I awoke to the sound of Eztil’s ear-deafening snoring. I rolled over to find that Alexander was still asleep too, breathing softly. His breath was fogging in front of his face, I wrapped my fleece tighter to me as I sat up, rubbing the sleep from my eyes, and yawned.
On my hands and knees I crawled to the cab of the van where Phoenix was driving, eyes dead set on the road. She was wrapped in a fleece similar to mine but on top of that she had on a patterned scarf with matching hat and gloves, she was still shivering slightly. Outside was so white it almost blinded me. Trees were scarce but the snow certainly wasn’t. It fell gracefully from the dense, grey clouds above like lace and covering everything in sight. It gave the outside world a smooth, clean appearance that glittered in the faint sunlight.
There were mountain ranges in the far distance that were snow-capped. The snowfall whirled on the hill crests to show beautiful and entwining patterns from the light wind. The engine of the van revved and struggled in the weather conditions, all of its windows frosting.
I numbly pulled myself into the passenger seat.
“How are you this morning?” Phoenix asked through the scarf as it was covering her nose and mouth, to keep warm.
It only dawned on me in that moment how cold I actually was, “I can’t feel my toes.”
“There’s hot tea in that thermos,” Phoenix inclined her head to the flask sat on the corner of the dashboard.
I reached for it lazily, the smooth metal warm to my touch. Snow like this brought back some of my most treasured childhood memories. Like the day I met David Cutler, properly for the very first time.
It was a cold day in the middle of January. The wind was bitter, the surrounding trees shook under the pressure, and there was a heavy fall of snow in the air, snowflakes cascaded elegantly to the ground. All in all, it was a cold winter’s day.
I wasn’t concentrating on the weather, I hardly noticed it in fact. Alas, I had missed the school bus home, for the fifth time this month, and was stood miserably under the canopy of the bus stop, waiting for the snow to ease.
A boy was stood under the bus stop too. He had brown tawny hair and bright green eyes, his headphones shoved into both ears. I knew who he was, there wasn’t a kid in school who didn’t know his name. The boy was David Cutler, and he was a “popular”, always surrounded by swarms of girls, captain of the football team, the one guy that every male wanted to be.
Though, I didn’t know David because he was “famous”, I knew David because he lived on my street. We were good friends when we were growing up, he was my only friend back then actually. As we got older, we drifted, I had spoken to him now and again, but since starting high school we barely said two words to each other. We used to be best friends, until he realized that I was too “uncool” to be hanging around with, and I was ditched.
I had made new friends, so I wasn’t really traumatized by the experience, but it upset me to think that someone I used to be so close to, whom I thought cared about me, could abandon and forget about me at the drop of a hat.
I shifted my weight, trying to lean away from him. I didn’t know what he was waiting for, I didn’t ask, I had learnt not to interfere with him and people like him. They were cruel to people that weren’t “one of them”. I had called my big brother and he was on his way to collect me. I hadn’t been waiting long, I was aware that it was a good fifteen minute drive from my house, and the traffic around this time was usually terrible even in good weather conditions.
I coughed and wrapped my cardigan tighter around me, in attempt to protect myself from the aggressive chill. My teeth chattered, and I buried my face into my scarf to try and gain feeling back into my nose. It was freezing.
“Do you want these?”
I looked at the boy next to me, in his hand he was holding a pair of gloves. I looked into his green eyes and, in a trance, I reached out and took the gloves from him.
“Thank you,” I mumbled as I struggled my numb fingers into the wool.
“It’s all right,” David beamed, “You looked like you could use them.”
I smiled awkwardly back at him.
“It’s Ivy, right?” He raised his eyebrows, encouraging a conversation from me. His face was open, his eyes were kind. It was like he actually wanted to talk to me.
I nodded, biting my lip, “Yeah.” I whispered. How did he know my name? Did he still remember me from when we were kids? I secretly hoped so, as every girl did. Every girl in school longed for David Cutler to know who they were, to know their name.
“We have French and Physics together,” He smiled again, it was dazzling. He really was beautiful. Before now, I never understood why all of the females in our classes swooned as he passed them in the corridor, or got giddy when he spoke. But, the longer I looked at him, the more I began to understand why girls practically threw themselves at him.
“Did you miss the bus too?” I forced the question out of my lips, stiff from the cold.
He grimaced, “Yeah, I got caught up in English. I had some work I wanted to finish, I got out here too late.”
“Do you have a lift home?” I surprised myself, the words rolled off my tongue naturally. I found that David was very easy to talk to, he was friendly and had soft eyes which drew me to him.
He laughed, “My mum is on her way after work. She finishes in a couple of hours.”
I gaped at him. A couple of hours?! “You can’t stand out here for that long.” I said, in a matter-of-fact sort of way.
