"Did you have to be so rude?" Thea asked with annoyance.
"I wasn't the rude one, I was simply retaliating." Holly shot back, "it's what he gets for rubbing up against me."
Thea sighed in frustration, blowing her shoulder-length, blonde locks out of her face. "Don't you think that maybe it was an accident caused by the store being so crowded?"
"Look, you can be as naïve as you want, but I know men. You didn't see him bumping into that old fat guy, did you?" Holly countered as her green eyes peered through her slightly dirty glasses. Strands of her wavy brunette hair were escaping from her ponytail, but she seemed not to care. She simply shook her head in agitation and stared out the window at the crimson sky.
It was obvious that there would be no winning this argument, so Thea decided instead to focus on the snowy road in front of them. She took one hand off the steering wheel and reached down to turn on the stereo in hopes of finding some safe, mundane Christmas music. However, all she was able to find was soft static that strangely seemed to compliment their white, fuzzy surroundings.
"Here, let me get it. You just focus on the road," Holly offered, trying not to sound too controlling. She pressed a few buttons and found a station that was playing hard rock interpretations of Christmas favorites. Thea sighed once again, but this time it was inward.
"I just want to get out of the city and have a nice, quiet Christm-," Thea caught herself before saying the entire word, quickly shooting a glance at her girlfriend to see if there would be any repercussions, before continuing, "uh, vacation... just the two of us."
Holly knew that it was an honest slip-up, so she didn't acknowledge it. Instead, she gave a weak smile and put her hand on Thea's. Thea responded by facing her palm up and interlocking her fingers in Holly's. They continued to drive without speaking for awhile, one enjoying the music, the other trying her best to tolerate it.
When they arrived at the log cabin, they took some time to wander around before unpacking. The combination of the incoming overcast and the dense forest helped to create a dark ambience, yet the mood was surprisingly cheerful. Holly took Thea by the hand and led her through the trees, careful not to lead her girlfriend into any stray branches. Finally, they found a fallen trunk that was perfect for sitting on. Holly dusted off the powdery snow and invited Thea to sit next to her.
"Isn't it beautiful?" Thea asked while they stared at the last rays of sunlight in the distance.
"Yes. It's so pure and untainted, I almost feel bad for being here," Holly responded.
"Nonsense! I think you accentuate the beauty."
Holly laughed bitterly, but then compromised by saying, "I think we both do."
Thea rested her head on her love's shoulder and inhaled the fresh pine scent coming from the surrounding trees. She was overcome with happiness at the thought of enjoying the holiday without stress. She buried her face into Holly's neck seductively, but lost her nerve when Holly looked at her. Rather than pursue anything, Thea simply smiled and turned her attention back to the darkening sky.
Later, Thea wanted to search for birds and other animals, while Holly was more interested in seeing if she could walk backwards to the car by stepping in her own foot prints. She had to lift her lift her legs high because the snow was almost a foot deep.
"No! I was almost there!" Holly cried in frustration as she lost her balance and fell onto her last two foot prints. Because of the snow's depth, she found that her vision was cut off and she could no longer see around her.
"Holly? Baby, where'd you go?" Thea called as she made her way back to the car. She was looking up at the cabin and didn't realize that she was walking past her girlfriend when she felt a hand grab her and pull her to the ground. She yelped in surprise and laughed when she realized that it was Holly. "Don't do that!" she scolded playfully, "you scared the crap out of me!"
"Ah, well then my ambush was a success." Holly responded with a grin.
"So," Thea began, "What do you think?"
"What do I think?" Holly looked confused, "we haven't even been inside the house yet."
"I meant, what do you think about making love right here in the snow?" Thea said softly. Without waiting for an answer, she brought her head down to Holly's and kissed her. Holly did not object, but returned the kiss by opening her lips and letting her tongue slide into her lover's mouth.
"Mmm... I think I'd get icicles on my tongue. And that's not necessarily a bad thing." Holly responded with a warm smile.
