Thaw – A short story by India Roberts
Picture by Irina Iriser
It’s 1st July and it’s still snowing. It’s been snowing for 7 months now, since 11th December when you broke your arm by slivering over ice. It fractured in three places, they said, but the plates and screws would hold it together. Watch out for the airport sensors, they said. It’s been snowing for 7 and ¾ months and now you’re used to the cold, to bundling, wrestling yourself into coats that never seem big enough. Your summer clothes that you had lingering in the wardrobe have retreated into the attic, because they said, last night, that it would snow for another 13 months and 21 days.
You’re used to it now, the tremor in your right hand when you step outside. It buzzes in your wrist, like needles and pins and you always wiggle it to make it stop, even now. Even now, when the needles start needling lower into your palm, and you feel like you’re cradling spluttering fireworks and the tremor starts. Soon, you won’t realise when your fingers begin to dance, jerking and jittering in air that feels numb.
You don’t notice it now but you’re always shivering, even when you’re inside with the fire spitting and the smoke frothing over the top of the flames. You’ll probably never stop being cold, just like the snow will fall forever, floating down into a snug nest of the snowflakes that came before. It’s getting harder to find firewood, but you know where the woods are treacherous and untrodden, where no one else ever goes. Your footsteps are the only ones that wander through the barren path, and you remember when there was another set delicately decorating the snow next to yours.
You sometimes find a snowdrop there. Where you find a snowdrop you always look for more, enough to pick for a bouquet. You still remember the way she would bloom when she held snowdrops up to her face; her plump cheeks would shine and her mouth would flush red, twitching upwards in the left-hand corner. You’d always kiss that corner, when you could. She’d say the snowdrops smelt like the gumdrops she had as a child, but you could never smell them. She would hold them up to your face, her fingers nestled in yours and smile – that smile that unearthed teeth as white as the snowdrops and a laugh that echoed like water trickling through a river.
You pick the snowdrops when you see them. When there’s enough for a bouquet you trudge over to the bridge, the one that’s been frozen since 11th December when you slipped and broke your arm. You stand there until the tremor shakes the snowdrops out of your hand, their petals fluttering down onto the pearly-white ground.
The bridge is broken now. You stare across it and rest a foot on its floor, but the wood is rotting and soft and you can feel it melting underneath the sole of your shoe. She’s there on the other side. She’s wrapped in your old winter coat, and you wonder if she sees the snowdrops before they float to the floor. You step towards her, but she holds her hands up and gestures to the bridge, its splintered wood spearing the air. You look across the sea of ice and your legs feel like they’re chained to the blocks of frost that seep water into your shoes. Her eyes look tired, the underneath of them the colour of plums in the summer. It’s been 7 and ¾ months, it’s July now. You remember when you used to feel the papery skin of her hand in yours as you walked her home over the bridge. It’s still snowing. Your lips are listless now, slack with the cold that feels drilled into your bones and you stumble home. You’ll pick her more snowdrops tomorrow.
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