I messed up. Got caught in northern states when winter hit, so I got hit with snow. Lily hated snow. I hated snow too. I still do, actually.
First of all, though, Wayward and Lyron are alive and okay. I'm not going to say that everyone at the hostel is fine since they're not. The situation has been resolved, but at the expense of some death and Fear possession. I should have been there. I should have been involved. Tried to help them somehow.
So I was alone, a homeless kid trying to catch a ride in the height of Christmas shopping season. No one picked me up. It doesn't matter. I wouldn't have gotten far if they did, since so many were shoppers who hadn't come from very far. I found a few homeless shelters to spend the night. The nice thing about Christmas is that people suddenly remember that charity makes them look good, so there were some nice meals and plenty of volunteers to keep the place staffed.
Still, it was hard not to feel disconnected from it all. There was no one I could share my story with without putting them in danger. That's probably why I started to head out of the city on the 24th. It was hard to be in the Christmas spirit.
I bought some heavier clothes, but wasn't quite expecting the weather I got. I'm pretty sure the weather got below zero. Then it started snowing. I ducked into an alley to try to get out of the wind some and just sat against the wall, huddling up. I just knew that I was going to be one of those bums killed by the winter cold on Christmas. The world has a biting sense of humor like that. That's when I heard the singing.
"Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall
And down will come baby, cradle and all"
I looked up then, realizing what was happening. A little pale towheaded boy dressed in tattered clothes was standing right in front of me. The Cold Boy I expected. His companion I didn't.
"So," a cool, measured, silky voice said. "This is Kenny. Poor boy...he looks so cold." The speaker was hovering sideways in midair behind him. She looked...surprisingly human, considering that her entire body was made of wood. "He certainly doesn't look like much." She shrugged, and it was like her wrists were the only part of her arms that actually moved, as if she controlled her body with invisible wires instead of muscles.
The Wooden Girl.
"He'd certainly be a fun doll," she said. The Cold Boy just giggled. The cold was making my head murky (though something about the Fears' presence made everything they did feel extremely vivid), so it took me a bit to realize that my body was moving of its own accord. I screamed and pulled against it, and though I couldn't see anything, it felt like I was struggling against strings.
I should have been gone then, too. But that's when he showed up. "Hey!" he yelled and held up a lit blowtorch. "If you don't want to get charred or melted, you'll back off now." The tension on my body slacked and the air felt warmer almost instantly. The Cold Boy and Wooden Girl exchanged a glance.
"Let's get out of here, Frosty," she said. "We can deal with this one later."
I looked at the guy. He was probably about my age and the only way I can describe him is "bishonen." I have to admit, with the snow in the air, it looked like he was literally sparkling for a second. Interestingly, the majority of his clothing was in shades of red.
He offered a hand to help me to my feet. "Hey. Call me Crimson."
I shook his hand. "Kenny. Thanks, Crimson. I really owe you one. You don't know how glad I am to meet you."
"And I believe we're already acquainted," came a familiar voice behind me. A hand landed on my shoulder and I turned to see Magpie. She grinned and spoke before I could relax. "Relax, Kenny. Let's call this a Christmas truce. C'mon, let's get you out of the cold. We've got a few things to discuss."