The Snow Maiden

I was always a straight B student. Because a C made me look dumb and an A wasn't worth the effort. Scoring an A is for suckers. This pissed off the wrong people (my parents), so I was punished by being sent out here: a village in the snow country. But instead of building character, I met this village's darkest secret: the girl in the snow. She was dead and she changed my life. - UPDATES EVERY MONDAY, WEDNESDAY AND FRIDAY!

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Author's note

My latest story! I think it's the best yet :)
AA

8. Chapter 8

She said, "So you got punished? No meals and double shift?" 


"How do you know?" 


"The walls are thin." 


"You were eavesdropping." 


"Like I said, the walls are thin." 


I looked at the can in my hands. Chocolate milk. Didn't even know they sold that at the vending machines here. I glanced at Miyazono. What did she want? Gloat in my face? Tell me that she told me so? Although she never tried to stop me from going out, so she technically can't say that. 


I waited for her to say something. Her hair was untied, down to her shoulders. Like many girls, she had dyed her hair chestnut brown. It had a certain shine to it. Maybe it came from the conditioner. She wore a loose sweater and sweatpants. Her work was done. These were her off-duty clothes. Like me she stayed at Hana no Sato. She was a seasonal part timer with nowhere else to go in this village. 


She opened her can and took a gulp. I waited. 


Eventually she said, “Why’d you go out? Aunt Reiko always finds out." 


"Because I figured she wouldn't find out. And because I didn't plan on staying out for long. I just wanted to catch some fresh air." 


Miyazono said, "Did you really get lost out there?" She raised an eyebrow. 


Of course I didn't get lost. You can get lost at Disneyland or in a large park, but not in this tiny village. But I couldn't tell her about Yuki. If I did, I’d sound like I lost my mind. And that would be bad because I'm stuck working with her for the rest of winter. 


Instead I asked her if there were any ghost stories specific to this village. 


Miyazono put her drink down and crossed her arms. "Ghost stories...? Hmm..." Then she said, "Why? Did you see something in the forest?" 


"No, but — "


Wait, something isn't right. How did Miyazono know that I was in the forest? I don't think I told her. 


I said, "Did I tell you that I was in the forest?" 


Her expression was very still for a short moment, then she drank from her can. "No, but I assumed that you went into the forest. There is nowhere else for you to get lost." 


Alright, fair enough. I said, "No, I didn't see anything there. Nothing to see anyway. Just trees and snow and blue sky." 


We were silent for a while. Like we were two adults sitting at a bar, mulling the problems life hands out, thinking if maybe we should get married, worrying endlessly and in the end finding out that there is no solution at the bottom of the glass. 


Miyazono said, "I don't get it. If you went out for a walk like this, then it means that you don't want to be here. If you don't want to be here, then why are you here?"


Smart girl. Good question. Simple answer. 


I've worked with her for two weeks and this was the first time I had a proper conversation with her that wasn't in a hallway. So I decided to tell her: my straight B strategy, my mom and my dad and my punishment. I half expected for her to laugh at me, but when I finished, she nodded. 


"That's impressive," she said. 


"Thank you." 


"But you are too arrogant." 


"What? Why?" 


"If you wanted to continue with your strategy like that, then you should've kept quiet about it. Think about it: no parent would be happy about their child getting straight Bs when he could be getting straight As and a place at Tokyo U because he is so smart that he can choose which grade he gets, but chooses Bs." 


Heh, she was praising and criticizing me all at the same time.


I pointed at her. "And you? I doubt that you are here because you are being punished." Miyazono was, as Aunt Reiko put it once, 'worth her weight in silver.' At that time I said the saying is 'worth her weight in gold,' but Aunt Reiko said she preferred silver and that was that. Anyways, Miyazono was arguably the hardest worker here. She could cook, clean and serve guests with a maturity beyond her years. I've seen her man the lobby check in counter and speak fluent English with tourists and honestly that was nothing short of impressive. 


Miyazono said, "I live in a village three hours from here. It's flat farm land out there. I've always loved the mountains, but we were too poor to travel. So when I came across a part time job in the mountains that I could do during the winter holidays, I decided to go for it." 


"Really? The mountains in winter? Why? It's just cold and depressing out here." 


"Hmmm..." She rested her chin on the palm of her hand. "Maybe so...but don't you think there is something magical about the snowy mountains? Everything has gone to sleep: every bird, every insect, the wolves and bears, every blade of grass, every branch of every tree. All life has gone to sleep under this blanket of snow and we can see the world in all of its purity."


I said nothing. What could I even say to that? This is far more of a philosophical answer than I  had expected. Miyazono stared out of the window for a while, watching the snow fall, the gentle hills rise, the light from the lobby giving all of it an otherworldly shine. 


Eventually she got up. "We better go to sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a tough day. And I think Aunt Reiko is going to put me in charge of you." 


Sigh...I've always wanted to work together with a cute girl...but not on an empty stomach and not with a workaholic like Miyazono. 

 

We went upstairs, said good night and entered our little rooms. I stared up at the ceiling, listening to the sound of everything sleeping under the snow, the gentle rustle of Miyazono taking off her clothes behind that thin wall, the sound of her turning off the light. I closed my eyes and slept.

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A/N: I really enjoyed writing the last paragraph of this chapter :D 

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