Chapter 11

            Autumn joined Spring on the weathered, moss covered garden bench, smiling over at her as she sat down. She turned to watch Winter who was busy dancing across the garden, spreading a light frost with every turn and every leap.
            “You okay?” Spring asked Autumn, not taking her eyes off of Winter’s graceful movements along the grass.
            “Yeah, I’m not too bad. What about you?” She looked over to Spring who merely nodded, before she continued, returning her gaze to Winter, “I feel sorry for Win though,” she sighed, “I don’t know how Sum... How anyone could do that to anyone, let alone their own sister. It was just so... Cruel...”
            Spring nodded, mainly to herself. “She’s most definitely... angry.” She said, quietly, “She’s not going to take the punishment, she’ll just try harder and harder. She’s gonna do much worse, and the more she’s punished, the worse it will be.”
            “I know,” Autumn said simply, a deep sigh escaping from her mouth. The two girl’s eyes followed Winter as she threw herself dramatically across the garden.
            Spring opened her mouth in an attempt to speak, yet no words came out. She gulped and spoke, quietly and slowly. “Tum,” she said, “I... I’m... Really sorry.”
            Autumn turned her head to sister Spring, who’s gaze remained fixed on sister Winter, who glided to the furthest corner of the garden in one swift motion, spreading a light snowfall as she did so. “What do you mean, sorry?” she said, puzzled, “What do you have to be sorry for? You’ve done nothing wrong... have you?”
            Spring pulled a thoughtful face, thinking hard of how to phrase what she was going to say. She looked at sister Autumn, “For... for not... telling you... For not stopping Summer... even though I could have. I really should have said something... to you, at least. I didn’t want this to happen, and I should have... tried harder.” She frowned to herself and returned to watching sister Winter, who, at this moment, was pirouetting, spreading more and more snow as she did so.
            Autumn shook her hair to remove the snowflakes that had fallen into it. “I knew it was going to happen too, remember? I could have told Winter, therefore, I’m as much to blame as you are. Don’t be sorry. Anyway, if you were sorry, it shouldn’t be said to me, should it?” Autumn outstretched her arm and used it to ruffle Springs hair, as a way of annoying her, as well as to remove snowflakes in her hair.
            Spring instantly pulled away from Autumn’s arm and grimaced. She stuck her tongue out jokingly at her sister, before replying, “the thing is... you didn’t know when, or how, it was going to happen. I did. I could have stopped it.” She looked down at the floor, ashamed. A thought suddenly occurred to her and she looked up, seeking Autumn’s wisdom. “Do you think we should tell Winter? About the whole... original plan? Does she need to know?”
            Autumn thought for a moment, wondering whether it was a good idea and how it would affect things. “Yes. Yes, we should tell Winter. We didn’t tell her last time and... well, you know... this all happened. Yeah, we should tell her, and we should tell her soon.” Spring nodded in agreement before shivering as the cold wind hit her. “Oh, honey, let’s go inside, you look freezing!” Autumn said, concerned. She put her arm around sister Spring, pulling her closer and into a tight hug, wrapping her other arm around her, reassuringly.
            Autumn stood up, pulling Spring with her. She watched as Winter stopped moving and looked over at them, cocking her head. Autumn released her grip on Spring and wrapped her arms around herself, rubbing her arms with her hands, indicating that they were cold. Winter began skipping across the garden towards them, spraying snow and sleet as she did so.
            “You’re going inside?” she asked, cheerfully. Autumn nodded at her sister, her teeth chattering too hard for her to talk. “Okay, I’ll come in with you, I need a drink anyway.” Winter skipped ahead and Autumn and Spring exchanged a confused look, both girls wondering where Winter’s sudden burst of happiness and excitement had come from. They rolled their eyes and followed the suddenly happy Winter, who skipped all the way to the front door before turning around to see where her sisters were. She waited patiently by the door as they slowly made their way over.
            When they finally arrived she huffed, impatiently. “You guys take too long!” she said, excitedly. Sister Autumn and sister Spring exchanged a confused look before giggling quietly. “Hey, what’re you laughing at?!” Winter asked, nervously, “What happened?” she turned around, to check that they weren’t in fact laughing at something behind her. When she saw nothing, she turned back to them, pulling a puzzled face. “What?” she whined, “what did I do?”
            Autumn and Spring giggled a little louder at their sister’s confusion and this caused her to look even more confused, at which they laughed a little more. “Nothing...” Autumn choked, between giggles. “You didn’t do anything.” She started to turn pink as she attempted harder to stifle her giggles and eventually both of them were coughing in an attempt to stop themselves giggling more.
            “Sorry, Win,” Spring choked. “It’s just... one of those things... It’s not really funny,” she said, “It’s just... funny right now... do you know what I mean?”
            Winter gave her a strange look, replying; “I haven’t got a clue what you’re trying to say.” Autumn coughed again and Winter looked over to her, hoping that she could explain it better. Autumn shrugged and Spring shivered slightly, remembering the cold.
