Title: North Pole Reform School
Author: Jaimie Admans
Date of Publication: November 6, 2013
Genre: YA rom-com, fantasy
Mistletoe Bell hates Christmas. So would you if you had a name like hers. Her Christmas-mad parents make the festive season last all year, and with another Christmas looming, Mis doesn’t think she can take any more. After her carelessness causes an accident at school, it seems like things can’t get any worse.
Then she wakes up to find The Ghost of Christmases Ruined in her bedroom.
She is taken to the North Pole, to a reform school run by elves determined to make her love Christmas. Stuck in a misfit group of fellow Christmas-haters with a motley crew of the weird and even weirder, watched over by elves day and night, she doesn’t expect to meet cute and funny Luke, who is hiding a vulnerable side beneath his sarcastic exterior. She doesn’t expect to fall in love with him.
But all is not as it should be at the North Pole. A certain Mr Claus is making the elves’ lives a misery, and pretty soon Mistletoe and Luke are doing more than just learning to like Christmas.
A YA romantic comedy in which Santa is the bad guy, teaching reindeer to fly is on the curriculum, and zombies have a fondness for Christmas music.
Suitable for older teens and upwards due to bad language.
I have a thumping headache. The light is too bright and when I shift to throw my arm over my eyes, I know I’m not in my own bed. The bed is too hard, the mattress is too thin, and the whole thing creaks when I move. I blearily open my eyes and shut them again quickly when bright white light shines in. I give myself a couple of minutes to get my bearings and then try opening my eyes again. I sit up slowly and look around.
I’m in a tiny room. The walls and floor are white. There’s only about three foot of space between the bed and the wall. There’s one small window. It’s like a hospital room.
God, maybe it is a hospital room. What happened last night?
It doesn’t smell like a hospital room though. It actually smells kind of… minty.
I swing my legs over the side of the bed and my feet touch soft white carpet. Hospital rooms aren’t usually carpeted, are they?
I go over to the window, but looking out of it is useless because there’s a snowdrift outside and I can’t see anything. Whatever happened last night, one of the things was a blizzard.
I glance at the door instead. I’m a little wary of opening it. I have no idea where I am or how I got here. I have no idea what is outside that door. I look around for a weapon of some kind, but there is quite literally nothing in the room but the bed I just got out of. It’s more of a cubicle than a room.
The door opens to a big room with a dozen other doors around its white walls. On the far wall is a big TV. In the middle of the room is a group of sofas, and on one of the sofas is a woman. She has her knees up to her chest, her arms wrapped around them, and her head hidden between them as she rocks back and forth. Movement across the room catches my eye, and I look up to see a boy around my age also standing in a doorway, looking curious.
He lifts his hand in greeting and I do the same. “Are you normal?” he asks from across the room.
That makes him grin. “I think you qualify. I can’t get a word of sense out of her.” He indicates the woman still rocking back and forth on the sofa.
I glance at her. Yeah, in all fairness, she doesn’t look very normal. I look over at the boy again and notice he’s wearing a thermal sweater and trousers. It takes me far too long to realise that I’m wearing the same. Where the hell are my own clothes? I don’t even own a thermal top, much less thermal trousers.
“Do you know where we are?” I ask the boy.
“No idea. All I remember is a very fucked-up dream, and then I woke up here.”
“Me too,” I tell him.
The memory of last night suddenly comes back to me in a flood. The purple moose sitting in the middle of my bedroom, telling me it was the Ghost of Christmases Ruined.
“What was your dream about?” I ask the boy.
“Messed up,” he says. “There was this reindeer or moose or something in it. Told me I had to go to the North Pole because I’d ruined Christmas. Why? You have weird dreams too?”
“Yeah,” I say slowly. “There was a moose in my room. It said it was the Ghost of Christmases Ruined and that I would be taken to the North Pole to learn to behave acceptably or something.”
