“I didn’t think I would ever see the sun again,” Beth said, watching the yellow-orange glow above the treetops to the east. She turned, and Jack watched her hair carefully, but it was the sun shining through it that was causing it to shimmer. No sparkling motes of golden light floating about, either. Just her breath, pluming in the cold but clear morning air.
“This means we won’t get any more snow,” Ellie pouted, patting another handful under the shadow of the mailboxes.
“What a shame. I won’t have to shovel the driveway any more,” Jack said, stuffing his hands deeper into the pockets of his parka. “Now if it would just start getting warmer. It’s almost spring.”
“Not for another five days,” Beth said. She cocked her head. “And ninteen hours.”
“Charlotte’s right. It’s creepy when you do that.”
Beth dug her orange-and-green hat from the pocket of her overcoat, and pulled it on, managing to somehow plop gracefully down beside Jack under the mailboxes. She leaned close to him, peering intently into his eyes.
“You were doing so well,” she said. “Not so many headaches. No tingling in your fingers.” She took his left hand in both of hers, turning it this way and that.
Jack snatched his hand back. “I’m fine.”
“Agreeing with Charlotte?” Beth arched an eyebrow.
“I’m pretty sure I can scrape together enough snow to make a snowball,” Jack said, turning and reaching towards Ellie’s pile of snow rescued from the morning sunbeams.
“No, you leave it alone!” the girl cried, flopping over the miniature snow drift.
Beth laughed, and Jack joined her.
“I’m glad you’re doing that again,” he said.
“Doing what?” she asked.
“You know. Laughing. Smiling.”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“Well, you know… There’s that whole thing with school and Patty. And then… your, uh…”
“My what?” She blinked, batting her lashes. Jack felt his cheeks grow warm.
“You know what.”
“Jack. You have sisters. You probably know more about it than I do.”
He could feel the blushing all the way up to his ears. He was glad it wasn’t snowing, or surely they would be steaming.
Beth giggled. “It wasn’t that bad, last month. And this month will probably be the same. We’ll find out in another four days and —“
“Stop!” Jack said, laughing despite the uneasy feeling lurking in the back of his mind. “‘We’ don’t need to know. You can keep it to yourself.”
“Twenty-one hours and twelve minutes,” Beth finished, sticking her tongue out at him.
Beth pushed herself to her feet, squelching around the mailboxes and pulling Ellie up from where the girl still sprawled over the snow. She brushed the snow from the girl’s pink coat, then carefully dusted the flakes from her gloves over the shadowed mound.
“Wouldn’t want them melting in Mr. Grady’s smelly old bus, would we?” she asked Jack's sister.
“Ew, no!” Ellie agreed, pigtails whipping as she shook her head.
Jack hoped that the clearing of the weather and the coming springtime would bring with it a continued lightening of their winter’s burdens.