Renae’s head jerked up, and she dropped her dog-eared copy of The Hobbit to the floor. What was that? The window was behind her, and she’d have to get out of her comfy spot to check it out.
She untangled herself from her blanket, which had somehow wound its way around the end table’s leg, and her tea cup clattered to the floor. Her book was instantly soaked in Earl Grey. She gave a cry and picked it up, then placed it carefully above a heating vent. “Please dry out nicely.”
The frost on the window made the outside invisible, which was how she liked it, but that noise needed to be investigated. She flung the sash up and received a snowball to the face. Cold. Cold cold cold cold cold! Also cannot breathe. She spluttered and shouted blindly to whoever was below, “You have got to be kidding me!”
“I am so sorry!” came the reply, in a voice that was clearly trying not to laugh. “I did not mean to hit your face.”
The voice rang familiar. She frowned, scrubbing the snow out of her eyes. “Ken? What are you doing uptown in the middle of the day?”
“It’s Saturday, Renae, and we’re going skating. Wanna come?”
She bent over to pick up her glasses from the floor and wiped them on her shirt, then put them back on. Her watery eyes could vaguely see a group of forms goofing around on the empty road. “Thanks, but I think you threw up enough snow now to last me all week at least.”
Ken’s buddy punched his arm and told him to give it up, but he stayed looking up at her window. “Come on. You can’t work all the time.”
“Really, thanks for the offer, but I’m good. I hate being cold. Have fun though!”
Ken saluted. “Would you expect anything less of me?” He turned to walk away and was promptly tripped by the guy walking next to him. A scuffle ensued, and Renae laughed before pulling the window shut.
“Ahh, little boys trapped in the bodies of men,” she monologued, watching them pick themselves up from the snow to make way for old Mrs. Jenkins and her poodle. Both groups vanished around the corner, leaving only an empty street.
The snow was falling fast, she noted. Big, fluffy flakes were twirling through the air and brushing against the window. She shivered. There were mini puddles on the windowsill, and her shirt was wet.
Once all had been put to rights and water had been heated for another tea, she sat down at her desk. There were a few emails to reply to. Some rich bozo wanted a first-class flight along with VIP access for some fancy resort. A family of five only wanted to pay for one room at a lodge, even though the capacity limit was four. A businesswoman wanted a flight from Vancouver to Michigan within the day. Renae booked them all. Then her boss wanted a few details on a booking she had done two days ago, and she gave him those.
The Hobbit wasn’t quite dry, but it was time for a break and she didn’t feel like writing. She laid down on the floor with a blanket and turned the pages of her book carefully without lifting it from the grate. She was going though it her first time since the new year, and had just gotten to the part where poor little Bilbo was quite affrighted by the very idea of “dragons” and “adventures”. Then came the part where (movie) Gandalf said some of his most famous words: “The world isn’t in your book and maps. It’s out there.”
Renae frowned at the book. “You don’t get to talk to me like that. It’s not like you’re the Bible or anything.”
The damp print continued to stare at her. Those exact words weren’t in the book, but the story there meant the same thing.
“Oh, fine!” She got up, piled her blanket into a corner of the couch, then went hunting for warm clothes. Layering was essential. Two pairs of socks, leggings before jeans, tank top before a T-shirt before a hoodie before a jacket. She dug out her toque, gloves, and scarf and put those on as well.
She felt like a penguin as she left her apartment building. Nobody looked at her strangely, but it felt like they should. What was she doing here? She had no mission. Groceries had been gotten yesterday. No business meeting was impending. She was just… here. Walking.
The snow kept falling, and she craned her head upward. A host of flakes were falling down, settling gently in her hair and on her shoulders. A grin crossed her face before she realized it. “It feels strange, this; not doing, but being. Simply being. I’m not sure if I like it yet.”
Someone coughed and she snapped back into the human world. Now there were a few people eyeing her, but she smiled and walked on. Shouts filtered from up ahead.
She hadn’t been to the skating rink yet, even though it had been set up for the past two months already. The busyness surprised her.
Some clever entrepreneurs had set up a hot chocolate booth. There were bowls of candy cane shavings, chocolate chips, and mini marshmallows beside stacks of styrofoam cups on a table beneath a tent. The tent was anchored to the back of a pickup truck, and in the bed were large thermal jugs. The teens manning the stand were whirling around each other, trying to keep up with the line. Renae patted her pockets, but she only had a toonie for her skate rental.
“And I’ve gotta do what I came here for,” she told herself, and headed toward the racks of skates.
The fellow took her name and size, then handed her a pair of skates. She sat down in the snow next to the rink and pulled off her boots, then tugged on the skates. She laced them up, then went back over, tightening the laces even more. She remembered hating loose skates when she was younger.
“Hey! You came!”
Renae looked up just in time to get a shower of ice shards over her face. Ken had made a dramatic stop right in front of her.
“Sorry; twice in one day. I really didn’t mean it.”
She wiped the ice off her face. “I’m starting to think that you’re encouraging to go home and stay there.” She tried to get to her feet, but only managed to make it to the spider pose. “They should really set up some benches.”
“Here.” Ken held out his bare hand, and she took it.
“How are you not freezing?”
“Meh, you get warmer once you start moving.” He pulled her forward, and she stepped onto the ice.