Friday, March 4, 2016

"Whiteout" by Hunter Vega

I woke up to hope. A quick glance out the window was a snapshot of a beautiful landscape, a painting of fairytale woods, frozen in time. The snow was fresh. It looked like it was just brimming with possibility, even if the room felt barren. I rushed to dress, stumbling over shirts and socks and my own limbs. I had never experienced so much excitement this early in the morning, that was for sure. I felt like my vision was crowded by white- the bright, clean snow was crystallizing, frosting over my eyes, filling my mind past capacity with joy. This had to be worth every Christmas morning I’ve ever lived. She must still be here. It’s all I needed right then. I just needed five more minutes with her, then I could fix things for good. Fresh snow, I thought.

As a child, I had always been thrilled at the prospect of new snow, just like anyone else. Except for her. In my case, it may have bordering on obsessive, because I still remembered, crisp and clear, that time in the first grade when we watched a film on agriculture. I stared at the screen, wide eyed, and wondered why no one would plant in winter. The most fertile-looking fields were the plain white ones, the blank slates. When we walked home together, I’d have to grab her arm to keep her from cutting across the empty page. I was always sure she just wanted to ruin it. I found comfort in nature’s white washed fences, respected them. Nothing matched knowing you could cover up something ugly.

She had to be downstairs. Maybe she was still sleeping, but I knew her. If she wanted to leave, she’d get up before she needed to. I hit the door like a drowning sailor hits the lip of a lifeboat. Shoved the door open with too much force. I stopped for a moment at the edge of the top step. She was still here. We had time. I needed just five minutes to talk about it, but I could probably walk downstairs like a normal person would. The windowpane at the landing only showed me white.

Our seventh grade teacher had told us that the only tools to telling our future were hidden inside us. In every kid’s brain, there were blueprints to an adult with troubles and complexes and complex problems we won’t even understand until we’re older. A habit was never a habit after that day, an interest was never just an interest. At least, that’s how it was for me. I kept one ear open for this lecture, even as I opened up a brand new notebook. She ignored the teacher completely, stretched her arm across our table, like she didn’t even realize she was doing it. She just reached over and made neat little lines across the cleanest page in blunt black pen. I almost slipped at the bottom of the staircase.

Taking two steps at a time may have been a bit much. The moment my feet touched the ground floor, I was moving again. There was the couch. Her comforter had been tossed back over the armrest. It was folded once over. I knew as soon as I saw that. Something was wrong. But she had to be in the house, right? Fresh snow. I made my way to the kitchen, stomach dropping lower as I moved. It was empty. The house was draped in a hush. I whirled around and dashed for the back door, slamming it on my way out. There it was. The snow that lay at my feet was ruined with a path of shuffling footsteps, leading my gaze to the messy, peeling tire tracks she’d left behind. She’d been gone all along. She’d taken the back door, the long way, leaving me with all this snow, freshly turned over.

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