A Whirlwind of Snowflakes

Spring 2009

A Whirlwind of Snowflakes (extended excerpt)

By Sarah Sheppard

Other Stepping Out Excerpts

On the way home from school, Katie gripped the steering wheel hard, letting her fingertips turn purple from the pressure. She watched the road intensely with her body leaning forward. She drove slowly, careful not to slide on the wet snow and lose control. Almost there, Katie repeated in her head, wondering why she decided to drive. The trip home was agonizing. It was her first day driving since his accident. She drove at least ten miles under the speed limit that morning, but luckily there was no snow and the streets were empty. She was in constant fear while in control of the wheel. Katie could hardly breathe until she pulled into the narrow driveway of her small, brick house. She waited before getting out of the car so she could recover from the drive. The light snow covering her house and the colorful Christmas lights her father hung last week were lit around the roof. Katie took three deep breaths, before going inside.

She dropped her bag next to the front door, along with her scarf, gloves and winter coat. She peeled the snow boots from her feet and fell onto the nearest couch with no intention of picking up her clothes or doing her homework. Kyle came around the hallway with a cup of hot chocolate, steaming in the air and filling the room with a sweet scent. His hair was short and black, while his thick eyebrows covered the tops of his brown eyes. He dropped his large, lengthy body onto the couch beside Katie. He gestured towards her with his cup, but she shook her head.

“How was school?”

“Stupid.”

“Are you okay?” he asked unsteadily because he knew the probable answer.

Katie shook her head because she didn’t want to talk about it. She didn’t want Kyle to know that everyone stared at her in the hallways. She didn’t want him to know how scared she was to drive. Without knowing why, Katie pulled her body closer to Kyle, and curled up next to his left shoulder. He didn’t budge, not the slightest. He stopped sipping on his mug of hot chocolate and let his head fall on top of Katie’s. They sat like that for a long time, until both of them drifted to sleep and the water in Katie’s eyes dried on her face.

~~~

After taking a nap on the couch, watching television and eating dinner, Katie went straight to her room, pulled on her pajamas and crawled into bed, just like she had the night before. She lay there for hours listening to music until her mind was clouded with memories of him.

~~~

“What are you doing?” Andrew asked.

She didn’t reply. With her tan Birkenstocks, she carved a heart in the newly-fallen snow.

“That’s a terrible heart,” he said.

“Fine,” Katie walked a few feet further to draw another.

He nodded in approval, and then used his dirty white tennis shoe to write a U beside her heart. Katie couldn’t help but smile. He tugged at her hand, intertwining his cold fingers with her fuzzy pink gloves. Katie looked up at the sky as snow fell into her eyes. She looked back at Andrew whose hair was covered with little white snowflakes and the sides of his cheeks bled colors of crimson. She closed her eyes as his lips touched hers and lingered there. He pulled away slowly and whispered “I love you,” into her right ear.

~~~

Katie awoke to the light of the sun, shining brightly through her blinds. The room was painted yellow, but reflected colors of pink. On her dresser was a pile of makeup and dirty clothes Katie had not bothered to touch in days. Her closet overflowed with shoes, handbags and old jeans. On her love seat was a pile of books Mary had bought. They had titles such as Dealing with Death and The Loss of a Loved One, and Katie knew she would never touch them. Pictures and snow globes decorated her room as well as books and old movies of Gene Kelly.

The smell of cinnamon and grease filled the air as bacon sizzled and her father’s feet shuffled back and forth in the kitchen. Katie knew it was too early to get up, but the smell overtook her body and pushed her out of bed. She wrapped a pink and white striped blanket around her shoulders and let it drag on the floor as she scurried to the kitchen.

“Well, good morning,” John said to his daughter. Katie was suddenly aware the makeup from yesterday was smudged all over her cheeks, and she probably resembled a dirty football player during the second half of a game.

“Morning,” she replied half-heartedly.

“How’d you sleep?”

“I wasn’t very tired,” Katie replied while pulling out a chair so she could sit and rest her body.

“Well, eat some breakfast. It’s going to be a long day.”

Her father continued to flip bacon and toast cinnamon bread. He loved to make her breakfast, but he usually only made a hot breakfast on the weekend or for special occasions. Her mother, on the other hand, rarely made breakfast. She could, but she didn’t. She had other priorities. She was a lawyer, one of the best in town. She either had a case to work on or a meeting with her co-workers.

After breakfast and a long, hot shower, Katie retreated back to her room to spend two hours getting ready. When she finished, she looked into the mirror above her dresser where a brown haired girl wearing a simple v-neck dress stared back. On her neck was the silver, open heart necklace Andrew had given her. Her hair was curled softly, even though she preferred straight, because that was Andrew’s favorite style. Katie thought of how much it really looked like chocolate syrup with a touch of caramel, the way he always described it. He joked to his friends that Katie was his favorite dessert. He was full of witty comments and Katie missed them.

She looked at the picture framed on the wall next to the mirror. Katie and Andrew sat on the edge of a wooden dock on a clear blue day. Andrew was watching Katie as she looked out at the lake. The back of her hair was wavy and she had worn her favorite flowered bikini, her hands tucked just under her thighs. Andrew had worn his navy blue swimsuit. He was bare back and his naturally curly brown hair was scattered around his head. He rested both hands on the dock, his left arm behind Katie and their legs dangling in the clear water. She remembered sitting there laughing and Andrew trying to catch a kiss behind her parents’ backs. Katie stopped thinking and reached into her makeup bag to apply more mascara and foundation in hopes of covering the bags under her tired eyes. She knew the makeup wouldn’t last long, so she put extra eyeliner, mascara and some tissue in her small, clutch purse. She glanced at the mirror one last time then grabbed her green petticoat and ran quickly out of the room to escape the memories.

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