Emily was sitting in the park near her house, watching the early snow fall in fluffy, white clouds. This kind of snow was unusual for November, there was already at least six inches of it. The park was filmed in a white blanket, untouched but for her own lonely trail of footsteps. The climbing-frame, the roundabout and the seesaw sat as abandoned toys, gathering snow like a layer of glistening dust. The bite of the chilly air made Emily shiver, and she pulled her sleeves down over her gloved hands. Even with two jumpers on, and a pair of thick tights under her jeans, she was feeling the cold. But she didn't move. She didn't want to go home, not to that house. She'd rather freeze for a few more hours, watching the sparkling snow fall, swirling in the breeze, catching the weak moonlight that trickled through the clouds in one direction and the light from the nearby lamppost in the other. The rustle of bare tree branches and the whir of the occasional car going by were the only sounds she could hear over her own soft breathing. She was trying not to cry, yet again. Tears wouldn't make her family change, wouldn't make her life any easier.

She sniffled, brushing a loose strand of hair out of her eyes, and tugged down her hood. She was already wet from the ever-falling snow, so it didn't matter if her hair was wet too. It was sad that this was the only place she could run to when she wanted out of the house these days. Her friends were all always busy, or just plainly lived too far away for her to walk to their houses. So, she came to the park and sat on her own, ignoring the stares she got from strangers passing by. Nobody ever bothered her here, probably figuring that anyone stupid enough to sit in the snow wasn't worth noticing. Of course, eventually, someone had to take notice, and Emily's streak of peace was shattered.

"Hey. Excuse me. Are you okay?" A soft male voice interrupted her self-pity and Emily looked up slowly from her soaked trainers. She expected to see maybe some kindly old man with a dog, or perhaps one of the occupants from the houses across the street, but instead she was pleasantly surprised.

"Um, yeah. I'm fine" Emily muttered, dropping her gaze back to the ground. The person standing in front of her wasn't an old man, or middle-aged homeowner, but a teenage boy. A very, very attractive teenage boy. With pale blonde hair, and astoundingly green eyes that she could see clearly even through the misting snow.

"Are you sure? You don't look okay" The boy asked gently. Emily eyed his black trainers, glanced at his dark jeans and tried to sneakily peek at his black hoodie. Obviously the boy liked black.

"Yeah, I'm okay" Emily replied quietly, wishing he'd leave her alone now. Attractive boy or not, she'd come here to be alone and didn't appreciate the disturbance.

There was silence for a moment, and Emily thought he'd gotten the message and walked away. But when she heard the clink of the chains of the swing next to hers, she realised she'd thought wrong. She glanced sideways at the boy curiously, and saw he was watching the snow dancing down, his head tilted back slightly. He had lovely, high cheekbones and a softly sculpted mouth, and his ash-blonde hair swept across his forehead. Definitely one of the hottest guys she'd ever seen. Not that it mattered.

"So, if you don't mind my asking, what are you doing sitting in a park alone in the snow?" The boy asked suddenly, turning to look at her. She dropped her gaze again and hoped he hadn't caught her staring at him.

"Actually, I do mind" She replied sharply, flicking her ponytail agitatedly with one hand. The boy didn't reply. Emily waited a few seconds and then chanced peeking at him again, but this time she got caught. He was looking right at her, watching her almost expectantly. She ducked her head and felt a blush touch her cheeks.

"What are you doing sitting in the snow on your own?" She asked harshly, wishing he'd look away. She could still feel him watching her.

"I'm not on my own" The boy answered simply, a lilt of amusement in his voice. She looked at him then, eyeing him questioningly. He chuckled - and wow, that was a surprisingly nice laugh. "You're here aren't you? That means I'm not on my own" He explained his logic with an adorable smile, and Emily felt butterflies flutter in her stomach. Why was this gorgeous boy talking to her? Did he want something? Was he making fun of her?

Emily gritted her teeth and stubbornly gazed at the floating white flakes drifting onto the ground. The park really was pretty, especially with the grey-peachy clouds chugging overhead, pouring down tumbles of snowflakes the size of pound coins. A sharp wind blasted through the park, and Emily shuddered. It had to be getting late by now.

Glancing at her phone, she saw she was right. It was almost ten o'clock at night, and if she didn't get home now, her parents would lock the door. She didn't have her keys, so she'd be stuck begging them to unlock the door, and she didn't want to beg them for anything. But she didn't really want to sleep in the snow either.

She got up from her swing, dusted off the layer of snow that had accumulated on her jumper, and began walking away without a backward glance. She was half-way across the park when she thought she heard the boy laughing, and she turned back in irritation. Only, the boy wasn't there anymore. Huh. She wondered, as she made her way down the icy hill toward her less-than welcoming home, when he'd left without her noticing.

