My heart is thudding against my rib cage. Terrible thoughts of me getting fired zoom through my head. My feet slowly trudge towards Santa’s office. My stomach is queasy and my forehead is slick with sweat. I brush my auburn curls back behind my pointy ears and take deep breaths. This will probably end up as the worst day of my life.
You’re probably wondering why I have been sent to Santa’s Office. It all began yesterday on December the twenty-third…
I was at the doll-making station with my two best friends, Holly and Eve; some other elves were there too. Eve and I were laughing at Holly’s story about how poofy her hair was after she got out of the shower, when Jax – one of Santa’s Head Elves – walked over, holding a clipboard and asked, “Which one of you is Clementine?” I looked up in surprise and replied,
“Me,” in a small voice.
Jax asked, “How many dolls have you made during your first hour and a half?”
I looked down at my doll chart and then looked back up at Jax.
“One-hundred and twenty-four,” I replied.
Then, everything went silent. All the hammers and mallets stopped tinkering. All the wrenches and spanners stopped twisting. The saws and the knives stopped cutting. All the friendly chatter had stopped. I looked around and saw that every elf’s eyes had grown wide. One elf known as Jingles even dropped her ruler! At first I thought I had done something wrong, but Jax smiled and said,
“Well done, Clementine! Well done!”
All the elves woke out of their trance and started clapping and whistling.
“Good job!” said Eve and Holly together.
A couple elves that I didn’t even know, came over and patted me on the back. I smiled ear to ear. But after about five minutes everyone got back into their regular routine. All the tools started tinkering, twisting, and cutting again. Except Jax didn’t go away. He just stood there smiling at me. I smiled back and glued some hair onto a doll. After a few minutes or so, I looked up too see if Jax was still there. Sure enough he was and he was still smiling.
“Can I help you?” I asked Jax.
Jax looked at me confused but then nodded.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized, “May I talk to you in private?”
I nodded, my short curls bouncing. But before I could ask why, Jax led me out of the ‘Work Room’ and straight into what looked like a red and green storage room.
“What is this all about?” I asked.
What could’ve been so important for Jax to talk to me in private about? Jax smiled again. It seemed to me that Jax liked smiling.
“Clementine,” he said, “You have been doing a great job with making dolls. In an hour and a half, you made one-hundred and twenty-two dolls!”
“One-hundred and twenty-four,” I corrected. Jax grinned.
“Exactly!” he said. “No one else has ever done that!”
“No one?” I squeaked.
“No one!” Jax replied. “Clementine, Santa and I have been considering making you a Head Elf!”
My head spun. Head Elf? I thought. But what about Holly and Eve? They might get mad at me! I didn’t know. Jax interrupted my thoughts.
“That is, if you want to,” Jax had said. “If you do, you get to have free hot cocoa in the mornings, you get to help Santa deliver special messages, and you get to have a day off of work each week! Oh, you also get to supervise the doll-making station! It’s great!”
Uh-oh. Jax had really tempted me with the free hot cocoa and the day off of work part. Being a Head Elf sounded awesome. Maybe Holly and Robin won’t mind…I thought. I looked at Jax.
“What do you say? We could really use you,” Jax said. I thought of all the privileges I would get.
“I guess so,” I said.
And before I knew it, I was a Head Elf.
The Perfect Outfit:
Jax smiled as big as ever and gave me a great big hug. I usually hate hugs, but I knew Jax was happy so I let him hold on, but I regretted it afterwards because my arms stayed numb for a few minutes. I rubbed my sore shoulders while Jax took about two steps back and tilted his head as if he was contemplating me.
“We need to get you a Head Elf uniform!” Jax said. Then he walked behind me and grabbed my shoulders. A little TOO tight.
“OW!” I shouted.
Jax loosened his grip but didn’t let go and neither did the pain. Instead he half-guided, half-pushed me out the door and conducted me left into another room. Once the door closed, Jax let go of me.
“Why’d you do that?” I asked and continued rubbing my poor shoulders. “You could have just told me where to go!”
Jax’s smile faded and his jolly eyes turned sad.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you,” I said.
Jax’s smile came back and his deep brown eyes started twinkling again.
“It’s alright,” he said. “Sometimes I get a little carried away.”
I looked around the room and saw that the walls were green and gold. In one corner was a pearly white wardrobe with a sign hung on one of the brass door knobs that read: WOMEN’S. In the opposite corner was a wardrobe identical to the other except for the sign read: MEN’S. In between the two wardrobes was a dark oak door with a built-in sign that read: DRESSING ROOM.
I looked behind Jax and saw a very, very long couch that stretched out almost as long as the room. It had red leather cushions that looked super comfortable. On a little coffee table in front of it sat a dark pink telephone. The curly wires ran down the white, squeaky clean carpet into a gold plug-in in the wall.
Jax had interrupted my gaze by saying, “Let’s get you dressed. But of course I’m a boy and you’re a girl.”
An awkward silence lapped between us. Jax gave a fake cough and continued speaking.
“There are two other girl elves that happen to be a Head Elf. They’ll help you find the right size of clothes and help you try them on.”
Jax walked towards the telephone and punched in some numbers. Five seconds later, the phone began to ring. Once Jax got hold, he murmured some things I couldn’t make out and then hung up the phone. Right away, two identical looking elves opened the door and smiled at me. They each had jet black hair that was in a braid down to their waste. One elf had one dimple on her right cheek. The other had two dimples. Their almond-shaped eyes smiled at me. They each wore the same uniforms. Purple, glittery shirts with long sleeves. Their pants were green and there shoes were also purple and pointed upwards with a small silver jingling bell at the tip. Their hat matched their shoes, complete with a little bell on top. I looked closely at each of their long sleeved shirts and saw a little name tag. The one dimpled elf’s name tag said:Pepper, and the two dimpled elf’s name tag said:Mint.
“You must be Clementine, the new Head Elf!” they said in unison. Then they looked at each other and giggled.
