Fairytale Retellings 4
There were plenty of reasons to love winter.
It rarely snowed here—Atlanta usually settled for a motionless, quiet winter, with the sort of cold that crept into her bones and was hard to shake. Before Christmas the cold seemed a necessary price for the holiday, the presents, the celebration. Now in January, still months to go till spring, the weather was hateful. It felt like an enemy bearing down on her, something not to be trusted. Something she should fight.
There were plenty of reasons to love winter, but Dalia did not.
She shivered, let one hand slink out from under the quilt to the end table—it was beaten and dented, one leg steadied with the
She traced a
He didn’t understand why, exactly, she was so reluctant to go outside this time of year, but it didn’t matter. He was willing to come to her. They played board games and he made up stories by the fire until her parents began to look between him and the clock sternly. Then he’d go home, and she’d hold her breath until she saw his face in the window, confirming he’d made it through the cold.
Or at least, that’s how it used to be.
Dalia smiled and shivered, and this time it wasn’t from the cold. She dropped the penny back in its place on the end table and stared at the fire, waiting for him to knock.
A moment passed.
She frowned and leaned back toward the window to see if there was another message, if he was trying to get her attention—maybe his mother wouldn’t let him come, or maybe he couldn’t find his coat… though those things rarely held him up for long. But no, he wasn’t there, and the arrow was slowly being devoured by new frost.
Dalia rose, pulled the quilt closer to her body, walked to the door anxiously, and looked out the peephole. The hallway was freshly painted, with shiny new gold knobs on all the doors. No movement, no sign of him…
“What’re you doing?” her mother asked, raising her voice to be heard over her favorite radio show.
“He said he was coming over…” Dalia started, trying to sound bored, like it was nothing.
“Of course,” her mother sighed. She liked him well enough, but he made her nervous—
The radio sputtered, and static filled the air. Dalia’s mother groaned and walked to it, popping it on the side a few times. It behaved itself for a moment, but then the static continued, growing louder, till it sounded like wind through the speaker.
It wasn’t until her mother looked up and gasped that Dalia realized the wind sound wasn’t coming from the radio—it was coming from outside. Wind streaked through the building’s courtyard, throwing trash and dead leaves into the air. The windowpanes rattled as if they might shatter, and fingers of cold inched their way across the apartment and into the kitchen, wrapping themselves around Dalia’s cheeks, neck, and ears.
“Look at that,” her mother said, walking to the window.
Snow. It was snowing.
Not the thick, fat flakes that were perhaps the only friendly-looking thing winter had to offer. Tiny flakes that whirled around like bits of ash. More and more of them until Dalia could barely see his window across the courtyard. It felt as if they were being buried, even on the sixth floor.
“Your poor father. I hope it lets up before he has to walk home,” her mother said absently, then returned to the kitchen as if this were nothing. Dalia, however, was certain her heart was stopping.
He could be on the roof, trapped in the storm. There was nowhere to hide up there, nothing but rosebushes and a rickety trellis.
But even as she tried to calm herself, she grabbed her shoes and yanked them on. She ran for the door, tangling herself in her coat and pulling the quilt around her shoulders. Her mother called at her to stop, but Dalia was already in the hall, feet pounding up the steps. Two floors till the roof, and he’d be up there, he’d be right by the door. He’d laugh at her for her worry and step inside, and then they’d let their fingers link together as they walked back downstairs. The wind howled; was it growing stronger? It sounded like an animal, like a wild thing that would dash inside and devour her as soon as she opened the roof access door.
She grabbed the knob, winced in preparation, then forced the door open. Snow poured in, knocking her a few steps backward. Dalia gritted her teeth and found her footing, leaning into the wind to step onto the roof. She looked up, ignoring the stinging pain of the air whipping her hair into her eyes. There was the trellis, bits of it breaking free and flying off the building’s edge into the street below. All the empty pots were tipped over, leaving only the rosebushes; the gusts tugged at their empty vines and thorns but couldn’t sweep them away. Where was he? She yelled his name, but it was lost in the snow.