Fiction Romance Holiday

It was so terribly cold. Snow was falling, and it was almost dark. Christmas Eve. It hadn’t been snowing when we had first headed out on our walk down the dirt and gravel road, now frosted in a thick layer of white. Nor had it been so windy. 

Clearly nature didn’t want to disappoint on this holiday eve, delivering an idyllic display of feathery flakes that landed gently on my exposed hair and dampened it before freezing it into icicles in the sub-zero temperature. As we continued down the path, the ice forming in my long dark hair started tinkling with every step.

“Should we turn back?” I asked haltingly. I didn’t want to ruin such a perfect moment by bringing it to a swift conclusion, but my fingers were numb beneath my heavy gloves and my toes were stinging even with my thick socks and waterproof boots to protect them from the cold. Frostbite seemed a very real possibility. 

“Not yet,” he responded, “It’s such a nice night.”

I shivered and continued walking, no longer able to focus on the beauty of our surroundings. The snow-capped mountain peaks. The flakes floating and gently landing. Our side-by-side boot prints on the ground embodying the parallel path of our lives. 

Seeing my discomfort, he grabbed my hands and rubbed them to warm them up. Then he wrapped his arms around me, hugging me tightly as he turned his face up toward the sky with his eyes tightly closed to keep the cold flakes from landing in them. 

I felt the warmth of his embrace, but my body remained stiff from both the cold and my anxiety. For in every relationship, there’s a responsible realist and an impractical dreamer, and both were fully on display in our current situation. Would continuing in these frigid temperatures just because it felt like we were experiencing something that only happened in the movies really a good idea? Always the sensible one, my mind kept telling me to head back to the comfort of the crackling fire in the fireplace, a steaming hot bath, and a tea kettle whistling on the stove in our cabin. 

Continuing to embrace me, he recited a stanza from one of his favorite Lillian E. Curtis poems. Poetry is always at the tip of his tongue. How does he do that?

“Down to kiss the faces they meet,

Down to sit at the harsh world's feet,

To cover the earth with their snowy sheet,

The pure, innocent snow-flakes.”

Bitingly I replied, “They’re not so innocent if we freeze to death out here.”

He snapped out of his reverie. Disappointment spread across his face. As usual, I had ruined the moment. He quietly dropped his arms from around me and continued walking.

“Please,” I begged, “Can we turn back? I’m so cold. My hair is frozen. Can’t you hear it?”

“Go ahead,” he responded, “I’m going to keep going a bit further.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” I implored, adding, “This is the time of day when wildlife comes out. And it’s so dark. It would be easy to get lost.”

It was my futile attempt to hint that I was fearful of walking back alone in the dark. I never wanted to appear weak or needy. Always capable and independent. That was the persona I always presented – even with him. 

“I’ll be fine,” he said softly, clearly disappointed in me that I wasn’t, like him, embracing the dreaminess of what the universe was handing out for us on a platter.

“But will be fine?” I thought to myself as he clearly dismissed me to go back home on my own. I could hear a lone coyote howling in the distance. But how distant? Snow always changes how things sound. I couldn’t remember what that meant. Does that mean the coyote is closer to me? Or farther from me?

I picked up my pace and started shuffle-running back to the house. Behind me were two long lines in the snow. No longer were there two sets of footprints side-by-side. I had shuffled them out of existence. It was now me, and me alone, against nature. Darkness had set in. The moon was just a tiny crescent. It gave little light to shine the path back to our little house in the woods. Our previous footsteps in the very light snow had already filled in with new snow and were no longer visible. Was I even going in the right direction?

As I sped through the snow, I reminisced about a night just months prior when we’d walked home together from our neighbor’s house. They’d hosted a party that evolved into a whiskey-tasting extravaganza. The night got progressively more raucous, and laughter filled as we all downed far too many shots of whiskey. Our cabin was only a few hundred yards from theirs, but we stumbled, tripped, and giggled all the way back home fearing we may have imbibed too much to safely find our way home to collapse in bed.

That was such a fun night I reminded myself. We do have fun times together, we really do. It doesn’t matter that we’re so different, I kept trying to convince myself, as I started shuffling even faster in what I was certain was the direction of our cabin. 

Suddenly I tripped on a tree root sticking up from the ground that had been hidden from view by the deepening layer of snow on the ground. My outstretched arms couldn’t keep me from landing, face first, in the snow-covered brush near the ground. “Unnnfff,” I groaned as the branches scratched my face and bits of snow and ice slipped under my collar delivering freezing cold water down my neck and back as my entire body landed with a thud.

“I swear to God, if I make it back alive tonight, he’s getting an earful,” I said, louder than I intended to. 

The coyote howled again. This time it sounded much closer than before. I stood back up, quickly brushed off the excess snow, then began lifting my knees and heavy boots as high as I could to start running, when suddenly I found myself face to face with the animal. I’d never seen a coyote that close before. It was much bigger than I expected a coyote would be – bigger than the German Shepherd my family had when I was a small child. 

I bent down to pick up a stick to protect myself and lifted it over my head to start waving it around when suddenly someone from behind me grabbed the stick and stopped me. Startled, I jumped and turned around.

“Stop,” he said softly, “Look at him. He’s absolutely majestic.”

“Yes, until Mr. Majestic attacks us and leaves us for dead in the middle of the woods.”

“He won’t,” he said.

“How can you be so sure?”

“I just know,” he replied. Then he pulled the stick out of my hand and dropped it to the ground.

“C’mon, let’s go home,” he said.

“But…” I started.

“Everything will be fine,” he said, “Just walk with me.” 

“Why are you in this part of the woods anyway?” he asked.

“I was walking home,” I responded.

“Well, I don’t know whose home you were walking to, but it wasn’t ours. C’mon. It’s this way.” 

He grabbed my hand and walked me in the opposite direction toward the big rock where I should have turned left to go home. 

“Oh, there it is!” I exclaimed, slapping myself on the forehead.

He put his arm around my shoulders, holding me close, and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll always help you find your way home.”

March 13, 2023 02:00

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Kerry Batchelder
23:31 Mar 22, 2023

I enjoyed your story very much. Great job of describing how very cold it was and the lack of compassion on your lovers side. Obviously he cares about you as he came to your defense when you least expected it. However-he would appear to wear his feelings on his cuff and is not good at communicating his feelings verbally. He was hurt but so we’re you. A very good story about the need for good communication in a relationship. Great job!


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Wally Schmidt
22:05 Mar 21, 2023

This is both sweet and sad..the story of two people who could be happy together is only they would open up about their own needs and expectations instead of constantly being burdened by unfulfilled expectations. I like how you built the tension into the story and how the knight in shining armor does actually save the day in the end.


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