As Wilma slumbered, the wolf-girl and the princess both sat on the floor across from the fireplace exchanging soft words of adventure that they had missed out on with each other. Surprisingly not much had changed between the two which meant that it was as if they had never departed from each other. Low and behold the conversation ended up taking the curious route of Red's observations between Snow and her new companion.
"There is something familiar about her," Snow said quietly in mid thought, "but I don't know what it is. You know how hard it is for me to open up to people, but with Wilma? I just…I don't know."
With a swipe of her hand, she pushed back the few strands of hair that had fallen in front of her eyes. These stirrings inside felt so strange as if she wasn't supposed to be feeling them at all, yet at the same time she felt as if she had finally found home after all this time running.
In truth, but not necessarily the entire reason, she had wanted to take the journey through the mountains in order to gain more time with Wilma. She feared that once they hit their destination, her companion would go on with her own life as if nothing ever existed between them.
But did anything ever exist between them?
Were these feelings only one sided? Had she read all of the signs wrong?
Her hazel eyes stared down into the mug of tea that reflected her own image of muddled confusion. She sighed.
"What about her?"
When the princess looked up to regard the question, green eyes were watching her intently.
"What do you mean?"
"You really care for her."
"Does it show?"
The wolf girl grinned.
"But I don't know about Wilma. I don't think she…no she doesn't think of me that way."
As Red watched her raven haired friend crumble in on herself, she extended her arms and took hold of her hands, giving them a comforting squeeze. It took a lot to bring Snow down and when she did it was a never ending void.
"I think you're wrong," she told her softly, "Have you seen the way she looks at you?"
"I kissed her, Red," she whispered so low that if it would have gone unheard if it weren't for the wolf-girl's hearing. She could feel the sting of hurt building up inside of her leading up to her eyes just waiting to break the dam, "and she pushed me away."
Green eyes lit up in surprise followed by the furrowing of her eyebrows.
"She saved you from the Ice Wraith and when I found your camp she almost impaled me with a sword. I don't think that is a sign of someone who doesn't care. Have you ever tried talking to her about it?"
"She won't. All she does is dismiss it. 'What's done is done, princess.' I swear she acts like royalty sometimes."
"You mentioned nightmares; what is she afraid of?"
"How would I know?" Snow threw her arms in the air, "She won't tell me a thing! I've opened up completely to her, yet she still won't budge. I've almost gotten down on my knees and begged for her to let me in! I don't know what to do, Red…"
Snow grabbed at her hair before burying her face in her knees, not quite sobbing but on the verge of doing such. She took in several deep breaths in attempt to calm down her nerves, but it wasn't working.
Just the simple thought of Wilma made her mind go dizzy especially when Red told her earlier that the woman never left her side while she was unconscious.
"She didn't see me," green eyes darted over towards the closed door where Wilma was, "but when I walked in the other day to check on you she had her hand wrapped around yours as if letting go would cause you to drift further away."
Taking her bottom lip between her teeth, the princess stared down at her own hands. Memories of what seemed like yesterday flashed across her mind like a taunting play.
"Wilma, I'm sorry."
"For dragging me out into this frozen oblivion? So you should be! If you had any idea who I was then you would have never even dared to cross my path."
"You wish that I would have let you die?"
"You should have."
There was an all consuming stab in her heart laced with an uncontrollable guilt as Wilma shoved her hand away like it was scolding her. Snow had been selfish and dragged this poor woman into her possible death and all for what? Just to have some company? Just so she wasn't alone?
"That wasn't what I asked."
"I don't want your pity."
Hazel eyes were searching within dark brown ones searching for the key to open up the mysterious woman's heart. A flame. A whisper. Anything that might have let Snow know what was causing Wilma suffering every night. Regardless of the answer, regardless of finding out that she might have been the reason, she needed to know.
This woman had been hurt beyond words, but Snow couldn't figure out how. She knew little about Wilma's life save for the few words that were passed between them. If Wilma had no one else to go back to, if she truly left nothing behind, then what was stopping her from opening up? What could she be so ashamed of?
Emerald eyes were watching her friend carefully, but remained silent. Snow lifted her hand and pressed her fingers against her lips as if she could feel Wilma's own against them. It was warm, inviting, like all the walls had come crashing down. Just like their bodies, their souls had been bare and exposed just for those few seconds, but just as quickly as they came, like most things that deserve such longer moments, it vanished and Wilma was slipping away right before her eyes.
