- Vol. 08
- Chapter 05
It’s cold today. Colder than usual, colder than it has been for a while. When I yawn, the air that flows down my throat feels solid, scratching at the inside of my cheeks and the roof of my mouth. The hand I use as a pillow is ghostly white compared to the one that gripped my daughter as we slept; that one is red from my wrist to the tip of my fingers, itchy and swollen, little nubs of flesh sticking out at the joint and making it hard to pull the blanket over mine and Emmy’s shoulders.
Emmy. She doesn’t stir, not even when I move my still-feeling hand in front of her nose until I feel a slight exhale against the pads of my fingers. The relief makes me break out in a sweat and for a moment my body is tricked into thinking it’s not freezing to death. I take advantage of it, moving away from Emmy’s heat and tucking the blanket under her tiny body.
The twigs I’d set alight to before bed have turned black, icicles attached to them as if they’re growing branches. I snap one of the icicles off and slip it into my mouth, rubbing with my tongue until saliva and ice turn it into water I can swallow. Then I gather the twigs one by one and carry them to the eastern corner where a pile of black ashes is laid out. Careful not to make any noise, I crush the twigs until they’re dust in my hands and then close my eyes. I’ve not felt sand in years but this is close to what I remember. I almost smile. It seems we will reach the beach today.
I’m there in an instant, handing her icicles to wet her cracked lips, laughing at her disgusted face. We take our time getting ready; Emmy methodically packing her rucksack and tying a new rag across her blind eyes; me planning our route as I watch her. When she’s done, I take the hand she offers me and turn her towards the cell door.
Story TimeWe begin walking, turning at every corner, crunching dried leaves beneath our feet. As we walk, I describe our route to her; we’re still in the pine forest but there’s light ahead of us. The lake we’ve been walking to for days is finally in sight, glinting and frozen in the sunlight.
Eager all of a sudden, as if I’m a child myself, I take us to the pile of ashes. Emmy stops when she feels something different beneath her feet, then lets go of me to kneel. She sinks her fingers into the pile of ashes, her face aglow with wonder. ‘What is it, mama?’
I kneel next to her, hands sinking into the pearly white sand. I can hear water splash against the ice that covers it. A bird sings to its mate above us. I close my eyes and describe every detail to her.