“My name is Pepper,” said Pepper, her sparkling, white teeth grinning.
“And my name is Mint,” said Mint, her two dimples showing off her happiness.
“We’re twins,” they said in unison again. Then they looked at each other saying, “That’s a little creepy.” “Stop!” They both said. “No, you stop!” They said again. They looked at each other in silence. Finally, Pepper broke the silence, first by making sure her sister didn’t speak first.
“As you see, Clementine, sometimes it seems like us, twins, have telepathic minds.” Behind Pepper. Mint rolled her eyes sarcastically.
“Enough of that, though,” continued Pepper. “let’s get your uniform!” Mint and Pepper walked towards the wardrobe labeled, ‘WOMENS’. Their bells jingled. I also noticed that each foot stepped at the exact same time as the other did. Mint motioned for me to follow. I walked past Jax, who was sitting on the red couch while clutching his clipboard, towards Pepper and Mint.
“I’ll be waiting right here,” said Jax. I smiled and nodded. Pepper opened up the wardrobe doors. Inside were about one hundred different uniforms all different colors. My eyes grew large. My jaw dropped. I had never seen so many clothes in my life! There were blues the color of a clear sky, greens the color of limes, oranges the color of sunsets, purples the color of lilacs, pinks the color of bubblegum, reds the colors of roses, rusty browns, and more. There were glittery, metallic, sparkly, shiny, solid, striped, polka dotted, and sequined outfits too. I looked over at Pepper and Mint. Pepper beamed almost as radiant as the sparkling clothes. Mint winked at me.
“Choose whichever uniform you’d like,” said Mint.
I felt butterflies flutter around in my stomach. They weren’t the nervous ones or the queasy ones. These butterflies we’re the excited ones.
“I get to choose?” I asked in awe.
“Yep,” replied Pepper.
“Sure do,” added Mint.
Breathless, I walked into the wardrobe and looked for the perfect outfit. I couldn’t decide, so I grabbed about ten random ones to try on.
“Are those the ones you want to try on?” asked Pepper.
“I think so,” I answered. I walked towards the dressing room and opened the door. Inside was a humongous mirror that took up two of the walls!
As if Mint really did have a telepathic mind, she said, “The mirror is there so you can see yourself at all angles.” The wall without a mirror had ten hooks on it. Five on top, five right below. Perfect. I placed one outfit on each hook except for one. I closed the door and I slipped off the clothes that I was wearing before. Instantly goosebumps ran up my spine and up my neck. It was freezing in the North Pole if you didn’t have clothes on. Heat vents could only do so much. I quickly pulled a pink long sleeved shirt over my head and put on some green pants. It wasn’t the one. Ten minutes past. Each time I tried on a new outfit, Pepper and Mint had me show them. I felt like a fashion model walking the runway. Except none of the outfits felt right. None of them seemed like the perfect one.
“This is hopeless,” I said to Pepper and Mint.
“No it’s not. You just haven’t tried on the right one, yet,” said Pepper.
“Yeah, be positive,” encouraged Mint.
“Okay,” I said and sighed. It would be hopeless. There were about one hundred dresses! Maybe more! It would take days to try them on! I walked towards the wardrobe and started hanging up the previous outfits I tried on. But then, I saw it. The perfect one. It was a pretty azure blue. With silver sequins on the sleeves. The pants were a navy blue with a caramel colored belt. The hat was navy blue also with a silver bell at the top. The shoes were the same azure as the shirt with silver bells too. I forgot what I was doing and dropped the uniforms that I was hanging up. I bolted towards the outfit I had my eye on and grabbed it. I rubbed the silk shirt on my cheek. It smelled of hot chocolate with a hint of blueberry. I ran out of the wardrobe and waved the chosen outfit above my head.
“I got it! It’s the one!” I shouted.
“Finally!” Mint exhaled.
Pepper shot a quick glare at Mint, then turned to me and said, “I’m so happy for you, Clementine!”
“You should definitely try it on,” Mint suggested. I smiled and practically skipped into the dressing room. I slowly closed the door.
I agreed with Mint. Finally! I had found the perfect uniform! I slipped off my clothes for what seemed like the fifty-th time. And before the goosebumps could chase me down, I put on the new clothes and admired myself in the mirror. I adored my new outfit. I quickly pulled my shoes on and placed my new hat on my auburn curls. I took a few steps back towards the door. I stopped to listen to the tiny little bells on my hat and shoes. The sound calmed me. I opened the door a crack to make sure Pepper and Mint were watching.
Then, I swung it open wide and shouted, “Ta-da!”
“That is absolutely stunning!” burst Pepper.
“Definitely the perfect pick!” said Mint, clapping. Behind them I saw Jax give the thumbs up.
“Give us a twirl,” he said. I agreed and twirled. Laughing, I twirled about five times. Giddy and a little light-headed with joy, I collapsed on the couch next to Jax. Suddenly feeling how exhausted and hungry I was from trying on clothes almost all day, I asked,
“What time is it?”
“Let’s see,” said Jax, checking his golden watch.
“My, my!” he said, surprised. “It’s almost six o’clock!”
“Let’s have dinner together!” exclaimed Pepper.
“Together?” I asked. I always ate supper with Holly and Robin! What would they say? I thought.
“Yeah! In the Head Elf lounge,” added Mint.
“Head Elf lounge?” I asked.
“Yeah,” said Jax. Then he paused.
“Is that okay with you?” he asked. I hesitated. What about Holly and Eve? I didn’t know.
“Well…I don’t have much money to pay with,” I said.
“It’s your lucky day,” said Jax. “You don’t have to pay! It’s free!” he continued.
“Free?” I asked.
“Come on, Clementine!” eased Mint.
“The cafeteria has the best food in the North Pole!” pressed Pepper.
“There’s a cafeteria for Head Elves?” I asked. There was so many things I didn’t know about being a Head Elf that I had to learn. But warm and good food was what I really wanted right now.
