It all started with an 80’s cover band that never showed up. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but that was definitely the night my life took a turn for the better.
The thing is, I don’t go out that much to begin with. There usually isn’t a whole lot to do in my sleepy little northern Maine hometown. Most of my friends had already moved away- one of them was lobbying particularly hard for me and others to join him in Chattanooga and raise some hell.
Most of my family had moved away, too. This was technically on doctor’s orders shortly after my dad had a massive heart attack while shoveling the driveway a couple of winters ago (or ‘Death by Living in Maine’ as some in my family have called it). So it was off to some retirement community in Florida for my parents- I could tell that they didn’t want to at first, but if mom’s cheery correspondence via social media and regular mail was any indication, I’d say it’s grown on them.
The paper mill outside of town had shut down, further diminishing long-term job prospects for guys like me with no college education. Once upon a time, hiring on with the railway through town was an option, but there had been talk of massive layoffs and outright abandoning the line since the paper mill outside of town was one of their biggest shippers.
Although not many people were pinning their hopes on a complete reversal of fortune, the area got a bit of good news when it was announced that a demihuman-controlled venture capital outfit was going to buy a ski resort outside of town that had been abandoned in the 1970s and refurbish it into a new resort that would cater to the recently emerged (and exclusively female) extra-species, demihuman or fey races- very few of which had managed to make their way into Fairmont County, Maine so far.
This coincided with something of a turnaround in my own life. It seems Maine, of all states, was suffering from a shortage of snowplow drivers. To fill this void, they apparently were hiring and training anyone with a pulse and halfway decent driving record on operating snow clearing equipment. Now as cold as Maine can get, clearing snow is still only a seasonal job, but for the warmer months an old high school classmate of mine told me about an opening for part of the grounds crew at a nearby country club as well as some temporary construction work on the new resort.
The thing that had inspired me to visit this new ski resort for demihumans and extra-species was a concert featuring a 1980’s cover band called Crowin’ Jett and the Blackhawks that was fronted by a Black Harpy who was said to be an uncanny mimic of rocker Joan Jett.
It had been awhile since I went out for anything fun or entertaining, so I figured this show would be good for an evening of raucous entertainment if nothing else.
Granted there were rumors about ‘aggressive courtship’ or ‘involuntary matrimony’ of some of the single menfolk who had ventured into this resort before, but I didn’t pay them much mind. While I didn’t deny that something out of the ordinary might conceivably be taking place at the resort, I figured the cautionary tales were exaggerations of one or two incidents that actually took place.
My first hint that something was amiss was the relatively empty parking lot when I first showed up. Upon making my way inside, I saw that there were a few other people in the lounge, although it appeared to be mostly couples and waitstaff.
The box office wasn’t even open, and the show was supposed to begin in about an hour. Clearly this wasn’t a good sign.
Still- I came all this way. No point in leaving until I had some idea of exactly what was going on. Heading to the bar, I notice a slight chill in the air
“It’s a twenty-one and up show.” a pleasant, almost apologetic voice says from behind me. “I’ll need to see some ID.”
I turn and see a shapely woman behind the bar with light, almost bluish hair below her shoulders and powder-blue flesh that still somehow manages to look soft and supple. Despite the cold weather, she’s clad in shorts and a tank top and has a sort of utilitarian apron around her waist..
“You’re carding me? Guess I should be flattered….” I say as I dig into my wallet and hand her my driver’s license.
She scrunches up her brow a little upon seeing that it’s from Maine. She quietly gives me the ‘wait-a-minute’ hand gesture before handing me back my ID.
“Jean-Marc Gag-Knee.” she reads aloud, mispronouncing my last name
I nod, not bothering to correct her.
“You’re from around here?”
The gorgeous bartender’s surprise was a bit understandable, since it was safe to say this ski resort didn’t necessarily cater to the ‘dying northern Maine mill town’ demographic.
“Oh, ayuh.” I nod in the affirmative.
“Whereabouts?” she asks, as I put my ID back in my wallet. The little plastic rectangle still has a tangible chill.
Seems like a silly question, but it’s not unreasonable for her to assume that the address on my driver’s license isn’t current.
“Castle Rock.” I say with a straight face.
She pauses for a moment. Clearly this girl has read her some Steven King.
“C’mon…..really- where are you from?”
She didn’t say anything right away, but her eyes lit up.
“Jessica Oba-san!?” she finally asks me excitedly.
“I’m sorry- what?”
“Oh…I’m sorry….” she gushed enthusiastically. “It’s just that we used to get Murder She Wrote on TV when I was growing up. Except in Japanese, it was called The Case Files of Jessica Oba-san. I used to love watching that show.”
“It means ‘Aunty’.”
I chuckle. Although I never saw an episode of Murder, She Wrote, the beautiful barkeep from the Far East has my undivided attention with her enthusiasm.
“Well, I guess this is the part where I tell you that I’m not really from Cabot Cove.”
“Oh- I know. Even though it took place in Maine, I found out later on the show was actually filmed in California- including the exterior shots.”
“Plus….Cabot Cove is straight up gangster. I mean- at least one murder an episode, and there’s what….? Twenty episodes a season for 12 years. You’d have a per-capita murder rate that’s on par with Juarez.”
“I know- that’s insane, right? And those are just the murders that were brought to the attention of this retired novelist who solves crime as one of her hobbies!” she laughed.
It was a delightful, cloying sound.
