A watery sun set about clearing the glaze of night-time snow, turning tiny icicles along the gutter edges into teardrops, sending little runnels of melt-water through the virgin white into hidden gutters and tinkling drains. By noon it might have been a spring day, for any trace there was of the early chill had gone, and the three chestnut trees on the green were bare again. But then, as afternoon began, the old trees shook themselves a little: a harsh breeze rattled doors, set the wind-chimes in Katie’s yard jangling discordantly. A grey sky-mountain loomed in the east, pursuing the sun. It came quickly, its indigo base oozing menace; and around two pm the snow began in earnest.
Not a gentle blessing of bridal-white flakes, this: no soft breeze to choreograph fairy swirls and dances. No, this was an assault, a flaying scourge in needles of ice, scouring doors, slapping windows, screeching through rafters. Within minutes the work of morning was undone, and all the green was white again. From fairy swirls to dervish whirls, from dance to riotous affray, winter moved in.
Her packing completed by late morning, Katie had witnessed this military advance from her front window. A pathetically small stack of cardboard cartons lined up by the kitchen wall represented all she owned and, she admitted to herself unhappily, it was not much. She could tell herself, if she liked, that possessions were ‘not her thing’, that she far more enjoyed the content of life than its ornamentation: but really she knew she had little to show for her celebration of living. And, right now, she did not feel like celebrating.
Laura’s account of Jace Harter’s past had set her back on her heels more than somewhat: she could understand how someone who had been so ravaged by relationships with women might be suspicious of all women; suspicious, and not as she had first thought jealous or afraid, of her. Given that past, she knew how much his apology the previous morning must have cost him; she had a glimpse through the façade to the real qualities of the man behind it.
And now there was Ben. Oh, she was far too wise to build castles, dream dreams, on the strength of one day. She knew so little of Ben, had still evaded that essential question. But there was no doubting the intimacy between them, or the spark which lay waiting to be kindled.
So, to go or stay? That afternoon, winter made her mind up for her.
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