There are some things we cannot change...

Snow was falling again.

Katya had spent the next day locked in her room pretending to be ill so she would not be bothered by Anya, Gala, or even Boris. But that was where she was wrong. Late that evening, Boris came to her room. He had flowers. "But flowers are not the gift of music," she thought. And how...ungentlemanly to call on her at such an hour! Katya thanked him for the flowers out of social politeness, allowed her hand to be kissed, and bid him goodnight. She never saw him again.

There are some things we cannot change...

Two weeks later, Katya was walking along one of the servants corridors, being drawn out of hiding by Akim. She had taken to skiving off work. She had become a completely different person two weeks ago. Katya, whose thoughts had previously been of Boris, Anya, Gala, and her life thus far, was filled with a sense of happiness whenever she heard his voice. No one was around to see that Katya took his hand and he led her down the same flight of stairs she had gone down at least a hundred times before. For at least six months these "hauntings" as Katya called them had occurred and she would willingly give her voice to him for four whole hours. That was 240 minutes of pure bliss. She sang for him and he sang for her. It was unlike any earthly experience Katya had ever had. And to have it every single night of the week was heaven. Her voice had progressed and Akim thought it a gift from God...or from himself. He had the power to make her sing the way she now could.

After four hours, their session was over. They both knew it was. They were snapped back to reality when the massive grandfather clock chimed midnight. The illusion of happiness ended. Katya, who by now knew how to go back upstairs on her own, made her way to the staircase back to the corridor without a look back to Akim. "You do not have to go,". Katya swivelled slowly on the spot to face the speaker. Akim was looking at her, directly in the eyes. Katya felt as if he searched her soul. She knew she wanted to stay. That night with Boris was the end of her love--was it even love? Or attraction?--for him. She could not see how their relationship could possibly work. Servants simply did not love or even marry nobility. "Yes, you are right. Your always were," she whispered, returning his gaze. She walked towards him. Akim gathered her in his arms and kissed her passionately. While she was in his arms, Akim had produced a silver dagger. He looked her in the eyes as they broke apart. With one quick movement, he plunged the blade into her beating heart. She gasped in pain and he let her body lie back from his so he could look her in the eyes. Her last thoughts were of him. Akim placed a finger against her swan-like neck. She was gone. He laid Katya's body on the ground and arranged her arms across her chest in the shape of a cross. And then Akim noticed his fingers were not only stained red but were wet. He was crying. He knew that this was the only way to truly make her stay with him. Akim then plunged the dagger into his own heart, laid down beside Katya, and died. The angel of music was now the angel in hell. And that is the way it was then, now, and always. It truly was a red winter.