"Winter isn't coming," Rachel pointed out, "it's here." the curtains were then torn apart and the steamed window wiped to let the three other girls peer through and see the pure snow that blanketed the ground. The headteacher and a caretaker, plus some tall and thin woman who wore a pencil skirt and had half-moon glasses peer on the edge of her nose, were talking about the snow - their feet left imprints of the glistening surface as they wandered about the courtyard needlessly. Tessa then gasped, her eyes having fallen on the woman, and drew back from the window. Her actions caused a chain reaction, Alexandria, Rachel and Louisa all snapped their spines straight so that they were away from the window, away from being seen. A good thing too for Alexandria saw the woman glare into their dorm just a few seconds before they stopped looking. "Who is that?"
Louisa sighed and turned to Tessa, "I suppose you know?" the girl, who Xandria had come to know as a bright girl from a normal family somewhere in Essex, had turned to a moon-white tone of skin, her eyes wide and jumpy after having seen the woman out in the courtyard. Rachel, she saw out of the corner of her eye, slumped her shoulders and drooped her eyelids as she shook her head in despair. Maybe this happened often? "Well, tell us then! We haven't all day to wait for you! Who was she that has made you so jumpy?"
"She's the lady from Oxford..." and they all groaned. Unlike Tessa, they didn't have to worry about the money side of things - all their parents were rather well off, with Louisa being the poorest out of the three of them and Alexandria the richest. All they had to do was make sure they got the right grades and even if they didn't, their parents probably knew someone who knew someone who knew something about a someone in admissions. And they might not even want to go to Oxford - what about Eton or St. Andrews or Cambridge or Newcastle or Imperial College? But Tessa wanted to go to Oxford, so it was important to her and therefore slightly more important to the other three girls than originally thought.
Rachel picked up her posture, Louisa stopped her gaping at the mouth and Xandria beamed brightly - even though for the past month or so she hadn't felt like a ray of sunshine. That talk with Mikhail had brought something to the surface, something she may not have been ready for just yet. But she supposed, when she lay awake at night staring at the ceiling, that if she were beginning to feel something rather than the numb pain she had for the six months previously, it must have been because it was time. Her subconscious sometimes did that, make things happen that didn't really seem in her benefit but probably were. Yet, was it not said that beautiful beginnings were disguised as painful endings? "You'll be fine, Tess," Alexandria reminded her with a gentle squeeze of the hand, "You have so long a while until you even have to think about that - so forget about it until the time comes. You cannot do well in your studies now and fret over that as well. It's either one or the other, however, though the former can achieve the latter, the latter cannot achieve the former."
The bell rung and whatever mystery Tessa's eyes held disappeared. "Let's get to class," Rachel picked up her bag and seemingly stormed out of the dorm, Louisa shortly after her, then Alexandria and finally Tessa.
Mikhail laughed as cold and wet snow planted onto her face. Louisa howled with laughter as Alexandria wiped the wet stuff off of her face. Scooping up some of the crystal water from the ground, she patted it into a rough ball shape and flung it in the direction of Mikhail. Unfortunately, he ducked and the snow hit Rachel square on the shoulder, dousing her new fleece trench coat in a patch of ice and water. Gasping, the sister of Xandria's target screamed aloud, shattering the silence of the forest, "You are going to pay for that Alexandria Ross!"
And then their strategic skills came to light.
Louisa had run over and hidden with Alexandria behind the trees in the woods, the sibling duo ducking behind a hill and probably stocking up on snowballs before they released an avalanche. Or so Alexandria imagined. All the while, Louisa was working her persuasion skills with some younger students and got them hiding behind the trees as well. With each of them behind a frost and lichen covered tree, at least three snowballs to hand, they waited in the hushed silence for their time.
Alexandria watched as the forest became silent, as they all became hidden in the depths of nature, as the light broke through the leaves and fell to swarm the ground with fractured beams. She felt the smile grow on her lips, the laughter bubble away in the pit of her stomach, and she killed it before their location was revealed to the opposition. Louisa grabbed her attention, those eyes of hers shifting with the nervous anticipation of a snowball fight. A clasped hand stifled her giggles before the sound pierced the still scene around them. The smaller children of their group whispered for a moment before Xandria gave them a glare, a genteel but firm glare before returning her attention to peer around the tree she hid behind. There was still no sign of the two siblings in the small space void of trees.
