Winter Detour

I stepped off the path, trudging over, running my hands down frozen trees to knock off the snow collected in their rough skin. Enough of this nonsense. I couldn't go around forever, like this. Woods are meant to be shared.

I pawed at the snow, and smashed a bundle of it together in my hands. I took more snow and added it. Then I was crawling around on the ground, rolling and rolling the snow into a deformed sphere. I left it alone, and started a new bundle. I stacked that one up on the bigger one, and began the last piece. I made it extra carefully; making sure it was perfectly round and set it gently on the top of my column of giant snow balls.

A stick was snapped in half, the ends poked in to make little black eyes. I drew a smile with my finger, and added a rock for a nose. I dug under the snow a bit to the fall covering of leaves- and picked up the more preserved leaflets. I piled them carefully on the snowman's head, slipped my beanie hat off, and used it to hold them there. Some slipped off and drifted in sudden brilliance to the floor, where they lit up the white with decayed reds and oranges.

"Why, hello Caden." I said grandly, bowing down to sweep up the scarf from my pack. I swung back up and wrapped the red wool around his non-existent neck, stepping back to admire.

"There, you're complete, but I have one last thing to give you." Bravely, mostly because I knew it was quite stupid, but fun all the same to pretend, I leaned forward and gave his cold wet cheek a quick kiss.

Stepping away and sighing white air, any silliness I had leaving with the white cloud of breath, I stared into the woods. Muffled wind spread winter, drawing the sound of splintering boughs as I stood despondently by myself in the middle.

A skitter- a tree branch snapped- I peered around, looking for something lost in white. No one was there, of course.

"Well, seeing as I can't say goodbye to your twin without conflict, I bid thee farewell. Wish me luck." I patted Caden Snowman on the head and trudged off. I'd come back for my stuff later. Frigid air feels good to a hot soul of conflict.

Past the circle and the bus stop, crossing the cow pasture turned- sledding hill for the kiddies- and up to the tractor path behind. This is where I am. High above me on my right rose the hill with rows of houses built across it, while I crashed through the powder in the woods on the far side, as the ground flattened and rolled away to become something more wild than domesticated hill.

Not far from the white carpet trail, dirty as it was with twigs and speckled with dirt of the wood, there spread a smaller side path. The snow lay untouched as it lead away into a sheltered grove. I stepped forward, eyes focused on a tilted redstone Celtic cross.

I fell to my knees and kneeled, burying my face in cold gritty snow. My cheeks froze under warm-moist eyes. "Dear God, please forgive Caden and his hate, forgive my shame, so that I might find a friendship stronger than sin." I knew he felt what I meant; I felt it too. That muffled peace of the woods settled around me. I tried to soak it in.

I ceased all thought. Someone was holding me- someone had come up behind me and was holding me tight. I didn't move-I couldn't, whoever it was had my arms pinned to the sides. I had no idea who it could be- but I felt them lean in around my shoulder. I turned my face to the side, thinking that this couldn't be good, but my gut registered no fear. My friend is gone and someone has grabbed me from behind.

I sat up stiffly, he sat with me, and waited. There was hesitation, but then warm breath was warming my ear from the cold air, "Hey, Cuán." Oh. I've heard this voice before, somewhere…

"What?" I croaked.

"Don't be lonely, okay?"

I wasn't sure what to say to that, but, "How can I not be?" I didn't explain how his loss was like a deep jagged tear I felt with every breath, and how I could hardly take a step without imagining his presence next to me.

"It isn't good for you to get so hung up over it. He's your best friend. He'll come around."

"Are you crazy? He hates me now, because I- I'm-" I heaved, scrunching up my face briefly as I felt a surge of pain in my chest.

"Hey, hey," he was murmuring.

The dampened coals of my spirit lit and suddenly I was quite tired of all this. Who the fuck was holding me? And what the hell were they even doing here? I'd kissed a bloody snowman, and there was no way they would understand that I couldn't think of anything else… But that doesn't matter. I'm just a bloody fool.

I twisted in his hold, trying to see who they were; a flash of dark red brightened my eye, but they simply held me tighter.

"What are you doing here?" I asked finally, my muscles going lax so that I hung in his grip. Really this was quite odd.

He mumbled, "I have something to tell you."

"And what would that be? And how will you tell me if you won't let me see your face?"

He let go. I stepped up from the snow, surprised at his sudden release. Slowly turning about, my gut fluttering with excitement and curiosity; after all, this person had (no doubt) caught me in a most embarrassing act.

