I wrote this on the site 750words.com, inspired by the current weather I’m experiencing. Enjoy?
When the door was forced open snow blew inside in gusts and flurries, making the fire in the hearth flicker and swarm upwards. Oy, who’d been perched right beside it jumped up and rushed to greet the newcomer.
“Oh my god it took so long and I asked Miss Cass if it was possible for someone to be turned into a snowman and then she said it wasn’t, but I waited so long!”
Zouriel kicked the door shut behind him, shutting out the wind and the snow with a loud thump. The sound of the wind’s howling could still he heard through the walls though and that alone was reason to speak, just so it would shut it out completely.
“Next time you get your own damn firewood”, he huffed and shook the snow off his jacket, his pants and his head. It fell in clumps and in a fine dusting, raining down on the carpet inside the door.
“Hey, be careful with that!” Cassandra said and gave him a sour look, as she got up from her half-sitting position on the couch, where she could keep an eye on both the fire and Oy.
“Well, I couldn’t shake it off outside!” Zouriel complained. “It would have been replaced as soon as I got it off me.”
He continued to grumble under his voice as Cassandra came up and took the armful of wood from him. With any other woman he might have voiced some concern about “being careful” and “that’s heavy”, but Cassandra was stronger than she looked, thanks to the animal that shared her skin.
Cassandra carefully balanced the huge pile of wood over to the fireplace, where she immediately began to feed a few of the dryer bits into the hungry flames.
Zouriel began to peel off his sodden jacket and tried to find a place to hang it to dry and coming up pathetically short. Eventually Cassandra came up to him, rolled her eyes and took it from him. With much flair she revealed the wooden hanging device, unfolding it next to the fireplace and draped the jacket over it.
He threw his wet socks at her because he felt cranky and cold enough to want revenge on her for forcing him to run her errands in this kind of weather. Bad enough that he was stuck here right now. Forcing him to go outside, even for a bit…
She wrinkled her nose in a way that might have been adorable, then hung them with two fingers on the wooden rack.
Oy had curled up in front of the spitting fire again, ocelot kitten under a pile of blankets, the flames reflecting in his baby blue eyes. Zouriel wandered up and sat down next to him, commandeering one of the blankets for himself.
“I wanted to come with you, but Miss Cass said I couldn’t”, the boy, now a cat, said solemnly and peered up at Zouriel. One time it would have bothered him to have an animal communicating with him like this, but like with many things, a surprising amount of things, this was something you could get used to.
“Well, it was a good thing she didn’t”, Zouriel said. “You would have been buried in a snowdrift and I wouldn’t have been able to find you.”
“Really!” Oy’s blue eyes widened in disbelief, his whiskers standing on end and almost vibrating in the warm air coming off the fire.
“Yup, really”, Zouriel replied and nodded, before he tugged the blankets a little tighter around himself. Oy scooted closer and closer to him, until he was curled up in Zouriel’s warm lap, purring loudly, his chest rising and falling rhythmically like bellows.
Despite the horrible errand he’d just been on, this felt like a nice recompense for his ordeal. Zouriel awkwardly stretched his right hand over to scratch Oy behind the ears, enjoying the feel of his silken fur under his organic fingers. The left was closer, but that was all unfeeling metal. And he might accidentally give Oy a fur-cut. Time seemed to slow down to a crawl, with only the crackling of the fire, Oy’s purring, the low ticking of the old clock on the wall and the far off howling of the wind breaking the silence.
“Well, don’t say I’m a horrible slave driver”, Cassandra said from the doorway to the kitchen, where she stood holding a tray with three steaming cups. “I made some hot cocoa, so we can all warm up proper, inside and out.”
“Cocoa, yay!” Oy cried and raised his head from its propped up position against Zouriel’s chest. “Can I have marshmallows…or whipped cream?”
“You can have both”, Cassandra said. “But not before you change back. I don’t think you can handle the chocolate like that.”
The boy complied and Zouriel’s lap suddenly felt so much colder, yet it didn’t feel that terrible when Cassandra handed him his mug of cocoa, heaped with tiny colorful marshmallows (from the packet he’d brought even) and a dollop of whipped cream wobbling on top.
After everyone had their cocoa, she sat down to the left of Oy, so that the three of them sat huddled up close in front of the fire, snatching a corner of blanket to cover herself.
So there they sat, together, feet and shoulders touching, some toes colder than others, with Oy in the middle, like their own personal space heater. They sipped cocoa and listened to the howling outside and feeling immensely glad that they were inside, together, warm and snug and oh, so very comfortable.
And that’s what winter should be like all the time, Zouriel decided, while he sucked up a half-melted marshmallow and chewed thoughtfully. Nothing is quite as unpleasant when you have warmth, cocoa and company that cares about you.