Frozen Heart: Chapter 1

Frozen Heart:  “Return to the Town of my Memories”

By: Koyoto D. Shadow

Chapter 1 – A Reluctant Return

A young man sat upon the seat of a train, silent, caught deep within the thoughts that had plagued him since had left college days prior. “I’m really returning there. I must really be out of my mind.” He shook his head in disgust at himself. He thought back to the last words he had heard from his professor upon leaving from graduation, “So, Luther, what are you going to do with your life?” He rubbed his face with his left hand as he heard his reply echo in his mind, “Nothing. Just as I was, just as I always will be.” Luther leaned back in his seat and stared at the blank metallic gray ceiling of the train. “Nothing, eh?” He heard himself say aloud. “It’s what I deserve,” he thought to himself, “but still I shouldn’t have told her that.” Luther knew what kind of woman his professor was, and that hearing that from her ‘most promising student’ would definitely have bothered her. “I’m just not any good with teachers.” He heard himself say aloud. Trying to keep himself from sinking back into his own mind, he looked around the stark train car. Metal seats lined the walls, covered in the thin cushions that all the trains of its type bore, with a gray metal ceiling, walls, floor, and doors. The bare metal openness of it, combined with the lack of anyone else riding a train at this time of day made it feel like his own thoughts echoed in the harsh, cold space, and bounce back into his brain, twice as loud as before. Luther bundled his jacket up to himself. The time he had spent in thought made him momentarily forget how cold it was. Even the walls of the train seemed to do little to slow the creeping advance of the frozen landscape that extended just beyond the windows of the train. Luther looked outside at the wide snow-covered landscape. Everything was pure white, as far as he could see. Cliffs, trees, grass, all scrubbed of their color, becoming one seamless sheet of the purest white, reaching out to him, as if his own existence would vanish as well, like a blotch of white paint wiping over him, erasing his presence or any memory of him in this world. In his heart, he wished that could be so, but reality kept drawing his mind back from that train of thought. Then, when he just thought he might win over reality, reality played its trump card. Before him stretched a gigantic maple tree, stripped of his leaves, its long, finger-like appendages swaying only slightly in the winter breeze. Luther bit his lip as he saw it. “Why,” he asked himself, “why did I have to be so stupid as to come back here?” A drop of blood dripped from his lip, landing on the windowsill of the train, the one mark of color in the barren landscape. He fumbled around in his pockets and felt a small, flat, rectangular object. The object jarred himself out of his self-loathing, but only for a moment. “Yeah, it has to be done. After that, I’m free to leave his place forever, and never return.” Luther knew from seeing that tree that his destination was not far off. The tree stood in the midst of a large park that loomed on a cliff above the city that he was traveling to. It was a popular spot for picnics in the springs, and parties in the summer. But here in the depths of winter, it was solemn and quiet. Luther half-smirked as he looked back at the tree, “Don’t worry, soon spring will be here and you’ll be surrounded by happy people again.” The tree slipped out of view as the train descended slowly, down, down to the station at the end of town. “…As for me, my spring will never come.” The light in the train suddenly disappeared as it entered the station.

