Vulturu, The Carpatian Mountains in Transylvania, Romania, Europe
“The land beyond The Forest”
After an uneventful flight, Granny and Taïga arrive in Romania in the early morning. They collect their luggage and retrieve Taïga’s bike and the large wooden box from a special fret counter. Hauling everything onto an airport luggage caddy they walk all the way to the furthest parking lot. To Taïga’s surprise, Granny’s vintage car is waiting for them in a dark corner of the underground parking.
The pristine autumn air carries a promise of snow and they are both freezing, riding in the old cabriolet.
‘You should have transformed the car into a limousine, Granny!’
‘But I can’t drive a limousine! And this is the only car I know how to conjure up, so be quiet now and put on your safety belt…’
‘There are no safety belts, Granny… Do we have long to go? I’m hungry.’
‘It’s up in the mountains over there.’ Granny points towards the skyline of dark foreboding mountains, and Taïga shudders. ‘Here, take this apple. We’ll stop for dinner, or rather lunch, along the way…’
The long trip soon takes its toll on the little girl and she falls heavily asleep, not even waking up when Granny steers the car into an old, seemingly abandoned, dirt track leading into the forest…
When Taïga wakes up again, she is surprised to see her grandmother dressed in her usual grey outfit, complete with her corset and long sweeping skirt. She’s even wearing her hat again, and with awe the little girl reaches out and touches her grandmother’s hair.
‘How did you do this, Granny?’
Granny glances at her, winking. ‘Grown-up magic, dear. It is to be used with utmost parsimony, but I just couldn’t show up on my sister’s threshold looking like a… a…’
‘Yes. A scarecrow.’ They both giggle.
‘Can you fix my hair too?’ Taïga touches her long raven braids.
‘Why should I? Your hair is beautiful as it is, and it’s too dangerous to use on a child anyway.’ Granny says curtly.
‘That’s why you didn’t do this earlier?’
‘You remember when I told you about secrecy?’ Taïga nods solemnly. ‘Well, even if I wanted to fix this when I unwrapped my hair at the hospital, I couldn’t reasonably do so without raising suspicions. But here… Nobody knows us.’ Granny looks at her sleepy granddaughter yawning. ‘Go ahead and sleep a little while longer. We’re not arriving in a couple of hours yet.’
Taïga nods, drawing the warm blanket up high and settling more comfortably into the seat. Soon the rhythm and the purring of the car has rocked her to sleep again. Granny glances at her, a little jealous. She wishes she could stop and nap, her eyes are burning from lack of sleep. The flight had seemed to last forever but Granny had been kept awake by the burning pain and even though the fresh air helps cooling her face some, the skin is still itching uncomfortably.
Taïga has slept most of the way through the Romanian countryside, snuggly wrapped up in a warm blanket. Granny wakes her when they enter Vulturu.
‘Look at the houses, Taïga. Aren’t they beautiful?’
Taïga nods sleepily. ‘But it’s so dark, Granny. Where’s the sun? What time is it?’
‘Soon two p.m. But it’s only four a.m. back in Bigwood Falls. That’s why you are so tired…’
‘Watch out, Granny!’
Granny has strayed too far over to the left side and the car coming from the other direction honks his horn angrily.
The driver glares at them, slowing his car down and shouting something unintelligible to them as they pass.
Granny is unfazed. ‘I just hope the rude man is not our future neighbor…’
Taïga turns around in her seat and watches the car vanish around a bend in the road. ‘Do you think we’ll learn the language soon? “Du-te dracu! Boule”*…’
‘I’m sure that’s not something you should add to your vocabulary, Taïga!’
She turns back in her seat, ‘Tell me about your sister, Granny’
*Go to Hell, you idiot!
What is there to say…’ As a teenager Missy fell madly in love with my boyfriend, Magnus Darkling, and since then our relations have been sparse and cold. Her relations in general are sparse and cold. Her mean streak has permitted her to specialize in ghost hunting and she also practices black magic and voodoo. She’s horribly clumsy, and a terrible blunderer! I’m more than a little worried about us all living together under the same roof…
But of course she doesn’t tell her grandchild all this.