“What type of food is there?” I asked, intrigued.
“Oh my goodness, I’m so glad you asked!” said Pepper.
“There’s steak, sushi, crab, fillet mignon, lobster, shrimp, parmesan chicken, roast beef, buttered potatoes with gravy, grilled carrots, escargot, salad with as many croutons as you want, spaghetti, venison, vegetable stew, chicken noodle soup, tarts, pies, creme brulee, pudding, cake, fudge, fondue…anything you want!” said Mint excitedly.
All the foods made my mouth water. Literally.
“What’s sushi?” I asked.
“Well…” began Jax. “Sushi is raw fish and rice with some type of vegetable wrapped in seaweed. Sometimes elves even put raw fish eggs called caviar on top.”
“In my opinion, it’s really quite delicious,” stated Jax. Behind him I Mint mimed barfing in a bag. I agreed.
“And what’s escargot?” I asked. Jax smiled and replied,
“Escargot is basically cooked snail still in the shell.”.
That and the suchi about made me lose my appetite.
“That sounds…interesting,” I told Jax. I had much worse words in mind than ‘interesting’, but it was the nicest choice I could think of.
“Clementine, you should eat with us. It’ll be awesome!” pleaded Pepper. My mind went back to all the amazing foods that Mint mentioned. Forgetting about Holly and Robin, I made my decision.
“All right,” I said.
As soon as we arrived in the Head Elf lounge/cafeteria I was so hungry I could have eaten a hippopotamus. Not sushi or escargot, though.
What I first noticed though, was that there wasn’t a long line with a bunch of elves holding lunch trays. There wasn’t an open window with old ladies in hair nets scooping up mashed potatoes and slopping them onto plates.
Instead it looked like a fancy restaurant. There were about fifteen circular tables that seated five at each one. They all had fine red velvet tablecloths with a vase of poinsettias as the centerpiece. The chairs were shiny and dark oak. At each table spot there was a green napkin that was folded up to look like an evergreen tree, a silver plate as big as my head, a salad plate, one big fork, one little fork, one big spoon, one little spoon, one butter knife, one steak knife, and a tiny tray of butter.
In one corner of the cafeteria looked like a lounge. Four comfy looking leather armchairs sat across from each other. A built-in fireplace blazed. The flames licked the charred wood like a thirsty cat with a bowl of milk. The burning embers sparked and glowed. The heat spread throughout the room like a calm wave building up in the ocean. For a couple seconds I was mesmerized. Then Jax interrupted me by asking,
“Which table should we sit at?” he asked. Three tables were already taken by a couple other elves.
“How about that one?” I said, pointing towards the table closest to the lounge.
“Sure,” said Jax.
“I don’t care,” said Mint.
“Whatever floats your boat,” said Pepper. We all walked towards the table I had my eye on and sat down. About five seconds after we sat down, a boy elf rocketed out of a door I didn’t notice before that was labeled:KITCHEN. The boy elf looked like he was flying towards us, but as he got closer I noticed that he wasn’t flying. He was skating. His roller skates and pants were green like our napkins and His T-shirt was red like the tablecloth. His shaggy hair was flaming orange. Almost as orange as the glowing embers in the fire. It looked as though he used cement instead of hair gel to slick his hair back, though. Not a single hair flew out as he quickly skated towards us. It stayed neatly tucked behind his pointy ears. It just stayed in one place, plastered. His freckles on the other hand were everywhere. They covered his entire body, head to toe. Once he got to our table, he smiled, his buck teeth gleaming. Not a single speck of food or plaque showed.
“My name is Quentin and I will be your waiter tonight,” said Quentin, pointing to his name tag.
“Here are your menus,” he said handing each of us a silver looking folder with a fancy label on the front that read:Menu.
“Ring this bell when you are ready to order,” he continued, placing a little gold bell on the table. Then Quentin rolled away, and disappeared behind the kitchen door. I looked at the others and said, surprised,
“You told me this was a cafeteria!” Mint smirked and Pepper smiled.
“I know, right? Everyone calls it a cafeteria, but it’s technically a fancy restaurant for Head Elves,” explained Mint.
“Oh…anyone else starving?” I asked.
“Very,” replied Jax.
“Definitely,” said Pepper.
“To be honest, I could eat a horse!” said Mint, laughing. I joined in, but my stomach gurgled, so I listened to it and opened the menu. Expecting to see a list labeled drinks and a list labeled food and a list labeled desert. I was taken by surprise. Instead of all that stuff, there was just one sentence in the middle of the page:Whatever You Want. I gasped and looked up at Pepper and Mint and Jax.
“Whatever I want?” I asked, confused.
“Whatever you want, Clementine,” he said.
Whatever I wanted. What do I want? I thought. Steak sounded good. So did soup and chicken…and pudding and crab and lobster and spaghetti and chocolate strawberries and pineapples and salad and turkey and venison and spring rolls and lasagna and chicken alfredo and…I couldn’t decide!
“I can’t decide!” I said to the others.
“Don’t worry. Neither can I,” agreed Mint.
“Same,” said Jax.
“I got an idea!” exclaimed Pepper.
“What is it?” I asked.
“How about we all get lots of things to share!” continued Pepper. I grinned. I could try everything! Once we all decided what to order, Jax tapped the bell twice. Quentin flew out the door again and took our order. We decided on some fried chicken, steak, sushi and escargot- Jax was the only one who wanted them – , potstickers – I wanted to try some, although Mint said not to – , fruit salad, chicken noodle soup, spring rolls, lasagna, crab, roast beef, venison, potatoes with gravy, halibut, clam chowder, strawberry slaw, and charred cauliflower. But that wasn’t all. For dessert, we chose creme brulee, chocolate custard, apple pie, vanilla buttercream cake, lemon meringue tarts, tiramisu, and vanilla cheesecake. When Quentin took our orders, he didn’t question our large quantity of dinner and dessert choices. He just took about five minutes to write everything down and took up about seven sticky-notes. Once he finished, he smiled and went back into the kitchen door, his hair still plastered to his head. A loud grumble echoed throughout the room. Jax, Pepper, and me all directed our eyes to Mint who sheepishly shrugged her shoulders.
