It’s no secret that Madeline’s favourite parts of Canada are the less populated parts, where all that exists are long stretches of wilderness blanketed in deep December frost. It’s also no secret that Amelia would rather spend her Christmas on the beaches of Maui, basking in the warmth of her own shores; a desire that’s naught but a pipe dream now.
Not that Amelia hadn’t tried to make it come true.
We did that last year! Besides, Madeline had said when Amelia suggested another beach Christmas. She paused in the middle of folding a sweater in half, fixing Amelia with a stern look that made her round glasses slide down her nose. It’s my turn to pick whether you like it or not.
Amelia couldn’t really argue with that, even though just the thought of bitter wintry air made her skin prickle. So she let Madeline drag her deep into the Great White Nowhere to spend their holidays isolated from the rest of the world.
Pulling her blanket tighter around herself, Amelia pulls a face her sister can’t see. Madeline’s completely unfazed by the lack of heat, opting to spend time opening drapes and unpacking boxes instead of lighting the furnace.
Of course, Amelia could do it herself. She really could. She could go right into the basement, turn up the gas, and strike a match to light the pilot. It’s tempting.
But it’s cold, and Amelia hates the cold and— no. She’s not moving from this couch. This time when Amelia sighs, it’s loud enough to let Madeline know of her discomfort.
No response comes.
“Jeez, Maddy,” Amelia complains from beneath her blankets. “When is the heat gonna be on?”
“It’ll be a little while yet,” comes Madeline’s mild response, followed by the sound of shuffling. More boxes and items and, honestly, how much is there really to unpack? Amelia doesn’t remember bringing up that much.
“Maddy,” she whines again, curling tighter on herself as a chill stutters up her spine. Even the tip of her nose feels cold. “I’m freezing. You gotta help me out here, something, else I’ll be a popsicle before long.”
There’s a clank of metal hitting metal. “Five more minutes, I promise.”
A moment later, Amelia feels the warmth of her sister’s palm on her shoulder and down her upper arm. It makes her shiver harder, as if her body is being reminded of exactly how cold it is. “I’ll even come warm you up myself, alright?”
There’s no malice, only tiredness, when Amelia mutters, “You better.”
Madeline laughs in reply, a sound that settles in Amelia's belly as warm as any hot coffee or chocolate could, before moving away again and taking blissful heat with her. Amelia counts down between tremors, glancing at her digital wristwatch more than once.
Almost exactly five minutes later, Madeline makes good on her claim, tapping Amelia’s shoulder for attention. “Heater’s on now, you big baby,” she says, a touch of teasing in her voice. “Now are you going to let me on the sofa or what?”
Amelia pokes her head out from beneath her blankets. “‘m not a baby,” she says, rolling so that she’s pressed to the back of the couch. “You’re just, I dunno, Mr. Freeze or something.”
Lifting her blanket so that Madeline can come under it lets in an uncomfortable rush of chilly air and, though it’s quickly dampened by Maddy fitting herself in close, Amelia can’t help another violent shudder. Shifting so that her legs overlap Madeline’s, Amelia immediately wraps her arms around her, burying her face in the softness of Maddy’s chest.
“Oh, you really are cold,” Madeline says softly, her breath ruffling the hair at the crown of Amelia’s head.
Like freshly baked cookies, from the press of her thighs against Amelia’s own to the scent of vanilla she always carries, everything about Madeline is warm and comforting. And like butter, Amelia feels herself melting into that warmth, into Madeline’s embrace.
“Told you so,” Amelia mumbles, face scrunching to fight back a sneeze as the fibers of Madeline’s sweater tickle her nose. Madeline’s hand glides up her back, coming to rest at the nape of her neck. Amelia focuses on that, on the fingertips beginning to gently scratch at her scalp, and it helps the ticklish feeling subside.
Between Maddy’s even breathing and steady heartbeat, it’s easy for slumber to sneak up on Amelia. She’s on the edge of wakefulness when she feels Madeline’s chest vibrate; blinking, it takes her a moment to realize her sister is talking.
“—pay any attention to you earlier, I thought you were just exaggerating like you normally do.”
“Hmm?” Amelia makes a confused noise, craning her head away to get a look at Madeline’s face.
Madeline’s violet gaze is elsewhere, her lips twisting into a small frown as she repeats, “I said I was sorry for ignoring you before.”
“Oh. ‘S okay.” Amelia resumes resting on Madeline’s chest, stifling a yawn. She can hear the cabin’s heat finally kick on and, making a show of snuggling closer, she says, “This is pretty cool too, you know?”
“Are you sure?” Madeline responds, fingers back to playing with the fine hairs at the nape of Amelia’s neck. This time when Amelia shivers, it’s not from a chill. “I could make it up to you, eh?”
Amelia’s grin is hidden by Madeline’s sweater.