Asnowflake gently lands on her forehead as the young Vandagyre looks up at the clear morning sky. She brushes it away and lifts her hood over her head. There had been three days of snowfall before she left the large tree stump she took refuge in. Today is the perfect day for her project. There is nearly ten inches of snow under her, and at any moment, the storm may start again. She does not want to spend another three nights inside a dirty tree stump. It was cold and lonely in there but she does not fear the cold, it couldn't hurt her. In fact, a thick plumage covers her entire body, keeping her nice and toasty. Yet somehow, she is still afraid. The fear of betrayal strikes her heart as the crunching of the snow under her feet echoes through the forest glade. The echoes bounce back and forth along the tree trunks, reminding her that she is truly alone. She will never forget.
Ten years ago, when she was still a young chick, someone had loved her. They gave her a name. It was a beautiful name meaning "snow angel" because of the snow storm that occurred on the day of her birth. She was given the name as she was held in the arms of a girl. The young Vandagyre remembered her human. Her name was Annabelle. She had long golden hair that Mother would tie into a braid, then wrap into a bun on the top of her head, as well as freckles all over her face. Annabelle used to play outside with her every winter when the snow came. They would build walls and pillars as high as they could reach to pretend that they were queens of a castle, like the ones in Meridell. It took hours on end of hard work but they enjoyed themselves every minute. Annabelle was not as great of a builder as she was but the young Vandagyre would stand on her shoulders to make the snow castle even taller. Sometimes it would grow close to the height of their house. She can still hear the sound of their laughter echoing off the walls of their pretend castle when they ran through its immense hallways. When the sun would set, Mother would call them back inside. The taste of hot chocolate fills her mouth as she recalls the large mugs that Mother handed them after they concluded their adventures outside. Then they’d curled up together in front of the fireplace, wrapped in a large down quilt and tell each other more stories of adventures they would have together.
But one winter, Annabelle and her family left and never came back. The young Vandagyre had woken up in the middle of the night to find the house empty. It remained empty for a fortnight as the she waited for the family's return, carrying on her day to day tasks and keeping the house tidy. The heating had turned off and the cold enveloped her. It was strange that they didn’t leave the heating on if they knew she was still here. She wrapped herself in the large down quilt and sat down in front of the empty fireplace. They will return, she thought. They would never leave me behind. Another night passed and the young Vandagyre could feel her tummy rumble. There were leftover giant omelets in the fridge and she hastily ate them before the mold got to them first. One week later, the food had run out and there was no spare change left around. Her tummy felt empty, but not as empty as the house. The thumping of her own footsteps seemed to grow louder every day, or perhaps she was getting used to the silence. It wasn’t the cold or hunger that bothered her, it was the loneliness. On the days she had nothing to do, she simply curled up inside the quilt and waited. They could be on vacation, or they might be on a business trip. Perhaps they’ve just gone to stay at a friend’s house. She was hopeful that they would return.
A few days later, there was a knock at the door. The young Vandagyre jumped to her feet with excitement, her heart pumping. Were they finally back? She dashed to the front door and swung it open. Her grin faded as an unfamiliar face greeted her.
“You have to come with us now,” said the man standing at the door.
She recognized their outfit. It was a representative of The Neopets Team. The house was being seized and she would have to leave with them. They would most likely take her to the pound and she had heard enough stories to not want to go there. It couldn’t be true. Annabelle was coming back. But deep inside, the young Vandagyre knew. The Neopets Team did not lie and they would not be here if Annabelle was simply on vacation. She took a few steps back as the man approached her. There was an opening behind him. Without hesitation, she dashed past his legs and out the front door into the cold winter air. She ran and ran, the icy breeze hitting her cheeks, but she did not slow down or look back. In her heart, she felt immense sadness, and the glimmer of hope that Annabelle was still out there was starting to fade. It wasn’t until she hit the edge of town did that glimmer die away.
A blizzard started by the time she had reached the forest. The lack of vision in the storm forced her to crawl into a dank tree stump. Her clothes, now covered in dirt, matted to her feathers. She found it hard to get any rest. Aside from the terrible living conditions around her, the thought that her family had abandoned her filled her with grief that night. How could someone you love leave you so easily?
A loose pile of snow falls from a branch as the young Vandagyre snaps herself out of the memory. There is a clearing up ahead and she approaches it. Perfect. She gets to work. She is small but she can lift quite a lot of snow. She piles the snow higher and higher and it takes shape into pillars and walls. The sun slowly descends as she pats the last of the snow onto her project. She steps back and admires her work. The last rays of sun strike the white pillars, causing them to sparkle with an icy sheen. This is her new home. It is in the shape of a castle but a lot smaller so she will not feel the need to invite anyone else inside. She enters with a smile, proud of her creation. The inside feels warm and the walls are sturdy. The spiraling steps of icicles lead up to a large balcony overlooking the snow laden forest. As she leans on the iced railings, she feels something warm on her cheek. She wipes it away. It shouldn't be there. She has her own home now and no one around to leave her anymore. She should be happy. But at that moment, the young Vandagyre broke out into tears.