It had been snowing since mid-day. The weather report she’d listened to as she dug through the garage for her snow shoes had been dire but she told herself that it must be a slow news day. Now, though, she could scarcely feel her fingers and didn’t trust herself not to keep turning around to be sure her charges were still with her on the sled.
It was an ancient Flexible Flyer. Until an hour ago, it had been a planter in her neighbors’ yard. Mrs. Simmons had used it in the summers as a platform for several lush Boston ferns. At the first hint of frost, the ferns disappeared. In the spring, the green fronds would reappear, larger and and greener each year.
Rosemarie could never get anything to grow. She’d tried but inevitably, the flowers and herbs withered in the heat and perished when she forgot to water them. Her husband had left her for her inability to nurture. He’d walked away from the marriage after she couldn’t carry his child. It wasn’t that she hadn’t tried, but after saying goodbye to the third, tiny but perfectly formed figure, she turned away from him. There was nothing to say and then, one summer morning, he was gone.
She looked for comfort in food, pills and alcohol. All any of that got her was a blank spot in the landscape of her memory. It seemed worse not to remember than to be aware so she’d stopped self-medicating. She tried to fill in the silence in her being and sometimes, the emptiness was stuffed with the cotton of work and projects and reading.
Her colleagues had fled the office when the forecast worsened. The security guard on final rounds stood respectfully next to her cubicle until she sensed his gaze. She glanced out the window and then, feeling ashamed at keeping him in the growing storm, she packed up her things and hurried out of the bank.
She drove carefully home, painfully aware of her aloneness. There was no one to worry for her, make sure she was safely tucked into her bed. She’d tucked herself into her nest on the couch, a Netflix series droning in the background, when something compelled her out the door into the storm.
The wind whipped the strands of hair that escaped her wool cap. She moved, without will but with conviction, into Mrs. Simmons’ yard, where she brushed the snow off the Flexible Flyer. She pulled the rope out of her pocket and tied it to the front of the sled. Some part of her had wondered why she had a length of rope in the pocket of her parka.
She stumbled over a downed tree, and then crawled over to check her charges on the sled. They were secure. She touched them to be sure they were warm enough and then struggled to her feet. If she had to, she’d tear off her coat to protect them. She burst out of the thicket and onto the road. It was poorly plowed but an improvement over her trek through the forest.
She was sweating with exertion. After borrowing the Flexible Flyer, she wouldn’t think of keeping it, she’d plowed through the powder until she was in a part of the neighborhood she wouldn’t have ventured into had she not been drawn there by a force outside her psyche. A gentleman’s farm with an eight-volt electric fence. She scarcely felt the jolt on her way in and didn’t sense anything on the way out, so intent as she was on protecting her charges.
She trudged on, oblivious to the frost clinging to her face. She glanced back at the beings nestled on the sled. She smiled though there was no one to see her face in the blinding snow. She could no longer feel her feet. Her hands were frozen to the rope. Her charges were nestled safely inside her blue parka on the sled.
Mrs. Simmons couldn’t sleep. She told herself the wind was keeping her awake. She looked out the kitchen window. Her planter had been moved. The snow had stopped falling. She could see something on the sled, which was free of snow. She put on her glasses and saw something move. Pulling on her fur lined cape and winter boots, she stepped outside.
She moved the parka on the sled, revealing three pink noses and six eyes peering up at her. She took the babies inside to warm them. When the sun rose the next morning, Mr. Simmons found Rosemarie in the driveway. She had a smile on her frozen lips and a length of rope in her hands. He called the police on his cell phone and waited for the gurney to be placed in the ambulance. He never told his wife. She was sensitive and besides, she was busy tending the three newborn puppies.