“What?” she asked, patting her stomach. “I’m starving.” Pepper giggled.
“I’m feeling you,” I told Mint.
“I agree,” said Pepper. We looked towards Jax to see what he thought, but he had gotten up and walked towards the doors with the exit signs above them.
“Where are you going, Jax?” I asked him. Jax turned around and cracked a smile.
“One second,” he said. “I’m gonna go say hi to someone quick.”
My eyes followed Jax as he walked towards a boy elf who had just walked in. Jax’s shoulder length, blonde, curly hair sort of flew out behind him as he jogged towards the other elf. It made me smile. As Jax started talking, I examined the boy elf. His buzzed black hair had a lightning bolt haircut shaved into the side of his head. His soft black eyes made me feel comfortable and warm. His bright white teeth in his smile stood out from his fair and bronzed black-brown skin. Something stirred inside of me.
Pepper and Mint followed my gaze. Mint smiled smugly.
“Who are you staring at?” she asked.
“Are you looking at Judah?” asked Pepper, exchanging glances with her twin.
“Judah?” I asked, blushing. Mint looked at me smirking.
“You’re in love with Judah!” she said.
“No I’m not,” I stammered. My face turned beet red. Pepper laughed and mimed kissing.
“Mwah! Mwah!” said Pepper, puckering up her lips.
“Stop it!” I said. “I don’t like Judah!” I lied.
“Oh sure,” said Mint in a disbelieving tone, but her and Pepper stopped and didn’t mention Judah again. Instead, Pepper directed the conversation to asking me what my favorite cookie was. Once I told Pepper that my favorite cookie was strawberry macaroons, I asked her and Mint,
“So…who is the oldest of you twins?” Pepper smiled and Mint sulked.
“I’m older by exactly eleven minutes,” replied Pepper, brightly.
“It doesn’t really make a difference,” said Mint quickly. “It’s only eleven minutes. Plus, we don’t even remember, so it doesn’t count,” she added.
“Sorry, Clementine,” Pepper whispered in my ear. “Honestly, Mint becomes a bit moody when we talk about who’s older.”
“I heard that!” Mint called out from across the table and she slumped back into her chair. Pepper winked at me and her mouth curled into a half grin, just so I could see it. Realizing that I had accidentally made Mint grumpy, I changed the conversation.
“Do you guys have any pets?” I asked. Almost instantly Mint sat up straight.
“Yeah,” she said, a smile sneaking onto her face. “We have one hedgehog named Ozzy, two betta fish named Mr.Bubbles and Sir Sushi, one border collie named Rocky, one chocolate brown lab named Finley, two persian cats named Piglet and Socks, two goats named Bo and Peep, and one black rabbit whose name is King Nibbles.”
Mint’s response left me speechless. That was a lot of pets! I only had one!
“You guys have got to be joking,” I told them.
“She told the truth,” said Pepper.
“Totally serious,” said Mint with a straight face.
“Wow,” I said. “That’s a lot of pets. I think you guys might be a little –”
“Pet crazy?” asked Pepper.
“Yeah, we are,” they said in unison and then laughed and then stopped at the exact same time.
“Creepy,” said Mint.
“See what I mean about us having telepathic minds?” asked Pepper.
“It’s super weird,” they said at the exact same time. Then they both scooted the chair a little ways away from each other and grinned at me, like nothing weird had just happened.
“Do you have any pets, Clementine?” asked Mint. Her bad attitude had seemed to be forgotten.
“Yeah, I have one airedale terrier named Rex,” I said. “I love him so much,” I added. I did. He was one of my best friends. He had a black stomach and back. The rest of him was a tan-ish tawny brown. His slightly curly fur always comforted me when I was sad. His dark brown eyes were almost completely covered by his bushy eyebrows and his big pink tongue always dangled out of his cute underbite. His furry mustache always dragged in his water dish when he took a slurp. His tall and lanky size made him almost as tall as me when he stood on his hind legs. I also loved his short, wagging tail which was set high on his back. Rex meant a lot to me.
“Cool,” said Mint.
“I’ve always wanted one of those,” said Pepper, jealously.
“Pepper, you should be glad that we have the pets we have. You should stop taking things for granted,” Mint told Pepper.
Uh-Oh, I thought. I slowly turned my head to see what Pepper’s response would be. Pepper’s grin turned into a frown and her one of her eyebrows arched higher than the other. Waiting for a nasty reply, I held my breath.
“First of all, I’m the one who always feeds our pets,” Pepper burst. “And second of all, you’re the one always complaining.” Pepper’s face was turning red.
“Pepper, my feet hurt!” said Pepper in a mocking tone.
“Pepper, hurry up! Pepper, we have too many pets! Pepper, this movie is too long! Pepper, I’m hungry!” Pepper shouted shrilly.
I looked over at Mint. Her fists had balled up and she grinded her teeth.
“Let’s get this straight,” said Mint in a bitter tone.
“I don’t sound like dying opera singer, and I do not complain about any of those things,” she continued. Rage danced in each of the twins’ eyes like evil confetti.
“Guys,” I said. “Let’s just forget this whole thing. I bet dinner’s almost ready.” Pepper who had gotten to her feet, sat down abruptly.
“Clementine’s right, Mint,” said Pepper. “This whole thing is stupid.” Mint sighed and sat down as if defeated.
“Yeah,” she said. “I’m sorry, Mint. I was being a jerk…you’re right. I do complain a lot.” Mint hung her head guiltily.
“No, Mint,” said Pepper. “I should be sorry. You don’t complain all that much.” Pepper’s remark made Mint laugh a little.
