Illustrated by Betsy Streeter
The screams were troublesome. The cries of a foreign tongue shook the snowy sky. Indistinguishable, fast-paced, aggravating. Many terms could be written next to the definition of this night. A back-and-forth banter wasn’t uncommon—soon, it would boil out, and peace would return. It always did. Prying eyes would listen with open ears, an outsider looking in.
She is in only her dress, knees hardly covered, bare feet sliding along the piles of maddening cold. The wind catches her long hair, whipping her face as she ran.
All the while, she is yelling, screaming at him. The words are lost, the conversation sacred between the two. Her feet are freezing—her heart feels even colder. She can’t help but want to bring him back into her arms, but the anger wins out. Once again, she finds herself screaming at him.
He shakes his head. The spats are unnerving, but his will is stronger. There’s no getting out of the turmoil with a mere exchange of words anymore. The street is void of people, the blistering winds the only known witness to their childish antics. The snow continues to fall, lighter. He can’t stand looking at her, even in bitter silence, and finds himself turning back towards the home that they shared.
She’s quick to run after him, the nerves in her feet caving under the pressure of the snow. One more chance, she thinks, eyes pleading to the dark clouds above.
But he doesn’t stop to take off his coat and settle himself. Instead, he’s at the counter, snatching his car keys, making his way past her towards the door. Once again, she’s screaming at him, but now the tears are beginning to reach her as well. She doesn’t bother to pick up her shoes after dropping them, running out of the door.
There had to be some plea, some reason within them to keep him around.
She is mid-step at the call, and finds herself gazing in the doorway at their child. His coat covers his small body, and he is absent of his shoes, wearing a pair of too-large socks.
There. That was the reason; they had a child together. Would he be willing to leave him behind?
“Mom!” the child cries out again, the cold air freezing his tears before they can start. Her heart is caving at the sight, and she walks to him, her muscles stiff. She lays a gentle hand over the child’s back, the small warmth enough to give her hope, and leads him back to the door.
“I’ll be right back,” she tells him warmly before exiting the house once more.
The car is starting up, and she finds that she isn’t fast enough to reach out to him. He swerves out of his spot, down the road, and leaves her standing in the middle of the street.
Some say that the heat brings out the worst in people; snow piles around a freezing heart for an outsider looking in.