“I just don’t get it,” Ellie says, pushing the snug knit cap up away from her eyes, “I don’t see how this time of year feels any better. I don’t see how it’s special. Feels like everyone just gets happy for no reason. It’s kinda dumb.”
“Kinda dumb to be happy?” Dina asks with a teasing laugh, “What are you, the happy police?”
“Maybe,” Ellie says with the hint of a lopsided grin, “It’s a hard job but somebody’s gotta do it.”
“No happiness on your watch, huh?” Dina says.
“No,” Ellie affirms, “No festiveness. Or cheeriness, or–or–”
“What about jolly-ness?”
“Oh, definitely not, jolly-ness is the worst.”
“What about frivolity? Like a little bit? Just a smidge of frivolousness?”
“I’m not even sure I know what a smidge of frivolousness is,” Ellie says, pulling a mildly confused face, “But I’m gonna say no.”
Dina gives a little laugh, and it’s a good sound. It really is. For a second, it’s okay that they’re on patrol in the dead of winter, leaning at the broken edge of a cold brick wall while everyone at home is probably having warm cider around a bountiful bonfire. The sense of unease that seems to settle in Ellie’s chest every year with the first of the snow–it feels a little lighter, a little smaller, a little less wild. Just for a moment.
“Well,” Dina says with a sigh, her cheeks flushed with cold, “You’re kinda doing a shit job already.”
“Oh, yeah?” Ellie laughs, then stiffens a little as Dina leans in against her shoulder.
It’s quiet out here, with the slow, patient drifting of the snow and the perfect, untrodden white blanket laid out across the rolling valley for as far as either of them can see.
“Yeah,” Dina confirms, “Because I think…I think maybe…I feel a little happy? Oh, no–” She puts a hand to her chest dramatically, “Does this mean you’re gonna arrest me? Throw me in happiness jail?”
Ellie rolls her eyes, scoffs, but doesn’t move away. There’s a warmth rising in her face, despite the bitter cold.
“Yeah,” Ellie says, and it’s impossible to deny the way Dina makes her feel relaxed and easy and safe, “Straight to happiness jail.”
There’s a long moment of silence.
“You know…you’re allowed to be happy, too,” Dina says, gaze fixed on some distant point in the mountains, “I’m just saying…I think you’re right. There isn’t really anything special about this time of year. It’s cold and dark and everything is a little bit harder to get done. But maybe the point is just…” Dina trails off, clearly struggling to put words to what she wants to say.
“Maybe it’s just a good time for people to give themselves permission to be happy,” She finally goes on, “We need that. The world sucks. It’s terrifying and awful and it’s just a real shit show out there. But for a little while, y'know–we just have to literally tell ourselves…it’s okay to be happy right now. It’s okay to he cheesy and dumb. And that means you, too.”
Ellie glances up to find Dina watching her steadily, and it’s not fair, the way those deep, dark eyes see through her, the way Dina knows her, even when being known is the last thing she wants.
“Well…” Ellie says with a small, evasive laugh, “I’ve definitely got the dumb part down.”
“Sometimes, yeah,” Dina laughs lightly with her, “I’m just saying–no one’s gonna revoke your tough guy card if you let yourself be happy, y'know.”
The words seem to sink into Ellie’s skin. The sincerity behind them is disarming and she doesn’t know what to do with that, with someone who wants to give her permission to be happy.
Especially when she isn’t sure she can give herself permission to do that.
Happy is a thing for other people.
But could it be for her, too?
“Yeah, well,” Ellie looks down at the scuffed toes of her shoes to distract herself from the tangle of her thoughts, “It does mean I’d end up in happiness jail with you, and who wants that?”
Dina rolls her eyes.
“Please,” She says dismissively, “You’d be lucky to end up with me as a cellmate in happiness jail.”
Ellie laughs, a muted sound, shakes her head a little.
“Yeah,” She says, “I don’t doubt it.”
There’s another long moment of silence, but it’s the easy kind of silence that Ellie likes so much, the kind she only ever seems to find here, with Dina.
“Ellie,” Dina finally says in a small voice, leaned in heavily now against Ellie’s shoulder, “Jesse’s probably drinking all the cider, right?”
Ellie sighs, “Yeah…probably.”
“It’s all gonna be gone, isn’t it?” Dina says with quiet resignation.
“Oh,” Ellie sighs, puts her her arm around Dina’s shoulders consolingly, pulls her in just a little closer, “Most definitely.”