“Bring it in,” said Mint with her arms open wide. Pepper walked towards Mint and hugged her.
While they said a couple more ‘I’m sorrys’ and gave a couple more hugs, I snuck a quick glance at Judah. Jax and him were still talking.
“Earth to Clementine,” said Mint, waving her hand right in front of my face.
“Sorry,” I said, blushing again. I hadn’t realized how long I had stared at them.
“Mm-hmm,” said Pepper, smiling.
“So, do you actually fancy Judah?” asked Pepper. Both her and Mint’s hazel eyes shone with curiosity. Little gold flecks mixed with fern green swirls like perfect dust being blown into grass. An electric blue whirled around their pupils like clear ocean waves.
“Well…I..um,” I stammered. Pepper scooted her chair closer to me.
“You can tell us, Clementine. We won’t tell anyone,” Pepper said.
“Actually,” said Mint. “No promis — “ Pepper kicked Mint’s shin under the table, but kept her eyes on me.
“Ow!” shouted Mint in surprise.
Pepper continued, “So as I was saying, your secret’s safe with us.” This time Mint bit her lip instead of saying her opinion.
“Well…sort of…but not really…I mean yes…well…actually no…not really…so no,” I lied. Pepper sighed, scooted her chair back to it’s original spot, and folded her arms.
“Fewfta,” said Mint, wiping her forehead. “I don’t keep secrets very well,” she added. Pepper shot her a scowl.
I looked longingly at the kitchen door. I was famished! Then, Quentin rolled out the door carrying one dish on each of his elbows, one dish on each of his hands, and one dish on top of his head. At first, I thought I had gone delirious from hunger. It had only been fifteen to thirty minutes since he took our orders! But sure enough, he kept coming closer. Once Quentin arrived at our table, he set the poinsettias on a different table and put the food in it’s spot.
“Sorry,” he apologized. “The rest of the food that you ordered is back in the kitchen. I couldn’t carry it all at once. I’ll go grab it now,” he added.
“Thanks,” said Pepper.
“No problem,” replied Quentin. Then he rolled back into the kitchen. As soon as he left I asked in wonder,
“How did the food cook so fast? It’s only been about twenty-five minutes!”
“Well, Pepper and I don’t know how it happens. I mean we were pretty surprised the first time we had dinner here as Head Elves, but now we’re sort of used to it,” explained Mint.
“Wow,” I said. “Being a Head Elf is awesome!”
“Tell me about it,” said Pepper.
“Yeah. I’m going to go tell Jax that our food is done cooking,” said Mint, getting up from her chair. I nodded and watched her as she strode over to Jax and Judah. She tapped Jax’s shoulder and said,
“Sorry, but dinner’s ready.”
“One second,” said Jax. “I’ll be right over.” Mint nodded and came back over to our table. Once she was situated, she said,
“I hope Jax hurries up. I’m absolutely ravenous.”
“Me too,” agreed Pepper, patting her stomach.
“Me three,” I said, my mouth watering. Quentin had just brought the third trip of food to our table, and the aromas of the food mixed with the ones already on the table. The smell was so delicious and strong, that I could almost taste the food from sniffing it. Once Quentin brought the escargot, I smelled it. It smelled kind of earthy like dirt, but what it looked like, made my stomach churn. Honestly, it looked like barf and boogers in a snail shell. No joke. It was green and watery. Some tiny gray chunks floated around in it. I wrinkled my nose in disgust.
Mint caught my eye.
“I know, right? It looks like somebody up-chucked in that shell,” she said. I smiled weakly.
“Mint!” scolded Pepper. “Don’t make me lose my appetite!”
“What?” asked Mint innocently. “It’s that dead snail’s fault. Not me!” Mint pointed to the escargot.
“It’s absolutely revolting!” she continued, poking it cautiously with her fork.
Mint and I stifled a laugh as Pepper gagged.
I looked over to see if Jax was coming. He slowly started walking towards our table…but so was Judah.
“Hey guys,” said Jax, sitting down in his chair. “I’m super hungry…do you mind if Judah sits with us for dinner?” he said motioning towards Judah.
“Sure,” said Mint, eyeing me.
“Thats okay with me,” said Pepper, staring hungrily at the food.
I stared down at my silver plate, hoping that Judah wouldn’t notice me. But of course, that didn’t work.
“How ‘bout you, Newbie?” asked Judah, nudging my arm. But the way he asked me wasn’t in a mean way. It was in a nice and playful way that made me smile.
“Yeah,” I squeaked, in a small voice.
“Great,” said Judah. “Looks like I’m having supper with you guys.”
“Quentin — our waiter — is still bringing food,” informed Mint.
“Sounds good,” said Judah. Then he sat down right next to me.
I held my breath as Judah, Jax, Pepper, and Mint talked about their favorite sports teams.
“My favorite sport team would be the Drift Town Periwinkles. They’re definitely the best soccer team in the North Pole,” said Mint.
“Nah,” said Jax. “Obviously the Snow City Ice Augers. They’re the best soccer team in the world.”
“Wait a second,” interrupted Pepper. “You guys are thinking upside down. Soccer is boring. My favorite sport is softball. So the best sport team would be the Freezing Forest Cardinals.”
“You guys are all wrong!” said Judah, shaking his head, but smiling. “The best sport in the world is basketball! And the best sport team is the Tundra Wolves!”
What Judah said, made me freeze. The Tundra Wolves were my favorite basketball team too!
“That’s my favorite team too!” I said, suddenly. Everyone stared at me. Then, Judah smiled.
“Way to go, Newbie,” he said. “See guys?” he asked. “Great minds think alike!” Then he high-fived me, and I high-fived him back.
After that, everyone — including me — were all acting normal, like we had been friends forever.