“In a town of….what? Maybe 3500 people? They should’ve just renamed it ‘Murderville.’ And people think Lewiston is rough.”
“Maybe set up a big sign outside the village- ‘Enter at your own risk’.” she playfully warns.
“I’m sure the Cabot Cove Rotary Club would LOVE that.”
“The thing is, I wanted to be just like Oba-san Jessica when I grew up.”
“No- retired.” she smirked.
Ok- I walked right into that one. Still, I can’t help but guffaw.
“Hey- did somebody leave a door open or something?” I ask as I can see my breath.
“Nope- that’s me, I’m afraid. Gotta get used to a little chill in the air when your bartender is a yuki onna like me.” she replied.
“Small price to pay for such charming company, I’m sure.” I tell her before I realize I might be laying it on a bit thick.
She doesn’t say anything right away but flashes me a captivating smile.
“All right- so I gotta know. What brings a beautiful ice maiden like you to this little corner of Maine?” I ask her.
She shrugged. “Wanderlust, you could say. I was looking for a change of scenery and I heard there was a shortage of staff at some of the resorts around here. As soon as they found out I was a Yuki Onna, they just about hired me on the spot and even took care of my O-1A visa.”
“If you can make your own snow, I guess it’s kind of a no-brainer that a ski resort would be interested in your services.”
She nodded. “I imagine my abilities are a bit overstated- the total area I’m actually able to bring snow and ice to can be described in acres, not kilometers or miles.”
“That’s still enough to save a fortune in time and labor on snowmaking equipment, right?”
“True- although it turns out they haven’t really needed my services very much this year.” she swept an arm to point outside. “Mother nature is being very cooperative all of a sudden.”
“So with all these abilities at your disposal, what are you doing tending bar?” I ask as I’m genuinely curious.
“Thought I’d help out a little while I had some free time. Working the bar is one of the few things I can assist with around here where my abilities aren’t much of a problem. The alcohol doesn’t freeze as easily and people don’t seem to mind if their drink arrives a little chillier than usual.”
“How are you liking Maine so far?”
“I really hadn’t had a chance to explore.” she sighed. ” I’ve been busy with unpacking, orientation and snowmaking for the last couple of weeks. Still, I really appreciate the fact that it’s the same longitude as Hokkaido.” she said.
“Northernmost island in Japan. If you like Japanese culture and Siberia’s climate, then I guess Hokkaido is the place for you.”
“Is it crowded?” I ask.
“Actually, the island has about a quarter of Japan’s total landmass with only five percent of the population- so it’s not very crowded at all. A lot of mountains and wilderness.”
“Sounds beautiful.” I say dreamily as I suddenly find myself imagining her clad in a kimono with snow whirling around her as she’s standing before some sort of temple or shrine.
“Say- you’re from around here. Is there anything to do in town?”
“Well- there’s a diner, a bar…..” I begin to say, quickly realizing there really isn’t a whole lot in town that would likely keep the azure-hued beauty entertained. “Y’know what? There’s a bridge across the river to Saint Luc on the Canadian side….they have a Tom Thornton’s there that’s right off the Trans-Canada highway and open 24 hours- you can get coffee, donuts, sandwiches, soup, poutine…..they even have a panini press….” I cut myself off as I realize that I’m rambling.
However, the blue-skinned barkeep seems to be looking at me with anticipation.
“You’re making me hungry- tell me more.”
“They’ve got poutine, too. Perfect for nights like tonight.”
“What’s poutine?” she asks as she gets to work on my drink.
“It’s a Canadian dish- French fries covered with gravy and sprinkled with cheese curds.”
She looks uncertain as I’m describing this.
“It tastes much better than it sounds, trust me.” I reassure her.
“I think it sounds pretty good on a night like tonight.” she observes.
“Yeah- I imagine that would hit the spot right about now.”
“What would you like tonight, Mr Gag-Knee?” she asks, mispronouncing my last name.
“Actually, it’s more like ‘Gone-Yay’.” I correct her. “As in ‘He’s Gone? YAY!’…”
This earns a surprisingly earnest chuckle from her as she begins polishing a glass.
“Oh? Is that French?”
“Acadian. So..French-Canadian, you could say…” I nod.
“Oooh la la! So what’s your pleasure tonight?”
“So far, it’s been some banter with a beautiful ice-maiden from the Far East.”
She stopped polishing her glass for a moment and blinked in surprise at me.
“I’m sorry…..th-that was pretty corny.” I begin to stammer.
“Yes, but surprisingly well executed, Monsieur Gagne.” she says, a cute little smirk upon her face as she pronounces my name with an exaggerated French accent. “Tell you what- just for that, I’ll give you something on the house. What would you like?”
It’s a pretty generous offer on her part, although she still strikes me as a novice. I might as well take her up on it, but not ask for something too complicated.
“Th-thanks…” I stammer, certain that I’m blushing now. “By the way- I’m at a disadvantage. You know my name, but I never got yours.”
“The name’s Megumi..” she mentions. “Sometimes I go by Meg.”
The two of us are interrupted when the stage suddenly lights up. However, instead of a black clad harpy and her accompanying band, I see a petite woman with pointy ears and a large chipmunk-like tail head onto the stage with some trepidation.
The bartender seems to recognize the little figure heading out onto the stage- is that a Ratatoskr? She must work here, too.
“L-ladies and gentlemen….” the petite, auburn haired beastwoman began nervously. “I-I regret to inform you that the airport Crowin’ Jett and the Blackhawks were supposed to fly into has been closed due to inclement weather.”