I saw that flash of red, a pale freckled face, "Caden!" I blurted, but it wasn't. I felt my stomach flip flop with the realization that I had my friend, only to lose my grasp on him again. It wasn't Caden. And yet they were so alike.

His face, soft with concern, was probably inches from mine. He'd let go, but he certainly hadn't given me up completely. My face must have shown its disappointment, as he raised a hand and stroked my cheek fleetingly, drawing it away quickly; as if to hide that the action ever occurred.

I stared at him, trying to see. His hair was darker than Caden's, and thicker, and wavier; it was rich and glossy. It was longer than Caden's too, and stopped to frame his face at his jaw line. His face was more angular, and sprinkled with freckles that slid alluringly across his nose and under each eye, instead of splotched in that messy way I'd loved in Caden. What caught me the most, feeling a leap in my stomach, were his eyes; they were quite different from Caden's.

They were a deep brown, warm and chocolaty. They peered at me in sympathy and gentleness. Caden's had been ice blue, and they had hardened his face intensely, when he wished it. I didn't think this boy before me could ever do that with his sweet eyes.

He opened his mouth, inhaled, and breathed, "I'm his half-brother. He never told you about me?"

I shook my head in confusion. He looked down and his fingers worried at the hemp of his thin coat. I noticed that his fingers shook, bare in the cold air, tinged blue.

"Aren't you cold?" I asked, frowning at him.

He peeked up at me under a fall fringe, "I was in a hurry…had to catch up with you."

I crossed my arms, "So what's going on here? You're Caden's half- brother? Where did you come from? I mean, I've seen you around school, but Caden never told me anything-" I shook my head in complete disbelief, "He never said anything about a brother!"

He grinned, but his smile faltered, "I- I can only guess that he never told you about me because m-my family and I have been sort of…banished, excommunicated, you could say, from the family. You see," he went on sliding his hands in his pockets and then drawing them out to fumble with the zipper, "My, our-" he stopped again and sighed.

I watched him as he stared at the ground, looked up and peered around the sheltered woods. Something about what he had to say…his own nervousness was making my own hands shake and my legs tingle with anticipation. Something was definitely up, and my nerves were twisted with the curiosity.

He looked up again at me, with smooth cheeks blushing from the wintry caress of the wind. All he had to do was lean-

He kissed me. I stood still when he brought his lips to stroke mine, covering mine completely in a gentle hug, warm and even comforting in its carefulness. I didn't kiss back…taking in the feel of someone so close...and it was over.

The red hair didn't recede, and he remained hovering over my face. "That's why," he confided. His breath chased the cold air away.

My gut twisted unpleasantly, churning with hot betrayal of Caden, and my nerves pulled taunt in their tangled web. I shook my head. And I shook it again.

"He didn't know I was gay. He didn't know I liked him for the longest time. But it wouldn't have worked out anyway." I murmured hoarsely, looking down at my boots.

A flicker caught my eye, and there was a hand resting on my shoulder, and then another hand eased around my side and I was drawn to the boy's chest. I didn't need his comfort and pushed away. This time, he released me without a fight.

"I can't do this." I said firmly. I would, your eyes are so beautiful. "This isn't the best time to go crushing on someone, especially Caden's half-brother." I told him pointedly. He looked down at his hands, laced them, let go, and looked around. Caden would never be this awkward with me, but this boy's demeanor was softer.

He crossed his arms and shivered, "I heard what happened at school. Caden might have abandoned you, but do you really think you could have kept such a secret to yourself forever?" He looked at me sadly. "That's why I wanted to talk to you before you left- I had to hurry, because you just disappeared so quickly."

I didn't say anything, or moved when he removed a brown beanie from his pocket and placed it over my blonde head. My hazel eyes caught the bright red of my scarf, though, as he pulled that from a pocket. He slung it over my head, "You know," I said as he wrapped it around, "Winter is a lonely season." I looked out at the silence, "I like it that way." I flicked my eyes back to him, "But I can always make an exception."

He smiled, "Thank you." He stepped closer again and I felt the warm presence of his arms embracing me and he nuzzled into my neck.

"Your welcome." I said quietly. He tilted his head and gave me a kiss on the cheek, "By the way," he began, looking back up, "My name's Morgan."

I wrapped my arms around his neck, "It's a pleasure to meet you, Morgan." I gathered my courage, but he beat me to it, and dropped a kiss over my lips. This time, I kissed back, closing my eyes on Caden's face to see Morgan instead.