The weather forecasters all agreed. It was going to be a doozy. The balmy warmth that had washed November with its counterfeit promises was about to be blasted to smithereens by a winter storm of snow and ice and the kind of cold that froze not only toes, but bones. Newscasters, mayors, hospitals, and the police force throughout the Midwest pleaded with anyone who watched or heard: Stay indoors.
Thea had pleaded, herself. Stay put. Don’t come. But it was the first Christmas since her husband had died, the first Christmas their only child had been without her strong, dependable papa who always made everything better. He had owned a small theater company that barely scraped by. His grand plans to expand and change lives had never materialized. But it didn’t matter to Clara. To Clara, he surpassed all the directors in New York and London combined. His words echoed in her memory: “Follow your spark, sweetheart. Follow your light.”
She had finally turned off her phone to ignore her mother’s messages. She didn’t want to hear them because they told her something that didn’t accommodate her desires. She didn’t want to listen because she was nineteen.
She wasn’t a child anymore. She could take care of herself. If the roads became impassable, she’d simply take the nearest exit and find a café to wait it out.
Miles multiplied, and as millions of tiny snowflakes pelted her window, obscuring dark from light, Clara began peering down every passing exit, each town’s darkened signs a testimony to businesses closed to the impending storm.
Thea jumped at the teapot’s whistle, then scuffed to the kitchen. With a shaking hand, she poured the steaming water into the cup of peppermint tea, then held the cup close to her face the better to feel the warmth of it. She glanced at the clock. Clara would have been on the road ten hours now if she had left as planned. Then, in a sudden act of faith, Thea poured a second cup.
She placed it on the fireplace mantel, then stood in the spot she had haunted for hours this day as she had watched the sky turn from winter white to darker gray until light receded into wind-whipped, snow-covered darkness.
What was that? She squinted, then blinked. Her breath fogged the window and she felt its cold pane on her cheek. The infinitesimal light grew larger. A light, but not headlights. A spotlight shone down on the car as it inched its way down the street following a string of footlights that lit its path.
“And then,” Clara concluded her story of sliding on the icy road and desperate prayers for help, “the lights came on. It felt like I was back at Dad’s theater.”
They held hands as through the window they watched the curious lights dim, then go out in the whiteout of the night’s blizzard.
Image: https://pixabay.com/en/blizzard-snow-flurry-snowflakes-91904/ public domain