The Snow Maiden (Part 2)
Natasha was a welcome member in the little household. She brought much joy to her new parents’ lives and was helpful around the house. Her small body was not very useful for hauling big sledges of lumber, but she was willing to help with that she could do.
Of course, Natasha didn’t just spend all her time with her parents. She spent quite a bit of time in the village. There was no secret about where she came from, but she was so enchanting that nobody really cared that she was magical in nature. She often went to the neighbors to see if they needed help around, but mostly she went to play with the other children. Natasha was a lot of fun to have outside because she knew the snow so well. She could play a lot longer than the other kids as she never felt cold.
Fortunately for Natasha, Russia is not a land with hot summers, though too much warmth did make her feel very uncomfortable. She preferred staying inside during the warmer months, but she still was able to play with the village children. She tired a bit more easily with the summer sun in the sky, but there were still plenty of quieter games she could participate in.
The years rolled by, winter coming and going. The passing of time caused everything to change except Natasha. Just as her innermost core was ice, so she was too frozen in time. The children of the village soon outgrew her and wanted to focus on more serious matters than games. But that did not upset Natasha as there were more children being born and they eventually grew big enough to play with her. For a long time, she was quite content with her agelessness.
But over time, Natasha started to take more interest in one particular friend of hers. Lel had been a close friend of hers ever since she was first formed from the snow and given life. They had played together in cold and warm weather. They had helped each other out with the chores their respective parents gave them. The two were as close as friends could be. But while Natasha remained the same, Lel slowly changed with the seasons. By now he was fully grown and not so interested in childish games. That wasn’t to say that Lel and Natasha weren’t still close, but there was a noticeable gap between them now.
But even as Lel became more of a man, Natasha still felt the close bond with him. But over time, she noticed her feelings regarding Lel were starting to shift. She was paying more attention to how handsome and strong he was becoming. She felt little spurts of jealousy when she saw him talking to the other girls who were also growing up. The only love she’s ever felt was for her parents and her Godfather Frost. For a while, she thought her feelings for Lel were growing into the same kind of love. But one day, she saw him with an arm around a pretty girl and she felt such heartache as she never knew. It was then she realized that she didn’t just love Lel like a brother, she had fallen in love with him.
With that realization came the desire to impress Lel. Natasha allowed her hair to grow out extra long and she put on her best coat. She wore a newer hat and even put on a little bit of makeup to make herself look older. She tried acting casual around Lel, hoping that he’d notice her new look by himself, but he didn’t seem to notice very much.
Natasha tried acting a little like the older girls, though the results were unimpressive. She merely looked like a little girl who was playing dress up that way.
Natasha then decided to be more energetic, doing some flips, cartwheels, and other things so that no one would be unable to not notice her.
Eventually, she did get Lel’s attention for a little while, but when she asked his opinion about his appearance, he only said “You look cute.” ‘Cute’ was not the term that Natasha was looking for. It was definitely not cute as could be described to the grown-up girls, but the cute that you applied to little sisters. It became clear to Natasha that she won’t be able to win anything more than brotherly affection from Lel as long as she looked the way she was. There was only way he could win Lel’s heart, she had to become a human woman.
Natasha sought out Father Frost, or as she mostly commonly called him Godfather Frost. Father Frost had always kept an eye on Natasha. There were plenty of times where he took her further north during the summer, to where the snow never melts. Father Frost usually had the answer for when Natasha had doubts regarding her icy nature, but this time, he appeared to be stumped.
Father Frost stroked his long white beard in thought, which caused snowflakes to fall from it. “Become a human woman?” he questioned, “Why would you want to do that? You have eternal youth, the ability to live long with little food, immunity to coldness. There are plenty of mortals who pay a great price to have these. What could make you want to become mortal and give these up?”
“Because I’ve fallen in love,” said Natasha, “Lel means more to me than a friend. I want him to love me the same way I love him.”
“Ah, love, I might have known,” said Father Frost, “You should know that love is not as pleasant as it sounds. Love can fade with age and losing it can cause the worst kind of pain. You should not be throwing so much away for mere affection.”
“It is not just affection,” said Natasha, “I’ve known Lel all my life. We’re as close as can be but the gap between us keeps getting further and further apart. He will grow old while I am still a child and that’s all he will see me as, not someone who he can truly fall in love with. I can’t stand the idea of him growing old without me. Everyone ages and dies but I’ll be left behind. Even my parents will eventually die and what would I have left after them? I’m not even certain if I have a soul, but I know I have a heart, even if it’s made out of ice and it threatens to break into a hundred pieces if I lose Lel.”
Father Frost gave Natasha a look of admiration. “Your heart may have been formed of ice, but it holds a warmth as strong as any human’s. Most beings of snow would have melted away from such inner warmth, but you are still whole in spite of that. If you were not born with a soul, you must have earned one by now.” He gave a small sigh and said, “I can bring snow and ice to life, I can make them appear to almost perfectly flesh and blood, but I do not have the power to make more than that.” Natasha looked crestfallen before Father Frost said, “But I do know someone who might be able to.”
“Really? Who is it?” asked Natasha eagerly.
“My brother who lives way, way, North from here, behind the North Wind in fact,” said Father Frost. He and Natasha gave a small chuckle at that. The North Wind was Father Frost’s messenger and helper, who was more of a blowhard than his grand title suggested. “In several ways, we are alike as we are both winter spirits who help mortals make it through the hard season. But while I make the weather more livable, he brings joy and peace that allows their hearts to endure through the coldness. You may have heard of him. He has adopted the moniker of Saint Nicholas, though in recent times he is commonly called Santa Claus.”
“But how am I to get that far north?” asked Natasha.
“That is simple enough. The North Wind shall take you there,” said Father Frost. The air around them started to rush as it became colder, not that either of them minded.
Natasha soon found herself being lifted up higher and higher. She may appear to be flying, but she was really riding on the back of the North Wind. She started flying northwards, far beyond the village. She turned back and called, “Goodbye Godfather, tell my parents not to worry!”
Father Frost waved at Natasha as she got further and further away. “Good luck to you! Never let your inner warmth go cold!” he called before the North Wind flew Natasha out of sight.