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Frozen

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She wondered when she'd stop feeling so cold. Crystals of ice seemed to flow through her veins, her blood chilled by frozen bones. She could still feel the river, the deathly clasp of her father's hands, the scream of the chain saw through the trees. And there was nothing she could do to find warmth, to heat the ice-cold touch on her skin.

They hadn't heard from Teardrop in over a week. Victoria didn't know anything, or so she said. Ree was sure a part of her was glad for the peace, for a respite from her life before. Did she realize she might not ever see him again? Did she care?

Jessup's banjo rested beside the front door, almost accusatory in its silence. It seemed to know Ree wasn't going to look that hard, wasn't going to dig around in the dirt looking for answers. Not anymore. They had their home. They were still together. That was more than she could have hoped for.

Would Teardrop had stayed if she'd tried harder? She didn't know, was fairly certain there was nothing she could have done to stop him. But he was the last real connection she had to her father; the last one who could talk about him, anyway, help her keep his memory fresh. And now it was very likely he was dead. She only hoped when all was said and done that her father's killer lay beside him, dead by Teardrop's hands.

Ashlee wandered into the room, picked up the banjo and sat down beside Ree. She didn't play, just leaned in close, rests the neck across Ree's knees. The strings seem to speak to her, whisper trails of her greatest fears into the air. She shivered slightly, wrapped an arm around Ashlee, and closed her eyes against the constant cold. The warmth will return one day, as recent memories fade and their lives return to the hard labors of any ordinary day. She has to believe that's true, wills herself to hold onto that sliver of hope. Right now, it's all that she has left to keep herself focused on her family and not drift away on a tide of despair.