- Six years later -
Forests were good to scare kids. Dark forests with winding, withering pathways that stop in the midst of the terrifying forest and force you to step off the path. Forests with spooky owls who give mysterious 'hoots' when you brushed against a tree. Forests that seem to have forever trees.
Rosa Skellington loved these types of forests. They reminded her of good times: her first birthday with her Papa and Mummy, her first meeting with her best friend, etc. There was a specific forest, though, just south of Halloween Town that she went to when she felt sad and lonely and upset. There was a special grave she went to when she felt lost.
That's where she was now, or what Gideon Skulling guessed. The forest around the tall skeleton teenager seemed to grow lighter as he hit a clearing, and sure enough, he saw dark red curls peeking from the former King of Halloween's grave. Victor Skellington was a legend, even more so than Jack, and Gideon paused at the sight of the ghost stopping him from continuing.
An eyebrow ridge rose. "Rosalie is asleep. Mind telling me why she's so upset?"
"Long story." The younger skeleton scratched the back of his head. "But she has to go to a wizard school up above."
Victor began to float with a contemplative look on his face. "She's a skeleton."
"One of the witches knows a potion that'll keep her human when she goes up above." Gideon explained. "It all happened so fast. I'm not quite sure.."
"Take her home." Victor twisted out of the way. "Tell my son to come here and explain." Gideon nodded briefly. "And Mr. Skulling?" Gideon paused midstep. "Visit your mother's grave sometime, will you. She misses you." Without saying a word, Gideon walked over where he knew his friend was and saw her slumped over, red hair flying ever which way and drool dripping from her mouth.
Shaking his head with a sigh, he scooped her up. In an instant, Rosa was wrapping her arms around his neck. This always, always happened, but still Gideon couldn't help but blush as her face nodded into his bony chest. He ignored the cackle that came from Victor as he stepped away from the forest and towards the brightly lit Halloween Town.
"This is terrible!" The Mayor wailed. Sally calmly sipped on the slightly poisonous tea the professor had declared was "perfect for unborn children". She wasn't alarmed at the disappearance of her daughter. Jack, however, was terrified. Though, his wife and daughter were very close, he and his daughter were closer. Other than Sally, the only person not panicking was Elaria, Jack and Sally's second oldest.
"Momma." Elaria, two years old and barely walking, reached for her sippy, grey button eyes growing large. "Sip."
"Sip." Sally agreed, handing the cup to her daughter and smiled at her near look-alike. Elaria was made out of soft blue cloth, though, and her hair was long and a shiny black color. She liked pretty pink dresses and bows and dolls, mostly from the human world, and Sally and Jack couldn't help but give her everything.
A knock came at the door as Sally brushed a hand through her daughter's soft hair. Jack stood up automatically but the door opened revealing Gideon Skulling, one of Sally's friend's sons, carrying their oldest, his skull painted a bright red color.
"Rosalie." Jack exhaled in relief. "Thank you. Thank you, Gideon." He took a few steps towards them and swept his daughter out of the boy's arms. Gideon scratched the back of his skull. He was embarrassed. Oh, was that adorable, Sally thought to herself.
"No problem, sir." He stated loudly, straightening his bony shoulders. "Sir. Victor Skellington wants to talk to you."
The air seemed to freeze as he spoke. Victor Skellington? Jack's dad?
Sally sneaked a peek at her husband, and saw the hidden anger. He hated his father. No wonder, though. Victor was a cruel skeleton. All bite and no bark, the professor used to explain to her. He died so many years ago, even more dead than he already was. That meant that when Rosalie snuck off..-
No. She wouldn't. She's not stupid.
They told her the stories. How he killed entire families and came back with hearts. How he laughed over death and cried over nothing. The only time he had ever had any form of outward joy, Jack's mother used to tell Jack, was when Jack was born, and only barely.
"A breath smile," Clarisse laughed. "But he smiled, he embraced us. It was different and beautiful and then it was over. Oh, Jackie, it was over."
"Just the messenger." Gideon rose his hands in defeat.
"Hmm?" Jack murmured. "Ah yes, I know. Thank you, Gideon. I'm going to put her to bed then I'll have a talk with my father."
"Jack." Sally spoke up, now worried.
"She needs to sleep off this news." Jack said. "It was shocking, after all."
"Ah," Victor let loose a cackle. "The risen son returns to the fallen father." Jack stopped at the edge of the courtyard and watched as his father sat on his own tombstone, a ghostly figure in a ghostly courtyard.
"Father." Jack said.
"I didn't poison her." Victor said. "I promise this."
"I don't know if I believe you." Jack replied.
"Understandable." Victor shrugged. "Tell me why my granddaughter came crying to me."
It was an order, not a suggestion, and against his greater judgement, Jack spoke, "Rosalie is a witch and she has been automatically enrolled in a wizarding school above ground. My wife and I agree that it would be best to put Rosalie in that school."
"How long?" Victor asked.
"An entire school year." Jack said. His voice lowered, quiet. "Gone the entire year.."
"You would take my only joy from me?" Victor's spirit began to solidify until he was a tall, demonic looking skeleton with glowing red eye sockets, ripped and torn black clothing and a sharp toothed, terrible mouth.
Jack watched as a white barrier stopped his father from reaching him. That was his mother's final gift. She created this barrier after his death, to protect and guard innocents from evil. Figures his child would find this cruel skeleton and befriend him.
"Goodbye, Father." Jack said. With a final, cold look, Jack disappeared from the graveyard, hoping to never see his father again. But then again, with Rosalie as his daughter, Jack figured he'd be seeing his father very, very soon.