Chapter Four: Tough

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"'North's Pole'." My lips instantly savored the crisp sound of those words forming on my tongue, a clear image of the stunning, frostbitten Arctic tundra blowing into my mind's view. The sign I had read was a warm and creamy brown, reminding me of the chewy interior of a gingerbread man's body, and the letters that formed the name of the shop were expertly hand-painted in careful, precise strokes, all bends and lines following the red-and-white striped pattern of a peppermint candy cane. Underneath the sign was the gigantic window displaying the merchandise that was sold from within...

"Toys!" Anna squealed, pressing her hands, from her palms to her fingertips, together tightly. Her eyes flitted from each and every shiny object gleaming behind the glass, all of them beckoning to us to buy them. With joy, Anna smiled at me, nodding her head. "This, if anything, will be the coolest job ever."

"I don't know, Anna," I said to her, shrugging a shoulder. My fingers tightened around the hem of my shirt, discomfort causing my knuckles to fade into white. "It seems a litte...childish."

"That's the point, silly!" My sister leaned forward, latching on to my wrist and pulling me towards the door.

Christmas, I immediately thought, right after the smell of unproccessed cookies with natural flavors hit my nose. I couldn't help but smile. Somehow, just being inside this world of intended youth and freedom forced the impossible knot of scratchy rope inside my throat to unravel.

"Hello! Hello!" a high-spirited and feminine voice called out, the sound echoing from the back of the store.

"Hey, Elsa," Anna whispered, crooking her arm to nudge me with the round bump of her elbow. "Should we say "Hello" back...twice?"

Before I could respond, the source of the voice appeared in a flash of lively colors right in front of us. Brilliant lavender eyes shimmered at us, the lashes that spanned out like the wings of a bird ducking several times in excitement. "No need," she replied, answering Anna's question. She smiled, revealing a set of perfectly flossed, perfectly cleaned teeth. "I just repeat everything I say."

Anna cocked an eyebrow, a mischevious glint in the grin she displayed. "You didn't repeat what you just said now."

"Anna," I hissed, but the woman laughed, nodding her head. "I don't always live up to my word," she admitted, tucking a strand of her brown hair behind an ear. It was short, but very pretty, with feathers of various shades of pinks, yellows, and greens interwoven expertly.

Suddenly, she stuck out a hand, her fingers curling around my palm in a frantic handshake. "Please, call me Tooth."

What? My mind flitted back to her smile, and I understood the nickname. Or was it a nickname?

"I'm Anna," my sister piped. She lifted one of her arms, coiling it around my shoulders. "And Elsa."

"Elsa?" A thick, baritone voice resonated from behind the front counter. My eyes widened in surprise when a tall man rose above us, his figure dropping upon us a sea of shadow. From among the soft, white curls in his beard, a pair of lips parted to speak once more. "You knohw, 'Elsa" means 'Truth' een Spanish."

"Hey, North," Tooth said cheerily, and she dashed away, returning to her post in the back of the store.

Judging by his name, I assumed North was the owner of the toy shop. Though, even if Tooth hadn't revealed it, I would've been able to guess anyway. The tightly-knit braids of his homely, maroon sweater, the smooth and wonderful crinkle in his sky blue eyes, the permanent glowing red of his cheeks...Everything about his welcoming appearance spelled out his love for children.

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