I ran to his bedside after shutting the door. "Jack." I climbed up into his bed, reaching out for his hand. "I heard the adults. They…."
Green eyes bleary, Jack smiled bitterly. "Yeah, I know."
"You can't die, Jack." I shook my head furiously, tears springing to my eyes. "I wish I could help."
A dark light shone in Jack's green eyes, but he merely shook his head. "No, it's better if you don't."
I stared down at him for a few minutes, squeezing his hand in comfort when he had another coughing fit. Once he collapsed against his pillows in exhaustion, energy drained, I finally spoke.
"I heard Father Frost say something."
Jack's eyes popped open in shock, fear filling his pale face. "What? No, Nisha, you can't—"
"He said if we get married you'll get better. Completely. The curse will break and you’ll stop getting sick."
Jack froze, his face twisting in pain. “I mean...yes, that’s true. But I won’t be the same anymore. I’ll...change,” he whispered fearfully.
I rubbed my fingers over the back of his knuckles, staring at our intertwined hands. “But you’ll die for sure if we don’t. He said…you’re too sickly to last until we get older. He said you’re too weak to wait. But, then Dad was really angry and started yelling. I got scared and ran away.”
Green eyes dimming, Jack let out another cough, frustration clouding his face. “Even still! Nisha, it’s too dangerous. If we do anything wrong you could die!”
I shook my head, pride swelling in my chest. “I won’t!” I bragged, sure of myself.
“Mother Frost has been making me practice secretly every time you get sick, and she’s been very insistent upon it since this relapse. This way I will know what to say if an emergency happens. She told me that it was my job to make sure you stay alive. Only I can save you, Jack,” I proclaimed firmly, sure of the words I’d been told so many times.
“It’s why I was born,” I explained, smiling brightly.
Jack’s face twisted in an expression of horror and rage. “Mother...she did that? She’s been filling your head with these thoughts? Oh, gods!”
He raised a hand to his mouth, looking suddenly nauseous. “Are they truly so determined to get him into their bloodline again that they’d—?”
I reached out to pat his back as he sat up and began to dry heave, mixed with more coughing. “I can tell you how to say the words," I smiled softly. “This way this horrible sickness will go away forever.”
I didn't want Jack to die. He was too important in my life, a constant, just like Dad and Nana. If Jack wasn't there….
I honestly couldn't imagine something like that. Even trying made me want to break down in sobs and cry in fear.
Mother Frost had made sure I knew that by giving up my soul to Jack, I could ensure he lived. That way, his sickly body that caused him constant issues would grow stronger until he'd no longer fall ill.
I hadn't been certain what giving my soul meant, but Mother Frost had told me that it was what any good bride did for her husband. It was a way to show someone how much you cared for them.
But you were only supposed to do it with someone you wanted to spend the rest of your life with that wasn't your family.
Mother Frost had been adamantly clear that I knew this was different than when I told Dad and Nana I loved them.
Jack grew even paler, shaking his head weakly in denial. "No, Nisha. It's— You don't understand. I won't be the same."
I blinked up at him, tilting my head in confusion. "You'll still be Jack Frost, right?"
He grimaced, looking torn. "Well, yes."
"You'll get better and not be sick all the time?"
"...Most likely," he admitted gruffly around another coughing fit. "But I'll look different," he started to explain. His hands stretched out to grip mine tightly, squeezing in an effort to express his desperation.
"I'll look more like Father," he whispered, staring at me intently. "I'll be like Father and Jacob."
I frowned, trying to think of what he meant for a few moments. "You'll...get ice powers?" I realized, my eyes bright with surprise. "Isn't that good? You always said you wanted to have powers too!"
Hearing this bit of news, I was even more determined to go through with this.
Jack had often been depressed over his differences from the rest of the Frosts. He didn't float in the air like his mother and sister, and he couldn't control ice like his father and older brother.
Jack had been born cursed by an ancient, evil witch.
The witch took all of his powers away and made him sickly, branding the curse on his body by his different hair and eye color. The curse could only be broken if a kind-hearted human girl loved Jack enough to give him her soul and bind their lives together.
I knew the story well, as I had been told it so many times by Jack's mother and father.
I reached out and hugged Jack tightly, happy that I was finally able to help him. "Don't worry," I murmured against his chest. "I promise I'll save you, Jack."
His body shook with another coughing fit, his voice strained. "Nisha...you don't understand. It's not what you think!"
I leaned back, shaking my head stubbornly.
The older me, viewing these memories anew, felt uneasy by how vehemently Jack tried to get me to rethink my decision.
But, considering this was a past event, there was nothing I could do but watch this unfold before me.
"No, I know what it is. I'll start now." I pulled back, grabbing his hand and placing it against my chest. "Repeat after me, okay? Da mi—."
Jack's green eyes grew wide in shock before his expression twisted into one of determination.
Giving me no time to react, he used my hold on his hand to pull me toward him. His chest was shaking, the air in his lungs rattling with an awful wheezing sound, but he didn't seem to notice anymore.
The intensity of the emotions in his green eyes made a cold rush of fear slip down my spine as I stared up at him in startled confusion. He was reminding me of the day he’d relapsed; when he’d been so different from the normal Jack I was used to seeing.
I opened my mouth to ask what he was doing, but, after sucking in a deep breath, his touch stopped me.
He used his other hand to cup my cheek, brushing his fingers over my skin. Tears I hadn't even realized had leaked past were soaked up by his skin as he gazed down at me with something my young mind couldn't recognize.
But the older me (seeing these memories anew) saw the aching tenderness in his green eyes.
The kind of warmth that made your chest constrict with tears in reaction to the pain hidden behind the love in someone's eyes.
The sort of emotion that stole your breath away and left you dumbfounded.
Especially when it was coming from what should have been a regular twelve-year-old boy.
"Nisha, I love you. I love you so much I don't know how to handle these feelings. Even if my mind is more mature than my physical body, a seventeen-year-old can only handle this emotion in a clumsy way."
His eyes briefly squeezed shut as his jaw clenched tight in anger. When his eyes were revealed to me again, jealousy and frustration blazed in them like an emerald fire.
"I love you, but I'm so angry," the words tore from his lips in a violent manner.
"I wanted to be the one to love you. I wanted to be the one to grow old with you. I wanted to hold our first child, to hold all our children. Every single day, I've been seething with envy."
He leaned down, pressing his forehead against mine. Another deep cough forced him to pause and he swore darkly.
Hearing him talk like this again, I was frozen. I couldn't move, couldn't speak, could hardly breathe.
The intensity that Jack exhibited when he became like this was overwhelming to my eleven-year-old self.
It was scary and it made me want to cry because he looked so unhappy and in so much pain.
My focus was solely on his face, eyes, and the words he spoke as he let me glimpse—truly see—the side of him I'd only seen once before.
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