Chapter Two of Snow Falls is finally here.
I stood in the jewellery store for a while, looking at the jewels in front of me.
The old dark wooden floorboards creaked under my weight as I leaned towards the glass case in front of me. I was by no means a small boy anymore, no, I was tall and fairly bulky. Must have been all those years of working for the rich, cutting their firewood, moving their dirt around for them and plowing snow all winter long. That’s what made this moment so big for me.
All I’d ever spent money on was things my sister, Miyra and I needed, like food and clothes. It was her twenty-first birthday coming up in a few days, twentieth of October. I thought getting her a fine piece of jewellery would be nice, but the price tags were making me sweat a little bit.
“Have you made a choice, Sir?” The shop clerk was looking at me over the brim of his glasses, his beady eyes judging me by my poor appearance.
I don’t understand the people in this town, my sister and I had lived here our whole lives and yet they looked down on us just because we were poor as if we would steal right under their noses when they weren’t looking. I had always made sure we had enough money to pay our way. As I was lost in thought, the clerk cleared his throat again for what seemed like the third time within the ten minutes I had been here. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes.
“Uh, it’s a gift for my sister’s birthday, but I don’t know what to get her,” I tried a smile.
It came out half-hearted.
“Very well, we have bracelets and pendants that young women these days love, this is our newest collection over here,” he said as he pointed to another glass case to the left of me.
I browsed over the selection and caught a glimpse of the price tag. Dear Lord, I wasn’t religious but no god could allow someone to charge that much for a piece of metal.
I nervously tugged at the holes in my shirt. “Do you have anything a little, less extravagant?” I asked quietly so that the other customers wouldn’t hear me.
Now the clerk rolled his eyes and let out an exasperated sigh. “Yes sir, we have our last seasons items on clearance over there in the corner, that might be a little more your price, yes?” He said all this loud enough for others to hear. Some people turned their heads and murmurs were heard about how the poor village boy was trying to be fashionable for the first time in twenty-three years.
The shop clerk looked satisfied with himself as he smirked at me.
Without another word to him I slinked over to the section he had pointed out. That was when I finally saw it. It was a beautiful pendant locket. A brass colour, with vines wrapping around a single gem in the middle, a blue looking Sapphire.
That was it, I wanted that one. I looked at the price tag, and it wasn’t too much over the budget, we would just have to eat a little less bread this week. I called the clerk over to help me get it out and have a look at it.
“I’ll take this one, please,” I smiled. I felt excitement and pride well up inside me. I couldn’t wait to give this to Miyra.
Sitting around at home, I couldn’t believe it was almost my twenty-first birthday. It seemed like just yesterday that my brother and I were having tackle wars and running around being children.
Twenty-One was considered ‘coming of age’ around here and when you were suitable for marriage. Men had been eyeing me up over the past year and their mothers would stare at me whisper to one another. “A potential wife,” I would hear them say. And yet, marriage was the furthest thing on my mind at the moment.
Over the past few days, I had noticed strange things happening to me. I would see shapes out the corner of my eye, only when I turned to look, there would be nothing there. Whispers in the dark when no one spoke, and that’s not all. My body was changing strangely too. I started having the worst backache, like a burning in my shoulder blades, my eyes would ache along with them too. I felt tired all the time no matter how much sleep I seemed to get, it was never enough.
I had thought about going to a doctor recently, but that would mean I’d need to tell my brother, Will, and I couldn’t face going through him worrying.
I remember when I had gotten sick a little earlier that winter, just a small cold he freaked out, making me see multiple doctors. When each one said it was just a small chill, he had demanded that I be run through all the tests. He meant well, but he could also be tiring like that.
My brother and I had always been close, and even closer after our parents disappeared. I had gone to sleep that night years ago to wake the next morning with both of them gone. He had started working that same day to support us, and I don’t know where we’d be if he hadn’t.
At that moment Will walked right through the door as if on cue.
“You’re home later than usual,” I said to him.
