Bianca, my sister says. She says it three times, like the charm in a story. Soft, deliberate.
“I’m awake,” I say, before I even really know if it’s the truth.
Her voice is careful in the dark, like she’s afraid she’ll startle me, breathing the words instead of speaking them. “There’s someone at the door.”
The way she leans over me is careful too, like she’s trying to keep me calm. It’s silly, though. Of the two of us, I’m the one who’s never loud. I’m the one who keeps still and doesn’t make a fuss.
Outside, the night is strangely pale. Snow has collected on all the window ledges and made its way up the glass, shutting us in like a tomb. In the clear space above the little drifts, it just keeps falling.
Then, without warning, the pounding comes again, echoing from downstairs, booming through the front hall.
“Wait here,” she says, taking her cardigan from the back of the desk chair and after a second, the heavy wooden bat.
She leaves, and the whole house is as dark and still as the dead. The power’s been out since this afternoon. After a second, I reach for the Coleman lantern beside the bed and turn it on. Then I throw back the covers and follow her.
The lantern casts a dim circle of light, making shadows in all the corners. At the top of the stairs, I stand and listen.
Her feet are light, almost soundless on the floor runner. Then I hear her voice, loud and ferocious, speaking close to the door. “Who are you and what do you want?”
The answer is muffled, low. A man’s. “Please, my car went off the road. About a half a mile up Ashbury Drive. It’s stuck in the ditch and there’s nothing around. Please, if you don’t let me in, I’ll die out here.”
The door distorts most of the sound, but I can still hear the way his voice catches on the last part. Outside, the snow is falling in huge, silent washes, drifting up the sides of the house. It collects in deep hummocks, heavy, soundless, and by morning, we might be buried completely.
“Coral,” I say, because if we leave him there on the front steps, he’ll freeze. “You have to let him in.” keep reading…