“Hi again, Lydie. Long time no see.”
“Good to see you again, Stacy. Sorry, I’ve been busy with school.”
Stacy gazed quizzically at Lydia’s Santa dress. “Aren’t you cold?”
Lydia smiled. “After being on the ice for a while, not really.”
“Ooh, I’ve always wanted to try skating. Well, ice skating, that is.”
Lydia chuckled. “Say, how’s roller derby treating you?”
Stacy rubbed her face. “Still getting pushed around a lot.”
“Having fun at least?”
Stacy grinned. “Heck yeah!”
“Good. Well, I’m still getting used to staying balanced myself. Luckily, Sayaka’s been a great teacher.”
Stacy was curious. “Sayaka?”
“Friend of mine from school. We met a couple of years ago at the music festival.”
“Oh, I see,” Stacy replied, smiling nervously. “Well, it’s great that you get to see each other more regularly.”
“Indeed. Say, how’s school treating you?”
Stacy sighed in relief. “Fine, I guess. It was hard, but I managed to get at least an A- in everything, even English! Oliver saved my butt there.”
“Good to hear. I wasn’t so fortunate, though. Got a B in Honours Physics.”
Stacy gasped. “What? How?”
Somehow still smiling, Lydia replied, “Tried fitting too much in my schedule, so between my other courses and student clubs, I was overwhelmed. Oh well, lesson learned.”
Stacy was weirdly comforted to learn that Lydia wasn’t perfect after all, but annoyed at herself for feeling that way. “What clubs are you participating in, anyway?”
“The University Cosplay Club, for one. Planning to run for a VP position next year.”
Stacy’s eyes widened in excitement. “Wow, that’s great! I’m hoping to have a costume ready for CherryCon myself!”
“Who are you going as?”
“Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld.”
Lydia paused. “Never heard of her.”
Stacy grinned, sending an image of her to Lydia. “She’s this nerd who becomes a warrior princess in a fantasy video game world.”
Lydia admired the image. “Ah, interesting choice. Yes, I can definitely help you put her outfit together…provided I have time, of course.”
“No problem, Lydie. I’ll try to come up with something first. But maybe if I go to the city some time, we can meet up and finish it together!”
“That would be nice. Anyway, it’s been nice talking to you again, but I’ve got a Christmas party to go to. See you around, Anastasia, and best wishes for the new year.”
Stacy giggled, and Lydia’s eyes dilated in surprise, impressed she wasn’t annoyed this time. “Merry Christmas, Lydia. I hope everything goes well for you too!”
Lydia giggled in return. “Thank you. Farewell.”
Lydia shut down her computer after ending the conversation with Stacy, prepared to leave for the bus. As she felt the chilly breeze on her leggings, she remembered what it was really like to be on the ice with Sayaka.
“Just hold on to me, okay? If you fall, I’ll be here to catch you.”
She grimaced at how cheesy that sounded in hindsight, but she felt her hands becoming warm, as if she was gliding along with her once again.
Meanwhile, Stacy looked down at her desk, admiring the anime-style portrait on the notebook in front of her. Anastasia, Princess of Dreams. Clad in a beautiful jade dress and matching glasses, she was smiling back at her mirror image, an unsure-looking girl in Stacy’s usual outfit, all while the superpowered Oliver, Cheryl, and Tori struck dramatic poses in front of Crystalia’s shining palace. Stacy couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw that in the mail this morning.
“Who made this?” her dad asked.
“A friend from school, Tori!” she told him. “She’s really good at this kind of thing.”
He looked on admiringly. “You have amazing friends.”
And then he added his own signature to the other side of the front cover! Stacy thought. It was the nicest thing he did in ages, and for once, it felt like they were a real family. She sighed dreamily as she opened the book.
“Thanks, everyone,” she said, as she read the message inside.
Thank you for all you’ve done for us this year. We know life doesn’t always go the way you want it to, but you’ve always been an inspiration for us. Sorry it took so long, but I hope Princess Anastasia will bring as much hope to you as she has already done for us. Merry Christmas, and we can’t wait for the adventures that we’ll have in the New Year!
Tori, Oliver, Cheryl, Ren, Colin, Sofia, Nick, Ian, Min, Lian, Nataliya, Myska, Nabila, Ahmed, Alexander