by Shizumi Kurohane

The snow fell in clumps of puffy, cotton balls. He listened intently to the actor.

"I have to… save… Fantastica!" Atreyu gritted through clenched teeth as the wind blew the snow onto his near-frozen body.

His calves contracted to bring up his unwilling foot. He took several more steps before he descended into little puffs of snow.

Everyone waited for a handful of seconds before bursting into a standing ovation. The lights came back on, the fan stopped blowing cotton balls about, and the director stood to shout, "Great job, everyone! That's it for today."

The crew went about cleaning up the set and he stood to walk over to the smiling actor who had just face-fallen for this small production.

"Great job, Yuushin," he offered a hand.

"Thanks to you," Yuushin replied.

"What are friends for? I am the coordinator, after all."

He helped Yuushin up and they made their way to the changing room. Yuushin stood at the door of his room.

"Wanna go out for drinks to celebrate?" he asked.

"Uh, our next rehearsal is tomorrow night, though. So we can't go overboard."

"Of course. I'll go help the crew clean up. Call me when you're done."

It wasn't long before Yuushin came out of his dressing room calling for 'Eichi.' Yuushin found him purging the set of its obstructions, even then.

"There you are. Need some help?"

"No, we're done. Come on, let's go."

They took a taxi to 'Moonshine,' which was written in roman characters. When they got there, a girl spotted them and asked, "Are you Tetsuki Yuushin? The guy who's starring as Atreyu in The Never Ending Story play?"

Yuushin gave a small smile and replied, "Ah, sou."

The girl gave a gleeful squeal and asked for his autograph.

"I liked you in all your other roles as well; your action parts are killer!"

Yuushin gave a heartfelt laugh and patted Eichi on the back. "This is the guy who put all those awesome moves together for me. You should be praising him."

"Wow! You came up with all those?" The girl awed.

Eichi gave a nervous laugh.

After the girl took both autographs, they made their way into the club. It was busy for Christmas Eve's eve. They went to the bar to sit down. As they were ordering their drinks, a girl in a 'Mrs. Claus' outfit walked up to them and handed Yuushin a bird figurine.

"What's this?" he asked.

But she had gone. The bartender came back with their beverages and, seeing the fowl, answered them.

"Ah, you lucky bastard! You've got a turtledove there!"

The two blinked. "A what?"

"A turtledove. You don't know what a turtledove is? Haven't you ever heard the story of the two mournful doves?"

The pair shook their heads.

"One Christmas Eve, two lovers were separated by a blizzard. In the morning, a turtledove came to each of them and lead them back to one another."

"So why was a given one?"

"We try to mimic to story every year; try to bring two lonely souls together."

"But what if I was already in a relationship?"

The bartender laughed. "You wouldn't be coming to a club this close to Christmas with a fellow if you were, I suspect. But if you are, I can have her take it back."

"No, I was just curious."

"Well then, good luck." The bartender winked and Yuushin knew he meant 'Do you best.'

After midnight, a man began to sing and play an acoustic guitar, situated on a small stage accompanied by a drum set. They decided to go after the man was done playing. When the last song ended at three in the morning, Eichi went to the bathroom. When he came out, he saw on the floor a turtledove. The Mrs. Claus wasn't far. He picked it up and walked it over to her.

"Did you lose this?"

The Mrs. Claus blinked once and looked in his hand. She smiled at him and shook her head. He blushed and stumbled over his words.

"Earth to Eichi."

His eyes flickered, and then he recoiled away in recognition.

"You okay? I've already called the taxi, but if you're not feeling well…"

"No. Let's go…"

"Wait. What's that in your hand?"

Eichi paled. "N-Nothing…"

"Oh, come on. Let me have a look…"

And from Eichi's hand, he pried the concealed item. Yuushin was a tad astonished at what he had unearthed.

"She gave you the other?"

Eichi explained what had happened holding his head in his hands, shutting his eyes and groaning at the absurdity of it all. But Yuushin was full of mirth and gave a robust chuckle. Eichi was confoundedly speechless.

"I was going to turn down who ever got the other," he explained, "But if it's you…" he gave a shrug, "let's go to my place."

And with that, Yuushin led Eichi to the awaiting taxi.

The End

NOTE: This story was published in INK 2008. For more information about INK visit the website at "teachers. dadeschools. net/ jmeyers2" (REMOVE SPACES).