This bit of news was met with disapproving grumbles from the few people still remaining in the lounge, holding out hope that tonight’s show would still get underway.
Steadying herself, the petite chipmunk girl continued.
“Tonight’s show has been cancelled- those of you with tickets please visit the box office during normal business hours for a refund or credit”
Dissatisfied patrons began getting up and filing past on their way to the exit- even though the lights were a little dim, I could see that not all of them were human.
“Th-thank you for your patience and understanding. Again, we apologize, but tonight’s show has been cancelled.”
“That’s too bad.” the yuki onna sighed. “I was kinda looking forward to seeing tonight’s show.”
“Oh? You like 80’s music?” I ask.
“Sure! I mean most of today’s music steals from a lot of 80’s artists anyway.”
I’m so pleased to have found another connoisseur of 80’s music that I nearly forgot her offer of a beverage on the house until she reminds me.
“So what would you like, Jean-Marc?”
“Hmm- how about a white Russian on the rocks?”
She goes to work, pulling a plastic jug of milk out of a small fridge under her side of the bar and grabbing a bottle of Kahlua and vodka
“Hey! I have an idea….” she said excitedly as she went about preparing my drink.
“Well- our concert’s a bust and the canteen closed down forty minutes ago. I don’t think I’ll have too much trouble coaxing the manager into closing up early tonight. Once I take care of things here, how about you and I go to this Tom Thornton’s you were telling me about?”
I can’t believe my good fortune as the lovely Yuki-Onna wants me to join her for a late night cup of coffee.
“S-sure…” I say after a moment’s hesitation. She hands me the White Russian and I eagerly take a sip. Not bad- a bit too much Kahlua, perhaps…..
“Great! Just let me slip into something more comfortable after I’m done here and we can be on our way.”
As it turns out the ‘something more comfortable’ was a classy white and blue kimono with a light blue sash tied across her waist, a pair of wooden sandals and a pair of white socks with split along the big toe that I later learned were called tabi.
I had followed the Yuki Onna back to her quarters- a compact but very modern and comfortable looking cabin- and waited outside before the two of us piled into my forty year old Jeep Wagoneer.
The defroster on the old Jeep is working overtime as fog and frost starts accumulating on Megumi’s side of the vehicle.
On our way into town, I’m told by Megumi that most of the other staff at the resort are demihumans and they stay in dormitory style accommodations. However, because her ability to create snow and ice is so sought-after, she was given a private cabin of her own as an incentive to hire on.
Also, while it seems silly and counterintuitive for a band composed of harpies to cancel a show due to inclement weather, one must remember that they still have all those instruments and sound equipment to carry around and set up. By my estimation, the nearest airport they could’ve flown into was down in Bangor. While that part of the state was under a winter storm advisory, the weather for here was a high cloud ceiling, temperatures in the 20’s and scattered snow flurries.
Alas- It looks as though our ‘date night’ is going to come to a screeching halt when we pull up to a locked gate across the road for the bridge between Wakefield and Saint Luc on the Canadian side. In my excitement, I had forgotten that the port of entry closes up at 8:00 each night on the US side. Even if that was open, the port of Entry on the Canadian side keeps similar hours.
And it’s the only border crossing around for miles in either direction.
Nothing else on the Maine side is open at this time of night, either. But I’m not ready to give up yet.
Almost as if the yuki onna senses what I’m thinking, she quietly urges me to find a side street adjacent to the river as we turn around.
I park the old Jeep on Church Street and the two of us get out, looking at the river from the embankment.
“So this river forms the boundary?” she asks as she takes in the sight of the ice-choked body of water.
“Yeah- that’s Canada on the other side. Normally we could just drive across over on the bridge, but I forgot that the checkpoints on both sides close up at 8:00 each night.” I sigh as we cautiously make our way down the embankment.
The Yuki Onna wordlessly gets on her haunches and sticks her hand into the frozen water up to her wrist.
“Yes- I can work with this…” she murmurs as she stands back up.
“What do you mean?” I ask her.
She doesn’t say anything right away. Instead, my answer seemingly comes as dozens of separate chunks of ice floating in the river start aligning themselves and connecting horizontally as if……
Megumi has an increasingly satisfied grin on her face.
As if……they were forming an impromptu walkway across the river.
Crafty little ice minx.
“That’s amazing….” I marvel as I get ready to step on the chunk of ice closest to our end of the riverbank. However, Megumi protectively holds out her arm in front of me, indicating it’s not safe to cross yet.
“I’m not done yet. These are the bricks- we just need to add a little mortar.” she explains.
Megumi rolls up the sleeve on her kimono and plunges her wrist back into the water- this time with a bit more effort and urgency. Her eyes are now closed as though she’s deep in concentration. Almost instantly, a sound like breaking glass and thousands of tiny chimes ringing comes from the river. Meg is bringing up more ice to keep everything in place and make it sturdy enough for us to walk across.
This takes her all of three minutes, and when she’s finished, the yuki onna stands up and begins dusting off her kimono.
“Now you’re just showing off.” I chuckle.
She neither confirms or denies this and simply holds out her left arm for me to grab as the two of us cautiously step onto her quickly constructed ice bridge.
“Be careful now.” She cautions as we take our first tentative steps, arm-in-arm. “It should be sturdy enough, but it might get pretty slippery in places.”
