Ice

This story is for a writing challenge on foreshadowing on the Daily Post blog.

I’m not sure how I feel about it. I know I’m not completely satisfied, but I can’t seem to get it any better. Anyway, here it is.

Ice

The ice formed early, that November. I remember it so clearly, waking up on the 1st, and seeing that icy sheen across the lake, the dawn sun reflecting off it and into my eyes.

I squinted and looked away, it was too much for my bleary eyes to take.

I dressed as normal, and went downstairs to the kitchen. She was there, as always, up before me and eating her breakfast. Granola. Much healthier than my toast and marmalade.

She pointed to the paper. “Seen this?”

I looked over her shoulder, my long hair almost falling in her bowl. “You’re kidding?”

“The print does not lie.”

“No, but…” I blinked, stars dancing over the black and white headline. It was happening again. I wasn’t seeing what she was. “You know what, never mind.”

I went back to making my breakfast, my heart hammering and my hands shaking. That headline…if my track record held true, it would be printed on tomorrow’s paper. And then…

Then we would all be screwed.

I buttered my toast and spread the marmalade thickly on top, my mind in a haze. Vaguely, I was aware of Kira looking at me, a quizzical expression on her face. But all I could think of was getting to Liam, warning him. The panic rose and subsided in waves as my thoughts jumped from one scenario to another. Bad then good. Good then bad.

Once I had forced the last mouthful of toast down my throat, I shot up from the table and headed for the front door, calling behind me, “Gotta go. Talk later.”

“Ella!”

I closed the front door, cutting her voice off. For the thousandth – no, make that an uncountable amount of times – I wanted to turn back and tell Kira everything, all of what I was and what I was a part of. But the danger, the risks, especially now…I couldn’t.

I shoved my arms into the coat I’d grabbed on the way out, shivering in the cold of the morning. I was glad I’d put my boots on that morning. My breath misted in front of me, but the frost was starting to abate, melting under the relative heat of the sun.

Liam’s house was just around the corner. I half-ran, praying his wife would have left for work already. That would avoid an awkward situation. She already had her suspicions about us, it didn’t seem to matter to her that I was in a lesbian relationship.

The house stood back from the street, just like all the others in the area. I jogged down the path, avoiding the lingering ice patches, and tried to control my breathing. My lungs burned from exertion and the cold.

He came to the door before I could knock. “What’s wrong?” Worry deepened his blue eyes.

I entered into the warmth of the porch. “Is she…”

“No. At work. There’s something wrong, right? That’s why you’re here so early.”

“It’s going to happen. Tomorrow. We didn’t silence him.”

He swore, but kept the expletive under his breath, a habit he’d developed since Keenan was born.

The cold shut out, I shrugged out of my coat and hung it on the stand near the door. “What are we going to do?”

“We call the others,” he said, and started to march down to the kitchen.

I followed, then waited while he made the calls, worry flying around in me. Fear chased it. I wished I hadn’t had that toast, it was threatening to come back.

Movement in the garden drew my eye, Liam’s Irish voice now just background noise to my worried thoughts. A cat leaped down from the fence and stalked over the grass. The frost had cleared now. I couldn’t see a hint that it had even been there.

But I knew it had. I had seen it.

The headline flashed before me eyes again. Kira would see it in the morning. She would see it and know. She would want to know why I had lied. She would be afraid of me, maybe disgusted by me.

What in the hell were we going to do? What was I going to do?

Time passed as I sat there. The grandfather clock in the hall struck ten, and as the last note died out, the doorbell rang. The others. They were here.

I met Liam’s gaze, and he went silently to the door. The atmosphere was so thick it could have been cut with a very blunt knife.

My heart thudded and nausea washed over me. The talk that was coming… I swallowed the lump in my throat.

Five people followed Liam back into the kitchen. We all sat around the small table, cramped together, only a breath’s gap between our arms. Sheila, Mel, Harvey, Fiona, Helen, Liam and myself. The Outsiders, as we had playfully nicknamed ourselves five years ago.

“So, it’s going to happen then?” Mel said.

