Author's Note: This is a collab I did with my amazing Reedsy friend, Danny Glipo. She did Elliot's POV, which you should definitely check out along with the rest of her stories. I'll put a link to her page in a comment below. I hope you enjoy!
The crisp, icy air wakes me in the morning. I quickly retrieve my fleece blanket from the floor, I must have kicked it off the bed sometime during the night, and pull it up to my chin. Making sure to keep my frozen toes tucked within the warmth. The wrinkles on my bed radiate out from where I’m laying, forming spiraling circles.
I’ve noticed I have the unfortunate habit of prolonging the start of my morning for as long as possible. On a freezing day such as today, the thought of continuing with my precious sleep is quite appealing.
Clank. Something hits my window, startling me and sending me shooting out of bed. I stumble drowsily over to the thin curtains obscuring my window and pull them back to investigate the sudden noise.
Snow covers every ledge, treetop, and inch of ground insight, reflecting mystical light through my window. Elliot stands a few feet away, his boots having sunk at least a foot into the snow. He holds a few more small stones, preparing to pelt another one at the glass. His eyebrows are fixed in an everlasting frown and his nose and cheeks have turned a rosy red. If I squint, I’m almost able to make out an icicle stuck in his caramel-colored hair. His very presence contrasts greatly with the magical mood.
I push open my frosted-over window with great effort, coming face to face with the frigid gusts of wind. Elliot opens his mouth to speak, but his words are lost amidst the other assorted noise.
“You scratched my window,” I shout at him over the wind, “You know, there’s a front door for a reason.”
“Whatever,” he replies, unamused, “The electricity went out overnight and my cabin is basically a tundra. I’m going to get wood for a fire, want to help?”
“I’d really rather stay inside,” I trail off, grinning as his scowl deepens.
“In a few minutes, when there are snowdrifts in your bed, it won’t seem so comfortable,” he tells me snidely.
“Fine, fine, I’m coming. Just give me a minute, and please don’t throw anything else at my window,” I force the window shut and quickly replace my pajamas with numerous layers of jackets. After pulling on my lavender mittens and fixing a matching beanie over my chocolate-brown hair, I pull open the door and step out into the glacial weather.
The walk to the woods, where according to Elliot we will be able to cut wood from fallen trees, is slow to say at the least. Every few feet he stumbles, almost causing his spherical-shaped ball of coats to go careening into the deep snow. I have to disguise my laughter every time he glares in my direction, covering my mouth and bursting into uncontrollable coughing.
Elliot walks through the trees quickly, determined to complete his task and return to the shelter of his cabin as soon as possible. I linger behind, though, taking the time to brush the powdery snow off every weighted branch. I blink the snow off my eyelashes rapidly as I struggle to take in the stunning landscape.
In the distance, a sheet of ice spreads across a large clearing. It has the appearance of a popsicle that has had all the juice sucked out of it, leaving behind only the flavorless remains. The smooth, glistening surface reflects sunlight off like a mirror, lighting up the woods. The lake must have frozen overnight. Amazing!
We stop by a tangled mess of fallen logs, each having knocked another down like dominoes. I take the saw Elliot hands me and experimentally run it along the wood. It gets stuck in the log, stubbornly refusing to let me pull it back out. I pause my insistent pulling for a second then suddenly yank as hard as I can. As if taking the saw by surprise is going to help me free it. Could there be a more frustrating activity to be spending time on in the snow?
As Elliot busily chops the wood, ten percent of my energy is spent attempting to follow his instructions. The other ninety percent of me is busy teasing my friend.
“You look like a snowman, literally, ” I tell him, brushing a few stray snowflakes off his frozen cheeks.
“Don’t you have anything else better to do?” he asks, directing his attention back to his boring self-appointed job.
“Not at the moment, no,” I reply, kicking the snow under my boot, restlessly. Then I remember the frozen lake I spotted early. It wouldn’t hurt to at least check it out, I’m certainly not much help to Elliot at the moment.
One glance at my friend tells me exactly what I would have expected, he’s so focused on his task he wouldn’t notice if all the snow in the forest suddenly turned to fire. I carefully make my way off the path and in the direction of the lake, occasionally glancing behind me to take satisfaction in the deep footprints I have left in the otherwise untouched snow.
