G. ~2200 words.
In winter, everything is waiting, and the ice cuts like diamonds.

Sunlight and warmth, and the slow, steady tick of time passing. Clean sheets rustle in greeting. I don’t want to open my eyes. The edges of a dream, tattered like morning mists, slip through my mind and vanish. Chased away, back into the night with the rising sun, waiting to be dreamed again.

My toes are cold. I curl up tightly, laying in the sunshine and dozing. There’ll be no more sleep, but this has become my habit. Stay in the sun and listen, and maybe the sound of bare feet padding across tile will float back to me. Like the morning before, it doesn’t. The air in the apartment is cool, the comfort of my sunbeam limited. Opening my eyes earns me the quick flash of bright light. Squinting, I fling the covers aside and the gleeful cold makes me shiver. I turned the heat down too low last night; spring was still uncertain, and new.

Feet into slippers, I never could stand the touch of icy tile. Glancing out the window, I see nothing but pale sky and light. I’d have preferred the ground floor, but he always has his head in the clouds.

It’s Thursday. I have to wait for the coffee to brew this morning. He’ll be home tomorrow, and I’ll still have to wait for the first mug. He never wants to turn the pot on. Always insists that single act on his part ruins the entire pot. Sometimes that taste of liquid warmth is worth it.

Steaming mug in hand, I’ve wandered back to the window. Staring out, seeing nothing. My shift doesn’t start until the weekend, the days are mine. I wish they weren’t. I don’t like sitting still, waiting. Filling an empty day. It makes me sluggish.

The coffee cools, the dregs dark. I think about a second cup but don’t get it. I’m in the bathroom, naked and showering before I realize I’ve brought the mug with me. Child with a teddy bear. I bring it back to the kitchen, shivering. I forgot to fix the heat.

The sunlight in the bedroom isn’t warm, the blankets have cooled. I straighten the sheets absently, pick through the closet for clothing. Think about what to do to pass the time. Errands to run. There’s no milk in the fridge.

I clean up, making the sounds of living. The ring of the phone is loud and obnoxious. I answer quickly, lean back against the wall as the over-polite voice on the other end wishes me a pleasant morning and asks for my money before I can speak. I try to interrupt in the negative, but she must sense it and plods on, determined. Her cheerfulness is high-pitched and grating. Manic. I’m annoyed enough to hang up. The silence of the kitchen is deafening after she’s gone. The clock ticks on, oblivious and self-absorbed.

My work is spread across the table. I shuffle through it. Do nothing. Milk isn’t the only thing that’s missing from the fridge. The sun’s staring through the window.

Outside, the air is crisp. Bright and sharp. My breath steams; there’s no wind. Everything is still. Frozen. Ice shatters under my feet.

Indifferent sun with its bitter light dazzling, reflected and slicing. Shards, hard and cold and cutting. Diamonds glittering. Callous. Light stings my eyes, icy air claws my skin, scratching, raking bone. My lungs are freezing, I can’t draw the tearing air in. My breath is petrified in front of my face, still like the world. Tiny glinting crystals.

I’m breathing again. The sting is gone. A minute, an hour, I don’t know how much time has passed. The water under the thin, broken ice is a dark mirror. I stare down at it while the sun watches. And I see nothing. Shoving shaking hands into pockets, I move on. I don’t know where I’m going. I’ve forgotten.

I walk under the nude trees, the bones of their branches reaching up through the pale grey. Supplicant fingers desperate. The sun shines, still denying them the nourishment they beg for. I ignore the pleading, ignore the staring. It’s still Thursday. I remember warm blankets and the scent of coffee. The streets are quiet. People rush by in a flurry of silence.

Harbour Enterprises, Inc. I read the sign, startled. And then I look around and I see how deep into the town I’ve wandered. The office is small. Inside smells of greenhouse flowers. Under it, new paint. Blossoms painted red for the Queen of Hearts.

Diane works here. It’s early, but the doors are open and she’s behind her desk, long-nailed fingers clacking against plastic as she types. Her shapely legs are crossed, ice-pick heels on her feet. She looks up as the door opens, her friendly, professional smile painted across her lips in red. Eyes the colour of deep ice.

“Good morning.” Her smile doesn’t reach the ice. I wonder if my eyes are untouchable.

“Morning, Diane.” She falters, just a bit. I don’t think she remembers me. I wonder if she’ll pretend to.

“Can I help you?” She doesn’t remember.

“I was out early this morning, thought I’d drop by to check on the flight’s arrival time.” A faint line creases her brow as I speak.

“You’re a friend of my brother’s.” It falls just short of a question. I’ve been living with him for five years, and she doesn’t know me.

I nod. “He’s due back tomorrow afternoon?”

She doesn’t look as sure as she sounds. “That’s right.” Her tapping halted when I first came in, but her laced fingers keep moving, red-tipped nails impatient. I can hear the clicking echo. “Have we met?”

“Only a few times. I’ll let you get back to work.” I smile.

Her smile automatically echoes mine, but her eyes are still off. She’s too polite, too professional. Don’t lose your head. She lets it go and I can hear the clicking of her nails pick up as the door closes. It’s still cold, winter’s dead breath lingering. I remember finally that I had things to do.

The main grocery is still closed, but the corner market opens early. Basket in hand, I wander the small, cluttered aisles. I remember milk, but there was more than that. The fridge seemed empty. I pick up a package of pasta, set it back down again. There should be some of that in the cupboard. I take the milk out of the cooler. Cheese, butter…I can’t remember if either were there or not. Full, empty, I can’t remember. I take just the milk.

I’m climbing the stairs up to the apartment. It takes me a moment to realize that I’m home. The walk back is a blur. My fingers are cold as I dig the keys out of my pocket. They stick in the lock. My breath is coming in short, sharp gasps. Memory of iced air. I jerk the keys out and shove open the door. They hit the floor but I don’t hear it.

