Illustration: Hanlin Cheng

The snowflakes fall from clouds coalescing in the dark sky. The little boy sits by the warm fireplace inside, watching the snow fall, coating the windowsill in a layer of white. Orange and blue flames lick the grate, casting their warmth across the floor. The little boy watches the frost creep up the transparent windowpane. Small flakes bloom like gingerly cracked ice on the surface of a puddle.

Tonight he grins at the white of the frost, pressing his face as close to the window as possible, but is careful to avoid touching it, lest the warmth of his nose melt the precious shapes the frost has formed.

“Hello, your majesty,” he whispers. “You know, winter break’s really lonely over here. Ria’s being a big meanie and won’t even play with me. Mommy calls it puberty, says she’s growing.” He scrunches up his reddening nose. The frost does not reply.

“Ouch!” The little boy turns to find his sister glaring at him, the pillow she has thrown hitting the ground with a soft thump.

“What do you think you’re talking about, Albert Jefferson Morgan?”

ā€œI thought you were watching TV!ā€

She crosses her arms, sticking out her hip. “Who are you talking to anyway? Another one of your stupid made up ‘frost friends’? Just ’cause you don’t have any real friends doesn’t mean you should make up people to talk to. Who is it this time?ā€

“King Eridanus says he has an important quest for me,” he frowns. “Iā€™m supposed to go see the Black Knight and defeat the dark wizard Draco. What’s wrong with that?”

“It’s stupid, that’s what.”

She slides the remote control into her pocket, breathes twice on her hand, and reaches out to wipe the frost from the window. It melts before Albert can open his mouth to protest, leaving droplets of water that trail down the window.

He cries, tears rolling down his cheeks to match the remains of the frost king.

“Oh, shut up, you crybaby.” Ria picks up the pillow, stalking back to the couch in front of the TV. “The stupid frost will come back tomorrow anyways.”