Kristin S. VanNamen: Winter Ice and The Mexican

Margaret Thompson tells her boyfriend Bill he needs a costume for Thanksgiving. “It’s a family tradition.” She slides off his bed and limps naked toward the window. She pulls back a corner of the heavy drapery and pokes her fingers between the blinds to look out.

“You could be The Mexican,” she says and squints, looking down at the park outside of Bill’s apartment, her eyes adjusting to daylight. “You know, like a velvet sombrero and your guitar.”

“You mean for Halloween?” Bill asks.

Margaret notices how the sunlight shines across the top of her hand, illuminating her coarse skin. “No, not Halloween.” She steps back and lets the drapery fall over the blinds. “Thanksgiving,” she says and turns toward Bill.

On the nightstand next to Bill, a blue lamp, shaped like a large ostrich egg, glows. Its silver stand has disappeared into the darkness of the room, making the blue light appear as if it were floating.

“Thanksgiving costumes,” Margaret says as she rubs a small, heart-shaped cluster of red bumps at the base of her throat. She feels the tiny scabs that have formed over the bumps and runs a fingernail over them. “It’s a Thompson family tradition.”

Focusing on the oval light as her guiding blue beacon, Margaret limps across the dark bedroom. Her right leg feels thick and stiff. She tilts her weight. Her left foot hits the floor in heavy, uneven thuds. Her right foot drags across the carpet. Margaret’s limp is dramatic. Margaret’s limp is fake—or not so much fake, but memorized from childhood. She stands at the edge of the bed, places both hands on Bill’s right foot, and squeezes his big toe.

“I guess this means I finally get to meet the infamous, fair-haired sisters.” Bill reaches over to the nightstand and feels for his lighter and the joint he rolled earlier that day. His hand glows blue under the light.

Bill knows that Margaret is the oldest of three sisters. She has told him that she is the oldest one, the ugly one, the adopted one. Ugly and adopted. But Margaret knows it could be worse, she could have been born a twin—the ugly twin. She went to grade school with a set of twins like that. Anna and Abigail Brighten. One beautiful; one ugly. But worse than ugly was that the Brighten twins looked similar, and Anna Brighten had the misfortune of looking like the ugly version of her beautiful sister Abigail.

Margaret smiles when she thinks of the Brighten girls. She has consoled herself with this for years.

– – –

In the sixth grade, Margaret taught herself how to walk with a limp. She had locked herself in the bathroom and placed the cap of an aspirin bottle in the bottom of her right shoe. She marched in place, watching herself in the full-length mirror while whispering, “This hurts. This hurts. This hurts.” She hoped that people might look less at her ugliness and focus on the limp instead. The difference, she believed, would be affectionate pity instead of pitiless apathy. When she was ready, she limped down the hall toward the living room where her parents and her youngest sister were watching television. Sarah sat huddled between their parents—Sarah, poised and charming, the straight-A student and president of the Society for Young Intellectuals.

Margaret limped to the middle of the room and marched in place. She kept her pace with rhythm and words—This hurts, one-two, this hurts, three-four. Sarah stared at Margaret, played with the pendant around her neck, and rubbed her nose. Mrs. Thompson, a good and kind mother, but a steadfast fan of sitcoms and laugh tracks, picked up the remote control and turned up the volume. Margaret looked toward her father—his face open and expressionless.

Margaret limped to Gail’s room. Gail, swift and nimble, was only a year younger than Margaret but already the star midfielder for the Thundermaids Middle League Champions. Margaret limped in, her limp muffled by the thick, pink carpeting in Gail’s room. Gail sat on her bed, talking on her phone, and twisting the cord around a delicate finger. She looked up, smiled and waved at Margaret, but said nothing about the limp. Margaret sighed and limped away.