The apartment’s wrong. It’s not my home. The furniture is there, it’s the same, but it’s wrong. The books aren’t in the shelf. Not on the coffee table. The couch, the chairs. They’re facing the wrong way. I can’t see the little statues I’ve collected. His painting is gone. There’s a clock, ticking, endlessly counting life away. The colour is wrong. The room’s frosted. There’s no air. No breath.

Staggering step back. Then it’s right. My eyes burn. But it’s alright. Everything is where it’s supposed to be. Memory of warm blankets. Soft night. Dreams. Bare feet, coffee-scented air. I can breathe again. The moment’s gone.


Morning again. Sunshine, cool air. Every morning, sunshine. I always forget the heat at night. The blankets are warm, and I linger for just a moment. The coffee brews slowly, the scent warming and filling the kitchen. A glance to the clock face – only a few hours remain. I tidy up the papers spread across the table. Sit with my coffee and read over a report as the minutes tick steadily by. There’s a calm in the air. I take it and wrap it around me, and yesterday is forgotten in the comfort.

I take a second cup today. Bring it into the bathroom again to shower. To the bedroom to dress. In the doorway, I pause. The sheets are straightened. The window is dim, the clouds lazy and soothing. Filled with a diffused light. And I smile. It feels warm. I sit in the softness, half-empty mug on the bureau, and enjoy the quiet. It’ll end soon. Soon there will be the rustle of clothing, the faint brush of feet on carpet. The presence of another. But not yet.

The clock still speaks. Time passing. The morning vanishes from the sky and afternoon takes its place. The sun returns, bright and waiting. I’m waiting. The clock tells me in its quiet voice that the hour has passed. He’s late. The sun’s too harsh. It stares wide-eyed through the window. I retreat to the kitchen, fumble for the pocket of comfort I’d found there. I keep my back to the window and feel the light creeping across my skin. I imagine the scent of body-warmed blankets and will the heat from the mug to seep through me. Rebuke the sun for its desecration.

My gaze falls on the phone. I pick it up and dial the airport, trudge through the continual requests to push nine, push three, wait, push five. His flight landed this afternoon. There’s no record of it.

I missed him, the clock whispers.


A jingle. Metal on metal. Sluggishly, I wake. I don’t remember falling asleep. A muffled curse, thump of shoulder against wood. Sitting up and smiling, I wait for the door to open. It moves slowly, driftwood through the ocean.

Bare feet padding on tile. Quiet sounds of coffee pouring. Murmur of clothes sliding against skin, settling to the floor with a hushed sigh. Sheets rustle. Time glitch.

I’m standing in the bedroom, staring at the emptiness. The door’s closed, there’s no coffee in the pot. It’s almost evening. The gentle dim has eroded away, eaten by the sun. The kitchen is filled with bright red light. The bedroom. It’s cool. Cold. Frozen sunlight seeps inside. Encroaching.

Searing my eyes, it crawls across the floor in a cold burn. The apartment grows colder. So much colder. My hand touches the wall, and I jerk it back. Frost, cold, slick. I back away and the ice follows. Beautiful and cold and razor-edged. It stalks, slides closer. Sinuous lines, curving and soulless. I can’t look away. The window glints in the cold sun like an icy mirror. I hear the clock echo. Back away, back away. The skeletal touch follows. It’s not supposed to be here. It’s tainted.

I run outside, away from the reaching, still into the arms. Away from the invasion, the home with its ice tile and dancing frost. He isn’t there. Not here, not outside, where the ice lives. It belongs here. I’m the intruder now. Better that way. Better than waiting.

I walk under the conquered trees, pretend to not hear the sound of the ice bones cracking under my feet. Through the park now, its paths as meandering as the town streets. The sun is at my back, blazing frosty. The light spills in front of me, spiteful. I ignore it, and it grows brighter. The air skulks down my throat and forms icicle nests. Solid and sharp. Struggle to breathe. Reject the ice. Need the air.

Stumble to the bench. Sit. Force the slashing air in. My vision dances bright at the edges. The trees creak, sympathy. Sun apathetic. I can hear the clock. Lingering resonance. It’s always brightest before the sun dies. Last stand.

My hands are fisted in my hair when I hear it. Tapping. Feet tapping against the dirt. Battered shoes, loose brown, long coat. A face blacker than the word. Splash of white, teeth and eyes. Happily grinning lips.

“‘Lo.” Voice like jazz.

I look up slowly, body aching. I don’t know him.

“Don’t know you.” Rumbling echo of my thoughts.

Answer with a shake of my head.

A grunt. “What’s the name?”

It takes me a moment to realize he means my name.

“Lookin’ like you be waitin’ for someone.”

“I am.” The sound of my voice is odd in my ears.


“Him.” Blurted answer.

A nod. “You be waitin’ a long time.” I can’t tell if it’s statement or question.

“Yes.” Just in case.

He shakes his head. “Nah. You be waitin’ a long time.”

Neither one. A prediction. “How do you know that?” I should be incredulous. Instead, curious. The ache has passed.

“You got friends?” He ignores the question.

“Of course.”

He juts his chin towards me. “Who?” Challenging.

I don’t answer.

His teeth flash again. “You talk to people?”

“I’m talking to you.”

“No, you ain’t. You be listening.” He taps his foot against the ground again, shattering ice. Everything’s covered in ice. Glittering crystal world. Beautifully unreal. I can’t remember the sheets, the coffee. There’s nothing.

My voice cracks like icicles falling. “Where is he? Diane said he’d be here.”

“Don’t know no Diane. Him who?” I can feel ice on my face. It glints, reflection of the sun.

“I don’t know.”


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