Her roses were dying.
They sat on the windowsill, brown creeping up the stem. The petals lay on the white wood, folding in on themselves.
The cold was infiltrating everything. It crept into the walls, into everything it could get its icy hands on. Ava hated winter. It killed so much of the beauty in the world. That was why she moved to California in the first place, to escape the suffocating chill that never left her bones.
Still, Ava didn’t want to be trapped inside her apartment. She was already alone enough as it is. Since she’s been back, it’s like everyone she used to know has become a stranger to her. After the incident, she didn't think she’d be able to come back. Maybe she shouldn’t have, after all.
The only person that she really interacted with was that boy from the tattoo parlor, the one who never seemed to pull his head out of the clouds. She spent all day trying to pick out photos to give to him to hang up in the store, and finally picked her favorite three.
One was a picture she took from the greenhouse. It was the first time she was ever able to catch it while it was open. Rows and rows of flowers and beautiful green leaves, like a never ending maze of pastels.
Another was one she took of the mountains just outside of San Francisco. She wanted to remind herself, to remind everyone, that that kind of serenity—the kind found at the peak, watching the sun rise—is truly attainable.
The last was one she took of her room. All the yellow glistened in the sun, and the clutter seemed staged. Clothes strewn everywhere, rolls of film left on the floor waiting to be developed.
She was going to take them to him, but a knock echoed throughout her apartment.
Someone was at her door for the first time.
With hesitant steps, she opened the door. Her jaw dropped.
In front of her stood her brother, just as pale and skinny as ever. His shocking blue eyes matched hers, except his lips pushed his frost bitten cheeks into a grin.
Heart racing in her chest, Ava took a step back.
“Jake?” she asked, breath almost catching in her throat. “You shouldn’t—there’s no way you’re here. After what happened… I don’t understand.”
“That’s no way to greet someone, Ava,” he teased, patting her head. Ava flinched. “Why don’t you let me inside and we’ll… catch up.”
Before Ava could even answer, Jake had stepped into her apartment and shut the door behind him.