At school, she limped up the stairs, through the corridor, past the cafeteria and into the nurse’s station. Margaret limped and complained about the pain. For emphasis, she placed both hands around the thickness of her thigh. The nurse, who had worked in the public school system for far too long and had, thus, lost her sensitivity to the pain and tenderness of children, told Margaret that she had been born that way.

“A malformation from malnutrition,” she said, eyeing the slope of Margaret’s forehead. “Malnutrition is common among the adopted populations. Mothers who don’t bond to the fetus tend to disregard pre-natal care.” The nurse licked the palm of her hand in feline fashion and then reached toward Margaret.

“They think just because they’re not keeping you that they don’t need to be concerned with any long-term consequences.” With her spittle, the nurse tried to smooth down Margaret’s cowlick curl. “Most unwanted babies are damaged in utero.” The nurse pressed down hard, but Margaret’s short, brown curl, now glistening with spittle, remained stubborn and erect.

– – –

“What the fuck, you’re kidding me, right?” Bill sits up, naked, rests his elbows on his knees and flicks the lighter.

“No. We always wear costumes.” Margaret climbs onto the bed and kneels between his legs. “And you’ll have to stay in character. It’s a family tradition.”

Margaret doesn’t tell Bill that this will be the first year for Thanksgiving costumes because she doesn’t want him to chicken out. She doesn’t want him to show up as Bill in blue jeans and sneakers, or worse, not show up at all. She’s been waiting for this, waiting to be the alpha-female, waiting to be the one who dictates the Thompson family Thanksgiving tradition. This year, the tradition has changed because the power has transferred. She wants him with her. She wants him to be The Mexican. Margaret scoots closer and places her hands on his hips. She pushes down, feeling his bones centered in her palms.

Bill lights the joint. The flame of the lighter glows, and the skin around his mouth becomes a shade of burgundy-colored clay. The sockets of his eyes darken, turning into pitted hollows.

“Trust me,” she says. “If they’re going to trust you, you have to wear a costume.”
Bill inhales. The paper crackles and burns.

– – –

It was the youngest sister, aware of her rank and power, who started the traditions. Sarah had just been crowned the Fall Festival Whiz-Quiz Queen by her graduating class at Summerset High. Her new title inspired her to use her power and status fully. She called Gail first. Gail, a freshman in college, lived in the Pi Beta Phi sorority house at SMU. Next, Sarah called Margaret, who was living in town at the Double Bun apartments and working on her core coursework at one of the local community colleges.

“Let’s all get stoned and see if Mom and Dad notice,” Sarah said. It was more rebellion than tradition, but it was the beginning. And that year, Sarah was the alpha-female of the family.
On the morning of the first day of the opening initiation, the three sisters sat in the driveway, huddled in the backseat of Sarah’s BMW. They passed around a crimson bong and kept the windows rolled up to keep the high in.

When they stumbled into the dining room, giggling and holding hands, Mrs. Thompson smiled. She felt good, or rather more than good, Mrs. Thompson felt proud. She had raised three daughters—the intellect, the athlete, the adopted one—and they all got along so well. Mr. Thompson looked up from his newspaper, unsure of how to react to such unrestrained displays of joy. He had always been reserved, stoic even. But he felt confident, and slightly conceited, knowing he had executed the gentle discipline and guidance that allowed his three daughters to develop into resourceful members of society.

Mr. and Mrs. Thompson never noticed, never suspected, and never even considered that their daughters were stoned beyond the highest of heavens. The Thompson family gathered next to the table laden with turkey and casserole, ham and corn, bread and rutabaga. They held hands, and in succession, declared their prayers of thanks and giving.

Sarah’s crimson-colored tradition continued until her junior year at Berkley. During her spring semester, Sarah was suspended from the university and expelled from the Golden Key International Honour Society after she was caught cashing out nickel bags with a first-year Fiji. With that, Sarah’s reign ended. And the following year, Gail’s began.