Then so suddenly there was a salty pearl gliding down her pale cheek followed by another and soon enough she couldn't stop them. What had she done to deserve this? She had already lost everything in her life and just as she thought that the gods were granting her a gift, they stole it back like a falling star; beautiful as it streaked across the sky, yet gone in the blink of an eye. However, unlike the star, this had left its mark on her heart like a bloodstain.
When my eyes met the real world once again, the room was lit by a soft orange glow. Peeking through the trees was the setting sun saying goodbye to the white blanketed Earth. I rubbed at my eyes while a loud yawned escaped my lips.
There were no cruel visions, not even the slightest dreams, and I felt more awake than I had in the past several weeks. Normally I hadn't been one to take naps during the day, but after lunch I had acquired a threatening headache. Snow insisted that I lay down, but, being my stubborn self, I refused. However, when it got to the point that my temples were pounding and my eyes were blurry I finally gave in and curled up on the bed.
I would have expected to find the women sitting by the hearth where I had left them, but it became apparent that my slumber had been far longer than a mere hour. The house was quiet save for the roaring fire, but after listening I heard laughter coming from beyond the cabin.
Opening up the door, I paid little mind to what I was walking into until I heard I heard someone shout my name in panic. Before I had time to turn around, and thank god I didn't, something cold smacked into the back of my head. It didn't hurt, but the ice slipping down into the back of my shirt wasn't the first thing I wanted to feel after slipping out of a warm bed.
I wasn't aware of the shriek that had left my lips, but the look on Snow's face was priceless when I finally turned around. Or at least it should have been priceless except I was fuming.
"Have you lost all senses?" I scolded at the pale woman who was walking towards me with a sheepish grin.
"Sorry! You kinda just walked in front of my trajectory."
"I walked in front of your path? What in the gods names were you even doing?"
"Sheesh, you weren't kidding about anger issues," said Red coming up from behind who pulled her red cloak tighter around.
"Excuse me?" I snapped at both of them, completely oblivious to their childish giggling.
"I never participated in such childish—" she stopped midsentence from the look she was being given, "what?"
"You've never had a snowball fight?" Snow asked with wide eyes.
"Where did you find this girl, Snow?"
"Oh just hanging around a chopping block."
Instantaneously my eyes narrowed and my nostrils flared. What should have been taken as a joke only aided in kindling my fire that would have been enough to melt the entire place into a lake.
Taking a large stride, I came nose to nose with the raven-haired woman, yet found that still she wouldn't back down. Instead of cowering, her eyes only softened until they were depleted of whatever hysteria she and her wolf-friend had been on while I was asleep.
"Okay, that wasn't funny. I apologize."
I watched her hazel eyes shift downward to her feet and suddenly guilt took over me.
"No, no it's alright, dear. I just overreacted."
I drew my arms around me to shield me from the afternoon chill that was slowly growing colder as the sun drifted further down the horizon. It was a beautiful sight, the way to snow lit up as if it were on fire yet still sparkled like diamonds.
"Wilma, you're freezing!"
"I'm fi—" before I could finish Snow had thrown off her cloak and was now wrapping it around me.
As if on instinct, I drew in a large breath of air and was instantly shrouded in her scent. I told myself it was only from the shock of warmth, yet somewhere in the back of my mind I knew otherwise.
Snow was smiling now regardless that she had just shed her warmth. I became entranced, only for a moment however, by that bright smile, so spellbound that I didn't notice the way Red was watching us. The moment broke when Snow departed inside of the cabin to retrieve another cloak.
"You're lucky," Red spoke when the cabin door was shut.
"You're lucky to have someone who cares for you as she does."
"You've known her longer. I would expect that she—"
I heard the sound of the door shutting behind and came to a halt. Out of nowhere, a snowball flew right past me and smacked the wolf-girl directly in the chest. They both grinned and looked at me.
Unlike a few minutes ago, I felt the heat of excitement and leaned down to pile the white dust into a hard sphere. When it impacted the shoulder of its target I found myself grinning, only to grow even bigger when Snow filled the air with a wondrous laugh.
