My Best Friend and Guardian

I'm Cold, Yet Warm

It is a winter afternoon at the Oswald Asylum. Blankets of snow cover the playground equipment outside while various snowflakes fall from the sky. The children outside laugh as they engage in typical snow behavior. Making snow angles, starting snow fights, and building snowmen. Contrary to popular belief, the mentally ill were just having fun. The therapists inside Oswald Asylum scoff at the sight of two young kids throwing snowballs at one another.

“How awful!” Gladys comments and points out the window. “Don’t you see? That child is trying to kill that poor boy!”

Another nurse shrugs. “It’s probably a bad idea to have those kids out there. One of them is going to think they’re fighting.”

“You know what Oswald said. He wants them out there to experience this weather.” Dr. Deern tells them. He adds, “I think it’s a good thing. A great refreshment to the children from all of this medication.”

The rest of the therapists and psychologists fall silent at his argument. They clearly want to protest but find nothing to bring up. One of them soon closes the curtains on the sight of the children and storm off. Gladys passes by Deern with a rather angry look but the therapist does not catch it. Instead, he stares at his cup of coffee in thought.

Outside, many children are running around. One of them was Fran Bow, who was wearing a big sweater and scarf around her neck. She also wore purple mittens and her usual stockings and boots. She was currently throwing a couple of snowballs at Philmore. He was sitting on one of the horses and staring at her in silence. She throws a couple of more at him before pouting and crosses her arms.

“You’re not even trying, Phil!” She exclaims. “At least throw one back!”

He stares down at the snow around him but does nothing. He was wearing his usual blue clothes and was visibly shaking from the cold. Fran feels a bit of guilt in her stomach and walks over to him. She offers him her sweater and tries to give her roommate a meaningful smile.

“Here, Phil. You can have it.”

Philmore takes it from her but doesn’t thank her. He wraps it around his frame and it’s obvious that it comes to a relief. He seems much warmer. Fran smiles at her act of greatness and keeps a small note in her mind to tell Santa why she should be on the good list. With the snow weather and all, she should really watch out for the other kids! How else was she going to get that new hat for Christmas?

A breeze passes by and Fran shivers. She rubs the side of her arms and quickly runs over to the swings. A few of the children are swinging on it and she finds an empty spot at the end. Fran runs through the children swinging and is about to take the seat until someone suddenly steps in front of her. They take the empty spot and gives Fran a raspberry.

Fran’s mouth goes agape. She furrows her eyebrows and stomps on the ground. “Hey! I was here first!”

The child sticks his tongue out and gives Frank a wink. He says, “You snooze you lose! Should have sat here faster.”

He leans forward and gives himself a head start. She watches him start to swing and refrains the urge to push him off. She couldn’t do a bad deed after she just finished a good one. Santa would be very mad at her! Instead, she walks away without a word and clenches her fists. To think that she was showing the world kindness and it gave her a taken seat in return! It wasn’t fair.

Fran finds Isabelle snoozing on the stairs to the slide. She must have taken her medication earlier and was sleeping from the exhaustion. Isabelle is wearing nothing besides the yellow Asylum outfit they chose for her. Fran Bow stops in her tracks and considers doing another good deed. She soon nods afterward and takes off her scarf. She wraps it around Isabella and finds her curling up around it with a smile. She seems to like it very much.

Good job, Fran! She thinks to herself. Santa will HAVE to get you that hat now!

She starts walking away until Fran feels a breeze pass by her. It travels up her yellow dress and the child shivers in return. It was much colder than she thought it was before. Maybe it hadn’t been such a good idea to give away her warm clothes. Santa would forgive her if she took it back, right? She was really cold...

“My dear! You’re barely wearing anything!”

Fran turns around and finds her faithful friend behind her. Itward towers over her but gives his friend a smile while he suddenly takes off his robe. Fran watches him as he wraps his robe around her and adjusts it so it doesn’t drag on the ground. Immediately, Fran feels much warmer. She lets out a satisfied noise and nuzzles the robe.

