Gwen was a snowflake.
She drifted towards the ground and rested lightly on a pile of fellow snowflakes. She slowly melded with the others until they were indistinguishable from one another, a single unit of snow.
People were like snowflakes. In the younger days, people feel special and unique. But as they grow older, they realize they are precisely the same as everyone else.
At least, Gwen felt that way. She was the kind of person who always went unnoticed. She a background dancer, she was the extra character in a movie, always playing the unimportant role.
But she didn’t mind. The average people held the world together and were vital to the big picture. Just like the smallest snowflakes came together to form a mountain of snow.
“Are you okay?”
Gwen started, She hadn’t even realized that she was sitting on the park bench with her head between her knees, so to get a closer look at the diamonds in the snow.
She raised her eyes to meet the speaker’s gaze and immediately blushed.
A young man was bending down, concern etched on every inch of his handsome face. His eyes move over her body and her blush deepened, until it became clever that he was only searching for some sort of injury.
Gwen immediately drew the shades on her expression and crossed her arms. The warmth from the man’s brown eyes was no longer enough to keep the chill from her bones.
“I’m fine,” she said, but even to her ears the reassurance sounded hollow. She couldn’t even recall how long she had been sitting out in the cold.
The man must’ve seen her shiver, because he placed a tentative hand on her knee.
“Do you need something to eat?” he asked kindly. “A warm place to stay?”
The shame of being thought of as a charity case made Gwen flush. Sure, she probably looked a sight with her hair a mess and a huge coat wrapped around her. But, still.
Gwen stood up and the man follower suit, his hand dropping from her knee. She forced a smile, but then realized that he couldn’t see her face for her mask.
“No, thank you. In fact, I should probably be getting home.”
The man (Gwen was beginning to wish she had something else to call him) didn’t look entirely convinced. “Are you sure? Do you… do you need a ride anywhere?”
Gwen almost rolled her eyes, trying to ignore how much her pride smarted. And how gorgeous his brown eyes were.
Half-joking, she said, “Yes, I’m sure. Besides, my parents told me not to accept rides from strangers.”
Although Gwen couldn’t see his mouth, she could read the discomfort on his face pretty clearly. He back up a few paces.
“Of course. I understand. But…” he glanced around nervously. “It’s really cold out. Do you want my coat?”
Now Gwen was getting slightly annoyed, despite being touched by Brown Eyes’s kindness. (That seemed like a fitting name for him.) Did Brown Eyes think she lived on the streets? She felt like saying something to get him out of her hair.
“I’ll manage,” she said wryly. “It’s not like I live on the streets. I live right down there.”
She vaguely pointed across the park to a cluster of homes.
Brown Eyes gulped and Gwen watched as his forehead turned beet red. “So sorry to bother you, then. I just… I assumed… ah, never mind. Um, have a good night.”
He turned around and started walking away.
Gwen didn’t move, feeling guilty, knowing that she had partially contributed to his embarrassment. She only watched his retreating back. She knew she ought to say something. Anything.
“Um, excuse me? Sir?” She winced as he glanced back. She hadn’t exactly planned out what to say. “Um, thank you, though. Most people wouldn’t have stopped to ask.”
Although he was too far away to read his expression through the mask, Gwen could see his relieved smile.
“Uh, it was no trouble.”
Gwen’s mouth lifted and she gave him a small wave and forced herself to walk home, to not turn back around and say something else to embarrass herself.
As she drew nearer to her house, Gwen felt a sense of relief. Brown Eyes almost had her convinced that she didn’t have a home. As her cold fingers fumbled with the keys, Gwen knew she was immensely fortunate to have this house.
Gwen had put her coat away and was about to take off her shoes when she caught her reflection in the mirror. She winced. Her hair hung around her face, strongly and limp. Her nose and cheeks were red. Her lips were blue, and a quick glance at her hands confirmed that her fingers were the same.
Gwen hurriedly took her shoes off and rushed to her bedroom where she kept her space heater.