The next few days weren't so bad. She made it through the rest of the school week, keeping to herself except for when her friends spoke to her, and ignoring her parents when she was at home.

It was the weekend before she ended up in the park again. After another awful argument with her mother over, yet again, nothing, Emily found herself sitting on her usual swing at seven in the evening. It wasn't snowing tonight, but it was just as cold as it had been on Tuesday. Tucking her hair behind her ear, Emily sighed. The road was busier this evening, with dozens of cars rolling through the slush at a snail's pace. Handfuls of squeaking girls skipped along the streets and Emily studiously tuned out the giggly taunts they called out at her.

She was beginning to get annoyed at the crowd of smirking guys repeatedly making horrid gestures at her, and she was considering making a couple of hand gestures of her own when the group of boys suddenly backed away, tossing a few curses over their shoulders as they left. Emily muttered under her breath and flipped the guys off to their backs, glad they were finally going away.

"Assholes" A voice muttered darkly behind her, making her jump in surprise.

"Holy crap!" She hissed, putting a hand over her quick-beating heart. A soft laugh sounded, and she could've sworn she'd heard it before. She turned around in her swing and saw, with a jolt of surprise, that it was the boy from the other night. With pale blonde hair and emerald eyes, he was easily recognisable, and he sat down in the swing next to her with a sweet smile on his face.

"Hello again" He said smoothly. He was dressed much the same as he had been on Tuesday, only now his jeans had a chain laced through the belt loops.

"Uh, hi" Emily replied hesitantly. Was this guy stalking her or something?

"You come here a lot, don't you?" He chuckled and Emily scowled. That was a total pick-up line. He must've been teasing her; No gorgeous guy like him would ever be even slightly interested in her. She wanted to storm away from the guy but that felt like letting him win, so she settled for ignoring him, watching her own foot kick at the snow. He seemed to get the message, and sat silently on the swing beside her.

It was while later when Emily was pulled out of her thoughts by a heavy, cold splash on her forehead. And another a second later. Looking up, Emily scrunched her nose in distaste at the falling raindrops. She glanced to her left, expecting to be alone, but the strange boy was still sitting there, lost in his thoughts. She couldn't help but admire him, discreetly. He really was good-looking, with pale, flawless skin and hair the colour of barley.

"You could take a photo, you know? It'd last longer" The boy said suddenly, amusement in his soft voice. Emily blushed and looked away.

"Whatever" She said curtly, getting up from her swing. The boy laughed quietly behind her as she walked away, trudging through the snow. Her fingers had turned pink from the cold, and her damp hair hung limply in her eyes.

The park was almost out of sight when she turned back curiously. The boy was still sitting on his swing, and he was watching her. He waved a hand at her and she turned away quickly, continuing down the street.

"Stupid, random boy" She muttered under her breath, shoving her cold hands into her pockets as she walked.

"Emily? Hello, Emily?" Fingers snapped in front of her face, and she blinked, looking up to see the grinning face of her friend, Violet. The dark haired girl was eyeing her curiously. "What were you thinking about? You totally zoned out" Violet asked.

They were pretty much alone in the seniors' common room at school, with only a handful of girls giggling around the computer on the other side of the room.

"Huh? Oh, nothing. I was just daydreaming, I guess" Yeah, daydreaming about pale-blonde hair and amazingly green eyes. Unfortunately, since seeing that boy again four days ago, Emily had had him on her mind a lot. He was so strange, mysterious…and so hot. She wondered what his name was, and vowed to ask him next time she saw him. If she ever saw him again. She hoped she would; there was something intriguing about that boy.

It had been a week since Emily had last seen the gorgeous stranger. She decided to go to the park again, despite the ungodly chill. Her parents were out, and her brother was too busy with his computer games to even come out of his room, so she locked the door behind her as she left. Tugging on her cosy gloves, she made her way up the icy hill to the little play-park in the hopes of finally discovering the name of the mysterious boy.

She was disappointed, though, to see that the park was empty. Disheartened, she wandered in and sat on her usual swing, half-hopeful that maybe he'd show up if she sat here for a while. So, she waited impatiently in the cold, her hope dripping away with each minute.

After fifteen lonely minutes, she'd given up. She was shivering and a fierce wind had picked up, whipping her hair across her face and biting at her nose and cheeks. Getting up, Emily grumbled under her breath about stupid strangers and pathetic wishful thinking. With a sigh, she reached down to adjust her trouser leg around her trainer, trying to keep her hair from blowing into her mouth at the same time.

