue out, which only made Ian laugh. I’ve always liked his laugh. “Remember? I told you last week that my aunt and uncle were going to be coming up from Florida to stay for the weekend, before it gets too cold and starts snowing.”
“Mmm! Your aunt’s the one that ended up having to get those metal rods in her back and leg a couple years ago because of that car accident, right?” Ian asked, and I nodded.
“Yeah. It’s going to be the first time that they’ve gotten to visit since then, especially with the weather being so cold here a lot of the time. It makes it more painful for Aunt Agnes. Which is why they can’t stay too long, unfortunately…” I shrugged, offering a small smile as Ian wrapped his arm around my shoulder, pulling me into a hug. My heart pounded against my chest as I breathed in the minty scent of Ian’s favorite cologne.
“I wish that you’d come with us. It’s never the same without you...but I understand. I’ll try to handle Kristi, and maybe...we could do something this weekend? When you’re not busy?” Ian raised an eyebrow in question.
A wide smile spread its way across my lips. “Yeah, of course! I’ll let you know how things go. And I’ll see if I can’t try to get some time away and swing by Kristi’s house for a little bit tonight. But I’ll text you to let you know…” I blinked slowly as I glanced over at where the last of our trio had previously been. “Uhhh… Where’d Kristi go?”
The sound of shouting caused us to glance over at where Kristi was storming away from a group of guys, flipping them off. “UGH! I can’t believe those assholes ,” she muttered when she was back over near us.
“Are you okay? They weren’t catcalling you or something, were they? You should’ve let me handle it,” Ian said, a frown on his face as he shot a glare over in the teens’ direction.
“No, no catcalls. While you two were talking, one of them ended up throwing something and hit me with it, but when I went over, they all denied that they did…” She scowled, holding out the front of her shirt where black glitter glistened across the fabric. “And now I’m going to have to burn this shirt, because I’m never going to get this shit out of it…”
Ian shook his head, putting a comforting hand on Kristi’s back. “Well, we need to be heading to your house anyways, to get started on these assignments. Val will be by later. Come on, Kristina.”
I couldn’t help but to snort at Kristi’s dramatic sigh. “Alright. If we have to. See ya, V.”
“Yeah. See ya,” I called with a wave as my two friends headed off down the sidewalk, a shiver running down my spine when a sudden gust of cold air blew by as I began heading in the opposite direction.
We live in the small town of Burgess, Pennsylvania. Not much to the town, but it has some of the best ice-skating and sledding in the winter. It’s a simple little town, but that’s one of the things that I loved most about it. It was quaint, easy to get around, and always seemed to have a perpetual chill in the air once fall and winter rolled around, with it lingering even into early spring.
But I don’t mind it. Fall and winter were my favorite times of the year. I’ve always loved the cold, and the oversized comfy sweaters. Which perhaps was ironic, considering how I had almost died when I was younger. But perhaps it was those memories of Him that made me cling to that nostalgia. Even now.
I smiled to myself as I stopped on the porch to be greeted by my cat twining himself between my legs and almost making me trip over him. Snorting, I reached down, scratching the top of his head. “Hey Snow,” I murmured, “who’s my good boy? Did you miss me today?”
Snow meowed in response before sauntering through the front door that just opened, right when my uncle swept me into a big hug. “There’s my little Valentina!”
It only made me laugh when he spun me around as if I were still a little kid. “Hey Uncle Rick. I’m glad you could make it so soon. How’s Aunt Agnes?”
“She’s as charming as ever,” he chuckled, wiggling his eyebrows before shaking his head and his expression turning much more apologetic. “Naw, she says there’s a chill in the air and that it’ll snow early this year. So as much as she wants to stay, we’re going to have to leave tomorrow afternoon.”
That made me frown, a sinking feeling forming in the pit of my stomach. “What about our plans?” I didn’t want to admit that I was disappointed, but I hadn’t seen them in forever and I had been looking forward to their visit for a long time.
“We’ll have to do them some other time, Val. But you know what? I got you something that you’ve been begging for forever.” Rick beamed, nudging me in the ribs with his elbow.
It took me a moment to process what he meant, but when I did, I gasped. “No! You don’t mean…?”
“Yep!” Rick grinned, running his hands back through his blonde-tipped undercut. “The new ice skates and snowboard that you’ve been wanting. They’re up in your room on your bed. Now you’ll have something to actually do this winter instead of being cooped up in the house.”
“No way!” I threw my arms around him in a hug. “You’re the best…” I mumbled into his shirt.