Gail, who was less rebellious than Sarah but equally self-absorbed, expanded her reign to include the entire Thompson family. Last Thanksgiving and for three years prior, the Thompsons spent Thanksgiving morning running in the annual 10K Turkey Trot. Gail sprinted, loped, and scuttled, winning first place year after year. The rest of the Thompsons followed not too far behind, breathing quite heavily, yet determined and happy. But wheezing and limping in the back of the pack was Margaret. Always finishing, but always finishing last.

In the fourth and final year of her reign, Gail started dating Wesley. Like Gail, Wesley was an athlete, but one of strength, not endurance. Motivated, as athletes are, by ego, ambition, and the euphoria of competition, he ignored the rising pain in his chest as his heart struggled to support the rapid movements of his massive legs.

At the final turn of the Turkey Trot, along a footbridge no broader than the width of two small girls, Wesley’s heart simply burst. When he collapsed—his torso twisting, his shoulders contorting—his body became wedged inside the narrow bridge. His lifeless frame blocked the path of the other runners, halting the race to an unfortunate and unforeseen end.

– – –

“But if I’m a Mexican, what are you?” Bill asks and takes three quick hits off the joint and holds his breath.

“There’s this great material at the Hobby Lobby,” Margaret says. She leans forward between Bill’s legs and brings her lips close to his. He exhales while she inhales.

Bill and Margaret met last winter when they were both hired, temporarily, to make outgoing sales calls for a new residential fertilizer company. Bill had heard Margaret’s voice before he ever saw her. Her voice rose over the cheap cubicle barrier while she explained to a potential client that she had the best shit in town and offered to come over personally, squat down, and drop the load off herself. Bill laughed abruptly, interrupting the phone script he had been reading to a potential client.

Margaret sits back on her heels, arches her neck, and exhales the smoke toward the ceiling. “It’s white, but sparkly like silver. I’ll do white make-up and silver eye-liner.” She reaches under her right breast and rubs a patch of dry skin that is raised and red.

When Bill had peered over his cubicle wall, he did not see someone ugly or adopted. He simply saw Margaret—a young woman, perhaps a bit long in the face, with a mouth that had a tendency to turn down even when she smiled. Bill was charmed, thinking her face, her expressions, and her slight skin condition an added bonus to her often inappropriate humor.

“And they’ve got this organic body paint.” Margaret takes the joint, rolls onto her back, and tucks her legs under the sheets. “It matches the fabric perfectly.” She takes a hit and holds the smoke in her lungs. The back of her throat begins to tickle. Bill looks at her and waits.
Ice,” she exhales and hands Bill the joint. “I’m Winter Ice.” Margaret turns on her side and looks at Bill. “And you are The Mexican.”

Bill stretches out his legs, readjusts the cool sheets, and rubs his foot along Margaret’s bare calf. “But what do a Mexican and winter ice have in common?”

“What?” Margaret asks, thinking his question is not a question, but a riddle.

“Aren’t couples supposed to be pairs?”

“I don’t want to be pears.”

“But we’re a couple.” Bill holds the joint between his lips as he shifts his body on top of Margaret’s. The joint’s cherry tip breaks free and falls into Margaret’s long, curly hair, crackling and sizzling as it burns.

“A couple of pears?”

“What?” Bill uses the palm of his hand to smother the ember. He is careful not to press too hard on her smoldering hair.

“Like a bunch of grapes? A couple of pears?” She looks over at Bill’s hand. “What are you doing to my hair?”

“You were on fire.” Bill stretches out his fingers and turns his palm toward Margaret’s nose. “Smell it,” he says. “You were on fire.”

Margaret licks his hand and purrs. Bill laughs, he slides his knees between Margaret’s thighs, and wedges her legs apart. He is careful when he pushes against her bad leg, the leg that makes her limp. “Sometimes I can’t tell if you’re crazy, stupid, or stoned,” he says in a soft whisper that smells of jasmine and tea.

“You’re the one who’s stoned.” Margaret hugs Bill closer to her. “Just be The Mexican, okay?” she says. “Be The Mexican for me.”

