Fire and Ice
Auhor Allison Ziegler
When he was young, Roy enjoyed winter as most children did. To him and many others, winter meant snow. He liked to play in the powdery white that blanketed the streets, and, of course, rather enjoyed the prospect of a snow day freeing him from school for a time. Even as an adult, he enjoyed the peaceful sight of a gentle snow falling--so long as he was safe and warm inside, of course.
Now, however, he was thinking of changing his mind.
It was the worst blizzard the city had seen in years, and Roy had somehow managed to get himself caught right in the middle of it. The frigid wind sliced right through every layer of clothing he wore, chilling him right down to the bone, and large snowflakes pelted him, soaking him and covering just about his entire body. The words “frostbite” and “hypothermia” flashed through Roy’s mind, but he forcefully pushed them back down. He simply had to desperately hope that his few layers were enough to keep him above a fatally low temperature.
As he stumbled through the treacherous weather, not even sure if he was walking on the sidewalk anymore, Roy cursed his own procrastination that had led to this situation. He had been in his office all day trying to finish up the last of the paperwork that was due the next morning, and though multiple people had suggested that he follow their example and go home before the already in-progress storm got any worse, Roy was determined to complete his job. Unfortunately, that had not been excellent thinking on his part.
By the time he was finally finished, several feet of snow had piled up on the ground, and now Roy was forced to slog through it if he wanted to get home, as no sort of vehicle had any chance of moving anywhere. The rest of the city was all but deserted; only an idiot like him would be crazy enough to go walking around in a blizzard.
“U-Ugh…” he mumbled through chapped lips, shivering violently. “I-I sh-should have l-left earlier...”
At this point, he wasn’t even sure if he knew where he was. The suffocating whiteness blurred his vision and seemed to obscure everything in the area. For all he knew, he wasn’t making any progress at all.
Roy’s body was starting to go numb. In a distant sort of trance, he realized that death was a reasonable possibility given the circumstances. He was lost in the snow and there was no one there to help him.
And all because I didn’t do my paperwork sooner…
He wasn’t sure when he fell to his knees, nor when the side of his face sunk into the snow, his vision becoming slightly obscured by the powder. Just before his only visible eye closed, Roy thought he saw a figure--evidently much more appropriately dressed for a blizzard than he was--briskly making its way towards him.
He passed out before he could confirm it.
When Roy woke up, he was warm.
He was also very tired, which was why it took him about seven tries to actually wake up for real. A soft groan escaping his lips, he opened his dark eyes to see that he was lying on the floor next to a heater. He could barely move for being wrapped in multiple fluffy blankets and his hands were covered in bandages. Even if Roy could have gotten up, he didn’t think he would have. His fatigue mixed with just how comfortable the blankets were simply could not allow him to stand.
Roy’s lack of movement was most likely what made him take a rather long time to realize that he was not alone in the room. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a flicker of movement, and soon, a familiar blonde woman was within his field of view.
“E-Elizabeth…?” he asked weakly. “F-Fancy meeting y-you here…”
“Well, this is my apartment” his coworker and close friend since youth, Elizabeth, replied calmly.
So, he must not have imagined the approaching figure as he lost consciousness in the snow. Rather than some desperate hallucination, it had been Elizabeth who had come to his rescue. Despite the fact that the odds of his rescue had been low, Roy found it difficult to be surprised that she had been the one to find him. The two were so close that their colleagues had already begun planning a wedding. She knew him so well that somehow, she always seemed to sense when he got himself into a bad situation he couldn’t escape from on his own.
“You’re very lucky I went looking for you,” Elizabeth told him, her face a cool mask of indifference while her eyes betrayed that she had been worried sick about him. He had promised to call her to assure her that he had made it home safely, and of course, there had been no such call. “Your hands were showing signs of frostbite. Any longer out there and you could have ended up seriously hurt.”
Elizabeth never said, “or worse”, but Roy could hear it in her tone.
“W-Well…” he said quietly, exhaling. “S-Sorry for w-worrying you”
Her brown eyes narrowed. “I trust that in the future you’ll be more careful?” Her voice had an icy tinge to it.
The man gave a slight smile. Icy. That was certainly one was one way to describe the woman. He was the fire and she was his ice, keeping him from burning out of control with his embarrassingly large record of idiotic decisions. Roy had a reputation of brazen overconfidence (hence his choice to attempt to traverse the frigid city rather than stay at work until conditions were safer), and Elizabeth was always the one to pull him back down to reality and clear his head of cockiness. He didn’t know what he would do without her.
“Y-Yes...” he said, smile not leaving his face. “I-I’ll be c-careful.”
It was difficult to catch, but for a moment, a thin ghost of a smile touched Elizabeth’s face as well. She nodded in response. “Good,” was all she said.
A silence fell between the two as Elizabeth gently unwrapped the bandages from his frostbitten hands to check their condition. From what he could tell, he was far from being in need of amputation, and he let out a sigh of relief. She really had saved him just in time.
He allowed her to redress the afflicted area in silence. Only once she had stood up to dispose of the old bandages did he finally speak once more.
“...you’re welcome, Roy.”