Logically, she knew that she wasnít to blame, but knowing that didnít soothe the ache deep in her chest.
Ami was standing amidst a sea of white, not wearing enough to keep out the chill. It was the first winterís snow, and the land looked as though it had been cleansed. She remembered when she had bought into the illusion that winter could erase everything. She always felt like she could start fresh during this time of year - like every bad thing she had ever done had been washed away with the snow. Back then, sheíd loved winter.
She didnít think that way anymore. Ami knew now that snow was just camouflage Ė masking the twisted world that lay beneath. But a part of her still longed to return to that ignorance. She didnít know how it would help, but she had been drawn outside the minute she saw the weather. Maybe she hoped that she could learn to love the snow again even though it seemed hopeless.
She could remember walking with Mark and Dana last February just before everything went wrong. They had asked her to try and explain her affinity with the season. Eventually, Ami had to surmise that all of the important events in her life had happened when it snowed. Hers and her motherís birthdays, winning ice-skating competitions, and countless other events that were too happy for her to recall now. And even if things didnít always go right during those icy months, winter snow had a healing property. She had always relied on her element to get her through the hard times.
That was what Dana used to call it: her element.
Ami whimpered and hugged herself, fingertips digging into her bare arms, leaving bruises.
No one knew she was out there, and they would have been shocked at the discovery. Normal people didnít stand out in the freezing cold wearing threadbare pajamas without even a coat to warm them. And everyone thought that Ami had returned to normal.
They didnít know that the past was eating her alive. The truth was that she still felt as wretched as the day it had happened. She hadnít forgiven herself, even though it had been almost a year.
Amiís hands started to ache.
She briefly thought of how the three of them - Mark, Dana, and herself - used to be inseparable, before everything had gone wrong. Ami couldnít dwell on that for long, however; not if she wanted to stay sane.
She thought of Mark. She could see the affection in his eyes, the way he smiled when he saw her from fifty feet away, the way his knuckles brushed against her cheek. But every touch, every look, every smile made her want to die. She loved Mark and probably always would, but that didnít change how she felt as though she were decaying every moment she was near him.
Ami simply couldnít forget Dana. She was physically gone. But any time Ami and Mark were talking, she could feel Dana just over her shoulder. It was a reminder that Ami had betrayed her. A reminder that Amiís sin was still buried six feet underneath the snow.
Logically, she knew that she wasnít to blame, but knowing that would never soothe the ache deep in her chest.