Cold Hands, Cold Hearts
“Fuck.” I swore. I stared at the assigned chalet sheet; this wasn’t happening right now.
“Dude, you’re done for,” My best friend, Cody, nudged my shoulder. “You’re in a cabin with Aiden O’Ryle,”
“This is rigged,” I whined as other boys pushed past me to find their own names. Their celebratory cheers didn’t help.
“Look, Lix. It’s only for two weeks,” Cody began listing reasons why I was making this a bigger deal than it was. “You’ll be fine,”
“Says the guy in a room with Jordan Ma. Jordan is a good roommate. He’s cool,”
“Others would say Aiden is cool too,”
“Aiden is a dick. You remember the gym incident, don’t you?”
“Yeah,” Cody sighed. “I see no positives for you, sorry. Good luck, Felix,”
“Thanks, Codes. I’m going to need it.”
I loved the snow. Winter meant snowmen, hot drinks by the fireplace, and skiing in the snow. I had grown up breathing in the icy air, hopping onto ski lifts and clicking my boots into my skis. And now that it was winter, it meant the start of the snow season and my annual snow trip hosted by my school. They allocated partners and roommates based on skill and experience. In my first, second and third years, I had bunked with Cody. My red-haired, crazy best friend. In my fourth, I had shared a room with Jordan, a tall Asian boy who was a brilliant snowboarder. But this year was different. I was in a chalet with none other than Aiden O'Ryle.
Aiden was your typical jock at Kensington Grammar School. As a collective male population of pubescent teenage boys, Aiden was at the top, alongside his buddies. They were the guys who had tossed my gym shorts in the bin right before our sports class. Yeah, they were sweethearts. It was my mission to avoid them at all costs. Which was as easy as it sounded; impossible. Our school had five main rules we had to follow on the trip.
- Curfew is at 10 pm
- The slopes close at 9:30 pm
- Stay with your partner at all times- you are not to go anywhere alone
- Be mindful of other people on the slopes
- Keep your rooms and living spaces clean
“Have a wonderful trip, Felix. I love you,” my mum hugged me tightly, her chestnut brown hair covering my vision.
“Thanks, Mum. I’ll try. I love you too,” We broke apart, and my dad clapped a hand on my shoulder.
“Have fun, kiddo. I’m sure it won’t be that bad,” He grinned, and I rolled my eyes.
“Again, I’ll try,” I put my luggage in the storage compartment and boarded the bus.
“Felix, over here,” Cody waved me over from his window seat. I sighed in relief. At least we got to sit with our friends for the ride there.
“Bro, did you see all the families outside?” I asked, placing my backpack down on the bus floor.
“I heard there are a lot of first-years and seniors on this trip. This means more emotional parents,” Cody made a face, his parents always sent him off with tight hugs and kisses that made him embarrassed.
“Sounds like we’ll be running into lots of little thirteen-year-olds,”
“You bet. Wake me up when we get there. It’s too-damn-early o’clock,” My best friend scowled, and I laughed.
“It’s only eight in the morning,”
“Goodnight, Felix.” My best friend flattened his dark hair over his eyes and shut them. The bus took off, students and teachers chattering loudly. Half an hour later, Cody took out one of my earphones and whispered in my ear.
“Pass me your juice. It’s too early for this shit.”
My phone vibrated on my bedside table as I opened my eyes, flooded with memories of yesterday's interactions.
"Felix, can you hear me?" My best friend's voice sounded frantic as I put the speaker to my ear.
"Hey, Cody. What's up? I still had five more minutes of lying around in bed,"
"Check your front door. A couple of the chalets have been snowed in. Mine isn't, but there's a chance yours might be,"
"Oh, hell no," I got out of bed and hurried to the front door. I ran past the living room, where Aiden was and looked out the window. "Cody, I'm snowed-in. This is just great,"
"They said they can get everyone out, but it will probably take the whole day," he informed me, and I exhaled slowly.
"My chalet is towards the east side, which means we'll be one of the last ones," I groaned, heading back to my room. I avoided eye contact with Aiden as he watched me make a beeline towards my sleeping quarters. "Cody," I whispered, "I can't spend an entire day trapped with Aiden. You know I can't,"
"You don't have a choice, Lix. I know you guys have a history of broken promises and a betrayed friendship on the line, but perhaps you can use this as a chance to reconcile," Cody suggested meekly.
