This story is by Bernadette Conroy and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
“Angels, my angels. What are you doing? How did you get here. Come in, come in the house, too cold outside.” My Granny opened the front door on the three of us standing in the spotlight of her front porch, little orphans left out in the snowy night. We’d been banging on her shiny white gated door, to be let in.
“Peri, Peri!” My mom had yelled to wake me, yelling over and over from the front seat. I struggled to wake up. It always took so long to drive to Granny’s, we’d fall asleep. “Peri, wake up. Get the babies and go up into Granny’s house. It’s right there, see the door, do you remember Gran’s door?” It had been such a long time since we came to Gran’s.
I struggled to wake up and get free, squished between my little sister and baby brother, buried by them. I was so groggy and warm in my heavy winter coat and woolen hat, I didn’t want to move. But of course, I listened. I didn’t want her to get sick again because of me not listening to her.
I shoved Ana off me to wake her, wrenched the door handle and kicked the door open with my feet. A flutter of icy air surged in from the dark and flooded over us. Such a long way, it was, getting to Gran’s. I held onto Ana’s slippery quilted hood and pushed her out, weepy and stumbling to her feet. I climbed out next, feeling for fluffy snow to crunch under my heavy boots. Turning back, I grabbed my little brother by his boots and dragged him out. His eyelids didn’t flutter. I propped him up against me.
“Ana, shut the door.”
“I can’t, too heavy.”
“Here, hold him up.” I leaned my brother up against Ana’s little body.
“Too heavy!” She struggled to keep him upright in the snow.
I went back to shove the heavy door closed. The icy air woke me up, but I was so clumsy in the heavy coat and boots, the door wouldn’t budge. My mother’s voice came floating to me from far away in the darkness.
“Forget the door! Just go up to Granny’s. Can you see her door? Get inside, now.”
Through the flurries, I could see her door with the shiny golden knocker and the curving door handle. We shuffled through the puffs of snow on the walk. I dragged my brother up the stairs.
Groggy and achy, I got all of us up onto the porch top through the wispy drifts. Ana and I banged on the white door, cloudy in the shadows of her house. Ana wailed for her. Finally, the spotlight came on. Ana was so shocked, she stopped wailing and went dead silent. I could hear Granny’s voice calling to us and the safety locks clacking. The giant door finally opened, and Granny’s astonishment poured down over us.
“Oh, my Peri Pet, my Angels, come to see me. What a surprise. Now, we can be all together, nice and warm in here. Come in the kitchen. Eat something hot, so cold outside. Where’s Mommy?”
“Parking.” I imagined the car, the warm cozy backseat empty now and my parents in the darkness and heavy snow. My brother was still asleep, bundled in his snow suit. I put him down on the hallway runner to pull off his boots but left him bundled up. He was so cranky if he got woken up.
“Come in where it’s warm, come, my Angels, so cold.” Granny crooned, helping Ana and me into the living room, weightless in just our socks on the warm carpeting. I put my brother on the couch, covered with a silky white quilt. Granny tucked a small silk white pillow with “The Baby” embroidered in blue threads under his head. He still slept. I ran to the fireplace, ablaze with a cheery flame and hissing, crackling logs.
“I have little pillows for you girls, too, with your names.”
“Oh, this is nice, Gran, so warm.”
“Come, I’ll make plates for you, come inside. I have hot soup.”
“My parents will be here in a minute.”
“No, you come, they will be fine, they will not mind, it’s so bad outside, you need to come eat.”
I was surprised to find the kitchen looking like it was all ready for us. There was soup, Granny’s big pot steaming clouds of goodness into the air. A pile of bowls were on the table, with placemats, spoons and napkins.
“You still hate the carrots, Ana? Even now, today?”
Ana nodded up and down, her brows turned in and her mouth puckered.
“Can I put one, and you say hello to it, yes? Not to eat, just to say hello, okay?” Ana’s brows loosened. Her interest grew.
“Look, we make him a little blanket from the noodles, see the sleeping baby, sleeping baby carrot. Not to eat, just to take care of the baby. Here, for you, my Angel.” Ana smiled into her soup bowl. That was a change even I knew. Ana never smiled at food unless it was candy. Here she was, poking with her spoon at the carrot floating in the hot broth under its noodle blanket and chicken pillow.
“And you, my big girl Angel, you like the meat from the soup, yes? And mushrooms and barley, thick and hot, come, sit. Break some of this bread for you and Ana.”
“Shouldn’t we wait till my parents come in, we can all eat together?”
“Mommy won’t mind, Baby Angel. Tonight is too cold, you need hot in your tummy. So polite Mommy made you.”
“Okay if I go to the window to see if they’re coming?”
“Sure, you go.”
I ran back to the living room. My brother was still asleep on the white pillow. I wiped some drool off his mouth so it didn’t ruin the fancy pillow. I didn’t feel hungry. I wanted to eat with my parents. I pushed my way behind the heavy curtains at the windows and shielded my eyes trying to see into the dark. All I could see was white, even into the darkness, the frozen cold white. I wanted to go into it, go to it and look for my parents. I picked up the rosary beads from a little bowl on the window sill. I wrapped them around my hands the way I’d seen Granny do, to pray but I wrapped them tighter and tighter. The clear shards of the crystals dipped into my soft skin and left little dents. I held the cross in my hand and fingered the three little beads that come between the mommy bead and the daddy bead.
I went back to the kitchen, swinging the rosary beads in an infinity circle, back and forth, in front of me.
“What, you have the rosary? Look what you found now. Here, you take them like this, wrap around your little hands, to pray, on each bead, so you don’t get lost.”
“You always know how much to pray, you just remember what you are praying for, keep that in your heart.” She patted my chest. “But that’s for later, the praying. Eat, my Peri, my little Pet.”
Granny put a big bowl down for me, picked up my spoon for me. The smell of the soup filled my head and I got groggy again, just looking at it. “Your parents still not come in? It’s okay. Come eat.”
“Where’s Mommy, Gran, I want my Mom and Dad to come.”
“In time, my love. In time. Look, see how Ana is eating carrots? Look how she eats the baby carrots.”
I was so tired, my head sank to my chest. I let it roll onto my shoulder until I could see Ana grinning. The kitchen window behind her was a blank wash of whiteness, just like the windows in front of the house.
I tried to think about my mother, about when she got so sick after I didn’t clean up my toys. And then I remember, that she told why she really got sick. It was that she was pregnant and got upset when they called to say Granny died and went to heaven. I’d forgot she told me, that it wasn’t my toys. I always forgot that.
I tried to pick up my face and look at Gran. She leaned over and petted my hair.
“My mom’s not coming, is she?”
“She’s coming soon, my Angel. Have some soup now.”