The sun was bright as Adrianne stepped out of her house and settled the large black hat on her head. The well-worn, floppy brim had been trained to fold just so in order to perfectly keep the sun from her eyes without impeding her vision. It provided the well needed relief for her to see the steps down from the porch to the walk without squinting, but it also meant that she could easily see her lawn needed a good mowing and the flower beds were starting to choke on weeds.
            A soft horn broke the silence of the sleepy street and had Adrianne jerk her emerald gaze from the tulips that reached up to her for help. She’d have to see if she could get to them later, or maybe find a gardener to do the first quick bit of maintenance on them first. For now, she moved down the walk quick enough, coupled with a soft tug of wind, that her hand reached up to hold the hat on her head. Couldn’t let it slip away. That would be rude of her.
Ice touched her hand where it rested on her head, and she shivered slightly despite the warm weather. She shook it off though when she glanced behind her and found no one and nothing there.
            “You okay?” Her friend, Lynne, leaned across the car seat a little to watch her out the open window. The redhead’s brow arched expectantly at Adrianne, though a smirk lingered along her lips.     “You okay?” Her friend, Lynne, leaned across the car seat a little to watch her out the open window. The redhead’s brow arched expectantly at Adrianne, though a smirk lingered along her lips.               
“You’re not expecting me to get out and open that for you, right? You okay?” Her friend, Lynne, leaned across the car seat a little to watch her out the open window. The redhead’s brow arched expectantly at Adrianne, though a smirk lingered along her lips.
            Pulling the door open, Adrianne rolled her eyes slightly and slipped in. Her hand smoothed the sundress down the back of her legs so she’d be sitting more on the fabric than the hot vinyl seats of the car.
            “I’m perfectly capable of getting a door for myself, I’ll have you know.” Feet settled in the car, she turned to reach for the door to pull it closed.
            Only it closed itself for her without prompting.
            A frown settled on Adrianne’s features as she let her eyes trail up the walk of the house, almost like she was following the path of someone walking back up to the front door. No one, of course. Just empty air, and yet as she turned to offer a smile to her friend, she couldn’t help think someone lingered at the door just beyond her view from the corner of her eye.
            “Cheer up, hot stuff!” Her friend reached over to pat Adrianne’s knee before she put the car into gear and pulled away from the curb. “It’s not even a date, just a friendly gathering among friends.”
            No pressure. That’s what Lynne was trying to get across to her. It’d been a year, plenty of time to move on, right? Because her friends were already trying to ease her into meeting new people. In group settings, more like just a friendly lunch or dinner party. Adrianne still caught the not-so-subtle hope she’d find someone new.
            But then, that was also the question. Did she want someone new?
            A chill slid along the back of Adrianne’s neck. It could almost be a caress, a welcomed touch, if it weren’t so cold that it caused her to shiver. “Just a lunch,” she commented almost idly as she glanced out the window. Reflections of the backseat teased in the glass and a dark shadow flickered in the back seat for a moment.
            “You don’t have to look like I’m taking you to a funeral!”
            The laugh from Lynne faded in Adrianne’s ears, the comment hitting harder than it should have. A funeral wasn’t really a joking matter on this as a whole after all. Not since him.
            That chill settled more solidly around her shoulders, the feel of arms wrapping themselves around her and pulling her back against the seat of the car. They didn’t hurt; they weren’t that tight. It was almost as if they tried to offer comfort. Adrianne couldn’t help raising her hand to her shoulder, though where there should have been an arm to rest on only chilled air.
            “Oh god, Rin, I’m so sorry.” Her friend glanced over, eyes a little wide. “That was callous and too soon.”
            Adrianne shook her head a little. “It’s fine. I’m just not sure if the year has been enough, honestly.” Because how could she move on when she still had these feelings? Like Mic was literally right here, holding her from the backseat, not far or gone at all.
            Glancing over, Lynne frowned but didn’t answer that comment. Adrianne relaxed into the chilling touch with a soft sigh. She was grateful, honestly, that her friend wouldn’t argue with her. “I know you loved him, Rin, but I just don’t want to see you hurt forever.”
            Frost trickled along the corner of Adrianne’s window, spider webbing slowly and she tried to calm her own heart in the hopes that it would calm Mic’s. “Pushing me into a new relationship is what will harm me. I’m fine as I am.”
            A shiver slid through Lynne and she reached to turn the temperature in the car up a little.
            “Alright, Rin. I get it. So today’s just a lunch.”
            “Just with friends,” Adrianne solidified with a nod. The frost along the window melted and the chill through her faded. Enough so that it wasn’t long before she stretched to turn the temperature back down. “It’s not that I don’t appreciate it, Lynne. It’s just not the right move forward,” she offered a little more gently. But how do you explain you can’t move forward when that ice lingers at your back, around you, even currently teasing a strand of hair on your shoulder in a way that it merely looks like the car fan is making it move?
            An ice she’s come to find comfort in.
            Because he’s not gone. Just different now.


Meri Benson is a Chicago-land native, and a natural born storyteller. She and her co-author just released their debut novel, Hotel Fen and are working on more books in that universe.

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