A WINTER’S TALE

For days, the air had been heavy, grey and hardly any wind. As if the sky was crumbling down on top of everything and everyone. Ginny had had a headache for several days. One of those pressure headaches, which really wasn’t a headache, just a feeling that someone was pushing down on the top of her head.

That morning she was up later than usual. The dark, grey mornings were not at all inspiring to leave the warmth of her bed. As she opened the blinds, there was an unusual stillness in the air. The sheep were standing still in the fields, not making one single sound. No birdsong. If they were sensible too, they would still be in their warm nests hidden deeply in the conifer trees. Oppressive, or heavy, that was the word, Ginny thought. 

Coming downstairs she lit the log fire and soon the flames were spreading warmth into the room. Put the kettle on, deciding to have breakfast first before she ventured out into the cold to walk her dog. He was still fast asleep on the couch, in a deep dream.

Showering quickly and putting on some warm clothes, Ginny pulled on her fur lined boots and both of them went out into the cold. And boy was it cold! It took your breath away. As Ginny looked up to the sky, the first delicate snowflakes began to fall. She had heard on the weather report that a cold front was coming towards the country where she lived, across the plains of Eastern Europe, bringing the icy temperatures from Russia. Wind was forecast for later that day, but just for now, it was just as if the world was in a state of pause. Very little sounds and very little movement.

By the time she was back indoors, the first flakes of snow began to swirl in the breeze. Her headache was suddenly gone, now that the pressure in the air had cleared. For the rest of the day, it snowed heavily, about 30 centimeters deep. Ginny ventured out and cleared a pathway with her snow shovel. She had to go out later with her dog, but within moments of clearing it and seeing the pavement stones, it was white again. She decided to take her second walk before it got too deep.

Her dog loved the snow and would run about in it. She threw balls of snow for him to catch. It was amusing to see they just disappeared and the way he looked for them. Normally people would think he was a white dog, but in the brilliance of the snow, he looked decidedly cream in color. He would sniff into the snow with his nose, almost blowing it into the air and then try to catch it. The wind was picking up and it felt much colder than earlier. Thank goodness she had had the sense to stock up on supplies, if it was going to get worse and she would not be able to drive. Ginny had never liked driving in slippery conditions and it didn’t take long before car tyres made a bed of impacted snow on the roads. 

Where she lived it was pretty remote, and often the ‘gritters’ would be the last place they came to. Usually, the neighbors rallied round and cleared it together, but with the wind chill factor of nearly minus 15oC, no one was out.

Putting more logs into the fire, Ginny re-filled the basket and put some soup on the cooker for lunch. Her dog was tired from the walk and was lazing on the couch once more. After lunch she put on her computer and opened her email. Smiling, she found one from her friend.

On the other side of the globe, there was a heatwave underway. Temperatures soaring up in the 30 degrees C. He had had a very busy week and a tough time schedule, but he always found time to write an email to Ginny to ask how she was, what was going on etc.

Their meeting had been one which no one would ever have imagined. A brief encounter, online, had led to a deep friendship. They had in fact never even met face to face, (well only on Zoom connections) but he was well-known and the mere mention of his name, was enough. Over the months they had shared a lot with one another and neither of them could imagine that things would have gone so far. But they had. In Ginny, he had found someone to share his deepest thoughts and opinions and she never ever made any judgement. She seemed totally distanced from both his fame and fortune. The strange thing was that she was a star sign Leo like him and usually he would clash with other Leo’s, but not with her. And that puzzled him a lot, but he loved her natural way, her intellect, her intelligence.  Over the months he had come to rely on her a lot for her opinions and thoughts, even things that were work related and way beyond her control. But she fascinated him. Yes, that was the word, fascination. He had never met anyone who was not immediately in awe of his name, or his profession. Ginny seemed totally oblivious to it all and maybe that was the attraction. She wanted to just be his friend without obligations.

Ginny found herself laughing at some of his stories in his email. He gave her a sort of day-by- day account of his week and he had a huge sense of humor for sure. It was a little routine they had started several months ago, a weekly email, to keep in touch. Any plans to meet physically had been fraughted by the viral pandemic, which held the entire world in its grip. So many rules, restrictions and even worse so many people had been affected by it. And everyone had had enough, no matter where they were situated in the world.

