It was a smart move to keep Frog and Rabbit tucked into my coat. It’s an even loner way to the lake from Marsalla’s house than from mine and I still need Rabbit to give me directions. By the time we’re there, my fingertips hurt and I bet my nose is red from cold.
Frog stays in my coat pocket while I crawl across the ice but Rabbit puts herself on my shoulder. I notice something different from the very first time I push the new fallen snow away from the man’s face. His lips are bluer against the full color of the rest of his face.
“Looks like we’re running out of time.” Frog sighs.
I push more snow aside, looking for a sign to know what do to do, and see the Frozen Man’s arm pointing down at his side.
“Down river.” Rabbit says, snuggling between my neck and the top of the backpack Marsalla gave me. The three of us look down the winding, blue ribbon of ice in the misty white with only darkness in the distance.
“That’s a long walk.” Frog says what we’re all thinking.
I hear Rabbit sight and I don’t blame her. A long walk doesn’t sound good in this weather. At least the snow hasn’t started to fall from the threatening sky.
“We better get as far as we can before it starts snowing again.” I pick up Rabbit from my shoulder and slide her next to Frog in my pocket so they can keep each other warm. The two of them barely fit so I waste no time and turn and walk along the riverbank in the direction the Frozen Man told me to.
It doesn’t take long before I’m shivering with every step and the cold turns my eyes fuzzy with tears. The third time I stumble and nearly fall on numb legs, Frog begs me to stop.
“There’s some old sewer pipes in the bridge up ahead.” Rabbit has to shout over a gust of wind that stirrs up the snow around ut. “They’re big enough to hide inside but small enough so the three of us can keep warm.”
“You can nap for a bit then keep going.” Frog sighs with relief at the thought of shelter and dives back into my pocket the second he’s done talking.
“But what if the Frozen Man runs out of time?” I shiver.
“You won’t be able to save him if you collapse here in the snow.” Rabbit’s voice is soothing as I walk in a daze, following her direction. The wind slows to reveal a small stone bridge reaching over the river, the ice under it frozen much thicker than further up river.
The moment I’m in the pipe, my body heat begins to fill the space. The smell or rust hurts my nose but my growling stomach is more important and I begin rooting through my pack for whatever goodies Marsalla packed for me. I find a box of energy bars, a collapsable lantern, packets of emergency blankets, mini bottles of water, and separate plastic containers of snacks for Rabbit and Frog. At least I hope the jar full of maggots is a snack for Frog and not some sort of spell I would later.
I put the lantern up so I can see into the very bottom of the backpack and fins a regular blanket buriet in the bottom. I wrap it around myself, leaving plenty of room for my friends, and I feel so warm. I’m almost tempted to take off my wet coat.
Rabbit snuggles into my lap. “Magic blanket.” She nods. “Better and safer than making a fire.”
“Bet there’s a lighter in there, though.” Frog finishes his meal and I cap the wiggling bugs before they can escape. “Just in case.”
I nibble at an energy bar, too tired to make conversation. I make it half way through before giving up and putting the rest away for later.”
“Get some sleep, Boot.” Rabbit lifts the blanket to let Frog scurry under and then settles herself next to my heart. “Don’t worry. We’ll wake you when it’s time to go.”
I nod in thanks and close my eyes, sleep so very welcome even with the wind howling outside as my luluby.