She’s been here for so long, that when she moves her legs, her knees burn sore from having been pressed so hard into the eiderdown. Movement makes the mattress springs squeak and she pulls woollen sleeves over her hands. She rests her arms back on the sill, her forehead against the window, breath misting the pane. She blinks, her eyelids tight and dry from having stared so earnestly down into the dark of the street, from her pupils flicking up and diagonally across the navy sky at the drifting dance of snowfall.
The flakes obscure her vision; she needs to see to the end of the street. She has to. If she turns away for one moment—blinks for too long—then the spell will break and she’ll be alone forever in this stone-cold, snow-white world with fathers who don’t speak and brothers who don’t care.
People—families—don’t fall out at Christmas. There are presents under the silver angel-haired tree in their front room. The Salvation Army are playing on the corner near the phone box and usually she’s in Peter’s bedroom watching them with an excited, fluttery heart and a dream that Christmas might come every day.
She hadn’t meant to burn the toast. She’d been distracted. She was meant to be watching it while her mother saw to Peter, but lured by the sound of the tuba tuning up and the first flurry of flakes at the kitchen window, she’d abandoned her post. Her mother had flown into a fury; yelled, raged, yanked the tray from the grill and thrown it crashing to the floor, screaming.
She’d cried that she couldn’t take it anymore; that they would be the death of her; their father had no idea what she had to put up with when he wasn’t here. Then she’d stormed out of the house in her slippers.
Leaving Peter, she’d raced to her room where she watched her mother—still wearing her apron—stride up the street; the star of the show at each lamppost she passed. Now she sees every footprint she’s made disappearing into downy white as though it was never there.