Her face was no longer something she could feel; the wind, the ice had made sure of that. Carla still pushed through the biting slices of nature’s army toward the wooden structure on the hilltop, one high step at a time. The snow reached well past her knees, and beyond that with the ground dipped. On the inside, her legs began to ache.
Almost there, Carla. Push through.
She tried putting her mind elsewhere again. That seemed to work at the bottom of the hill, at least for the first half mile, until the frost winds began to howl. One of the thoughts she found was more of a memory – one from when she was six. It was the first time she recalled hearing the howl of the wind. Her sister, Dari, had run back to the bedroom after the power had gone out to jump under the covers with her.
“What’s that?” she remembered her sister saying. The pause lasted for seconds, until the low curling of the wind’s howl came through the windows. Dari disappeared under the blanket and gripped on to her sister, preferring clearly to be inside her twin’s body.
“Chill out, girl. It’s just the wind,” she had told her.
“Yeah, you’re right,” Dari said. “Just the wind.”
The words ran through her mind with each slow step up the hillside. “Yeah,” she echoed her sister’s voice. “Just the wind.”
The snow depth shortened and the steps became easier. The last few she pushed into a stride of three as she tried to make hasty cover behind the walls of the wooden building.
“Dari!” she screamed at the door as she pounded on the cheap wood. “Let me in!”
Sounds came from beyond the wood. Tapping and shifting. The door fell open and Dari’s hand reached out and pulled her sister in. “I thought you said one o’clock?” Dari said. Her short frame was covered in a parka and ski pants over heavy green socks. “ I’ve been waiting for two hours!” She pulled Carla inside and shook the snow from her back. “Sit,” she said. “I have tea.”
Carla walked to the table in the living room where two steaming mugs of tea sat waiting. A small dish of cookies was at the table’s center, and a fire burned in the gated fireplace. Carla sat.
“Now,” Dari said, sitting and raising a tea mug. “Why don’t we talk about how badly they want you, and how much we stand to gain with the right decisions.”
Carla held the mug between her freezing palms and inhaled the scent deeply. She clinked her mug against Dari’s and took a small sip. Jasmine. It went down warm. She cleared her throat and reached inside her pant pocket, removing a thin vile of neon orange fluid. A solitary air bubble dipped back and forth as she tilted it. “Here’s to making our first decision right.”