"Were you waiting for me?" A now-familiar voice laughed beside her, and she jumped in surprise, tumbling sideways onto the snowy ground. The wet slush soaked immediately into her jeans and she scowled up at the laughing boy. He sat himself down on the swing next to hers and grinned down at her.

"No. I was not. I don't even know you. Why would I be waiting for you?" She tried not to sound too defensive as she got up and brushed herself off.

"I don't know. Maybe you were lonely. Or maybe you were curious. Either way" He shrugged, swinging himself back and forth, and looking for all the world like a little boy, with that adorable grin. Emily hesitated, unsure whether she should salvage what was left of her dignity and walk away now, or stick to what she came here for and sit down again. If she sat down again, he'd know she really had been waiting for him. That was bad. Prolonging that decision, she put her hands on her hips and faced the boy.

"Who are you anyway? You keep showing up here when I'm here. It's more like you're the one waiting for me" She said boldly, glaring. The boy's green eyes widened slightly for a moment, and then he chuckled, a light blush colouring his high cheekbones. She was amazed, not sure she'd ever seen a guy blush before.

"Uh, yeah. I suppose I am waiting for you" The boy admitted ruefully.

Taken aback, Emily lightened her glare and gazed at him. "But…why?" She stuttered, baffled. Surely he was kidding. But he didn't look like he was kidding. He shrugged.

"I don't know exactly. I just…I don't know" He repeated slowly, his expression as confused as hers.

"Huh" Emily replied brilliantly, sitting back down on her swing and watching the boy openly. He didn't seem to like the scrutiny; he squirmed under her gaze and ran a hand through his hair, ruffling it.

"Stop staring at me" He urged quietly, glancing at her uncomfortably. She beamed, enjoying his discomfort.

"Tell me who you are and I might" She taunted. The boy frowned and looked at the ground, petulantly kicking the snow.

"Why do you want to know so badly?" He asked, petulance in his voice as well.

Emily scoffed at him. "Uh, I'd kind of like to know who it is that's decided to stalk me" She crossed her arms stubbornly over her chest and the boy glared at her.

"I'm not stalking you" He muttered, irritation creeping into his tone. She waited for him to say more, but he didn't, so she raised her brows expectantly. With a sigh, the boy gave in. "My name's Oscar" He said carefully, and then grinned, "And you are?"

Emily dropped her sadistic smirk and turned away silently. Suddenly, she didn't want to talk to him anymore, didn't want to tell him who she was.

"Oh, come on. I told you who I am. The least you can do is tell me your name" Oscar insisted.

After a thoughtful moment, Emily kicked a chunk of ice viciously, shattering it as she spoke, "Emily. My name's Emily" She muttered.

"Emily. That's a pretty name" He commented and Emily turned to him.

"And 'Oscar' is…kind of unusual actually" She remarked. The boy looked taken aback and blinked, smiling a little at her.

"Hey, you make that sound like some sort of accusation. Got something against strangers? I know Oscar isn't a common name, not really, but I kind of like it" He said with a smile. Wow, that was a nice smile. Emily wasn't sure what to say to that, so she pulled her phone out of her pocket to check the time as a distraction. Almost eight thirty. Her parents would be home by now, and she hadn't left a note. She'd be in trouble for that when she got in. No point in postponing the likely grounding she would get for leaving her brother alone in the house.

Unhappily, she got off her swing and hesitated, not sure whether she should say goodbye to Oscar or not.

"Bye Emily. I'll see you around" He grinned, waved once, and continued swinging.

"Uh, bye…Oscar" She replied slowly, before turning and walking away. She cast a glance over her shoulder discreetly as she made her way onto the slick, frosty street. But his swing was empty, still swinging lightly. Huh.

School on Monday proved to be difficult. She sat miserably in Maths, unable to focus on the simultaneous equations they were being given. The teacher picked on her to answer a question when she didn't know the answer - She hadn't even been listening. She shrugged at him, hoping he'd show mercy and ask someone else, but not today. Mr Johnston was being cruel today, and insisted she answer the question.

After a full two minutes shrugging and shaking her head, trying to explain that she didn't know the answer, he finally gave up and asked one of the boys. Emily dropped her head onto the table, feeling a blush burning in her face and her mind moving sluggishly through possibilities of escaping.

Next up was Art, and she spent a whole twenty minutes working on a composition for her still life folio, only to have the teacher tell her, basically, that it was all wrong.

By lunch, she wasn't sure she could take anymore. Luckily, she had no more classes, but two hours to stick out in the common room. Usually, that would've been good news. And it was…For all of fifteen minutes. Until one of the chav girls started mocking her, exclaiming that she was a social reject and such. Of course, the other girls joined in and eventually, Emily had had enough. She called out a short string of curses to the girls as she stormed out of the room.

