That evening, as the raw cold sipped through fabric and feelings, Valeria found herself listening to the distant memory of her best friend Cindy. Valeria knew that it has been the winter storm that had brought Cindy back to her, for she hadn’t heard from her friend in too long. Valeria tried to remember, to estimate a date of the last time they had seen each other, and she can conclude only that it felt like a hundred years or a couple of lives ago.
Yet, Cindy was there, beside her, screaming in whispers all the things that Valeria would have wanted to hear back in the day, back when they were the closest of friends and Cindy hadn’t flat-lined, not a single time, for her excesses. Valeria had to grasp the steering wheel of her car as she listened to her current passenger and former confidante.
“I’ve missed us.”
Valeria stepped a little more on the gas.
“I’m sorry we drifted apart.”
Cindy’s words caught up to Valeria no matter how fast she drove.
“Please, help me.”
They stopped, with the the light in front of them tinting scarlet the car, themselves, and their moods.
How could she? Valeria thought.
How could she not? Valeria thought better.
The light changed, and Valeria went ahead. She remained focused, barely glancing at the specter of her best friend at her side. Cindy caught the glance, and shot back a smile that gleamed of nostalgia and sheepish gratitude. Despite the seasons apart, they still understood each other beyond and in spite of their own words.
Cindy shivered. The cold that had brought her to Valeria took a toll for its service. Valeria had known Cindy needed help since before life had split their paths and played a cruel joke on Cindy.
Cindy, the level-headed one with the career and family in mind.
Cindy, the one with the steady boyfriend and the good grades.
Cindy, the one who had gone on a spiraling maelstrom of non-magic potions and powders, void feelings, and sad solitude in worse company.
Now Cindy had returned, precisely after Valeria figured that her friend belonged as a whisper of her past. Valeria knew Cindy needed help, but it never occurred to her that Cindy would reappear asking her—asking Valeria for help.
Valeria, the one driving her life in the fast lane.
Valeria, the one without a clear destination but holding a compass still.
Valeria, the one on a journey that took a world to finally arrive to her self.
Cindy knew Valeria would help her. She wouldn’t help her with money or by making her troubles and despair go away. Valeria would help her in the unfathomable way that only an old friend could. If the winter winds had dragged her back to Valeria, Valeria would listen to Cindy’s pleas and take her long lost friend home.
Cindy shivered again. A little piece of her soul escaped with the chilly vapor of her breath, as well as a muffled growl from her insides. She could feel her unholy appetites brawling and brewing within. Valeria could hear and sense the violence swelling inside her friend, craving to be fed like crackling flames of a consuming fire.
Valeria stopped at a diner, aware and hopeful that quelling one hunger could appease the others until they reached where they needed to be. Their stop was brief, for the friend did little more than satiate themselves and their urge for public noise and private silence.
As the sun hid cowardly behind the horizon when its lover the moon awoke to play among the stars, Valeria and Cindy were back on the road. Cindy’s voice kept reminding Valeria of shared memories, while she also revealed chapters of her tragedy that Valeria preferred politely and wisely to leave behind as she drove.
Valeria pulled over and looked at Cindy’s house. It hardly was Cindy’s home anymore, but it would be better than no refuge. Cindy would find her mother, her unfinished life, and the faint ghost of her former self inside that house—if she dared to enter. Valeria would find the same. She knew it, so she drove away from the haunting doubt if Cindy would ever truly return home before the next storm.