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Cold Comfort

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Prologue

Elsa's father calls her a cold hearted bitch before she kills him.

He snarls it at her as she aims down the barrel of his unregistered colt .45. Her slender hands are bare and shaking against the cold metal. Grey clouds swirl overhead, pale and hazy and threatening more snow, but she isn’t really aware of the arctic chill. Her vision blurs and her nose runs, and she wipes the moisture away roughly on the back of her hand and stays focused. She has spent a lifetime averting her gaze. This time she keeps her eyes on his, the ones they share, the clear, striking blue. They don’t look so alike as they once did. Elsa has her mother’s nose, and a light dusting of freckles across her pale cheeks, but that is cold comfort now as her father glares at her from the snow, ice water seeping into his jeans, platinum hair wild in the icy wind. Right now, she only sees their similarities.

“Don’t fucking move,” she says, when he starts to get up, and pulls back the hammer.

He settles down again on the ground, but his expression is murderous. He wants to choke her. Elsa knows that if she lets him up again, he will. She wonders what he sees when he looks at her, now. She wonders if he even sees her at all, or if she’s just another obstacle to hurdle on the way to his next fix. She wonders if he remembers the picture on their refrigerator from her fifth birthday, when she reached up to hold his hand in a pale blue dress, when it was just the two of them, and together they looked so alike that it was uncanny.

The way his bloodshot eyes flicker now, she already knows that he doesn’t.

It sucks the air out of her lungs.

Her mother is sobbing on the porch behind her with a black eye and a bloody robe. Each wretched gasp rings out in the quiet yard like an alarm and Elsa curls her hands tighter around the gun. Her father’s knuckles are bleeding in the snow, curled into fists, waiting for a chance to tip the balance of power. He will kill her, she realizes, if he can. If she lets him. But she won’t let him. Elsa feels like she’s peering into a mirror, and it’s a mirror that she wants to shatter.

When he lunges at her, she grits her teeth and pulls the trigger.

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