He shook the snow off his shoes before closing the door, hanging up his coat and then taking the seat opposite me. “Yeah I had some errands to run after work today, how are you feeling? You look a little pale.” Will studied my face, looking for any more signs that I wasn’t my usual self.
I laughed gently, “You worry too much Will, I’m fine.”
Errands? What would he possibly need to do after work, he had already gone to chop wood for our neighbours this morning.
“What errands do you mean?” I asked him.
I saw a bit of panic flash across his face before he composed himself.
He ran his hands through his dark hair, before sighing. “Can’t you just pretend like I’m not trying to surprise you?”
Surprise me? We didn’t have much money, so we had always decided on no gifts.
“Will, what are you up to? You know we don’t do gifts.” I narrowed my eyes at him, hoping that he hadn't already bought something for me.
He got up from the table and walked over to the fireplace, comfortably leaning against it.
“Just this once let me, it’s your coming of age. Soon I won’t see much of you. We both know one of these rich schmucks will carry you away soon. Probably move you somewhere fancy, beyond my reach.” He looked off out the window, lost it thought.
Will thought I would marry once of these rich jerks, but there was no one in town that I fancied. I thought all of them were pigs, and they all treated my brother horribly. He never talked to me about it and probably still thinks that I’m naive to it, but I see more than he thinks I do.
“Fine. If it will make you feel better, then I’ll let you, but just this once, okay?” His eyes met mine finally as a smile crept across his handsome face.
He seemed to jump away from the fireplace as he returned to the seat across from me. He pulled a tiny box from his pocket. He gently slid it across the table towards me. I could see how excited he was for me to open it, and I admit I was too. This was my first ever gift, and I didn’t know what to expect or how to act.
I picked up the box slowly and then tugged at the ribbon that was tied delicately around it. I then clicked open the box and gasped. It was beautiful.
As a smile spread across my face, I looked up at him. “Thank you so much, I love it!” I squealed.
I don’t think I’d ever squealed before, but this seemed like a good enough cause. I jumped up from the table and ran around to hug him.
“Although it’s a little early, happy birthday Miyra.” He muttered into my hair as he returned the hug. I was almost jumping up and down as he took it from me to help put it around my neck. I went to inspect myself in the tiny mirror we had hanging in our bathroom. I loved it!
I was so happy to see my normally quiet and timid sister almost jump around with glee. I had made the right choice. I watched her inspect it closely in the mirror with a huge smile planted on her lips.
“Anyway once you’re done being a girl let me know, I’ll be outside chopping some firewood for you to use tomorrow whilst I’m at work, okay?” I called to her.
She didn’t even look my way as she said, “Okay.” She really was smitten.
I smiled to myself as I shook my head softly. So the experience with the prick clerk had been worth it in the end. I’m glad.
I pulled my jacket back on and stepped outside. The air was brisk, and I sometimes forgot how the sun felt on my skin. It seemed so rare these days that it would emerge from the clouds. Recently we had been getting more snowstorms than usual, and it was really rough on all of us, rich and poor alike.
I walked around the back of our house and picked up the axe. I wondered how my sister would find a decent husband as I placed the log on the cutting bench. I doubted anyone she found would be suitable for her anyway, and I’d probably never be completely satisfied with any man for her. I pulled back the axe, ready to chop the log in front of me. Still, anyone would be better than the rich pricks around here. At the thought of that, I let the axe come down on the log. As it split in two I heard a blood-curdling scream from someone nearby. I dropped the axe, and ran for it.
That scream hadn’t come from just anyone, it had come from my sister, Miyra, inside our home. I bolted through the door, not worried about the snow on my shoes this time.
I stood there in the doorway, frozen to the spot. There in front of me was a blinding light, brighter than the sun, and I didn’t need to wonder what the source was, because it was as if the light was coming straight from her, from my sister who was floating in mid-air, surrounded by this light. It seemed to pour from her eyes, and on her back, were two giant, white wings.