Luther picked up his bag from the overhead carry above him, and stood at the door, waiting for the loud hiss as the train doors opened. As Luther stepped out, he found his surroundings even colder than before. Luther had hated the cold of the train, but this new wave of chill made Luther shiver involuntarily. Luther thought for a moment to return the somewhat warmer condition of the train, but as he turned around, he saw the train doors were already closed, and the train was moving away from the track, slowing gliding away from the station. Luther half-smirked again, “Just as well,” he thought to himself, “if I got back on, I wouldn’t be coming back here again.” Luther stepped out from the station onto the sidewalk that lay before him. He could see the sun was just beginning to set in the west, casting a last long ray of orange sunlight over the town before it would soon flicker out entirely. The streets were silent as the train was, which Luther found odd, even for the hour that he was about. He didn’t mind, however, the quiet left him time to think, and confronting someone who recognized him was something that he didn’t want to put up with at the moment. A sudden scream of “Look out!” and the screeching of a tire woke Luther from his daze as he saw a girl careening towards him on a bike carrying a load of bags in the front basket. Luther barely managed to lurch out of the way before the girl and bike flew past him and into the side of a building. Luther picked himself up off the street, rubbed his head where he had hit the ground, and looked back to where the girl had gone. He saw the girl lying in the twisted remains of the bike, trying to regain her senses. The girl was younger than him, by several years at least, Luther guessed late high school age. Her thick white parka had smudges on it from her crash landing, and her left white glove was ripped from where she fell, specks of red blood seeped from a bruise on her hand. Her blue pants were torn around her left ankle and her ankle was badly bruised from the fall. Luther guessed her leg became trapped under the bike when it fell, and dragged her along a ways before smashing into the wall. The girl’s flaxen hair was bobbed at her chin, and was tossed about by the crash, and it looked like she took a blow to the head as well. Luther. by impulse. wanted to scream at the girl for almost running him over, but at seeing her injured he fought back the impulse and managed to squeeze out, “You alright?”

The girl rubbed her head with her left hand, only to cringe and she applied pressure to the injured hand. The girl looked down at her left leg, still caught up in the tangled remains of the bike, and tried to wiggle it free, with little success. Luther felt somewhat annoyed at being ignored, but set down his bag and walked over to the girl and eased her leg out from the bike. At suddenly being touched, the girl acted like she just realized that there was someone else there, and jumped back a half step. Then, with a sudden realization, she looked at Luther with her mouth agape and said, “You’re that guy I just about ran over!”

Luther raised an eyebrow, “…You hit your head pretty hard there, ne?”

The girl rubbed her head with her uninjured hand. “Well…yeah.” The obviousness of her statement struck down Luther’s urge to chide her further. Luther reached his hand down to her. “Well, come on, back on your feet.” The girl reached for his hand and then looked up at him. Her emerald green eyes gazed softly into his own. Luther averted his eyes from her, but kept his hand outstretched. The girl thought he might be shy, but Luther knew this was not the case: Luther greatly disliked the color green, for reasons he kept deep within himself. She grasped ahold of his hand, and Luther pulled her to her feet. She wobbled a moment, and then managed to stand on her own. Luther turned back to look at the girl, and in the fading sunlight, he saw something; something familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. He knew he had never met this girl before, but something about her seemed to be striking a chord with a memory he couldn’t quite place. “Um…well, thanks for helping me.” The girl managed to say. “I lost control on a patch of ice on the hill, and went sailing down here…” A thought suddenly occurred to the girl, who quickly became flustered, “Oh, I didn’t hurt you did I?! Are you alright?” Luther found it extremely odd for this girl, injured as she was, to be worrying about his safety. Luther felt in the same situation, that the other person would be the least of his concerns. The girl looked Luther over, searching for injuries. Luther was slender, 6’ tall, far taller than her, and his brown hair, while short in the back, was becoming long in the front, and hung down over his silver-rimmed glasses. The girl stared through him at his ice-blue eyes for a long moment before Luther managed to respond, “…I’m alright.”

The girl tilted her head to the side slightly as she spoke, “You sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure. I’m fine.”

The girl sighed, “That’s a relief at least. I don’t know what I’d do if I had actually hurt someone with that little stunt.”

Luther blinked, “Shouldn’t you bit a bit worried about your bike?” He pointed downward.

“EH!?” The girl almost jumped as she realized what she had forgotten, and turned down at the tangled mass of metal that lay next to her. “Oh man, mom is gonna kill me!” She tried to take a step towards the bike, but as she pressed weight on her left ankle, she winced in pain and fell over. Luther dropped his bag and managed to catch her just before she hit the ground.

“More than worrying about your stupid bike, why not pay some mind to yourself, you idiotic girl!” Luther felt it slip out as he clamped his mouth shut.

“Ehehe…sorry. Kinda got lost in the moment there I guess.” She turned her head to look at her mangled bike. “She really is gonna kill me over this.” She slumped over in Luther’s arms. “Why were you riding a bike on icy streets anyway?” Luther asked incredulously. The girl paused a moment before answering.