She clears her throat. ‘Ahem… Missy is my younger sister – I was thirteen when she was born… Err… She’s not married – at least not that I know of – and she has a cat…’
Taïga’s eyes grow misty. She misses Minuit terribly… The firemen found the scorched body of the old cat when they cleared out the charred remains of the house, and Granny buried her in her favorite spot in the garden before leaving Bigwood Falls. Taïga, who thought she didn’t have any tears left after Mrs. Brown passed away, found that she was horribly wrong…
‘Look! That seems to be a post office of some kind.’
Granny parks the car and jumps out. ‘Stretch your legs a little while I go and ask for directions. But don’t stray too far!’
Taïga doesn’t move. It’s too cold to let go of the warm blanket.
Granny is soon back, waving a slip of paper. ‘We’re not far!’
Taïga yawns, but straightens up at the sight of an ominous edifice.
‘What is that, Granny?’
‘I think it must be the church the woman at the post office mentioned. We should turn right soon…’
‘It looks like something out of a scary movie… I bet there are vampires living in the crypt, Granny!’
‘There are no such things as vampires, Taïga.’
‘I’ve read Dracula. And Mom told me not to mess with them.’
‘Have you seen one?’
‘Well. Normal. They don’t exist.’ But she doesn’t sound convinced.
Taïga doesn’t let go. ‘I’ve never seen a platypus either, and they exist.’
‘You’ve seen photos haven’t you?’
‘Yes, of course I have!’
‘Have you ever seen a photo of a vampire?’
‘No! But you can’t photograph them and they have no reflection in mirrors neither!’
Granny glances at her grandchild. ‘Says who?’
‘Well… Books and stuff…’
Granny just snorts and turns right, into Breach Bend…
‘There it is!’ Taïga hollers, ‘Number 46!’
Granny screeches to a halt, backing to verify. ‘You seem to be right, dear.’
Taïga leans over and actions the horn. ‘Tuuut! Tuuuut-tuuuuut-tuuuut!’
The door opens on a feisty redheaded woman. Taïga gapes. She had expected someone a little more like Granny. In fact she had expected a kind of Granny-clone with lesser wrinkles…
‘Park over there! I’m coming!’
They park next to the house and starts unloading. Missy soon comes out to greet them, a black cat in her arms. She lets go of the purring animal and looks Taïga over.
‘You look exactly like your mother. Except for the eyes…’ She grabs Taïga’s chin and turns her head slightly to the right, exposing her neck. ‘Hmm. She’s even got the grey mark. Even though the Council didn’t approve of her father. Whoever that was,’ she adds under her breath.’
‘Why didn’t they approve, Missy?’ Taïga asks, pulling her sweater tighter around her neck.
‘Because they don’t know who he is, of course’ She bends down, looking the young girl icily into her eyes,’Do you? Know who he is?’
‘Enough, Missy. Give me a hand, will you.’
Missy walks over to her sister and perfunctorily helps them unpack the car… When the eccentric old lady offered “shelter” to Granny and Taïga, it was more by obligation than because she really felt sorry for them or actually wanted them in her house. But then again, Granny would probably bring her crystal ball, the palantír, along, and Missy has got her eyes on that particular item for as long as she can remember.
Oh yes, I can see it in the backseat… Just beside that ornate red chest… She reaches out for it when a movement in the corner of her eye catches her attention. What is the wretched child doing now? ‘Watch out! Don’t hurt the cat!’
‘I don’t hurt him, Missy. Look, he purrs! I think he likes to be cuddled’ Taïga smiles happily, rubbing her nose against the cat’s.
‘It’s not a he. It’s a she.’
‘What’s her name?’
‘Miezul Nopţii. That’s midnight in Romanian.’