“Claro, Señorita,” he whispers. Margaret closes her eyes. “Yo soy tu Mexicano si usted es mi estoriadora,” he says. Margaret arches her back and listens. “Contame una estoria, Señorita.” She pushes her ribcage up in response to his words. Bill rests his cheek next to hers, licks his lips, and whispers, “Porque yo soy tu pequeña puta para tus estorias.” She arches her back higher, pushing up against him. Margaret likes the feel of his body, of his full weight pressing down against hers.

– – –

Margaret was only thirteen the first time she fell in love with a man she could not understand. The Thompson family had flown to a small resort south of Cancun for their annual Christmas vacation. Margaret pulled on a brown and green striped one-piece, the elastic seams pinched the fatty tissue at her groin.

Mrs. Thompson helped Margaret coat her legs and arms, neck and face with a thick layer of SPF 30. Margaret’s skin, a shade beyond pale, a color much closer to translucent, needed protection. Under the sun and a white layer of protective lotion, Margaret glistened, giving off quick little flashes of light like a hand-held mirror.

The rest of the Thompson family, although fair-haired, had smooth, even skin that tanned well. They passed around an orange bottle of SPF 15, then SPF 10, and finally cocoa butter. While Margaret’s skin burned and blistered under the creamy coat of SPF 30, the other Thompsons turned from light caramel to soft café au lait to a golden russet. By the third day, Margaret was banned from the sun and sentenced to room restriction during daylight hours.

Sarah gave Margaret an aloe plant and a thick paperback on solar energy. Gail gave her a pair of maracas purchased from the hotel gift shop. Mr. Thompson gave Margaret his newspaper that he had carried with him from the States. Although its corners were tattered and a coffee stain rested in the center of the front page, the gesture was kind, and Margaret had always appreciated a kind gesture. Mrs. Thompson gave her a brown paper bag filled with loose Pringles and chocolate Rolos. Before leaving each morning, Mrs. Thompson called downstairs to confirm arrangements with the hotel’s visiting nurse. The nurse was to stop by at even intervals and apply medicinal ointments to Margaret’s skin.

The ointments smelled like a mix of copper and cat urine and stained Margaret’s skin hues of indigo and cobalt blue. After each visit with the nurse, Margaret stood naked in front of the full-length mirror in the bathroom. Her torso, which had been protected by her one-piece swimsuit, appeared spongy and raw. But her legs and arms, neck and face looked foreign and angry. It was as if the sun had refused to kiss her and instead had streaked her blistered skin with intimate bruises.

Alone, Margaret perched on the windowsill, peering out at her family with a pair of her father’s opera binoculars. She watched Sarah balance on top of a barstool, drink virgin strawberry daiquiris, and flip the pages of a heavy, mathematical textbook. She watched Gail cavort and caper with an athletic blonde boy from New Hampshire. Margaret watched her parents recline in cushioned chairs. They held hands and smiled at the procession of hotel employees who came by to deliver complimentary cherry popsicles, thinly iced towelettes, and facial spritzes of sparkling water.

Margaret perched and watched, feeling little more than traumatized by the absence of real love.

In the early evening, the Thompsons returned to their hotel suite. They bathed and dressed for dinner. Politely, they asked Margaret about her day and made encouraging remarks about her skin, stating—without honesty but with virtuous intentions—that her skin didn’t look quite as bad as before. On their way to the hotel restaurant, the family, including Margaret, paraded in a quiet line down the hall, down the stairs, and past the row of shops in the hotel lobby. Shops and Sundries. It was there that Margaret, limping far behind the other Thompsons, first noticed The Mexican.

The Mexican sat in the window display of Los Recuerdos. He wore a multi-colored poncho and held a guitar in his lap. As tourists walked by the tiny gift shop, a few stopped and stared at The Mexican, commenting on the exquisite replica of a real human. He looks so real! Look at his hands! Those hands, they look so real! At first, Margaret, like the other tourists, assumed The Mexican was indeed a mannequin—an elderly Mexican mannequin. He did not move. He sat with his head tilted forward, his large sombrero covering his eyes.

