"Do you mind if I take these?"

Sophie glanced up briefly from her colouring. Billy was standing beside her desk, gathering up some of her patterns. The sheets of graph paper were covered in tiny squares of colour, each one a complex series that only she could understand the meaning behind. She couldn't understand what possible use Billy might have for them, but she didn't have any. The patterns were only important to her while she made them.

She returned to the one she was currently calculating and Billy took that as permission. He left her room, bundles of paper in his arms.

As she sat alone, the room was silent but for the scratching of her pen nibs and the ever-present whisper of voices. Sophie sat at her desk. She calculated the complex sequences which manifested on the paper in bright ink. Square by square, millimetre by millimetre, the next pattern took form. After a time, she finished the page she was working on and moved on to the next. After a time, Billy returned and suggested they go get some lunch.

There was no explanation about the patterns he'd taken.

Sat together in the mess hall, Sophie continued drawing. She ate food with the fingers of her left hand as her right slowly crept along the paper with the appropriate felt tip.

"Hey, Billy brat!" Scott and Drew grinned their way into the mess hall, heading for their table. When the older boys arrived, Scott stood behind Billy. After a second, there came an undignified squeal and Billy leapt to his feet.

"Guess what! It's snowing!" Scott grinned as Drew burst out laughing.

"That was cold!"

Sophie glanced up from her colouring. A darker patch on the back on Billy's t-shirt was evidence for where some of the snow had ended up.

"That's the point," Scott said, if anything, his grin growing wider.

"I'll get you for this!"

"Protect me, Drew." Scott darted behind Drew, pretending to be scared. Then the boys ran out, Billy chasing the older pair with shouted threats of snow in some very uncomfortable places.

Sophie sat at the table.

No one had asked her if she wanted to play in the snow. No one had tried to tip snow down her neck. No one even seemed aware that she existed.

She bent her head over her pattern and tried to see the colours clearly through the blinked-back tears.

She had her appointment with the psychiatrist that afternoon and she sat and coloured patterns as usual until he took her pens away. Then she just ignored him and continued calculating, trying to hold the numbers in her head without any way to represent them physically. The time passed pointlessly and she was at last allowed to return to her room.

She walked slowly, pausing every now and then so that she could add another colour. When she reached her room, she pushed open the door and stepped inside, head still bent over the paper she carried. It took her several seconds to realise something was different.

She looked up. Paperchains hung around the room, criss-crossing the ceiling. They were made from her patterns, carefully cut into strips and glued together. By her desk was a tree branch, no doubt liberated from the garden outside. It too was hung with paperchains and there, stuck to the highest point of the branch, was a star cut from one of her pages. Billy stood in the middle of it all, smiling at her.

"Merry Christmas, Sophie."