The moonlit sky has shrunk away to little more than a blackened husk, greyed with the bobbing clouds of a coming storm. Yet, I am undeterred as I tromp, step by step, beat by beat, through the icy snow, it burning through the gaping holes in my tattered running shoes. I need to be gone. I need to disappear into the night. Looking back against my own judgement, I still see the lights, and faintly hear the music, pounding away at a constant, repetitive bassline. A single image trounces all others in my mind, though. A single balloon, an elliptical red star shimmering with a metallic film, has been released and is flying far above the beat of the drum, and the twisted mass of bodies crushing the snow with their desperate feet and hopeless hearts. Lucky, that one, I think. What I wouldn't do to float up above all of this, to transcend this primitive ritual. My nose twitches in response to the bitter cold, and I can't help but agree. It felt much warmer back there, though the dance was outdoors. Turning back to face where I'm going, I almost don't notice the eyes looking back at me, as it's only a moment before they flit away, shyly concealing themselves behind a frame of long, black hair, sprinkled with small, white snowflakes shimmering back at me, accenting the two silver orbs hiding just behind, which only a moment earlier stared back into my own eyes. As we pass, I stop dead, recalling a vague memory.
"Didn't I..." I turn to look to her, though she just continues walking. "Hey! Hey!" I shout, but she doesn't even pause. "Didn't I see you at the party?" She halts in the snow, looking as though she could slip just doing so, and nervously turns back to me, unconsciously pressing her palm to her chin, muffling her quiet voice as she speaks.
"M-maybe..." Her hair still comes to rest over her face and yet, through the mask, her eyes still poke needles into my own with their revealing light. "You mean...you mean that one?" She gestures off in the direction of the lights and dead noise, splitting the silence of the cold, smoky winter.
"Yea, that one!" I reply, a little too excitedly, so that my voice seems almost to crack at the last word. Clearing my throat nonchalantly, I begin again. "The New Year's bash, or whatever."
"I was therrrrre, I suppose." She stretches her syllables a fair bit, giving me a few more precious seconds to indulge my ears in her voice's celestial tones.
"Why did you leave?" She looks away from me for a second, throwing her head away to conceal her eyes once more. Bringing her hands in front of her, she begins to pace away from me, and I run after her, putting a hand on her shoulder. "Wait!" The instant I touch her, she twirls around, and as her long hair slashes like icicles across my face, I am suddenly brought to a pause--given a moment to look upon her face point-blank. It is an otherworldly visage, striking envy into the stars themselves, shimmering with dots of snow, which cling to her as though she is their beloved, and they could not bear to lose her. Now, however, those speckled down her cheek are being swept away by grave teardrops, splitting the perfection of her face with their mystical twinkle as she shoves me with all her might, staggering me momentarily, but causing her to fall flat on her back in the snow, too merciless to even cushion the landing. Rather than getting up, however, she simply turns over on her front and begins to sob into the white blanket as more falls indifferently down her back.
"Hey, hey..." I lean down and get my arm under hers. Though she flails and kicks, I manage to draw her up onto her feet, where she staggers momentarily, disoriented by the cold and unnerved by my presence. However, it is only an instant later when, hysterically, she cries out into the sky and falls forward into my arms, and I feel the trickling of cold, salty tears cascade down my shoulder. Hoping to get her to speak again, I start,
"Calm down, calm down..." I pat her back gently. "My name is Michael. Have we met?" Sobbing and sniffling, she holds her composure just long enough to lock her eyes with mine, and speak once more.
"Issa..." She coughs lightly under the word. "My name is Issa." Still supporting her under the arm, I take her over to a park bench, and we sit to rest for a short moment. I try to make casual conversation, but it feels as though it's been an hour before she even gets over her shyness enough to speak evenly. After that, though, time seems to freeze around us as we watch the snowflakes continue on their path, piling up before us, and on us, and all around us as we warm ourselves with eachothers words. It hardly feels as though it's been five minutes when I spot a red glow building on the horizon, and check my watch.
"Sunrise...Six AM." I say to her hesitantly, and she laughs. "Shouldn't you have been getting home?"
"Of course. I should've been home hours ago." She shakes her head with a smile, closes her eyes, and flicks back her hair before leaning towards me. Picking up her cue, I match her, and our lips meet between the two of us. Despite her shy demeanour, she is so passionate, so intense, and so radiantly warm that I grip her behind the head, as though I'll never let go, bringing my other hand around behind her back to embrace her with all my strength. As the sun rises at last, she does the same, bringing herself closer and closer to me until our two bodies become one single being, locked in the stunning reds of the rising sun in the east, beaming down towards us, as if telling us that, in the end, everything has come around in our favour.