“Yeah,” the boy says in recognition. “That’s what mine said too. That’s a bit bloody creepy, isn’t it?”
“What, that we both had the same dream or that we’re both here and we don’t know where we are?”
He shrugs. “What’s your name?”
Ah, the dreaded question. Ever since I was old enough to start school, I have dreaded every mention of my name. Every register call, every new person I meet, everywhere I go.
“Misty,” I say eventually. It’s not like it’s a lie or anything. Misty is what I go by and what I tell everyone my name is. “What’s yours?” I ask him.
“Luke,” he says.
“Hey, um, lady on the sofa,” I say. “What’s your name?”
I can hear her mumbling but I can’t make out what she’s saying. I slip out of the doorway and go a bit closer to her.
“Excuse me, what’s your name?” I ask gently.
She mutters again and I have to go closer still to hear her.
“They’re watching, they’re watching.” She’s mumbling away to herself.
“What’s your name?” I ask again. “Do you know where we are?”
“They’re watching, they’re watching.”
“Who’s watching?” I ask.
I stare at her. “Okay, then.”
Luke bursts out laughing.
She ignores us both and continues mumbling to herself.
“See? I did try to tell you,” Luke says.
I look around the room. There really isn’t much to see. It’s very plain and empty, and there’s nothing in here apart from us, the TV on the wall, and the group of sofas. There’s one big door at the front of the room and I walk over to it.
“I already tried, it’s locked,” Luke says.
I prove him right by trying it myself. “This is insane.”
“You’re telling me,” Luke says. “Hey, what does this place smell of to you?”
“Mint,” I say. “Like peppermint.”
“Like… candy canes?”
He seems to be thinking it over.
“So, do you have any ideas?” I ask him.
“Well, I know it sounds crazy, but the fact we both dreamt about a purple moose telling us he was taking us to the North Pole… Do you think we might actually be in the North Pole?”
It’s my turn to burst out laughing. “I think he dropped you on your head on the way over. Hey, did you dream about flying?”
“Yes,” Luke says. “Sort of floating on my back. And it was really cold.”
“Yes! We had the same dream.”
“Me too,” the woman on the sofa says.
“What, you had that dream too?” Luke steps forwards to ask her.
“They’re watching, they’re watching.” She’s gone back to her rocking and mumbling.
“Great,” Luke mutters.
I get a better look at him now he’s closer to me.
He’s really cute actually. Floppy dark blond hair and big green eyes.
“So, what do we do?” I ask him.
Before Luke has a chance to respond, another one of the doors opens and a man steps out.
As Luke turns his head to look, I notice he has really pointy ears sticking out from under his hair.
The man looks to be in his forties, overweight and unshaven, and even though he’s only been in the room for a few seconds the smell of peppermint is overpowered by the smell of body odour and stale beer.
“What’s going on here then?” the man booms. “Who are you people?”
He makes me nervous and I find myself stepping a little bit closer to Luke.
“We don’t know what’s going on,” Luke says. “All we can remember is some really weird dreams. Did you have any dreams last night?”
The man thinks for a moment. “Yeah, funnily enough, I remember a moose, a talking moose. It kept going on and on about ruining Christmas and that I would have to be taught a lesson. Quite an annoyance, it was.”
“Did you dream about flying after that?”
He thinks again. “Yeah, yeah, that’s ringing a bell. More of a floating than a flying, really. Bloody cold too.”
“We all had the same dream,” I say.
“You lot dreamt about a talking moose too?”
Luke and I both nod.
“So where are we?” the man asks.
“We don’t know,” I tell him. “We just woke up here like you. What’s your name?”
“Joe.” He steps forwards and shakes our hands in turn.
“That sounds like a porn star’s name,” Joe says.
To be honest, sounding like a porn star is better than sounding like a Christmas decoration, but I don’t tell him that.
“What’s her deal?” Joe points to the woman on the sofa.
“She thinks she’s being watched,” Luke says. “By ducks.”
