December 14th // 358 Days After
There are seven days until the one year anniversary of Ronan’s death. No, wait—anniversary isn’t the right word. It sounds too cheery, like I need to get him a gift or something. Hey, Ronan, I bought you a heart-shaped box of chocolates. Even though you hated chocolate. And you’re dead. So, uh. Maybe I’ll just leave the box on your grave for the deer to eat instead.
But this is the only anniversary we’ll ever have, the two of us, Ronan and me.
The forecast is calling for another blizzard. A little less snow than last year, but much colder. Sub-zero temperatures. Freeze warnings. What better way to begin the first day of winter than with a snowstorm?
I’ve watched the snow for an hour now, or maybe it’s only been a few minutes. My concept of time has disappeared with my sleep. A draft peels in through the window, but I’m too tired to move. It hurts too much to move. I don’t mean that in the mawkish my-feelings-are-weighing-me-down sort of way, either; I mean it physically pains me to shift my finger the tiniest bit. It’s like all my bones are on the verge of breaking.
God, just imagine that. Winter Harbors: depressed, fat, and in a full-body cast. I’m a heartbreak away from having my own reality show. Oh, wait…
“Winter, it’s time for dinner.” My father is the master of the gentle command. His voice is always kept hushed, so quiet, I usually need him to repeat himself. But there’s a definite force in it. It’s like or else could be tacked onto the end of every sentence.
“I’m not hungry.”
“Then you can keep your mother and me company while we eat.” There’s a desperation in his voice, this pitiful longing. The floorboards creak as he steps closer. I don’t know why my father hasn’t given up yet. On my mother, or on me. When I don’t outright respond, Dad perseveres: “She’s had a rough day, Winter.”
I don’t know how long it’ll take for him to realize that every day is rough for her, some more severely than others. There are no “good” days. Only days that aren’t as bad as the rest.
Sighing, because that’s the only way I’m able to answer yes without having to say the word, I break my gaze from the window. At the rate it’s going, the snow will still be drifting by the time dinner is done. I won’t miss anything; it won’t leave me.
My dad nods, smiling at me, thanking me. “This is great, Winter.”
“Whatever, Dad.” I want to tell him that this doesn’t change anything, that, just because I’m abandoning my self-imposed quarantine, it doesn’t mean everything is suddenly okay. I want to tell him that it’s useless to keep seeking something solid in a mist of particles.
I step into the booties Chloe knit for me last Christmas and shuffle out of my bedroom, folding myself deeper into my sweater. “You look nice,” my dad says, reaching forward in what I think is supposed to be a side-hug, but ends up being an awkward shoulder pat instead.
“I haven’t showered in four days, and I’m pretty sure my sweatpants are grafting to my skin. But thanks.”
Just like that, there’s nothing left for us to say. We’ve drained every aspect of our predictable daily conversation: Dad tries to make me feel better, it doesn’t make me feel better, he doesn’t try again. I follow him downstairs and into the kitchen, where Mom is already waiting, head down, eyes closed.
“It’s time to get up for dinner, Mom,” I say, mimicking that saccharine tone she does so well, nudging her with my elbow. She opens one eye to glare at me, then groans and sets herself upright. I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing that our schedules are flipped—she functions best in the morning when I’m catatonic, and by midafternoon, I’m usually able to pull myself together enough to witness her collapse. We never breakdown together.
“I got you a fish fry.” Dad beams as he sets a Styrofoam container in front of my mother, like this greasy filet of haddock is his good deed of the day. The steam seeping through the cutouts—that dripping, oily smell—makes me nauseous almost instantly.
My mom inspects the container, frowning. After some impossible mental test, the fish fry fails, and she shoves the thing away. “I don’t want it,” she grumbles.