Anyways, the chapter, and your first introduction to the real Clara. (Or something like that. I'm tired. I just went twenty-four hours without sleep. Wait, no, that was Clara and Andrew. Never mind, just read.)
“It is a fact universally acknowledged that a short girl, in the procession of something above her head must be in want of some young man to get it down for her,” Clara stated, as she and her two best friends headed to the pool. “And no matter how far from the case it may be, if it just so happens that her mom has told her to get something that just so happens to be on a shelf above her head, and some guy just so happens to be walking by and sees her, he’s going to offer his help.”
“Is that so?” Rhoda asked. “You know, you could just let them help you. It would save you a lot of time.”
Clara rolled her eyes. “I had it handled. I didn’t even need to be on tiptoe to get it. He only offered to help me so that he could be a dashing hero.”
“Maybe he was just trying to be nice?” Rhoda suggested.
“You’re a pretty girl,” Kath added. ‘‘And we know that you’re against the thought of boys liking you and all that, but they don’t know, so”
Clara tossed Kath a glare. “I’m not against boys liking me, it’s just that …”
“Was he a redhead?” Kath continued, seemingly oblivious. “Because I do know that you are especially against them if they’re not.”
“Redheads have nothing to do with it,” Clara insisted, with a roll of her eyes. “I’m only fifteen, and I’m not ready to be thinking about things like that, and he was being an unnecessary dashing hero. That’s what I don’t like.”
“That and the fact that he probably wasn’t a redhead.”
Rhoda rolled her eyes, “What is it with you and redheads when it comes to Clara?”
Kath gave an innocent smile. “It just seems to me that a redhead would be perfect for Clara. Hey, isn’t one of your cousins a redhead?”
“Yes,” Rhoda admitted. “Two of them are.”
Kath nodded. “But Josh is younger than I am, and would certainly not do for Clara.”
“I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t try to match me up with every redhead we have in our acquaintance,” said Clara, rolling her eyes. “Honestly, I could care less about hair color, and I’ve never even met Rhoda’s cousins. Neither have you, Kath, so knock it off.”
“But that shall change today,” said Kath, in her best ominous voice.
“If you keep it up, I can get you an uninvite to the picnic,” Rhoda mentioned.
Kath didn’t respond, as they had reached the pool. Instead, she stripped off her coverup and ran over to the diving board. “Youngest first, right?”
“How about most obnoxious last?” asked Clara.
“You know, we could always go shortest to tallest,” Kath mentioned. “That way you go fist, Clara. Although we can achieve the same effect going oldest to youngest, though that would mean I go last.”
Rhoda sighed. “I can’t believe we go through this every single day. Kath, just get up there and dive, since you’re already there, and then Clara can go, and then I’ll go last. Why must this always be so complicated?”
“That’s what I’d like to know,” said Kath. And with that, she scrambled up the ladder and dove into the pool.
“You know,” Clara commented, “it wouldn’t be so bad if I understood why she is so convinced I like redheads.”
“It’s not as though you’ve ever favored them – you’ve never favored any guy, regardless of his hair color,” Rhoda agreed. “I think she’s just trying to point out that you’re the oldest of us and almost sixteen and never been kissed and all that.”
“But why redheads?”
“Three points!” Rhoda shouted, for at that moment, Kath surfaced.
“Three?” asked Kath, as she climbed out of the pool. “It felt like a better dive than that.”
“But we’re only in the mood to give you three points,” said Clara, as she marched over to the diving board. “Tough judges today and all that.”
“Well, enjoy your dive then,” said Kath.
“Hush, I’m concentrating.”
Sure, this wasn’t the Olympics, but Clara believed that everything she did should be done like it was done for competition. The three of them participated in enough events, she knew what was expected of her. It didn’t hurt to practice.
She counted to three, then ran to the end of the board, jumped, and entered the water flawlessly. It was a perfect dive, she knew, though she wasn’t likely to receive a high pointage from those stingy “judges” she had to contend with today. But as she turned to swim upward, she found herself pulled down by some current … but she was in a swimming pool – how was that possible?
She tried to fight it, but it continued to pull her down. This was very not good. She was going to run out of breath soon – she could already feel the world around her grow cold. That is what happened when you were dying from lack of oxygen, right? You get colder?
Just as she was about to pass out from the lack of oxygen – and the cold, seriously, the water was now freezing – she found her head above the water. She sucked in a lungful of bitterly cold air. Then she was under again, but sliding against some sort of bumpy surface.