About five minutes later, Quentin came back with the final dish of food, which was the lasagna. Before digging in, I unfolded my tree napkin and set it on my lap, so I wouldn’t get any food on my beautiful outfit. First I helped myself to some potstickers that I wanted to try. Instantly I loved them. It was a wonton wrapper stuffed with pork and vegetables, fried. Although it had a slimy texture, it was delicious.
“This is delicious!” I exclaimed, taking another bite. Jax smiled.
“Here,” said Jax, handing me a little bowl filled with what looked like soy sauce. “It’s a sweet and spicy sauce for dipping the potstickers in. It tastes pretty good,” he added.
I took Jax’s advice and dipped the rest of my pot sticker in the sauce that he handed me. It tasted so good! I grabbed another one…and another one…and another one.
“Wow, Newbie,” said Judah. “You sure seem to like potstickers. Don’t you want to try something else?” he asked. I slowly set my seventh potsticker on my plate. Judah was right. There was so much more food to try!
“Yeah,” I said. “You’re right.”
So I tried a bite of sushi. The sushi was terrible. I hated the raw fish and fish eggs. The seaweed had a bad bitter taste.
“Eww!” I said.
“Here, try some wasabi,” said Jax, putting what looked like green toothpaste on my plate.
“Wait!” shouted Pepper.
But it was too late. I had already put a spoonful in my mouth. At first, I didn’t know what hit me. Then it happened.
It felt like fire was spreading throughout my tongue like a wildfire. The wasabi was so hot and spicy, that my eyes watered from the pungent heat that took over my mouth. I stuck my tongue out of my mouth and panted like a dog on a hot day.
“Hot,” I wheezed. Then I grabbed my green napkin off of my lap and wiped it on my tongue, hoping to get rid of the hot wasabi taste. Didn’t work.
Everyone was staring at me dumbstruck.
“Okay,” said Judah, turning his chair towards Jax. “What did you do to her? I mean, what was that green paste that you gave to her?” Jax looked down at his shoes.
“Well…I…uh…umm,” started Jax.
“He gave her wasabi!” shouted Pepper.
“Well, what’s so bad about wasabi?” asked Judah.
“It’s super spicy. Like, as hot as an oven,” replied Pepper.
The heat was building up in my mouth. I took a sip of water, but it didn’t help.
“Hot,” I panted again.
“Sorry,” said Mint. Then right on cue Quentin rolled out of the kitchen again. This time to serve some other Head Elves.
“Quentin!” shouted Pepper, waving her hands. “Quentin, it’s an emergency!” Quentin changed directions and came our way. Once he arrived at our table, Pepper shouted again,
“We need two full glasses of milk!”
“Got it,” replied Quentin, then he left as soon as he came. He came back in about not even one minute, holding one glass of milk in each hand.
“Here you are,” said Quentin, setting the milk on the table, careful not to spill any on the clean red tablecloth.
“Anything else I can get you?” he asked.
“I don’t think so,” replied Judah. “Thanks,” he added. Then Quentin rolled away, back to the other elve’s table.
“Here,” said Pepper. “Drink this milk. It helps with the spiciness.” Pepper didn’t have to tell me twice. I had already grabbed for it and chugged one glass down in about five seconds. I reached for the other and swallowed it in about four gulps. Pepper was right. The milk did help. The hotness didn’t calm down all the way, but it felt a lot better.
“Thanks, guys,” I said, breathing hard.
“Your welcome,” said Judah. “By the way, your uniform is perfect. It matches your pretty pale blue eyes nicely,” he added.
“Thanks,” I stammered. I could feel my cheeks blushing.
“Anyway…” began Mint, glaring at Jax. “Why did you give her wasabi?!”
“I didn’t know that it would make things worse! I like spicy foods!” replied Jax.
“It’s okay, Jax. I know it was an accident. I forgive you,” I said.
“Thanks,” said Jax. “I’ll never do it again.”
“Good,” I said.
Then we all went back to eating good foods. I tried a couple pieces of lasagna, which was pretty good.
“Clementine, you should try a bite of escargot,” said Jax, pushing the plate of escargot nearer to me.
“No thanks,” I said, trying not to be rude.
“Come on,” pleaded Jax. “It’s delicious.”
“Can I trust you?” I asked, eyeing the escargot.
“Yes! Well, sort of. I mean escargot isn’t for everybody. But you should try it. I think it’s good,” he continued.
“Well…” I started.
“Don’t do it, Clementine!” said Mint, seriously. “Jax had me try it when I became a Head Elf and I hated it!”
Jax’s smile drooped.
“Now, wait just a second, here,” said Judah, smiling. “Jax had me try escargot too. It’s not that bad, see?” Judah asked. He grabbed an escargot shell, took his fork and scraped out a gooey gray thing that looked very unappetizing. He slipped into his mouth and nearly gagged, but swallowed.
“See?” he asked. “Not too bad.” Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw Judah wink at me.
“Okay…” I said, and then I scooped out a gray slimy thing too and plopped it into my mouth. I expected it to taste like mucus, but it didn’t. It was way chewy, though. Buttery, too. It actually wasn’t that bad. But then it was. All of a sudden, I tasted gritty sand.
“Bleegghhh!” I said, and spit the escargot right onto my plate. Everyone stared at me in surprise. Jax frowned. I must’ve looked so rude.
“I’m so sorry,” I said. “That was so rude of me. I’m so sorry. I –” Then everyone interrupted me, by laughing out loud.
“That was hilarious!” snorted Mint.
“That was so funny when you were like, blah!” said Pepper, pretending to barfere. Judah chortled a bit. Even Jax was smiling.
“There was something gritty in it!” I exclaimed.
“Oh, yeah,” said Jax, chuckling. “I forgot to tell you to eat it fast. You see, sometimes snails eat sand, and in escargot it still has sand in it’s stomach.”
“Oh,” I said. “That’s so weird!”
“Yeah,” replied Mint. “I know.” After that, we all tried everything else and enjoyed it. By then, it was about seven thirty and everyone was stuffed.