Walking by each night, Margaret made a habit of running her index finger along the shop window of Los Recuerdos, leaving behind a pale, blue line of ointment. Then one night, and for no reason at all, she paused in front of The Mexican and tapped the glass twice. The Mexican looked up and smiled directly at her. Margaret froze, the tip of her finger still firmly against the glass. She had never seen a man like that, a man who looked directly at her—a man whose dark, weathered face was the color of enchantment.

Margaret, although only thirteen, was determined to learn the language of love. In her hours of isolation, she perched and watched the silent language between the couples below. She had lost interest in Bethany’s virgin daiquiris and textbooks. She had lost interest in Gail’s prepubescent flitter. She no longer cared to watch her parents and their parade of hired help. Margaret was more interested in newlyweds and romantic couples who clearly possessed the ability to seduce.< ?p>

She watched as they sat closely together underneath the palms. She watched them walk hand-in-hand up and down the white beach. She watched them wrapped together in the sea, the tide pulling them out and pushing them in again. She watched and she watched until she understood, implicitly, how a woman touches the man she loves and how he, in turn, touches her.

Knowing the importance of this new language, Margaret sat in the open window and practiced. She moved her arms, cupped her hands, and imitated each touch and stroke and brush until the movements were no longer imitations, but authentically her own. If anyone had bothered to look up, they would have seen a girl with multicolored skin moving her arms and tilting her head with such delicacy that she looked like she was dancing.

On the last full day of the Thompson Christmas vacation, Margaret left the room, wearing her mother’s strapless linen tea-dress—the one with blue birds embroidered across the waist and reserved for special occasions. She paused just outside the door to reapply a thin coat of Gail’s Hotlips berry lip-gloss and rub a touch of cocoa butter over her shoulders. The blue ointment, which had smelled so foul, had worked quite well. The blisters were gone and the coarseness of her skin had softened.

In her mother’s high-heeled shoes, Margaret limped down the hall, down the stairs, and through the corridor toward Los Recuerdos. She knew she had a full hour before the Thompsons returned to prepare for the evening meal.

When she arrived in front of the window display, she stopped. The Mexican was there. He sat with his head tipped forward, his sombrero covering his eyes. She slid the tip of her index finger across the glass until her finger pointed directly at The Mexican. She tapped twice, and to her delight, The Mexican looked up and smiled. Margaret took a deep breath, and then spoke in a language she was certain he would understand. . . . She blinked slowly and smiled. She looked away, she looked at him. She tilted her head and ran her finger across her bottom lip. Her mouth slightly open, her finger rested on her bottom lip. She waited. She stared at The Mexican. She stared until he finally began to nod.

Margaret sat inside the window display on the wooden bench next to The Mexican. What she had not noticed on her evening walks past the shop was the graying Chihuahua, which sat next to The Mexican’s sandaled feet. The Chihuahua, thin with patches of matted hair, wore a wooden bell around his midsection, and next to him, on the tiled floor, sat a large water jug with the words Nosotros Cantamos! Nosotros Bailamos! Ustedes Pagan! written across the clear plastic. Margaret didn’t know what the words meant, but she soon discovered that when she placed a peso into the head of the jug, the little dog danced and The Mexican strummed his guitar and sang.

When he stopped playing, she reached for his hand, held it open, and fingered his open palm. He pulled away, at first, but her grip was tight. She traced small circles, then hearts. When The Mexican’s smile grew wide and his resistance seemed forged, Margaret slipped her hand underneath his multi-colored poncho. She leaned in, felt the slack and puckered chest of an aged man, leaned in further and kissed him on the mouth with closed lips. “No, Señorita, no,” he said. “Tu es apenas una nina. Una nina innocente de Dios.” He tried to push her away, but his arms stretched out wide instead of long, and Margaret slipped her way in between The Mexican and his guitar. “Que la virgen me guie, es apenas una nina,” he protested.
She straddled his hips, pushing her pelvis into his. She cupped his jaw with her hands, placing her thumbs along the light-colored creases of his face.

