A Layer of Snow
Steven Michael Photography and Art
A Layer of Snow.
The day they met it snowed. It made sense really.
She hadn’t seen him since she was seven. The memory of his face was distorted by all the other adults she had met and wished were him.
She remembered staring at a picture in some magazine when she was little and imagining herself amongst the happy scene. Mum, Dad, and Connie. All laughing. All together. They were sorry and they would try harder this time. Everything would be better. She forgave them.
He sat there dishevelled, his face like crumpled paper, stirring a cup of pale tea. He was smaller than she remembered. Her anger melted instantly. She had pictured this moment more than a hundred times and now it was here. He was here.
After twenty-five years – hello seemed a good place to start. He looked up, took a few second to register the situation and then smiled a gappy smile.
He’d always called her that, but she didn’t know why. His eyes watered and he smelled of cigarettes and alcohol. She hoped he would speak first, as years’ worth of words stuck in her throat. She glanced around the café.
“You look well.”
He was being nice. She wondered how he felt right this minute, if he had imagined it as many times as she had. She smiled and glanced out of the window. His voice was weak. She remembered it as booming.
“Are you well?” she asked.
“Oh, as well as can be.” He sipped his drink. “Urgh, terrible tea.” He grimaced and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. “Let’s go walk, it’s stuffy in here.” He pulled his hat on, grabbed a plastic bag and stood before she had chance to sit.
A flimsy layer of white hid the litter and grime. The park across the road was empty. They crossed over and headed through the park gates. She lagged slightly behind him, studying his frame, the way he walked, watching his cold breath dissipate behind him. The snow fell faintly and seemed to muffle the everyday sounds around them.
“These trees have been here hundreds of years, those houses ain’t. Shame things have to change.” He glanced in her direction. “Still they leave a little bit of it for us to appreciate, eh gal?”
“Why didn’t you look for me?”
He stopped and waited for her to be at his side.
“I don’t know.” He looked up at her face briefly. “I thought it was for the best.”
“Best for who?”
“But I had no say in the matter.”
“You didn’t know what was best for you. We were no good back then.”
He turned and carried on.
She knew this, she had read all the files and the police reports. Still, she wanted to hear the words come from his mouth. She tried to read his face.
They walked. It was bright, and quiet. The trees stood heavy and silent, roots buried deep sprawled underneath the ground, below their feet. The branches shook slightly in the icy wind. Auburn leaves clung to branches, lost their grip then flapped against the rugged boughs. The path ahead blurred with the flutter of snowflakes.
“Are you glad I found you?”
“I’m not sure what you expected to find.”
What did she expect to find? Her dad. A dad to tell her that everything was going to be all right. He would have answers, he would cry, cry for all the lost years. She was seeking answers to questions that were a world away from where this man was.
“I’m not sure either.”
The hazy figures walked towards them along the path. A man and a child hand in hand. The young girl carried a doll; it was naked and had an arm missing. The girl was half skipping but was being held back by the man who walked clumsily. She wasn’t dressed for the snow, and neither was he, neither looked like they cared. The young girl looked up at her dad and was smiling as she tugged him along.
She recognised herself instantly. She had walked in this park before.
The girl ran up to her and handed her the doll.
“That’s Molly, my dolly.”
Connie remembered Molly. She held her up and tried to remember what happened to her when she moved on.
“I think she needs a bath.”
She looked back at the little girl who also had a grubby face.
The little girl grabbed the dolly back, and sighed. “She’s not dirty, she’s just been playing.” She stroked the doll’s matted hair .
“Is that your daddy?” Connie glanced behind the girl.
“Yes, and he’s yours.” The little girl pointed at the raggedy man, who stood staring at his younger self.
“He is, but I’ve not seen him for a very long time.”
The girl shrugged and looked back at her dad who had finally caught up.
“Who you talking to gal?” he grumbled.
“No one, Daddy.” She skipped back to hold his hand.
Connie watched as they walked on through the park. Two fresh sets of footprints led the way that they had come and gone.
She gestured for them to move on. They walked together. She didn’t feel the need to fill the silence, or to ask more questions.
“I have something for you,” he said, reaching into his plastic bag.
He pulled out a red tattered bag and handed it to her.
“I gave you that for your seventh birthday, but you forgot to take it with you.”
She didn’t remember the bag. Maybe there were lots of things that she didn’t remember.
“You kept it?” She ran her fingers over the shiny plastic.
He turned and carried on walking. “Doesn’t everywhere always look much nicer with a layer of snow?”
She followed him.
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