Taïga burrows her nose in the silky fur, blinking away her tears, ‘Minuit…’
‘Could you take this, Missy?’
Missy turns around and seems to really see her sister for the first time since they arrived. Granny has prepared herself for her younger sister’s blunt comments all the way here, playing their conversation over and over again in her head. She touches her hair self-consciously. She will need to make a special shampoo if she wants to maintain the illusion. Meanwhile she will have to endure this magic toupee – even if it’s itching to death. And she must add something to speed up the growth – there’s no way she can wait several years for her hair to grow back as long and luscious as it was before-
‘What happened to your dress?’
‘My dress?’ Granny looks down at her long wrinkled skirt. She had not anticipated this turn of the conversation.
‘Well. It’s nothing a little ironing can’t take care of,’ Missy says. ‘As long as you do it yourself. You see, I don’t have a housekeeper, but then again I…‘ She disappears towards the house, happily chatting and carrying the umbrella Granny had handed her.
Granny sighs. ‘Here, Taïga, your rucksack. Take your bike inside the garden, and come back and help me with the rest…’
There’s only one guest room, which Taïga will have to share with Granny. She’s secretly happy about it, since Mrs. Brown passed away she hasn’t slept well…
They unpack and stumble to bed, too exhausted to worry about anything except sleeping. Granny wakes up early the next morning and yawning she shuffles down to the kitchen. She just hopes her sister has changed her habits over the years, but by the look of the kitchen, she hasn’t. Granny stops on the threshold, staring in disbelief at the horrible colors. A cast iron contraption from the late 40’s catches her eye. A stove, that from the look of it never has served…
She goes through the cupboards in search of something edible. We’ll just have to make the best out of it… First of all I’ll fix us some breakfast, then I’ll have to contact the school here…
Granny and Taïga hardly have time to settle in before it’s already the little girl’s birthday. It’s early November, but just like in Bigwood Falls, winter is already coming to Vulturu and the day dawns on big snowflakes leisurely falling, covering the hard frozen ground in a light wisp of snow…
It’s so cold… and misty… and dark here. Some snow will really lighten the atmosphere up a little… Ah, there she is! Granny picks up the giftwrapped box from the table next to the window, holding it out like a shield in front of her.
‘Happy Birthday, Taïga! Here, the postman just dropped this off. It comes all the way from Italy!’
‘It’s from Mom!’ Taïga’s face lights up even more and eagerly she pulls at the ribbon discovering a sleek smartphone.
Granny sighs. Her present will absolutely fade next to the gleaming device. She watches her granddaughter turn it on, looking for an output to charge it.
‘Can I go on the Internet?’
‘I’m not sure, with all these mountains around…’ Granny lets her sentence trail. She had thought about buying a cell for her granddaughter, and now she’s jealously regretting she never did. She shouldn’t have told Shasta when she called her to tell her about the fire…
Taïga is happily unaware of her grandmother’s thoughts, wrestling with her own problems.
Can’t wait to talk to Derek again… I wonder what he’s doing. And will he speak to me? Probably not… But I can call Teddy!
‘Can I call err… Teddy?’
Granny counts in her head, 8 o’clock minus 10 hours. ‘Yes, it’s late – 10p.m, but go ahead. I need to talk to you afterwards, I’ll wait for you in the study upstairs…’
‘OK’… Taïga types in the Vargas’ number on her brand new cell, her finger hesitating for a second before saving it. What if Derek answers? She almost hangs up when their mother answers on the third ring.