“Well, mom needed some ingredients for dinner, and I said I’d go get them, but she needed them quickly, and the store’s a good ways away from the house, so…” Luther filled in the blanks. “Fine, fine. I get it. But now you can’t even walk back home in your condition.”

The girl slapped her right hand to her head. “Ah man, now what am I gonna do? No one else is in the house right now to even help me here.”

Luther, unable to think of anything else, sighed. “Fine, I’m carrying you then.” The girl only managed to say “Eh!?” as she was hoisted up onto Luther’s back. Luther walked over, grabbing the bags of groceries, sliding them on one shoulder, and then walking to his bag and sliding it over the other.

“But I can’t ask you to carry me all the way back to my house! I can manage on my own, it’s alright!” Luther grit his teeth together under the weight. He wasn’t in the mood to have a lengthy conversation under the burden he was carrying.

“First off, you didn’t ask me, I’m doing this of my own will, and secondly, bull. You’d just be hobbling along for hours until you froze out here. I may be apathetic, but not so much I can leave an injured girl to freeze to death.” The girl was surprised, and her cheeks turned a shade of red, despite the cold that swirled about her. She only managed to mumble “Thanks” as he began to walk down the street.

“So, where is this house of yours?” Luther asked. She explained the directions to him, and Luther grunted an acknowledgement. The girl laid her head on Luther’s back as she asked, “So…um…what’s your name?”

Luther raised his head slightly, realizing he hadn’t even introduced himself, though not truly wanting to. “…Luther. Luther Mathias. And you are?” Luther asked, only half-caring.

“Oh? Sorry, I’m Julia Hayes.” There was a long silence. “So, Mr. Luther.”

“Just Luther.” Luther responded quickly.

“Eh, Luther. What brings you out here? I mean, to a town this far out? You looked like you came out of the train station, and you have this bag with you, so…” Luther had been expecting this question. He had thought up all kinds of excuses that he could have said, even aliases he could have used, but he knew the people in town would eventually learn had come back, even for the short time he planned to spend there.

“I came…to see someone.” The girl looked down at him.

“Who?” Luther mashed his chapped lips together in an awkward expression.

“Someone I knew, back when I lived here before.” The girl looked surprised.

“You used to live here?” Luther nodded.

“Yeah, years back.”

Julia thought for a moment, before asking, “So, why did you leave?” The question caused Luther to stop short. Julia became flustered. “Eh…sorry, I guess I asked something I shouldn’t have. Sorry.” Luther thought a long moment before he responded.

“Various reasons. Went to college, for one.”

“Well, there’s a small college here in town, right? Why didn’t you-”

“Various reasons.” Luther reiterated. Julia dropped the subject.

“So…I’m not too heavy, am I?” Julia asked, trying to change the mood.

“Well, kinda. You could stand to lose a few.” Luther felt a fist hit him hard in the back of the head. “Ow! What was that for?”

“For calling me fat, that’s why!”

“You asked me if you were heavy!” Luther said, his head throbbing.

“And you gave the wrong answer!” She tightened her grip around her neck. “I didn’t know it was some kind of damn test!” Luther gasped her air against her grip. “A guy your age should know how to properly respond to a lady! You aren’t some high school brat like I’m around all day!” Luther almost laughed at the comment. It felt to him like time had frozen since that time in high school. To hear someone tell him that he was more mature than a high schooler due to his physical age was hilarious to him. Julia’s ever tightening grip dragged him back to reality. “Well, who’s the one that’s taking time out of his own day to carry you and your stuff back to your house for you in the freezing cold snow?” Julia suddenly released her grip on his neck. “Sorry.” She muttered under her breath.

“Sheesh, kids today.” Julia grit her teeth together at the statement, wanting to protest being called a kid, but held herself back.

