Contemporary Sad Fiction

Lillian’s nose pressed snugly against the cold glass as she glared out of her bedroom window at the snow. She had made sure to turn off the lights before doing so. She had recently discovered that when looking into dark expanse from inside, light hinders sight. She had learned this in her least favorite way of learning anything—at the hands of her Dad when he threw a grown-up temper tantrum about her turning the light on while he was driving. There was no connection in her brain between these fits and what her Mom called them. She thought that lectures were the things her older brother gave at the local college. Both Lillian and the neural synapses under her control refused to recognize any other path.

 The already frosted glass became foggy with Lillian’s breath, and it elicited fond memories of tracing pictures and notes to friends in windows of the metal buses on piercingly numb school days. Suddenly determined, she wrote a note in her breath fog. She made sure to write it backwards so that it could be seen from the outside. Letters faded almost instantly after their creation, but Lillian knew from experience that they were still there: waiting for more fog and the proper moment when they could be properly admired. 

There was another reason Lillian turned off the light before opening the curtains and standing tip-toe on her windowsill. She absolutely did not want to risk it with any of the violent monsters. Or bugs. Her nose wrinkled at the unpalatable thought. The action prompted the freezing glass to tickle her nose a bit. That seemed uncalled for. She wasn’t showing her belly button, and she hadn’t initiated any kind of tickle war with the glass. Although she supposed maybe having her nose pressed against it could count as a first strike.

Snowflakes fell stubbornly from the sky and Lillian remembered why she was balanced here in the first place. She hadn’t asked for a snow day. But the snowflakes were big and fat, perfect for sticking to the blades of frozen grass. She watched them pile up, hundreds at a time, until they covered the ground completely. The snow would be perfect for building snow-merpeople, but her brother was away with his new girlfriend. She hadn’t asked for a snow day, and, not for the first time in her brief life, she didn’t want one. 

Lillian was not the type to just sit by and let the snow day happen to her. She was a subject, not a direct object. It would mean lots of unwanted attention from her parents. So she fumbled with the latch on the window, fingers outstretched completely to try to turn it. Upon the click of success, she pressed her palms as hard as she could against the glass. She tried to get her hands to stick with the pressure and then dramatically raised them as if performing a spell. The window obliged, but creaked open with a loud complaint. Lillian’s hands slid on the glass as it ventured above her reach, making an even more obnoxious sound. She winced and counted to ten, listening intently. No footsteps. She released the breath she had been holding, which was puffy in her cheeks. 

The screen jumped out of the window at Lillian’s prompting kick, and she jumped down next to the obsolete safety net. The jump was not much farther than she was tall. Still Lillian relished the fleeting feeling of flying. She was told that opening her window on a night like this would lead her to catch a cold. Well, tonight, she was going to hunt one down. She knew from routine overwhelming experience that if she had a cold, her parents would stay properly away. Her uncovered feet sank into the cushion of whiteness as she chased a concept through her yard. 

Lillian ran quickly, imagining a trail of snow dust kicking out behind her reminiscent of her favorite cartoon shows. Her pajamas and still damp hair started to stiffen in the wind as she ran silently. She reached the end of their property, marked by a particularly gnarly tree. She kept running, but her breath puffed along with her now. Freedom raced through her veins like adrenaline, and she couldn’t get a strong enough hit of the drug. Branches and roots and the neighbor’s barking dog did nothing to slow her path. When Lillian reached the edge of a small lake, she knew she should turn home. She could no longer place herself on her methodical mental map of the neighborhood. But the lake offered an invigorating change of scenery that preyed upon her growing excitement. One step on the lake, she thought, and the ice-cold surface would surely transfer that cold to her impatiently waiting immune system. 

Later, as he searched frantically for clues, the policeman would shine a bright light through Lillian’s newly closed window. Aspiring detective though he was, he had long ago lost his childhood sense of wonder and youthful ways of seeing. It had been too many colorless years since he had written notes to friends in the fog of the bus window. He would never think to try breathing on the window. He would not see the message written there. Even if he did, it would be backwards. 

A debate raged in Lillian’s mind for several full minutes about whether to step onto the dull frozen surface of the lake. Her brother taught her to always take time with decisions. She had long been conditioned to a habitual and rational thinker. Curiosity and the growing cold swirled inside her, and the path ahead was clearer and freer of strife than the one home. Still, she was not unaware of the implicit peril as she stepped forward with hesitatingly cautious movements. The way one might dip a toe into the pool on a hot summer day, she reached forward until the pads of her feet collided with the sticky-cold surface. Desperately slowly, she transferred her weight to her venturing, adventurous foot. 

January 23, 2021 02:44

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