‘Hello Mrs. Vargas. It’s Taïga Grey. I’m sorry to call this late but is Teddy there?’ She waits nervously while Mrs. Vargas checks. And then there he is, his voice sounding like he’s just around the corner and not halfway across the globe – 5,795 miles (9 326 km) away…
‘Teddy! Err… Hi! It’s me.’ She feels stupid. Of course he knows it’s her calling, his mom must have told him. ‘I got a cell for my birthday! Cool isn’t it?’ She rambles nervously on, ‘Thanks… But it is the 5th today, you know! …Where? Err… In Romania.’ She giggles. ‘It’s in Europe, you dork. Across the globe, yes. We flew here! … What? … Yeah… Yeah… Sure! …. Who? With Serena? … Are you kidding me? Flyer!?! … Yeah, I know she’s training with him… No, not with him. At the same time… The same time as the football team. Uh-huh… I know. … Yeah, I can picture that… NO! Of course not! He can hang with whoever he wants… Uh-huh… Soon… I’ll start school after this weekend, on Monday… Yeah… Bye… Oh, Teddy? Are you still there? … Hug everyone from me will you? I miss you all sooo much! Bye!’
Gah! Taïga sticks out her tongue to the telephone and grimaces. He can talk about Serena all day if he wants… Serena flyer on the squad. Serena training right now. With Derek. Really? Oh, how I hate her! Training at the same time as Derek’s team, no less. I already knew that, so why did he have to rub it in?
Angrily she stomps up to the study where Granny is waiting for her.
Granny has prepared her speech since they left Moonlight Falls.
‘… so you’re about to become a big sister!’
‘Wow…’ Taïga doesn’t know if she’s happy or not. She has always wanted a sister, but… ‘Will I go to Monte Vista now, and live with Mom?’
Granny swallows. She was afraid Taïga would ask that… ‘Well… We’ll have to talk about that with your mother first. For the moment you have to stay here in Vulturu with me and your great aunt…’
Granny can see how her grandchild is struggling not to show her disappointment, but her green eyes are getting unmistakably misty.
‘It’s not that I don’t want to be with you, Granny. I love you! It’s just… just…’
Granny reaches out to Taïga and hugs her. ‘I know you’re not 15 yet, but I’d like to show you something special for your birthday. Let’s have a look into the future – or the past…’
Taïga lights up. ‘The crystal ball?’
‘The Palantír, Taïga. The Palantír…’
School of Hard Knocks
Right after WWII, the country found itself behind the Iron wall and became a socialist republic, part of the great communist community. A lot of people fled the countryside for the more enticing life in the larger cities, but the Duke of Vulturu stayed put. After first having fought side by side with the Nazis against the Soviet Union, and then in 1944 having switched sides, joining the Allied forces, but still not having succeeded in avoiding his domain being occupied by the Red Army, he was a fierce opponent to the Warsaw Pact. Out of necessity, he faked allegiance and gave away most of his huge estate to the government. But his influence in Vulturu remained.
He had fought alongside foreigners, mainly Englishmen, during the last part of the Great War and his love of the Anglo-Saxon culture and language persisted through what he called the Dark Ages. In the 60’s, the town of Vulturu became a haven for artists, writers and other “misfits” of the country. One of the Duke’s projects was to prepare his people for what he felt inevitable – the end of communism and the opening to the rest of Europe and the world. That’s why he insisted on having a European section teaching in English in the town school.
When the Duke passed away just before the 1989 Revolution, the end of the communist era, he donated his immense fortune to his nephew so he could continue his Uncle’s ambitious work. But as soon as the greedy nephew saw an opportunity to leave, he did, taking the money with him.
The art galleries are still thriving and so is the only school in Vulturu. Granny didn’t have much of a choice but to sign Taïga up for classes at Saint Andrew’s, ominously nicknamed “School of Hard Knocks”…
After nervously pacing the waiting room, Granny has taken a seat and is now impatiently waiting for the headmaster to show up. She reads the school’s words of wisdom nicely framed on the wall opposite her.
“Learn from your mistakes”
“You can learn more common sense from the School of Hard Knocks, than from any university”
“Streetwise is smart”
“Learn your lesson the hard way”
Geez… I hope it’s just someone joking… But Missy said they’ve nicknamed the school “School of Hard Knocks”… She shakes her head, refusing to judge before she’s met the headmaster. Talking about whom. Already 3:15… If the headmaster isn’t on time, how can he expect the pupils to be? He’d better hurry, these wallpapers are so hideous I’m starting to get a migraine…
Finally the headmaster comes out of his office to greet her.