She twisted around and tried to get a hold of those bumps – they felt almost like the rocks at the bottom of a very pebbly river – but she was moving too fast, her fingers were too numb, and they were too slippery. This was not funny. Nor was it normal.
Finally, she got a grip on the stones – she was just going to call them stones – and came to a stop. Pushing herself up, she found that she was in rather shallow water – a good thing. For a moment, she just sat there, sucking in air – ice cold air – and shivering. Once she gathered what she could of her thoughts – it was so cold, thinking clearly was out of the question – she scrambled numbly to her feet.
She found herself staring up a waterfall. No, literally, a waterfall. How her swimming pool had turned into a waterfall was beyond her, but here she was.
Completely weirded out, she turned around, hoping to find some sort of answer. Apparently, she was in the middle of some sort of stream, and it was now winter. When she dove into the pool, it was summer, but there also wasn’t a waterfall. The snow on the banks of the stream was blue, and there was a group of women nearby.
She stumbled towards the women, and, therefore, the dry land. Sure, it wasn’t likely to be any warmer there, but her toes were already frozen. She needed out of the water.
As she neared the women, they seemed to draw back at first, and then all of them were helping her out of the water at once. Once she was out of the water, a cloak was thrown around her shoulders, and she was dimly aware of the women chatting quietly, but excitedly among themselves. What she wanted were shoes, but none were offered to her as she was led away from the stream.
She zoned out and concentrated on not stepping on rocks – she didn’t want to step on any with her feet this cold, and therefore, it wasn’t until they stopped walking when they realized that they were at the gate of some very large stone building. There was a guard standing in front of the gate, giving the women a very disapproving stare.
“Why have you brought me a half-frozen girl? Lord Erik does not have time to deal with such matters at the moment, and you have fires of your own at your own houses.”
There were several moments of silence, then one of the women spoke up. “But, sir, she came out of the Waterfall while we were washing laundry – out of the Waterfall, I say – and all of us saw it with our own eyes. She’s the Water Princess!”
“The Water Princess, you say?” said the Guard, suddenly a bit more interested. “Are you certain?”
“She came out of the Waterfall, and she’s dressed in strange clothing,” said another of the women. “If she isn’t the Water Princess, I don’t know who could be.”
“Very well,” said the Guard. “Come with me, young lady. We’ll see if their claim is true.”
The gate opened, and since the guard seemed to expect her to follow him, she did so. He led her down long, winding hallways covered with lush carpet, which was nice on her feet, but still the chill pervaded her entire being. At last they came to a large room where a dark-haired woman dressed in rich clothing sat at embroidery. And, more importantly, there was a roaring fire.
Clara ran up to it.
“Lady Roxanne,” said the Guard, bowing. “I believe that we have finally found the Water Princess. A group of women brought her half-frozen down from the mountain just now.” With that, he pressed a fist over his heart, bowed slightly, and left the room.
The woman stood up and approached Clara. “Have you truly come to us at long last?” she asked.
Clara looked up from the fire and blinked. “What?”
“Ah, but you are ice cold,” the woman observed. She clapped her hands and a young girl scampered over to her. “Have a hot bath fixed in the in the Blue Room at once.” The girl nodded, pressed a fist over her heart, like the guard had, bowed slightly, and scampered out of the room.
“I am Lady Roxanne,” the woman said, removing her own scarf from around her neck and wrapping it around Clara’s. “It’s an honor to have you here with us at long last, Water Princess.”
Clara sneezed. “M-my name’s C-Clara.”
“Yes, dear, you are the Water Princess, sent to us at long last as answer to our prayers.”
Clara didn’t think the woman quite understood her, but since she was still having trouble understanding herself, she decided not to press the issue. “Where am I?”
“You are in the castle of my husband, Lord Erik of Upper Klarand,” Lady Roxanne explained.
“How far is that from Texas?”
“I’m not sure what you mean,” said Lady Roxanne. “I’ve never heard of such a place. However, if this ‘Texas’ is the favored country from which you came, I would guess that it’s a good ways away, for you surely have come from another world, as did the Leaf Princess and Wind Prince.”
“We will explain in time,” said Lady Roxanne, shaking her head. “For now, concentrate on warming yourself, for you will be no good to us if you die of frostbite.”
Clara didn’t quite like the sound of that, but was too confused to ask questions. Lady Roxanne returned to her embroidery. She continued to thaw out her fingers and toes. Slowly the time eked by, and the girl returned.“The Blue Room has been prepared with a bath for the Water Princess,” she announced. She pressed a fist over her heart and bowed towards Clara. “If you would follow me.”