Hair covered in snow, fingers red and trembling, the crouched girl continued to build what seemed to be the body of a snowman. I watched her through the cabin window, feeling the cold tickling the hair on my skin. Though I didn’t think what I felt was roughly the same as the girl outside. Nothing to cover up her naked arms but a grey t-shirt. Long and heavy breaths were releasing puffs.
I continued watching her from afar, my fingers touching the chilled window stool as I leaned in. Suddenly, her head jerked towards me and our eyes made contact. My body jumped, and I took one step back, but I continued to observe her next movement. The girl gawked at her creation and then at me, her finger pointing at the unfinished snowman. From that, I assumed she was asking me to join her. Without a second thought, I nodded and rushed back into my room.
Grabbing the clothes that I needed along with a couple more for the girl, I put on my winter attire. Before I could reach for the beanie stuffed in the corner of my suitcase, I flinched at the sound of my Mom’s groans. When it stopped, I resumed and tugged the beanie evenly on my head. Walking out of the room and out of the cabin, I took my first step into a new world.
Thrown off guard by how deep my leg sank into the snow, I squealed. Covering my mouth, I looked back at the cabin to check for Mom. She wasn’t there. I was a little scared to take another step, so I imagined it was like the sands on the beaches my father often took me to. Except frozen. Step by step, I made my way over to the girl. Her legs gave out after crouching for so long and she fell on her butt. I giggled at the sight. Standing beside her, I offered her my jacket and scarf.
“I thought you might be cold,” I said. “I wish I brought another pair of gloves. I don’t know why I didn’t, but if I did, I would’ve given you one.”
“It’s alright,” she replied, taking my offer.
Throwing the jacket and scarf over herself, she jabbed her hands into the pockets. I noticed the maroon at the tip of her nose, hearing her sniffing many times from her runny nose. She seemed to be around my age. Standing here in silence, I remembered that I hadn’t introduce myself yet. “My name is Maya. What’s your name?”
“Like the Garden of Eden?”
She nodded, although her scrunched eyebrows suggested that she didn’t understand the reference. I ignored it and went off to another topic. “So, you’re building a snowman?”
“Yeah. Would you like to help me?” she asked.
Eden regained her posture and started on her snowman once more. I kneeled down and helped her, all the while, giving her inquisitive glances. From a distance, I had only tracked her movements, but never her facial features. I was sucked in by her irises. It was as if her eyes had diminutive Earths trapped inside. Captivated, I snapped out of it to resume building the snowman.
We finished the bottom and were beginning on the middle. I left midway to find pebbles for the buttons of his shirt. On my search, a sudden force from behind knocked me down and my face smashed against the snow. It wasn’t a soft landing and I swore I almost hit a rock. Pulling myself up, I growled and looked back at the offender. She was doing her work as if nothing was happening.
Wanting revenge, I grabbed some snow and flung it at her. This ultimately ended in a miss as she prepared for her counterattack. Her shot was heavy and precise, the snowball pressed against my face as it dispersed. I spat out the snow, raising my hand up in defeat. Eden saw and lowered her weapon, shoulders slouching. Concluding that I would find the rocks later, I returned to my position.
After a while, we were done with the middle, formed the head, and found ourselves some pebbles for the face. And just in time too. The door opened and Mom called for me. “Maya, breakfast is ready!”
Eden watched our exchange idly. Turning my attention back to her, I caught her hands, the frigid aura around it seeping into my own. I asked if she’s doing anything else right now. When she shakes her head, I tugged her along with me back to my temporary home. Eden followed my imprints on the snow like she was stepping on cracks on the sidewalk.
The smell of pancakes greeted us as we went through the door. Mom was setting the plates down, three in total. She peeked at us, a grin upon her face. “It seems that you already made a friend.”
“This is Eden, Mom,” I introduced her.
She blinked as she stared at Mom, her expression unwavering and aloof. “Hi.”
Mom’s eyebrows scrunched up and her lips pursed as she acknowledged the third plate. “I ended up making breakfast for three because… Would you like to have breakfast with us?”
Eden’s nostrils flared and she responded, “Sure.”
