Copyright is held by the author.
SEAN PULLED his coat closer to his body and burrowed his head deeper into his scarf. The wind was blowing hard and the cold was biting as he walked through the hushed city. He glowered as he continued to hide his face from the pain of winter; the falling snow reminded him of nothing but misery.
As it drifted down onto his face, he brushed the flakes away with a disfigured hand and drudged forward towards home. Stopping in front of a run-down house, Sean found himself thinking about the dreadful night that was burned into his memory.
* * *
He was nine years old. It was the middle of the night and Sean was standing barefoot in his front yard, looking at the flakes that were falling. He was stunned; the picture before him was unlike anything he had ever seen before. The fall of flakes was relentless and Sean couldn’t stop looking until one landed in his eye. He closed his eyes and tried to rub away the burning sensation. Blinking, he regained his vision and looked ahead once more. The wind blew and Sean shivered; he had forgotten his coat inside the house. But there was no way he could go back.
* * *
Sean walked inside the small house to find his wife and child bundled in a blanket on the living room couch. He gave his wife a small smile as his daughter dashed out from under the blanket to give him a hug. “I missed you, daddy,” the girl said. “I missed you too, cupcake. Little cold today?” He asked, clutching her head against his chest. She nodded her head sadly. “It was really cold when I got home, but momma turned on the fireplace for a bit and it got warm!”
Sean glared at his wife, and then unfurled his daughter’s hug to look her in the eye. “Cupcake, could you go upstairs for a couple of minutes? I want to ask your mother about how her day went.” His wife shot her a knowing look, and his daughter went upstairs without a word.
* * *
Sean kept his gaze fixed on the scene that played out in front of him. They were in the middle of one of those winter storms that Sean had only read about. Snow piled up outside. The roads were frozen solid and cars couldn’t travel so much as a mile without spinning out. Much to the joy of his classmates, school had been cancelled for three days in a row. However, as much fun as it was to spend three days indoors, the power in his house had been shut off by the massive storm, and his father kept a fire lit overnight just to have some heat in the house.
* * *
Sean kept a tight grip on the collar of his wife’s shirt. “I told you that we don’t turn on that fireplace. Ever.” She could see the rage in his eyes and struggled to find her words. “Sean, I know, but she was so cold and it was only for a couple of minutes. If you could’ve seen how happy it made— “
Sean struck her hard across the face with his disfigured hand, then grabbed her chin with the other. He forced her to look at the twisted hand that he held in front of her. “You see this? You see this hand? This is why we don’t turn on that fireplace.” He shoved her towards the kitchen. “Now go make us some dinner.”
Sean walked away from his wife as he crossed towards the living room couch. As he laid down facing the fireplace, he listened to his wife fiddle with pots as he stared at the fake logs in front of him.
* * *
Sean kept looking at the front door of his house, waiting for his parents to emerge. But they never came. Crying, he looked down, trying to ignore the pain in his left hand. Cradling the burnt hand, Sean looked back up at his house and continued to watch the blaze consume it. A mixture of snowflakes and ash continued to fall around him. Although he hoped that somebody would help, he knew that nobody would be coming anytime soon.
* * *
The house was dead when Sean woke up. Groggy, Sean lifted his head and looked for his wife in the kitchen, where he found no sign of her. Getting off the couch, Sean scanned the kitchen and found that there was no effort to even start a meal. Furious, Sean stormed upstairs into their bedroom. But she was nowhere to be found. He went back downstairs, where he found a note hanging over the fireplace:
This is goodbye. I’ve had a bag packed for months but today I finally built up the courage to leave you. Don’t come looking for me because I don’t want to be found. You’re a monster, Sean. Enjoy your life without me.
Unwavering, Sean began to crumple the paper until he saw a tiny note scrawled at the bottom of the page. He unraveled the paper and read the two tiny words scribbled in blue crayon:
Sean read the last sentence in disbelief. He ran upstairs to his daughter’s bedroom, only to find it empty. Her stuffed animals were no longer littering the floor and her clothing had been pulled quickly from her drawers. With tears in his eyes, he punched a hole in her bedroom wall, disfiguring his only good hand. He recoiled in pain and looked once more at the note.
As he walked back downstairs, he read the sentence over and over again. Crossing towards the living room, he lit the fireplace and looked at the note in his hand. Sadly, he crumpled the paper once again, threw it into the fire, and sat on the floor. Alone, he stared as the flame danced around the paper, watching the blaze consume it.