Snow blustered by the window, and Momo watched her gentle breath fog up the glass. She shivered, though it was warm in the car. She could already imagine the sharp breeze nipping at her cheeks, her nose tinged red as she swooped through the powdery snow with her skis.
She daydreamed about her family’s yearly trip for weeks before. Sitting in class, her mind would often drift to the slopes. She could almost feel the wind brushing through her dark locks, the white powder covering her legs as she zipped down the mountain with her parents.
Pressing her finger against the fogged up glass, she doodled a picture of a mountain on the window, a small smile pulling across her lips.
The yearly trip would be a nice reprieve from her frustrating, anxious thoughts.
"Momo, darling, don't smudge your finger against the window. It leaves prints!" her mother chided, glancing to the backseat. "Take a nap if you're tired. We still have at least another hour left in the car."
Momo jolted, sitting up straight. "Yes, Mother, I apologize," she said, bowing her head. Her cheeks heated up. She wasn't a child anymore, her mother shouldn't have to scold her over something so petty.
She took a deep breath, leaning her head back against the side of the door. For as long as Momo could remember, her family took a two week trip to the mountains for her winter break. They spent the two weeks skiing, ice skating, and relaxing in the hot tub. It was Momo's favorite time of year.
Her parents spent the majority of their time working, and even free time often turned into extra work, leaving them very little time with their daughter. But on their yearly ski trip, most of the time belonged to her.
As a child, there was one year her parents pawned her off on a ski instructor, but after a few days of learning various techniques, Momo was proud to be able to keep up with her parents. Even as a child, she was focused and intelligent.
"Is your friend going to be here this year?" her mother asked, pulling Momo from her thoughts.
When she grew older, there were some times her parents wished to spend alone, which Momo could understand. They both worked so much they barely had time for each other as well. And so Momo spent her free time at the lodge cafe or recreational center, which was how she met one of her greatest friends, Jirou Kyouka.
"Ah! I forgot to text her this morning!" Momo said, pulling out her phone.
[Kyouka: 4 New Messages]
A small giggle left Momo's lips. It was no surprise Kyouka was already texting her.
Kyouka's parents were the clingy type. Both well-known musicians, their winter trip was time for family bonding, and Kyouka often begged to escape to spend time with Momo.
[Text from Kyouka]: Yaomomo, when are you getting here? I'm already dying.
[Text from Kyouka]: My Dad is suggesting our families all karaoke tonight. I only have so many ways to say no.
[Text from Kyouka]: I really hope you're at least on your way.
[Text from Kyouka]: Yaomomo, seriously! Where are you?! This boy just talked to me and I swear, I can't tell if he's cute or an idiot.
Momo couldn't help but laugh at the last text. Momo had to admit, the few times Kyouka was vocal about her various attractions, Momo found herself questioning Kyouka's taste, mostly in men.
[Text Kyouka]: Don't worry, don't worry. We're almost there! Sorry I didn't text back, I was a little distracted.
[Text from Kyouka]: Why does your family do everything in slow motion?
[Text Kyouka]: I apologize, Kyouka! We are really close! Mother said we're about an hour away!
[Text from Kyouka]: AN HOUR!? ...Killing me slowly...
She smiled, brushing her thumb over the screen. Her heart throbbed with anticipation. She and Kyouka only saw each other a few times a year; always on their two week family trips, and occasionally during summer break for a mid-year sleepover.
[Text Kyouka]: Why don't you tell me more about this boy?
[Text from Kyouka]: Ugh. Just get here. He works at the cafe, you'll meet him.
[Text Kyouka]: If you're really bored, you could tell me now.
[Text from Kyouka]: Nope. This is your punishment for being so damn late!
"I take it you two are making plans already?" Her mother's voice made Momo jump, clutching her phone to her chest.
"Oh yes! Kyouka is... very eager for our arrival," Momo giggled.
"That makes two of us," the woman sighed. Momo's mother never did well when they traveled in the snow. It was part of the reason they had such a late start; her mother secretly wanted to wait until the snow passed, hoping they wouldn't have to drive through the light storm.
"We're almost there, darling," her father reassured, and Momo turned her gaze back towards the window.
The snow wasn't falling very fast. It was light and gentle, though it seemed to be sticking to the ground. It was Momo's favorite kind of a weather; cold, but with a purpose, the ground snuggling in its blanket of white.
She let out a soft sigh, not wanting her parents to hear. As excited as she was for the trip, she hated the idea of it coming to an end. And as usual, Momo knew the time would pass incredibly fast, which meant returning to school for the last time in the spring.
