Like a tear, like magic, the small bubble of soap and water shivers against the snow-capped railing. The flimsy plastic wand hangs limply at her side, the fluorescent hoop dripping a sudsy splatter against the porch.
Though the air bites at her, sharp prickles against the exposed skin of her nose, the world sits silently around her. Not a breeze to stir the boughs, heavy with a thick, powdery layer of white. Not the crunch of tires against the road. Not the peppering of light footsteps up the walk.
Just her, the soap bubble, and the snow.
Feathers of white creep across the orb, as though the bubble is caught in the icy breath of winter. Her eyes skitter across it, the remembered pierce of her little girl’s gleeful shriek biting like the cold.
Mommy, mommy look!
The wonder in the little brunette’s eyes, her cheeks nipped with red. The hand-knit scarf hanging, haphazard and askew, off her frame. The little girl had hardly been able to walk, swaddled as she was in that puffy, bright pink jacket. But she staggered for the railing anyway.
Her own expression twisted into a grin, her mittened hands crackling against the down hood on her daughter’s head.
I see, Honey, she said.
But there is no delighted shriek anymore. She doesn’t hear the peppering of light footsteps up the walk. It’s just her, the soap bubble, and the snow.
A heavy sigh slips from her chest, her gaze still fixated on the slowly frosting bubble. The fingers of ice have almost completely encased the fragile little orb in white and she can still see her daughter’s face, enraptured with the simple, paltry little parlor trick.
In a moment, a breath, the orb bursts, and is gone. Nothing left in its place but misshapen fragments of the bubble’s limp, crusted skin.
In a moment, in a breath, the memory of her daughter bursts, the squeal of tires against the ice taking its place. The crunch of metal against metal, the tinkling of shattering glass against the pavement, like a beautiful melody. The darkness, the cold, creeping into her body like the fingers of ice against the surface of the bubble. The distant wail of the ambulance, what felt like hours later, when she couldn’t feel her hands anymore. When winter’s relentless barrage left her skin burned and raw, when the wind tore the cries from her lungs, and whipped away the last whispers of her daughter’s name. The gentle flakes of snow settled against the icy road, as though they didn’t know, didn’t care. They caught the light of a streetlamp and cast the world in a welcome orange glow.
In a moment, a breath, the memory of her daughter bursts, and is gone.
There is no mirthful laughter anymore, there is no patter of footsteps up the walk. There’s just her, the snow, and the tears shivering down her face, spattering against the snow-capped railing.