‘… your reputation has preceded you, Mrs. Grey. Welcome to Vulturu! I hope you and your granddaughter will find our facilities to your convenience.’
‘Mr. Synapse…’ Hmm… Strange people in this town. Why doesn’t he take off his gloves? So pale… but we haven’t seen the sun since we got here, so why not?
‘Let me introduce you to Miss Holden. She’s our English teacher, but she also teaches Art and drama.’
I’ve seen dolls with a healthier complexion…And what strange eyes! … ‘… and I absolutely believe History of Arts is complementary with the English language, and shouldn’t be separated. What is your opinion, Mrs. Grey?’
‘Oh… I agree, Miss Holden. But have all teachers more than one subject to teach?’
‘Eh, yes, nobody wants to teach in our…’
‘Miss Holden!’ The headmaster interrupts her, and throws her a deadly glance. Then he turns to Granny with a smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. ‘You’ll excuse Miss Holden, she has some important things to attend to before classes tomorrow. Haven’t you, Sarah?’
With her eyes downcast, she turns around and vanishes down the corridor.
‘Now, where were we? Yes, we believe in multi-tasking. Our PE teacher is also our math teacher!’ The headmaster rubs his hands, ‘Shall we tour the facilities, Mrs. Grey?’
‘Yes, please. If you don’t mind, I’d like to meet the other teachers.’
‘Certainly. After you, Mrs. Grey…’
The first teacher Granny meets is another extremely pale man, with long copper hair and a top hat.
‘Cedrick Winchester… It’ll be a pleasure to have your granddaughter in Geography and Religion, Mrs. Grey.’
‘Religion? Could you please develop, Mr. Winchester?’
She shakes his gloved hand, listening to him explain about the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Patron Saint Andrew and thus the school’s policy.
Gloves again… I’llI have to look into this…
Next comes a man looking uncannily like the French mime Marcel Marceau.
‘Ahm Julian Poirot, and Ah teach Musique and Frrrench!’
Julian Poirot has a heavy French accent and Granny lights up.
‘Oh, je suis ravi de faire votre connaissance, Monsieur Poirot. Vous êtes français ou belge?’ (I’m so pleased to meet you. Are you French or Belgian?)
Julian Poirot scratches his head at a loss for words. ‘Ahem… eh…’
Granny just looks at him. Is my French really that bad?
The tour doesn’t really get any better. Granny meets with most teachers, signs the paperwork and leaves with a thick folder with still more paperwork. She walks briskly to her car, carefully tripping over the iced patches on the parking lot.
Home schooling is definitely an option… Or boarding scool…
It isn’t easy to integrate classes’ midterm like this, but Taïga is tough. You don’t seem to learn much in Midnight Hollow, but her new classmates are quite fun. Granny has started talking about boarding school – abroad – can you believe it? Taïga can’t…
This afternoon they have P.E. She seems to be the only one at the skating rink who knows how to skate. Even the PE teacher is having trouble…
It isn’t easy to integrate classes midterm like this, but Taïga is tough. She tries her best during the long and boring lessons, which are always followed by a lot of homework. You don’t seem to learn much at “The School of Hard Knocks”, and her new classmates are quite distant. She misses Teddy and Zoe enormously, especially on occasions like today, when her class is skating during PE. She seems to be the only one at the skating rink that afternoon who knows how to skate.
And Derek. Her thoughts of him are bittersweet, knowing he’s angry with her and at the same time his last words break through like sunshine after a rainstorm.
The PE teacher doesn’t listen to Taïga’s protests, just takes her hands and starts skating in a circle. He’s supposed to teach Taïga some techniques after all, but it’s he who frantically holds on to her hands…
Taïga thinks it feels like dancing with a llama… Well, it’s definitely not the last time she’ll get that feeling…
It ends up with Mr. Simon making them both fall. Taïga’s ankle hurts like hell and the teacher’s glasses are broken. A disaster. It doesn’t get any better when he yells at her, accusing her for not listening and not making an effort. Taïga says she’s sorry but that it wasn’t her fault, and gets her first detention the very same afternoon.
