Fear and Ice

By Glenn A. Bruce

Snow fell—lightly at first, then heavier. By nightfall, billions of tiny flakes were coming down like a single, connected mass—a three-dimensional bedsheet of white terror that stretched out as far as Georgia Fontaine could see, blending into a horizon she could only imagine existed at the edge of her small world. This is what she had feared most of all.

How much time did she have?

When the wind started whipping the light stuff into drifts, Georgia paced, glancing out the window every two minutes; when darkness overtook the swirling whiteness, turning it medium-grey, and the furthest streetlight on her block became little more than a dull, creamy glow—like a half-moon on a densely-fogged night—Georgia took a whole klonopin, then another; exactly fifty, slow, calming breaths later, when she could no longer see the house at the end of her cul-de-sac, Georgia threw on quickly-improvised winter gear and headed for the garage.

“Georgie” had been so panicked to get out of the house and over to her boyfriend Charles’ house—that’s what he called her, when he didn’t call her “baby,” in those special times—she hadn’t bothered changing out of her Superwoman pajamas. She pulled secondhand store snow-pants over her bottoms, a hand-me-down ski jacket over her top, and a new pair of UGGs over her bunny socks.

The only headwear she could find in her rush was a reindeer Christmas cap with antlers.

All of this…winter stuff, was new to her. Georgia Fontaine had grown up on the beach, under palm trees, splashing in the warm ocean, year round. She had a good job at a rock-solid local bank as a loan officer, having known the owners as close family friends since childhood.

Her future was secure.

Then she discovered that her second husband, and her third boyfriend after that, had all cheated on her. Georgia called it SBS: South Beach Syndrome. Sex was everywhere, all the time, down there; a constant tease of tanned tits and bare butts.

All anyone had to do was look.

Burt, Joey, Ramon, and Luis had looked—and acted; something Georgia always found out the worst way possible: from friends—one of them being her friend, and Ramon’s lover, Wendy—with the tits and the tan—from the bank. The owner’s daughter, one of her oldest friends in the world.

At that precise moment, Georgia decided it was time for a change—as far away as possible. And so it was that Wisconsin became her new home.

Now, here she was, and there it was: the long-dreaded “winter storm,” complete with “severe weather watches,” hazardous weather warnings”—and worse.

Actual snow.

Backing out onto the street in the horizontal precipitation, Georgia could not tell for sure that no one was coming from either direction. Strong gusts had lifted growing drifts and mixed them with more falling snow from the blackened sky to the point of near white-out.

She decided to go for it.

Her hands were sweating on the wheel; she could feel more sweat puddling under each breast where they met her ribs; and she was sure that her brain was sweating inside her skull. What Georgia Fontaine had dreaded for eight months, since she moved “up here,” had arrived with full force and terror. News reports called it the “first major event of the season.”

To Georgia, it felt like the last event of her life.

She was hit and spinning before her back bumper reached the middle of the street. With a thin glaze of ice under the skittering snow, her white Celica sedan did two full loops before coming to rest against the Thomerson’s green recycle bin across the street.

Georgia was not hurt, and not happy.

She threw off her seatbelt and leaped out into the crackling wind in a hurry, swearing to match the volume and speed of the pelting snow—mainly because her fears of winter disaster had come to fruition just as she had predicted time and time again. Despite all of Charles’ assurances that she would be okay, the worst had happened:

Georgia had gotten hit in the middle of her own street, in the middle of a goddam snowstorm, on a dark night:

Alone.

“You dumb ass! Didn’t you see me backing out of my fucking driveway? I had my fucking lights on! Are you fucking blind?”

That the snow was blinding her didn’t register with Georgia until she got close enough to see that she was cursing Charles. He was barely bundled at all, being used to it; tall and steady, soft and fleshy under his thin, black overcoat, held together with his free hand.

Not even buttoned.

“Easy, baby. You came out kind of fast, and it’s slick. I don’t think I did much damage.” Snow had already covered the point of contact, but he was pretty sure there would be nothing more than a scratched bumper.

“Oh, Charles, Jesus Christ!”

The hard wind behind her, Georgia ran into his arms, nearly falling twice before she got to him. He caught her and pulled her close—held her tight—because he knew Georgia well.

Her Florida roots.

“It’s just a little snow,” he said.

“A little?” She burrowed into his soft warmth like a lamb to its mother, his thin overcoat as comforting as thick wool.

Freezing wind howled past them for the corner and a steadfast plow, only its flashing, yellow light visible to accompany its thumping, rumbling scraper—a comforting sound to most; but, to Georgia: a specter of doom.

“You’re shaking,” Charles said.

“Well, what do you expect? Look at this shit!”

Charles squinted down the street, into the ripping wind; the second house from the end was now completely gone to white bluster.

He returned to Georgia’s panic. “That’s why I came over,” he said.

“I tried to call,” she said. “Six times.”

“I was out in this,” he said. “It’s pretty bad—I have to admit. You were right to be scared.”

As Georgia pulled back to look into his smiling eyes and full cheeks, flushed red from the blast of icy crystals strafing him, all of her fears melted away.

At least he was clutching his coat closed against the storm. Maybe he was human after all.

“That’s quite an outfit,” Charles said, smiling and moving a stray strand of hair from her forehead, under the antlers.

Georgia finally felt embarrassed for her overreaction—but soothed. For a moment, North Miami Beach didn’t seem 1,500 miles away.

“I’m sorry,” she said, feeling tears coming, unable to stop them.

“Let’s get your car back inside and draw up a nice hot bath, baby,” he said.

“I hate winter,” she said, fully aware of her piteous whining.

“I know,” Charles said, as if none of that mattered.

As he turned, reaching for her still-open driver’s door, his coat blew open. The wind shifted towards her, and Georgia smelled the other woman’s perfume.

It wasn’t her time that had run out; it was his.

 

Image: testeach

 

Glenn A. Bruce, MFA, was associate fiction editor for The Lindenwood Review. He has published eight novels and two collections of short stories. He wrote Kickboxer, episodes of Walker: Texas Ranger and Baywatch. His stories, poems, and essays have been published internationally. He won About That’s “Down and Dirty” short story contest and was a two-time finalist in the Defenstrationism annual short story contest, and three time judge for Brilliant Flash Fiction’s annual contests. Glenn taught Screenwriting at Appalachian State University for 12.5 years and recently “retired” to focus solely on writing.

Website: www.glennabruce.com

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