She was half-way home when she realised something: She really didn't want to go home. She couldn't stand to have another argument today, and her mother was sure to have something to say about the state of her bedroom, or her most recent school report, or her attitude in general. So, with a world-weary sigh, she turned and headed to the park. Again.

The park was empty as usual, and Emily silently thanked the stars for that. She really didn't want company today. She wanted to be left alone to let loose a few tears.

Feeling a hot stinging behind her eyes, Emily pulled up her hood and dropped her bag onto the snow carelessly, then sat down on her swing. The weather was getting colder, and she'd forgotten her gloves this morning. Her hands slowly turned red, then purple, and shivers ran through her tired muscles. A tear slid silently down her face and she didn't bother wiping it away. There was a throbbing beginning in the back of her skull, and she welcomed the pain of a headache. Physical pain was easier to focus on than emotional pain.

"You look like you need a hug. I'm offering if you want to take me up on it?"

Emily barely twitched at the sound of a familiar male voice. She swiped the tear of her face quickly, and resisted the urge to take him up on his offer. Who wouldn't want to hug a hot guy when he offered?

"No, thanks. I'm fine" She muttered, glancing sideways at Oscar. "Seriously, are you stalking me? It's creepy how you always show up when I'm here" She blinked away more tears and clutched her swing chains. Oscar didn't smile now.

"Would like me to go away?" He asked seriously, something almost sad stirring in his emerald eyes.

Her heart tightened for a moment and she whimpered, "No, it's okay. I just…I'm just curious as to why you keep finding me".

Blinking slowly, he turned in his swing, twisting the chains. "Does it really matter why?" He asked, still serious.

Emily frowned at the slightly cryptic answer. "Well, not really I guess, but…I really am curious. The only reason I can imagine why you keep tracking me down is because you're planning on kidnapping me or something but you keep losing the nerve. Though why you'd want to kidnap me is also beyond my understanding but…" Emily stopped talking, realising belatedly that she sounded like a rambling moron. She expected Oscar to laugh to her, but instead he just gazed at her with surprisingly intense green eyes. God, she'd never seen a teenage boy look so intensely at anything but a sports car or games console. It was disconcerting, but at the same time, it gave her butterflies. It was like he was trying to solve some tricky puzzle, or figure out the mysteries behind a beautiful painting.

Something must've shown on her face that she hadn't meant to because he smiled suddenly. Slowly, she smiled back, just a little. Confusion thy art my constant companion, she thought randomly, then giggled at her own bizarreness. Oscar raised his brow questioningly and she shook her head dismissively. It was weird how she suddenly felt so much better, and how it was so easy to talk to this boy.

There was a moment where they just smiled at each other, the frothy grey clouds overhead releasing a fresh supply of snowflakes. The white, crystalline flakes drifted down around them, softening the chill of the air.

Eventually, Emily felt the need to break the silence. She looked away, turning her gaze to the expanse of snow-covered park around them. The trees clacked their bare branches in the wind, beating out their own secret rhythm.

"So, um, I haven't seen you around before. Did you move here recently?" Emily asked finally. God, she thought, I sound so formal. More like her stick-up-her-ass mother.

Oscar nodded, making his fair hair flop into his eyes, and he brushed it back. "Just a month ago. Moved from this little speck of a village in the Shire" He twisted his swing as he spoke, swinging side to side like an overexcited child. He was so cute.

"Oh. Does this village have a name, or is it one of those four-houses-and-a-post-office kind of villages?" She grinned, glad she could make him laugh. He had such a nice laugh.

He glanced at her sideways as he spoke, "Tarves. That's the village". Emily blinked in surprise and bit her lip, wondering if she should tell him…

"Oh, yeah. I know that place. Really is tiny. Population of eight-two, and seventy percent of that is elderly folk" She felt bad for not telling him that she knew that village very well because her Grandmother lived there, since he was sharing personal information himself. But she wasn't sure she trusted him enough to tell him where her Grandmother lived.

He laughed again. "Yeah, sounds about right". Emily hesitated, wondering if she should ask him more. After all, she didn't know him, he was practically a stranger - A very attractive stranger, but a stranger no less - and asking too much might seem impolite.

"Uh, if you don't mind my asking, why did you move here?" She tested the waters lightly.

"I don't mind. My dad got a job here as a mechanic. Not many mechanics needed out in the middle of the country, except for tractors. Farmers tend to fix those themselves though" He explained with that devilish grin of his.

Emily grinned back, helpless to stop herself, "Yeah, farmers like to be hands-on and keep other hands off" She murmured, being familiar with the farmer-type herself.

