Your Snowman

by | Aug 8, 2023 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Four

I wasn’t supposed to love her.

She was an intrusion in my life.

Uninvited. Unwelcomed.

Unplanned.

My hot breath landed on the window in a fractured cloud.

A pair of neighborhood children shrieked as they wrestled in the fat February snow. Above them, a blinding sun whispered a promise of spring upon us.

Juliette’s fingers thrummed across her laptop, blatantly ignoring the sanctity of Sunday morning coffee. The transgression was one she committed often, but I refrained from commenting on her crime. If she wanted a distraction, I had no right to take it from her.

She looked up and caught me staring.

 “I’m almost done,” Juliette insisted.

“It’s okay. I know your project is due this week.”

Her fingers hesitated above the keyboard. After a moment, she shut her laptop and joined me at the window. Her shoulder hovered near mine, far enough away that I couldn’t bump into her.

I looked down at the rough mug I gripped tight between my fingers. Heat washed over my hands. I needed to say something to her to fill the silence.

I cleared my throat.

“Is that in our yard?” Juliette asked before I could speak.

I looked up to watch the neighbor girl sprint away from the sculpture she had bestowed upon us. A tiny, armless snowman stared back at us with its singular eye. A crooked stick carved a wretched frown into the creature’s deformed face.

“We have to fix her,” Juliette decided.

“It’s beyond help. The weather will turn by next weekend no matter what we do.”

“Come on,” she insisted.

She wrapped her cold fingers around my wrist and pulled me outside. I did not protest.

“Find some sticks for me,” Juliette ordered. She stood in front of the snow creature with a finger on her chin as she studied the piece from all angles. “And a rock.”

I didn’t mind playing the artist’s assistant, and I listened diligently as I plucked sticks and stones from the snow, inspecting each piece for quality before turning them over to her.

We rebuilt the snowman together. I stuck short, thick sticks into the side to create arms while Juliette added a second eye along with a woodchip for a nose.

Once finished, we stood back to admire our work. The snowman was hardly taller than a toddler, but it waved at us with a grin on its face, far less menacing than the beast the neighbor child left for us.

“Wait, one more thing,” Juliette gasped. She ran inside, leaving me alone in the snow.

She emerged a minute later with a small purple coat held tight between her hands.

Her coat.

Your coat.

“Juliette.”

“No, it will be cute,” Juliette insisted. She crouched over the snowman and stuck the wooden arms through the sleeves of the jacket. “Every little girl needs to be warm.”

Juliette returned to my side to admire her handiwork once more.

I took a deep breath.

“Juliette, I don’t know if this is a good idea.”

“Do you remember the children’s story about the kids who put clothes on a snowman, and afterward he came to life?”

I reached out and wrapped my mittened hand over hers.

“This isn’t a children’s story.”

“I know,” she said sharply. She pulled her hand out of my grasp. “I should finish my work. You were right. My presentation is this week.”

She returned to the house. The door slammed shut behind her.

I lingered.

The snowman held one arm in the air, perpetually waving at us underneath the thick, purple coat. Juliette had teased me for buying winter clothes in July for a baby not yet born. I promised her she would thank me for thinking ahead.

I should have listened to her.

Juliette’s workdays often stretched longer than mine, and the next day I arrived home before her.

The streets were darkened by snow runoff.

In the lawn, Juliette’s snowman was no longer waving.

Naked and partially decapitated, its drooping eyes bored into me as I attempted to walk into my own home.

As I watched, the jacket slid off the back of the snowman and landed on the ground.

I glanced up the street. Juliette’s car couldn’t have been more than ten minutes away.

I dropped my suitcase on the porch and turned to the snowman.

Patches of muddied grass bled through beneath the snowman, dirtying the snow at its base.

I lifted the head and gently pushed it back into place.

The head rolled backward, landing on the snow with a soft thud.

Heaving the head into my arms, I replaced it again, pressing it firmly onto the body this time. I plunged my bare hand into the rapidly vanishing pile of unmelted snow at my side, using the fresh material to build up a supportive neck for the snowman.

Her arms also required immediate attention as they lay hopeless on the ground next to her.

I dug the sticks deep into her body.

They refused to hold and instead drooped downward, too weak to support the jacket a moment longer.

Arms. Arms weren’t critical.

I grabbed the coat. The purple puff was unmarred by the outdoor dirt, and the fleece lining inside was only slightly dampened by the snow.

I wrapped the coat snugly around the snowman.

It slid back to the ground.

I ran my hands across the snow and the dirt and the grass, searching for a sturdier stick or a chunk of ice, something I could use to save her.

I can’t save her.

I couldn’t save her.

I couldn’t save you.

My cheeks grew hot even as my hands froze red against the snow.

A hand pressed down on my shoulder.

Juliette stood above me.

“This isn’t a children’s story,” she reminded me. She ran a mittened hand across my red cheeks.

With careful hands, she gathered the jacket from the ground and bundled it in her arms before walking inside.

She left the door open for me.

Pin It on Pinterest