“Yah, and don’t you forget it!” He ruffled my blonde hair before stopping and looking at the highlights, raising an eyebrow. “Your mother let you get blue and pink highlights?”
I shrugged, wiping at my eyes and smiling at him. “It was for my birthday.”
“Oh, how time flies. How old are you now? Like 300?”
I poked him in the side, making him flinch. “I’m seventeen, thanks for remembering.”
“Val? Is that you?” Mom called out from the kitchen.
“No, it’s the boogeyman,” I called back, rolling my eyes. “Of course it’s me. I’m just talking with Uncle Rick!”
“Well, come inside and help with dinner!”
“Okay!” I sighed as my uncle and I entered the house, but before I closed the door, chills ran up my spine. When I looked outside though, there was nothing there except a few orange leaves blowing in my wind. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched though.
I slipped my jacket off and picked up Snow, walking into the kitchen where Uncle Rick, Aunt Agnes, and my mother were sitting at the island and talking. I stood next to my uncle for a while, leaning against the table and listening to my aunt complain to my mom about her age, bones, hair, back, pain, the economy… The list just seemed to drag on endlessly.
Uncle Rick just seemed to do his best to simply drink his beer and ignore the conversation at hand, the two of us making weird faces at each other throughout before he finally wandered off into the living room to watch television. I put down Snow and washed my hands, getting the loose, white hairs off of them. Opening the refrigerator, I pulled out a whole bunch of different fresh vegetables and put them on the counter so I could make stir-fry.
Just as I was about to start the preparation of the vegetables though, Uncle Rick called me into the living room.
"Val, have a look at this."
I set down the knife I was using and hurried to see what he wanted to show me. On TV, the news was showing a devastating car crash. Below the video footage was a live reel of a news anchor who was speaking.
"A Burgess High School teacher, Mr. Larry M. Grayson was killed in a fatal collision with a semi-truck when the driver supposedly lost control and overturned the semi onto Mr. Grayson's car, claiming his life. No one knows why the truck-driver lost control, but from eye-witness reports, it is believed that the driver was intoxicated. However, the driver is still missing. If you know anything or have any additional information, please call your local authorities."
I felt my knees give out beneath me as I plopped down on the couch, my hands shaking. It almost doesn’t seem real. How is it supposed to feel real when I had just seen Mr. Grayson at school only an hour earlier? I mean, yeah, I barely knew the teacher, but the fact that he still was my teacher and now he’s just gone … It doesn’t feel real.
Something wet lands on my hands before I realize what they are: tears. I wiped them away as I ran upstairs to my room, turning on my computer and about to pull up a video-chat with Ian and Kristi.
Something stopped me though, compelling me to check my blog and deciding to write a memoir for Mr. Grayson. Starting a new file, I began typing.
Today is Friday, October 13th, 2021. This day, the world has witnessed the loss of an extraordinary man: Mr. Larry M. Grayson. Not well known, Mr. Grayson was the teacher of my senior class's Mythology and Folklore class at Burgess High School. Though we students at Burgess High School may have had Mr. Grayson for a teacher, we never had the time to really appreciate him as a person. He deserves to be respected and loved and cherished just as much as everyone else on this planet deserves to be. So take a moment to cherish your loved ones and send a prayer to Mr. Grayson's family as they mourn the loss of their beloved family member, a man with a beautiful soul who has dedicated over 40 years of teaching to Burgess High School.
May your love never die.
Love Always, Cupid XOXO
After posting it, I scanned through the messages from my followers. They were mainly personal questions about love problems. Each Sunday I did a live podcast where I would answer about five to ten of the questions anonymously. (Given that they weren’t anything extremely personal.) Other people, who don’t mind their screen names being revealed, post directly onto the page.
I sorted through the posts, organizing them and marking the seven questions that I decided I’ll answer on Sunday. Just as I was about to log off though, one of the private posts caught my eye.
I know that this may seem silly to say, but you are a true inspiration, and I really admire you. I think you're funny, smart, caring, beautiful... But what I really want to say is that the Halloween dance is coming up soon, and if you don't already have a date for the dance, I would be honored to accompany you. I hope that you will consider my offer.
J. P. Matthews
I stared at the screen without blinking for several long moments, trying to comprehend what just happened. After all, this was the first time that any of my followers had ever asked me out. And even more than that, his words made it sound as though he was from the same school as I was. But I didn’t think that anybody other than Ian and Kristi knew that I was the one that ran the “Ask Cupid” blog.
I began typing a response.
