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Jay flat-out sprinted across the yellow grass toward Canterbury Hall, quite aware that he was late for class for the first time ever. He was sweating slightly from exertion and his coat was sticking to him like a second skin, but the savage wind sneaked under his hood and whipped at his face with such brute force that his teeth chattered. Slowly, he drew closer to the sleet-topped building, closer to the rattling gate, closer to the familiar warmth of suitably-insulated classrooms. For a second he thought the doors were getting farther away, purposefully vexing him, mocking him for being late. I know, I’m sorry, he thought to himself, hoping doors could read minds. They only laughed at him.

He nearly stopped when he saw an actual person sitting on top of the tall brick gate. Jay had thought it was a statue from afar, but up close he saw a girl who leaned against the flickering lamppost like it was a hot summer day, or something. He feared the angry weather would bring her dark red podium down in a blur of dark hair and long limbs and chipped brick if it wanted to. She clearly didn't think so; Jay wondered if she was insane. Bewildered, he slowed to a jog, then a stop, watching as she turned the page of the book in her lap, breeze fighting her, crippling the paper and telling her she would get hypothermia if she didn't go inside already. Yet she looked serene, even comfortable. A completely inadequate jacket was wrapped around her shoulders like a blanket; maybe she wasn't entirely insane.

“Hey!” Jay called from below. The air stole the words from his mouth and whisked them away, but still she heard and locked her eyes with his.

“Hey yourself!” she shouted back. Her reply was loud somehow. It seemed to have floated straight through him, around him. He shivered.

“What on earth are you doing?” Nice one, Jay.

“Reading,” the girl answered simply, like he hadn't just asked the stupidest question in the entire world.

He paused, unsure if now was the correct time to escape. With wide eyes, he looked up at her. She did not elaborate or anything, so he hesitantly went on. “It’s, like, zero degrees outside. And when you sit on the fence like that, you literally get twice as much wind. You’ll get hypothermia.”

Jay felt even more foolish; his gut twisted as one of her eyebrow raised. She was holding back a laugh, he knew it. “Why do you care?” she asked him, almost earnestly.

The heat of Canterbury Hall was calling him, and he knew he was wasting his time — this girl probably had brain damage or psychological issues. Nonetheless, he stood his ground. His stupidly icy ground. “Why don’t you just read inside?”

“Brilliant art cannot be concealed within those flimsy cages.”

“Frames?”

Her eyes widened at that, and then she really smiled, all white teeth and crooked lips. “What’s your name?”

“Dude, go inside.”

“Your name first.”

With a small surge of victory, he answered, “Jay.”

She chortled and he got angry because her chortle wasn't embarrassing, and that was not fair at all. “That’s not your real name.”

Jay’s ego would have been besmirched had she not been right. “Julius,” he said honestly, then continued with, “my mom was a Shakespeare fanatic,” as if that could explain everything.

The girl’s lips drew into a thin line and she nodded thoughtfully.

“Are you going to come inside now?” he asked her.

“No, thank you.”

He guffawed awkwardly, fiercely; he then winced at his own social discomfort. “But—” he protested. “But you promised.”

The girl looked Jay right in the eye, not exactly serious but more serious, which Jay didn't think made sense but did. “I didn't. It wouldn't matter if I had. People are liars, Julius. That’s lesson number one.”

Later, when Jay finally persuaded her to go inside (he’d had to resort to letting her call him Julius and, presumably, swearing an oath of eternal friendship), she hopped down from her brick gate tower and landed on the frozen ground somewhat gracefully, despite her legs being numb from the cold. As they began to walk away, the light bulb in the lamppost exploded from above, freezing without her heat, sending crystal-like shards flying over their heads. She turned to him and smiled the smile again, all white teeth and electricity.



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