"Since when have you wanted me to reconcile, Codes? That group he's in literally picks on us every time they see us,"
"I don't know, Lix. Look, I have to go. The slopes are opening soon. Maybe you'll figure it out, maybe you won't,"
"Alright, see you." I ended the call and collapsed onto my bed. I wasn't even able to go to the dining hall and eat breakfast. Once I set my phone down, I decided to go back out to the common living area. Even if it meant seeing Aiden.
'You've got this, Felix. Just go out there, grab a glass of water and come back. You'll be fine.' I re-entered the living space and moved towards the kitchen, finding a glass. Aiden was scrolling on his phone, not paying any attention to me. I turned on the tap and waited for the cup to fill up with water.
We were twelve and the closest of friends. Aiden and Felix. Felix and Aiden. He never judged me. He stayed by my side for three years. Until our final year of elementary school, a group of boys mocked me for having poliosis. They told Aiden it was his last chance to have real friends. Friends that wouldn’t drag him down because they were freaks. They had been egging him on, all this time, to be friends with them.
“Don’t, Aiden! You’re not like them!” I remember how he ignored me and walked to their side.
We were thirteen, and the beginning of high school was lonesome. Aiden and Felix were no longer a duo. He always followed the same group of boys, led by the leader who was the biggest and strongest at the time. I was left behind, in a race I hadn’t known I’d been competing in. I didn’t need Aiden anyway.
We were fourteen, and Cody had asked me why I hated Aiden so much. I told him he’d left me when he promised he wouldn’t. Cody assured me he would never do the same. I remember believing him, only after being friends with him for a year. After Aiden left, I trusted him more than anyone else.
We were sixteen, and Aiden had finally shot up like he’d always said he would. He was praised by his group, who reminded him that he was the best, especially in comparison with me. People wouldn’t stop gushing about him, everyone wanted his looks, his talents, his charm. I just wanted my friend back. But maybe I was wasting my time hoping.
We were seventeen, and his group continued to bother me. I remember wondering how Aiden could just stand there and let everything happen. I wished he would say something. Anything. But he never did. So I stopped hoping he’d stand up, and did it myself.
“Felix,” His voice broke me out of my daydream, and I realised I’d been staring off into space, unaware of the fact he had gotten off the couch and walked over to the kitchen. “Felix,” he tried again.
“What?” I snapped, looking up at him. “What do you want, Aiden?” He looked taken aback, and for a second, I almost felt sorry.
“Nothing,” he mumbled, “the water is overflowing,” He turned away, walking back to the living room.
‘Shit,’ I thought to myself, feeling bad. ‘No, get over yourself, Felix. He’s the one who left. Don’t start feeling sorry now.’ We remained silent, Aiden back on his phone as I turned off the tap. I wanted to apologise, but I didn’t know how to start. I sat on one of the dining table seats, looking at Aiden, whose back was towards me. ‘Look at him with his gorgeous black hair, toned muscles, broad shoulders and tanned skin. Disgusting. No wonder everyone wanted to be like him. Ugh.’
“Aiden,” I mumbled, and the taller boy turned around to face me. “Sorry, that was out of line,” I apologised, lowering my head.
“It’s okay,” he replied, rubbing the back of his neck. “I wasn’t sure whether to say anything or not. You looked lost in thought,”
‘Wait a minute, is Aiden O’Ryle actually looking nervously cute right now? Fuck, did I say cute? What the hell is wrong with me? How are we having a somewhat civil conversation right now?’
“Oh no, it’s fine. Uh, you’re all good,” I couldn’t say the same about me. Aiden nodded, turning back to his screen, without any expression giving away how he felt.
“Can I ask you something?” I asked suddenly, breaking the hour-long silence between us. We hadn’t spoken since I’d overfilled my cup and I’d snapped at him. Aiden looked up, turning off his phone.
“Sure.” He said flatly.
“Why did you leave?” I questioned, clenching my fists so they wouldn't start trembling. ‘Stay calm, Felix. It’s not that hard.
“We don’t speak to each other for a few years, and that’s the first thing you ask me when we’re snowed-in?” Aiden looked at me curiously.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Did you want me to ask you how you were? I wanted to hear an answer from you for six years, but you never spoke up once. Did you like it? Not being chained to me?” I retorted, and his eyes darkened.
“It wasn’t like that,” he huffed, face more solemn than before.
“Then what was it like?” I asked, shutting my eyes tightly for a moment, unable to think while seeing the look on Aiden’s face.
“I tried, Felix. I tried to stand up for you, just like I did in elementary school. You’re the only one they jeer and mock at school that I properly know,”
I was finished with defending him and protecting his emotions. “Well, you didn’t try hard enough! I trusted you.”
