Lydia stroked her chin thoughtfully. “I hope that I have used the correct knots,” she said, out loud, to herself.
She had tied thirty-eight colorful stockings into a long rope. One end of the chain was tied to her four-poster bed. Convincing herself that she was in no danger, she tossed the other end of the rope out her bedroom window. The snowy ground being only twelve feet below, the majority of Lydia’s improvised rope fell in a messy pile with a loud thump.
A muffled voice came from downstairs: “What was that?”
Lydia grimaced. Her spine twinged. She grit her teeth. She strained to hear whether anyone downstairs was continuing their investigation.
So far as she could tell, the coast was clear. She resummoned her resolve and began crawling out of her window, clinging to her rope of stockings and climbing down the wall of her house.
Lydia was used to the cold nights of the North Pole, and felt entirely comfortable skulking across the frigid landscape wearing only her bright red footie pajamas. She knew all the back ways, behind workshops and warehouses, by which she could pass undetected to the edge of town, where red brick buildings gave way to drab tundra, punctuated by slim, solemn pine trees.
Lydia heard someone behind her.
“There’s a curfew on, young lady,” said an inhuman, surly voice.
Lydia turned around and looked up into the eyes of Cupid the Reindeer.
“The curfew doesn’t apply to me,” she said, steeling her chin. “My dad is Santa Claus.”
“I know who your dad is, and I know the rules of the curfew. Nobody under the age of 21 is allowed out past eight—And you are the only person in the North Pole who is young enough to qualify.”
Lydia Claus was thirteen years old.
She decided to change tack. “How can you enforce such a blatantly discriminatory policy?” she asked.
“The curfew is for your own safety,” Cupid explained. “A murderer is on the loose in the North Pole, and there is no way to know when or where he, she, or it will strike next.”
“Then isn’t it illogical to enforce the curfew only at night?” Lydia shot back. “Couldn’t the murderer murder me during the daytime?”
Cupid closed his eyes, took a deep breath.
“I really can’t discuss this any longer. I need to escort you back to your parents’ house.”
“It’s my house, too,” Lydia said aloud—But to herself, she thought: If you can’t think of any response to my argument, then you’ve as much as conceded that I’m in the right.
Thus satisfied with herself, Lydia acquiesced to riding Cupid back to the Claus residence.