Oscar gave her an odd look. "You know farmers?" He looked somewhere between amazed and impressed. What, did he think I was a total city-girl that just happened to - completely uncharacteristically - enjoy sitting in the snow?

"Yeah. I…" She paused. If she hadn't told him her Grandmother lived in Tarves, she shouldn't tell him something even more personal, surely? Well, too late now. He was waiting expectantly for her to continue. "I help out at some stables at the weekends sometimes. Charlene, the owner, is…well, she's a farmer's daughter through and through" Emily smiled a little sadly, thinking it had been really too long since she'd been to the stables. She'd had other things to do, and with the weather blocking the roads, she just hadn't been able to make it out in weeks.

"Huh. I didn't figure you for a country girl. But personally, I prefer the country myself" Oscar admitted.

Well, at least they had a few things in common. That was promising. Emily smiled genuinely at him. He flashed a swift, dazzling grin, and then turned his eyes toward the sky. Emily noted it was pretty dark now, and wondered what time it was.

"I know it's not polite to ask a woman her age, but…how old are you? I mean, if I'm being rude, you don't have to answer. It's just that you act a lot older than you look" Oscar shrugged, not looking at her. Emily flushed with both embarrassment and irritation. It really annoyed her when people mistook her for being, like, thirteen, just because she was small and skinny. She decided to play this one a bit.

"Well, how old do I look?" She asked boldly. He looked at her then, glanced her over and paid special attention to her face. He met her eyes steadily for a long moment.

"You look sixteen, but you act about two years older than that. So…I'm guessing you're seventeen?" He pitched hesitantly, tilting his head like a confused puppy as he watched her. Whoa, he was good.

"Almost seventeen" Emily said, blank surprise colouring her voice. She had expected him to say she looked much younger. "And you are…um…eighteen?" She guessed his age with a frown. She was terrible at guessing ages.

"Almost eighteen" He echoed her answer adorably. She giggled.

"Wow. Do you go to college or anything?" She was getting a hang of this talking-to-the-hot-stranger thing.

Oscar ducked his head, watching his own foot as he scuffed the snow. "Well, I did. I kind of dropped out. I was doing an art course but…Let's just say the teacher and I didn't see eye to eye". She'd expected him to sound ashamed or something with the way he'd looked away from her, but he was snickering. He was trying to hide it though, so she guessed he thought she'd disapprove.

"Hmm. Well, I suppose with something like art, it's easy to clash with people. It's such a…free skill. You can draw or paint anything, and some people will call it art, others will call it rubbish. I guess it depends on personal opinion, but the only opinion that really matters is the artist's" Emily said distractedly, glancing at her phone for the time.

Damn, it was after four o'clock. She'd been here for over an hour. And this school uniform was not the warmest thing in this weather. She was cold.

"Strike two for me. I also didn't figure you for an art girl. But that's what I meant when I said you act like you're older than you are. Do you even realise how…mature you sounded there?" Oscar was grinning at her as she got off her swing. Emily shrugged, slinging her bag onto her back.

"Yeah, my friends think I'm too 'deep' and I ought to lighten up" She rolled her eyes.

"I like mature girls better. And I don't think it's possible to be 'too deep'" Oscar said kindly, and then waved as she smiled and started to walk away.

"Thanks. Bye Oscar" She called over her shoulder. She thought she heard him reply, "See you soon", but she was too busy blushing to really listen. She was replaying that last totally-flirting sentence over and over, 'I like mature girls better'. Emily wasn't all that experienced with guys, but that was a line if she ever heard one.

She went home smiling. Again.

Amazingly, her good mood continued even when she got home. She twirled in the front door, dumped her schoolbag and skipped into the kitchen where her dad was peeling potatoes.

"Oh, there you are. I was starting to wonder where you'd gotten to" He muttered, chucking a newly peeled potato in the pan. The kitchen was small and cosy, all the counters topped with wood, all the cupboards painted white. The walls were papered with pale blue wallpaper, and the toaster and microwave gleamed silver.

"I just took a walk. What's for supper?" She posed the question teasingly, expecting a reply along the lines of, 'Whatever you make for yourself'. Emily's parents never cooked supper for her anymore. She was left to make it on her own, and usually she didn't even bother. When she did eat supper, it was always pizza, since she couldn't cook anything else.

So she was taken off guard when her dad said, "Well, I'm making cheese sauce for the lasagne. I could put some macaroni on for you and leave some sauce if you like?" The short, portly man turned and gave her a glance over the rims of his rectangular glasses.

"Um, yeah. That'd be nice. Thanks" Emily answered with a grin. Just then, the phone rang and Emily picked it up automatically, "Hello?"

