She fidgeted herself awake.
It took her a moment to understand why her toes weren’t freezing, and why she’d felt overly warm under her duvet: Andrei’s socked feet had curled around hers, his right arm hung loosely around her hip.
Carefully, she lifted his arm and hedged out from under it. Her arms goose-pimpled as she quietly slipped out from under the duvet and padded out of the room.
His first thought as his eyes startled open was of consternation: he’d been so warm and comfortable, why was he even awake?
His second thought was that he was going to throttle her.
‘Wake up, pond muck’, she giggle-whispered.
His feet scrabbled for the duvet she’d pulled back, the cold instantly surrounding his feet and making him curl into himself to hold onto the warmth.
‘Don’t be wicked. Let me sleep’, he muttered-yawned.
The duvet slid further to the left, leaving half of him exposed to the cold.
‘Get up, Andrei!’
He lunged for the duvet just as she yanked it off him completely.
He tumbled onto the floor.
‘Shhh! You’ll wake the house’.
‘What the fuck, Achlys? Why are we even awake?’ he grumbled, dragging himself off the floor.
She pointed at the window behind him.
It was almost dawn, the inky sky about to break into a thousand shards of light. The ground was covered in snow.
Andrei and Achlys crept down the stairs, their socked feet soundless; shoes held in their hands.
‘Through the kitchen.’ Achlys prodded at the bottom of the stairs.
Andrei stilled. ‘Someone’s in the den’
‘It’s nothing. Let’s just go through the kitchen- it’s probably just mum…’
‘At half five? What would she be doing up so early?’ he asked, incredulously.
She ignored him, stalking into the kitchen and out of the side door.
Achlys made her way down the garden path, her delight in the snow-covered ground forgotten. She was annoyed with Andrei, irritated with his inability to just- for once- listen to her. To just let things go, to just let them be- always wanting to know why and how and why not. It was frustrating. Not everything has an explanation. Not everything needs one.
‘He’s like a bloody terrier- doesn’t let go of something once he catches a sniff of it’, she muttered to herself.
She kicked rather viciously at a pebble in her path.
Andrei caught up with her as she crossed into the woods. His breath puffing into the air, he silently handed her a hot flask.
They trudged through the snow, the moon still winking at them through the trees; the stars shining down. He lifted a branch out of her way and she ducked under it, making her way to the tree.
She came to a standstill in front of the tree. She dragged in a breath of icy air.
He reached for her hand without quite realising it.
The tree’s branches were caked with snow, its thin arms reaching up and out, up and out; almost touching the moon and the stars.
The Earth was shouting out her secrets.
Achlys’ hand tightened around his.