A girl drove into a blizzard at sunset. Her fiancé told her not to, and she thought about making tea or cocoa, but she started the car anyway. She did it because the road glittered in the lamplight. She did it because he told her not to.
The blizzard was the exact same temperature as her heart. She kept driving past barren corn fields, watching the snow fall. She felt a numbness in her chest, and when she placed her hand there, the warmth was gone. The girl began to worry and stopped the car.
I could have seen this coming, the fiancé said when she walked into the kitchen.
This didn’t happen to you, too? But as the girl began speaking, she sensed the weight of her clothes shifting. Her dress crackled with frost. The frozen part of her fell off, leaving a small scar. The fiancé smiled.
You just became a wife, he said.
The name I was given at birth was no longer my name. When I arrived at the reception hall, I was mistaken for another bride. Laced into the wrong dress, wearing the wrong shoes.
My husband would later confuse me with his last wife. He thought I was supposed to bring him cigarettes, and for a moment that seemed right. He mumbled as I handed him a purple lighter, and I left behind the only life I’d ever known.
But we were so good together. I never argued with him, afraid for years he’d remember his first wife was dead.
I stood there in the kitchen, my back to the window. I didn’t want to see the snow falling, frost sealing the gates and every door. Ploughs heaving past rows of houses and the strip malls. Then storm sirens, as if warning me to run.
At first I thought my husband locked the windows to protect me. I could imagine the long wait for that ice to thaw. I interpreted his small gestures as kindness, but they weren’t. I found out later that his last wife was found frozen inside the house.
Beyond the window, snow keeps piling up. I have trouble controlling the shaking in both my hands.
To say I was jealous of your first wife would be misleading. To begin with, I didn’t know you’d been married before.
There were a few things I did know about you. One was that you liked cold weather. You talked about it in the most earnest way, so that people thought you really were from Maine. You took walks at night as though you wanted to be found shivering in the middle of the street. But I was sure this was not what you wanted. Whether you were from Maine or not, I knew you hadn’t changed your mind about that.
I wasn’t jealous of your first wife. I wanted to live in her house and wear her clothes. I wanted to place my hand on you and say husband. I wanted to steal from her frozen little purse, and I wondered if the cold was a promise or a threat.
When the wedding gifts start to come, she’s alone. Her husband’s shoveling snow. She’s just knitting socks. But she understands why the boxes are empty, knows fact from fiction. The mail carrier looks sad bringing them. She calls her husband; he comes in the house.
The wrapping paper sparkles in pieces on the floor. He’s still holding the shovel; he says her name. They’re standing in the foyer and she’s trying to explain to him that it’s not what he thinks. She opened the boxes and there was only winter inside. The blizzard did this, with its frost and the dead weight of the snowflakes.
She holds out the smallest parcel, shows him its frozen worlds.
Kristina Marie Darling is the author of seventeen books, which include Melancholia (An Essay) (Ravenna Press, 2012), Petrarchan (BlazeVOX Books, 2013), and a forthcoming hybrid genre collection called Fortress (Sundress Publications, 2014). Her awards include fellowships from Yaddo, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, as well as grants from the Kittredge Fund and the Elizabeth George Foundation. She is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Poetics at S.U.N.Y.-Buffalo.