A familiar female voice responded on the other end, "Hey honey, is your dad there?"

Emily dropped her polite phone-voice, "Oh, hi mum. Yeah, he's here. Do you want to talk to him or can I pass on a message? He's arm-deep in potatoes at the minute" Emily giggled as her dad pulled a face and silently threatened to throw a potato at her.

"Just tell him to come pick me up from work. I'm sure the potatoes can wait" She could practically hear her mother rolling her eyes on the other end of the phone.

"Okay, See you later" Emily hung up and put the phone back on its cradle, "Mum says to go and pick her up just now. I'll peel the rest of the potatoes" She offered, holding out her hand for the knife and tattie her dad was holding.

He sighed, handing them over. "Thanks. Don't cut yourself this time. I don't want blood in my mash" He chuckled and Emily stuck her tongue out childishly at him. The last time she'd peeled potatoes, she'd sliced her finger open and ended up with pink potatoes. She would be careful this time.

Once her dad was gone, Emily put on her favourite CD in the living room, turned up the volume and got to peeling the handful of potatoes left, her thoughts drifting. Oscar. He really was kind of sweet, even if he did appear to be stalking her. And he was gorgeous, jaw-droppingly so.

Humming along to Lifehouse's latest album, she tried to picture him. Pale blonde hair, the colour of barley in sunshine, and skin like peachy rose petals. A fine, straight nose with lovely, high cheekbones. A mouth that was almost sinfully sensuous, with a sensitively sculpted upper lip and pouty lower. And those eyes; Eyes that glittered like gems, the deep, rich colour of emeralds, with an intensity and mystery behind them that made you melt inside. She could imagine weaving her fingers in his blonde hair; imagine tracing her fingers over the fair skin of his fine cheekbones. Imagine those eyes looking at her with heat and desire in their depths, imagine how soft and sure his mouth would feel on hers…

"OW!" Fantasy broken, Emily glanced down to see what had caused her pain. She groaned as she saw she'd managed to cut her thumb with the knife, blood dripping from a centimetre long gash onto the draining board by the sink. "Great" She grumbled with a sigh, dropping the half-peeled potato before she got blood on it, and turning on the cold-water tap.

She stuck her hand under the water until her fingers went numb with the cold, and then grabbed a wad of paper towels to press onto her cut while she searched for a plaster. "This is what I get for liking a boy I hardly know" She muttered to herself as she hefted herself up onto the countertop to rummage in a cupboard. She had to kneel on the counter to see the top shelf of the cupboard where they kept medicine and plasters and such, and she pulled out a little cardboard box. Awkwardly opening it and tipping out a cascade of plasters of all sizes and colours, she picked out a small, red one.

She had to put one end of the plaster in her teeth to hold it while she pulled off the plastic covering, and that was when her parents wandered in, chatting. They dropped the conversation when they reached the kitchen and saw Emily sitting there. The knife was on the draining board, stained with her blood, which was also bleeding into the potato she'd dropped next to it. Plasters were scattered on the countertop, and their box had fallen on the floor. And Emily sat with a plaster hanging out of her mouth, her hair falling into her face, and clutching a ball of paper towels to her hand.

"Uh, hi" She said in a voice muffled by the plaster in her teeth. Her mother was repressing a smile, and her dad burst out laughing at her. Emily glared, and her mother burst into giggles as well. Rolling her eyes, Emily said, still with the plaster in her mouth, "Any chance you could stop laughing long enough to help me here?"

Her mother shook her head with a sigh, "How do you do it Emily? I'm going to stop letting you near sharp objects" But the woman took the plaster and wad of bloody paper towels from her, and peeled off the plastic backing of the plaster.

"What did I say before I left? Don't cut yourself again. What do you do? You cut yourself" Her dad was still chuckling, mopping up the mess by the sink with a clean wad of paper towels. Her mother applied the plaster to her cut, and patted her on the head like she was six instead of sixteen, and Emily hopped off the counter.

"You know, you didn't even ask if I was okay. I could've been seriously injured!" Emily pouted mockingly, and her mother rolled her eyes.

"Oh, are you okay? Yes? Okay then, you're not seriously injured. Now scram, you useless child. Tell your brother his supper's ready" Her dad shooed her away with a grin and Emily pulled a face as she left the kitchen and headed up the stairs to her brother's room.

"Hey, Scooby Doo. Supper's ready. Go fetch" Emily peeked into her brother's room and grinned. The thirteen-year-old boy, with his sandy brown hair and wide chocolate brown eyes, looked completely engrossed in whatever computer game it was he was playing. The sudden blare of gunfire from the TV made Emily jump and she picked up a balled up sock from the floor. She tossed it at Terry, hitting him in the chest.

