A dragon for christmas, p.1

A Dragon for Christmas, page 1

 

A Dragon for Christmas
 

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A Dragon for Christmas


  A NineStar Press Publication

  Published by NineStar Press

  P.O. Box 91792,

  Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87199 USA.

  www.ninestarpress.com

  A Dragon for Christmas

  Copyright © 2017 by M.D. Neu

  Cover Art by Natasha Snow Copyright © 2017

  Edited by: Jason Bradley

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form, whether by printing, photocopying, scanning or otherwise without the written permission of the publisher. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact NineStar Press at the physical or web addresses above or at [email protected]

  ISBN: 978-1-947904-67-5

  Printed in the USA

  First Edition

  December, 2017

  A Dragon for Christmas

  M.D. Neu

  Table of Contents

  Dedication

  Acknowledgements

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  About the Author

  For my niece Breanne who inspired Carmen and my sister Dawn who is now and has always been Rella.

  Acknowledgements

  This story would not have been possible without my friends and fellow writers over at Scribophile. You’ve helped me grow and taught me more about writing and story craft than any class or book ever could.

  Again, I need to thank my editor Jason and all the folks at NineStar Press for making this the best possible story it can be.

  Lastly, I have to thank my partner and husband Eric for all is support, without him none of this would be possible.

  Chapter One

  “CARMEN, MIJA, YOU awake? Do you want something to eat?”

  I open my eyes. “I’m not hungry.”

  “You need to eat. How do you expect to keep your strength?”

  I don’t respond. The magical charms upset my stomach to the point where I can’t eat. I know they are supposed to fight the curse, but do they have to make me feel so bad? Even the ones my dad helps to create. They all suck.

  “Mija?”

  “I’ll eat something later, I promise.” I have to respond, or Mom’ll keep bugging me. All I want to do is rest.

  I glance out the window to the training yard. This year, I’m getting my dragon for Christmas, and I’ll have different charms that hopefully won’t make me feel crummy all the time. That’ll be good. I thought I was going to get it a few years ago when Mattie got hers, but my bonding with the Yellow-Tip Dragon didn’t stick even with the fancy charms the Master Dragon Trainer created.

  It sucked after the Yellow-Tip was gone and I was cleared of its influence. I had to start the whole testing and training process again. It was either go through the process or have the curse come back full force, and I really didn’t want that to happen.

  Oh look, an African Tiger-Stripe just flew by the window.

  There are all kinds of different dragons that people can get, like the California Green Belly—that’s what Mattie has. I’m hoping for the Blue Bottom from Lake Tahoe or the Mountain Poppy—it’s a pretty orange. I suppose I shouldn’t be picky as long as I get a dragon. I have to remind myself not everyone can get one. You have to be born special, like me. I forget the exact day, but back when I was seven, my folks and the Master Dragon Trainer told me I was going to get my very own dragon. I was so excited because I met Mattie around the same time, and I realized when we grew up I was going to marry her.

  I watch the dragons flying around down in the training yard amongst the trees. Seeing the other kids playing with their dragons, I wish I could be with them. It’s not cold and there isn’t any rain today, but I’m stuck in my room, recovering from my last round of tests. I shift in my bed for a better view out the window, but I can’t see Mattie or Gary, her dragon. She must be with her parents.

  I hope she comes by. She smells like strawberries, and her smile and laugh make me feel better.

  When I talk about marrying Mattie, my dad tells me to focus on my dragon first. My mom doesn’t like me talking like that. I think it upsets her, but I don’t get why.

  When I tell the DTs (Dragon Techs) about me and Mattie, they smile and remind me I need to focus on my testing and training.

  Dragon training is important, but so is being friends with Mattie. Why can’t I do both at the same time? I guess it’s because the training isn’t easy and I get tired a lot, but if that’s what it takes to get my dragon, then I’m gonna do it.

  I shift again, unable to get comfortable. I’ve been in this room too long and need to get outside and move around. If I were at home, I’d be in my own room. My bed is huge and fluffy with lots of pillows. Mom let me pick them out myself. I love my house, it always smells like freshly baked bread. Well, it used to, before I started training for my dragon. Now it smells funny, like the training center. My mom is always cleaning and doesn’t want to bake anymore.

  Still, I’m lucky. I don’t live far from one of the best dragon training campuses in the country, the Packard Family Dragon Foundation. It’s amazing, and right next door is this big fancy college. I hope to go there when I get older, but my dad wants me to go to his school where he teaches. Anyway, I have time before I have to make that choice.

  A Gilroy Glider soars by my window. It’s double the size of the African Tiger-Stripe and is a solid brown color. So cool.

  There are three humungous dragon-breeding centers here as well, so I’m doubly lucky. I’ve gotten to go to the big facility in San Jose, where we live. It’s huge and filled with at least one of every type of dragon. Mattie and I went there once during one of her extended stays at the center while she was training. We had such a blast.

  Mattie’s family has to come from Reno for her training. Now that she has her dragon, she only needs to come and make sure the bond is holding and ensure she and her dragon are getting along. They also check her charms to make sure they are still assisting with the dragon bond. Sometimes they need to exchange them for stronger charms.

