Snow's Warmth

August 15, 2010
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My sister loved winter.
Really, she loved snow. She used to tell me that she loved the feel of it on her face. She loved its pure white sparkle on a new winter morning. She loved its peaceful settling at night. She’d often go out into the woods behind our house in the evening to get away from my bickering with Danny.
When we were young, when I was eleven and she was three, we’d go outside and pretend to be winter fairies, dancing and laughing and rolling in the fresh snow. I was so happy to finally have a baby sister, even if she was only my half-sister.
Even after I started dating Danny, she and I would go out and have our “fairy time” as we called it, as often as we could. As we’d both gotten older, we’d begun to talk more than play. I remember the conversation we had the day before the accident. She’d just begun to be interested in boys, being twelve and all. She was telling me about Robbie, her latest crush, and how he didn’t seem to even know her name.
“Well,” I said to her, “if he doesn’t even know your name, he might not be the best guy to be crushing on, honey.” I gave her my best skeptical look.
She giggled. “You really can’t raise one eyebrow, Melanie. You just end up looking constipated.”
We laughed hard in the snow.
I wiped my watering eyes. “You know I’m serious.”
She sighed. “Yeah. I guess so. And, to be really honest, he doesn’t understand anything.” She scooped up some snow in her gloved hands and breathed onto it, letting it melt on her breath and drip through her fingers. “Like snow. He doesn’t understand about snow. Or reading. He hates reading.”
She looked up at me. “So, when are you and Danny getting married?”
“You little sneak.”
She straightened up and raised her right eyebrow perfectly. “Definitely. So, when?”
I smiled. “This summer.”
She wrinkled her nose. “He’s so old, though.”
I punched her on her well-padded arm. “He’s only twenty-seven. That’s only seven years older than me, and anyway, it’s a proven fact that marriages work best when the partners are at least five years apart. So there. Anyway, I know you’re looking forward to being the flower girl.”
“Excuse me!” she exclaimed. “I’m being your bridesmaid, as you very well know.”
“Well, you brought up Danny’s age, so I might as well bring up yours.”
She rolled her eyes at me.
I chuckled and drew her close to me. “You’re the best sister ever, you know.”
“I know.” She grinned impishly, and then sprang up, pulling me up after her. “Race you!” she called over her shoulder as she plowed through the new snowdrifts.
“No fair!” I yelled after her.
She beat me back to the house, naturally, and Mom made hot cocoa for us. We spent the rest of the night playing charades with Grant, my stepdad. It was a week before Christmas.
The next day the police officers came to the door and told me that Mom, my sister, and Grant had been in an accident on their way back from Christmas shopping. Mom and Grant were dead, and my sister was in the hospital, just a little banged up.
I still remember how glad I was when I rushed into the hospital and saw my sister there, eyes red and puffy like mine, bandages on her arm and a cast on her leg. We held each other and cried for the rest of the night.
They let me keep her, thank God. I don’t know what I would have done if they hadn’t. Danny and I got married that summer, and my sister was my bridesmaid. She caught the bouquet, even though she was only thirteen at the time. We all had a good laugh at that.
I think that was when we stopped having fairy time. I’d inherited our parents’ house, and so we stayed there, but I hardly ever had time any more. I was too busy writing and running the household. Danny was away, working all the time, trying to support me and my failing career, and my depressed half-sister.
I don’t think she ever recovered. There were times after the accident when she would just gaze out the window for hours, staring and fingering the ever-fading scar on her right arm. She had nightmares very often. Sometimes she wouldn’t talk for days on end. I think she developed anorexia at one point. And, as she got older and older, her breath began to stink of alcohol more and more often.
I was a horrible sister. I was a horrible person. I was so frustrated with myself for failing to publish anything, so frustrated with myself for being a neglectful wife, for being a rotten housekeeper, that I started to forget about her, little by little. And every day, she became more withdrawn, more invisible.
I think that those years are the worst of my life. Now I can look back and see how I destroyed my sister, little by little, every minute of every day. I have to live with it now, every day.
It happened when she was eighteen. It was one of the rare nights when Danny was home from work, and I was busy making dinner. Danny was reading in the living room, exhausted from a long day of paperwork. I thought that my sister was up in her room.
I’d just finished setting the table. The lasagna was still in the oven, and I paused for a second to go and talk to Danny.
“Hey. Dinner’s almost ready. Can you go get my sister? I think she’s up in her room.”
“Sure,” he sighed as he got up from the chair. He stopped to kiss me on the forehead before he headed up the stairs.
“And if she’s not in her room, she’s probably outside!” I yelled after him.
I went back into the kitchen and took out the slightly burned lasagna, but all in all, I was proud of myself. Mom would have been proud too, I thought.
I glanced at the calendar above the sink, very briefly, and then set the lasagna down carefully. I breathed in deeply and clutched the counter top. It was December twenty-first. The sixth year mark.
Mom was a beautiful woman. She had beautiful red hair that she always kept in a high ponytail. She had lovely light blue, almost grey eyes that always looked happy and ready for a new adventure. I missed her smile. I missed the way she danced to whatever was on the radio and didn’t care if she looked like a complete idiot. I missed her so much.
And Grant, of course. Grant had been my father figure for most of my life, and it didn’t matter that he wasn’t actually my father. He was still amazingly kind to my mom, and I missed his booming laugh and his strong hands.
And…I missed my sister. I realized that she hadn’t really been there since Mom and Grant had died.
I will fix this, I thought. I’m gonna get her back, and I’m gonna start tonight.
I thought of all this as I held on to the counter, battling my tears.
I was interrupted by Danny’s voice.
“She’s not in her room, and she’s not outside. I found this on her bed.” He handed me a note, his hand shaking a bit.
I glanced at the note. I started hyperventilating.
Danny grabbed me into a hug, very suddenly.
“It’s gonna be okay. We’ll find her. I promise,” he whispered into my hair.
I started crying.

