So.. Six years ago, I started a love story. I’ve actually written most of it. 59,000 words at the moment. But I couldn’t quite figure out how to glue it all together. And then I stopped to write Unchosen. Came back and looked at this love story. Still going, “hmmm….” Wrote Two Before Me. Came back again. More “hmmm…” Then Ukraine happened. So I wrote Breaking Silence.
Then, somehow, a better ending came to mind for this love story. So now I’m coming back to this love story. It’s not done yet, but I think I’ve figured it out. Maybe.
Here’s the prologue.
When she was twelve years old, Sarah Thomas sat by her grandmother’s kitchen window and watched a sky full of snow, dreaming of the better world that had to be hidden behind those icy curtains.
She wrapped the hand-knitted shawl tighter around her shoulders and basked in the warmth wafting in from the fireplace in the living room. It was a real fireplace where they burned oak and cedar so you could hear the wood pop and crackle and smell its scent filling the room.
This was why Sarah loved winter so much. The smell of cookies and cedar while she was safely ensconced in a warm house looking out at an icy world where the slate had been wiped clean and anything was possible. A world where she might some day find a place to call home.
It wasn’t that she felt like an orphan. It was more like she felt she was trapped in a life that would somehow be better some day. She lived with her mother, a woman who worked two jobs to support them and, as Sarah would later learn, to save for Sarah’s education.
On days like this when her mother was working two shifts, Sarah stayed with her grandmother. The single-wide that she and her mother lived in had thin walls that let the cold seep in and snow whistle through the cracks of the outside door even when it was closed. The whole thing would shake and shimmy when the wind blew hard enough. She loved her mother, but the trailer was just a place where they lived. It wasn’t a place Sarah could call home.
But her grandmother’s house was sturdy and old, withstood the wind and kept out the cold so she could stare at the sky full of snow instead of hide away from it.
Soon enough her mother would come by to pick her up and take her back to the trailer and do her best to cook her dinner with cheap groceries from the only market still open when she got off work. Fish sticks and canned green beans.
Nothing like the hand-made chicken pot pie with a thick crumbly crust her grandmother made. Or the same crust covering a home-made peach cobbler like a blanket. Sarah always giggled when the tore the crust away to see steam wafting from the peach slices and sauce inside.
Sarah would have loved to call her grandmother’s house her home. But she knew she couldn’t. It wasn’t where she lived. It wasn’t where she curled up under that same hand-knit shawl and a thin blanket to ward off the cold seeping through her bedroom walls. She and her mother were a team and she knew they were doing the best they could. And that some day, Sarah would find a better world for them both. A world where her mother didn’t have to work two shifts. A world where they had their own house with a fireplace and cedar firewood.
A place hidden away by the white icy fairies drifting through the sky. A place they could call home.
Caught up in her reverie, Sarah flinched when somebody knocked at the door. She threw the shawl off her shoulders, leapt to the floor and ran for the door.
As always, her grandmother hobbled over and pulled her away. “Let me get that dear.”
Sarah peeked around her grandmother, anxious to see her mother’s face when the door opened.
Instead she saw black pants and a wooden stick. As her gaze drifted upwards, Sarah saw a blue shirt with a gold badge and then a stern face with eyes hidden behind mirrored sunglasses. All topped by a brown, wide-brimmed hat.
“Oh my goodness, Sheriff Rosley,” her grandmother said. She stepped back, opened the door wider and said, “Come in out of that cold. Don’t they give you a coat to wear in this weather?”
The man stepped inside, a flurry of snow following him in to scurry across the front entrance. He tipped his hat, looked at Sarah, then took his sunglasses of.
Turning back to Sarah’s grandmother, he said, “Something’s come up.” He gestured towards the living room.
“Oh,” her grandmother said. “Of course.” Sarah started to follow them into the living room when the Sheriff glanced down at Sarah. Her grandmother stopped and said, “Why don’t you go wait in the kitchen, sweetie. We won’t be long.” Sarah recognized the smile her grandmother showed her – the one that tried to hide something.
Sarah leaned towards the living room as the sheriff and her grandmother walked towards her grandfather’s chair on the other side of the room. Her grandfather grabbed his cane and pulled himself out of the chair. The three of them huddled together while the sheriff spoke in a low voice and made conciliatory gestures. Her grandfather looked at Sarah for a moment, then turned his eyes away.
Then they stopped talking and all three of them looked at Sarah as her grandmother hobbled back across the living room towards her.
Her grandmother stopped in front of her and let out a sigh. She didn’t smile this time.
“Sweetie, I’m afraid we have some bad news.”