We fell into an intense battle of frozen spheres flying left and right well after the sun had departed. I never would have thought that this ridiculous child's play would actually take a beating. Red's hits were the strongest, but she tried not to aim for the face, and Snow's were insanely accurate.
I heard footsteps in the snow from behind me. Drawing my loaded hand back, I spun around in order to catch my perpetrator only to be met by a snowball flying straight towards my face. I tried to duck, but before I even had the chance to move, the sound of more feet came from my side and I was being shoved out of the way into the plush white.
My heard was racing so fast that I could hardly catch my breath that was coming out as foggy wisps. When I looked up from my pinned position it I wasn't sure what to expect though I'm not quite sure why I was so surprised to see Snow leaning over me.
It was like déjà vu all over again and I felt my cheeks grow hot. I could have kissed her; she was that close and I surely would have been okay with her staying there, for her body provided warmth to my freezing limbs.
Red cleared her throat from a few feet away and we both looked up with maddening blushes. It felt like were young teenagers caught by our parents which was absolutely ridiculous if you looked at the fact that we were adults. However, we had just participated in a snowball fight in which I had become far too engrossed in.
"I'm going to go make something hot to drink," Red grinned and turned on her feet, leaving us to each other.
As soon as the heat left me, the cold immediately overtook. I looked upward to see her hand extended out to me and I took it as gracefully as I could. I took a moment to dust the snow off of me
"Look," Snow extended her hand upwards towards the sky that was lit up with an array of colors. I gasped as the vastness of the display overtook my senses. Never before had I seen such splendor in all of my life and I had seen many things the last few months.
"They normally last for about an hour," Red called over to us after a while which made me jump. How long had we been standing there? Or better yet how long had she been there?
That's when I saw that she was trying to juggle three steaming mugs in her arms, so I extended my hand to take one.
"What do they call them? The Gods' Illumination?" I inquired before raising the mug to my lips and taking a sip.
"That or simply auroras," Red replied and handed both of the other mugs to Snow who looked at her curiously. She then proceeded to walk over to a pile of logs and dragged out one that hadn't been cut up yet. "Did you want to watch them?"
All in agreement, we dusted off the log and sat down with the raven-haired woman in the middle. It was big enough for us all, but not big enough to prevent thighs from touching and the occasional brushing of the hands.
"Do you believe that there is a Greater Power?" Snow asked to either of us who were willing to answer.
"When I was younger I did," I quietly answered back, "but then I began to question its existence."
I used to think myself a god in prior days back when I could actually call myself a queen. I had power, beauty, and infinite manipulation to make others do as I say as well as control over the more unnatural phenomenon that many claimed as witchcraft. Despite everything I once had I was now nothing more than a commoner; nothing more than a companion that had been venturing through the wild as well as my own distorted mind.
The night was still young and the lights lasted longer than anticipated. The wolf-girl had been more than happy to open up her home to her friend and her companion especially considering how lonely she had been ever since the passing of her grandmother.
Nevertheless, she knew that this would come to an end sooner than later and she would have to watch them go. Snow would promise to see her again, but when would that ever be? When would Red ever come to fully control the beast inside of her? The full moon would be here in little more than a week which meant that they would need to leave a few days prior in order to get them far away from her just to be safe.
It was a bittersweet time, but Red took what she could.
It was easy to observe the other two women now that they were occupied by Nature. She could hear Snow's voice in her head. "I kissed her, Red, and she pushed me away." She could still feel the hurt that had its grip around the princess's heart like a shadow.
Such fear. Such sadness. She hadn't seen her like that in a long time.
Snow deserved to be happy especially after what the Evil Queen had done to her. She lost her mother, her father, and she lost Red when she decided to force her out of her life.
Over the past hour Red had seen the glances Wilma would sneak at Snow whenever she thought no one was looking. She saw how her straight lips would twitch into a smile before quickly dying out into a mask of disinterest as if expressing true emotions would cause her to shatter. It was rather odd. Why would anyone want to hide being happy?
One account made her burst into a fit of quiet giggles that had the other women looking at her strangely. Wilma had placed her mug into the snow, but when she went to place her hand back down onto her lap it ended up landing on top of the paler woman's hand.
It was such a small mistake that one could debate it was done on purpose. The way Wilma drew her hand back so quickly made it comical.
How could Snow not see what was right in front of her eyes?