Dear J. P. Matthews,
As flattering as it is that you would ask me to the dance, I'm afraid that I cannot accept your offer. I have the policy of never becoming emotionally or personally invested with anybody because I love everybody, and I wouldn't want anybody to be hurt. Plus, I don't know you on a personal level, and I would rather not attend anything with a stranger. Especially with as dangerous as it can be. I'm sorry, and I hope you can understand… :(
Never stop believing in love.
Love Always, Cupid XOXO
Almost immediately, I received a response from him.
Don’t worry! I completely understand your policy and concerns. I know I’d have the same thoughts if I were in your place. But I know you also try helping and doing whatever you can for people who are having problems with love, so I still hope that you will consider my offer. And I hope that you’ll at least take the time to get to know me. If not as a date to the dance, then at least as a friend. Please inform me of your decision on Monday in our Mythology and Folklore class.
See you Monday,
J. P. Matthews
My mouth dropped, and I stood up so quickly that I almost knocked my chair over. This was just too freaky...and admittedly a bit flattering. I just didn’t remember anyone that was named J. P. Matthews in my mythology class though. But at the same time, I usually spent the entire time daydreaming, so who was I to remember who was or wasn’t in the class?
My first instinct was that I really needed to talk to Kristi and Ian about this in person, because there was no one else that I knew that I could turn to, and if there was anybody that would know what to do, then it would be them.
I locked my computer and opened the door to my balcony after writing a note and leaving it on my desk, just in case my mother or uncle tried to come looking for me, telling them that I would be heading out to Kristi’s house and that I’d be back soon. Grabbing my skateboard, I jumped over the balcony, landing on the ledge above the garage and dropping down to the ground. I took off down the street to Kristi's house, easily dodging any bicyclists or people walking, not that there were too many out with as dark as it was becoming already. Another sign of the encroaching winter season.
Of course...one of the reasons why I was so indecisive about accepting J. P. Matthews's invitation to the dance was that I was planning on asking Ian to the dance, provided I didn’t end up chickening out of it again like I did last year. Maybe I could’ve ended up asking him over the weekend, since he suggested we do something together?
But yeah. I have a major crush on my best friend. And it sucks, because he's the person I've been closest to since I moved to Burgess when I was eleven. I've just been scared that he only sees me like I'm his little sister since that's how he treats me about 90% of the time. But then there are those other moments...those small private moments that make me think that maybe he has more feelings for me than he openly admits. That maybe he shares the same feelings as I do...
That didn’t stop the nagging feeling at the back of my mind that maybe I was wrong and just getting my hopes up.
I stopped at Kristi's front porch, leaning my skateboard against the wall and knocking on the door which Kristi's mom answered. "Hey, Val! It’s so good to see you again! Kristi and Ian are up in her room, studying. Ian mentioned that you’d be dropping by sometime this evening for the study session. I’ve got some snacks in the kitchen if you end up getting hungry."
"Okay. Thanks, Mrs. Newman. I’m not really hungry right now, but I’ll be sure to grab something later!"
She smiled at me as she let me in, closing the door behind us and heading back into the living room.
I waited until she was gone until I all but sprinted up the stairs, taking them two at a time until I reached the landing. The words were already flowing from my mouth as I was opening the door. “Hey, guys? I have something really import--”
The words died on my tongue, my feet frozen in place as I stared at the sight on Kristi’s bed. And all at once it felt like my heart shattered in my chest.
Kristi’s hands were tangled in Ian’s hair as she laid straddled on top of him, their lips locked together in a desperate rush. And the most painful part of it all was that Ian’s hands were on either side of her face, holding her and kissing her back.
My choked sob caused Ian to push Kristi away, both of them turning to look at me, but I was already backing away as Kristi moved to get off the bed. My feet were already carrying me down the stairs faster than I could comprehend as I heard Ian yelling for me to stop. And for the first time since I’ve known Ian, I didn’t listen to him.
Not only did my best friend betray me when she knows how I feel about Ian… But I guess Ian doesn’t share my feelings for him after all. Despite all of those things that I thought were signs of him caring about me… I was just a third wheel this entire time…
I sprinted out the door, grabbing my skateboard and running towards the forest behind my house.
A couple of years ago, when I was thirteen, I had found a pond hidden within the forest there. I’d never told anybody about it; I was never sure why. The pond had been my secret solace for years whenever I've been upset or needed to be alone: I'd go swimming in the summer and ice-skating in the winter; I've sat under the trees for hours, just drawing, reading books, or listening to music. It felt like the pond was my own personal hideaway.
