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Frozen beauty

I wrote this for the #55wordchallenge (you should probably go and look at the prompts, and the other responses), so it’s only fair that I should start with the 55 word version, though it took a turn for the bleak when I pruned it …

A field of snow. Bare trees tracing prisoning bars against the dead white sky. I couldn’t do this anymore; loving him was not enough. I said it every day.

Against the clean lambency of the winter sky, waiting life, sleeping hope, a clean, brutal beauty. I saw it too late; our love was already dead.


But there’s also a rather more optimistic version. It got a bit carried away with itself, considering the terms of the prompt …

Sean didn’t stop when I stopped, didn’t even turn to ask the cause. Why would he? I was always stopping, and rarely managed any more to bite back the complaints that came so readily to my chapped lips. I’d been grumbling half aloud as I walked – what was I doing here, here on this frozen lake, here in this frozen state, here where my face hurt from the cold? I knew the reason, the reason walked buoyantly ahead of me, graceful even in snowshoes, childishly delighted in the snow and the season and even in the freezing air, puzzled and hurt by my litany of complaints. I’d thought if I followed him I could learn to love what he loved, but all I saw was a barren plain, bare trees throwing a tracery of prisoning bars against the dead white of the sky.

I looked again, no longer searching for beauty, just raising my eyes from the aching snow underfoot to prove to myself what I knew was true … and I stopped, stopped dead in my tracks. I wasn’t looking at bars, or dead tracery. Against the clean lambency of the winter sky I was looking at waiting life, sleeping hope, a clear, brutal beauty, as beautiful as an ancient face is beautiful, as beautiful as the clash of trumpets is beautiful.

Sean walked on, oblivious, and I was glad, just for now, to hug the fragile secret to myself.

Carefully, easing my aching calves, I followed, trying to step as he stepped, hampered now by the need to tear my eyes from the suddenly lovely sky. Between the snow shoes and the horizon, it was little wonder that I managed to stumble into Sean, stopped at last to wait for me.

He fielded me carefully, and my new joy ebbed away as I saw the pain in his face.

“You’ve decided, then?”

I didn’t understand, couldn’t frame a reply. He swept an arm around to indicate the lake and its amphitheatre of trees.

“Don’t think I don’t know how you hate this. I hoped, with time … I know you hoped too. But I saw your face. You couldn’t be so happy here unless you knew you were going home.”

It was a knife in my heart to have hurt him so, the same sharp pain that my first unwary lungful of winter air had been.

This is home.”

He pulled away, disbelieving.

“I never wanted a martyr at my side.”

How could I persuade him of what I had so recently learnt for myself? I couldn’t deny I’d been ready to martyr myself, hadn’t succeeded in hiding my horror at everything he loved.

“My darling, I’ve seen the light.” I pointed down, deep down, meaning the ice beneath the snow, the clutching waters beneath the ice. “I’ve always trusted you; trust me for just a while, and you’ll see it’s true.”


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