The doorbell rang once and woke her, and made her gasp. It was quiet, so utterly quiet. Behind the shadowy curtains large flakes of snow invaded the dark sky that reached across the plains and fell behind the Rocky Mountains—one with the night, one with the silence. She sat up and reached for her glasses on the small wooden tabletop at her side. Who is it that rings?
She stepped warily out of bed. The floor was cold under her bare feet. The kitchen door stood partially open, a warm glow seeping into the dim hallway from within. The domestic stepped from the light and walked towards her, attentive and alert.
“Miss?” it said.
“What time is it, Alon?” she asked.
The domestic looked pale in the obscurity. “It’s 3:42 AM. Should I answer the door, Miss?”
She looked towards the front door. Whoever stood behind it had not rung twice, and there was a deep silence inside the house. “Who is out there?”
“It’s a child, miss.”
“A child? What on Earth—” She stared once more at the door, vaguely distinguishable in the darkness against the furthermost wall, and then back at her domestic. “A child? At this hour?”
“Do you wish me to answer the door?”
“Turn on the lights,” she said, “I will get the door.” As she walked, she tucked her hands in her elbows and pressed her crossed arms against her nightgown. The chilly air, hanging motionless around her, made her shiver. She grabbed a silk shawl from the wooden coat rack below the staircase and wrapped it around her neck. The domestic followed her. She opened the door without a word.
Standing pale and quiet, his feet buried in the thin snow that rested on the doorstep, was a boy. He seemed no more than ten years old. He stared up at her patiently. His placid blue eyes seemed to glisten in the warm light that fell onto the elusive features of his face from behind the open door.
The boy said something in another language, and she did not understand. His voice was small and frail, yet composed.
The woman stared at the shadowy figure bundled in layers of snow-covered clothing, the whitish forehead and auburn curls tucked under a large fur hat. The child wore black aviator trousers and a well-tailored merino duffle coat.
She stood in the light of the entrance and her lips were parted slightly as though she were about to speak, but whatever words she wanted to say she could not find, and for a while she said nothing. The child’s eyes did not wonder from hers, even when briefly she turned her gaze towards the solidary night and the waves of snow that twirled in the silence.
He waited patiently. He held something in his hands—a small black cricket—cupped in both palms like a treasure. It did not move. It did not chirp. Maybe the cold had killed it, and maybe the boy had not realized.
“Domina, may I have a horse?” he said, with the same pale voice as light as an echo, an echo that the night had lifted with snowy arms and carried to her ears.
“Please, domina, will you give me a horse?”