And I needed to hide away right now.
Crashing through the undergrowth until I reached the pond, I threw my skateboard to the side, a scream ripping itself out of my throat before I fell to my knees under one of the trees that I would always sit under. And for the first time in a long time, I cried, sobbing so hard that it made my heart hurt as I curled into a ball against the tree trunk.
I didn’t know how long I had been crying, but I must’ve passed out because the full moon was shining high in the sky whenever I was eventually roused by a cold breeze blowing past, seeming to circle me. It almost felt as though cold fingers slid through my hair, smoothing it out as a single snowflake fell onto my nose.
Of course, whenever I looked up, I was alone. Alone except for the moon. But I still childishly felt that perhaps Jack Frost was watching over me, just like I felt he did whenever I would come here. Maybe it was just the cold that was making me think that though.
Letting out a sigh, I walked over to the edge of the pond, looking down at my reflection and picking stray leaves out of my hair. The necklace that I was wearing, a pink and silver heart that Ian had given me as a fifteenth birthday present, fell off; the chain broken in half and the heart cracked.
“God, I was such an idiot , wasn’t I? To think that things could’ve turned out differently than they did… I guess I’m just a fool that’s always too blinded by love to not end up getting burnt by it in the end...”
The thought only made the tears that still pricked at my eyes return full force as I picked up the necklace, throwing it into the center of the pond where the moon was reflected on the waters.
Sitting down with my back against a boulder, I stared out at the pond, my eyes half-closed from crying. Red and gold leaves rode on the breeze, landing in the water and making ripples. It was pretty, but it just made me feel cold, shivers running down my spine as I sneezed. Glancing up at the sky, several thin clouds passed over the moon as snow began to fall.
Sighing, a small smile managed to make its way to my lips despite the mood that I was in. “Alright, Jack Frost, I’ll go inside now,” I whispered with a sigh. “Thank you for letting me come here and making me feel better, by the way…”
As I went and picked up my skateboard, I thought I heard a chuckle behind me and a whisper that sounded like “You’re welcome,” and I could’ve sworn that I saw someone vanishing into the bushes from the corner of my vision. When I tried to search the area of trees and bushes though, there was predictably no one there.
There I go again, getting my hopes up for nothing.
Sighing, I trudged my way out of the woods, left with the inexplicable feeling that I was still being watched.
Needless to say though, whenever I got home, my mom was not a happy person at all, but one look at my tear-stained face kept her from asking any questions. I wordlessly accepted her hugs and the cup of hot chocolate she made me before she pressed a kiss to my forehead and told me to head back to bed to try to get some rest.
I gladly took the glass and headed up to my room. After changing into warm pajamas, I was just about to curl up in bed before the glint of moonlight shining against my computer screen caught my eye. After a few moments, I eventually slipped out of bed and unlocked the computer, opening up my blog and staring at the response that J. P. Matthews had left on my blog before I hesitantly typed out my own response to him.
Dear J. P. Matthews,
With regards to your previous offer, I think that I would like for us to try being friends. And if you can manage to convince me by the day before the dance, then I’ll go with you, even if it’s only as friends. And after that, if things end up progressing naturally in that direction, then I will try to give a relationship a shot… But I’m not making any promises that there will be anything definitive that will come out of us getting to know each other, other than us becoming friends. There’s just...something that happened tonight that made me remember why I had started my blog, and the vow I had made to keep other people from having to experience the pain of a broken heart. If you still wish it, I will be waiting in front of the flagpole before school starts on Monday.
May your love always strike true.
Love Always, Cupid XOXO
Chewing on my nail, I anxiously waited for his response, and I was rewarded only a few minutes later with a new message popping up.
It is still my wish to be with you, and more importantly, for us to be friends first and foremost. But there is one bit of advice that I would like to give to you, if you don’t mind me being too forward: Don’t spend too much time trying to fix other people’s broken hearts. You have to think of your own as well. Because what would happen when you, Cupid, get a broken heart?
J. P. Matthews
My heart pounded in my chest almost to the point that it became difficult to breathe. During the few years that I had been running my blog, the thought had never even crossed my mind because it had always been an impossibility; I had never been in a relationship, and the only romantic feelings that I had harbored had been solely directed towards Ian.
After tonight though, that illusion of unwavering certainty had been shattered, with all of my feelings ripped into pieces. The betrayal, the pain…
I stared at the computer screen, curling up in my chair and finding myself unable to answer his question. After all, what does happen when “Cupid” gets a broken heart?