Story and photo by Bernie Brown
Like drifting fluff, the snow turned North Hills Drive into a white, unspoiled plane while Sophie watched from her apartment window, her miniature terrier Tinker Belle in her arms.
Sophie put Tink down and said, “We’ve got each other and electricity, Tink. We’ll be fine.” Limping into her tidy kitchen, she made tea and remembered another snowy day from her Boone childhood, sledding with her sister. The happy afternoon, crisp as an apple, had been spoiled when she fell off her sled, fractured her leg, and was left with her right leg shorter than her left. What sometimes haunted Sophie was the possibility that her sister Doris, mean when they were alone together, had pushed her.
With tea in hand, she settled on her well-worn couch. Tink dozed while Sophie clicked the remote to TCM. When host Robert Osborne said, “Feuding forties divas team up in this classic sixties movie,” Sophie knew what was coming. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? The story of another mean sister. She clicked off the television. Shutting off the TV had not shut off her hounding thoughts. If only Doris had shown some sympathy, but never a word. Instead, Doris had called Sophie Clumsy Cripple when no one was around.
Turning to her Bible for comfort, Sophie opened it randomly to Rachel and Leah’s story, another set of feuding sisters. “Not them, too!” Sisters and more sisters.
Exasperated, Sophie shut the Bible and stood up, nearly pushing Tink to the floor. Tink recovered and turned her hurt and puzzled eyes to Sophie.
“Come on, Tink! I’ll take you out,” Sophie said with more harshness than she intended.
On the trip down the stairs, Tink examined every dead bug, giving Sophie time to manage the descent. Once outside, Sophie turned toward the magnolia tree that was Tink’s special spot, but the little dog held back, barking and rearing up in refusal. Sophie tugged Tink’s leash, but Tink held her ground. “What’s wrong, girlie?” Tink’s eyes pleaded with Sophie’s.
Ignoring the look in Tink’s eyes, Sophie carried her to the tree. “Now be a good girl and do your business.” Beneath the tree, what looked like letters were etched in the snow. With Sophie’s attention on the letters, Tink escaped back to the door of the building.
Before Sophie could read beyond an S, the heavily laden tree’s branches plopped some snow on top of the letters, obliterating them. At the same time, the loose Tink turned the drift by the door a bright yellow. Sophie retraced her steps, scolding Tink as she went, “People don’t like that so close to the entrance.”
A shiver from the cold slithered up Sophie’s back. Or was the shiver from something else? Was there something out there that had spooked Tink? A cat in the branches? An intruder huddled nearby? Sophie took a quick look around and hurried Tink back inside.
After an early supper in the darkening afternoon, Sophie indulged in a bourbon and coke. As she brought it from the kitchen to the sofa, a smudge on the family photo caught her eye. That hadn’t been there earlier. She set down her drink and went to rub the smudge with her sleeve. Before she got a good grip on the frame, Tink exploded in a barrage of barking, jumped, and knocked the photo from her hand, shattering its glass.
But not before Sophie noticed the smudge had not been a smudge at all, but a series of tiny letters across Doris’ face, the first of which had been an S, and then an O. Those letters so puzzled Sophie, she forgot to scold Tink. As she cleaned up the mess, she regretted, as she had so many times, that she and her sister had not been friends. And Doris was dead now ten years, so they never would.
At last, Sophie was again in her favorite couch spot, the bourbon dispelling the strange happenings of the day and spreading a comforting warmth through her. Sophie didn’t close her drapes like she usually did when it got dark. Like angel dust sparkling in the street lights, the snow continued to fall. When the remote brought the television to life with a glimpse of Two and A Half Men, Sofie closed her eyes against the presence of more quarreling siblings and again, clicked off the remote.
She searched her DVD collection for something with sibling harmony and pulled out the perfect antidote to the days troubling events. The Parent Trap, sisters reunited in warm hearted mischief.
What with the second drink, the soothing movie, Tink snoring softly in her basket, and the snow falling deep outside, Sophie forgot her resentful feelings.
Suddenly Tink shot up from her basket barking furiously at the window and jarring Sophie out of her blissful state.
Tink’s agitation alarmed Sophie. After the suspicious events of the day, her own troubling feelings, Sophie at last took Tink’s measure of the moment seriously. “What is it girl? What do you see?”
With trepidation, she followed Tink to the window where snowflakes stuck to the pane in a pattern like childlike penmanship. Letters in the snow, on the family photo, and now on the window.
Sophie studied the flakes and an S took shape. About eighteen inches from it, a Y formed. More flakes flitted down and clung to the cold glass between, clearly writing the word SORRY. A space of a few inches followed and then the single letter D.
Tink jumped into her arms and licked her face, and Sophie understood the message.
Unsettled in death, Doris had reached out to Sophie with this apologetic note. And Sophie’s heart expanded to accept the love she had wanted from her sister in life. Now they could both have peace. As the letters flew away, flake by flake, they disappeared from the glass, but Doris’ snowy apology would be forever etched in Sophie’s heart.
Bernie Brown is a retired Administrative Assistant with an M.A. in English living in Raleigh, North Carolina. When not writing, Bernie reads, sews, cooks and eats, travels, watches BBC and birds, and plays WordsWithFriends on the iPhone.
Bernie has had over two dozen short stories published, most recently in PennyShorts, Every Writer's Resource,Still Crazy and the Raleigh News and Observer. Upcoming stories will appear in the 2014 Short Story Winners Anthology of Grateful Steps and Tales from A Small Planet. Website address: bablossom.wix.com/bernie-brown-writer.
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Passionately Ran, Compassionately Fed.