Part 1: A Wish

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Dear Anna,

At the top of the world, there is a place that no one truly knows. There the sun shines half of the year and hibernates for the other half. There the howl of the cold wind echoes with song and soft melodies. There the stars shine brighter in the night over the ice-glazed waters, and the terrible bite of the snow is lessened by the presence of hidden magic.

It is the North Pole, and contrary to popular belief, it is not merely the home of a jolly, fat old elf and his little helpers—though never would I suggest that it is not at all the home of dear Santa Claus. No, rather this land is home to a world of wonders that few have seen. I just happen to be one of these rare few, these select few who have seen her and know she is there.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let us begin with a simple introduction. My name is Kip Lark, and I am the man who first discovered the North Pole. I'm sure this brings dozens of questions to mind. Likely you have never heard this about me, and you wouldn't. The feat is attributed to either Frederick Cook or Robert Peary depending on the stories you have followed. But I am here to set the record straight before—Ah, again I am getting ahead of myself.

You see, it all started because of a wish.

***

"Kip Lark, grand adventurer and Harvard graduate! Isn't this so exciting!" Sarah Welsh wrapped her dainty arms around his neck and kissed him lightly on the cheek, "Oh, but I do hope your adventuring won't last so terribly long," she added with a tight squeeze.

He could smell the strong perfume dotted on her neck, and he hated it. He leaned away slightly, trying to gently—and politely—pull out of her grasp. He had to hand it to her. She was persistent.

"As do I," Mrs. Lark approached on the arm of Mr. Lark. Their twelve-year-old daughter Isabelle clung to the sleeve of Mr. Lark's tailored suit. She looked as pail and sickly as ever, wearing a light violet dress that brought out the purple rings around her tired eyes. Her blonde hair looked as if there had at least been an attempt to run a brush through the curls, but the ends were still mostly tangled.

Kip knelt down before her, disregarding his mother's quick warnings that he not muddy his nice pants, and said, "You should be in bed," as he brushed her cheek gently.

She smiled, closing her eyes and leaning into his touch.

"She wouldn't have it," Mr. Lark sighed, "More stubborn than her mother."

Mrs. Lark cast him a sharp glance that went unnoticed.

Kip smiled at her, touching her nose with the tip of his finger. "Stay stubborn," he said. He hoped her willfulness would help her to survive.

"Do you think it will?" Sarah suddenly asked.

"What?" Kip looked back over his shoulder at her.

"Your adventure. Do you think you will be long?" she begged of him, coming closer to where he knelt by Isabelle. She batted her thick, black-coated lashes at him with watery eyes.

"Of course he'll be long," Isabelle croaked. "He's going to the top of the world and no one has ever done it before."

Kip smiled lovingly at her.

"Yes, our son is just as damn stubborn as the rest of the family," Mr. Lark murmured under his breath.

Mrs. Lark ignored him. "Kip," she said, getting the same look on her face whenever she spoke on the matter of which she was about to address. She lowered her voice and went on in little more than a broken, emotional whisper, "Must you really do this?"

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