Short Stories & Flash Fiction · Vignettes Baby

The Winter Queen

The snow continued to fall, incessantly, cloaking the city in ice. “This is the coldest day you’ll ever have,” my mother said softly. Her cool, ungloved fingers were tightly wrapped around my wrist as we walked with cautious steps, trying not to slip, behind my father. His flaming red coat first reminded me of the old lighthouse that guarded our quiet shores, and then of the tale of Snow White, whose mother had spilled her own blood on the snow outside her window when she, startled by the chirp of a bird, had pricked herself while doing her needlework. “This is the coldest day you’ll ever have,” my mother repeated. Quite surprised, I looked up to study my mother’s face which looked frozen and stern under her woolen bonnet. Specks of snow were clutching to the dark curls that had escaped her hat, making her look, I thought, quite enchanting. A winter queen. “There have been colder days, Mom, ” I sighed. Last winter, we nearly starved for it had been so cold that the harvest in our province had failed. My baby brother had also fallen victim to that same cruel winter, dying of pneumonia when he was four months old. For a second I wondered, bewildered, how my mother could be so forgetful, but then she said: “That was the coldest day I ever had,” and I looked up again, and saw tears clinging to her snowy lashes. She had not forgotten. And suddenly it seemed to me that the snow in her hair no longer made her look queenly, but old and cold like the city.