Winter, a series: SNOW

 

If only it were a dream, everything would make sense.

 

There was the soft pitter-patter of snow quietly gathering on the wooden piano rotting away on the lonely patio. The glass-paned doors were left slightly ajar, and the cold whispers of early winter crept into the den, throttling the flames of the already flickering fire. 

 

I quietly let the chill wash over me. Unfurling myself from the couch, I shuffled towards the doors and closed them after breathing in the brisk air. I fell into the cushions, flicking away the loose strands of hair from half-lidded eyes, trying to ignore the presence beside me.

 

“I can’t believe it,” he said in a lazy drawl, one arm over the back of the sofa. I pulled the blanket close, and waited. He leaned forward, but never came any closer. 

 

“I know,” I replied, mimicking his casual lilt. “Snow in October.” 

 

“Not that. My piano, rotting in the snow.” He jerked his chin towards the balcony where the dilapidated instrument sat, crippled by age and neglect.

 

I met his eyes, and my breath caught at the sudden closeness, the tips of our noses just breaths apart. When I inhaled I could smell the clean scent of him. It was the one thing about him that still felt real; if I closed my eyes, I could pretend. And the fog clouding my head, the mist that hid him from me, became bearable.

 

“It was for the best,” I muttered. “You don’t play anymore, I never could. Just a waste of space.”

 

There was barely a pause before he snorted. “You couldn’t even play Chopsticks. Who can’t play Chopsticks?” And just like that, the fog was lifted. That was always something he was good at.

 

“I like listening to music. I can’t make it.” I saw him tilt his head to the side, hair flopping like a pup’s ears. “And you were a horrible teacher.”

 

“False. I was an excellent teacher. You were a stubborn student who gave up after her first lesson.” He leaned forward, a smile on his face; a lazy Cheshire grin with all its coyish secrets.

 

I turned away when he got close. When my hair whipped across my face, the curtains of the balcony door blew open, the wind sharp like needles. I caught him from the corner of my eyes reaching over and around me for the quilt as if to pull it over my shoulders. 

 

Shutting my eyes tight and holding my breath I shook my head, burrowing myself deeper into the couch.

 

“No…” I began softly, hopelessly hoping he wouldn’t hear. “Please, don’t.”

 

“You cut your hair,” he remarked suddenly, airily tracing the outline of my new raggedly cut hair. “I’ve never seen your hair above your shoulders. Now it's…” he kept twirling the strands between his fingers, feather-light touches urging me to meet him halfway. “...short,” he finished lamely when I only looked down at the quilt around me.

I brushed the strands with my hand, subtly pulling his away. “I was hoping for some good change. To balance out the bad.”

 

Great gusts of frosty wind struck against the glass, enchantment of the first snowfall vanished into a cruel jab of winter. He shuddered and hugged himself. I stared, and I felt my face scrunching into a familiar look of concern. Just in time, I caught myself stretching a hand towards him, to provide what little warmth I could. Yet, when he looked over, I pretended to be stretching, facing the ceiling to avoid his gaze.

 

After a long pause, I relented, “You must be cold.” I took a deep breath and made myself look at him. 

 

“I am,” he replied effortlessly. I squinted, envying the wave of ease with which he always seemed to ride life. He smiled, expectant. “So what are you going to do about it?”

 

I sighed, having anticipated this move yet still feeling the dread creep into my heart and stomach. “Why today, of all days.”

 

Why you, of all people?

 

--

 

It was as I remembered it; gray stones sticking out of the ground in commemorations. The grass wet like it had been back then, the dirt sticky and malleable. The flowers that had been laid down were all colors of the rainbow; now, the decay seeped into the petals, all colors drained.

We stood over the grave. While I stared at the name carved on the surface, he came up next to me and let out a long and curious sigh.

 

“You didn’t bring me any flowers?” He pointed to the dying petals. 

 

“Why waste money on the dead?”

 

“Not even for me?” He perched on top of the gravestone, balancing meticulously with legs folded, breaths in white puffs from the cold, eyes shining while he huddled.

 

So alive. So real. How could he not be? It made no sense to be looking at his name engraved in stone. 

 

“When are you leaving?” he asked after a cold moment of silence.

 

“Soon,” I told him numbly. Shivering as a snowflake landed on my nose, I swallowed back invisible tears. 

 

“You didn't stay very long back then either.”

 

“You want me to apologize?”

 

“Kind of. It hurt.”

 

“I cried myself to sleep that night. Better?”

 

“No, that just makes me feel bad.” 

 

“Wasn’t that what you wanted to hear?”

 

“Can you stop asking questions and actually talk to me?”

 

Silence. Then, I caved. “I couldn’t fall asleep because… so many thoughts and tears, you know? Then it just turned into mindless sobs that lulled me into a terrifying sleep.”

 

More silence. “Do you want me to apologize?”

 

A bitter bark of laughter escaped from my lips. “For dying?”

 

“Would it help?”

 

We sighed at the same time. “No, I guess it wouldn’t,” I whispered. “You’re not even real anymore.”

 

He smiled for the both of us. “Not here. But there?” He pointed to my head. “I’m real. And in there,” he gestured to my heart. “I’ll always be.”

 

I waved him off of his own grave and pulled out the quilt from my backpack. I laid it over the stone, brushing away the snow with numb hands. 

 

“Thank you,” he said, no longer trying to keep warm with his make-believe body. 

 

"Only because it's you."

 

We turned around and headed out of the graveyard, leaving behind the dead and walking away with little pieces of the living.

Image Credit:

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/329466528982543345/?lp=true

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/351421577151762727/?lp=true

https://www.saatchiart.com/print/Drawing-Romantic-Couple-Sketch-For-Bedroom/1043497/4639345/view