Since my faithful readers endured the world's longest metaphor on the last piece, I felt I owed you something straightforward. And no... Zaedah hasn't given Peter back yet and no... she's not sharing!


In The Drift

It is the cackling giggle of an elderly man that has Olivia and her wounded ears taking the narrow steps two at a time, leaving the pre-coffee noises behind. 'Mother Nature's shaking out her dandruff for all she's worth,' Walter is expounding to Astrid with the volume of stampeding elephants. Though winters have rarely been kind, Olivia stalks out to gladly face the distant sun harshly glaring off a blanket of reflective white. The porch of a cafeteria takes the role of hideout and she leans against the iron railing to commune with winter's prize. The misted curl of each breath is escorted behind her shoulder by a light breeze and she wishes her irritation would float away just as easily.

Surrounded by as yet untouched beauty, she considers the two modes of snow: the pure initial falling and the later inevitable tainting. Rarely can one see the in-between, as man so quickly ruins the perfection of nature. So much like Walter's experiments. Perhaps that is why she couldn't remain in that room today; his joy in overpowering Mother Nature is likely the reason the non-existent being had dandruff to begin with. The image of the sky trying to shake out his meddling amuses her. But only briefly.

She knows he's behind her. The development of her Bishop radar had taken little effort, truth be told. But Peter says nothing, in that way of his that's supposed to make her speak first, giving him something he can then pick apart. It is a greatly disliked tactic. Because it works.

"It's snowing." She tells him.

"Yes, it is." The man could sink ships with the dull edge of his dead-pan voice. Her continued staring contest with the white precipitation prompts him to inspect her, which invariably shaves the jaggedness from his tone. "What is it?"

She hates when he does that. Turns off the sarcastic monotone and lets the concern taint a perfectly welcome detachment. And there is loathing for the knowledge that no answer will satisfy this Bishop.

"Nothing."

"Nothing's ever nothing with you." He puts forth the observation carefully, as one scolded all too recently for lethal bluntness.

Her chastisement is born of the shifty man's ability to zero in on truth and quip the death out of it. But he's watching her and a conclusion of this non-conversation is unlikely. And knowing she'll have to scrape off the roof of the snow-laden SUV makes her long for the days when a sled was the only vehicle needed for a blizzard. In those days, no one studied her until she cracked. Which she does.

"I can't make snow angels." It's offered as an explanation for all that is wrong with her world and he takes it as such. Peter abandons the lurking position and joins her at the railing, wool coated elbow bumping into hers.

"Okay."

Acceptance of the statement doesn't mean he's not amused by it. The quirk of his lips tells her this and though there's no need, she's compelled to defend it.

"I couldn't get it right. Never looked like the other kids' angels."

The soft fall before them increases a fraction and she wraps her arms tighter about her body. The light breeze has swallowed steroids and now blows her hair off her shoulder.

The flow of blonde distracts Peter for just a moment before the gaze picks up her face once more. "Is that just little Livvy being overcritical?"

"Only if all of my friends were wrong."

"Maybe…" He's analyzing this, complete with chin stroking. Such sinister curiosity has roots in disturbing genes. "Maybe you weren't getting off the ground right."

"There's a right way?" And is there a wrong way to get home intact?

"Of course." Dear Lord, he's warming to this, as though having no issues of his own to dissect. "Depart from your masterpiece without a plan and you'll destroy the symmetry of the wings and put odd dents in your poor angel's body."

Lips that were commanded to remain in frown formation stretch into something almost pleasant. The three inches become five in the time it takes her to pray Peter won't collapse in the fluff to demonstrate the proper technique. Or worse, make her drop and give him an angel. Somehow, that fear isn't enough to keep her from furthering this talk.

"So the flaws in my limb movement aside, I should have strategized how to stand up?"

The shake of his head dislodges stray flakes that dodged a tin roof to light in his hair. "How do you not know this?"

A moment, heavy on contemplation of nonsense, passes as she blinks away the yellow spots in her vision and retrains her gaze on something not so blinding. Like him. Gloved hands on coat-widened hips, she glares as best one can with watering eyes.

"And I suppose your angels were perfect?"

That damned grin should require a license. "Takes one to make one."

He leaves her then, heading out to a snow drift and, with an arm extended, innocently tests for depth. Her arms circle a railing post to ensure he can't extricate her from the porch because a man with his rap sheet should never be trusted. Rather than fall upon the snow's fleece, he spins on his heel and lobs a hasty snowball at the armed FBI agent. Men have been shot for less, she wants to scream as the freezing compaction clumps in her loose hair. But that inner child who mourned her sled-lessness just moments ago surges through her limbs and anoints her the general of the bomb brigade. The wagers of losing are offered: for her a skirt and for him a shave.

An hour later, Astrid walks the newly salted path to hunt for missing colleagues, finding only a mess of splattered snowballs by the cafeteria door and a set of flawless snow angels on the lawn.