As she slowly thawed, Gwen tried to focus on why she had been sitting on that park bench in the first place. She had been searching for some inspiration for her upcoming book. The deadline was in two weeks and so far she had nothing but a severe case of writer’s block.
But her mind wandered, refusing to focus on the impending cutoff date. Instead, Brown eyes’s face swam before her vision.
Gwen wiggled her stiff toes and sighed. She wished she hadn’t looked so hopeless when meeting that guy. That guy who didn’t even know her name. That guy who probably thought she was a nut job.
That guy who was oh, so very kind. Gwen knew that if she saw someone as ragged as her sitting on a park bench, she would steer clear. What a very lonely life she lived.
Gwen hoisted herself up from the floor and untangled herself from the cocoon of blankets that enveloped her, feeling very much like a snowflake, falling, falling, falling.
The next day, Gwen tried to come up with a revolutionary idea for her book. She tried every trick in the book. But it was no use. Gwen had nothing.
It didn’t help that she was distracted. She found herself wishing that she had asked for Brown Eyes’s number. Or at least his name. But then again, that may have been slightly creepy.
Nonetheless, Gwen couldn’t stop thinking about his kind actions and his genuine concern for her well-being. She hadn’t run across someone like that since… well, a long time.
After lunch, Gwen went for a walk, making sure that her hair was brushed and she was wearing her nice jacket. A glance in the mirror confirmed that she at least look presentable.
Grabbing her small notebook that housed most of her ideas, she stepped outside and locked the door behind her. She squinted at the sun, then at the slushy snow. Bare patches of grass peeked through the layer of snow. The third stage of life, Gwen thought humorously. Old age.
She headed off in the direction of the park and passed by the bench where she sat last night. It looked lonely in the daytime. Gwen walked on.
She didn’t pass anything awe-inspiring in the park, so she continued her trek, intent on getting coffee from the shop that was only a few blocks away. Gwen knew that coffee wasn’t the best idea, because it normally made it harder for her to focus, but she was desperate.
Thankfully it wasn’t busy. Gwen didn’t want any distractions.
Gwen tucked the notebook into her pocket as she walked up to the counter. The man behind the counter motioned that he would right with her.
Gwen took that opportunity to fish around in her wallet for her credit card.
“Hello, what can I get for you today?”
Gwen dropping the credit card in shock. “You?” She blurted before she could filter her surprise.
Brown Eyes squinted in confusion. “Do I know you?” Gwen bent over and picked up her card, trying to calm her racing heartbeat. When she finally had the courage to meet his gaze, his eyes were studying her closely. Gwen could tell he was drawing a blank.
“Oh, I’m the girl you um, tried to help last night,” she explained. His eyes widened in recognition and he laughed.
“I’m glad to see you warmed up after last night!” he joked. Gwen’s heart fluttered.
“I don’t think I’ve actually warmed up completely…” she confessed. Someone standing behind Gwen clear their throat. So much for the place being almost empty. Gwen felt her face grow hot.
“Um, what can I get you?” Brown Eyes asked.
Gwen glanced at the menu and didn’t comprehend a word. “What do you recommend?”
“Oh, definitely the bubble tea,” he said immediately. “It’s not coffee, but it tastes amazing.”
“One bubble tea, then,” Gwen said, handing him her credit card. He swiped it and gave it back to her, along with an order number.
“When your order is ready, I’ll call your number. It should only be a few minutes.”
Gwen nodded and breathed a thank you. She took the slip of paper.
She tried to smile apologetically at the person behind her, then remember that they couldn’t see because of the masks. Fists clenched, she sat down at a table near the window.
Gwen watched the snow fall and attempted to track a single one all the way to the ground.
An idea struck her, and although it wasn’t a very good one, she pulled out her notebook and scrawled: write about the journey of a snowflake.
Even as she wrote it, Gwen knew how lame it sounded. Just a book about a snowflake? Who would read that?
She snapped the book closed with a sigh.
Gwen jumped visibly and found herself staring at Brown Eyes, who was holding a cup of bubble tea. Dismay coursed through her.