            Winter noticed and realised that she was stood in front of the door, blocking the entrance to the warm house. “Sorry,” she said, moving out of the way. Autumn pushed Spring in through the doorway and followed, grabbing Winter’s arm and pulling her through behind her. Winter grabbed the door and slammed it shut, blocking out all the cold wind that she had produced.
            The girls kicked off their shoes and placed them on the shoe rack, lining them up carefully next to each others. Winter’s boots were covered in snow and as she put them down, chunks of compacted snow fell to the ground. The girls walked away from the shoe rack and towards the kitchen, Winter in front again. When she got inside, she bounded straight over to the kettle and switched it on. “Hot chocolates? Guys?” Spring and Autumn looked over at her and smiled.
            “Yes please,” said Spring, looking up at Autumn, who simply nodded in Winter’s direction. Winter smiled and gathered three mugs, lining them up next to the kettle. Next, she grabbed the instant hot chocolate powder and threw three heaped teaspoons into each glass. She leaned against the side, waiting for the water to boil. Spring moved over and leant next to her, smiling peacefully. Autumn looked over at her sisters, both of whom were grinning like idiots, and she could not help but smile. She moved swiftly across the room and gathered them both up into a tight hug, ignoring their protests.
            “I love you guys,” she said as they pulled away from the hug. Spring and Winter smiled at her, both replying that they loved her too. A grin spread across Autumn’s face, stretching from ear to ear. Behind them, the kettle clicked, signalling that the water was boiled. Winter turned around and, careful so she did not spill any, poured the boiling water into the three mugs until they were full. Using the teaspoon she had used before, she stirred all three drinks, before handing one to each sister.
            “Enjoy,” she said, blowing carefully into her mug to cool down the hot, steaming liquid. All three girls stood, backs to the table top, blowing into their mugs. Eventually, Winter took a sip of her drink. The hot liquid instantly warmed the inside of her mouth and as she swallowed, she felt the heat moving into her body. When it eventually stopped moving and rested in her tummy, she felt the warmth still radiating out, keeping her warm.
            “Ahh,” Autumn sighed, “so warm,” she said, smiling happily. Spring giggled at her sister’s silly expression and Autumn pretended to glare at her, before sticking her tongue out playfully.
            The girls stood with their hot chocolates, occasionally taking small sips and making small talk. After a while, Winter began to drain the dregs of her hot chocolate. She finished the end bit and pulled a face when the bitter residue at the bottom of the mug hit her mouth. At this moment, Summer walked in. Spring, Winter and Autumn all went silent, suddenly. All of their eyes were reduced to slits as they glared on at her, watching as she looked around the room.
            “Can... can I just... just get a drink.... please?” She said, hesitantly, directing her words at Spring, who soon realised that she was stood in front of the fridge. She leapt up straight away, moving to stand near Autumn who had been on the other side of Winter, muttering an apology to Summer. The three girls watched on as Summer opened the fridge door, selected a drink and pulled out the carton.
            It was then Winter’s turn to move, as she was stood in front of the cupboard containing all of the glasses. She moved closer to Autumn, as Spring had done, and they formed a line, all looking down at sister Summer, who scrambled around, looking rather undignified, in her search for a tumbler. In the end she decided to use a mug instead. She pulled out a mug and poured the cranberry juice into it, careful to avoid eye contact with her sisters, all of whom were still glaring at her. She quickly put the carton back into the fridge and left the room in as little time as possible.
            Autumn carried on glaring at the door that Summer had just left by. Spring coughed awkwardly, realising that the conversations had halted. Winter sighed and Autumn shook her head, before turning to smile at Winter, who smiled back.
            “I should... really...” Winter started, pointing towards the door, “Go... carry on... yeah.” She finished, uncertainly.
            “Yeah, okay,” Spring said, smiling at her sister. Winter looked over to Autumn who simply nodded and smiled. She slowly and hesitantly left the room, looking over her shoulder to watch her two sisters as she left the room.
            Spring and Autumn spoke quietly and slowly until Winter had closed the door and her footsteps faded, at which point Spring opened her mouth to talk. “We didn’t tell her.” She said simply, a sorrowful look on her face.
            Autumn sighed, sadly. “I know. The time wasn’t right... we’ll do it soon.” She looked over at Spring who was staring down at the floor. She looked as though she was about to cry and Autumn, upon noticing this, moved closer and put her arm around her. “I promise. It will be okay. I mean it.” Autumn used her finger to lift Spring’s face and smiled into her face.
            Spring smiled back, before pulling away from Autumn. Her hand fell back to her side and Spring turned away, staring out of the window. “Shall we go into town?” She asked, not really paying much attention to Autumn.
            “Uh, sure,” Autumn said, unsurely. “Let me go grab some stuff from my room, I’ll meet you by the door in... five minutes..? Is that okay?” She looked at the side of Spring’s face. Spring nodded and Autumn continued, “Okay, cool. Five minutes.” She ran off upstairs, leaving Spring to contemplate how to protect Winter while they went out.

The End

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