The ground shook violently, causing Miranda to stagger and sway. She backed up against the wall to steady herself and heard the heartbreaking sound of her late mother’s good china shattering onto the floor like ice shards.
She only ever used the good stuff at Thanksgiving, all of her inherited finery with the special crystal goblets. Every year growing up, she’d help her mother polish the silver and china, scrubbing the plates until they sparkled. Each place setting was lovingly arranged, young Miranda folding the napkins so that they would hold the silverware like a fancy pocket. She and her mother always took extra care to make every detail special, reveling in the holiday and each others company.
Pieces of her mother’s memory continued to fall en masse onto the hardwood as Miranda fought her way to the door. Frank had taken the kids to the ice-skating rink for the holiday parade while Miranda finished up some last minute gift wrapping. Christmas Day was tomorrow — everything had to be ready. She watched as the tree listed over to one side, sending her children’s homemade ornaments flying off in every direction.
Aiden had just learned how to skate without holding onto the side, letting go of his father’s hand for the very first time. Charlotte was already a pro, doing crazy eights all around them, even though at age five, she was a full four years younger than her brother. I need to get out of here, Miranda thought in a panic, I need to find my family.
Miranda stumbled out of the door, falling to her knees several times before clumsily and slowly making her way down to the main square. The town was festooned with holiday cheer — wreaths, lights, and decorations clinging to every lamppost. A loud crack filled the air as snow began to fall from the sky in stinging, white sheets. Miranda desperately searched for any sign of her family, tamping down the hysteria that threatened to overwhelm her with every step.
The storm raged in earnest, snow blowing hard all around her as she spotted them crouched down along the farthest edge of the skating rink. Frank sheltered a child in each arm, every inch the man and protector she’d fallen in love with all those years ago. Miranda was flooded with relief and terror in equal measure at the sight of them, as another forceful tremor sent her sprawling ignominiously, face-first into the snow.
Just then, Frank saw her, calling out through the howling gale as she regained her footing and dashed headlong across the park as fast as the wind would allow. She threw herself into the circle of her family, all of them clinging to each other for dear life as the lurching, quaking earth finally subsided.
They stood up very slowly, arm and arm, waiting to see what fresh calamity could possibly strike next. When several quiet minutes had passed, they set out. The adults silently agreed, over their children’s heads, that it would be better to ride out the storm at home, as a family.
Miranda knew that the aftermath of the storm would be great, but no greater than the profound love they felt for each other in that very moment, as they slowly made their way back across the debris filled park. Christmas was still a day away, but Miranda knew that they had just been given the greatest, most precious gift they would ever receive. The gift of each other.
The little boy could hear his mother’s scolding all the way from the back of the store. Sighing, he gave the snow globe one final, hard shake, deliberately trying to get the tiny family inside to move apart. Seeing that it was no use, he set the globe back onto the store shelf and went off in search of his frazzled mother.
A. Elizabeth Herting is an aspiring freelance writer and busy mother of three living in colorful Colorado. She has had short stories featured in Bewildering Stories, Dark Fire Fiction, Under the Bed, New Realm, Speculative 66, Flash Fiction Magazine, 50 Word Stories, Peacock Journal, Friday Fiction, Pilcrow & Dagger, and Fictive Dream. She has also completed a novel called “Wet Birds Don’t Fly at Night” that she is hoping to find a home for. More at: sites.google.com/site/aehertingwriter.