In the winter months, ice lowers itself onto the roads and streets and steals the soles from peoples’ shoes. Frost gathers on the grass, on the zippers of heavy jackets and on storefront windows. Snow drifts gently, swirls into the wind, dances and then drops, exhausted. And Fawn, hands tucked into her pockets and eyes to the stars, sits amongst it all and smiles.
When she returns, as she always does, she stamps the season from her boots and lifts her face to catch the scents from the kitchen. Roast beef, and soup, and bread, oven-baked and dripping with butter all yellow and smooth. Fawn shakes the mittens from her hands and calls out in a voice melting from the heat of the house, ‘I’m home.’
Mother shuffles in circles around the dining room table, placing napkins and cutlery down in an order known only to her. Fawn swoops up behind her, tucks her icy arms around her mother’s waist, rests her nose against her mother’s neck and breathes deep the sweet, familiar smell of family. Mother presses her chin into her chest and uses her shoulders to push her daughter aside. Fawn hugs her mother tighter. Tighter.
The old wood rattles as Fawn runs up the buckled staircase that leads to her bedroom. As she passes the small, wall-mounted mirror that hangs in the hallway beside her door, she sees a shadow slink away from her and up towards the darkness above. Fawn smiles and, tapping the mirror with a cold, red finger, closes her eyes until her head feels weightless and small.
Her bedroom is heavy with chill and, as she moves towards the open window that looks out over the street below, Fawn watches her breath take shape and crawl into the air around her. The sheets on her bed are damp with the promise of a night spent shivering. Fawn brushes the moisture from the fabric with the back of her hand. On the wall behind the bed there is a small brown frame streaked with wood grain and age. And inside the frame there is a small, crocheted fragment of a story that her mother used to tell. The thick, blue thread reminds Fawn that ‘All Things Fade’ and as she reads it for the last time, she reaches into her pocket and cups her fingers around the wet, sticky object inside.
Creeping up from the world outside her room, Fawn can hear the muffled cries of people as they gather and move. She leans against the crisp, frozen glass and looks out through the fog toward the trees and mountains that sink and swim as the wind shifts. Her eyes follow the road that slices the town in two, that links the houses and cars and people to the mountains behind the snow. And from somewhere along the road, swelling toward the town from those black, shapeless forms that litter the horizon, blue and red lights hack at the frosted air. Fawn can feel the flush of the colours as they crash against her face.
When she was small enough to fit inside the cupboard under the sink, Fawn heard her mother speaking in hushed tones to someone who stood just outside the kitchen door. Her mother spoke of strange lights hovering in the sky, circling and swimming above the old, knotted trail that had been etched, over time, between the mountains and the trees. Fawn had seen them too, from the window in her room.
Now, as the siren shriek threatens to fracture the windowpane that presses against her arm, Fawn turns her head from the beautiful, alien glow and looks out through the splintered doorway that captures the corridor in a frame all its own. And seeing the shadow again, rising slowly from the floor and snaking its way into her room, Fawn clutches at the soft parcel of flesh in her pocket and smiles.
And when the fog lifts, and the clouds shake the weight that they have carried all winter long, and the snow turns to water and the ice trickles away, you can see the mountains and trees and the trail that binds them together. The grass as it melts under the breath of the wind. The pebbles and stones brushed smooth over time. The beautiful, devastating lights that glisten like frost, that bathe the eyes of those who see them in tears more heavy and warm and true than any they have cried before.