Thea's hand reached up to caress her girlfriend's cheek softly. She tucked it under Holly's chin and lightly stroked her neck. Holly responded by resting her head back into the snow. She cooed softly as the fingernails lightly scraped across her skin. Thea's hand crawled on top of Holly's coat until found a breast. As she gazed into her lover's eyes, Thea squeezed the fleshy mound under the thick fabric, making Holly bite her lower lip. The seductive blonde then took her other hand and brushed the stray hair from her lover's face before leaning down to kiss her.
Thea began to slide her hand down further, but Holly stopped her.
"It's too cold," she whispered, "plus it's getting really dark. Let's go inside."
Thea knew that the reason she gave was not the true reason, but she did as her girlfriend wished anyway. Thea went around to the back of the cabin in order to collect firewood while Holly worked on unpacking the car. After things were settled, Holly went right over to the fireplace and crumpled up some newspaper to get the fire started. She knew that her reason for wanting to come inside was transparent, but she also knew that Thea was familiar enough with her history that she understood.
While she was thinking about this, a flame licked the palm of her hand. "Shit!" she drew her hand back, but the pain followed it.
"What happened?" A concerned voice came from the bedroom.
"The fucking fire bit me!"
"Well tell it to play nice," Thea joked as she came around the corner. The look on Holly's face told her this she was not amused. "Come here, let's run it under some cold water."
Thea accompanied her distressed lover over to the sink and turned the knob. To their unpleasant surprise, no water came out.
"What the hell?" Holly griped.
"I don't know, I guess the pipes must be frozen." Thea said apologetically.
"Well that's just lovely!"
"Don't panic; I'll go get some ice cubes from the cooler"
Unfortunately, almost all of the ice had melted, so Thea had to soak a washcloth in the freezing water. Holly took it grudgingly and sat on the couch facing the fireplace, while Thea took a seat in the chair next to it. Both were silent for a long time, watching the flames dance unpredictably inside the mantle. Then Holly said the words that Thea was dreading to hear.
"Maybe this was a bad idea."
"No, it wasn't. Just give it a chance."
"A chance? Why? What's going to happen? A Christmas miracle?" Holly shuddered at herself for using the word.
"Holly, don't. I didn't mean to upset you." Thea fretted.
"You didn't do anything. It's not your fault, but nothing you do is going to change the fact that in seventeen minutes, it will be her anniversary."
Thea's face fell as she looked up at the grandfather clock, and she cursed herself for not noticing it earlier. Its constant, steady ticking had been so well integrated into the ambience that she never thought of it as a threat. She had gone to great lengths to make sure that Holly had no way of keeping track of the time; even confiscating her cell phone.
"Holly... Holly, are you listening?" Thea pleaded to an expressionless face that pretended to be focused on the fire, "I love you."
"This has nothing to do with you."
A painful void was created in the pit of Thea's stomach when she heard these words. For the first time in her life, she felt completely helpless. There was simply no way to ease her girlfriend's depression that she could see. She resigned herself to watching the fire, too, for if she could not be a part of what was going on inside her lover, at least she could share what her lover saw on the outside.
There were eleven minutes left.
Thea prayed... she prayed with every ounce of strength in her soul that Holly would say something. The silence was deafening and made her want to scream until she had no more breath. But she didn't want to be the one who broke the silence. What would that do, except cause Holly to retreat further into her shell? She tried not to glance at the clock, but soon lost her willpower.
Eight minutes left.
Thea knew that Holly was keeping track of every second that passed. It didn't even matter whether she looked at the clock or not; somehow she just knew. Holly's obsession with the time that it happened was something that always puzzled Thea, for why would that be such an important detail to her? Perhaps thinking of it in such cold and calculated terms allowed Holly to keep her distance from it, emotionally.
"I hate her," Holly finally whispered so quietly that Thea could barely hear her. Thea turned to look at her girlfriend, who was still staring at the fire as though it was to blame for all that had happened.
"You don't mean that." Thea responded cautiously.