I’m too busy to notice that we’re tentatively walking across a river. I’m paying much closer attention to the beautiful, kimono-clad, exotic ice maiden from the far east who’s demurely holding onto my arm with each step. I feel so debonair just being this close to her- like we’re a couple making a grand entrance to a posh gathering at an exclusive club.
Megumi mutters something under her breath that’s quickly lost to the wind.
“What was that?” I ask.
“I’m just regretting my choice of footwear tonight.” she says as she glances down at her wooden-sandal clad feet.
“Well- you look amazing for what it’s worth.”
Megumi’s sandals on the surface icy causeway of her own making seem to be the biggest obstacle to our crossing over the river. To my quiet-but-unending joy, this prompts the yuki onna to hold on to me even tighter as the two of us shuffle across.
Before I know it, we’re at the other end of Megumi’s footpath. The ice maiden lets out a small, satisfied grunt as she hops off onto the riverbank. Once she sees that I’m clear, she approaches her own walkway, leans down and roughly pokes it with her index finger. This leads to a snapping and crunching sound coming from the other side of the river but getting closer- she’s pulling down her own icy walkway behind her.
“Is it much further?” she asks as the last of the structure crumbles into the frigid waters before us.
“It’s on the other side of town.” I reassure her. “Although it’s not a big town. Looks like the trickiest part is behind us.”
Although I’ve never snuck across the border, I’ve been to Saint Luc enough times know the layout of the town. Up the riverbank, across the Canadian National tracks, through a little grove of trees and then some residential streets before getting to Main Street. Halfway between the middle of town and the exit for the Trans Canada highway, there should be an oasis of hot coffee, donuts, soups and sandwiches waiting us….and I must admit, I am working up an appetite on this little trek.
Except….shit- I don’t have any Canadian dollars with me. Seriously- at the start of the evening, I thought I’d be rocking out to an 80’s cover band at the ski lodge outside of town. Can’t ask Megumi to pay for everything on our first date….wait- can I call this a date? Ah well- I’ve been to Tom’s enough times to know that they take credit cards.
My train of thought is interrupted as a vehicle rounds a bend ahead of us.
Have we been spotted? No- that can’t be it.
Except as the vehicle draws nearer, I can see that its a SUV with what looks like a lightbar.
And a searchlight that is now probing the trees along the side of the road parallel to the railway tracks and river.
Shit- it’s the Mounties. What the hell are they doing here?
Oh right- it’s Canada…..the country that we just entered illegally.
How did they find us so soon after Megumi made that little ice-path? Maybe they were keeping a closer watch on the riverbank than I thought. Either that or someone spotted us and called them.
Outrunning them is out of the question given how slowly and cautiously Megumi has been moving in her kimono and sandals.
The tentative beginnings of a plan start forming in my head. It’s a hell of a gamble on my part, but I imagine it’s better than spending the rest of the night in a jail cell waiting to get unceremoniously deported back across the river.
I turn to look and see the concern etched on the Yuki Onna’s face. She knows that something’s amiss as well.
“Megumi…” I say quietly as I softly cup her chin.
Here goes nothing.
I quickly lean in and kiss the yuki onna on the lips, gently shoving her against a tree by the side of the road. She lets out a startled, muffled yelp and tenses up right away but doesn’t move to break the kiss. Time seems to evaporate as my tongue and lips are greeted with a cool, pleasant, tingling sensation.
This…..this feeling couldn’t be described by a thousand poets working for centuries, and it only intensifies as I’m aware that Megumi’s tongue is now struggling to find purchase inside of my mouth. Instead of pushing away from me, each of the yuki onna’s hands are now on my shoulders.
And just like that, I’m brought crashing back down to earth as the two of us are now illuminated in the glare of the cruiser’s spotlight.
Well, so far Megumi hasn’t slapped me and fled back across the river leaving me to twist in the wind. A good start if there ever was one.
The cruiser’s spotlight is now shining away from us as I very reluctantly break the kiss, but the snow maiden and I are illuminated in the headlights as it stops. I can hear the driver’s side door open up.
“Good evening.” a voice speaks up as a figure gets out of the driver’s side.
“Oh hey, officer.” I say sheepishly.
“Mind telling me what you two doing out here this late?”
It’s not that late, is it? I ponder. Except….shit. I forgot New Brunswick was an hour ahead of Maine. Damn, he’s a big fella. Perhaps the only thing preventing him from being a defenseman on a hockey team was that he looks like he still has most of his teeth.
“Well, jeez….you know” I sigh. “My cousins are up from Fredericton visiting this week and I figure me and my lady friend here needed a little privacy. Figured we should take a nice, late night walk together, get a bit of fresh air.”
I turned around to point at Megumi and could see she had already managed to discreetly cover up our footprints from the river with more snow.
“Aren’t you guys a little uncomfortable in this cold, though?” he asks, not the least bit surprised there’s a Yuki Onna standing before him.
“Hey now- When your sweetie is an ice elemental, I suppose you get a little used to it.” I chuckle as I glance at the Yuki Onna. She seems a bit fidgety, but otherwise remains composed.
“Besides, we were on our way to Tommy’s to warm up with some coffee and a bite to eat.” I continue.
“Oh- I can think of a few more ways we can keep warm afterwards.” Megumi purred suggestively.
My heart skipped a beat- I wasn’t sure if she was play-acting for the benefit of the burly Mountie, trying to get a rise out of me or was making plans for us once this encounter with the local gendarmerie had concluded.
“You’re not driving?”
“I had a couple of cocktails earlier tonight…wasn’t a hundred percent sure I was good to drive, so figured I’d err on the side of caution.”