That was until "Where are they?" Alexandria stepped back behind the tree as swiftly as she could without making a noise. They didn't see her luckily enough. Footsteps crept closer on the blanketed ground, snow crunching softly with that beautiful noise Xandria loved. She could have simply fallen asleep at that sound, that sound that reminded her of her brother and the deep winter nights snuggled up on the sofa, hot chocolate mugs in hand with Harry Potter and his friends going to rescue another character in his heroic way or frozen afternoons sledding down half-hills to land in heaps of snow and go home soaking, She could have existed for a forever in that sound for those memories alone.
But then the snow ball hit her face.
And she skidded on the iced roots beneath her feet, still trying to throw her weapon back at the attacker. Nonetheless, her rip failed and she only succeeded in landing right on her tailbone, the poorly made snowball landing but a few feet away. It was not yet over, however. She seemed to be unable to stop the forces of gravity, sliding further and further over the roots, down the small bump in the ground until her head hit the nearest tree. Gritting her teeth, those gloved hands of hers felt their way to the back of her head. Spinning around her, the world turned upside down and over again, blurred shadows moving towards her, kneeling beside her, murmuring to her in muffled voices.
All Alexandria could feel was he wool of her gloves on her head, touching the sore spot that seemed to be screeching with fire. A gasp of pain startled her as they lifted her, these cloaked, muffle voiced beings who loved to surround her like swarming bees about to attack. They had her by the arms, by the waist, leading her through the white haze of winter. Snow covered the ground, letting up for the black ground to scorch through and blaze her mind's eye with the darkness of night. Of that night.
She remembered how dark it was, how cold it was, how bright the stars were - like the ones that danced around her eyes right now, in blotches and swirls of multitudes of colours. She remembered the blood that covered her, head to heel, how sticky it had felt on her skin, like the red gore that trickled its way though her hair. Red seemed to flare across her vision as she saw her brother lying dead in the car wreckage, his body shredded with rivers of blood crawling along his corpse with spidery hands. "Oh, John..." she whispered before the dark sky and bright stars claimed her.
She woke up, thankfully not in the infirmary, to a wooden ceiling and soft mattress. "Are you okay? You gave us quite a bit of a scare," Rachel whispered hoarsely from her left. She was standing, Tessa and Louise sitting on the nearest bed behind her, with concerned eyes pinned onto Xandria's face. "You remember what happened, yes?" Rachel moved closer, now sitting next to the poor girl, her eyes pinned too well to Xandria. She felt hot under the duvet, as if there were a fire raging in her core, trying to remind her of something... something important.
"Yeah..." Alexandria shifted upright, "yes, I do." she repeated, firmer this time. Her eyes quickly passed over everyone, noting how concern painted their faces in such abstract ways. "We were in the woods, having a snowball fight," the words brought a slight smile to her mouth, as she remembered how when she had been younger, her brother and her had had the best of snowball fights "and I slipped over the roots and couldn't keep my footing on the ice. So I feel and I believe I hit my head..."
There was a stagnant pause as she tried to claw through the fog in her mind and find everything as easily as she once could have.
"Either way," her eyes flashed back up to Rachel, "I started having flashbacks of the accident, of John..." Her mind drifted again, there seemed to be too much in her head sometimes.
"John?" Tessa asked, a frown contorting her face into a state of confusion. The girl looked to Louise, their eyes having a silent conversation of their own before they both turned to Rachel. It seemed there was a whole something that Alexandria was missing out on. "Who is John?"
And then she gasped... Of course they don't know who he was - they never knew because I had forgotten. They drew in closer, these new friends of hers deeply concerned over something they couldn't even understand. No one could and the person who could have, was gone. Like always. "John's my brother...." Her eyes wandered off to the window, frost covering the pane slightly in one corner. A bird flew past, just a thick streak of black that appeared for a moment and disappeared the next. Once more, her eyes found the three girls again. She explained, pure happiness transforming her voice, "I remember his name!"
But the tears flowed all the same.