Because of the heavy snow the school has run out of electricity and the canteen is lit by small flash lights. Unfortunately the stoves aren’t battery driven…
A young boy she recognizes from her class stops at her table. ‘I’m Mitchell. Can I sit here?’
Taïga looks around at the almost empty canteen. ‘Yeah. Sure.’
‘Why don’t you eat? Don’t you like the food?’
‘I think it’s cool being out of electricity, but cold nachos are disgusting!’ Taïga grimaces.
‘You’ll get used to it. It happens all the time…’ Mitchell wolfs down his serving of nachos and French fries.
‘… and sometimes we don’t even have light, the Head always forgets to stock batteries,’ he says between bites. ‘Good thing is you don’t have to go to school if it’s snowing too much!’
Taïga giggles, Mitchell is really talkative.
‘Hey? Why don’t we go to the winter fair together next weekend? There’s lots of stuff to do there!’
‘Just you and me?’
‘No, we’ll go with Jen and Leann too. Jen’s the blond girl right behind you.’
He rolls his paper napkin into a ball and throws it at a girl in pink, who turns around and sticks out her tongue at him.
Taïga smiles to herself. Finally she seems to have got at least one possible friend here. She pushes her cold food around with her fork, and Mitchell tut-tut’s.
‘If you’re not gonna eat, just give it to him.’
She looks up at the girl in pink who sits down in front of her.
‘I’m Jen, I think you’re in my class, but I’ve been ill so I guess I’m new to you too. Here, Mitchell, you can have my cheese too.’
Taïga is more than happy to oblige, pushing her plate towards Mitchell who hungrily digs in, reminding her of Teddy, and thus of Derek.
She shakes her head, concentrating on Jen who’s chatting away.
Granny picks her up after detention and a talk with the teacher and the headmaster. She’s seething with anger, ranting the whole way back about the unfairness of the whole history.
‘Can you imagine? I even had to pay for the broken glasses and they’re supposed to have insurance!’
Taïga doesn’t say much. At least she got her homework done after writing 250 lines about not pushing her teachers and being polite.
‘I’ve thought about it and I think it’s the only option really. We can’t continue like this until the end of the school year.’
‘What? We can’t do what?’
I think the best option for you is boarding school. A serious boarding school where you can get an international education or at least an American one so you can continue your studies at home. Eventually.’ Granny looks at her hopefully.
‘Boarding school? Does that mean I will sleep at school?’
‘Err… Yes. But you’ll make so many friends, and you’ll get back home for every vacation.’
Taïga nods to herself. ‘Granny… It’s not because you want to get rid of me, is it?
‘Of course not! How can you think I would do such a thing?’ She pulls over and stops the car, pulling her granddaughter into her arms. ‘I just don’t want to waste another year of your education, that’s all.’
They stay in the car until Taïga has calmed down enough for Granny to risk driving the short distance to her sister’s home. She really must spend more time with the girl, build up her confidence again. Her moving around with her mother since she was born and then being abandoned by her, finding a certain amount of normality and friends only to get uprooted and now being sent away far abroad is not a perfect receipt for happiness and security.
When they finally get home, they find a stray dog sleeping on the porch.
‘… and tertio : we, I mean you, have to bathe him first. He really smells like an overflowing bin and, on top of that, I’m sure he’s got fleas!!!’
The dog follows Taïga into the house, but when it comes to bathing him, things get complicated. After watching Taïga struggling and cajoling, Granny finally gets the stray into the tub with the help of magic…
‘Thanks, Granny! But why can’t you just get him clean with a brush of your wand?’
‘Because this is part of his education, Taïga. He needs to learn to obey and also to trust us, to know we won’t hurt him. Look, I think he’s enjoying himself!’
