Frost crackled into jagged patterns across the window pane. Jack curled his fingers away from the glass then rubbed at the ice with his sleeve. So many years, but old habits died hard.
A faint ticking from the mantlepiece clock filled the silence. Darkness seeped through the glass. He leaned his hand on the sill, drawing in the cold.
Lights flashed from the apartment below, a relentless rainbow of garish colours strung up to hold back the depths of winter. He closed his eyes against a flicker of red and remembered trickles of blood on snow. Those final moments when his destiny was set.
Banging on his front door brought him back to now. He left the window with the defiant frost once more rimming the edges, and stamped to where muffled giggles and voices came through the door. His stomach flipped and he wrenched open the door.
His scowl had no impact on the young woman with the beaming smile that snuck into his heart a long time ago. Caroline’s small brother poked his head around the bushy tree filling the stairwell with the scent of winter forests. “We brought you a tree!”
Pine and blood, snow and fear. He leaned on the doorframe. “Mighty kind. How do you know I don’t already have one?”
Toby pushed around the tree. “Caroline says you don’t know how to celebrate Christmas so we’re going to show you.”
He held back a smile. “Don’t shush him, it’s true enough.”
Happy lines creased the corners of her eyes and warmth spread in his chest. Normally he preferred the cold but she filled him with dizzying fire that battled with the frost, leaving him breathless.
“Do you mind?”
He couldn’t disappoint her. “Of course not. Bring it in, young Toby.”
The tree filled the corner, casting shadows. Toby grimaced. “It’s gloomy in here.”
Caroline shushed him again, holding out a small bauble on a ribbon. Inside the bauble a tiny figure sat on snow.
“It’s Jack Frost,” Caroline said. “I bought it for the name.”
His eyes flicked up to her cheerful gaze. “This is my first ever Christmas decoration.”
“Really? What about when you were little?”
He slid past the question. Some things shouldn’t be remembered. “Thank you.” He hung the bauble on the bare tree.
“You’re welcome.” Red flushed her cheeks. “I have to take Toby home now, but I hope to come visit when you’ve dressed the rest of the tree.”
His heart thudded and a chill filled the air. “I’d love that.”
“Great! See you soon!”
He closed the door and walked back to the tree. He placed a finger on the bauble and feathers of frost crept up over the glass, encasing the small figure in a cold prison. A small patch refused to ice over. He stared at the imprint of Caroline’s finger. Flake by flake the frost melted, leaving a gift, a tree, and warmth.
The above was written for the Blank Page Challenge for December. The prompt was a Christmas bauble similar to the one here 🙂