Emily shuffled along the main corridor of the mall. Her lowered eyes traced a path through the tiles at her feet.
Why won’t Derek even look at me?
An undereducated, underpaid waitress, and already in her mid-30s, Emily had considered a husband one of the few attainable goals in her life. A goal that now seemed preposterous.
She jerked her head up and jab-stepped to one side; she’d almost collided with someone. In the sudden commotion, her eyes caught something dazzling: a tiny, secluded shop filled with items of gold and glass. She flashed back to those times as a child when she’d been held captive by the glow of Christmas bulbs in the candlelight. But her childhood in the country had been swallowed up by this monster of a city, which even now reminded her of the husband she’d never have.
She turned to move on, but a certain item snagged her attention. It reached out, lulled her in; moments later she was standing by it, then holding it, looking into it.
* * *
Mrs. Oldman sat at her kitchen table in the glow of an oil lamp on a snowy December night. Just then the door opened, and Mr. Oldman came out of the cold darkness and into the warmth of the apple-scented kitchen.
“Brrrh!” he said, latching the door behind him and shaking snow off himself. “It’s a wild one out there, thick as fog.”
“Oh, let me get you a cup of coffee, dear,” said Mrs. Oldman as she rose from her chair and hustled over to the stove at the other end of the kitchen, opposite the door. “Just throw your things on the floor, dear, and have a seat; I’ll take care of them in a bit.”
“Thank you, sweetie,” said the gray-haired farmer. He removed his hat, gloves, coat and scarf, dropping them one at a time onto the hardwood floor, then sat at the table just as his wife returned with his coffee.
“There you go, dear.”
“Thank you,” he said, taking hold of the warm mug. His cold hands began to thaw the moment he touched it, and his eyes closed in relief. Ohh, thank you, Lord.
“Is everything under cover?” said Mrs. Oldman as she gathered his things from the floor and hung them on a rack next to the stove.
“Yup. Wagon’s in the barn, an’ the horses are in their stalls with plenty of fresh hay. Got it done just in time.” He put the mug to his lips and closed his eyes again, the coffee’s aroma filling his nose even as the first mouthful washed his tongue with its strong flavor. Warmth began to fill his insides with the first swallow, then emanated through his body in wave after wave with each one thereafter. He felt like going to sleep then and there. “Haaah. That’s good.”
Mrs. Oldman returned to her seat; she poked back the half-open curtain and leaned towards the window for a closer look: The soft glow of the lamp illuminated flakes that cascaded down through the darkness, threatening to add many inches to the already-ample supply from previous storms.
“My,” she said, “would you just look at all that snow.”
“She’s a doozey, alright,” said Mr. Oldman as he, too, leaned towards the window. “It’s really pilin’ up out there. Almost hip-deep as it was.”
They sat in contented silence for several minutes, enjoying the piece of heaven outside their window. When Mr. Oldman finished his coffee, he set the cup down and stared at his bride of 50 years. The lamplight reflected the satisfaction in her eyes.
Mr. Oldman rose from the table. “Whaddaya say we turn in.”
She stood, and he took her in his arm. He then picked up the lamp and led the way out of the kitchen.
* * *
“Miss? … Miss?”
Emily snapped to; a middle-aged man behind the counter was trying to get her attention. “Can I help you, miss?”
“Oh … um, yes. How much is this?” She held up the object.
“Forty-nine ninety-five, plus tax.”
“Oh … well … maybe next time.”
With a sinking heart she set the gold-plated decoration down, said “Thank you,” and walked out into the bustling mall.
And on the shelf, white flakes still floating down onto it, the old farmhouse in the snow globe settled into another wintery night.