“He may be nice in some ways, but he’s downright atrocious in others.” She thought to herself. Luther stopped and turned his head back to her. “Is this the place?” His words snapped her out of her funk as she too looked up, and then nodded. A rectangular, two-story house stood before them behind a four-foot tall gray concrete wall that acted as a fence. The same wall extended on both sides of the street, encapsulating each house in its own concrete cocoon, each one layered with a thick coating of snow. As they reached the fence, Julia suddenly remembered her bike. “Oh man, we left it back there at the station!” Luther looked up at her.

“Like we had any way to bring it back with us? Besides, I doubt it’s going anywhere tonight. Just go pick it up tomorrow.”

“…You’ve got a point.” She responded with reluctance.

“Come on, my arms are going numb here.” Luther struggled, but managed to push open the gate, and walk up to the front door, and set Julia back on her feet. Julia reached in her bag and pulled out a key to unlock the door. “Well, I think you can manage from here, I’ll be going.” “Wait!” Julia grabbed his arm. She averted her gaze from him for a moment, and then looked back at him. “Why don’t you come inside and warm up before you go out again? I’m sure you’re freezing. I can make some cocoa.” Luther sighed and looked at her with a half-lidded stare.

“Or you just want me to put your groceries away for you.” Julia became flustered.

“I do not! I was trying to be nice since you helped me get up here!” Luther fought back his sarcastic nature.

“Yes, yes. I’m sorry, I’d be happy to accept.” He said with a slight bow. Julia sighed and hobbled inside the house, Luther following behind with his and her bags in tow.

Compared to the stark barren white outside, the inside of the house was a variety of warm color. The floors were oak, stained dark brown, and the walls were the color of peaches. “Come on in.” Julia hobbled to what Luther thought must be the kitchen, and he followed, and found his guess was accurate. The kitchen itself was fairly large. A wooden table, the same color as the floor, which could seat six stood before him, with four wooden chairs. The kitchen was hidden behind a half-wall that held numerous appliances and a stretch of workspace. Julia was at the refrigerator, so Luther passed the bags of groceries to her, which she places within its cold depths. “That’s odd,” she said as she turned around with a carton of milk in one hand and a can of cocoa in the other. “Mom should have been here. I wonder if something came up.” Luther leaned with back against the half-wall, rubbing his numb arms. Julia noticed.

“Well, hopefully she won’t have to stay out in this cold.” Luther responded.

“Yeah.” Julia said, somewhat solemnly as she spooned cocoa into two mugs. A splotch of pink caught Julia’s eye on the countertop, and she leaned over to see a note that was left. “Gone to check on Tony’s mother, Tony says she’s really sick. Be back in a few, love Mom.” The name caught Luther off guard.

“Tony, huh?” Julia nodded.

“Yeah, Tony’s a guy about your age that lives a few blocks down from here.” She looked up and saw he had an awkward expression on his face. “…You know him?” She asked.

Luther paused a moment before responding, “…We’ve met.”

“I see.” Julia stirred both mugs, and handed one to Luther.

“Thank you.” He responded, but Julia felt his mind was elsewhere.

“So…what now?” She asked him. Luther looked up from taking a long gulp of the hot liquid to look back at her.

“Hmm? Oh, my uncle lives here in town. I was planning on staying with him for the short while I plan on being in town.” She thought a moment.

“What’s his name?”

“Hmm? Halbert. Most people just call him Hal.” It clicked in her mind after a short moment. “Uncle Halbo! I know him! He lives a mile or so from here.” Luther raised an eyebrow. “Uncle Halbo?” Julia looked somewhat embarrassed.

“Well, that’s what we call him.” Luther had trouble imagining his uncle as the ideal role model for young impressionable minds, especially one like Julia. Luther knew Halbert was a good man, and kind to all those around him, but he did get into his share of mischief, and seemed to be with a new woman every week when Luther was younger. Having grown up with him, Luther had gotten used to his eccentricities, but couldn’t imagine other people doing so. Luther and Julia heard fumbling at the front door. Julia put her hands together in front of her as she asked, “Could you go check on that for me? It’d be kind of hard for me to hobble over there.” Luther raised an eyebrow.