  I can’t wait for that.

  Mattie’s dragon is red and green with big wings as long as a school bus. Most California Green Bellies have a lot of green in them and are gigantic, like the size of a car. I bet Mattie will be able to fly on Gary if she wants to, someday when he’s full-grown. Gary started out tiny and all green, but now when I see him, he’s mostly red, but he still has his green belly, which has tiny little hairs that make it fuzzy and soft.

  According to this book I read on dragons, the California Green Belly used to spit fire, but that trait was bred out of them a long time ago. That kinda sucks because a fire-breathing dragon would be so cool.

  Gary and Mattie seem to get along. And I guess it’s good he doesn’t breathe fire. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to Mattie or me. I’ve gotten to go out with them in the yard a few times during their training sessions. He’s amazing. And makes me want my own dragon even more.

  I’ve got the name of my dragon picked out, but I’m not supposed to say yet, so I don’t.

  My dragon, when I get her, I’m sure is going to be a Blue Bottom with a purple body and long blue wings. She’s going to have a sleek fast body, not big and bulky like Gary.

  I cough.

  “You okay, mija?” my mom asks from behind her tablet, brown eyes narrowing. Her black hair is brushed back in a ponytail, and I think she has perfect eyebrows.

  S
he and Dad are here most days. This last session was really hard on me, but I pulled through and the new charms seem to have helped with the curse, even with the loss of appetite it caused. When I woke up the other day, they were both in my room, watching me. Now whenever I move or cough, my mom asks if I’m all right.

  Ugh.

  “I’m fine. Just tired of being in bed.”

  “Later, we can take you out to the yard. If you promise to eat something.”

  I nod.

  My mom goes back to her tablet.

  I suppose I shouldn’t complain. My mom works for a high-tech company that gave her a lot of time off for my training. My dad is a professor of Spellcraft and Mysticism at Santa Clara University. Magic runs on his side of the family, so he got a job teaching it to others. He’s been doing it forever, although the only spells I’ve seen him conjure are charms. I guess his job is important because the Master Dragon Trainer and he talk a lot, especially about my charms. I heard he’s good at removing curses, but my parents want me to focus on the dragon, so I don’t hear a lot. Especially these days with how sick I’ve been.

  I wonder if my family being magical is part of the reason curses affect me the way they do. I’m not sure, because Mattie’s parents aren’t magical, so I don’t know.

  I’m sore. I hate all the testing; it takes so long. Months sometimes. At least I get to decorate my room the way I want and I don’t get stuck sharing. That’s good. I wouldn’t mind sharing with Mattie, but she gets to stay in a different part of the campus.

  On my wall are a bunch of posters of dragons and a few of my favorite movies. Oh, and I love Lady Gaga and Beyoncé. Right now, they are my faves, and I have them both on my wall across from me where I can stare at them. At least when I’m not studying or watching TV.

  I huff and play with the long strands of my hair as I look out at the training grounds. There are so many people out there today with their dragons. I bet the puffy white clouds make it all smell fresh like rain. I miss that smell. When I’m testing, I don’t get to go out in the rain like I used to, not until I’m healthy.

  The African Tiger-Stripe lands on a dragon perch outside my window. Our gazes meet and my stomach jumps with excitement. In a month, I’m going to have one. I’m going to have to train my dragon and take care of her. I’ll get to be outside again.

  “Carmen, you okay?” my mom glances at me again.

  “I’m just looking out at the yard. I’m trying to figure out the kind of dragon I want.”

  Mom smiles at me. “You know, you don’t always get to pick. Sometimes, they pick you. Remember what happened last time.”

  I nod.

  Last time, I didn’t have a choice and I ended up with this pretty Yellow-Tip Dragon. It was so tiny, about the size of my hand. He and I didn’t bond, so when he was just about my size, maybe a month later, he left and I had to start the process all over again. That was a bummer, and everyone was upset and worried. Even though they didn’t say anything. I figured it out.

  Dragons are the ultimate protection for kids like me from curses, and we protect them. They have to stay with us our entire lives once we bond because we are completely dependent on each other. That’s why we need the charms and all the testing. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like not to be a Dragon Keeper, but if that happened, I would never have met Mattie. Anyway, the process of getting a dragon is hard, and they don’t always stay. You have to really be lucky and get the right one.

  “I want a Blue Bottom.” I turn to my mom.

  She chuckles. “You’ll have to wait and see what the Master Trainers come up with. You know how hard the process is.”

  “I know, Mom.”

  The small frown on her lips vanishes before I can really comment.

  “I just hope my dragon and Gary get along. Blue Bottoms and California Green Bellies are supposed to get along really well, but not always, so I hope they do. They’re gonna have to be friends if me and Mattie are gonna be married.”

  “Carmen, don’t talk like that…”

  I cross my arms over my chest. Sometimes, I want to yell at her, but I don’t.

  “You’re too young to know who you’re going to marry.”

