Gerda stomped the snow from her boots while she waited for someone to answer the doorbell. No one had bothered to clear the path and the soft, thick drifts that lay on it were a stark contrast to the compacted snow that covered the city streets.
After several long minutes, the door creaked open. A strikingly beautiful girl, silvery hair trailing her waist, glared suspiciously at Gerda.
‘Hello,’ Gerda offered a friendly smile. ‘I’m here to see Kai.’
Icy blue eyes widened in surprise. ‘Who’re you?’
Recognition flickered in those frigid eyes, then a sneer twisted her lips. ‘If you’re here to convince him to go home, you’re wasting your time. He won’t leave—he needs me.’
Gerda stared back indifferently. ‘Can I come in?’
The girl shrugged. She stepped back from the door, allowing Gerda to enter. ‘His room is first on the right at the top of the stairs. See yourself out.’ She disappeared into a room at the bottom of the staircase, shutting the door smartly in Gerda’s face.
Gerda puffed out a nervous breath and climbed the stairs. The door to Kai’s room was closed and her soft knocking went unanswered. Bracing herself, she turned the worn doorknob and slowly eased the door open.
Shadows cloaked the room, curtains that hung drunkenly across a window only admitting light where the material had torn from the hooks.
‘Leave me alone, Eira. I don’t want it. I’m done.’ The voice—low, tired—came from a bed in the corner, barely visible in the dim light.
‘Kai!’ Joy bloomed inside her at the sound of his voice.
‘Gerda?’ The bed creaked. She sensed he was sitting up, looking towards her. ‘You came.’
‘You asked me to.’
‘Yes, but I didn’t think you would.’ There was a click, and the room emerged in the soft light of a bedside lamp. ‘Why did you?’
Gerda gazed at Kai’s face. His poor face. Scabs marred his skin, a stigma of heroin addiction. Her once strong friend was gaunt. Wasted.
‘I came because I love you. Because your family loves you. We want you to come home. You can get through this, but you need to let us help you.’
He shook his head, denying her words. ‘It’s too late. I’m lost, ugly inside. Junk helps me to escape. It carries me somewhere else.’ Kai’s face contorted. ‘Then I come back and it’s like the colour has gone from the world. There’s just ugliness.’
Tears burned Gerda’s eyes as she watched her soul-mate struggle. She rushed forward, dropping to her knees beside him. ‘You said you wanted help. We’re offering it. Me. Your parents. Your grandmother. Please,’ she beseeched him. ‘Please come home with me.’
He smiled sadly. ‘Eira won’t let me—’
She cut in. ‘The girl downstairs? She has no power over you. Take this chance. Trust me.’
Kai stared at her, uncertain.
She held out a hand to him. ‘Please Kai, come home.’
Slowly, trembling, he clasped her hand.