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By Sara Gordon
Copyright 2016 – Sara Gordon
Artwork by Moira Nelligar
~~ All characters in this book are 18 or older. ~~
Their impromptu trip up into the mountains started off being fun. They built a roaring fire in the old stone fireplace, and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows over the crackling flames. It felt good to get away from everything—friends, classes, chores--the ‘same-old, same-old’ they’d seen every day for years.
But on the third night, it began to snow.
At first, the flakes were large and fluffy. Shayne was captivated by the way they floated down through the darkness, whirling a little as small gusts of wind caught them up in light flurries.
By morning, the entire mountainside was coated in white. The winds died, and sunlight sparkled off every surface like a million diamonds. Brian and she tugged on the winter jackets they’d bought specially for this trip, wrapped warm scarves around their necks, and dashed out to frolic like children. In no time, they were hurling snowballs across the clearing, and making clumsy snow angels.
Their very first snowfall ever was delightful, and Shayne’s only regret was that her gloves weren’t nearly as warm as they’d seemed back in that department store in Corpus Christi. Her fingers felt half-frozen when she finally yelled ‘Pax!’ and headed back into the snug little cabin that was their two-week home-away-from-home.
Her feet were frozen, too…the boots she’d brought along were more suited to hiking in dusty arroyos than wading through six inches of snow. Next time she headed outside, she decided, she’d wear two pairs of socks.
Brian hunkered down beside her, and stretched his own chilled feet toward the fire. “Next time we’ll know to bring warmer clothes,” he grinned, not at all dismayed by their newbie blunder. “Want some more hot chocolate?”
The winds picked up again at dusk—and this time they weren’t light and playful. They screamed around the cabin, and snaked down the chimney to backdraft the fire. More than once, choking smoke billowed through the single room and made them both cough.
It was impossible to head outside the next day; the snow was falling so hard now that they could barely even tell when daylight edged over the mountainside. All day long, they stared out at the gray sky as fierce blizzard winds howled and shrieked past the cabin windows.
Suddenly their spur-of-the-moment little vacation didn’t seem nearly as much fun anymore.
By the sixth day, the huge mound of firewood in the corner had dwindled to just a dozen sturdy logs. “I need to bring in more from the shed,” Brian decided.
They’d found a long rope coiled on one of the shelves with a note that said, “In case of blizzard, tie one end securely to porch railing before heading to the woodshed.” It had seemed funny at first, but Shayne wasn’t laughing anymore. She had to fight back tears as she double-knotted one end around Brian’s lean waist, closed the door securely behind him, and watched through the frosted window until the blizzard had swallowed him whole.
The next twenty minutes were, she swore, the longest of her entire life. She paced, rushed to the window, paced again. The cabin seemed to get colder and colder, even though golden flames still danced in the big fireplace.
Finally she heard a loud clomping outside, and flung open the sturdy log door. A blast of icy wind pushed her back. Brian staggered in, and dropped the heavy bucket he’d been carrying. Several thick logs tumbled out of it. She brushed snow off them, and stacked them neatly on the anemic corner pile while he warmed his icy fingers.
“No, don’t untie it,” he insisted when she returned to fumble with the rope. “That’s not enough wood to hold us for long. I need to go back out…maybe several times, I don’t know.”
More waiting, more pacing. And for the first time, Shayne started to seriously worry whether they’d survive the storm.
When you were eighteen, it seemed like you were going to live forever. Death was a foreign concept, something that happened to other people, but couldn’t possibly happen to you.