“Come on, guys,” prodded Judah. “There’s still dessert!”
“Fine,” said Mint. “But I’m about to explode.” I laughed.
“Pass that tiramisu over here,” said Pepper, eagerly. “It’s my favorite!” Mint handed Pepper a slice of what looked like a vanilla layered cake with cocoa powder on top. Three flawless curly chocolate shavings sat on top of a perfect whipped cream dollop. It looked heavenly.
“What does tiramisu taste like?” I asked Pepper.
“Here try some of mine,” she said. I hesitated. I hadn’t had a very good experience with trying new things that night. Pepper must have sensed my uncertainty.
“Don’t worry,” she whispered. “This stuff is actually good, unlike the sushi, escargot, and wasabi.” I smiled and gave in.
“All right,” I said. I grabbed my fork and cut a piece off of Pepper’s tiramisu. Slowly, I put it in my mouth. Immediately I fell in love with it. It was really good and sort of spongy. It tasted rich, dark, and sweet. It also tasted sort of like cheese cake. Although, there was some taste that I couldn’t make out.
“What’s in this tiramisu?” I asked, curiously.
“Let’s see,” said Pepper. “Well, there’s sugar, mascarpone cheese, ladyfingers, coffee, chocolate, and sometimes there is rum in it. But there’s no rum in this one.”
“Ladyfingers?” I asked.
“Ladyfingers are a sponge biscuit that is as big as a lady’s finger,” replied Pepper. “You didn’t think that is was real lady fingers?” she asked, giggling.
“To be honest, I did,” I said, also giggling.
“Do you want some more?” asked Mint.
“Sure,” I said. Mint plopped a humongous piece of tiramisu on my plate.
“Wow. That’s a lot,” I said. “I might not eat all of that.”
“You’ll manage,” said Judah, smiling. “If you can eat about twenty potstickers, you can eat a piece of tiramisu.” I laughed and began eating my heaping slice of tiramisu. After a couple pieces, I looked up at Mint. Her eyebrows had furrowed and her lips thinned into a frown..
“What’s wrong?” I asked her.
“Crystal,” said Mint. At the name, Pepper turned around towards the entrance and frowned too. I turned around also too see a girl elf. Her hair was a light blonde, even longer than Pepper and Mint’s, that was all down except for a single skinny braid. Her eyelids were covered in sparkly silver eyeshadow that shined under the lights and her lips were a glossy pink. Her uniform was a cyan blue, that was so bright, it made my eyes water. Her curly shoes were a metallic white, with gold stars on it. Her icy blue eyes, narrowed. They were rigid, sharp, and cold. It was like chips of ice sending daggers through me. Crystal was the perfect name for her. She had her hands on her hips and a smirk on her face and strode towards us.
“What are you, losers doing here?” she asked.
“We’re Head Elves just like you, Crystal,” said Mint, heatedly.
“Really?” asked Crystal, innocently. “Who picked you? That person must have been blind.”
Mint grinded her teeth, menacingly.
“Your sense of fashion is terrible, Mint,” continued Crystal. “So is yours, Pepper.” I could tell why Mint didn’t like Crystal. She was a jerk.
“I like their outfits!” I said suddenly. Crystal slowly turned towards me as if noticing me for the first time.
“You like their outfits?” asked Crystal. “You must be Clementine the new Head Elf,” she added more nicely.
“Yeah. Yeah, I am,” I replied.
“Clementine…” said Crystal thinking. “That name doesn’t suit you. You should change your name to Noelle or something.” That’s when Judah joined in.
“I like the name Clementine! It’s beautiful just like her!” said Judah. I blushed. I shot a glance towards Judah and noticed that his dark cheeks turned a pink color too.
Crystal ignored Judah and looked straight into my eyes.
“Clementine, why don’t you come sit with me and some of my friends at another table,” she said. “You don’t have to sit with these freaks,” Crystal said, nodding towards Mint, Pepper, Judah, and Jax. “They have no friends. Nobody likes them. That’s why they want you to sit with them.”
“We have friends!” said Pepper quickly.
“Really?” asked Crystal, innocently. “Who is it then?”
“I…uh…Mint, Jax, Clementine, and Judah are my friend!”
“They don’t count. Except Clementine,” said Crystal, looking at me. “Clementine, are you their friend?” she said. “You don’t have to.”
Then, for one second, I hesitated. Were they my friend? I had just met them that day. Did they want to be my friend? It seemed like it. Did I want to be their friend?
I looked over at Jax who was looking down at his feet. I looked over at Pepper who had anger in her eyes. I looked over at Mint grinded her teeth and clenched her hands in fists. I looked over at Judah…who was looking at me. I stared into his brown eyes. They were almost a black. Like before, I warmth spread throughout my body starting with the tips of my fingers to tips of my toes. I smiled.
Yes. I wanted to be their friend.
“Of course!” I told Crystal with a smile. “Why wouldn’t I want to be their friend?”
Crystal’s eyes narrowed. Her smirk turned into a thin grimace.
“Fine! Be my guest. You’ll regret being friends with these freaks, though. You’ll see!” Crystal said. Then she turned around, flipped her hair, and stalked off towards the table her friends were sitting at.
Silence filled the air.
Finally, Pepper broke the silence.
“Wow, Clementine. That was really nice of you, but Crystal was right. We’re a bunch of nobodies. You don’t want to be friend with us,” she said in a small voice.
“Yeah,” agreed Mint quietly. “Crystal was right.” I looked over at Jax. His usual bright face looked distraught and shameful.
“Yeah. I guess we are freaks,” he said, looking down.
I turned my head towards Judah. Judah looked away from me and sighed.
I couldn’t believe what they were saying.
“You guys are not nobodies!” I shouted at them. I must’ve scared them because a frightened look of shock was on all of their faces. Now that I had their attention I continued,
“You are not freaks!” Mint opened her mouth as if she was going to say something, but closed it again.
