Even though the icy weather packed around her, Alena walked unhurriedly through the quiet streets, bundled up in layers. She appreciated how the rare passer-by was as disfigured as she was.
Well, with one boy being the exception.
She noticed him while crossing the bridge, thinking he must be insane. He stood by the railing with shaggy hair and bared arms, which he braced against the frosted metal.
Obviously Alena skirted around him. She kept to the empty crosswalk, well out of his way, and kept her head down for good measure. He was clearly not in his right mind, and he wasn't going to be her problem.
Talented as she was, she succeeded in remaining unnoticed. So much so that he began climbing over the railing, thinking himself alone.
His knuckles whitened as he hoisted himself to the very edge of the bridge, overlooking the frozen lake. Then his fingers relaxed and he started tilting forward.
Alena's body crashed into the fence, and she wedged her arms through the bars to clutch his legs. It was like holding a bag of sharp bones, but she held them tightly. It startled him, and he reflexively gripped the railing again, looking over his shoulder with wide eyes.
"Whatever it is, isn't this too much?" Alena gasped. "It's so cold that there might only be ice below. You'll shatter on impact, and it'll hurt like crazy. And today, I picked up a coin, which means I'm supposed to have good luck! Was it all a lie? Are you telling me I was wrong?"
She clawed her way up his legs to fasten her arms around his waist.
"Y-you can have the coin. It's in my pocket. It's not even that dirty, you know? I found it by the convenience store. And it's not midnight, so you'll have some hours to make good use of my luck."
Her heart was pounding in her ears. She was using all her strength to crush him against her, but she wasn't nearly strong enough to yank him over the railing. Perhaps it was a little regrettable that she lived like a hermit and was so severely unfit. Or that this happened when she finally stepped out for a walk.
The boy pondered in a voice that was surprisingly gentle. "Does luck work that way?"
…Was this guy serious?
"It does if I say it does. Besides, I know it's working since I just bought takeaways from the Junction right before they closed. It's supposed to be really good." She waited, but there was no response, so she groaned against his back. "Aren't you hungry?"
Her frustration hit a critical level when silence ensued, and she considered kicking him off the bridge herself. But then she caught him tentatively nodding his head, and relief surged through her.
"Okay," she breathed, "okay, good, then let's get you onto my side."
But neither of them moved. And his silence became pointed.
Alena hissed, "As if I'm going to let you go. Just, lean backwards, and I'll pull."
After all, he was locked in her grip and, thankfully, wasn't that eager to wrestle them both into the lake. So he allowed her to drag him closer, though he turned out to be ridiculously heavy. A lead beanpole! His weight collapsed on her, and her knees buckled.
She landed hard against the snow beneath him, and swallowed the ungodly words that exploded in her head at such a clumsy fall. But the beanpole just stiffened, then lurched off Alena, pulling his knees to his chest.
Sprawled there like a flattened bug, Alena stared at him. Was he only embarrassed now?
She sat up to rifle through her pockets. Then reached out and slapped the lucky coin directly into his stunned palm, before she climbed to her feet and began dusting off the snow. She glanced at him, but he wrenched his gaze away. He was surprisingly sheepish. And though he hid his face, she distinctly felt he was watching every inch she moved.
She moved around, gathering her abandoned packets into her arms, and her fallen scarf. Rather than fixing the latter around herself again, she wrapped it around his speechless face. Her gloves landed in his lap, too.
"You'll freeze to death otherwise and undo all my hard work," she said, ushering him to his feet. "My place isn't that far, so let's get you into something warmer."
He was focused on her gloves. They were far too small, but at least his fingers were somewhat covered. He wordlessly trailed after Alena as she led him home, slipping through the snow in his socks and torn pants.
There was no way to tell what he was thinking or why he'd climbed over the railing, and Alena felt she couldn't ask. Nor could she leave him out here practically naked either, at least not without a clear conscience. Ah, but to let a stranger into her home? Someone who clearly had little to lose?
…That would probably be very stupid.
Standing in front of her apartment door, Alena rubbed her head vigorously. "Hey, so…"
It was so quiet that she briefly thought he'd vanished, but one glance over her shoulder showed his pitiful form, peeking over the scarf at her and shivering violently from the cold.
So she herded him inside, much like she would a stray cat.