“Tomorrow,” I confirmed. “It’ll be in tomorrow’s papers.”

“Probably the video online as well,” Harvey said, brushing his spiked fringe away from his forehead. An unconscious habit.

Liam shook his head. “We destroyed the tape remember. There’s no evidence left.”

“There must be,” Helen said, her voice more gravelly than usual. “The papers wouldn’t print something like this with no proof. He must’ve had another copy.”

“Or someone else had some footage. Someone we missed. It was chaos remember?”

One look around the circle of faces and it was obvious everyone remembered. Before that night, there were six of us cramped around this table, no breath of air between our arms.

“So what do we do?” Sheila’s quiet voice asked.

No one answered. They all looked as blank as I felt.

Liam was slouched back in his chair, his arms folded across his chest. Frustration blazed in him. “There must be an answer.”

“What if we just let it happen?” Harvey said. “We’ve spent so long covering our tracks, lying to our families – some of us all of our lives. Why can’t it end? Let the truth come out one way or another.”

Fear clutched icy fingers around my heart. “We’d be lynched,” I whispered, unable to speak the words any louder. My throat was threatening to close up.

“Would we?” Harvey asked, looking around the table, meeting our gazes one by one. “Would we really? Perhaps people would be more understanding than we think.”

I thought of Kira, of all the possible reactions she could have, all the awful ways she could look at me when she saw tomorrow’s headline. “No,” I forced the word past my dry lips. “No. We have to stop it.”

Harvey leaned back, so that his position mimicked Liam’s. “You’re welcome to try and think of a way. But I’m not seeing one.”

That was the problem really, at the base of it all. There was no solution. The papers would print what they liked.

We talked the whole morning and afternoon away, and then the evening until Liam’s wife came home from work. We all left via the back door. The less she knew the better.

The only conclusion we came to: we weren’t criminals. We couldn’t take anyone’s life even to protect out secrets, we couldn’t break into newspaper offices even if it would do any good. The story would have to run. We would have to face the consequences.

I trudged home, being careful of the ice that was steadily reforming, my heart heavy and sinking ever further towards the ground. This could be the last night I spent with Kira.

I chewed my bottom lip. Should I tell her first, so it was less of a shock for her? Or should I be selfish, and take the last night I would probably be given? Enjoy it, revel in it, savour it.

The lights were off. That was strange. Kira’s car was in the driveway, as it usually would be at that time of night, yet there were no lights on in the house. I walked up the path and pushed the front door open.

I froze. The door should have been locked. Not off the catch like that. Something was wrong.

I wanted to call out, but fear stole my words, froze them with its cold touch. I made my way down the hall, my legs wooden, awkward. The house felt strange, the air wrong, and an awful smell came to me. A smell that I knew I would never forget.

The kitchen door was stood partly ajar. I could just see a sliver of the kitchen window, of the moon that was rising above the top of opposite house. My hand laid on the door handle. Something wet and sticky met it.

I swallowed bile and my eyes fell on a shape on the floor. I stared at it, trying to work out what it was. Such a strange shape.

Then, like a hammer, it hit me. I stumbled the few steps over to it and dropped to my knees. Closer, I knew.

A moan filled the air as my stomach tightened. I grabbed her shoulders and turned her onto her back. “Kira…no…” Blank eyes stared up at the ceiling, blood smeared on her face.

My sticky hand checked for a pulse. Nothing. Her blank eyes… But she couldn’t be gone… She couldn’t….

Water dripped onto her face. My tears. I was crying.

She was so beautiful in the moonlight.

I touched her face. The skin was cold. The chill reached my heart, and spread throughout the rest of my body. I would never feel warm again.

I rested my head on her stomach, tears flowing like rivers from my eyes. My body shook with pain and anger and hate and love and confusion and…and…everything…everything that anyone could possible ever feel.

Slowly, the torrent of feeling poured away into a sea of nothing. Numb emptiness replaced it.

From somewhere sunrise happened, melting away the frost again. But not inside the house. Inside, I still lay, frozen now, my head on my girlfriend’s cold body.

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