That part was technically true, at least.
He seems to be buying our tale of two lovers out for a stroll on a chilly night, but we’re kind of up shit creek without a paddle if he asks either one of us for-
“Can I see some ID?” he asks.
GOD DAMN IT!
“Sir!” another voice speaks up urgently as the cruiser’s passenger door opens up. It’s a woman, although I can’t make out her features since I still have the dimmed headlights obstructing my view.
“What’s today’s date?”
“What town are we in?”
“Can you tell me your name?”
She steps closer and I can see that the female Mountie has hair like finely spun gold, although most of it is up in a bun. And ears like pointy little daggers.
Oh shit- it’s an elf. And for the second time tonight, I’m getting questioned by a gorgeous non-human woman that I hardly know.
“Gagne, huh? Quebecois name, but his English is pretty good.” She remarks to her partner after barraging me with questions. Nine times out of ten, that would be an insult. However, if she thinks I’m actually from Quebec, all the better.
“Alert, responsive. Off on the date, but only by an hour or so- an honest mistake, I’m sure. Seems like he’s in his right mind- I couldn’t detect any hexes or spellcraft, either. Just some residual energy around the face- you must be one hell of a kisser, Frosty,” she says to Megumi.
I realize that the blonde Mountie was right about the date. The river isn’t just the boundary between the US and Canada, but also the Eastern and Atlantic time zones. If we crossed into the Canadian side at around 11:00 on the night of the 13th, then it’s already the 14th here.
Hang on a second. That barrage of questions the elf asked was akin to a DUI test, only it was to see if I was under the influence of any magic or charms. For now, it seems like they don’t think I’ve done anything wrong- their line of questioning indicates they think Megumi is the one who’s up to no good. Before I can say anything, the yuki onna speaks up.
“Wait a minute- you don’t think I’m going to-?” the lightly blushing yuki onna began to ask, only to be cut off by the female Mountie.
“Mr Gagne, you do understand that you’re out in unsafe conditions with a youkai known to thrive in this sort of environment and with a history of using the ice and snow to lure and entrap men?” she asks me brusquely.
“She’s not entrapping anybody, ma’am. I was just telling your partner that we were on our way to Tommy’s together. She really likes going out for a walk on nights like these, and I figured I’d join her.”
The elfin Mountie glowers while looking me up and down. Before I know it, she’s pressing a business card into my hand.
“First sign of trouble- the slightest bit of frost in your veins- I want you to call me or anyone else at the nearest RCMP detachment. Some of these snow witches can be pretty underhanded.”
“That won’t be necessary, officer. I-” I begin to say.
“What did you just say?” Megumi nearly snarled at the blonde policewoman. Clearly not used to her authority being so openly challenged, the elfin Mountie seemed somewhat taken aback.
“I was just pointing out that some ice elementals can be incredibly deceitful and use their abilities to ensnare unfortunate men.” she huffed.
“Corporal….” her human partner tries to interject.
“Is a centuries-old libel the only arrow in your quiver, blondie!?” the yuki onna retorted.
“It’s not libel if it’s actually true.”
“Oh my….that’s rather cold of you, officer! I’m starting to wonder who the real ice queen is here.” Megumi taunts.
“Listen up, Frosty…”
“That’s enough, corporal!” the other officer spoke up.
“All right- I think we’re done here. You two have a pleasant evening.” she says curtly before getting ready to head back to the cruiser.
Even if I only just met Megumi, I’m clearly not happy with the tone the elfin Mountie took with her.
“Yeah- I’d say we’re done here.” I say churlishly. “Happy Valentine’s Day, officer.” I follow up., venom dripping from my voice as I shift my gaze from the elfin Mountie to her bigger partner and back to her.
The uniformed elf stops in her tracks for a moment.
“Happy Valentine’s Day to you two…” she almost growls as she resumes heading back to the passenger side of the cruiser, slamming the door shut behind her once she gets in.
Her burly partner isn’t as quick in returning to the warmth of the idling Chevy Tahoe, but he eventually gets in and puts the cruiser in gear, slowly heading off towards the center of town.
“Kakkoi! Jason Bourne desu…” I hear Megumi say as she starts fanning herself while the cruiser’s taillights get smaller and smaller.
I can’t remember poutine and a grilled cheese and bacon panini ever tasting so good.
Spread out on the table before us were two piping hot cups of coffee, a basket of french fries smothered in gravy and sprinkled with cheese curds, a couple of grilled cheese and bacon paninis, a bowl of broccoli cheddar soup, a donut, an eclair and a little box of Tom Toms donut holes.
It sounds like a bit much, but man did we ever earn it.
“I was so ready for this…” Megumi squealed in delight at the offerings on the table in front of her before demurely clasping her hands together. “Ittadakimasu!”
“You and me both.” I say as I bite a honey glazed Tom tom clean in half before picking up the mug of coffee.
“Don’t they have these in America?”
“Well, they do- but it’s a Canadian chain, so there’s not as many. I think the one closest to us on the US side is all the way down in Houlton, and that’s not open all night like this one.”
“I see- that’s too bad.”
“We do get to keep our mugs, though.”
“Really?” Megumi asked before she started appraising her mug.
I nod silently as the yuki onna looks distracted.
“Jeez…” she sighed as she looked out the window. “What was the deal with those two cops? Don’t they have anything better to do?”
“Honestly, probably not. I mean….last year, they found a stolen Pepsi machine in a potato field.”
