Snowy Skies

December 17, 2008
By Erin Kondrat, Hoffman Estates, IL

The woman sat in her chair by the fire, studying the young girl across the room. She was young, in her early twenties or so, with smooth skin that had been untouched by age. Fire danced in her eyes, but not reflected the same fire that was keeping the room warm. Her small frame barely made a dent in the couch cushion, and when she jumped up to get the tea the couch didn’t make a noise. While she was in the kitchen, the woman stared out the window. There was a light snow flurry, the kind that made the night sparkle but would be gone by morning, and the sky was painted a mixture of pinks and purples and oranges. Her mother used to tell her that dusk was God’s favorite time of day, when he could relax and make the beautiful piece of art called a sunset.

“Emma, do you like sugar in your tea?” The girl called from the kitchen. When she didn’t hear Emma respond, she popped her head through the doorway. “Sugar, Emma?” Emma looked up at the girl and stared at her for a bit. Oh, to be that young again! This young lady did not have to worry about the lines that creased her eyes from too many laughs, or the wrinkles surrounding her mouth from the frowns that came more often with age. Her lithe body was able to dance and run, but the woman could barely stand up without having one joint or another start to throb.

“Thank you, dear, but no,” Emma replied. The girl disappeared into the kitchen, then came back into the room, two mugs in hand, humming softly to herself.

“Katherine, what’s his name?” Emma asked, a gleam in her eye. Katherine simply smiled, handing a mug to Emma and settling herself back into the couch. Outside, a man and a woman were throwing snow at each other, laughing and joking. Emma looked at them with remembrance, Katherine with hope.

“Katherine, what do you remember about your mother?” Emma asked suddenly, leaning forward a bit in her chair.

“Well, not much. I mean, she died when I was only three. There are some things that remind me of her, but other than that I don’t remember much. Why do you ask?”

“We’ve been neighbors for a while, now haven’t we? What has it been, fifteen years? I’ve known you since you were a little girl, begging to go climb trees with all the boys. What I haven’t told you is that I knew your mother, as well. Long before you were born, she and I were the very best of friends.” Katherine simply stared at Emma, clutching her mug a little tighter. The snow started to fall a little faster as Emma finally gave Katherine insight into the piece of her that had always been missing.
The tip of the sun had barely reached the horizon and already Emma felt Katie tugging her out of bed.

“Emma come on! You’re going to miss it!” Katie yelled, throwing off the covers and leaving Emma laying there, shaking with the cold.

“I’m going to miss what? My blanket? Because I think we’ve already established that my blanket has definitely been missed,” Emma said, yanking the blanket off the floor and throwing it around her. She grabbed her glasses off of the table and looked outside, where snow was falling fast and steady.

“No, you’re going to miss the first day of winter!” Katie said, already digging through Emma’s closet, pulling out sweaters and wool socks.

“Well, yeah, that’s kind of the point,” Emma yawned, already heading back towards her warm, comfy, soft—

“Oh no you don’t missy, you are not going back to bed. It is the first day of winter, it’s snowing, and WE are going to enjoy it. Now come on, throw on some clothes and meet me outside. And if you go back to bed, I will personally throw your scrawny a** into the snow myself.” And with that, Katie bounded down the stairs, not even caring if she woke up Emma’s family.

Of course, Emma’s mother would probably already be awake. Sometimes Emma wondered if she and Katie were born to the wrong mothers. Like Emma, Katie’s mom was careful and reserved, and thought a lot about something before she actually acted upon it. Not to mention they both shared an extreme dislike of all things cold, the list being topped by winter itself. Emma’s mom, on the other hand, would sit in their tiny kitchen with a cup of tea, watching the snowflakes fall for hours on end. She loved to be outside, and when she couldn’t enjoy the fresh air she had to be moving somehow.

As Emma trudged down the stairs, weighing at least fifteen pounds heavier worth of sweatshirts, mittens, and long underwear, sure enough there was her mother at the kitchen table, listening carefully to one of Katie’s long-winded stories with a slight bit of humor in her eyes.

“….So then I was like, no way Marissa, that’s totally my necklace, and she was all ‘Nuh-uh, Katie, I totally found it yesterday’ and I was like ‘Puh-leaze, girl, it’s totally mine—well, well, well, look who finally decided to wake up. Goooooood Morrninnngg sleepy head!” Katie exclaimed, taking a break from her story.

“Mmphfivethirytmmph,” Emma grumbled, pouring herself a cup of coffee and taking a seat at the kitchen table, preparing herself for what she knew was going to be the longest day of her life.

Sure enough, Katie dragged her to all of the “fun” winter activities. They went sledding, made snowmen, and went ice skating; anything that Katie had on her mind was what they ended up doing. As much as Emma hated winter, she had to admit that spending this much time with her lively best friend was going to become rare soon, now that they were both headed off for college and would soon be leading very separate lives.

It was this day that Emma thought of, twenty five years later, as she watched the snow fall from the sky. Katherine sat across from her, enthralled in hearing this information about her mother.

“I’ve always wondered…I mean, I’ve always been so energetic, and my dad’s always so…well, you know my dad,” Katherine said, trailing off a bit. And Emma did know her dad. Ever since his wife’s death, James had become distant from his family and friends and closer to work and drinking. “How did they even meet, anyways?” Katherine asked, looking at Emma with wide eyes. Emma sat in her chair, still staring out the window at the couple and the snowball fight.

“Well, my dear, that’s another story for another time.”

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