  I turn from my mom. She thinks because I’m only eleven, I don’t know stuff, but I do. I understand that she and Dad work really hard so I can train. I overheard that she had to ask for money from my abuelo to pay for my testing. Sometimes, she cries because she is so worried about me, and Dad has to sit with her and tell her I’m at one of the best training facilities in the world and it won’t be like the last time with the Yellow-Tip. See, I know stuff and it’s fine.

  I smile, thinking about my wedding day. We’ll have a big party. Mattie will be in a pretty dress that matches Gary, all reds and greens. I’m gonna be in blues and purples, matching my dragon. There will be music and all kinds of good food. With my aunties’ tamales and my mom’s pupusas; it’s gonna be so beautiful.

  “Honey, do you have your list for Santa?”

  Santa? Really? But who am I to say anything different to my mom?

  “I don’t need anything, Mom. Just my dragon.” I don’t want to ask for anything more because the dragon is gonna be a lot and all the training and follow-up that goes with it. Mattie and I talk about this stuff when our parents aren’t around. Mattie will sit on my bed, and we laugh and talk. Sometimes, she’ll hold my hand and I get all tingly. It’s nice.

  “Carmen, come on. Santa needs to bring you something. Especially since you’ll be here at the testing facility. Maybe you should ask for your own cell phone.”

  “Really?” I turn to my mom. Is she serious? A phone of my own? That would be great. “You mean it? You think I’ll get one?”

  I could text Mattie all the time if I had my own.

  “Well, you have to ask Santa. I can’t say for sure,” she said over the top of her tablet. “Maybe you haven’t been good enough this year.”

  “That would be so cool.” I lean back on my pillow, allowing the softness to engulf me. Mattie has her own phone because she’s a year older than me, but I get to use my mom’s when I want. Still, having my own personal cell would be great.

  The door to my room opens, revealing Mattie, the bright lights illuminating her like an angel.

  “Hi, Mrs. Garcia,” Mattie says as the door closes.

  “Hi, Mattie.” My mom puts down her tablet. “How are you feeling today?”

  “I’m good. No side effects from my training or the charms, so I’ll get to go home after Christmas.”

  “That’s wonderful news.” Mom smiles.

  “Hey, Carmen.” Mattie rushes over. She has bright blue eyes and beautiful brown hair that she brushes back in a ponytail. She wears glasses, but they make her look so pretty.

  “Hi.” I wave and sit up higher in my bed.

  “How was your testing?” Mattie pulls the chair from the corner over to my bed.

  “The DTs say it went good. I’m just tired.”

  “I remember. The testing is the worst.”

  “Where’s Gary?”

  Mattie points to the window. Outside is her big red-and-green dragon. He’s sitting on a dragon perch. He puffs out some smoke and shakes his wings at me to say hi.

  “He’s getting huge!”

  Mattie nods. “My folks worry he’ll be too big. But it would be cool to ride on his back.” She glances over at him. “He’s still too small and not strong enough to carry his weight and mine.”

  “Bummer. Still, riding him would be amazing.”

  “The Master Dragon Trainer said our bonding is going really well and that I won’t need to come back for two months, when they check out my charms.” She holds up two fingers.

  “Lucky.” I try not to frown. I want to be happy for Mattie and Gary, but that means I won’t get to see her as often and that sucks. Now I really hope I get a phone from Santa.

  “Mattie, mija, did both your parents come this trip?” my mom asks.

  “Yes, ma’am
.”

  My mom slips her tablet in her bag. “Can I trust you two alone? I want to go talk to your folks.”

  I laugh. “Nah, we’re gonna jump on Gary’s back and fly away.”

  Mattie laughs.

  I love that bubbly laugh.

  My mom purses her lips and points at me. “Remember, Santa is watching.”

  “Yes, Mom.”

  Mattie and I watch as my mom head out the door. The door clicks behind her.

  “Santa?” Mattie gets up from the chair and jumps on the bed, sitting with her legs crisscrossed. I get a whiff of her strawberry scent.

  “As long as I believe in Santa, I get gifts.” I adjust my legs so Mattie has more room.

  “Are you excited about getting your dragon?”

  I try to hide my frown, but I don’t think I’m fast enough.

  “What?” Mattie’s eyes narrow on me. “Carmen, what’s wrong?”

  “What if she doesn’t like me? What if she goes away like the Yellow-Tip did?”

  “That won’t happen. You’re older. Last time, you were seven. That was too young. Even the Master Dragon Trainer said the chances of the Yellow-Tip sticking around weren’t very good.”

  “I just…” I pull at the strings of my blanket, which I suddenly find so fascinating. “The training costs so much and I heard my folks talking about selling the house to pay for more training if this doesn’t work. I don’t want to move if it doesn’t happen this time. Maybe I don’t really need a dragon to protect me from curses.”

  I want to add that I’m getting tired of trying, but I keep that to myself.

  “Carmen, it’ll work.”

  “How do you know?”

  “Gary told me.”

  Gary shakes his head back and forth, and his muzzle dips in agreement.

  “What if I end up like Jasper? His parents spent all that time and money only for him not to end up with his dragon, and he got cursed really bad and almost died. And with no dragon of his own, the charms won’t protect him for so long.” I finally get the string loose and pull it from the blanket.

  “That’s not gonna happen.”

 
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