“Really?” she giggled.
“Oh, ayuh. Huge story on either side of the border for weeks. It’s no Cabot Cove.”
Megumi has her mug pressed against her lips as she tries stifling a laugh.
It doesn’t work- even when she’s coughing and nearly spewing coffee all over the place, the beautiful Yuki Onna’s laugh is lyrical and melodious. I smile, knowing that my little callback to Murder She Wrote almost made Megumi laugh coffee through her nose.
“Did they ever find who took the Pepsi machine?” she asks as she composes herself.
“Not that I know of. No suspects have come forward, no new leads or anything.” I pause, smirking at Megumi. “Guess you could call it a ‘Cold Case’….”
The lovely yuki onna furrows her brow and I can feel her playfully kicking at me under the table as retribution for the awful pun.
“I bet Oba-san Jessica would’ve cracked the case.”
“Nah- not a high enough body count.” I muse.
“Still- I suppose I shouldn’t be too upset at that pointy-eared cop.” Meg muses. “After all- she’s indirectly responsible for my first kiss.”
My eyes widen when I hear that.
“You know her?”
The smirking yuki onna shakes her head ‘no’. For some reason, I could imagine an NBA-style shot clock over my head counting down the remaining seconds before what she was telling me fully sank in.
That attempted diversion by me after we crossed over was actually the beautiful ice maiden’s first kiss?
“No way- you mean you’ve never….” I start to ask.
Megumi’s grin broadens as she shakes her head ‘no’.
“M-Megumi….I’m sorry. I didn’t know…….” i begin to say, although she doesn’t seem particularly upset about it.
“No need to apologize.” Megumi said. “Play your cards right and I might let you do it again, Monsieur Gagne…..”
“But…how can that be? You’re gorgeous!” I stammer in amazement. “I’m sure lots of guys would’ve jumped at the chance….”
“Many people in my homeland still believe the same thing that pushy elf believes.” she said, her tone suddenly forlorn as she shifts her gaze to the window next to our booth. It’s already starting to frost up. “Centuries can pass, but superstitions and legends remain.”
“Hey now.” I try and reassure her as I stand up from the booth. “If you were interested in luring me to an icy grave, I doubt you would’ve taken me to an all night coffee and donut shop first.”
It’s a date- just coffee and a bite to eat while chatting and getting to know each other, but I’m beginning to see how much just this little outing truly means to her.
She’s been lonely for awhile now. Much like I was when my friends and family started leaving town. That must be why I feel such a bond with her even after only knowing her for less than an evening.
Before she says anything else, I slip into her side of the booth so that we’re sitting next to each other. I produce my tablet and a pair of earbuds.
“Well- just because tonight’s show got cancelled doesn’t mean you and I can’t enjoy some kick-ass 80’s music.” I say as I hold up a bud for her.
I hit play on what I’ve dubbed as my ‘Kick Ass 80’s playlist’ once I see that she’s put it in her right ear.
After a few chords, she turns to ask me “Is this Nirvana?”
“You’re not the first one to ask that….” I chuckle. “It’s Eighties by Killing Joke- it came out about eight years before the Nirvana song you’re thinking of.”
I thought she was nodding in approval at first, but she’s actually bobbing her head to the song’s hard, driving tempo. It doesn’t take long before she pantomimes drumming on the tabletop, stopping every once in awhile to help herself to a gravy-laden french fry.
The next track comes up and she looks at me.
“This is the Beatles, isn’t it?”
“Not quite- this is a cover of Dear Prudence by Siouxsie and the Banshees.” I explain. “I liked their version better than the original, which is why I downloaded it from some shady Russian website chock full of malware.”
“I’m not sure you should just go around telling people that.” she smiled.
“I regret nothing.”
Before I knew it, the beautiful ice maiden’s head slumped on my shoulder as each song by the Church, New Order, the Smithereens, Tears for Fears, the Pixies, Love and Rockets, the Cult, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, the Psychedelic Furs or Echo and the Bunnymen cycled through the playlist.
Her skin was cool to the touch without being clammy and her hair had a pleasant spearmint aroma to it. She seemed to be drifting off.
“Hey- you still awake, Megumi?”
“Mm-hmm…” she says drowsily as she shifts sideways a little bit while she lazily puts a hand on my chest. I can feel her coolness through my shirt- it’s almost tingling. “You have strange taste in music, but I’m not complaining…”
I figure the kimono-clad yuki-onna has drifted off to sleep with my 80’s playlist as her lullaby until she speaks up again.
“Should we get going?” she asks.
Damn it- I’m happy to just sit here in the embrace of this quirky, beautiful ice-maiden as the wee hours of the morning slip by in a small town Canadian donut shop, but I know that we should probably get going if we want to cross the border again by dawn.
“Yeah- I’m afraid so…” I sigh after a few minutes.
Her azure eyes shot wide open as she realized something.
“Oh no! You don’t have to be at work today, do you?” she asks me as I slide out of the booth.
“Nah- that’s part of the reason why I went out for some drinks and live music tonight.” I tell Megumi. “I didn’t have to be at work the following morning.”
She seems reassured by this and gives me a smile and quick nod while I take her by her cool hand and help her to her feet after she slides up out of the booth.
“Oooh- that looks like a cute little place. We should try that sometime.” Megumi said as she peered into the window of a shuttered little bakery in downtown St. Luc- Le Patisserie Jaune– that was in a bright yellow wooden building. We still had a few hours to go before it would open up.
