The snow was falling ever so gently, like sweet soft kisses onto the ground. Claire pulled her cape tighter around her body as she rushed to the enclosed carriage that would take her Larkspur Academy.
“Brr!” Jewel shivered as she shook snowflakes from her bouncy red curls. “How can something so pretty be such a nuisance?”
“Snow rocks!” Bradley said before slipping a freezing cold snowball down the back of Jewel’s sweater.
“Ahhh! Bradley, you are in so much trouble!”
“What are you gonna do, throw a snowball at me? I’ll just catch it and drop that one down your sweater, too!”
“No, I’m going to tell on you! What do you think about that?”
“What is going on with you two?” Claire asked. “You’re so—”
“Excited?” Bradley said, at the same time Jewel said, “Frustrated?”
“Yes, that. Excited and frustrated and annoying and tense. It’s just snow. We see it every winter.”
“And every winter I hate it!” Jewel complained.
“What a grump,” Bradley said under his breath as he headed into homeroom.
“What about sledding and skating?” Claire couldn’t imagine anyone hating winter.
“And trying to build the biggest snowman in the village!” Thomas added. “Remember the one last year that had steps on one side and a slide down the other? That was awesome!”
“Okay, okay. Winter is great! Are you happy now?” As Jewel led Claire and Thomas into homeroom, Claire decided to make it her mission to get Jewel to love winter.
After a week of ice skating, sledding and snowman building, Jewel was still complaining about the cold.
“My hands are frozen! Can we take a break?”
“But our snowman doesn’t have a head yet.” Thomas and Bradley were determined to build the tallest snowman this year.
“How about ten more minutes.” Claire wasn’t ready for a break yet, either. She was still working on making the perfect snow angel.
“I’ll be frozen solid in ten minutes!” Jewel stomped off toward the village bakery. She stepped inside and glanced around the shoppe. It was busy on this frigid day, the tables crowded with laughing, rosy-cheeked groups. They sipped from steaming mugs and savored big bites of delightful desserts. Despite the large hearth that sent waves of warmth from its crackling fire, Jewel still felt cold, deep down in her bones. I’ll never be warm again, she thought.
“I don’t think she’s any closer to loving winter than she was a week ago,” Thomas said to Claire. “Maybe you should just give up.”
“Never!” Claire brushed the snow off of her fleece lined mittens and followed Jewel into the bakery.
As Claire stepped into the warm shoppe she felt instantly intoxicated. The spicy scents of ginger and cinnamon combined with the sweet aroma of hot butterscotch cocoa sent her senses swirling. She spotted Jewel sitting alone at a small round table, an untouched slice of gingerbread on a plate in front of her. Claire joined her.
“Don’t stop having fun on my account,” Jewel said with a pout.
“I’m ready for a break. My fingers are numb!”
“I thought you loved being cold.”
“I don’t love being cold, I just put up with it in order to enjoy all the fun things we only get to do in the winter.”
“Well, I hate being cold. But I do love butterscotch cocoa!” They both ordered big mugs of creamy deliciousness and sat by the window to watch Bradley and Thomas. Jewel and Claire laughed at the boys’ feeble attempts to pile a fourth snowball on their already taller than them snowman.
Jewel thought she could actually feel herself thawing. Her heartbeat slowed and her tense muscles relaxed until she felt as though she were floating on a cloud of sugar and spice in a land warmed by friendship and laughter.
“I could get used to this,” Claire said with a smile, stealing a bite of Jewel’s gingerbread.
“Yes! I didn’t realize how cold I was until I stepped inside. It was like stepping into paradise!”
“I suppose I could try to get used to being cold,” Jewel said as she took another sip of cocoa, “as long as we can take plenty of warming up breaks.”
“It’s a deal!”
And so Jewel learned to love winter. She still hated being cold, but found that she could tolerate it much better knowing that a cocoa break with Claire was right around the corner. Because, warm or cold, life is better when it is spent with friends.