The vast expanse of clear ice seems even larger up close. Once I reach the border where the waves of fluffy snow meet the polished glass, I cautiously venture one boot forward. Testing my weight on the ice. When it holds up without making any suspicious cracking sounds underneath me, and no jagged lines splinter across it, I take another step so both feet are now on the lake.
I slide across the shiny surface beneath me, the thin layer of melted water on top carrying me farther and farther from the sturdy ground. There is something about dancing across the ice that makes me feel so free. It’s so serene, as if I’m the only one on Earth, gazing up at the wide, open sky.
Elliot’s shouts carry through the trees, reaching me seconds before his bundled form comes into view.
“Elliot, what took you so long? Skate with me,” I shout over the howling wind.
My feet glide flawlessly across the surface as I make my way to Elliot and take him by his gloved hand, pulling him toward the ice.
“Faye, let’s leave, you don’t know this lake,” he tries to pull me to the sturdy ground but I slip away from his grasp, returning to the center of the giant lake.
I find myself lost in endless spins and twirls as I glide closer and closer to the center of the lake. Nearing the point where the ice is so thin it’s like the fragile glass of an ornament hung on a tree. I’m looking at the wispy clouds in the sky instead of the cracks beneath my feet. Cirrus, with them, comes the possibility of even more snow.
I barely register Elliot’s faint warnings in the distance. I’m deeply immersed in my own snowy world.
I’m only snapped out of my daze when there is no retreating back to the shore. When I find myself stranded in the center of the lake. When the ice underneath me falls through, carrying me with it into the numbing water.
My arms reach out into the dark depths of the lake, struggling to grip the shapeless water. Everything of solid substance evades me, leaving me to furiously paddle my arms. Helplessly trying to fight back against gravity and the weight of the slushy water above me.
I manage to fight my way back to the surface, using nearly all the energy I have, only to be pulled back down into the dark again. I can barely make out faint calls from the ice above me, a hand reaching into the water and desperately searching for the one the lake swallowed whole.
I force my weak arms to continue to push through the water, even though it doesn’t seem to be doing me any good. At one point I swear I could have felt icy fingers latch onto my own, but they slip away before I can decide if I was only imagining it.
I keep fighting until I can’t anymore. Until everything goes,
It feels like I’m drowning from inside myself, choking on the water that has nearly filled my lungs. I gasp, desperately trying to breathe through the water attempting to smother me. I slowly realize I’m no longer surrounded by the penetrating depths of the lake. I feel the soft snow underneath my fingertips, my mittens must have fallen off sometime during the struggle. A thick coat is draped over me, sheltering my frozen body from the harsh gusts of wind.
A pair of cinnamon-colored eyes peer down at me, frantically searching my still body for signs of life. I suck in another breath, and this time the air reaches my lungs. I shoot up from where I’m laying on the ground, headbutting Elliot in the process. He leans away from me, trying to hide his obvious relief under a look that says, ‘I told you so.’
“What on earth were you thinking, Faye? I warned you not to go out there. Don’t you understand, I thought you might be dead,” his voice breaks at the end, making it clear that the terror of the moment hasn’t faded for him yet. I stare down at my frost fingers, guiltily. I didn’t mean to scare him like this.
“Sorry, I didn’t think-” I cut myself off with heaving coughs. Cold water coming from my lungs fills my mouth and spills onto the snow beside me. Elliot takes one of my bare hands, holding it between his own and bringing some of the warmth back.
“I’m just glad I wasn’t too late,” he admits, the words almost too faint for me to make out.
“So am I,” I whisper back.
Seeing he is still a little shaken from only seconds ago, I make a feeble attempt to lighten the mood.
“I guess I owe you my help chopping firewood now, I mean since you did save my life,” I say with a weak smile.
“I’m not sure if I would call it help,” he trails off, grinning. I nudge him playfully as he pulls me to my feet and we set off back into the woods, steering clear of the fractured lake.
One thought seems to take up every inch of my mind as we make our way through the snow. Thank goodness he got there in time. I’ve never been so thankful to feel the wind on my face and the air in my lungs. I guess I really do have to help him with the firewood, now.