Chapter First i.
Emily stared out the window, which was fogging up from her own hot breath. She pressed her slick palm against the cool glass, and it left a smudged view for her to peer through. The outside filled up the outline of her palm to bursting, swelling it with green boughs of pines and crystalline frost. One perfect snowflake landed in the middle of the imprint of her hand. It seemed to have flung itself with full force against the window and it stuck there, sprawled out, flawless. Emily leaned in close and studied all the tiny fillaments of ice, the brittle fingers reaching out to hold the impossible thing together.
She felt a sadness swell up in her chest like the pine trees had filled her palm print. The sharp needles stabbed at her ribcage and burst outwards. She took a deep breath but it shook and fell flat with no room in her chest to grow. She gasped, leaning her forehead against the frozen glass. Her eyelashes brushed against the condensation on the window, carving out ruts. The short, ragged breath rushed out of her mouth and bloomed on the glass, replacing the fog until the outline of her hand was ghostly, barely visible. The ruts from her eyelashes filled in. She watched the cloud of her breathing spread across the window and felt a little space open up around her heart. She pressed her palm to her chest as if to melt the restraints.
Her breath was coming a little easier when a knock sounded on the door. The loud sound startled her, and she bumped her head against the window before sitting up and whipping around to stare at the kitchen door. There was a large shadowy form behind the curtain, waiting. Her heart shivered like a rabbit, ready to flee.
“Who’s there?” she called out in an impossibly small voice.