Leslie’s open eyes were vulnerable. With one mittened hand she tugged the wool cap down over her eyebrows. With the other she held up the scarf, to smother her nose.
The bitter New Year’s wind drained the heat of every living thing.
Leslie could feel her eyes freezing. It was a peculiar feeling. She blinked rapidly, trying to summon warm tears.
Fragments of ice torn from the frozen world blew past her eyes. She flinched. The flakes seemed white ash from a dead fire.
Leslie hurried down the sidewalk–as fast as she could without slipping. The convenience store was only two blocks away.
The entire town had vanished in colorless snow. Nobody in their right mind would venture outside in such inhuman cold. Just a Ford pickup equipped with a scraping snow plow, and a few creeping cars behind it.
With relief she exploded through the store’s door.
“Cold enough for you?” asked Freddie. He was sitting on a stool gazing out the frosted window.
“I’m out of cough syrup. Jack can’t stop coughing, so I have to hurry back. I’m so tired. They said on the news it’s almost a record. Thirty five below, or something.”
“Yeah, everything’s dead. The cold has stopped everything.”
“Happy New Year,” he added as she departed.
Leslie rushed back into the white world, determined to be home and out of the wind’s teeth.
She almost slipped on the sidewalk, but miraculously regained her balance. She crossed the empty street, avoiding hard slush. Someone was scraping thick ice off a windshield. She didn’t turn her head to see who.
Leslie ran as best as she could against the cold.
She could feel her eyes beginning to freeze.
It was frozen shut. With an icy rock from the ground she broke ice off.
She pulled out a letter.
She stood in the piercing cold, and with clumsy mittened hands opened the envelope.
A New Year’s card.
She paused, looked for a long minute upon a scene of carefree skaters on a silver lake, lost in a forest of bright silver trees. They skated under silver stars, in a world that was shining like unearthly heaven. Around the lake hovered a few snowflakes–perfectly formed snowflakes like silver dreams.
It was so beautiful.
A flake of snow landed on the card, melted.
Leslie despaired that the beautiful card would be ruined. She quickly opened her jacket and put the silver next to her heart. Shivering deeply, she turned about, hurried for the door.