The Dark Side of Winter


Carrying out the trash my soul had coarsely collected throughout the room, I was about to close the wooden door of the vintry house when my phone rang in the pockets of my clad jeans. People barely called so it utmost surprised me, except if it was only the concerned mother of mine. 

Being away from her sucks, a lot. I have to eat food which unsurprisingly doesn’t taste like hers, mope my space and break down in the same. Sometimes it felt way too easy as if fate was foolishly waiting for me to gaze at the unexpected arrival of agony and pain. Other days, I would almost make it through. Almost, I may emphasize. 

I fished through my tight pockets, trying to get hold of my phone while walking down the stairs of the porch, careful to not slip through the overlaid snow. Rearranging the trash bags, I swiped accept as soon as her name appeared over the screen. “You are never going to get married.” My my, how much I missed that voice.

“Hello to you too, mother.” The pots surrounding the house of withered leaves were covered with droplets of white smoky snow and I wondered how dull life looked in this place. My lessee, Mrs. Davies was a widow at sixty years of age. Her presence gave me warmth, enough to fill the void of my mother’s absence. The way every corner of this small house contained a small ornament of poultry or clay, reminded me of the old days of wanting to guide my hands to portray a pot of life, of my life. 

“I don’t know how you can be so calm about this. What if you really never get a man to marry?” I smiled to myself, even though this conversation would get too annoying sometimes. Oh wait, let me rephrase that. Everytime. There was something about loving everything about someone, when you were too far away for them to admit it to yourself. 

My fingers frigid, slippery due to the frost. “How are you?”

“Are you even listening to me, your sister—”

Ma, how are you?” My feet found a skip to it’s step as I jumped over the small puddle of glistening water. The street was lonely, almost quiet except from the music bashing through my neighbour’s house. I shook my head to the incident when I had comforted the teen staying over next door to keep the blasting speakers down, getting only an angsty attitude in return. “I am doing good, what about you? Are you taking care of yourself?” Her voice was now utmost in loud whispers. 

My eyes took notice of the suspension which withered around the place for a moment, it felt like an itch one couldn’t scratch. Something was missing, definitely off around the dumpster bins. The snow made it hard to actually investigate any sudden change or affirmation. Sensing my silence, my mother muttered my name again. Wiping my sore eyes by the sleeve of the cotton hoodie, I told her everything that kept bugging me since the last few days, similar to the way I used to climb into her lap to feel secure around those arms. “Someone left a child at the orphanage down the street in the middle of the snowstorm, other than that. Just doing great in life.”

Scrunching my nose at the very thought of someone being harsh enough to leave a child at a door under the snow, I was about to dump the trash of mine into one of the bins when an abstract image took my attention. “Oh,” There was a sigh at the other side of the phone. “I actually understand this for the very first time, may I add.” I left a giggle at her subjective phrasing. “You’re feeling guilty for something you haven’t even credited. Just like your father, aren’t you? Please for god sake don’t.” And you, as always comparing me to my late father. “By the way Nel, your sister and I will fly down to your town next month. I know how much you miss eating spicy food. And you don’t even have to book the tickets this time, Kate took care of it. Thank god I was tired of you sisters.” 

I was already tuned out of the conversation, only humming in return to not verify any problem of suspicion. “Nel? Hon? You good?” 

The bin lid was overlapped with the aftermath of a frosty blizzard. That was not what baffled me, it was the words written over it. 

F1 was scribbled over the snow, my mind contemplated over a whole lot of hazardous maze. The bin was located in front of our house, specifically for us. “Ma?” Confusion and dread both bothered to swing through my optimistic boned attitude. “I’ll call you later. Got to go, love you.”

“Nel—?” I had already hung up, fiddling through the icons on my phone to find the one I needed. Once focusing the camera over the bin, clear enough to judge the words I clicked the button. The shutter going off as an indication of saving the image. I bit on my lip, pushing the phone into the pocket. 

Mrs. Davies had gone downtown to her children’s house and was not about to return anytime soon. She did inform me over the call, her grandson’s voice muffling around the background asking for me to come along to play with him. My eyes closed to the image it had formed in front of me. 

Someone was keeping a watch over the house, it wouldn’t be possible without it to know I was staying alone. I wanted to panic, give my anxiety to rush through my brain, stimulating hypersensitivity. I managed to make the rhythm of breaths back to normal yet the loud beats rang through my ears. 

I should inform someone, I should definitely inform someone pretty soon before the night falls. Or call Lisa over, but she must be already at the airport, waiting to catch the flight to India, storming her foot in between walking space until found a distraction. Let the police know, Nel. Yes, let the police handle it.

“Nella?” Ron’s sudden voice took me by surprise, I stumbled upon my own footing while turning around. “Ron, hey?” I wiped my cold hands over the jeans, giving out an awkward smile, it vanished though as soon as I took a look over his state. He stood rigid, eyes never leaving mine. They were almost scared, fingers fidgeting by their sides. Ron, usually never liked me. For his own reasons. He always bashed his music loud and clear to mess up my early sleep, taunting me to bite back a remark. Finding him standing right in front of me, so upright and frightened, made me question everything in the moment. 

“I am sorry.” He whispered. “I am so sorry.”

And before I could have interrogated his apology or his black eye, something hit hard and tight at the back of my head, making me lose my position, fingertips absentmindedly grazed the part, vision blurring to see the flash of red on my skin. “I am so sorry.” 

Only if I had seen the crimson marks on his wrists before, as if someone had just tried to slice into his flesh, leaving behind nostalgic words of struggle.

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