Billy relaxed after stepping through the portal and onto solid ground. Ballisea’s invitations tended to catch him by surprise; it was rare he greeted her on his feet. He stepped into a world he’d never been to but knew in his soul. Billy stood atop a violet mountain looking out over a white forest. At first glance, it appeared to be a snow-covered forest. Then he noticed black dots drifting down the crimson sky. He held his hand up and to catch an obsidian snowflake.
“How do you make it black?” Billy asked aloud to no one in particular. A soft giggle echoed in his ears.
“She didn’t figure it out this time either?” Ballisea replied. She sounded as if she stood next to him, but he spotted her sitting further up the mountain. He sighed and started up to join her.
“She was too busy doing you a favor,” Billy replied with a smirk. He didn’t have to speak very loud; she could hear him from a different universe. Normally he was too intimidated to talk back to her, but something about this occasion felt different to him. He felt an inner-playfulness flutter inside as soon as Ballisea’s portal opened for him.
“Poorly,” Ballisea’s laugh carried around his ears. “Vanilla’s gone and she didn’t even find Blueberry before she died. This is the worst one so far,” Ballisea said. The black snow grew deeper as Billy climbed to the top. His feet sank ankle-deep in black, inky slush. He reached the summit and stood behind her. A layer of black snow covered the white forest.
“I could restart it now if you want,” Billy offered. He knew she’d decline, but he knew Vanilla would have offered. He also knew Vanilla kept secrets from Ballisea. “If this one’s already off the rails we can start again. Cherry made her pick already and Peppermint has it narrowed down to a few.”
“Not without Blueberry,” Ballisea replied. The moment she said that Billy realized why Vanilla kept Blueberry hidden. It was the only way to keep Ballisea’s interest.
“So, why am I here?” Billy asked.
“You… Vanilla was the only one I could talk to. Cherry likes to stay young and Peppermint always has things to do in Hell,” Ballisea explained while they watched the dark snow together. “We used to watch the snow together.
“I think I remember,” Billy said. It explained the anticipation he felt when the portal appeared.
“I don’t expect you to be like her,” Ballisea said. “But, I hope you’ll still be there for me… next time.” Billy smiled and nodded at the black and white forest.
“Every time. On one condition,” he added playfully. He was glad to hear her laugh in return.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“No more flavors. Next time we pick a better theme, okay?”