“Oh no.. did you call my number?”
But Brown Eyes was already shaking his head. “No, I decided to bring it over to you.” He slid it across the table and sat in the chair opposite her. “I came to apologize for last night. I really shouldn’t have bothered you.”
Gwen really wanted to take a sip of the bubble tea, but she didn’t want to remove her mask without asking Brown Eyes. She wasn’t really up to date on mask etiquette.
So she responded to his apology. “It’s okay, really. I was just… you know… having a bad day. Kind of. A bad week.”
Gwen mentally face-palmed herself. Just pick one thing to say, she ordered herself.
Brown Eyes nodded. “Yeah, I completely understand. I’ve had plenty of days like that.”
Gwen laughed awkwardly, though she had no idea what was funny. Brown Eyes moved to stand up, but then on a sudden impulse, turned and introduced himself.
“I’m Brent Payne, by the say,” he said, extending a hand and tapping his name tag.
Of course. A nametag. Gwen hadn’t even noticed.
“Gwen Haberforth,” Gwen replied, grateful her hands weren’t sweaty. She expected a normal handshake, so when Brent jolted like he’d been shocked, Gwen withdrew her hand, mortified. What had she done wrong now?
“Gwendolyn Haberforth? Really?”
Gwen ducked her head. “I guess you know me?”
Gwen could see Brent’s smiling eyes. “Yeah! We went to high school together, Maxwell High!”
Gwen racked her memory but came up empty. He must’ve read her blank expression because he sat back down and leaned forward. Gwen could tell there was a long trip down memory lane in store.
“Oh, come on, you remember the freshman year assembly?”
In fact, Gwen did remember that. She remembered sitting in the far corner of the bleachers with her group of friends, watching the teachers and students compete against each other in a basketball competition. She couldn’t recall anything special happening.
“I’m the kid who scored the winning shot! You don’t remember that?”
“No, I wasn’t really into sports,” she admitted. Brent didn’t seem swayed. He continued talking.
“Well, after that, I went around asking people if they wanted my autograph,” he chuckled awkwardly. “And you were the first person to decline.”
Gwen was embarrassed that she had no recollection of that event.
“Um, sorry about that. But I still don’t remember.”
Brent looked baffled. “Really? Huh.”
Gwen could’ve died from mortification. He probably thought she was a heartless, unobservant, uncaring jerk. She felt like one.
“So sorry,” she said again. Brent waved her apology away.
“No, no, it’s fine. It’s probably creepy that I remember that anyway… it’s probably because I had a crush on you. I asked you out through a note in your locker. It was very suave.”
Gwen’s face was burning so much she probably could have cooked a five-course meal on the surface. A hazy memory surfaced from the depths of Gwen’s mind. She remembered standing at her locker and finding a note tucked in the door. She assumed it was a prank so she didn’t say anything to her friends, or respond to the note.
Gwen’s eyes widened. “I thought that was a prank!”
Brent laughed. “So you do remember!”
Gwen almost cried in relief, grateful that she was saved from further embarrassment. “Yes, I thought that one of my friends put it there as a joke! I had no idea…”
She found herself doubling over in a fit of laughter again, overcome with merriment she hadn’t felt in ages.
Brent’s eyes sparkled. I always wonder why you didn’t answer me… I honestly thought you hated me.”
Gwen shook her head, recovering from her bout of laugher. “No, I didn’t hate you. I was just very antisocial.”
“Well, you’ve changed a lot. Like, in a good way.”
His compliment warmed Gwen to her toes.
Gwen heard herself say, “We do have a lot to catch up on…
“Yeah, we should get together sometime…”
As Gwen watched the snowfall, she realized that the life cycle of a snowflake didn’t end with melting. It went back up into the atmosphere and the whole cycle started anew. Snowflakes’ lives had highs and lows just like the life of a human.
Gwen smiled at the white sky, snow gathering on her lashes.
Then she pulled out her notebook and began to write.