“Want to come with me tonight?” my brother asked, poking his head in at my door.
He never invited me on his midnight rambles. Before, I would have jumped at the chance. Now…I turned and stared through the crack in my curtains. White powder like gypsum dust covered everything, sparkling under the starlight. A shiver spidered up my back.
I pulled my blanket up around my shoulders.
The floor creaked. My brother sat down on the edge of my bed, pulled his bare feet up to the mattress and wrapped his arms around his knees.
“It’s not the end of the world.”
“It may as well be,” I muttered. The clock on my desk rattled as it rolled over to a new hour. I glanced at it. Only three a.m. “Why did you bother me?”
He shrugged. “You were awake.”
Of course I was awake. The nights seemed never-ending now, and the days I spent listlessly doing school and chores and gulping caffeine, hating every moment I had to step outside. The cold worked its way into my bones and made me feel like I’d never be warm again, even when I was curled in my thick comforter. Icicles had frozen in my insides.
I missed the warm sun and sandy beaches.
He pulled on my arm. “Come on.”
I glared at him. How had he adjusted so quickly to the north? “No.”
His face tightened. “If you could just see what I’ve found…”
“What?” I bit my tongue. Why had I spoken?
“You’ll have to see.”
“That’s cheating.” I sighed. Well, this little mystery would at least pass an hour. I slid out of bed, and my toes curled from the wooden floor. I pulled my socks higher, slid into my slippers, and pulled on my fuzzy robe. We crept downstairs, and my brother stopped at the back door, grabbing his boots and parka.
I recoiled. “We’re not going outside?”
“You have to see it.”
A harsh no stood on the tip of my tongue, ready to launch at him. His eyes twinkled, and he grinned. The sight made me pause. Mister No-Emotions, excited? I had to see whatever this was now.
I jerked my parka down from its hook. “You’re going to regret this.”
He shook his head and pushed open the door.
The night air tasted cold. I drew a deep breath into my tingling lungs and stared into the sky. The sky was such a smooth, beautiful black, studded with flecks of diamonds unsullied by city lights. However beautiful it was, the chill made my jaw tighten.
My eyes caught a flicker near the horizon. Above the hills, ribbons of blue, green, and red danced to a tune I thought I could hear in the falling snow—sharp, like needles against glass, but sweet. My muscles relaxed just a little as I strained to follow the melody.
My brother’s warm hand slipped into mine and his words interrupted the snowflakes’ song. “C’mon, it gets better.”
We jumped off the deck and sank to our knees in a snowdrift. I wanted to stop and try to find the song of the snowflakes again, but he pulled me onward. We crunched through the snow, our boots drowning out any other sound.
Near the top of the first hill, he tugged me down to my knees. “Be quiet from here, or else they’ll see you.”
He crept up the hill. I followed, trying to keep my parka from rustling too much. When we got to the top of the hill, my brother pointed down into the valley.
I covered my hand with my mouth to contain a gasp.
I would have barely been able to see the creatures below, save for the colors. Brilliant emerald green, deep crimson, midnight blue sparked off the dancing limbs and shot up to join the ribbons moving in the sky.
I’d always thought dragons to be ungainly, but as they danced, their tails and wings fluttered out to keep them in perfect balance. They twined into long blurs of colors—blue interwoven with green, green kissing crimson, crimson stroking blue again. Their heads bobbed and tucked, their long necks graceful in the moonlight.
They sang as they danced. Their song was wordless and deep, vibrating the snow underneath us. The notes shivered through me, joined with the needles-against-glass song of the snowflakes. The song blended together, earth-wrenching bass and heavenly soprano, a harmony and a melody in white in the steam from creatures’ mouths and the delicate crystals of the snowflakes. The lights in the sky, ever increasing, mimicked the movements of the dance. Their paws skimmed the snow, packed and melted from the touch of their warm scales.
The dragon scales may as well have been touching me. My body was still cold, but the tightness eased away. The icicles that had been growing inside me for the past few months melted, and I could actually feel my heart pumping blood again. Why had I moped inside for so long?
With a final whirl, the dragons furled their wings about their bodies. The light vanished. The ribbons in the sky faded out. The valley dimmed into gray, dingy snow. The stars appeared in the sky, but they seemed flat and dull after the dance.
I turned to my brother. “What was that?” The words were thick in my mouth, clumsy after the grace of the dragons.
My brother’s eyes sparkled with something other-worldly. “That was the dragon dance.”
“Dragon dance.” Beautiful.
My brother stood and headed down the hill. As I followed, I looked up at the sky. Snowflakes stung my eyes, stuck to my eyelashes. If only there was one more ribbon of light left…
But the sky was black velvet again.
Strangely enough, the thought didn’t make me sag as it should have. As I reached the bottom of the hill and took my brother’s hand, I glanced over my shoulder. Just a quick glance to say goodbye. To say thank you for the contentment coursing through my body.
For a moment, a section of snow blurred.
For a moment, the snowflakes drifting into my hair turned emerald green.
For a moment, I thought I saw a dark green eye, winking at me through the swirling snow.
In that moment, I knew I was invited back. Welcome even. The dragons had enjoyed my presence at their dance.
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