Joe lets out a huge laugh, complete with jiggling belly sticking out from underneath his white thermal sweater.
“You don’t understand,” the woman suddenly says. “They’re everywhere. Everywhere.”
“All right, love, keep your hair on,” Joe says. “Hey, you guys want to hear a joke?”
Neither of us responds. The woman has gone back to rocking and mumbling.
“Of course you do,” Joe continues, unfazed. “What’s white and round?”
“I don’t know,” I say.
Luke thinks for a moment. “A white circle.”
“Hah! Wrong, wrong, wrong,” Joe says. “The answer is a red cube.”
He guffaws again and saliva droplets spray out of his mouth.
Luke glances at me. “And we think Duck Lady is the crazy one,” he says quietly.
I can’t help but laugh at that.
“See? The porn star gets it,” Joe says between fits of giggles.
“No, I really don’t,” I say, but he’s too busy laughing to hear me.
“Joe,” Luke says sternly, “do you know what’s going on? Do you know where we are?”
“I don’t remember how much I drank last night, but it must’ve been a hell of a lot to still be drunk this morning.”
“This isn’t because you’re drunk, Joe,” Luke says. “We’re all here, none of us know where, and we all had weird dreams about a talking moose and the North Pole.”
“You saying you think we’re in the North Pole?”
“And you think she’s the crazy one.” Joe points to Duck Lady.
“What’s the last thing you all remember?” I ask. “I mean, maybe someone drugged us all and kidnapped us.”
“It was a normal night,” Luke says. “I got home from college, had dinner, did some coursework, killed some people on Call of Duty, had a shower, went to bed.”
“I got a takeaway and a six-pack and watched some porn on pay-per-view,” Joe says. “Then I passed out on the couch and when I woke up, I was here. What did you do, porn star?”
“It’s Misty, please. And I did nothing. Got home from school, my mum made me help her bake Christmas cookies, watched cartoons with my little sister and read her a story. Then I had a long bath, checked Facebook, and played around online for a while. When I woke up in the night, there was a purple moose in the middle of my bedroom.”
“So it’s safe to say we didn’t all go to the same party and get drugged by a maniac then?” Luke ventures.
“I guess so. But how else do you explain this?”
“Maybe we should be concentrating less on how to explain it and more on how the hell to get out of here?” Luke says.
“Have you tried that door?” Joe asks.
“How about the windows in the rooms?”
“They don’t open,” Luke says. “They’re just for decoration.”
“We could smash one,” I suggest.
“Well, you and I might fit through, but beer belly over there never would,” Luke says as if Joe isn’t standing right there. “Plus we can’t see outside because of the snow. We don’t know what’s out there, and maybe I’m imagining it, but I feel like we’re high up. I don’t think this building is on ground level.”
I don’t have much sense of direction, but I think he’s right.
“Do you think there’s anyone else in the other rooms?”
Just as we start debating whether we should go and check or not, Luke suddenly stops. “Shush a minute—do you guys hear that?”
I strain my ears to listen.
“I don’t hear anything,” Joe says. “Maybe your pointy ears pick up things that aren’t there.”
Luke blushes and self-consciously tries to smooth his hair over his ears.
“They’re coming,” the woman on the sofa says suddenly.
“Who’s coming, love? The ducks, is it?” Joe chortles.
“Wait, I hear it too.” It sounds like… bells. And it’s getting louder.
“Oh, you have got to be kidding me. Jingle bells? Seriously?” Luke makes a noise of frustration just as the lock of the main door starts to turn.
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About the Author ~ Jaimie Admans
Jaimie is a 28-year-old English-sounding Welsh girl with an awkward-to-spell name. She lives in South Wales and enjoys writing, gardening, drinking tea and watching horror movies. She hates spiders and cheese & onion crisps. She has been writing for years but has never before plucked up the courage to tell people. Afterlife Academy is her third novel and she hopes you enjoy it. There are plenty more on the way!