My next encounter with Winter was in February.
I had managed to crawl out of my bed and stop wallowing in misery; outside, the day was bright and brilliant, just the way it can be in February in Finland. The sky was bright azure, streaked by couple of milky wisps of clouds; the sun shone pale yellow light over sparkling white landscape, reflecting whiteness everywhere.
As I reached for my kitty-cat tea cup, I heard a curious crunching sound from outside. Again, and again, until I could not hold my curiosity in check, and leaned over the table to look outside, down to the ground. Winter stood on a snowbank, just as tall as I remembered her being the last time, touching the hanging slender branches of the birches. I saw only her cloak of wolfskins from this height, and white hair slicked down along her skull like a frozen flow of water; her face was hidden from me.
I froze still, and considered my options. I could always leave her be, or I could go outside, and see what exactly she was up to in my shared communal yard.
I tucked my boots on and walked outside in my casual indoor clothing; it wasn’t that cold outside, and if Winter meant actual harm to me, no winter jacket or longjohns of mine could protect me from that.
As I stepped off the plowed path and waded my way through knee-deep snow, Winter turned to face me. She was still gaunt, and haunting to look at, but her eyes were no longer deepless pits of despair. They were just as blue as the sky above me, shining with the same brilliant energy as the sun did overhead. Still, I felt like prey approaching predator with every step, and not all shivers were because snow was getting into my boots.
She waited until I was close enough, then she turned a little, and reached to touch one of the dark, hanging branches. There was an auditory, clear snap as the branch froze and fell to the ground, which was already littered by those she had touched before. She spun to face me, and pointed an accusatory finger at the branches, while giving me what I could only describe as The Look.
“Uh… um. Yes?” I tried to understand what she was doing, breathing air in and out through my mouth at this point, as the air was too cold for my nose and it threatened to glue the nostrils closed. It was like she carried her own coldness within her, which made sense.
Her other hand reached forward, and grasped the gentle puffs of breath from the air, and tiny icy pearls fell to the ground. I crouched to examine them, and picked up couple after making sure they would not freeze my hand off. They were perfect captures of water, transparent and shiny under the midday sun. She pointed at the trees again.
“Oh! Oh! I see.”
Winter cocked her head, waiting for an explanation to come forth; she did not seem to be blessed by gift of speech, unlike her more colorful sister. Her eyes continued to burn with blueness of sky and the sun.
“Well… I mean, I’m sorry that we’ve cocked up the climate. I know you’re supposed to gild the trees and tree branches with icy pearls this month, that’s what our word for it means. But since the conditions are wrong, you just end up freeze-snapping some of those branches.” It was a weak explanation, but it was the best I could think of in that situation.
She glowered at me. I half-expected to be frozen just like those branches, but her anger seemed to flow around me this time as I raised my crossed arms to shield my face. By the puzzled look on her fiercely bestial face I could only guess that she did not expect that to happen, either.
“Maybe next year?” I asked weakly, as if trying to console her and found myself short on right words. She scoffed, and a cloud of flakes glittered in the sun. She turned around, and began to glide over the landscape, leaving more glimmering snowflakes in her wake. I could only exhale, and scold myself on being stupid and coming out, but every time I saw one of these enigmatic beings I felt like I had no choice, no choice of my own.
Truthfully… it made me curious about Spring.