"Hey, did you hear me? Supper's up. Go get it" She repeated.

"Yeah, yeah. I heard you. I'll go down in a minute" Terry replied distractedly, then yelled at the TV, "Oh, crap! He's got a fifty-cal! Retreat!"

Emily rolled her eyes and closed the door behind her on her way out. That kid's brain was going to turn to mush, and he would get fat too if he didn't pull himself away from that damn TV once in a while. Well, his problem if he turns into a vegetable. Most likely a squash, Emily thought with a giggle. She crossed down the hall and slipped into her own room while she waited for her own supper to be ready.

Emily's room was what her parent's called 'a bat's den'. It was small and dark, with red walls and a chocolate brown carpet. Her bed was a double divan, surrounded by lacy, cream-coloured curtains. The curtains over the one, big window were the same colour as the carpet, and her dresser and wardrobe were dark ash wood. The reason it was so dark most of the time was because Emily didn't usually turn on the ceiling light. She preferred the golden glow of the fairy lights she had looped round the curtain-rails around her bed. It left most of the room dim, while giving her closed-off bed a cosy brightness.

She would spend hours curled in behind the curtains, reading or drawing or writing. And right now, she needed to get changed into something more casual than this damned school uniform. She tugged off the tie and the crisp white shirt, tossing them into the wash basket in her little adjoining bathroom. She pulled on clean jeans and a soft, blue t-shirt, and padded downstairs to grab her supper.

That night, she slept easily, her dreams flooded with images of emerald eyes and soft lips and barley-in-sunlight-coloured hair.

Over the next few days, she deliberately walked past the park on her way home, hoping on the off chance that Oscar might be waiting for her. Okay, so she knew she was being silly. She hardly knew the guy, and he probably had a girlfriend. He hadn't been flirting at all the other day; he'd just been being nice. Why he kept finding her was still a mystery, but she was sure he wasn't interested in her much past maybe being friends.

Yeah, you always manage to put yourself down, don't you? She asked herself sadly as she wandered past the park after school on Thursday. It was empty, and the whole area was dusted in a fresh layer of snow. It was ridiculous how deep it was now. It had to be at least a foot deep in some places. But Emily loved the snow and she hoped it would keep coming. Maybe they'd get out of school for the Christmas holidays early if it kept up.

Then again, there were still five weeks until the holidays and the snow could all melt by then. With a heavy heart, Emily picked her way carefully around icy patches on the road home, feeling a shiver try to slip down her spine. Which was odd, because she wasn't all that cold despite all the snow. It felt more like a being-watched kind of shiver. I'm being paranoid now. Fabulous, She thought sarcastically, sighing to herself as she walked.

"Bye Julie" Emily called over her shoulder, watching her friend wave back before slipping into her house. Emily sighed, tugging her long sleeves over her hands in the cold, and listening to the satisfying crunch of her boots in the snow. She'd decided not to depress herself further by walking past the park today, so she'd walked Julie home instead. Now she was regretting it. It took longer to get home this way, and it was freezing today.

She shivered as a blast of icy air whipped at her cheeks. There was a shortcut home along this road, but she didn't like it at this time of year. Since it got dark so early, it could be dangerous. The shortcut was a narrow, muddy pathway that wound right onto her street, cutting easily ten minutes off her journey. But not many people walked along there at this time, so if someone dangerous was hiding in wait, she'd have no help to turn to. However, it was really, really freezing. She could run through the snow if it came to it, but she was taking the shortcut. Hopefully all the dangerous types weren't stupid enough to brave the snow just to attack someone.

Emily took a left down the next alley, and followed it to the pathway shortcut. The alleyway was lined down both sides with a tangled mess of overgrown wild bushes and weeds, dusted in snow. The narrow carpet of snow was untouched but for her own crisp footprints. It looked oddly serene and delicate for an alley pathway.

Emily expected to see maybe one or two people walking dogs but she was completely alone. It didn't bother her. She'd walked down this pathway a hundred times on her own, and it wasn't quite dark yet. So when she heard crunching light steps behind her, she didn't even bother to glance back. She wasn't worried, assuming someone had come along to walk their dog after all. But when the steps got louder, closer, she glanced back quickly and saw a hooded man, cigarette in his fingers, staring at her from only a few paces back.

Anxiously, she stepped up her pace a little, fiddling with her phone in her pocket just in case. The footsteps kept pace with her easily and she started to really worry. She chanced another glance back and saw the man was even closer than before and he'd dropped his cigarette, his hand now in his pocket. Emily knew all too well he could have a knife in that pocket, and she tried to remain calm. If she tried to run now, he'd catch her easily. She had to wait…The thicket of brambles ahead, she could pull it into the path as she went and then bolt. He'd get tangled, hopefully for just long enough that she'd have a chance to make it to the road ahead.