“I’m game.” I shrug, somewhat amused as she’s taking in the sights of the little Canadian border town. I smile a little when I realize Megumi is already making plans for our second date.
She had been looking at every little street sign and storefront, asking me what each sign had meant in English (clearly overestimating my French-speaking ability).
“Rue Chemin du Fer?”
“So what are those flags I see around town? I know they aren’t Canadian…” Megumi asks.
“The blue, white and red ones?” I ask.
“That’s the Acadian flag- you’ll see some of them on the US side, too. It’s basically the French tricolor with a yellow star added onto the field of blue.”
The beautiful Yuki Onna is suddenly up on her tiptoes, cupping my cheek as she gently kisses me on the lips.
“Oh my…” she titters. “I thought I saw another police car, but I guess I was mistaken.”
She was just being coy and playful now- after looking around, the only car around was about a half mile behind us and it pulled into the gas station adjacent to Tom Thornton’s.
“If you’re going to do this every time you think you see a cop car, we’re taking the long way back and going by the State Police barracks.” I chuckle.
“You know, Jean-Marc…..if you’re not doing anything else, I wouldn’t mind listening to the rest of that playlist back at my place.”
“Well now, Miss Megumi. I don’t have to be anywhere else today, so it’s a date.”
Before I know it, we’re at the riverbank and I’m waiting for the Yuki Onna to work her magic once again.
It seems to take a bit longer than before, but after about five minutes, Megumi has created a crooked-but-passable walkway across the river and onto the Maine side of the border. Just like before, Megumi is holding onto the crook of my elbow.
I realize something as we’re a little more than halfway across Megumi’s bridge.
“Hang on a sec, Meg. I just thought of something.”
“The Border Patrol. I remember reading that they have infrared cameras and optics- at least on the southern border. I don’t know if they use that here, but do you think you could whip up a little something to cover our tracks just in case they do?”
She ponders this for a bit before answering. “Yes- I think I have just the thing…”
No sooner had she said that than she blows in a little semicircle before us and a little miniature snow squall begins to whip up around us, kicking up swirling snowflakes.
“Wow- that’s amazing, Megumi!” I say as we continue forward. The other end of the river is so close that I can almost feel it.
Unfortunately what I couldn’t feel was the ice giving way beneath my feet. Before I knew it, I was sinking and already halfway submerged before I even heard the ice crack. I flail frantically at the opening that I fell through, but I’m unable to maintain my grip and sink under.
Megumi had been looking forward, but she turns around in time to see me falling through the ice. In the darkness, I can look up and see Megumi’s face looking at me in astonishment and horror. I try swimming up through the hole in the ice I fell through, but my vision is being obscured by smaller chunks of ice beginning to swirl.
Oh God- what if that Elf was right!? I ask myself in horror before quickly banishing the thought.
“Jean-Marc! Please….take my hand!” I can hear the Yuki Onna call out from what seems like a million miles away. A ghostly white appendage reaches through the water and beckons to me.
I try my best to spur my body to keep heading towards her before I slip into the darkness, but its getting more and more difficult to see. My vision keeps slipping as I’m having a harder and harder time.
Megumi wants me to join her, but my body is starting to fail me. I can’t even panic as numbness and darkness overcome me- I just feel myself…..floating and blackness.
Everything went black.
Warmth is the first thing I’m aware of.
I’m pretty sure I heard the crackling of flames- not an inferno, but someone burning logs and kindling…..like a fireplace.
I’m not sure I want to open my eyes, but when I do, I’m treated to a stunning wooden interior with the walls occasionally adorned with wall scrolls featuring flowers and some sort of Asian script.
I’m in bed with some covers over me.
“A-am I dead?” I ask out loud.
“No- you’re in my cabin.”
“Oh. It’s very cozy.” I remark as I look around. Then I pause before looking under the quilt and sheets. “Why am I naked?”
“Y-your clothes were all wet, so I took them off….th-they’re drying o-over by the fire.”
“How did we get back here?” I ask.
“Unbelievable.” I shake my head.
“I-it’s the truth!” the yuki onna says frantically.
“You drove stick?”
“Yes……j-just not very well.”
I chuckle softly. “Don’t feel too bad. Nobody drives stick anymore.”
“Jean-Marc, I’m so sorry….I…I didn’t mean to look when I was taking off your clothes, but I had to.” she frets before becoming even more flush. “I mean…..I didn’t have to look at y-y-your thing….I meant I had to get you out of those soaking clothes. I….I’d offer you some of my clothes, but I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t fit you and I don’t think you’re into that sort of thing…” she pauses to fan herself. “N-not that I’m judging you if you are!”
My whole life flashed before my eyes during a near-death experience earlier tonight, but all I can do is smile at the flustered and nervous yuki onna.
“Megumi….” I say quietly. “Please…come here.”
“Jean-Marc…I’m so so sorry…” her voice quivers as she approached me at the bedside.
“Please….listen to what I’m about to tell you.” I beckon her to come closer.
“Y-yes?” the poor girl is on the brink of tears.
I motion for her to come closer and sure enough, she leans in.
“If…if you hate me and never want to see me again, I’ll completely understand.” Megumi blurts out awkwardly.
“Megumi…thank you.” I say as I slip both arms around her neck with much more vigor than she anticipated, pulling her in for a kiss. Much like when I was hoping to distract the Mounties, the startled Yuki Onna lets out a muffled little half help, half moan.
“You saved my life.” I quietly reassure her as I break the kiss.
