Each night I talk to the stars above. Sometimes it feels like they're the only things keeping me alive. With them I can ponder, why does life favor some but despise others? Why do we fight so hard to survive, only to end up 6 feet deep underground with larva feasting off our skin? Are some just doomed from the minute they join this world? They never answer but I can feel them listening.
“Jade babe, your cousin is pulling in.”
I turn and see my husband, cracking his fingers, reaching up to twist a strand of golden hair between two fingers. He shifts his weight between his feet and the air seems cold, colder than usual in the mountains. I walk over and gently place my hand on his chest.
“Don’t worry, I’m fine. It’s going to be a good weekend.” I kiss him on the cheek and get blinded by car lights pulling up to the driveway. “Let’s go welcome them.”
We walk from the back porch up to the driveway on a flat rock pathway—every rock changing in geometric size, no two the same. Just that rock path is clear from the piles of snow covering the ground like a layer of white frosting on a sweet congratulations’ cake. I see the newest Jeep Wrangler parked, still on and running when Alexa steps out, a huge bump protruding from her stomach. My husband is shaking hands with her husband, giving Alexa a kiss on the cheek and telling them, what I imagine would be “you’re going to be great parents, what a surprise congratulations,” all while the snow seems to freeze midair. The snow doesn’t dare to land on that perfect bump, on her glowing skin or on her swollen feet. Does snow make a sound? Because all I hear is snow right now, frozen snow in the air.
Alexa meets my eyes and flashes her huge teeth. I don’t know how but I’m walking towards her and suddenly her hands are forcing my hands on her bump. “Oh, it’s just the greatest thing isn’t it Jade? You know we didn’t even want kids, but it just happened, and you know what they say, kids are the wealth of life.”
I’m nodding my head, I think I feel a smile and my husband nods his head in approval, I’m guessing at their pregnancy but maybe at the snow-- can he tell it’s frozen too? Alexa pulls out a pair of the smallest pink socks.
“I thought we could hang this on the wall inside, you know for tradition’s sake. I haven’t told the family, but I thought how wonderful, we could tell them together on a video call. Oh Jade, I’m so happy to see you, I feel like you’ve fallen off the side of the Earth. Did you see the new Jeep we got? Jim got it with his new promotion and it has a heated steering wheel—this technology is just getting so high tech,” Alexa says.
She hugs me again and I get a weird burn when her bump touches my stomach. I try not to jolt back but it happens, and I say, “I thought I saw a bug in your hair, clumsy me.”
After dinner, Alexa says she needs her sleep, you know for the baby, and Jim and my husband got too carried away with the aged whiskey and fell asleep already. I close my eyes and open them to big red numbers that scream 3:04 a.m.
I walk downstairs, the wooden steps creaking as if ratting out my insomnia to the world. And there it is, the wall. The wall I haven’t been able to look at for years, the wall that seems to freeze time and the pink socks are shining like it’s the center of the solar system. The blue socks and striped socks and white socks, all scattered, held up by push pins or nails. They remind me of the snow frozen in the air and the stars stuck above. I begged my family to take down this wall and they kept asking me why, but I could never say. I could never get the words to leave my mouth and out into the cold air.
“Alexa, you scared me. I was just getting some water.” I walk towards the sink and start drinking from my cup, drowning out the need for conversation with my gulps.
“You know it’s not good to drink from the tap, my doctor says that it isn’t purified all the way and you can get crazy bacteria. I’ve completely switched to bottled since this little one,” Alexa says.
The Saturday morning is welcomed by more snow, more crisp cold air, and more stories from Alexa filling the cabin like a library.
“Did you know that fruits have so many bugs in them and you actually have to soak them before eating, imagine all the crazy diseases my baby could get? An elementary school had a shooting in Alabama this week, can you believe that? Why would anyone want children to die, what kind of monster do you have to be? Jim got the cutest new suit for his medical conference in a month, of course I had to help him because he’s basically color blind without me.”
That night I woke up from a nightmare. I dreamt of little baby feet, all soft and tiny leaving small footprints in the snow. The baby, the snow, the footprints, all running towards me. She’s saying mama, the word like a red cherry on top of a melting sundae. But the baby runs past my arms and into Alexa’s behind me. The snow turns black.
I go back downstairs and I don’t give a shit about how much the stairs are snitching on me now. I go straight to the pink socks. The clock says 3:05 a.m. and the fire is at a low burn.
Suddenly I’m not in the cabin, but I’m in the city, staring out the window on the 10th floor on that foggy Seattle morning. The doctor came in, with that look that all movies emphasize, and you never think it’s actually used but it is. All I remember is my vision going foggy, my husband trying to grab my hands but they shot down to my stomach so fast, and then blackness.
I lose myself in the memory, I can’t find myself anymore. My hands graze over the pink socks—my fingers get the urge to rip them off and throw them in the fire. I want them black, I want them to disappear, so I pull and the only thing alive in the moment is the push pin that clatters to the floor. It sounds like a gunshot in my ear and I pray no one heard it. The fire is hot, a weird contrast with the snow and it’s not stuck in time but lively. It twitches and moves with a hunger to destroy, so I give it the socks. I watch while the pink socks burn, the children burn, Alexa burns.
Sunday morning Alexa is frantically running around the house.
“Where the hell did the socks go? Jim, you saw me hang them up, didn’t you?”
“I did honey, I have no clue,” Jim says. He checks under the couch, in between the cushions, shakes out the blankets.
My husband is leaning against the fridge while the bacon is popping, popping, popping. He cracks his fingers and won’t take his stern eyes away from mine.
“Honey, the bacon is going to burn,” I say. I smile and pat his chest lightly before sitting on the couch.
“Alexa, it’ll turn up, you probably lost it in your suitcase. You shouldn’t unpack everything now, you guys are going to get home late and you know the baby needs a good schedule,” I say.
She starts to protest but resigns with the resolution that she will bring another pair next time to hang up.
We say our goodbyes later on and I wave away the Jeep headlights that illuminate the snow, frozen in the air again. I try to count the snowflakes—1,2, 3.
“What did you do?” My husband says.
“Honey, did you ever notice how the snow seems frozen in air, almost like it’s not living? I think I can count all the flakes if I start now. Oh, but imagine counting the stars, I know I could. I still haven’t decided if the stars are living or dead, but I know fire is for sure alive. Kids are the wealth of life? Try fire,” I say.
I wrote this for a class assignment that had super specific rules like having an object of desire, having a solid setting, etc. I genuinely enjoyed how this one turned out and played with different elements like parallel objects and words throughout.
Thanks for reading everyone! I appreciate each and everyone of you for taking the time out of your busy lives to read what I have to say. I pray my words can spark a thought, a lost hope, or a will to reach for the stars inside of you.
I'll link my book insta page which has short reviews, cute quotes, and giveaways.