“Having your guest answer the door for you?” Julia frowned as Luther set his mug down, got up and went for the front door. The door opened before he could reach it, and an older woman in her thirties walked in. “Julia how many times have I told you to lock the door when you come in at this hour? Sheesh, anyone could just waltz in-” She stopped short as she saw Luther standing in front of her.

“Hello Parisa.” Luther managed to say. She looked as if she had just seen a ghost materialize before her.

“Hello yourself.” Julia hobbled up from behind Luther.

“Hi mom, this is-” She saw the two staring blankly at each other. “Have you two…met?” Julia’s mother, Parisa searched for words.

“Something…like that. Julia could you-” Parisa managed to tear her eyes away from Luther and looked at Julia and saw her injuries. “Julia! What happened to you!?” Parisa rushed over to her. “Ehehe…I kinda…wrecked my bike down at the station?” Julia rubbed her head absently as she spoke.

“You what!?” Julia cringed, expecting a verbal beating, but instead got “Come on, quickly, we need to get you patched up. I can’t believe you even got back here in that condition. Honestly, you don’t even give one thought to what you’re doing, do you?” Parisa voice was more filled with concern rather than anger.

“It’s alright Mom, Luther here carried me the whole way on his back.” Parisa stopped in place for a moment, and turned to Luther. “You carried her all the way back here?” She asked, seemingly somewhat surprised.

“Well…yeah.” Luther responded, slowly.

“I see.” Julia could feel the tension in the air as she looked from her mother to Luther and back. “Well, I’ll leave you to take care of her. I think I’ve overstayed my welcome as is. Good night.” Luther turned toward the door as Parisa stopped him. “Where do you think you’re going?” Luther stopped short. Luther too, was expecting harsh words to begin flowing, but he too was surprised when she continued. “Where are you staying tonight?”

Luther was caught off-guard, but responded, “Hal’s place, of course.”

“Hal is out of town, will be for the rest of the week.” Luther slumped over. He cursed himself for not thinking even this whimsical trip back through, at least to that degree.

“Well, I’ll just stay in a hotel then. I’m sure there’s-” “There’s not.” Parisa responded. “There’s a big business retreat going on in town this week. I should know, I got dragged into it for most of the day.” Parisa sighed with exhaustion at the thought of it. “All the hotels are booked up with it.” Luther sighed as well, not with exhaustion, but exasperation. He hadn’t thought this through, and now we he was stuck without lodging in the middle of winter in a snow-covered town. “You’re staying here.” Luther back bolted up.

“Eh?”

“I said you’re staying here. You didn’t leave my Julia down at the station, and I’m not gonna boot you out into the cold now.” Parisa seemed to be biting something back as she spoke, but Julia couldn’t tell what it was.

“You sure you want-” Parisa cut him off.

“That’s how it is. You can have the room on the second floor on the right. It’s not being used by anyone now. Now go unpack your things.” Luther couldn’t find a reason to refuse.

“Yes ma’am.” After Parisa looked at him a long moment, she led Julia back to the bathroom to treat her. Luther sighed. “Of all the places to end up, it had to be here. Just my luck.” As the night closed in about the house, Luther slowly made his way to the second floor and opened the door to the vacant room. The room was the same colors as the rest of the house, but barren, save for the wooden bed that was pushed up against the right wall. It had green sheets and a thick green blanket over it, though Luther couldn’t tell if they had been changed any time recently. Luther set his bag down at his feet and sat upon the bed. The warm softness was something he had not been expecting. As he lay back against the wall, he found himself more tired than he really thought he was. As he slumped over onto the bed, the last thought that went through his mind was that of Parisa, who looked so much like her sister…

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2 comments so far

  1. Hannah on

    This beginning chapter is soo good! It really starts the plot and the mood!

  2. Chibi Wanko-chan on

    Really good so far. But a bit of criticism occasionally the placement of the names can confuse the readers into misunderstanding who said what. Also it is really great to imagine (which for me is the greatest thing an author can do. Not too simple that the reader can’t imagine a thing but not too complicated that you lose the reader completely)
    Great Job. ^^


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