Snow didn't offer one the reflection that muddy puddles tended to, unfortunate since he wished more than ever to gaze at himself. Christian's head rose slowly and he stood silently staring off into the distance. The flurries fell relentlessly, carried by the northern wind that seemed to suggest that winter would last forever. Something for him, that didn't seem wholeheartedly inconceivable. The cold cut through his heavy coat across his chest, numbing him beyond what seemed possible. The sharp pain of frostbite had already claimed his fingers and toes, and as he stood in the snowy bank, he could feel his legs begin to stiffen.
"Winter in my heart, so why not at my hands as well?" He muttered as flakes of whiteness pressed past the fur lined hood onto his face and scarf. He shivered slightly and found himself annoyed that the falling powder couldn't offer him answers. "But that's what happens when you can't voice your questions I suppose."
He turned out of the snow bank started down the sidewalk that had been shoveled the day before. The path went in a circle around the local high school he'd been attending for the last three years, surrounding the football and baseball fields and a large pond that had frozen over a few weeks prior and now was almost indiscernible from the snow. Christian hoped by the time he had circled the school and reached his foot prints again he'd have his answers, though doubted such a thing. After all, he wasn't entirely sure what the questions were.
He began slowly, making each step deliberate and heavy, leaving as clear an imprint as possible. Only an inch of snow had fallen so far today, miniscule compared to the two feet the day before. Not to be taunted however, the weather promised much more later in the day and in the coming week. He wondered for a moment what she would think of it. Laura had always had a thing for winter in all the years he had known her. If things had been different, she may have been at his side. If he had acted a bit quicker she would have probably smiled and laughed and made the snow friendlier, the wind a bit less like glass cutting into his lungs.
His mind trailed off into nothingness. He took in a deep breath of the bitter air to calm his heart and stop the emotion. His feet stuck to the pace and he walked blindly passed the football and baseball fields, when he reached the pond he froze. The snow had been falling that day too.
The pond behind the high school was unmoving now, and a thick layer of ice covered it, the variations of fowl which called it home having headed south for warmer climates. That fateful day the ice had been too fresh, and would crack under the slightest pressure. Christian could feel wetness and stinging warmth on his cheek he recognized as tears. He hadn't cried that day, something he blamed on surprise and shock; never before had anyone gone out of his life so unexpectedly, so rapidly.
Christian shuddered as the snow picked up. His legs felt weighted unwilling to press on, but his mind knew better. If he stayed too long he doubted he would ever leave, instead sacrificing himself to the elements for a few moments of recollection of a better time. He continued on as the heave of emotion swelled deep in his throat. He begged for the sight of another, something to force him to hold everything together. "God grant me this, make the tears stop" he murmured.
He had warned her hadn't he? But she never listened damn her, too willful, too ignorant of her own mortality not to glide out onto the pond. When the ice had cracked and she had fallen he had been in calculus. When the sound of sirens and the screams of his fellow classmates echoed around him he had felt detached from consciousness, floating above his body and the chaos, certain what was happening was a dream brought on from too many dull equations. When he came around, when the principal had placed a hand on his shoulder, Christian had known nothing could have been further from reality.
He took his head in his hand and mellowed his breathing forcing the nightmarish memories to the back of his mind, calming his heart as best he could. When he looked up he was back where he had started. Christian froze once again and gasped.
Laura was standing there alone facing the opposite way. Her long blonde hair brushed around her, wild beneath her snow cap. He watched her, for a moment trying to comprehend how this was possible. He had watched her drown, yet she stood there, dry and warm. "God how…" Christian began.
She turned. Her eyes went wide and she covered her mouth, like him her eyes were tinted red with tears. "Christian…how?"
Christian didn't answer. The snow had ceased for a moment and in that moment he closed the distance between them, pulled her close and cried. Their eyes locked and Christian smiled. "I don't care how you're here I just can't believe it."
Laura smiled back before leaning in and kissing him lightly on the lips. Her body felt warm against his own, her kiss hot and full of life. "I should say the same." She murmured as she broke away, "I've missed you so much."
The snow began to fall again, this time in large flakes and slowly. Christian walked the path again, this time with Laura at his side. Words evaded him, too consumed by confusion to know precisely what to say. They moved their steps in sync. The sky darkened as afternoon slowly ascended into early evening. They reached the pond again and stared at it.
"I shouldn't have gone out there," Laura said aloud.
"It was an accident. You couldn't have known the ice wasn't very thick."
Laura shook her head. "I should still have known better." Her lower lip trembled and tears began falling again, "I killed us both out of stubbornness and sheer ignorance. You warned me and I didn't listen."
Christian's eyes narrowed. "Both of us? I was in calc when they found you. I held your hand on the way to the hospital… You died in my arms and I re-"
"Died in the hospital. Hypothermia Christian; my God what a horrible thing."
Christian frowned. "I didn't die. I went home school has been out since, for winter break. Christmas is in two days."
Laura faced Christian her gaze weary, her cheeks red from a combination of cold and tears. "Do you know what the date is Christian?"
"December twenty-third, four days after..."
Laura turned away from him. "No, no I'm sorry," a sob escaped her lips. "It's February third."
Christian fell to his knees, disbelief swarming him. None of this was possible, Laura was dead, and instead she stood before him telling him he had died also? But what about the principal's hand on his should? What about the night after the accident when he had lain in bed, her pink sweater she'd left at his house the day before the accident, the only comfort he'd found, the only thing that had lulled him to sleep. No, he wasn't dead he was delusional from the cold, that had to be it. "You're lying to me, please Laura tell me you're lying. Tell me I'm sick, that I have a fever."
Laura moved to her knees next to him. The back of her bear hand brushed his cheek. She was cold, and her skin felt brittle on his cheek. "When I passed I could feel you with me. I tried, God how I tried. I love you so very much Christian, I tried to push you away but you wouldn't go. And then suddenly you weren't there and I thought perhaps your soul had gone back to your body that you had made it. But I was wrong and I'm sorry."
"Why don't I remember?" he sobbed, "I remember going home, I remember sleeping in my bed."
Laura inhaled a ragged breath, "When I walked out there you had been standing by the side. Then the ice cracked and I fell, I hit my head. When I woke up I was back out here I tried to go into the school but the doors were chained, the streets were empty. No matter how far I walked I always ended up right back here on this spot next to the lake. I knew then that I had died."
Christian racked his brain for a logical explanation but there were none. He could recall falling asleep but everything else was blurry. All he was certain of was opening his eyes outside the school near the track and field and pond. Could he have truly died next to Laura? He searched for a memory that would suggest otherwise. What had they been talking about in calculus that day or what it chemistry or maybe English? He shook his head. And why were the streets so quiet? Even with the snow people should have been out shopping with the holidays so close by.
Christian stood. He offered his hand to Laura. She stared up at him wide eyed for a moment longer before accepting and returning to her feet. The snow stopped falling again and night came. "What happens now?" Christian asked.
Laura shrugged. "I don't know. But I know this; I loved you in life and still do in death. Maybe now that we've found each other we can go somewhere else."
Their eyes met again. Christian leaned in and kissed Laura. Even if what she said was true, even if they had both died in the lake accident he was sure of her warmth, sure that if what she said was true, the closest thing to life came from her kiss. "I loved you the moment I laid eyes on you and always will no matter what comes now."
They exchanged no further words as they turned and walked hand in hand away from the school and pond for the final time.