A Story for the Start of the Year

I’ve written a story for the start of the year. I shall dispense with caveats and explanations. Suffice it to say, I’ve decided to share it here. So here it is!

How Celestia Green Gained a Wolf and Lost Her Parents

The tower clock struck midnight as Celestia Green ran, her hair a mess and her gloves lost. Holiday lights remained strung through the trees and other revelers stumbled from doorways. Celestia dodged the drunks and celebrants and no one took notice of her. She almost plowed into a couple kissing on the sidewalk but she was nimble and quick even in the snow, gracefully pivoting before continuing her mad dash home.

She reached her front steps as the last chime reverberated over the town. Laughing, happy to have made it home, Celestia pushed at the door. It was locked. Her laughter faded. Locked! But she’d been the last one to leave the house and she had no key. Her parents believed she didn’t need one. “Of course, we’ll always let you in,” they said. “And you’ve no reason to leave home after dark.”

Celestia contemplated the possible punishment for going to a party in a dress they didn’t know she owned. “Oh for the love of stars,” she muttered and kicked the door. Shivering for she hadn’t taken her coat lest they notice it damp from snow or smelling of other places, she stared out into the street. When her parents would be home, she didn’t know, but they usually liked to come home early from everything. “See, Celestina?” her mother would coo. “We just want to be with you.”

But these were the first minutes of the New Year, and Celestia refused to spend them in anxiety or fear. She adjusted her scarf over her head and went back down the stairs. If she turned one way, she could go back to the party. Maybe friends would distract her from the bruises she’d be given. But she’d left the party in a whirlwind, right as the tower clock began to strike, and friends had shouted and cheered for her. There’d been the faces of those she’d not allowed a midnight kiss. No. She didn’t want to go back after such a grand exit.

Celestia turned the other way. Snow crunched under her steps. Which way would her parents be coming from? She paused before heading down a side street. Chances were she’d be locked in her room for a month. At least that would give her time to heal.

Winter stars glittered overhead. “I shall follow the brightest of them,” she said to herself. “It worked for the three wise men. And Peter Pan. ‘Second star to the right and straight on til morning!’” She laughed. That would lead her home again. She squinted at the first sky of the New Year. “Brightest star in the night and go forth til adventure! That’ll do. Thank you, stars.” She blew them a kiss. “Lots of love!” And off she went down the narrow street.

Her eyes back on the path in front of her, Celestia didn’t notice the stars spark brighter. It was almost as if they winked at one another up in the vast eternal winter of space. But of course, that’s impossible even at the beginning of a New Year. After all, what’s a new year to the stars? Not so much as a fraction of starlight.

The hour of midnight ticked away and music drifted in the air. Celestia didn’t recognize the tune, but she liked the rhythm and the beat. Each time she glanced up to check the brightest star, the music’s volume increased until it was as loud as if she were in the room with it and she had to stop her walk. She was behind the town’s clock tower. Up a short flight of stairs was a door, open, and brightly lit.

Celestia rubbed her arms with her bare hands. Snow flurries spun in the air. Surely her parents were home by now, tearing the place apart, devising her punishment. Perhaps they would draw blood this time. They’d certainly not allow her to see the sky for weeks.

She walked through the door.

She stared. Her mother liked to ask how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, and now Celestia thought she had an answer, “Surely not as many as can be on an actual dance floor.” The entire space was dedicated to dancing. Where the band was, she couldn’t fathom a guess. Above the clock tower gears turned and clicked into their matching grooves.

The people dancing didn’t have wings. Celestia didn’t know why she thought them angels though they looked otherworldly, arm in arm, gliding around the dancefloor. Did they shimmer? Perhaps. Perhaps it was a trick of the fairy lights strung across the wide room. Their clothes? Maybe. They were dressed in long gone fashions though they looked timeless. She couldn’t tell the men from the women or she could and their clothing confused her. The next song began and she blinked. It was as if the men became women or the women became men. She shook her head, thinking she’d been too long out in the cold. And what did she know of the adult world? Very little. But in spite of her confusion, this wasn’t why she believed them angels.

In many ways they looked ordinary. They were different heights and sizes. She was sure she’d never seen them in town anywhere. They were too different and too diverse from dark to pale, from soft to angular, to dancing on two legs to dancing in a wheeled chair. She’d never seen such a thing! Surely only angels possessed such inventions.

And their numbers seemed as great as stars in the sky.

But that was impossible of course.

“Dance?” came a voice.

Celestia startled. A person seemingly not much older than herself stood there.

She’d been prepared to lie, but the lie disappeared on her tongue. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t invited,” she said instead. “Please don’t tell my parents.”

The person smiled. “We never would. And yes, you’ve been in invited. Why else was the door open?”