Anger was boiling up in me. Crystal had made Mint, Pepper, Jax, and Judah doubt themselves.
“Listen to me. You are far from freaks and nobodies. You wouldn’t be Head Elves if you were nobodies and freaks. You should be proud of yourselves. I actually want to be your friend!”
Mint allowed her mouth to curl up in one of the corners. Pepper grinned like a child who had found a penny on the ground. Jax looked up and flashed a quick and bright smile my way. Judah slowly turned around back towards me. His dark and deep eyes smiled, and poured warmth into mine.
For a couple seconds everything was…calm. But those couple of seconds felt like hours or days or months. All of us smiled at each other.
Slowly, Jax shifted in his chair.
“I think it’s time to go and get some sleep,” he said calmly.
The rest of us nodded and got up from our chairs quietly.
“Good night,” I said to both Pepper and Mint. And before I knew it, Pepper and Mint were hugging me.
“Thank you,” they both said simultaneously. Except neither one of them noticed.
“Your welcome,” I said and hugged them back.
I watched them walk out of the doors holding hands.
Then I said good night to Jax.
“Goodnight Clementine,” he said happily. “See you in the morning.”
“Bye,” I said. Then I watched Jax walk out of the doors, whistling a merry tune.
Then I turned around to see Judah.
“Pleasure to meet you, Newbie,” he said. “Thanks,” he added.
Then he winked at me and headed out the doors.
I blushed and smiled to myself.
Happiness filled up inside me. I had had the best dinner ever.
Once I opened the exit doors, all of the happiness poured out me.
I had forgotten all about Eve and Holly.
“Dang it!” I said out loud, smacking my forehead.
I raised my right hand and put it on my head and ran.
Once I finally got to the pink door of Holly, Eve, and myself’s apartment, I let out a big breath and twisted the door knob slowly.
I opened the door a crack and peeked inside.
Eve was pacing back and forth. Her head was down and her lips were pressed together making a thin frown. Her eyebrows were pushed together in worry. A bead of sweat trickled down her forehead from her pale blonde hair which was in a fishtail braid.
Eve’s evergreen colored tunic was all rumpled, and her daffodil colored hat was placed lopsided on her head.
Wondering where Holly was, I looked around. Then I saw her.
Holly was sitting at our glass dinner table. Her head was placed in her golden honey colored hands. Her curly dark brown hair was pulled up into a loose bun on top of her head. Her hands covered her basil colored eyes, and her shoulders were rising and falling. Then I realized that she must’ve been crying.
Was I the reason that they were acting like this?
Like Eve’s clothes, Holly’s pink salmon colored shirt was all rumpled. So were her gray leggings.
What had I done?
Even Rex was out of it.
Rex was lying by Holly’s feet, and whimpering softly.
“Where is she?” muttered Eve.
At the sound, Rex lifted his head up, but then put his head back down on his paws when he realized it was just Eve.
I opened the door a tiny bit more, but the door hinges creaked and Eve spotted me. Her whole face lit up, and she ran towards me.
“Clementine!” she shouted. At the sound of my name, Holly lifted her head from her hands and saw me. Relief washed over her face. Holly copied Eve and ran over to me.
Eve swung the door open, and squeezed me so hard, I could barely breath. Once she let go, Holly did the same.
Looking at her up close, I saw Holly’s face. It was all blotchy and and red. Some of her mascara was smeared on her eyelid, and her eyes we’re all red. She wiped her runny nose on my shoulder like a child and held my hand.
“Where were you?” asked Holly, quietly. Her big hazel eyes stared at me.
“Yeah,” added Eve. “We were so worried..”
“I’m so sorry!” I bursted. “Jax made me a Head Elf, I got a uniform, I had dinner, I –”
Eve interrupted, “Jax made you Head Elf?” Eve said last two words slowly. I was almost positive Eve’s tone that she wasn’t happy.
“I–I’m sorry. I totally forgot about you guys. I’m so sorry,” I said, and I truly was.
“Wait a second,” said Eve, arching one of her eyebrows. “You forgot about Holly and I?”
“No! I mean yes, but will you forgive me? Please?”
Holly looked up at me.
“You forgot about us?” she said. Her voice sounded full of hurt.
“Holly…” I said. Holly turned away from me.
“We were so worried about you, Clementine,” informed Eve. “We thought you got lost…or worst!” she continued. “but it turns out that you were just having a fancy dinner with your new friends!” Eve shouted, putting an arm around Holly’s shoulder.
“Eve, I didn’t meant to –” I began but Holly interrupted me.
“Did you even think about talking with us about being a Head Elf?” she asked.
“Well…I…uh…I…–” I stuttered.
“Oh, wait! I’m guessing you forgot!” spat Holly. I took a step back in surprise. I had never seen Holly upset before. Usually she was all positive. Angry and sad tears mixed together and dripped down her face like a skinny river.
“I said that I was sorry!” I yelled. Hot tears welled up in my eyes.
Why were they being so dramatic?
“Sometimes sorry isn’t enough!” Eve yelled at me.
I felt like someone had slapped me across the face. Tears stung my eyes. I would have never guessed that my best friends could be so angry with me.
“Holly?” I asked, looking towards her for support.
Holly avoided my gaze and looked down at her pointy pink shoes, Eve’s arm still around her.
For sure I had thought that Holly would comfort me or give me a smile of some sort, but I was wrong.
For the first time since we started fighting, I noticed Rex. He was laying on the floor with his paws over his head. It looked as if he was trying block out all the arguing noise.
“I’m truly sorry,” I said to them. Then, I looked at Eve’s and Holly’s upset faces and ran into my room.
Once I ran into my room, I flopped down on my bed, and stared at my room’s bright yellow ceiling. My favorite color.
I grabbed my donut pillow and sobbed into it. My tears mingled with the fluffy pillow, and wet my face.
I wiped my tears off of my face and turned around, to see Rex. Rex had been scratching at the door and whimpering.