Making herself breathe steadily, willing her legs not to push her into a run just yet, she clutched her phone in her pocket, her finger hovering over the number one on speed-dial. Her home number was first on the list and her dad would be in. He could get to her in under a minute if she needed his help. He was an asshole but he wouldn't let her get attacked.

Emily was closing in on the bramble thicket, just a few more feet; her heart was hammering into her ribs. She glanced back once more…and then she slipped. A patch of hidden ice under the snow. She squeaked as she stumbled, closing her eyes in expectation of, first the fall, and then the attack. But neither came. She found herself caught mid-fall in a pair of strong arms, and she pried her eyes open. She had twisted when she'd slipped so she was facing the way she'd come…and there was nobody there. The hooded man was gone. She was left alone in the arms of some stranger who'd caught her as she fell. She could only hope she wouldn't turn and find it was the hooded man holding her.

It was a sweet surprise then to look up and see sparkling green eyes, half-hidden under stray wisps of blonde hair. "Oscar!" She squealed in delight and relief. "Oh, thank God! I thought that guy was going to…" She trailed off as he helped her stand again, shaking her head, "Never mind. I'm just glad you're here".

Oscar smiled at her gently, "I'm glad to hear it. You really should be more careful when you walk. Watch your feet, not your back" He winked and she couldn't resist smiling at him.

Then she dropped the smile for a moment, "I would've been but there was this guy following me and…I thought he was going to hurt me or something, so I was just…I mean…I was going to run" She finished with a sigh, and Oscar looked at her with concern.

"There was someone here? I didn't see him. Must've run off. Anyway, you're safe now so you can try breathing again" He raised his brows at her and she bit her lip. She hadn't realised she'd been holding her breath until he mentioned it. It seemed he left her breathless, but no wonder. He looked lovely with his cheeks and nose pinkened by the cold, and his hair sweeping, wind-blown, into his eyes. His mouth was curved in a sweet smile. And he'd just saved her - Although perhaps unwittingly - from being attacked, like a mysterious hero. Okay, she was developing a serious crush on him and she just hoped he couldn't see that.

"What're you walking this way for anyway?" He asked suddenly, glancing around with a frown.

"Oh, I always walk this way if I walk Julie home. It's a quick shortcut" She explained, "Why are you going this way?"

Oscar didn't look at her; he was staring at some unnameable plant while flicking snow off its leaves. He shrugged, "Just felt like going for a peaceful walk. Who knew I'd run into the masterful klutz on my way?" He chuckled, but he still wasn't looking at her. She eyed him suspiciously for a moment, and then slyly reached behind her for the ledge of a low wall that she knew was there. She scooped up some snow in one hand behind her back and crunched it into a ball in her palm.

Oscar was still fiddling with the leaves of the plant, his back to her. She grinned victoriously and lobbed the snowball at him. And at the same time, Oscar whirled faster than she thought was possible, and flung a snowball of his own at her. He dodged her throw neatly, but her reflexes were dampened by surprise and his snowball hit her square in the chest. She yelped as icy drops rolled down her collarbone.

"Damn, you got snow down my top! You're a mean person!" She accused, carefully pulling a chunk of compacted snow from under the collar of her shirt. Oscar was grinning, obviously trying not to laugh, but at the same time his eyes were fixed on her chest and it wasn't until she looked down that she saw why. The snow soaked into her white shirt, making it almost transparent. Hastily she zipped up her jumper and scowled. "Pervert" She muttered, glaring at him.

He pulled a shocked expression, meeting her eyes now, "Me? I just saved you from a possible rapist. How was I to know your shirt would go see-through?" He said indignantly and innocently. Emily gave him a deploring look.

"Everyone knows what happens to a white shirt when it gets wet" She arched a brow and he grinned again. But she wasn't really mad at him - a little embarrassed, yes, but not mad - so she grinned back. She tugged her sleeves over her freezing hands and turned to head home. "Well, I've got to go. I might freeze to death out here if I don't get home" She said, trying not to sound regretful. She wanted to stay and hang out with him, but she really was freezing, and her dad would be wondering where she was soon.

Oscar shrugged, "Okay. I guess I'll see you soon. Bye Emily" He smiled as he turned to go the other way.

"Yeah, sure. Bye Oscar" She murmured, glancing over her shoulder to watch his retreating back as he disappeared down the pathway. Well, well, that's enough excitement for one day, She thought, biting back a grin all the way home.