“Your life wouldn’t have needed saving if I hadn’t dragged you along just so I could stuff my face with donuts…” she lamented.
“Nobody put a gun to my head, Megumi.” I said calmly. “I wanted to join you….I had a lot of fun, just talking with you,showing you around and getting to know you.”
“Please….you don’t have to lie to try and make me feel better.” she pouted as she looked away from me.
“I’m not lying. I actually want to do it again- just…..let’s try and do it during normal hours so we don’t have to sneak across the river like that. Although what you did back there was pretty cool….” I marvel.
“R-really? You’d want to go out with me again?”
I give her another quick kiss on the lips.
“Absolutely….or we could just stay here and listen to more 80’s tracks.”
“I…I’d like that.” she ponders as she bites her lower lip.
“Is something wrong?” I ask after an awkward silence.
“Oh Jean-Marc…” Megumi said as the tears started flowing freely. “I was so scared not just that I’d lose you.….but in your final moments, you’d think that I had done something to hurt or betray you.”
“Shhh….it’s all right. Before everything went black, I saw you reaching out for me…” I reassure her.
“Ah! I almost forgot….” she said as she squirmed a little and broke free from me. “I managed to save your tablet, too.”
“Really?” I ask, almost giddy. “You are a lifesaver, Megumi…”
She walks over to a little counter on the other side of the small cabin and holds up my tablet so I can see it with my own eyes.
I get up from the bed clutching the quilt to preserve my modesty, although I’m nowhere near as interested in hiding my arousal with Megumi as I was when I first woke up.
“No no, Jean-Marc!” she cautions, her expression a bit panicky for a second as she puts the tablet down and moves towards me. “The doc said you need some more rest before you start moving around.”
“Y-yeah…” she explained nervously as she closes in. “Dr Ming Fang our on-site doctor and is well versed in a number of both traditional Far Eastern medicines and contemporary medical practices.”
“She’s a Hakutaku….a sage, if you will.” Megumi was blushing. “She was also very complimentary of your…..um….thing.”
“Holy shit, Meg! Did you host a show and tell with my junk while I was out?” I snap.
“It…it was medically necessary. That’s what Doc Fang said.” She reassures me as she tries coaxing me back to bed. “Come on, JM….you really should get some rest.”
“But I’ve been out all day- doesn’t that count as rest?” I tease as the quilt suddenly ‘slips’ and I’m standing before Megumi without a stitch to wear and undeniably aroused.
“Oh! Oh..my, Jean-Marc! I….I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to….” she blushes furiously as she looks away from me.
Instead of reaching for the quilt to cover myself up, I gently grab Megumi’s hand so it’s on my chest and directly over my heart.
“Meg? Do I feel warm to you?” I ask her.
She finally summons the resolve to look at me, although she’s casting furtive glances at my rigid member.
“Y-yes, JM….very warm.”
I slip my arms around her waist and begin playing with the sash on her kimono.
“It’s all thanks to you, you know…..if you didn’t save me from drowning, I wouldn’t be here- so very warm and with you in my arms.”
The lovely ice-maiden is fidgeting now, trying to decide if she wants to explore my body now that it’s on full display for her or help me get out of her stunning kimono.
I lean in and give her a chaste kiss on the forehead, although I can feel my granite-hard member brushing up against the fabric of her kimono.
“And I want to share this warmth with you….as a token of my gratitude for you, Megumi.”
“J-j-jean Mmmmarc…..ah….this is all happening so fast.” she almost whimpers as I start kissing her soft and elegant neck while waiting for her answer. She takes a few deep breaths and steadies herself as she resumes speaking. “Your warmth….? A…a human’s body heat?” She said clearly, only her eyes are half-lidded and she’s looking up. “A Yuki Onna has….a higher tolerance to the cold, but they will always seek out warmth. Your body heat….your warmth? That’s the most precious and intimate gift a human could ever offer a Yuki Onna….”
“I mean what I said….” I whispered in Megumi’s ear before leaving a trail of small kisses down her cool,pale blue neck.
“Y-yes!” she moaned. “I want you to share this warmth with me….right here.”
No sooner had I said that than I mentally shouted “Jackpot!” to myself. It seems my fidgeting with Megumi’s sash had paid dividends already and I could see it start to loosen around her shoulders. She was aware of this and her right hand kept it partially up, giving it a classy off-the-shoulder look for a moment before she let the garment fall to the floor.
Megumi was not wearing a bra underneath, and one arm moved across her sizeable bust to conceal it. She was wearing something similar to panties- I later learned it was called a fundoshi.
“You look amazing…” I marvel as I take in the sight of the almost completely nude ice maiden.
“R-really?” she asks, although instead of covering up, she does a little turn which gives me a good look at her smooth and shapely backside.
“You seem like the kind of girl who could look good in just about anything.” I point out. I would’ve said more, but the beautiful Yuki Onna threw her arms around me and began passionately kissing me. This knocked the two of us off balance, but we managed to land in Megumi’s bed with the Yuki Onna on top of me.
“Megumi!?” I ask, panting as she broke the kiss.
I run my fingers through her impossibly silky hair, amazed at my good fortune that this beautiful snow maiden desires intimacy with me.
“Happy Valentine’s Day.”
A little smile plays upon the corner of her lips as she leans in and gives my earlobe a playful nibble.
“Jean-Marc Gagne…..I am going to make this a Valentine’s Day you will never forget.” she half-whispers, half growls.