“You think I don’t know that?” He shouted, standing up. “I tried! It wasn’t enough. I’ve thought about it every second since I left!”
“Then why didn’t you come back?”
“You had Cody! You were happier with him as your best friend, happier than when I was yours,” he admitted, turning away as he pressed his palms to his eyes.
“You didn’t know that! I wanted you to come back, Aiden,”
“You didn’t need me, Felix. Even though I wanted to go back to being friends, I couldn’t. They wouldn’t let me,”
“Why do you even listen to them?” I asked, “All they do is hurt people,”
“My dad told me to. He asked his friends to get their sons to befriend me. It was never up to me. If I didn’t go, they would’ve hurt you more!”
“But then you hurt me, and that was so much worse,” I whispered, staring at the floor.
“I’m sorry, Felix. Every day, I wished I could apologise. This is so long overdue, but I’m sorry. There was no reason for me to leave, to ignore you, or to allow them to hurt you. I don’t know why I waited for so long, we could’ve been past this ages ago. You can hate me, but please accept my apologies,” he pleaded, and my heart broke for him. This was the boy who’d been my best friend, the one who’d left me, the boy in agony, all this time.
“I don’t hate you, Aiden. I didn’t know you were forced to be their friend. I should’ve stood up for you too,”
“God, we’re such a mess,” he sniffed, and despite the moment, I laughed.
“You can say that again. If we’d just listened to each other from the start we wouldn’t have fought,”
“Sorry for crying,”
“Hey, don’t apologise for crying. Guys can cry too. That stereotype is the most sexist thing I’ve ever heard,” I rolled my eyes, and Aiden gave me a watery smile.
“Bring it in?” He asked, and we hugged briefly but tightly.
‘Abort. Abort. ABORT. I’ve reunited with Aiden. Everything is fine. No, nothing is fine. Why does the hug feel so nice? Oh my God, this can’t be happening. This is not the time to be having a gay panic, Felix. Calm down.’
Cody had been right. Leaving the two of us trapped here gave us time to hear things from the other person’s side.
“You know what I missed most about our friendship?” Aiden asked once we’d sitten back down.
“Skiing together. That was our favourite activity as kids,”
“Well, we’re here, aren’t we? Once the snow’s been dug out, we can go together, like old times,” I suggested, and he grinned.
“Sounds good,” he paused for a moment. “What do you say we find something to eat? I have some snacks in my bags,”
“Do you have those biscuits your mum used to make?” I joked, and Aiden looked at me dead in the eyes.
“Yes, I do. How do you still remember that?” He laughed, and I didn’t realise how much I missed this. Missed us.
‘Missed us. I sound like we broke up, and we just got back together.’
“They were good!” I protested, and Aiden bumped my shoulder playfully. Our eyes locked, mischief twinkling in Aiden’s caramel eyes. I looked away, feeling my cheeks warm. “Show me the goods, Aiden,” I grinned, and he rummaged through his backpack, looking for them.
“SEE I TOLD YOU-” Cody interrupted as I retold him yesterday’s events. “I knew it, wow. I’m psychic,”
“Okay, Mr Psychic, there’s no need to rub it in,” I laughed, whacking the back of my best friend’s head.
“So are you guys buddy-buddy again?”
“Looks like it,” I smiled. “Good thing we have twelve more days,”
“You’re awfully suspicious, though, Felix,” Cody added.
“Why?” I raised an eyebrow.
“You sound like you want to be more than buddy-buddy with Mr O’Ryle,” he smirked, and my eyes widened.
“No, not at all. Not true, nope,”
“See, now you’re denying it,” Cody grinned. “Guess you don’t need a date to the hot tub, you can take Aiden,”
“Cody!” I hid my face in my hands, feeling the burn in my cheeks.
“Hah, I knew it,” he jabbed a finger into my side, making me squirm. “Look sharp, Lix. Your boyfriend is coming over,” He chuckled and I sat up right away.
“What where?” I looked around and Aiden was indeed coming over. “Also, he’s not my boyfriend!” My best friend grinned and stood up.
“Come on, let’s go ski now. I’ll tease you more later,”
“No, thank you. Please don’t,” I replied, walking over to Aiden.
“Hey, ready to go?” He asked, and I nodded my heart racing.
“Hello, Aiden,” Cody greeted with a small smile.
“Hi, Cody,” Aiden replied, not catching the looks Cody was still shooting at me. We walked to the ski lift, and I felt my spirits soar as I saw the beautiful white snow below us. In spite of everything, I had managed to resolve things with Aiden. And now I was here, in my favourite place in the entire world. This was my happiness.