“Perdoname Virgen de Guadalupe. Perdoname.”

Margaret kissed him with an open mouth and wild tongue. He tasted of strong tobacco and his tongue was coarse, yet comforting like that of a cat. The Mexican kissed her back, his song of protest turning into a vibrating hum in the back of his throat. Margaret heard the tiny nails of the Chihuahua click against the tiled floor. She heard the tinkling of the wooden bell and knew that the graying Chihuahua was dancing.

– – –

It is the first year of her long-awaited reign. Winter Ice and The Mexican arrive at the Thompson household at noon on Thanksgiving Day. They are greeted by the Werewolf, the Baseball Player, the Surgeon, the Fairy Princess, and the Fireman. The Werewolf stands in the kitchen, her pointed ears stick up from her cropped gray hair and a red apron is tied around her waist. She waves at Winter Ice and The Mexican to come in and wipes her furry hands on her apron. The Baseball Player puts down his newspaper, stands up, and extends his hand.

“Bill, this is my father. Tom Thompson,” Winter Ice says.

“Mucho gusto.” The Mexican shakes hands with the Baseball Player.

“And my mother, Lillian Thompson,” Winter Ice says. The Mexican reaches out to shake hands with the Werewolf, but she bats his hand away with her paw and steps forward to nuzzle him.

“My youngest sister, Sarah. Her husband, Jim.”

The Mexican nods his head at the Surgeon and the Fireman. The Surgeon plays with the pendant around her neck and smiles. The Fairy Princess dances between the legs of the Surgeon and the Fireman. She raises her magic wand and spins around. “And this is Katy, their daughter.” The Fairy Princess disappears behind the Fireman’s legs. “She’s three,” Winter Ice says. The Fairy Princes peers out, raises her magic wand, and then disappears again.

“Can you really play that thing?” The Fireman asks, pointing at the guitar strapped to The Mexican’s back.

“Si, Senor.” The Mexican sits down in the middle of the kitchen and strums a slow ballad. Winter Ice limps around him, bends over to check the turkey, and asks the Werewolf if there is anything she can help her with. A tan Chihuahua crawls out from underneath The Mexican’s poncho. The Fairy Princess squeals and reaches for the tiny dog. She lifts the Chihuahua above her head and dances on the tips of her toes. The Werewolf, seeing this, claps her paws and howls.

The Fireman takes off his yellow helmet and tucks it under his arm. He asks the Surgeon how long until he can change back. “Just be glad it’s not another damn 10K,” the Surgeon says.
“Where is Gail?” Winter Ice stands at the dining room table and places napkins, knives, forks, and spoons in their appropriate places. Her silver body paint, soothing and medicinal, blends in with the shiny fabric, which drapes loose and full.

“She ran to the store for more mayo,” the Surgeon says and places a large bowl of sweet potatoes near the center of the table.

Winter Ice kneels down and reaches up under The Mexican’s poncho. She pulls out four striped poles decorated with ribbons, three tambourines, a flute and a blue ostrich egg. “I brought these for the parade,” she says.

“You don’t mean outside.” The Fireman’s face tightens and his mouth grows small. He looks to his wife, the Surgeon, who rolls her eyes at him.

“It’s not like anyone’s going to recognize you,” she says, handing him a pea and tuna casserole. “Just put this on the table.”

“Turkey’s almost ready.” The Werewolf jumps in delight, kicks her legs back, and rocks her head side-to-side.

