I hear screams sometimes, echoing through the empty walls of this empty house.

I sit here, lost between what feels like a million seconds.

And I wait.

I don't know what I'm waiting for. I wander the empty hallways of my house, tracing my fingers through the layers of dust over plastic-covered furniture that have been lost in time.

My windows are filled with silence and the same sight.

I lived like this for many years—I lost count, really. And I was so alone. I was so, so alone.

That was, until he came around. That's when everything changed.

Chapter One

I remember the day very clearly, because it was the first snowfall of the year.

Time was not something I kept track of anymore, sitting on my dust-ridden window seat beside the wide-paned window. It was my favorite resting spot, and I spent most of my silent years there, watching.

Hoping.

My house sits in a small valley, a mere indention of rolling hills all around it. A sharp, thin river cuts a slow ribbon behind it, narrowly escaping the boundaries of the hills.

My eyes had been trained on one hill, watching snow fall lazily to the ground, hardly sticking to a ground I could no longer touch.

And then, I saw a small white puff of smoke evaporate over the hill. It caught my attention, I remember, because I couldn't recall the last time I had seen it. I was instantly tensed, watching the one spot the smoke had evaporated. I recognized it as the breath of a person—but I hadn't seen people in years. What would someone be doing out here, in this weather?

Nevertheless, I was secretly excited. I wanted to see people again, to have some kind of company.

It was a man who climbed up the hill and traveled downwards towards my house.

I could only see mere glimpses of him through my window; but I saw that he was in his late twenties, and that he was handsome.

He disappeared from my sight for a few moments, and I felt my heart drop in disappointment. He probably was taking the road outside my house as a shortcut to town. Few people knew about this shortcut—and fewer took it—so I let my hopes rise slightly, in the anticipation that he might actually come into my house.

I pressed my cold fingers against the glass, praying with all my might that he would come closer to the house, if only for a moment. I just needed company, even if we didn't talk. I just needed someone. I was so lonely.

But I stared out the window, and all I saw was snow falling. Nothing more.

I sighed, slumping back into my window seat. I looked down at my hands, lying atop my crossed legs. I flexed my cold hands to regain some feeling into them, but none came.

The front doorknob rattled.

I sat up quickly, tense in silence. Someone was trying to get into the house.

My heart raced with happiness; I scrambled off the window seat and nearly flew towards the door. I couldn't describe how happy I was! Oh, maybe my long hopes had come true, and I could have some company again!

The doorknob rattled again; I checked the front door to see if it was locked. It wasn't, of course, but the lock had rusted over and was blocking the door. I shut my eyes, hoping, hoping that the door would open.

There was a cracking sound, and the door swung open. I didn't move, though the sound did startle me a little.

Behind the door, I stared right at the man I had seen earlier in the snow.