The mansion held in itself many bedrooms, though most had lost their heat to the shear expanse of the building. It was no home. Not since heritage and heartbreak had made demands of the labyrinth to support itself alone. Rita had been too young to remember the gentle caress given from hands of her uncle’s mother but she was certainly able to reflect on the lonesome existence of the place that had been denied to his brother. Rita knew that it had not been Diggory’s fault that he had been born the elder by ten years, but still there were times when her heart betrayed a different supposition on the reason he had been the sole inheritor.
It was in the bedroom she had taken as her own where the realist was able to contort her body onto the ledge, the sill of the window, which could overlook the green and trees. She watched the sky, greying, from which tender, white snowflakes had begun to fall. That childish excitement brewed in her chest, excitement that she knew she could keep down, despite what she could imagine: running about in the white flurries, building snow-people with acquaintances, enjoying nature despite its cover.
Rita let her hand dangle out the window, catching the soft flakes, until the light numbness began to tickle at the tips of her fingers. The humour was her own, it wouldn’t happen.
“Hypothermia: a condition in which core temperature drops below the required temperature for normal metabolism and body functions,” she recited, before withdrawing her hand. She wouldn’t get hypothermia from leaning out of a window, but it was better to be safe than sorry.
“Dictum,” she told herself, shaking her head crossly. It wasn’t right to let one’s self be tangled up in the sayings of the day, when the mind gave better maxims by far.
“Though…” she muttered, before refusing to finish her own clause as she settled to observe the words that darted across one open page lying on a wooden floor, the latter hastily covered by two curvilinear rugs.
“‘Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe.’” She paused, an incisor slipping out to chew on the edge of her bottom lip. “No, it’s more than that.” Rita shook her head sharply, as if chastising herself for some unknown reason.
She leapt up, clambering over the tussled bed, which took up the majority of the space in the dormitory-habitat, to the wall that happened to be adjacent. Pieces of white paper, scrawled across with a myriad of colours, adorned the wall like a miss-sent letter. Though they dared not to bend right down to kiss the kick of the canvas, those notes danced high above Rita’s head, and thus her foray was greatly extended.
It was after a moment of studying the flowing words that Rita let out a splendid cry. Her hands reached out to pluck away one such note, and her eyes lapped up the information with great curiosity.
“‘And, hast thou slain the Jabberwock?’ Line one, yes, stanza six. And seven. In a fixed form, yet seven…”
If any onlooker would have been present, the fragments of words and that triumphant smile that danced on and off her lips would surely have worried them. But it did no such thing for Rita; she had no looking-glass in her own little room, and she had no reason to see the certain ways she jumped from point to point. Her mind was her own cerebral playground, after all.
When the book became her destination again, Rita’s expression plummeted.
“But what about the intonation?” She did not expect a reply, throwing her fist down to crack upon the poetry-book. Her own hand laced the pages with research, along with the occasional smudge that a tear or two had left.
Rita shook her head again. Why were there so many questions in her mind? When nature did nothing to interrupt, why did they still clamber on in their unfairness?
The window rattled as a gale caressed it; soon Rita had reattached the spindle of the latch, pulling it tighter this time. Still, she gazed out into a world she was, shamefully, not able to absorb all at once.
“Oh, frabjous day,” Rita declared to the umbra, “why do you steal away from me? Thee frabjous day.”
The day had little left in itself. Rita kept her place by the window, her hand remaining on the latch, as if it had no other innate rule but to disobey her absent touch, whilst the moon became visible through the dark of the sky.
At a knock on her door, Rita changed into worn pyjamas, switching off the light on her way into the warmth of her covers.
Sleep met Rita infrequently that night, as it did so often during the recurrences at her uncle’s home. It was typical of an essence of the wind to be howling its way through the mansion, meeting with possibly every room, as if it was checking for the remaining souls of those dearly departed. So Rita’s sleep did not come quickly.
Nevertheless, when she had woken at the dawn, the young woman tossed her head in obstinacy, and strolled out of her room, a dressing-gown hanging from her lithe frame. The halls were filled with an unnatural glaze. Passing a window, Rita stared at the layer of deep snow that had iced the Earth overnight.