Twenty minutes had passed when he realized she hadn’t returned. One thought immediately struck him.
Does she have it with her?
Barry remembered giving Tawnee the angel at Christmas. His moccasins sat beside her hiking boots before the fireplace. He could see her shoulders slump as she unwrapped the pink angel figurine.
She was an atheist who couldn’t understand Barry’s beliefs. Tawnee’s parents were hard-core hippies who lived in communes years after everyone else quit. Somehow she’d never absorbed her parents studies of Buddhism and Wiccan earth magic. Geology and empirical science had become her temple. By contrast, Barry was raised Catholic. Perhaps the ways of his religion led him to a fascination with talismans, chanting, and meditation. He wore necklaces of crystals, and smudged with sacred sage once a month.
They were as different as two people could be, and they loved each other even more because of it.
“Oh it’s beautiful Rose Quartz,” she said, as firelight flickered across her high cheekbones. “But Barry. I don’t believe in…”
“I know,” interrupted Barry. “Just keep it with you always. I’ll feel like you’re safer with it.” She did as he asked though she thought it silly. She never went anywhere without it. It was a measure of how much she loved him.
One of North Dakota’s famous whiteouts struck six weeks later. As Barry meditated, seeking greater awareness, she muttered something about getting the mail. She slipped out the door while Barry failed to warn her. Though the mailbox was only 100 feet away, the maelstrom of snow in a whiteout made the simple, deadly. In a whiteout you literally couldn’t see your hand before your face. Left and right became meaningless; direction, a dream.
Barry searched the house frantically, hoping she’d returned and he missed it. Panic struck him when he realized she was truly gone. By the time he’d donned warm clothes, she was lost in the snow for an hour. Outside, the whiteout had ceased, but all landmarks were erased. Featureless fields surrounded the house. Trees and houses barely formed lumps above the snow. She could be anywhere.
Barry began searching to his left. Nearly every human being has one leg longer than the other. Tawnee knew her right leg was longer than her left; she’d measured it. That meant if lost she would tend to turn left. After twenty minutes of searching, he found the pink angel in the snow. She was out there, and he was looking in the right direction. He carefully placed the angel in his pocket.
Twenty minutes more. He knew she wore warm pajamas and a thick robe. Was it enough to keep her alive?
And then he saw something that chilled him. It was the angel. The heat from her body meant it melted a little bowl in the snow. But he’s already found it. How? He looked in his pocket. The angel wasn’t there. Did he drop it and circle around unknowingly? Was he lost too? He placed the angel in his pocket again, minding the lumps of snow carefully.
After two hours, he spied a hole in a snow drift beside a nearly-buried oak. Tawnee, ever the scientist, knew she could stay alive by burrowing into the snow. A hole in the snow can be surprisingly warm. Most importantly, it can keep someone alive.
Barry led her home and to the warmth of their fireplace. When Tawnee’s teeth stopped chattering, she said, “I’m so glad you found me.”
“I thought I wouldn’t until I found your angel. It was really smart to drop it and leave a trail.”
“What do you mean?” she said, reaching inside her robe. She held the pink figurine up. “You said to hold it always. I had it with me the whole time!”
Where I grew up, I remember reading about people getting lost in the snow while trying to get their mail, every year…I don’t live there anymore.
Each week, Photographer Alastair Forbes offers a photo as a writing prompt for Flash Fiction. This is my story in answer to the photo above. Look here for more stories: http://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2015/01/04/sunday-photo-fiction-january-4th-2015/