A lump formed in her throat as she thought about leaving school. Of course university loomed on the horizon, so it wasn't as if she would be free from studying (not that she wanted to be). But the idea of actually furthering her studies, taking her one step closer to adulthood, terrified her. Momo had no clue what she planned on doing with her life, and university was a strong reminder of her unknown future.
This most likely wouldn't be her last ski trip, but for some reason, she kept feeling like after high school things would feel different.
"We're here," her father said, and Momo immediately pressed her cheek against the window, staring at the giant lodge in front of her.
It never seemed to change. The large wooden building which stood at the base of the mountains was four stories tall, balconies decorated by fairy lights. Large stone chimneys pressed against the side of the various lodges, and Momo could already picture the fire burning in the pits of the lobbies. Behind the lit up building, ski slopes cut through the mountain, separated by long strips of green trees. Various chair lifts and gondolas strung up the mountain, still running even later in the afternoon. After dark, a few trails were lit up for night skiing. For now, Momo saw a few small figures zooming back and forth across the slopes.
"It'll be nice to get out there tomorrow." Her father sighed happily.
"Yes, anything to be out of this car," her mother said, gently touching his leg. "Let's get checked in."
They pulled into a parking spot, and Momo stared at the lodge, completely lit up in front of her. The roof was dusted by snow and the sun shone, making the white power glisten with sparkles. Opening the door, Momo was hit by a cold breeze, but her heart felt warm, as if she was home.
Next to her, another car door slammed shut and Momo glanced to her side. Struggling to hold four different bags, a boy her age with perfectly symmetrical red and white hair stared at her for a moment. His eyes were two different colors, and they absolutely fascinated her. He also had a scar over his left eye, and Momo flushed, realizing her staring at his eyes might have been mistaken for focusing on the scar.
Really, he was quite handsome. Momo had never found herself drawn to someone so fast.
"Shouto! Hurry up!" A tall, gruff looking man stormed by him, pushing the lock on the car.
"Coming," the boy muttered, turning away from her.
"Momo! Come grab your bags."
"A-Ah! Right!" Her father's voice pulled her out of her daze, and she dashed around to the back of the car, grabbed her bags.
She glanced behind her, watching the boy walk away. It wasn't unusual to see new people here every year; it was a popular resort, and expensive, so some people made it a special, one-time only trip. However, Momo couldn't help but follow him as he walked away, wondering if she would see him again during her stay.
Shouto hated car rides, especially long ones with his family. They were usually deadly silent, or consisted of Natsuo loudly (and obnoxiously) singing along with whatever was on his iPod. Fuyumi would attempt to quiet him down, but eventually it would take their father's loud, frustrated voice to get him to stop.
Then it would be completely and utterly silent. So much so, Shouto could hear his own breath, as well as the soft breaths of his siblings, all of them desperate to expel the tension hanging above the car.
Currently, they were past the point of awkward silence, and Natsuo finally started talking again. Unfortunately, his attention fell on Shouto. "Do you even remember how to ski, Shouto? Mom taught you when you were so little."
Shouto's chest tightened at the mention of his mother. "I know," he muttered, turning his eyes towards the window.
"Hah? Shouto!" Natsuo whined and poked at his cheek. "What do you mean 'I know'? Do you 'know' how to ski still? Or are you just saying you 'know' Mom taught you?"
"Leave him alone Natsuo..." Fuyumi tried again, turning around from the front seat, and gently placed her palm on his forearm, pressing against it.
Shouto couldn't help but be jealous Toya got out of this trip simply because he was currently studying abroad and decided not to return home for winter break. If Shouto could leave and never come back, he would've gladly chosen that option.
"I remember," Shouto said finally.
"Oh! Well good then! I didn't want to have to teach you again!" Natsuo chuckled. There was no response.
Finally realizing he wasn't going to garner the response he wished for from either Shouto or Fuyumi, Natsuo lay his head back against the window and shut his eyes.
Relieved, a breath of cold air slipped from Shouto's lips. His father just happened to have the body temperature from hell, and he rarely remembered to put the heat on. There was no way Shouto was going to ask the man for anything either.
"We're almost there," Enji's gruff voice echoed from the front, causing all of the siblings to jump. "So you can all give it a rest."
This whole trip was a bit baffling to Shouto. Before, their winter trips usually happened thanks to their mother, and she was certainly not going to be there this time. Enji always acted as though the ski trips were the biggest burden on him. He didn't even seem to enjoy skiing, though he often bragged he was the best at it. He could've gone pro if he wanted or... something... Shouto usually tried to tune him out when he got to that point.
