Howling wind clawed at the house and forced a chill through a crack under the front door. Ice crystals beat against the windows and the lights dimmed.
“Looks like you’ll be missing a week of school.”
Kit looked up from his video game. “We live in Aurora, Mom. It’s not officially winter until we miss a week of school.”
“Thermometer says it’s minus fifteen, but with that wind I’d bet it’s more like minus thirty.” She settled on the couch next to him, her hands wrapped around a coffee mug. “Turn that off and let me watch the weather channel.”
He rolled his eyes. “I brought in the wood and coal. Can’t I just play for ten minutes?” Two days off from school and already their house seemed smaller. He hoped his ninth grade winter wouldn’t follow the same pattern as last year.
The power shut down with a thump and the house fell silent.
“Well, I guess that solves that. I’d better fire up the generator.” She stood with a rustle of clothing and blankets.
Kit tossed the controller aside — his mom wouldn’t let him plug the TV into the generator. “We could throw all the food out on the back porch instead.” He fumbled around in a cabinet for a flashlight and trudged to the mudroom. His mom took the flashlight with a smile.
“Thanks.” She tugged on her heavy socks. “Listen, will you do me a favor and check on the Robersons?”
“They have a little baby, and they’re from the south. They might not know how to handle a snowstorm like this.” She pulled on snowpants and zipped them closed.
He groaned. “Do I have to?”
“Fine. Don’t be surprised if you don’t see me again until the roads thaw out. I’ll be the frozen mansicle in the ditch.”
She turned her back with a wave. “Okay, sweetie! Be sure to hold your arm up so your dad can tie a rope around your wrist and drag you home.” She pushed against the snow piled up behind the storm door and squeezed through.
“Har, har.” He threw on his gear and followed a couple of minutes later. Cold bit his face. He squinted and pulled his scarf up and his hat down until only a small slit remained. This storm was one of the worst ones he could remember. Almost bad enough to rival his parents’ stories about the one in seventy-three. Or was that four? Whatever. It was a long time ago, before he was around.
He adopted the particular duck walk that made walking in deep snow easier and soon reached the end of their driveway. The main road was still buried. A large snow thrower could clear snow this deep, but Preston County only had one so they’d be stuck for a while.
Heavy snow brought a heavy silence that stole away sounds of his labored breathing and grunts. The wind beat it back, screaming up the valley to slam into him, cutting through his scarf, and making the tree branches groan under their burden of snow. He glanced up at them, worried a dead one might fall on his head.
The neighbors’ driveway hadn’t been touched and their house was dark — as expected. He trudged up the porch steps and heard the baby crying. He took off his heavy gloves and knocked. The door jerked open and the plump young woman pulled him inside.
“Oh thank God! Kit, you’re the answer to my prayers!”
Kit blinked. “What?”
“I’ve never seen so much snow! How do you folks live around here?” She wiggled her finger at him. “The power went out and the baby is freezing.” She blew out a long breath that hung in the air between them. “Look at how cold it is in here. I can see my breath! I thought we were dead and I said ‘Lord, if you want us to make it through this we’re going to need your help.’ Then here you are, knocking on my door!” She beamed at him then crushed him to her chest.
He pulled away while trying to process all she had said. “Um, my mom sent me to check on you.”
“Praise the Lord.” She picked up the baby and handed her to Kit. “This is Misty.”
He held her away from his body. “Okay.”
“We need help. She’s liable to freeze. Take her to your Momma.”
“What! Are you crazy? Have you seen the snow out there?” He tried to hand Misty back. “Or better yet, just come with me. We’ll all go.”
“I don’t have boots.” She propped her hand on her hip. “You take her to your momma. Then bring me some old boots of your dad’s or something so I can come too.” She softened a little. “It’s so cold and I’m scared for her. Please, hurry to get her warm and safe.”
He shook his head, but opened his jacket for Misty anyway. “This is crazy.”
“I know.” She herded him to the door. “Hurry back now. I’ll have a bag packed by the time you get here.” The door slammed closed behind him.
The trip back was easier in some respects — he had his own trail to follow and the wind was at his back — but he was nervous about Misty, periodically unzipping his coat to make sure she could breathe. His house had never looked so good.
Kit rushed through the mudroom in search of his mom and found her in the kitchen.
“What are you doing? You’re getting snow all over my floor.”
He turned so she could see the baby. Her mouth fell open and her hands dropped to her side. “Kit? Why do you have our neighbor’s baby?”
Her mouth worked but no words came out.
“I bet this is the last time you ever send me out in a storm.”
Melissa Reynolds is currently writing her first fantasy novel. She lives in Morgantown, West Virginia with her husband and four children. She enjoys the great outdoors and reading/volunteering in her children’s classrooms every week. Coffee is her fuel and Nutella is her guilty pleasure, along with marathons of Doctor Who and Supernatural. She is thrilled to be part of Every Day Fiction’s staff.