It wasn't her place to interfere though so minus the slip of laughter here and there, she minded her own business.
I had been arguing with Snow for a good long minute now about letting me sleep on the floor. For the last few nights I had been perfectly content with sleeping on the pallet despite the aching in my bones. It was something I had grown used to over the last two months.
However, she continued to insist that we switch places to keep things fair.
"Must you continue to play the fairest of them all" I sighed when it was apparent this argument was going nowhere, "besides, I'm not even tired."
A pale arm extended past me to pick up a deck of cards that was resting by the lantern. We met each other's eyes.
"Want to play?"
"Not really," I responded with disinterest.
"So you're just going to sit there with your thoughts?" she asked with a frown, already dealing out the cards.
"Why don't you go ask Red?"
"I'm asking you not Red. Please? Stop drowning in whatever plagues your mind."
Giving her a sigh in return, I pushed myself up and sat across from the pale woman. I never was one for a game of cards, but after the first few rounds of whatever it was we were playing I began to get competitive.
"Cheater!" I shouted when she threw her hands up in victory for the fifth time.
"You're just a sore loser."
With an eye roll, I slapped my hand down onto the comforter and stood to find wherever my fur jacket had disappeared to. After slipping out of the room, in which I realized Red was asleep on the couch, I spotted it hanging up by the door and quickly pulled it around me.
"Cold?" Snow asked when I returned.
"Just a bit."
Instead of taking back my seat I sat down onto the floor with my back against the bed which surely elicited a sharp downturn from the younger woman. My fingers, like always, ended up running through the fur as I pulled it closer to me, more for comfort than anything.
Snow took a deep breath from behind me as she took a leap of faith.
"What's on your mind?"
Biting the inside of my cheek, I chose simply not to reply. What was on my mind? If I took a second to actually listen I would find that the answer wasn't so simply. A collection of thoughts were plaguing my mind, something Snow tried to save me from a little less than an hour ago.
I knew that if I turned around I would see those sad eyes looking at me with worry, concern, and…affection. It had become a bit endearing yet upsetting all the same. I closed my eyes and listened inwardly. Love is weakness. Then I spoke for the first time about something I had never told anyone else because it hurt too much to relive.
"I was never close to my mother," I said coldly, "When she left us I was the happiest girl in the world. She was abusive, manipulated, and heartless." I sucked in a breath of air and waited to see if she responded; I took her silence as approval to go on. "If I disobeyed her she would restrain me until I learned my lesson, lock me in my room without food or water and if I begged it would only make it worse. She claimed she was teaching me to be strong, that love was a useless distraction and I believed her for a while. My father, as kind as he was, was too afraid to raise his voice and would sit back and watch."
There was a deafening pause.
"Surely she loved you."
"No; there were no emotions in her eyes. Nothing but ice cold darkness. I would sit there at night on my bed praying to whatever gods that existed just to see an ounce of compassion, but it never came. No matter what I did my mother never changed."
"Tell me a good memory." I heard her shift on the bed, potentially moving closer, but I shook my head hoping that she would know it was only to stop her from coming nearer, "Surely you have some."
"When my mother would go out to town my father would take me riding through the fields. When I was old enough to ride by myself I would race him to the river, and when we got there he would pull out a sack full of sweets that we weren't supposed to have around mother. He would tell me wondrous stories about when he was young and, god, we would laugh for hours, but one day we lost track of time and by the time we got back mother was there waiting," I shook my head as the picture of her face was fresh in my mind; I could feel the magic restricting my lungs as I tried to beg for her to stop, "She was furious with us. As a result, I was forbade from riding. The horses were locked up and only she had the key which neither of us was willing to steal. I then started going out with her to town and I met a boy. Despite my mother's orders we began sneaking out at night. He would ride over on his horse and we would journey through the night; just me and him under the stars."
I felt the ache begin to stir inside of me and it traveled from my heart where he rested for all eternity into my throat causing me to choke on my words. Although a fraction of my story was nothing more than a story it was close enough. A warm hand was laid onto my shoulder, light but so comforting.
"Go on. I'm listening."
My head shook.
"The good memories stop there."
"You don't have to, but if you want to finish I'll listen."
When I turned my head, I met her hazel eyes that seemed to be gleaming by the lantern light. Something inside of them had changed; suddenly my body felt cold and I was craving another soul's warmth.