And yet, even without his mother, somehow they were all on their way up to the mountains. Though Enji chose a new resort this time, one Shouto and his siblings were unfamiliar with. None of them complained though; Shouto wasn't sure if any of them wanted to be here without their mother.
Shouto kept his eyes locked on the snowflakes swirling outside his window. His mother always did adore the snow. When the first flakes began to fall from the sky, she would rush to the window, her gray eyes illuminated with excitement.
"It's snowing!" she would call out, like a young child awake far too early on Christmas morning. "Come here, Shouto." Her small hands would cup at his sides, and she would lift his tiny body up to the window. "Soon," she said, smiling, "the world will be covered in a frozen white blanket. And we'll be nice and warm inside. But maybe... we can go out and play later."
Shouto's eyes twinkled then, his hands curling around the sill. His heart was always full of wonder for their snowy yard. His mother made it sound ethereal; a winter wonderland of adventures waiting for just the two of them beyond the glass of the window.
Things were different now. His breath, though cold, still fogged up the glass window of the car. The world a dull gray as it breezed past them on the highway.
Soon... soon he would be free from this car, and not long after this trip he would be free forever from his father. He could live in the dorms at his university and as far as Shouto was concerned, the further away from that man he was, the better.
"Are we going to be skiing all week, Father?" Fuyumi asked. "I was hoping maybe we could take a day for cross-country? Or ice skating..." His sister trailed off, the words left unspoken.
"Because Mother also enjoyed doing those things too."
"Do whatever you want during your downtime," Enji said. "You will be skiing at the designated times. I already paid for the tickets."
"I see," Fuyumi muttered, and Shouto saw her head tilt downwards. Fuyumi and their mother often spent a day together ice skating. Of all the winter activities, it was Fuyumi's favorite, and one she excelled at.
Shouto didn't love ice skating, but he had a feeling Natsuo would force Shouto to go with the two of them at one point on this trip. He supposed for Fuyumi, he could stomach it. In fact, doing various activities with his brother and sister would probably be far more fulfilling than anything their father planned.
"We're here!" Natsuo cheered, pressing his face flat against the window. Sometimes Shouto seriously couldn't believe Natsuo was older than him. "Look at this place! It's huge!"
Shouto leaned towards the middle of the car, catching a glimpse at the large four story lodge. His nose wrinkled. His mother would've hated this place. She much preferred smaller cabins, a more homey feel, than... commercialized lodges.
Then again, nothing about this trip was going to feel homey at all, so Shouto supposed this ginormous lodge was more than appropriate.
"Shouto, get my bags while I take down the skis," Enji said, putting the car in park.
It was always him. No surprise there. Shouto didn't answer and instead stepped out of the car, his boots squishing against the dirty, slushy snow beneath his feet.
He made his way to the back of the car and lifted up the trunk, pulling his own bag and the various bags Enji packed. Why his father needed more than one bag was beyond Shouto, but he didn't feel like listening to the man scold him if he didn't grab all... three of them. He sighed, slinging one over his shoulder, holding one on his wrist and the other two in his hand.
He used his elbow to slam the trunk shut and stumbled backwards, clutching two of the bags close to his chest as he tried not to fall. It was then, when he was making a complete and utter fool of himself, that he caught eyes with a girl.
She was probably about his age, and she was, well, stunning. He probably looked like a fool staring right at her, but her sharp dark eyes drew him in. Her pale cheeks were a bit flushed, probably reddened from the kiss of the cool air. Her dark black hair was in a ponytail which fanned out against the back of her head, and red, fluffy ear muffs covered her ears.
Their eyes met and she stared right back, her lips pulling into a curious circle. Shouto could honestly say he had never seen anyone quite as beautiful as her.
He opened his mouth as if to speak, but he had no idea what he would even say to a girl like her. 'Hello' probably would've been a good start. His throat felt dry, frozen in the cold air. What were words anyway?
"Shouto! Hurry up!" Enji's voice cut through his daydream, shattering it onto the ground. Shouto was thankful he didn't drop the damn bags.
"Coming," he muttered, reluctantly turning away from her. It was silly to regret it; it wasn't as if Shouto had anything to say to her.
"Momo! Come grab your bags." He heard a voice call from behind him.
He was tempted to look back, curious to see her one more time, but he supposed he might see her during the trip anyway. The lodge was huge, so the probability was low. But Shouto felt a little lighter as he carried the bags. The thought of seeing her again made his heart beat just a little faster.
Maybe he would survive this trip after all.