Chapter 25: Sickness and Snowflakes
A week of coughing, laughing, and moving downhill had passed. More notably, a week more of this storm continued into the next week. Winds forced snow into their faces as they’d traveled a third of the way down the mountain.
Lizzy’s “minor” cold worsened. Oliver couldn’t contain his concern. Morning passed and they rested for a break at a log.
“Hungry?” Oliver asked.
“Yeah, I could use something to eat.”
“I’ll get some wood. Stay here with Coco,” Oliver said.
“See you later alligator,” Lizzy waved. Coco ducked inside the log.
“You know, you’re lucky you can fit in such small things. I wish I could avoid all this snow,” Lizzy said.
Lizzy looked around. Trees and flowers surrounded her. Birds cooped in their nests while squirrels and rabbits ducked under anything. “If we found the ice pond, no storms would bother us.”
Oliver returned with wood. Away from the falling snow, Oliver sparked a fire. Lizzy wrinkled open the spaghetti bag, pouring strands into the pan.
“Now you two can keep warm,” Oliver said.
“It feels so nice.” Lizzy wrapped her blanket tighter.
“I’ll continue the spaghetti from here,” Oliver said. He reached for the pan from Lizzy’s hand. Minutes later he poured some on a plate. While they didn’t have butter, tomato or Alfredo sauce, a plate of spaghetti hit the spot. They rolled the thin pasta on their forks and sent it to their mouths.
“Remember when Mother and Charlie would do Italian night for us. The pasta and macaroni buffet, with all the warm and rich sauces,” Lizzy said.
“Oh, what I’d give for just one more of those nights,” Oliver said. “You don’t realize how great such a simple dinner is until they’re gone.”
“Mm-hm,” Lizzy said, “I better get continuing before it gets cold.”
Oliver waited for Lizzy to get in the last of her plate. She wiped it clean and Oliver cleaned up. “Did you eat well?”
“Delicious. I enjoyed having lunch again.”
“Those were the days, weren’t they?”
“Wouldn’t trade them for anything,” Lizzy said.
“Well, we better get going,” Oliver said.
“I’m still exhausted,” she said. “Ah-choo.”
“I’ll carry you. Rest all you want.” He lifted her in his arms and placed his hand over her head. At least she’s not feverish. He gave the snow a last glance. Now or never. He puffed out a breath. Cold air flew from his mouth like steam from an engine. He strolled down a curvy path of snow.
A half hour or so passed. “How are you doing, Lizzy?” She didn’t respond. Oliver peeped at her, finding her in a cat nap. “Get better, Liz,” he whispered.
Oliver stared at the vast lands in front. He felt mindless, watching his feet step into powdery snow.
Clouds loomed above his head. Sterling silver shapes waved above his head. Every now and then he stopped. Splat, splat, pow, pew.
An hour passed before Lizzy’s eyes poked open. “Oliver? Where are you?”
“Right here,” Oliver said.
“Oh, how silly of me,” she said.
“Can you walk a little?”
“I prefer not to. In recent times, the snow has swallowed my feet right up.”
“You sure? You’re not afraid to try most of the time,” Oliver said.
“Another day. I’m too tired.” She rubbed her eyes and rested her head back on Oliver’s shoulder. For the rest of the day’s hike, she wished to lay in his arms.
They passed through snowy valleys and ended up at a shallow spot under a few trees. Oliver placed Lizzy down on her two feet and together they waltzed in the entrance, sending daytime to night. Oliver and Lizzy seated themselves across from each other. Oliver unzipped the backpack and grabbed the blanket and pillow. Lizzy positioned the square pillow between her head and the wall. She laid the blanket on top of her brother.
“Will we make it to the ice pond tomorrow?”
“I don’t think so, but I might be wrong. I have no idea where it is,” Oliver said, stroking his fingers through Lizzy’s hair.
“I can tell you,” she smiled, “it’s where snowflakes fall light, sparkle, and spin down. Where icicles make beautiful decorations and animals roam around. Where everything seems happier than anywhere else,” Lizzy said.
“Why do you even care so much about the ice pond? Why does it matter to you?” Oliver said.
“Well…it started when I was about three. I just remember seeing it, a letter.”
“A letter?” Oliver asked.
“Yes. Father sent it to Mother. Mother was organizing papers under the bed and I found it lying on the ground. I picked it up and asked what it said.”
“What did it say?”
“Mother said Father sent her an invitation. Father asked to bring her to the ice pond on the way to the house across the mountains. So naturally, I asked what the ice pond was. Mother said she refused to go across the mountains and rode in a car with Father because it seemed safer.”
“So that’s how you’re so sure?” Oliver asked.
“So sure of what?”
“So sure the ice pond resides on this mountain.”
“Yes, but when I asked Father, he said he thought he’d gone there.”
“What do you mean think?” Oliver said.
“He says he remembered the ice pond a little. His father told him he went and Father said he remembered it as the most wonderful place. He wanted to show Mother to bring back the memories.”
“Do you want to go for that reason?”
“Oh no. I found out this way.”
“So why do you want to go so bad?”
“The ice pond has a wonderful myth, with a whole story to it. No story I’ve ever heard seemed close to it.”
“What did the story tell about?” Oliver asked.