I thought Mom caught onto my secret rendezvous. I guessed not. Taking my seat, I picked up my fork and knife. As I dug into the pancakes, I began to worry that my Mom would barrage Eden with her many questions. I was right to worry.
“Eden, are you from here?”
“Not really. I moved here some months ago.”
The cabin Mom rented was part of a cul-de-sacs for visitors. If Eden was a resident here, why would she be here? I thought she was visiting just like me. Mom frowned, questioning, “Why did you come here then?”
“I was looking for good snow.”
“Did you come here alone? Where are your parents?” she was starting to throw in two questions at once.
“I did,” Eden answered them casually and without a problem. “My parents are dead.”
The clattering of forks and knives came to a halt. Her unemotional response was shocking to me. Eden looked at the two of us, a tad confused. She clarified, “It’s been a year since they died.”
“Who are you living with now?”
“My aunt and uncle,” she said with a sad tone. Comprehending the mood of this situation, she changed the subject. “Did you come here for the Snow Festival?”
A fake cough came from Mom, as if she wasn’t expecting her to say that. Figuring out why we were here, I smiled at her and blurted, “A festival? Really? When?”
She brushed the loose bright hair away from her face, replying, “Tomorrow, honey.”
I wasn’t too excited about this place yesterday, fighting against the idea for a good hour before surrendering. Mom said we needed a change of pace. I didn’t need it. However, the festival could be fun. We were about to finish our breakfast when Mom took notice of Eden’s fingers. They were stiff, still shaky, and she seemed unable to form a fist.
“How long have you two been out there?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know.”
She walked over to Eden’s chair, holding and rubbing her hands together. Frowning, she exclaims, “Oh, jeez! You got frostbites, Eden! Try to warm up your fingers while I get some warm water.”
Eden nodded, starting to create friction with her hands. She didn’t seem too worried about the frostbites. Mom returned with a bowl of water, telling Eden to put her hands in. “Tell me when it starts to get cold,” she mentioned. “Where are your guardians?”
“At home,” she replied, her fingers playing around in the water. “I left while they were still sleeping so I don’t bother them.”
“They just let you go out all alone?”
“As long as I come back home.”
Mom groaned, mumbling, “Some guardians they are. I’m gonna go put some wood in the fireplace.”
Off she went to the living room where the fireplace resided. I felt a shiver going up my spine, the room was getting chilly. Eden saw and wondered, “Do you want to join? “
I chuckled, shaking my head. “I don’t think we can fit four hands in there.”
“We can always try.”
“Nah. My hands aren’t that cold.”
Then Eden turned around and back again, searching for something. Moving her sight onto me, she asks, “Where’s your dad?”
Glancing over at Mom and praying she won’t hear, I whispered, “He’s not here anymore. Mom got mad at him. It’s why we’re here.”
Breaking eye contact, she splashed her fingers in the bowl. We sat around for a good hour, replacing the bowl two times, and chatting about anything and everything. Or at least everything that we can talk about.
“How old are you?”
“Eleven,” she answered.
“Oh, I’m older by a year.”
She nodded, giving me sign that she understood. After a while, Eden’s fingers were pruned and we moved to the fireplace. Mom warned us, “Don’t get too close, girls!”
Following her advice, we were a couple of feet away, but enough to feel the heat. It made prickly sounds, like the fire was chipping off the wood. Eden—her hands still wet—flicked drops of water at the fire. The flame hissed at us like a cat. It danced around to avoid the ongoing assault. I shook her shoulder, speaking quietly, “Mom will get mad if she sees you messing around.”
She stopped, curling her body into a ball. I glanced at Mom, seeing that she was busy cooking something else. Relieved, the two of us continued to talk until Eden t realized it was time to leave. It was sudden too. She jolted upward with a realization of something, I didn’t know what. Our conversation ended mid-way and she bolted out the door. Mom caught sight of it, going to close the door and saying, “Check your stuff, honey. Just to make sure.”
I pouted, “Mom! Don’t say that!”
So with Eden gone, Mom and I toured around the town as it was being readied for the festival. Eden said she was going to the festival, I should be able to meet her again.