A Light Snow
“I’m taking the dog to the vet, Tom,” Maggie called to her ten-year-old son. “Did you want to come with me?”
“Sure,” Tom said. He was standing in the dining room, in front of the sliding doors that led out to the deck. “Why does she need to go to the vet?” He didn’t turn around; his gaze remained fixed on something out on the deck.
“She needs her shots,” Maggie said, walking into the dining room. “What are you looking at, sweetie?”
“It snowed,” Tom told her. He seemed utterly fascinated by this event.
“Well, it is November,” Maggie noted, putting her arm around her son’s shoulders. “It usually snows in November.” She looked out at the deck, and at the yard and the quiet neighbourhood – the streets and grass were covered in an inch-thick layer of snow, and all the tree branches were frosted with glistening white. “It’s very pretty.”
“Yeah,” Tom said. “But then how did those get there?”
Maggie looked across the yard. She couldn’t see anything. “How did what get where?”
“Those,” Tom said, pointing.
There, three feet away from the sliding doors, were footprints. They were small, a child’s feet, clad apparently in snow boots. They were perfect, standing one right next to the other.
Maggie looked at them for a few seconds. “Well, it must be one of your friends,” she said. “We must not have heard them knocking.”
“How did they get there?” Tom said. “There aren’t any footprints coming in or going away.”
Maggie digested this, her eyes suddenly searching almost frantically for other footprints. The snow on the deck, on the railings, and all across the yard was pristine. She couldn’t see so much as a bird track or a fallen leaf. The only mark on the snow were the two footprints in front of the door. She felt a shaky nervousness creep over her.
“Maybe …” She stepped closer to the doors. “Maybe they were standing there before it started to snow.”
“Then where did they go?” Tom asked. “It’s too far away from the door for a kid to get in without other steps.” He tilted his head to the side. “Isn’t it?”
It is, Maggie realized. A child with feet that size would hardly be three feet tall; to jump from the footprints and into the house would be quite a ways, especially since the sliding doors had been closed and locked – she always checked – before she went to bed last night. But even the door sill was uniformly covered with snow. If someone had jumped onto the door sill, then where was the evidence?
“I …” She shook her head. “I’m sure it must be your sister,” she decided. “She must be playing a trick on us.”
“Her feet are way bigger, Mom,” Tom pointed out. “She’s got bigger feet than you do!”
“Well, but she must have put your boots out there,” Maggie said. “She must have done that and then come back in and put them away.” She gave a little, half-hearted laugh. “I bet if we look in the closet, we’ll find your snow boots with wet soles!”
“My feet are bigger than those, Mom,” Tom said. “Those look like a little, little kid.”
Yes, they do, Maggie thought. But she didn’t want to think about that. “I’m sure it’s just your sister,” she reiterated. “She’s probably awake right now, giggling at us.” She reached out and touched the door, making sure that it was in fact still locked. As she did so, she noticed a second set of footprints, as perfect as the others, about a foot closer to the door. She was fairly certain that the second set had not been there three seconds ago.
“Tom,” she said, hoping he hadn’t spotted the second set of prints. “I’m sure it’s just your sister. Let’s go get the dog, and get to the vet.” She bustled him away from the door, trying to shield him from looking out at the deck, trying to ignore the sound of her heart pounding in her ears.
But as she was getting her coat on and coaxing the dog into her carrier, Tom’s attention returned to the sliding doors. “Look, Mom,” he said, his voice quivering between excitement and anxiety.
Maggie reluctantly looked into the dining room, and gasped at what she saw. “It’s just some weird weather thing, Tom. It must be.” She convinced him to put on his coat and carry the dog out to the car, while she scratched a quick note for her daughter instructing her not to go out on the deck until they got back. She kept her gaze very deliberately away from the dining room.
On the sliding door, a fuzzy circle of mist had formed on the glass, as though someone were breathing on it. As Maggie left the house, pulling the front door closed behind her, the mist grew heavier, and then, as though traced with a finger, the outline of a heart appeared in the middle of it.