A misplaced step. Twisting to the shrill echo of her voice on the wind I found myself slipping down. Down into the crevasse. Hands frantically pressing against the walls to no avail. Falling deeper until the white began to bleed into a deep blue. Slowing. The ice closed in tighter, scratching up my legs, tightening like a bottleneck. I found myself stuck. Ruffling the snow from my head I felt a warmth around the back of my skull. Pulling my hands away I found blood smeared along my fingers.
Pleading to the gods I made promises I knew I would break. Only the distant echo of ice cracking replied. I held my breath. Fearful my body heat would soon begin to melt the surrounding ice. My eyes were losing focus, softly blurring my vision of the ice into the form of clear skies…
No clouds had gathered on that last weekend I spent at home. It was a welcoming change that we took advantage of. Alice had called our daughter down into the garden. I had stepped over to peek at my wife from the kitchen window overlooking the back garden. Mindful not to linger as the bubbling risotto would need several more ladles of chicken stock. She was dressed in a pair of dungarees and an old top I had tried to throw out. She had worked so hard on this square of land we called a garden.
‘Come quick and see the bumblebees prepare for dinner.’ Alice said, waving over Madeline. Madeline lingered at the edge of the patio, squatted low with her back to us.
‘Mum, this bee is asleep.’ She whined.
I had called out for her not to touch the bee until her mum was there.
Alice hurried over and knelt down.
‘No, no he’s not sleeping. He is tired from the heat. Go ask your dad for some sugar water.’
I was already mixing the solution together before Madeline jumped into view. She tugged at my hand and pulled me over to the decking. I watched on as the struggling bee twisted its legs and paused every so often to make its way to the spoon. At that time I wasn’t sure if it was right for us to intervene. Yet seeing my family caring over the smallest of creatures gave me comfort in knowing this place was worth the struggle.
The gash on my nose left an imprint on the ice wall. The ridge of my nose did not feel broken but it had began to swell and grow tender to the touch. I must be imagining her voice out there. She was at home. I pressed my head back down. How soon will they search for me once the radiocheck isn’t answered? It was night now and the winds were growing sharp overhead. How long had I been fading in and out of consciousness? A dull ache was setting into my bones. I would have to move soon. There was a small ridge jutting out just a few feet above. Stretching out I thought of Madeline…
I wanted to be there when Alice would tell her how we first moved into that house. How we had sunk every penny we had into it. We needed a place before the Madeline arrived. That was our only incentive. We needed a place for our girl to grow up feeling secure when she knew her father would not be back from his trip for several months. Just a week after the purchase I found Alice laying on the sofa with a blanket wrapped around her. I had asked what was wrong and she had replied that this was not the home she had envisioned. The garden was a collection of weeds and rocks. Upstairs our rooms were bare and pipes rattled. I paused for a moment before asking her what she had imagined the first item her house would have.
‘A teal chest of drawers laced in vines… I was ten at the time I made the list.’ She laughed. I nodded and kissed her lips. That next day I drove around the village charity shops. Hunting through the trinkets and hand-me-downs until I came across a small oak chest; scarred with some heavy dents and chipped ridges. I sanded It down and cut a series of vine patterns onto paper for the stencil I would paint over. Alice returned later that night, flicking her shoes off on the hallway floor. She entered the dining room to see the painted furniture drying in the setting sun.
‘What is this?’ She asked.
‘This is my promise to you that this place of ours can be the home you dreamt of. We just need to work toward it.’I heard a faint sound of snow crashing overhead. I did not mind. It was much warmer here in the memory.