I smiled brightly. “That sounds cool to me.”
Valentine’s lips tipped up about a half a centimeter at the ends.
“Oh boy,” Claudia muttered but Valentine again ignored her and continued.
“You understand what I have explained about this world? That it is parallel to ours. That most of the same people here are there –”
I interrupted her, “Yes, I understand.”
And I understood. I totally understood. That was why I was forking over a million dollars for this in the first place.
She studied me then she said softly, “And you understand the people there who look like us, sound like us, are not…” her eyes narrowed slightly, “us.”
I nodded. “I get it.”
“Finnie –” Claudia whispered and I turned to her.
“It’s going to be okay, Claudia,” I assured my friend.
“Right.” Claudia, as usual, sounded far from assured.
“It’s going to be,” I shook her hand, “all right.”
Claudia studied me. I let her. Then I smiled, big and bright.
Her gaze moved over my face, her eyes warmed as it did so, she shook her head and whispered, “Just for the record, I do. I totally think you’re nuts.”
“I know,” I whispered back, still smiling.
“But I love you, mostly because you are nuts,” she told me something else I knew and my smile got bigger.
“This is, mes petites filles, touching however we had not much time when you arrived and our window of opportunity as to when Sjofn can make this switch is quickly closing,” Valentine warned.
“That’s another thing I don’t get,” Claudia muttered.
“Well, you will have to ask her when she’s here in five minutes,” Valentine returned coldly.
Claudia glared at her. Valentine accepted her glare, completely unperturbed. Then Claudia gave up, looked at me and rolled her eyes.
I smiled at the eye roll but I wanted to get on with it.
I was ready for my next adventure.
So I looked at Valentine and declared, “Valentine, I’m ready.”
She looked at me.
Then she smiled an actual smile.
Then she whispered, “Lovely. Then shall we begin?”
I didn’t close my eyes. I didn’t want to miss a thing.
I kept them open while sitting in Valentine’s elegant chair in her elegant living room and I gave Claudia another reassuring smile, blew her a kiss and then I turned to Valentine.
She was sitting across from me, eyes closed, face so relaxed she could be asleep but her lips were tipped up like she found something vaguely amusing. Her hands were lifted, palms up, red-tipped fingertips curled toward the ceiling and her hands started glowing with green – a beautiful, vibrant, emerald green.
It was awesome.
Then the entire room took on the shade of her green and slowly and I watched the room start to fade. Mere seconds went by while Valentine’s elegant salmon walls with their intricate white cornices and ceilings got greener, greener, then darker green, then all faded to black and suddenly ice blue sparks shot all around me and I was standing in a room looking out a window.
“Oh my God,” I breathed as I stared at the wavy, frosted glass of the diamond-paned window, “it worked.”
I smiled huge.
Then I studied the window, saw the catch, lifted it out and threw the two windows outward to open them. A gust of arctic air shot back at me but that wasn’t what made me breathless.
“Oh my God,” I breathed again as the scene before me assaulted my eyes with astonishing beauty.
Amazing. Unbelievable. Absolutely, freaking cool.
Whatever building I was in was on a small rise, I was on the second floor and laid out before me was a Winter Wonderland. A town or maybe small city sprawled throughout and nestled in what looked like a valley if the not too far away, not too close shoots of snow-topped mountains that interrupted the twinkling midnight blue of the night sky were anything to go by.
My head moving side to side, I took it all in.
Most of the buildings that I could see close were one story, topped with a marshmallow blanket of pristine white snow; all the many chimneys had smoke drifting straight into the air. Wavy, diamond-paned windows cast a flickering glow of candlelight on the snow-covered ground. There were icicles hanging from the roofs glinting in the candle and torchlight. The houses were made of something dark perhaps wood at the bottom that went up to the lower edge of the windows and then some light-colored material with criss-crosses of dark beams through them. The buildings seemed planted in the snow; there was so much of it, some of it even blown in drifts up the sides.
Taking it in, I saw there was clearly no city planning. The buildings looked built wherever, dotted here and there. There were winding pathways through them, clearly well used if the tramped snow was anything to go by. Some were narrow, some were wider. All were lit at their sides by torches stuck in the ground, their fire caged with iron, the small blaze dancing around the cage. A light snow was falling and I had no idea how they stayed lit, but they did. There were also massive barrels scattered here and there, far fewer than the torches, that also held roaring fires. These too lit the space and around a few, there were people standing, holding their hands out to the flames and chatting.