Dear Mel,

I’m sorry. I’ve gone to see Mom and Dad. I love you. Please forgive me.

Love, Cathy
“Cathy,” I whispered, and crumpled the note in my fist, squeezing my fingers so hard that my nails pierced my skin.
I sat and watched the people pass by in the coffee shop. It was a habit of mine; you never know when some stranger might give you some inspiration for a plot line.
I really should have been working. I had a manuscript due in three weeks, and I barely had the characters mapped out yet. But I’d been too caught up in the discovery I’d made the month before: Catherine Hatch.
Catherine Hatch is a poet. I’d never seen a picture of her, but I loved her poems. I connected to them. They were sometimes exactly what I was thinking. I’d spent the last few months reading and re-reading her poems, rather than writing like I was supposed to.
I pulled out my favorite poem of hers. It was very crinkled and torn in places. It always reminded me of my sister and how I felt now.

“Snow’s Warmth”

The crystal blanket crumples under the weight of me,
Of lies, and horror, and sorrow,
And new crystals come to bury the dead of heart,
And the liquid boils in the heat of my hell
That grows on the conscience, grows on the mind like a weed.
Thinking I should leave
But motionless
Safe underneath the cold crystals.
Sinking down
Into the ground
Into the heat
Into the heart
And drowning in boiled, raw memories
Where everything is wrong
Death is life
Sorrow is bliss
Hell is Earth
And snow is warm in this cold, cold world.

And I remember that they never found her body.
I missed her. I missed everyone. Mom, Grant, Danny. Cathy. Her death was my fault, I thought. All mine. I’d tortured myself with that thought every night for ten years.
I powered up my laptop. I opened up Word and began to write.
I wrote about the accident. I wrote about snow. I wrote about her disappearance, my years in the mental facility, and Danny leaving me. I wrote about her spirit, which haunted me. I wrote about my long days in the coffee shop, struggling to write something, anything. I wrote my life down on those pages.
After I’d been writing for two hours, I paused to check my email and order another coffee. A new message had come in from someone I didn’t know.
I clicked it.

Dear Melanie,
Hi. I’m so sorry I haven’t contacted you before. I just wanted to say that I read your book. You seem to be doing well. I’m okay.
I understand if you’re angry at me. I had to go. I’m so sorry. More sorry than I can say. I almost ended myself, but something stopped me. I think it was you.
I’m better now. I’ve learned. I miss you. I want to meet you sometime soon. Please, email me back.
I love you. I hope that someday you can forgive me.
Lots and lots of love,


I felt my eyes get watery. I reached out and clicked the reply button.

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This article has 6 comments. Post your own now!

thepreechyteenager said...
Aug. 23, 2010 at 9:33 am
Very beautiful.  I loved how everything was so real, and it impresses my how easily you made time move forward.
-Missy- said...
Aug. 22, 2010 at 11:39 am
I loved this story. It's a little sad, and the ending was perfect for it! Good write!
mudpuppy said...
Aug. 22, 2010 at 8:57 am
Love this story! I'm adding it to favorites! :)
steananthony said...
Aug. 18, 2010 at 5:46 pm
this is a great story - to make it better you need to cut back on explanation and make it more allusive, a lot happens in short space which needs better pacing -- the first part is much stronger in tone and sense of life, second half seems added on somehow -- but obviously you are a very gifted writer
swimmer.wilcox said...
Aug. 18, 2010 at 4:02 pm
I loved this story! Anyone who has not read it yet is crazy! I cannot wait to read more from this promising author in the future. I am your #1 fan!
singing4ever replied...
Aug. 18, 2010 at 4:03 pm
aaaaw. Thanks.
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