December. 25. 2036
It was an especially special night for the residents of the Tower. Children that normally studied in their rooms laughed with their friends as they boasted about their gifts. Parents that usually tucked themselves in early were wide awake as they feasted on the bountiful desserts made by the Tower's chefs. Faculty members loosened their strict demeanor and even joined in on the festivities in the brightly lit Skydome. It seemed Christmas had united all of the Tower's residents for a single night.
However, one boy stood alone in his room, locked away from the occasion. Lights were haphazardly strung across his room to mimic the bright grandeur of the Skydome. Self-made gifts were littered across the floor- surrounding a small Christmas tree. (If one were to look closely, one could see the imperfections of the trees' oddly shaped ornaments- as though they were drawn by a child and brought to life.)
Iris Black twirled his (also self-made) red cape in front of his mirror. He giggled as the white fur tickled his face.
"Who needs to be at the Skydome when it's so comfortable here?" He asked nobody.
Sitting in front of his pile of gifts, he began opening them one by one.
"From Iris... we have a new set of markers! Thank you very much! I'll use them always! And from Iris... we have a brand new Wolf plushie. How scary! I'll tame him so he can protect me from Laurence's new friends!" The boy announced his gifts one by one, the sender and recipient never changing. As he continued to open his gifts, the smile on his face became strained. At last, he had opened all of his gifts.
He stared at all the presents, each he had crafted for himself for the past week-when Madam first locked him in his room after the last antic he pulled.
Finally he burst into tears.
"Oh, this'll never work! This sucks, there's no surprise here at all!" He sobbed as he threw a box of paintbrushes at the tree.
It was his first Christmas alone, Laurence has been especially distant from him for the past year, and even Madam hadn't visited all week. Gone were the shared bouts of laughter between him and his mother as she spoiled him with a mountain of presents. Gone were the shy smiles from Laurence when they exchanged gifts in the morning of Christmas.
Iris was terribly lonely.
He curled up on the floor and cried harder, missing the warmth this day used to bring him just a year ago.
Suddenly, a knock came from the door.
Iris jolted up immediately, wiping his face even though no one could see the smearing of his tears. Could it be Laurence? His mother? Coming to release him so he could enjoy the night?
"Wh-who is it?" He called out.
"Just a friendly neighbor!" An old lady's voice answered back. Iris deflated immediately. He didn't recognize this person at all. "What are you doing crying alone in your room? It's Christmas!" She continued.
"Well, maybe I like celebrating alone in my room!" He pouted, too embarrassed to admit his punishment (and overwhelming loneliness).
"Crying?" She asked.
"They were tears of laughter!"
The voice laughed. "Ah- of course! Of course! But no one should be alone on this day!"
"Well, aren't you alone?"
"I'm not anymore, am I?"
Iris paused. The lady was correct, in a sense. "But there's a door in the way."
"Please, doors and walls are nothing. If two people can speak, that's enough to enjoy each other's company."
Iris wanted to argue, but thought against it. This lady was strange, but there was a warmth in her voice that reminded him of his mother before she became all cold and distant. Why was such a woman alone on this day?
"Why aren't you enjoying the party? It's still too early." He inquired.
"Ah, when you get to my age- parties lose its appeal." She said. Iris got the distinct feeling that she was shaking her head. "But a good conversation never does. Tell me, friend- why're you really alone today?"
He paused, he didn't want to admit he was grounded- but he didn't want to lie to his only company for the night.
"My mother grounded me. I made her angry again, so I'm locked in here until she's happy."
A pause. Iris was afraid the old lady had left him, but a rustle greeted him from the other side, and a thump as though the old lady plopped herself on the ground in front of his door.
"Then I will stay here to keep you company." She said, voice soft.
He was bewildered. "What!? Why! Don't you have anyone else to celebrate with?"
"...Not at all." She said.
"I can’t even see you!"
"I make good conversation."
"I don't have desserts to give you, my door's locked!"
"I'm already full."
Iris gave in. He truly didn't want to trouble such an old woman, but loneliness gave out in the end. He hesitantly approached the door and sat in front of it.
"Then... I guess you can stay. I'm Iris Black, what's your name?"
He could not see his new friend's face, but he could hear her smile all the same. "I'm Rosalie Greene."