He shrugged, the movement was graceful. Everything he did was enticing, I was bewitched by him. “I’m going to have to. Unless, you have another idea?”
“If I were you, I would have walked!” I joked.
“It would take too long. It would be a very depressing walk. And, by the time I got home I’d have to wait for another hour for my mum to get home. I don’t have a key.” He shook his head, his damp hair gliding from side-to-side, “There would be no point.”
“You seem to have thought this out step-by-step,” I giggled.
His eyes crinkled at the corners, “You’ll be surprised to know I’m actually very clever Ivy.”
The way he said my name made me melt inside. The way it rolled off his tongue made the hair on the back of my neck stand up on end. I didn’t fancy David, I knew I didn’t. I had watched him, listened to him speaking in class, he sometimes came across as obnoxious and self-absorbed. I think this is just the effect he has on people, he’s very charming, the problem is that he knows it, and clearly knows how to manipulate people.
“Not a typical male then?” I teased, not letting his effect on me internally reach the surface.
He retorted, “Much smarter than the average male, I assure you.”
There was a calm silence between us for a few moments, except for the whistle of the howling wind weaving through the trees.
“You could grab a lift with me, if you want?” I offered warily, letting my sensitive side get the better of me. I couldn’t let him sit here in the middle of January in weather like this, on his own, without his gloves. Instead, I twiddled my thumbs together, anxious to know his answer.
He shocked me by saying, “That would be brilliant!”
“Well,” He smiled, “It’s a long wait here, in the snow. It’s a long walk home, in the snow. It’s a lovely offer and I’m grateful for it. I would love a lift home.”
“You’re welcome. It’s the least I can do,” I grinned, “To thank you for the gloves.”
He laughed. He had a nice laugh, a contagious laugh and I couldn’t help but smile along with him. “Oh, there’s no need to thank me. It’s my pleasure.”
He acted older than he was, he was a young boy but he spoke like a man. He was obviously intelligent and brought up well, I felt like he had been alone for a long time and sympathy swarmed into my eyes.
I watched as fallen leaves skittered across the snow-covered road in front of me. The crisp, cool air causing chill bumps to rise across my skin under my many layers. The wind sighed in my prickling ears and I pulled my woolly hat down to warm them. My long hair crept out of its loose band and began to whip wildly, leaving parts of my face with a stinging sensation I did not appreciate. It was a dreadful day, I just wanted to be at home, tucked up under a quilt by the fire with Ben. With mugs of hot chocolate, lots of hot chocolate. With marshmallows.
“So, what do you do for fun?” David changed the topic in the conversation so subtly, I hardly noticed.
“In my spare time, I do homework.”
David laughed his wonderful laugh again, “I said, what do you do for fun, which I hope isn’t homework.”
I wanted to blush, but I stopped myself. I refused to let his beautifully carved face and ridiculous charm affect me. I replied nonchalantly, “I sing. I play piano. I garden. I read stupid, romance novels. I go for long walks in the forest behind my house. I write poems. I play chess with my mum. I paint. I bake. I watch cartoons. I lay out in my back garden on clear nights and watch the stars for hours. I listen to music. I –”
“Whoa,” He stopped me mid-flow, “Clam down, kiddo.”
“You asked, I answered.” I shrugged, “What do you do?”
He sighed, “I party. I play video games. I do the music techs at gigs. I play football. I cook. I go quad biking. I listen to music. I DJ sometimes. I read the newspaper with my mum. I sail in the summer. I like to go for walks, too. I bike ride through the woods. I swim for the school team. I read. I take photographs of things I like. I love sketching. I think we should find a spot and be artists together one day.”
I smiled, my mouth spreading widely. “That sounds wonderful.”
“The weather will be lovely, the environment would be perfect.” He mused, then with a twinkle in his eye said, “I suppose the company could be better, but it will have to do.”
“I could say the same myself.”
David chuckled, his laughter meeting his eyes. His entire face glowed with warmth, the warmth of promising friendship. “I can feel us getting along very well, Ivy.”
That was the day, the moment, our friendship truly began.
A sharp pain in my chest brought me back to reality. A stinging in my eyes alerted me to the fact that I was also crying. I sniffed as quietly as I could, took my numb fingers off the cup of tea and wiped my face with the back of my hand before the tears could freeze on my cheeks.
“Are we close yet?”
“We just passed a sign saying ‘Welcome to Ruby, Alaska. Enjoy your stay.’ So I’m assuming so.” Phoenix’s answer was muffled still due to the scarf.
I peered out of the window and past the thick blizzard. To my surprise there were little houses out there through the snow. Simple and dainty. Phoenix drove for a couple more minutes, weaving round corners carefully, then she stopped and pulled up on the hand brake with both hands.
“Wake the boys up,” I urged, “This is it. We’re here.”