Taïga isn’t so sure about that…
While Granny starts to call around to find the stray’s owner, Taïga takes the now clean and almost dry dog downstairs into the hall to finish grooming him.
‘I think I’ll call you Tramp – it suits you well… Now stay still so I can brush you, Old Missy will throw a fit if you run off shaking water out of your fur on her furniture!… That’s a good boy…’
The dog seems to love getting brushed and stays stock still, listening to the little girl talking. Granny watches Taïga play with the stray, hoping the messages she left at the vet’s and the police won’t lead to them finding the owner…
Missy hates the stray but her sister persuades her to let Tramp stay until they find the owner. But the days go past without any news, and the dog settles in.
Taïga loves the stray. He’s always eagerly waiting for her, wanting to play or be hugged and rubbed. He lays at her feet when she does her homework, and listens to her when she’s sad and talks about Bigwood Falls and her friends there.
But having a dog is not only about playing, there are a lot of responsibilities also. Like walking him early in the morning before going to school, and then again before going to bed at night…
Once a week Taïga goes to the library where they don’t only have books but also a couple of computers. She logs in and before starting on her homework, checks if someone she knows is online. By someone she means Derek, and it’s usually safe as he loathes Social Medias.
Wonder if he’s online… YES!!! No! What shall I do? Log out!… C’mon… Uh-oh… Too late.
Derek: ‘Hi Taïga! What’s up? You haven’t answered my texts.’
Texts? He’s written to me? Taïga: ‘Haven’t got them. 😮 Too many mountains I guess. And my iPad was totally wrecked in the fire. 😦 Granny’s promised me a new one for X-mas though.’
Derek: ‘Yeah, you lost a lot in the fire. 😦 So what are you doing?’
Taïga: ‘I’m in the library right now, I’m supposed to do some research on the founders of Vulturu.’
Derek: ‘So how’s school? Any new friends?’
Taïga: ‘This town sucks, but school is OK, I guess. Granny keeps talking about boarding school. You know what? I’ve got a dog! His name is Tramp, and I found him sleeping on the porch!’
Derek: ‘Lucky you! ☺ I got news too – I’m receiver on the team!!’
Taïga: ‘Wow! Raah team go!’
Derek: ‘You’d make a fantastic cheerleader!’
Taïga: ‘You bet!’
Derek: ‘BTW, talking about cheerleaders – Serena fell and sprained her ankle on our last match.’
Ha! Serves her good! Taïga: ‘I’m sorry to hear that.’
Derek: ‘Yeah. So she can’t make the tryouts for flyer.’
The ice is finally broken, and even though they avoid talking about the last time they saw each other, they continue chatting for quite a while, promising to keep in touch…
After finishing her web quest, she hurries to meet up with Mitchell, Jen and Leann in the library gardens. They fool around in the snow for a while, making snow angels and building snowmen. Old Missy is on her way to the library and stops to check out what the boisterous kids are up to. Taïga isn’t overjoyed at the sudden appearance of her great aunt, she’s always nagging about something…
‘What are you doing?’
‘Uh, a snowman! You can help me if you like.’
‘Help you? Don’t you know you shouldn’t make snowmen here?’
‘And why not? There are lots of them over there.’
‘Don’t answer back, young lady! Or…’ Her great aunt walks into the library with a last menacing look over her shoulder.
Or what? Taïga rolls her eyes and continues the decoration of her snowman.
When Missy comes back outside, Taïga and her friends are busy having a snowball fight. Missy checks if someone is looking…
… then she completely destroys the snowman Taïga just made.
No one seems to pay attention to the grumpy old woman, who grumbling leaves the library…
When Taïga gets home, she makes another snowman in the backyard. Painstakingly she dresses snow around the leftover trunk of a tree that was sawed down last fall, until it’s completely hidden under the shape of the snowman.
This one is for Missy! Ha! Go ahead and kick it…
Part I – End of Chapter 16