It’s more than a little disconcerting, seeing snow on the ground. In December. In New Zealand. Inside the house.
The fake snow was the aunties’ present to Hero this year, made by mixing water with this weird white powder stuff until it crystallized and turned cold, just like real snow is supposed to feel. They’d had Leo hunt it up online and help them spread it all around their house as a surprise. They’d have put it outside on the lawn for the full effect, but they were afraid the summer heat would just melt it. Besides, Beatrice had pointed out, it would look ridiculous if theirs was the only house in town with snow on the ground, while everyone else had green grass and blooming flowers in their gardens.
Now, Beatrice steps over a small mound of the stuff to cross from the living room to the kitchen, to check on the cookies. She and Hero are planning on decorating sugar cookies tonight, in front of a marathon of old Christmas movies- a holiday ritual. Most of the movies are solidly set in the Northern hemisphere and are therefore blanketed with snow. It’ll be weird to watch them and feel like they’re really in the middle of the storm.
Anyway, she’s just taking the cookies out of the oven, savoring the silence of the empty house, when the doorbell rings.
She can hear the singing before she even reaches the door. Looking through the tiny window at the top of the door, she can see three faces, three guys she doesn’t quite recognize. The glass is frosted; it’s hard to make out features. They’re currently absolutely butcheringDeck the Halls.
“Not interested!” Beatrice shouts, and the singers falter for a moment. She smiles in satisfaction- until they start back up again with Jingle Bells. Honestly? Who even goes Christmas caroling in real life? She’s almost positive people only ever do that in movies.
And anyway, she’s not about to share her cookies with a chorus as annoying as those kids.
Beatrice returns to the kitchen and begins carefully sliding sugar cookies from cookie sheet to spatula to paper-towel-covered plate. She’s usually more excited to come to Hero’s for Christmas every year, but the last few years, it’s like there’s been a pall over all of Auckland, for her, a shadow of how terrible her fourteenth summer had been. But she’s seventeen now, and she’s past all that, and there is no reason not to be happy right now. Even when she drops a cookie and it breaks in half- at least that means she gets to sample one before decorating time.
She’s savoring the buttery sweetness of Hero’s perfect sugar cookie recipe, finally feeling almost Christmas-y again, and then-
The doorbell goes off again, this time twice in quick succession, and she can already hear another warbling voice. “Hark, the herald angels sing, gloooory to the newborn King!”
Totally off-key. Beatrice groans and opens the door. “I said, we’re not interested. Go away!”
“Sorry, can’t,” says the guy standing on her porch, apologetically. “I never back down from a dare.” And he launches back into the song, the part without words this time, just “Oooh ooo ooooh, oo oo oo ooooohh….”
It’s a basic self-preservation instinct, really. Beatrice is being accosted by some random guy in a Christmas sweater, with a voice like a dying flamingo- so it’s only natural that she picks up a handful of fake snow from the table by the door, and throws it directly into his face.
“Ahh! What the hell?” He coughs, steps back, almost tripping down the stairs. His hands spring up to cover his face as he brushes the cold wet stuff away from his eyes. There’s a whole bunch of it sticking to the top of his messy, thick dark hair. Beatrice cracks up laughing at the sight.
“Is this snow?” The guy asks, and she realizes suddenly that his accent is different, English, maybe… oh, no. Oh, God, no way. “Where on Earth did you get snow?”
“Christmas magic,” she says hastily, moving to close the door on the last person she ever wanted to see again- but he rests a hand on the doorframe, and she doesn’t fancy getting sued for breaking his fingers. Even if the dickface does deserve to suffer for what he’s put her through.
“Wait, wait, wait,” he says, shaking his head so a bit of the white powder flies off. Most of it sticks, though, and the heat is starting to melt it into his hair. “Tell me more about this Christmas magic.”
He says it so flirtatiously that she leans down and picks up another clod of snow, just in case. He brings his other hand away from his face, to hold it up in surrender, and when their eyes meet, she forgets the biting insult she was about to fire off.
She’s done her best to avoid him, has barely seen him once in the past four years. Apparently, those years have been kind to him. His face is the same, just less round, a little more defined. There is a tall, lanky, smirking blue-eyed boy on her porch, and he happens to be her arch-enemy now, which is why it’s so infuriating that- she pushes the thought away as soon as it occurs to her, wrinkling her nose- he kind of got hot.
No. No, no, no, not even. He’s wearing a Christmas sweater covered in a pattern of alternating snowflakes and TARDIS-es, and his hair is still covered in slowly melting fake snow, and he’s completely and totally evil. She has to remember that. She hates him for a reason, after all, and she’s not stopping now. No matter what.
“Get off my porch, Benedick,” she snaps, ignoring his friends down on the street, going “oooohhhh!” like a couple of overexcited kids watching a friend get in trouble.
“So you do remember me,” he says, dripping satisfaction. “How are you, Beatrice?”
She raises the second snowball. “Do you really want to know the answer to that?”
“Look, I didn’t mean to disturb you, okay? It was Pedro’s idea, it was supposed to be a joke. We didn’t even know you were here. Can’t we just-”
“Hey, Ben,” shouts one of the boys in the street. “Don’t look up!”
So of course, both Ben and Bea immediately do look up- and see, directly above them, the sprig of plastic mistletoe that Hero likes to hang in a different spot every Christmas, just for fun. And for sadistic torture, apparently, thinks Beatrice, fighting the heat of a blush spreading across her stricken face.
“Absolutely not,” she snaps, and without hesitation, she beans him with the rest of the fake snow in her hand, knocking him back just enough that he lets go of the doorframe and she can slam the door in his face. That awful, smug, flirting face.
She’s going to hate Benedick Hobbes forever. She’s never going to forgive him, let him win. Not in this lifetime.
Peace on Earth? Yeah, right.