Certainly, Ginny had. Often, she felt as if all her spontaneity had been removed. It wasn’t possible to do anything with a whim. A sudden feeling that she wanted to go to the beach and have lunch there. Virtually everything was shut and had been for weeks. True she could go to the beach and walk along the sands, but in wintertime it was different somehow.

Over the next few weeks, winter held the majority of Europe in its icy grip. The snow fell and the layers of snow became thicker and more slippery every day. Despite the snow ploughs which regularly went by, the roads were a complete disaster and virtually no one with any sense ventured out in their cars. Night temperatures went down to minus twenty and the bitter easterly winds kept blowing. She had not been able to open some of the windows for several days, they were stuck with the ice. Snow that melted during the day with the warmth from the heating in the house and then froze again at night. Despite all the complications there was a sort of serenity in the air, peaceful and calm and the woodland close by looked magical with the bare branches covered by a layer of now frozen snow.

And as cold as it was in the north, as warm it was in the south. It seemed totally surreal that bush fires were raging in some parts of the world, the heat, the dryness and sudden winds causing a lot of problems.

Weeks turned into a couple of months and suddenly Spring was here. Ginny’s favorite time of the year when everything began to grow again, tender green new leaves opening on bare branches. The daffodils and tulips created colorful carpets in the fields close by and all memories of the chill were gone. They had kept up their weekly emails.

One sunny morning as Ginny was working in the garden, she suddenly had a feeling that something was going to happen. Not so much a feeling of foreboding, more of something pleasant. Putting down her secateurs and taking off her gloves, she came back into the house to pick up her phone, which was ringing. She saw the name on the screen.

‘Hi, how are you?’ he asked.

‘Absolutely fine’ Ginny replied, ‘out in the garden working’.

‘So busy then’, he said.

‘Well, yes sort of, just enjoying a lovely spring morning to get some work started’, she replied.

‘Got anyone to help you?’ he asked.

‘No, only me, but I enjoy it’.

‘How are you?’ she asked.

‘Well quite tired at the end of a long busy schedule and really glad to have a break now’.

Ginny heard the sound of the bell on her gate which meant she might have to end the phone call, irritating, as they had not actually spoken for a while and hoping that whoever it was would see she was busy and leave.

Then the bell rang at the door and Ginny hurried into the hall, still holding her phone in her hand. A tall person was at the door. She did not recognize the shape or the shadow, thinking it might be a post-delivery or something like that. Opening it, she could not believe her eyes. He was there! Face to face. Smiling his broad smile and looking down at his own phone, they both started to laugh. And laugh until they thought they would never stop.

‘Surprise! Did you expect me?’

‘Absolutely not!’ 

‘Wasn’t sure if I could get here this fast, but you know, pulled some strings and well, here I am’.

‘Come in’, Ginny said realizing that he was still standing on the doorstep.

As he stepped in, she took his arm. Quite boldly in fact and then suddenly his arms were around her, holding her tight.

A long embrace, which felt so right and so good.

Eventually they let go and both stepped back.

‘Can you stay?’ she asked.

‘Of course, if it’s alright with you?’

Alright? It’s perfect, I am just totally and utterly flabbergasted that’s all’, she said.

‘Well, me too actually. I thought on the way here that maybe it wouldn’t be convenient, or that you might be out or even worse away. Never thought to tell you or even ask if it was ok, which was a bit presumptuous’.

‘Of course not’ she replied. ‘Actually, I am so thrilled to see you in person, after such a long time, so many emails and so many Zooms. I almost feel that I need to pinch myself if this is for real.’

‘It is for real and something that I have been waiting for such a long time’. 

‘Me too’ she said.

She asked if he would like a coffee and then carrying two large cups of frothy coffee out into the garden, she put them down on the table. He took her into his arms once more and kissed her tenderly.

Winter had blossomed into Spring.

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Jill Kramer

Hi! I'm Jill and I'm a passionate author of books, short stories, columns and blogs.

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