December 22, 2020 by The Citron Review
by A.M. Henry
– One –
A girl walks home in the snow. She is coming from: school, the store, a bar, a dance, a party, hosted by a cousin, hosted by a stranger, hosted by your high school friend.
The snow starts to fall before she leaves. She has a hat but no gloves. A coat but no scarf. A boy she once wanted to kiss tugs down the sides of her hat so it covers her ears. She wonders why his chapped lips used to look so soft to her. “Stay warm out there,” he tells her as she departs.
It is deep winter, snow on top of snow. The sidewalks and streets are permafrost, discolored from the residue of car exhaust. The surfaces are slippery, and before she even reaches the sidewalk that meets the driveway, she slips twice, twirling her arms in the air to regain her balance. The first time she laughs at herself, the second time she grimaces.
The snow falls in thick, fat flakes. It is her favorite kind, dragging down tree branches and power lines. She stops under a streetlight and lifts her face up to the sky. She closes her eyes and feels the flakes landing on her lashes, slipping down her face like cold, swift tears.
A girl walks home in the snow.
She slides on the sidewalk again, now slick with a fresh coat of precipitation. This time her left foot skids out from under her, followed by her right, and in the long moment between standing and sidewalk, she thinks, I am falling. She hits the ground in the shape of an L, her hands, hot with cold, next to her. She is sore but unwounded; stands and continues.
A girl arrives home, the footprints of her two boots stamped right outside the awning of the front porch. A girl goes in her door, lets it close behind her, and takes off all her wet clothes.
In the morning, the girl goes to the front door, where the imprints of her footsteps are large, shapeless divots beneath the overnight drifts. She smiles at the set of paw prints behind hers that come right up to the awning, then lope, diagonal, across the lawn.
– Two –
A girl walks home in the snow. She is coming from: a dance, a bar, a night club, a party, hosted by a cousin, hosted by your high school friend.
When she is ready to leave, heavy snow is falling. She has a coat but no hat, a scarf but no gloves. A boy she wants to sleep with zips up her jacket for her. She thinks how sweet his smile looks in dim light. “Stay warm out there,” he says as she walks out the door.
The surfaces are slippery. She nearly falls twice in the driveway, catching herself as she extends her cold fingertips out long at her sides. A car down the street backfires and she nearly slips again and laughs at herself.
Snowflakes land on her shoulders and hair, and they are thick, wet, fat. Tree branches and power lines sag to the ground. It is her favorite kind of weather, her favorite kind of snow, even as the wind sharpens and scrapes against her ears and cheeks.
A girl walks home in the snow, and it is true there is a wolf many paces behind her, though she doesn’t know it yet.
The snow is thick and diagonal and the ground is old ice and new water and she slips, again. In the long moment between standing and sidewalk, she thinks, I am falling. Her glove-less hands meet an icy bath at her sides. She knows she is not damaged, and she rises.
A girl goes in her front door, holding onto the handle to steady herself as she takes off her boots. She looks out the door again, admires how the fresh wounds her feet left outside are clotting with snow.
A set of pawprints follows her footsteps up to the awning. The wolf pauses at the door, open only a sliver.
“There you are,” she says, stepping back to let him in, her fellow arctic traveler.
– Three –
A girl walks home in the snow. She is coming from a party, one hosted by your high school friend.
There’s a slippery layer of snow on the ground when she decides to leave. She has a coat and a scarf. A boy she once fucked wraps the scarf firm around her neck and she thinks his teeth look sharp when he grins. “Stay warm out there,” he says, and she walks out the door.
Twice, between driveway and sidewalk, she slips and nearly skids to a fall. She braces her feet against the thick, icy inches of snow on the ground, the fresh flakes glazing its surface.
It’s the type of weather that is as menacing as it is mesmerizing. She could watch the snow all night, she thinks to herself, pausing under a streetlight, the yellow glow of light illuminating the thick flakes.
A girl walks home in the snow, and it is true there is a wolf many paces behind her, one she can sense but not see.
Her feet fly out from under her while her gaze is fixed to the sky, and in the long moment between standing and sidewalk, she thinks, I am falling. Her tailbone and naked palms crack against ice and cement. Unharmed, she pulls herself upright.
A girl sees her home through the swarm of white. As she walks faster toward the door, her footprints sit deeper in the snow. Quickening paw prints land behind each outline of her step.
Her keys, the tug of the doorknob, the familiar scent of her own home, the nudge of the door shut behind her, the quick terror that it won’t close, that the wolf is inside, beside her.
In the morning, inches of snow soften two sets of footprints outside the awning.
A.M. Henry is a writer and consultant living in the mid-Atlantic. Her work can also be found in LampLight Magazine and Passengers Journal.