SNOW ANGEL

Submitted into Contest #129 in response to: Set your story in a snowed-in chalet.... view prompt

3 comments

Fiction Contemporary Holiday

SNOW ANGEL                                                         

 Jean. B. Healey  16/01/2021

           No movement. No breath. Why was she so still? Only yesterday we were snuggling up together watching snowflakes drifting past the foggy windows, a proper fire with proper logs in a proper fireplace, crackling, smoking, glaring at us. I’d stared at the snowflakes on the window and asked her why I couldn’t see the magical crystal formations I had expected. I’d never been this close to snow before. She just shook her shaggy head and wriggled back down under the blanket. She had seen plenty of snow. She had been raised in snowy landscapes, trooping across knee-deep drifts carrying a gun or supplies on her back, always alert to her companions. Many times she had needed to rescue reckless children in sodden boots and clothes lost in drifts as they chased the snowflakes and attacked each other with snowballs. Her job was to oversee their safety, retrieve their toys, sleds and boots and ensure they returned safely to their parents. She never failed even when tired, exhausted by following the skiing families to their chalets. She was quite well treated but forever homesick for the warmer climes of her birthplace. She had been taken from her home early in life and remained a visitor in a foreign landscape for many years until her return.

           Not my life. Not my life at all. Raised in sunny Queensland, Australia beside a glistening ocean, surfing all year round, warm and sunny forever. She was always there watching, making sure I was safe, providing a warm greeting when I came ashore. This trip to the Snowy Mountains in Victoria, Australia was an impulse we could not resist.

           ‘How about going somewhere cold for our holidays?’ I’d suggested. Her response was enthusiastic and immediate. Packing everything warm available, buying socks that would never be worn again we set off in the jalopy driving thousands of kilometres away from our familiar stamping grounds south towards the cooler state in mid- winter. The airbandb offered a ‘genuine chalet experience’ with said log fire and snowy surrounds. Kitchen facilities, toboggan, snow shoes, warm and enormous bed big enough for two, everything a snow virgin required to enjoy a genuine chalet experience. Except for a few essentials. No TV. No internet. No mobile coverage. And no power except the power of fire.

           Certainly there was a large pot for making soup over the fire. An exotic idea to start with. My first two efforts ended up in the rubbish as I refused to allow her to suffer the indignity of eating my mushy offerings. The short walk to the resort nearby ensured we could actually enjoy some real food and a decent drink but we soon realised the incoming snowstorm would prevent too many excursions so I stocked up on chips, cheese, biscuits and sweets to see us through this new experience for me. She was happy enough to share my taste in nutrition, showing only a mild grimace at the plates full of non-food I placed before her. She really favoured a well grilled wedge of prime fillet steak without boring vegetables and with plenty of gravy. She suffered in silence and merely nibbled at her meals. In fact it seems now she was possibly off her food ….

           The first two days passed eventfully since we were booked in for skiing lessons. Well to be precise, I was booked in and she was observing with a typically derisive expression from the sidelines. Many falls later she was enthusiastic when I finally managed to stand up and navigate the slope upright for the first time. She had seen it all before. Novice skiers were not a novelty in her view.

           But that was two days ago. She had been slowly slowing down since then. I first noticed a warm nose, unexpected at this location, then silence and less communication than usual, more sleeping and some apparent sighing not in her usual repertoire. Her eyes were not as bright, her shaggy mane of now greying hair limp and no response to my gentle caresses over her back.

           And now this. Silence. Closed eyes. No obvious breath. No movement. She had lain still for over two hours and I began to worry properly. What should someone do in this situation? I did not know how to check for a pulse. Looking outside I realised there was no hope of trying to go for help. The snowstorm was billowing all around us and sheets of white flakes were building at the window sills. I should wait a short time until the storm abated I decided, then make my way to the resort to see if someone, anyone could assist.

           And so I waited. I patted her. I wrapped the blanket around her as warmly as possible. I made hot tea but she could take none of it. I whispered in her now cold ear how much I had always loved her, how she had filled my life with treasured memories of playing and loving and just being together, how precious every moment with her had been as I grew up and she grew old.

And then the knock on the chalet door.

‘Chalet Squad, ma’am. Just checking you are all ok in here.’

Dragging myself away from the sofa, I lurched towards the solid wooden door. Tugging at the latch and dragging it across I grasped the carved wooden handle and heaved the chalet door open a few centimetres until the friendly fur-framed face of the Chalet Squad leader loomed smiling next to mine.

           ‘You all Ok?’

           ‘No. Not really. Can you come in for a minute? I want you to check everything’s ok.’

A brutal shove sifted the door open wide enough to allow his snowy and booted bulk to get inside. His companion stayed out in the snow, unconcerned at the cold and apparently grateful that I was seemingly safe. The Squad man stamped his boots and frowning, approached the sofa. He gently pulled back the blanket and pressed is un-gloved fingers on the pulse point. He turned and his face was ashen,

‘I’m so sorry. I think your grandmother has died.’

January 16, 2022 06:44

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3 comments

Mae Stroshane
16:37 Jan 22, 2022

Hi Jean, Lovely, magical portrait of the grandmother (yours?) and how comfortable she was in the snow, helping the families find their way, though she herself was a foreigner. Your descriptions of the snow are so vivid. Nicely done!

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Jean Healey
04:28 Jan 23, 2022

Thankyou so much Mae for taking the time to respond. It is so good to get feedback. I wrote the story to seem as if it was a pet dog accompanying me so that the final words would be a shock. Hope I fooled you a bit! My kindest thoughts Jean

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Mae Stroshane
22:40 Jan 23, 2022

Oh my gosh, you got me! Now that I know that, it all fits together. Love your vivid descriptions of the snow!

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