She looks over at Itward. He looks really weird in his undershirt. It was like he was naked but he wasn’t. She suddenly giggles when she imagines him naked again. He’d look all bony and skinny! Or maybe he’d look like that one skeleton in the reception room? Fran starts to wonder if they’re related. She shakes her head soon after.

“Thank you, Itward! How is Mr. Midnight?”

Itward keeps Mr. Midnight with him while Fran is in the Asylum. While she was able to roam freely with him, Fran decided to still stay at the mental hospital every now and then for the sake of her friends. She wanted to spend more time with them before they’d leave like she did. Dr. Deern eventually got his job back and Fran was planning to see him sometime to thank him for what he did for her before.

“He’s perfectly alright.” The skeleton replies. “How are you, Fran? Warm enough?”

“Yes, I am! I’m sorry for not having my sweater on. Phil looked really cold so I gave him it. And Isabelle was sleeping in the snow so I thought she could use my scarf.”

He says, “That was very nice of you! But make sure you wear plenty of clothes next time so you won’t be cold.”

“I will!” Fran assures. “What are you doing here, by the way?”

“I’m here to make sure the children are alright.” Itward explains. “Remor likes to strike during the winter so I’m making sure I’m at the Oswald Asylum as much as I can be.”

At the mention of Remor, Fran feels herself cower. That evil creature that stole her kitty is still around? Why would he want to keep tormenting the children here? She hopes that she isn’t apart of another plan of his. Fran didn’t want to lose her kitty again. Not after what happened before.

“-I’m glad I came.” Itward continues. “You could have frozen yourself!”

“Don’t exaggerate.” Fran rolls her eyes. “I’m perfectly fine! I could have just asked someone else for theirs.”

The skeleton tsks but says nothing else. He turns around and watches the children around the playground. A few around them acknowledge the skeleton but continue with what they were doing before. Itward looks up and watches the kids at the swings. Fran walks next to him and eyes the boy on the far right side rather angrily.

“That’s the kid who stole my seat! I think he’s from downstairs. I don’t know who he is.”

Itward follows her stare and notices she’s eying the child at the end. He was one of the other children. He had messy black hair and wore a ruffled gray sweater. Bags were under his eyes and anyone from afar could notice the way he twitched. Itward soon nods upon recognizing the child.

“Ah! That’s Richard. He was admitted here about a week ago. I know he’s not the nicest person, but you should treat him kindly, anyway, Fran.”

“Why should I?” She crosses her arms. “If he’s not nice to me, I’m not going to be nice to him!”

“I thought you already knew why,” Itward chuckles. “It’s nearly Christmas, Fran! Being kind to one another is what spreads the joy of the holidays.”

Fran looks down at Itward’s coat wrapped around her. That, itself, was his own gesture of kindness to her. Although, thinking about it further, Fran was sure that he would have given her it anyway. She realizes something and tugs onto Itward’s arm to get his attention.

She asks, “Is that why you were so nice to Mia and Clara, Iward?”

“Hm? Oh, no! That wasn’t it. I just wanted to help them because the world treated them so cruely. When you are given an unfair chance in life, it is only right that you are given another one. You see?”

Fran takes a moment to contemplate his explanation. She soon nods and holds onto his hand. His fingers were warm despite the cold weather around them. She still felt guilt for killing those sisters but Itward assured her it was alright. They were just cruel at heart. Fran was sure they were on Santa’s naughty list for trying to murder Itward.

She looks up at Itward and thinks of all the kind things he has done for her. He helped her find her kitty and saved her from Remor a couple of times. And from what she heard about him from her friends, they all said Itward helped them, too. She couldn’t think of one thing he had done that was bad.

Squeezing his hand, Fran grins. She says, “I bet you’re on top of Santa’s Good List, Itward!”

“Erm....Maybe? Thank you, Fran.”

She smiles.

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