Dawn is bright and cold as steel. Outside, the lawn is sugar iced with snow. The frozen garden flashes in the sunlight. Time, for the moment, hangs in the balance and the noiseless morning floats, suspended beneath the ice blue sky.
In this quiet, muffled world the sun skips between the tops of the glittering branches to the hedges bent beneath the weight of the snow. Everything sleeps; the land, the birds, the people.
And yet there is a sign of life. On the snowy lawn is a string of wobbly footprints; a sentence, a declaration captured tremulously in the ice.
I LOVE YOU ANGELA
You can imagine him crunching it out slowly, painstakingly, his expression creased with concentration. Sometimes he looks behind him to see where he is going. Finally he leaves the letters to freeze solid in the arctic night. Now the light lands softly in the middle of the garden, falling into the narrow trenches of the letters, illuminating them; electrifying them.
All around, children peer from windows, their spirits soaring at the sight of this brilliant new world. For them the day is full of promise – of sledges, snowballs, snowmen. Their dreams of winter are fulfilled. But Angela isn’t up yet. She hasn’t seen the naked confession lying expectantly in the middle of the transformed morning. She doesn’t know that across the frozen garden in a small, dim flat on the ground floor, a boy is waiting. He leans against the window, his breath sidling over the cold glass, spreading gradually until his view is steamy and distorted. He regrets, now, the folly that led to such exuberant expression. The night had been so cold, the alcohol a warm draft that sent fire down his throat. His head wove a tale of romance with every sip and he had imagined them together on the snowy lawn, their arms around each others’ coats.
Now he watches as the cold clear day comes to consciousness and his declaration is laid out for all to see. Perhaps it will melt before she wakes up, he thinks hopefully, before leaning his forehead back against the chill glass. Although part of him hopes the opposite. Up in the calm, musty bedroom the girl sleeps. On the pillow her hair is a mass of turbulent red curls. Her chest rises and falls beneath the duvet, her breath ascending with the warm clouds from the radiator. Her arm is flung out above her head. Her eyelids flicker, troubled by the dreams which play themselves out in her mind. She sees a laughing boy; tall, blonde, fiery eyed. Angela, he says.
Just then a door opens and two children scatter out; a boy and a girl, wrapped in coats and scarves and stripy hats. Their Wellington boots slide on the icy gloss of the concrete steps. Their eyes grow large and round, children in wonderland, and they run, shouting, onto the lawn. Their small feet creak down into the thick layers of smooth snow. The letters collapse and disintegrate and with one short throw his heart is hurtling through the air, a white, fleeting thing, spraying tiny, crystalline drops as it flies. Inside, Angela turns and sleeps on, her face hidden beneath the red chaos. Sighing, the boy moves away from the window. In the garden the children continue to play, their screams rupturing the morning stillness, the snow turning gradually to slush.