"Mother found out about that too. We had plans to run off together, but he never showed. In the morning I heard there had been a tragic accident on one of the nearby farms. Something had spooked the horses and they got loose. In those hard times horses weren't easy to come by so he tried to rally them up on his own but they trampled him to death. They tried to save him, but his ribs had been crushed and his heart damaged."
I choked down rising tears.
"Wilma I…I'm so sorry," she said with a broken voice as her hand squeezed my shoulder.
"It was no accident. I know it wasn't."
"You blame your mother?"
If one would have asked me this question two months ago I could have easily answered with a simple name correction, yet right as my natural instinct kicked in deny such and claim another's hand, I felt as if a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. Out of all people, I had confessed my most held secret to the woman I placed blame on for most of my life. For the first time I found myself placing blame on the true villain. My very own mother.
There was a short pause of no words, but then I heard the shifting of weight on the bed. My brows furrowed as Snow sat down next to me. When I met warming eyes there was a troubling, yet intoxicating, stir inside of me.
I couldn't stop myself when I leaned into her just as she wrapped her arms around me. Never before would I have found myself finding comfort in the woman who I hated for so long, yet here I was. I had slept with more men and women than I could remember, but never had I been simply held. Never had someone actually cared to scale the walls of my heart and find a way through without cruel intentions.
Slender fingers ran through hair that was essentially mine now and eventually slid onto my chin gently taking hold and turning my face upward. There was no force. She drew her hand away as if to allow me to decide, but my face remained only a warm breath away from hers.
I gave in to who I had become. I let the lies and deceit fall away into the sands of time to be uncovered another day. Closing my eyes, I leaned upward just a fraction more and our lips connected for the second time.
The voices that aided in my nightmares faded away like dust and all I could hear was Snow sighing into my mouth as I took a hold of her face. A tender hand slid to cup my cheek, her thumb rubbing circles. I could almost taste the emotions spilling over our hearts and into this soft kiss.
I couldn't pull away even if I tried. The way her lips moved against mine was invigorating to the point of intoxication and I could hardly breathe. She stole away the last breath I had when her tongue ran across my bottom lip. I let her in with ease, cherishing this moment and taking in every sense I was able to feel.
My own wandering hand began to travel down her chest until it rested just above her heart. It was beating vigorously with life, life that I had once planned to steal away and crush between my own fingers, but now it was pounding for me. I left it there, but soon enough her fingers were entwining around my own and she was pulling me from the floor.
We fell onto the mattress with as much grace as we could muster which at this point was akin to two teenagers in a hot mess. Her wet lips were on my neck and I couldn't hold back a sweet gasp as her teeth grazed over my pulse point. My jacket had been thrown down onto floor and her hand was beginning to make do with the rest of my clothes.
However, just as her hands took hold of the bottom of my shirt and I felt her fingers on against my skin, I froze. All of my fears and devastation crashed into me like a hurricane and I couldn't breathe once more, but this time for a whole other reason.
"No," I choked out but when she didn't hear me I took hold of her wrist, "this is wrong."
"…wrong?" I tried to sit up, but she grabbed my arm. I tried not to look her in the eyes, but failed and I saw the earth shattering right in her hazel eyes, "Don't leave."
Upon hearing those words I felt my own world crumbling to pieces and, without my consent, tears began to fall down my face as if a dam had been broken. It was so sudden, so unforeseen, but her arms encased me anyways and pulling me back down, holding me against her tightly without words.
She didn't ask for an explanation. She didn't try to over analyze why I had called what we were doing wrong despite the fact that it was entirely. Instead she held me close against her so that I could hear the beating of her heart in my ear mixed with the agonizing voice.
"Would you ever consider forgiving her? The Queen I mean?"
"Of course I would."
"Everyone deserves a second chance no matter what has been done. All I would ask of her is that she would come clean. Admit to everything that she is done and say she is sorry. That is all I ask. I know there is a heart somewhere deep down, disguised by all of that darkness that shrouds her."
I had been smiling. For the last few minutes of the night I had been smiling, yet I wasn't. I hadn't been smiling at all. Wilma was. Wilma was my second chance, yet my downfall all the same.
As terrified as I was, as broken as I was, I stayed.