Dazed, Celestia took the offered hand. Round and round she danced. The clock tower gears clicked and the music went on and on. She didn’t tire. She changed dance partners and with each she chatted and laughed. She hoped the night would never end.

“Do you dance all night?” she asked her dance partner.

Her dance partner smiled. “Mostly. But we entertain each other too.”

“How?” Everyone there seemed perpetually in motion. How did they ever stop?

“You’d call them magic tricks.”

“Really? Magic? May I see?” Now she’d see they truly were angels.

“Be careful,” her dance partner replied. “When you ask to see magic, you can’t always predict the consequences.”

Celestia grinned. “Sounds divine. I don’t mind a little risk!”

Her partner stopped and waved a hand over the assembly. Everyone paid attention. “We have a request for magic!”

They clapped and nodded. “Knew we would,” said someone in the crowd.

“What kind?” shouted another.

“Finally!” said someone else.

“Go on,” said her dance partner. “What magic did you wish for?”

“What’s possible?” she asked.

“Anything.”

“Try us!” said yet another.

Celestia thought. Her gaze traveled over those surrounding her. She spotted a broach on someone’s gown. “Can you turn that diamond wolf into a real one? One that will keep me company and keep me safe?” Imagine such a beast facing down her parents. Surely, they’d not lay a hand on her then.

“Easy!” the crowd said in unison.

The room filled with sparkling light and before the spots cleared from Celestia’s eyes, she heard a great woof. There stood a massive animal, with deep gray fur and shining eyes.

“He’s yours,” said her dance partner.

Celestia knelt and said hello. She hugged the beast and the beast wagged its tail.

Everyone clapped. “Now what other magic do you wish to see?” asked her dance partner. “What’s your heart’s desire?”

Celestia hesitated. “Why would you give me such a thing? What’s the catch?”

“No catch,” came the reply. “Just continue to see us when we shine.” Her dance partner smiled and stared into her eyes.

Unsettled, Celestia scratched the animal behind the ear, weighing the possible names. What name suited him? “The wolf is enough.”

Her dance partner nodded. “Let’s go back to dancing. But we promise there’ll be one more bit of magic before the sun finishes her rise.”

And the crowd went back to dancing and the wolf darted among their legs in perfect rhythm.

Eventually the chimes rang from the top of the tower and the music ceased. Her most recent dance partner let go of her hand as Celestia peered out the door back into the streets. The morning sun gleamed over the rooftops. Sighing that even with a wolf, she’d have to go home and face her punishment, she turned to say goodbye and thank everyone. Maybe, she was going to suggest, when she recovered, she could return for another night of dancing. That would be okay, wouldn’t it?

But the dancers were gone. Only the wolf remained. The empty room gleamed, warmth coming from the floorboards. Celestia smiled. “Thank you,” she said to the open space.

Heading home, she realized she’d lost her scarf as well as her gloves. She hoped an angel had taken it with them. Did angels need scarves? Probably not, but the thought cheered her anyway. She was going to be in so much trouble already, what was the punishment for one more lost thing? And how would she explain this…dog? Any fool could see he was more than a dog, but she couldn’t imagine saying the word wolf to her parents. It was likely they run for the shotgun regardless. They were smart enough to know that would be the perfect punishment. How delighted they would be.

Pondering how she would keep the wolf safe, forgetting that it was supposed to be the other way around, Celestia ignored the street she walked on. She paid no attention to the people sharing the sidewalk. Perhaps she could hide the animal in the garden or in the basement. Neither parent frequented those spaces. Maybe a friend would keep him for a while?

So lost in thought, Celestia noticed nothing amiss until she reached the front steps of her house. The house was gone. Or rather not her house. It was a building in a style she’d never seen. She looked around and everything was changed. The house across the street was the same but terribly old and falling apart, abandoned, even though the Hazeltons had just been celebrating Christmas morning by making snowmen in their front yard. There were no snowmen now.

Not caring if she looked strange, she stopped a man striding down the sidewalk. “Excuse me, sir?”

“Yes?”

“Is this Magnolia Avenue?”

He chuckled. “You bet.”

“And is it New Year’s Day?”

“Did you celebrate too much last night, little lady?”

The wolf growled softly, but the man failed to notice. He assured her it was indeed New Year’s Day and he told her the year. Then with a nod he continued his walk.

Celestia stared. Shocked, she stared at her hands. “If that’s true,” she whispered and she knew it was, “I should be an old woman.”

The wolf nuzzled against her legs. The morning sun had almost finished its rise into the day and Celestia looked up. The last star winked down at her before fading into the daylight. “Thank you,” she shouted at the heavens. “Let the New Year begin.”

*

Thank you for reading.

One thought on “A Story for the Start of the Year

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