“Here comes Gail now,” the Surgeon says. Winter Ice looks out the window and sees Gail running up the road, a jar of mayonnaise tucked under her arm. Gail sprints in smooth even strides, her long legs thin and defined. Gail runs into the house and places the jar on the table. She stands, hands on her hips, and begins counting as she kicks her legs high into the air.

“Where’s your costume?” Winter Ice folds her arms across her chest.

“Chill,” Gail says and lunges one leg forward, stretching out her hamstring. “Costumes in the bedroom.” She tells Winter Ice not to worry. “It’s all yours,” she says with a tinge of resentment, or perhaps sorrow. She stands, legs shoulder-width apart, takes a deep breath, and bends forward, exhaling. The palms of her hands rest against the floor. “Hi,” she says, peering between her legs at The Mexican. “I’m Gail.”

“Yo soy el Mexicano,” he sings and strums. The tan Chihuahua darts through the kitchen and between Gail’s ankles. The Fairy Princess, giggling, follows.

Gail turns, runs to her old bedroom, and swims back a mermaid.

The table is set—turkey and casserole, sweet potatoes and corn, bread and rutabaga. The Werewolf, the Baseball Player, the Surgeon, the Fireman, the Fairy Princess, the Mermaid, Winter Ice and The Mexican gather near the table and join hands.

“Who’s going to start?” the Mermaid demands because she’s used to being in charge.

“Mom needs to go last,” Winter Ice says. “Mom always cries.”

“Ready?” the Baseball Player asks, and each member of the Thompson family closes her eyes and bows her head. “Dear Heavenly Father . . . ,” the Baseball Player begins.

There are prayers of thanks for health, for family, for a winning season. There are prayers of blessings for motherhood, loving husbands, and well-paying jobs. There are wishes and requests for magic and dolphins. And one quiet whisper to heal a broken heart. The Chihuahua barks. And The Mexican prays, “Dios Mio, Gracias por todos los gringos locos que no hablan una palabra de espanol.” The Mexican opens one eye and looks around at the Thompson family, their eyes closed and heads bowed, he continues, “Y gracias por mi grande grande pene.”
And then the Werewolf begins.

“Dear Heavenly Father.” She howls a prayer of thanks. She thanks God for intelligence and strength, for Sarah and Gail, for their charm and confidence. She gives thanks for her husband, for their blessed and angelic granddaughter. “And thank you, Dear Lord, for Margaret,” the Werewolf’s voice cracks, she has started to cry. “Thank you for delivering Margaret to us, for letting her be a part of our family, but more importantly, for letting us be a part of her. May she continue, through you, Christ our Lord, to bless this family and this world with her gifts of imagination, humor, and love.”

Winter Ice looks at the crying Werewolf, at the bowed heads of the Thompson family. She whispers the words back to herself. Imagination, humor, and love. Winter Ice sparkles and glows. Imagination, humor, and love. Her brown eyes begin to transform. One iris turns silver and the other twinkles blue. Imagination, humor, and love. Her dress billows and swells as wind rushes through the dining room. There is a rumble and then a clap. The rest of the Thompsons open their eyes and raise their heads. The air chills, and as they exhale, their breaths puff, forming crystalline clouds.

The Thompsons turn and stare at one another, their mouths open, their faces full of expression. The wind gusts again, then wafts. The Werewolf shivers against the cool wind. Her ears perk, and her nose twitches. The Mexican breaks into song. The clouds of breath, shimmering just above their heads, expand and thicken. Winter Ice steps forward into the circle. Her legs, both legs, feel light and whole. She steps again. She does not limp. And with this third step, she knows she will never need to limp again.

The Thompson family does not understand, but they accept possibility over probability. They accept because each one has secretly hoped for miracles and longed for a collective moment of grace.

Winter Ice reaches up and touches the edges of the soft clouds. She spins, twirling the clouds above. Tiny snowflakes drift and begin to fill the room. Winter Ice spins and spins, realizing that it is the warmth of her skin turning the crystals into snow and that each snowflake is heart-shaped, flawed, and blue.



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