Mabel gently awoke. It was the light that had coaxed her from her sleep. Through the window, an erie pinkish-white glow emanated from outside, disturbing the usually flashy-dark night. She looked over at her older sister, Sarah, still asleep on the cot next to her. That’s when Mabel noticed the silence. Undisturbed, muffled silence. This was New York in the middle of January, 1942, noise should have been what woke her up. But it wasn’t. 

Mabel quietly rose from bed and tiptoed to the window. Her family’s apartment was near the top of the building, so she had a pretty good view of the stunning sight before her. All of New York City was completely frosted in a blanket of creamy white snow. The buildings all had vanilla ice cream caps, the cars and streets had been cast with powdered sugar and all the lamp posts and windows were glazed over with sparkling ice. Mabel would like nothing more than to put the whole of the frosted city on a cookie and eat it. This was more snow than she had ever seen in her life. 

“Sarah. Psst! Sarah!” Mabel shook her sister’s shoulder, who only waved her hand away and rolled over. 

The old, six-minute-slow clock on the wall read three-o-seven, which meant that it was now four-o-two am. 

“Sarah! Come on, come see the snow!” Mabel tried again, to which Sarah angrily said: 

“What care I for a little snow? Begon! And let me sleep.” 

Mabel rolled her eyes, Sarah always talked in old English when she was tired. 

“It's a LOT of snow, I bet you’ll get off from work todayyyyy.” She chided. If there was one thing her sister hated more than mornings, it was being a maid for the rich snobs uptown. 

At this, Sarah’s eyes snapped open and she heaved herself up and over. She and Mabel both watched in silent wonder at the beautiful snowflakes drifting past their window.

Mabel gave Sarah an I-told-you-so, she responded with a dirty look. 

They continued to watch the blizzard, orange light from the street lamps glancing off each silvery snowflake. 

“Mabel, look.” Sarah nudged her sister and nodded to the door. 

A thin ray of light was flickering onto the floor, someone else in the house was awake. They cracked the door open and peered out into the dining room. Sitting at the table, at four-ten am, was their Pa. He seemed very absorbed in a piece of paper that he was reading by firelight, brow furrowed in thought.

Sarah shifted to get a better view, causing the old floorboards to creak beneath her. Their Pa glanced up and smiled, seeing his two daughters peeking out from their room. He gestured for them to come and join him. Both sisters made their way to the table, blankets draped over their shoulders.

“I’ll get some tea.” He rose to his feet and began preparing the leaves, the cups and the fire. 

“Oh, you don’t have to do that, Pa. There’s not much coal left.” Sarah pointed out. 

“It’s alright, darlin’.” He continued with his work. Sarah noted the quake in his hands. 

Mabel picked the piece of paper up so she could look at it. After reading it once, she did it again. And again. Her breath quickening each time around. Sarah gently removed the paper from Mabel’s hand and read it herself. It was a war draft. 

America had joined in the fight against Germany only a month and a half ago and their Pa was already signing up? 

“I have to go, darlins.” Pa sat down and handed them each a hot mug of “tea”, their Mother had been able to pick up what leaves fell at the shipping factory she worked at. 

“Why?!” Tears were already coming to Sarah’s eyes. 

It was hard enough as is, now their family’s main supporter was leaving? She could already see it:  the long, cold nights without logs for the fire. Stale bread and watery broth for dinner. Mabel leaving school early to get a job. Their younger brother Will crying of cold and hunger every night without proper blankets. Sarah working her hands to the bone doing maid’s work to bring home just a few more bucks.

“I been called to do it, I ain’t got no right to refuse my home country’s protection.” He took the enlistment form from Sarah’s clenched fists. 

“You tell Mama yet?” Mabel asked, Pa shook his head. Said he planned to this morning.

“When do you leave?” Sarah was trying very, very hard not to cry. 

“I leave in two days.” He sighed heavily. The sisters both burst into tears.

Pa placed Mabel in his lap and let Sarah sit down beside him, head planted on his leg. He made no effort to tell them things were going to be okay, he just let them cry. 

Through her tears, Mabel looked up and caught sight of her bedroom window through the doorway. It seemed unfathomable to her that the snow could fall exactly as it had done before. There was no heed to the news that had just collided with her heart. Yet even then she knew that from now on it was up to her, Sarah and Mama. Times’d be tough. It was little moments, like the white blanketed city, that she would need to learn to love and appreciate. War or no war, the snow truly was beautiful. 

January 11, 2020 01:25

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