“The story told about a boy who got lost on the mountain. His family abandoned him so he went climbing. He gave up hope, got cold, and went through months with little food. On the brink of calling an end to it and letting the rain get to him, he saw a meadow. It seemed like any ordinary meadow on his path to nowhere, but then he realized he didn’t remain alone anymore. Animals lived there and in the distance he saw people gliding through streets. He knew everything would get better right when the snowflakes started to fall.”
“What’s so special about snowflakes?”
“They’re the first thing I remember. ’Twas a good day. I could tell. Mother had Ellie that night, but in the morning Mother brought me to the window to see the falling shapes. Much snow fell and Mother refused to let me outside. Father guided you and Charlie outside. Don’t you remember that day?”
“I remember hearing about Ellie joining the family. I don’t recall seeing her for the first time. You know what I love?”
“I love how you remember the little things. You can recall the day snowflakes fell six years ago, because those little things are what’s beautiful. For most of us, we don’t remember them because they don’t feel significant.”
“The snowflakes had significance. I thought of them every day and waited for them. They never came, so when I heard the ice pond story, it felt like snowflakes fell again.”
“So you want to find the ice pond to see snowflakes. Pardon me if this dream is a wee bit much for snowflakes.”
“Not only snowflakes. That’s always a big reason, since so many good things happened with snowflakes but also…”
“So snowflakes are your good-luck charm?”
“Yes. If snowflakes fall in the ice pond when you arrive, good things are sure to come.”
“I’m starting to get it now. Why else do you want to go?”
“Mother always told me she regretted never going to the ice pond. The story doesn’t seem made up, for something similar happened to Grandfather. He went to the ice pond when snowflakes fell and there he met Grandmother.”
“Sounds cliché,” Oliver said.
“Maybe a tad,” Lizzy said. “Then Mother told me I remind her of the ice pond.”
“She said I always seemed happy, like everything in the ice pond. Most of all, she wanted to show me there. The sparkles, glimmers, and happiness are too good to be true, she told me. She wanted to accompany me to prove to herself it exists. She said if I ever got the chance to go, even without her, she wanted me to prove it for the two of us. I want to go so bad.”
“We’ll find it soon.”
“I know, not now. I keep hearing we’ll find it, but we haven’t. It’s only as much as I can imagine it,” she said.
“Don’t lose hope, Lizzy. That’s the one thing I need you to always have. Hope.”
“Okay, butI’m tired. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight,” he whispered.
“Good morning,” Oliver said, stretching his arms. He pivoted to Lizzy. She’s still sleeping. I thought I slept in, but I must’ve been wrong.
He turned back against the wall and waited for her. A half hour passed with nothing but a swoop of wind. An hour passed. Oliver tapped his foot and scrutinized the snow. Why hasn’t she woken yet? Is something wrong? Or is she stalling me from going? I know she doesn’t want to travel in this storm, but she isn’t one to do something like this. I better check.
“Lizzy,” he said, rocking her body back and forth. She didn’t respond. He laid her on her back and leaned his ear close to her. She still breathed deep in sleep. “I’ll wait a little more.”
Half an hour more passed. Well, I can’t wait here forever. I guess I’ll carry her because I’d hate to wake her and make her cranky. She’s bound to wake. He lifted the backpack around his back and picked his sister up. He brushed his hand against her forehead. She feels like ice, I better wrap the blankets tighter.
He puffed out a breath and stepped into the snow. He marched away from the cave, but maybe a little too fast, for he left Coco behind. Lizzy’s going to kill me when she notices Coco’s gone. How could I leave her? She was one of Lizzy’s last pieces of our siblings, and our old, happy life. How could I do this? He shook his head and trudged on.
The next part of his journey consisted of different areas to travel to. Oliver weaseled past Windward Way, strolled through Soft Side, adventured away from Airy Avenues, and marched across Merry Meadow. He checked in on Lizzy; still sleeping.
All animals abandoned them. None of them would get caught going through this storm. They all found shelter, a tempting offer for Oliver.
Each footstep Oliver took felt like a step in the wrong direction. No signs of safety showed anywhere.
“Lizzy?” It’s about time I woke her. It’s already six-thirty in the evening. I don’t know anyone who’s slept two days in a row. “Lizzy?” No response.
Oliver reached his hand through the blanket. He felt her face, it seemed as cold as century-old icicles. His face blanched in fear. “Oh goodness no! Lizzy! It cannot be!” Oliver threw off the blanket and unbuttoned her jacket. Her skin paled white as the snow. He leaned his ear into her chest. “Your…heart…” he shivered in fear, “it…it’s not beating.” He lifted her near his eyes. He couldn’t feel, see, or hear her breathing. She hadn’t been asleep this entire time. Oliver could only see she stopped functioning.
“Lizzy, Lizzy! Why oh why? NOO!” He laid her on the snowy surface and fell to his knees. He covered his eyes as his own tears began to drown him. “NO, NO, this cannot be.”
He rolled onto his back, threw his head back as snow battered his face. He slammed his head to the snow and stomped his legs. “This is the last straw! The others were taken, but how, how on this snow can they take you too? Why am I even here anymore? What does the world want from me? Take me! I’m alone now! ALONE!” he cried. “Even their bunny refused to stay with me.”
He wailed and cried softly to himself. “Come back to me, Lizzy. I need you more than anything,” he muttered, before falling beside her to a puddle of tears.