To 2015 - 2016
A Lovely Day For Winter

By Allison Rothrock

  1. Untitled
    By Ashley Wu, 10
“Oh, dearest, must you really dilly-dally so? You’re holding up our ride,” crooned a ripely sugary voice from the grey hodge-podge of cobblestone and cement that formulated what was something like an old drive.
A husky sigh wobbled out from within the aging house. It was the type of place that a landlord might describe to possible renters as being “historic” or having “a bit of that rustic charm.” Perhaps he could have sold a few on the turn-of-the-century architecture, complete with high-rising spires that ascended into the clouds, like rickety old angels, and steep stone walls that rose in a way that some described as bold or mysterious, and others said was rather ominous. But despite the impressive size and structure of the overwhelming building, none could find promise in the state of disrepair that had descended over the once-magnificent hall as years had slowly greyed into centuries.
Shutterless windows stamped the hall’s stony face, their heavily-lidded stares embedded in the dips and cracks of an old house’s crow’s feet. Below, the gilded surfaces of two immense, ornate doors were marred by rifts and scars that spread down their hefty bodies like some infectious disease. The walls were laden with vines and fissures, crumbling and spider-y; grey-green stonework, damp with a slightly moldering scent, glowed faintly with a sallow, ghostly light from the snowclouds above.
And the promise of restoration was lost on the couple now collecting in the crumbling street. They were in the same poor state of disrepair as their weathered home—faces sagging into wrinkles and hair not as much “going grey” as it was attempting to retain a fragment of its original pigment.
“There you are, dearest!” the woman cried warmly, fingering the out-of-date wide-brimmed black sunhat that topped her rotund figure. The hat had been a treasure of hers ever since she had received it as a wedding present many years ago, and though the lace was now dangling in ratty, stained clumps over her eyes, it still remained one of her favorites.
The heavily-whiskered man now approaching her smiled mildly and replied. “I do hope that the kids won’t forget all the wonderful times we had together in that house,” he sighed. “Even if they are tearing it down.”
“Oh, yes, dearest! What was that about, do you suppose?” the elderly woman said with the same impenetrable layer of saccharine sweetness in her tone, though her chubby forehead did wrinkle into the slightest hint of a frown.
“Something about building a more practical or modern house, I suppose,” murmured the scraggly man as he studied his suit, pretending not to notice the places that had gone thread-bare with age or still bore the stains of some long-forgotten incident. After all, it was, or had been, his best.
His aging bride laid a gentle hand upon her husband’s arm, patting him kindly. “Well, they’ll do something wonderful with the old place. I’m sure of it.” A brief pause, heavy with bittersweet memory, hung over the couple for a moment like the snow-laden clouds that hovered somberly above.
His eyes, colored like the clumps of charred wood the fire has deemed too dry to fully devour, wandered up his lover’s arm to the beloved face, hidden under baggy wrinkles. Though years had passed, in which she had grown to look more and more of a strange, lumpy delivery to the local antique store—pickled and pruned and smelling of mothballs—he could still see the beautiful young woman with rosewater hair and sun-dappled skin with whom he had made love. How long had it been since they had still played with young children, fixed up sleds at winter’s snowfall; gathered fireflies below the rich, golden spatter of stars across the nightly sky; read from storybooks with dazzling pictures painted like dawn?
Too long. That was for certain.
A wistful look overtook the elderly man’s face. He could see the same, mirrored in his wife’s.
“Hold up our ride just another minute. I’ve got to grab something,” he said suddenly, breaking the reminiscent silence. He turned sharply to face the house, moving hurriedly, as though if he reached it a moment too late the bittersweet memories would fade away forever.
Soft, pudgy fingers caught his arm before he could return to the house.
She spoke quietly, her signature sweetness dulled by a desolate sorrow. “We mustn’t, dear; it’s for the best that all our things stay here. The poor darlings just won’t know what to do with such worldly nonsense.”
For a moment, there was silence between them and the blank greys and blacks of the world. Then a gust of wind rattled the house’s wearing frame, and the entire structure let out the softest, creakiest of cries, akin to the whimper of a raven.
“Well, dearest,” the woman said softly, her voice slow and touched with the faintest hint of sorrow. “We had best get going, hadn’t we?” She made a visible effort to brighten, and, turning from her husband, got into the back of the car parked before them.
The man brushed away the frown that had been gathering on his brow and forced a watery smile. He gave himself a brief shake and followed his wife into the car.
The ride in the back of that long, black automobile was winding and bumpy, but the elderly couple barely noticed as it drove swiftly along the road.
A city came and faded again; first brilliant and mad around them and at once bright pinpricks on the horizon, like some queer ship traversing the endless fields.  And then it was gone, swallowed up by a smallish-seeming hill, and they were alone in the ethereal, snow-dusted world. White grassland stretched out before them like an untouched canvas—infinite and empty.
“What a lovely view,” murmured the old woman as she brushed aside the dark purplish curtains to peer out the window, her trouble now forgotten as the hillside enveloped the traveling car. “Dearest, come look out the window here!”
“Oh, come now, lie down,” said the man, his voice tired and contented. His bride widened her smile and gently lowered herself down into the box beside her husband.
“What a lovely trip this’ll be,” she mumbled softly to the man lying beside her, and together the two settled into the box. It was a bit like being asleep in there, they decided. It was dark and warm and there was something timeless about the place, drowsy and eternal.
And once the man had pulled the lid over them, there was no knowing the difference at all.