Snowy Night


The snow was up above my knees, and all noise seemed buried below it. The full moon's light glowed from its surface and glinted in my cloudy breath. I had set out into the cold because the stack of firewood was dangerously low. Collecting wood was easier in the evening than the wee hours of the morning after the fire had already gone. I tucked my arms in as I shivered myself to the wood pile next to the shed across the yard. The noiseless night put me on edge. It was unnatural although the cold of this degree seems to have that effect. I grabbed all that my little arms could carry. I stomped through the snow struggling with each step. The door opened as I neared the house.

"Sweetie, hurry up. It's freezing out here." She called after me.

I rolled my eyes. It wasn't like I enjoyed the negative degree weather. "I'm trying Mother. The snow is too deep to move any faster." I stumbled up the six steps on the front porch, shaking off what I could before entering. Mom slapped off the rest with too much enthusiasm to keep the house dry. "The fire is almost out."

I dropped the logs, kneeling to gently place them on the fire one by one in hopes the blaze would start again. We all huddled next to the fire collecting all the warmth it could put out. The four of us scooted back as the blaze grew to our makeshift beds on the floor.

This was the first night in many years that the temperature had dropped this low. It was so cold that within five minutes of being outside your face would have frostbite if not covered. Thus, the reason we had decided to sleep directly in front of the fire even if I had to sleep next to my brother who slept punched or said he did to avoid punishments. We laid side-by-side in our sleeping bags while sharing the quilts on top.

The house had fallen silent with the faint heavy breathing from Dad on the far side of our sleep bundle, when light taps on the door started. Each tap grew harder and faster with. I sat straight up, my arm swung hitting my brother Stan to wake him from his too quick sleep.

"What! Geez..." Then he heard it, spinning to face the door to find Dad already there with a log in hand like a baseball bat ready to knock it out of the park.

"Who's there?" His voice boomed over the banging.

A weak helpless voice squeaked back, "Help me."

He swung open the door to find a guy hunched over in a ball trying to keep his nose and fingers. He looked up at Dad with pleaded eyes. "Aren't you Joe's boy from down the road?"

"Yeah." He whispered back.

Dad took care of the rest as he pulled him in, placing him on the ledge next to the fire before tossing his log in.

We sat there watching him thaw not knowing what to say or do. How else could we help him with our limited resources of our little cabin. The snow had fallen heavily the past four days making it impossible to drive him to the hospital, he probably needed.

After several minutes he moved, looking at us with brows pulled together, unsure of us. He whispered barely over the crackle of the fire, "Where am I?"

Dad spoke, "We are the Matthew's. You were on our porch begging for help."

His eyes drifted down to his shaking hands that he had near the fire. The light made his hands discolored more than they should be. The staring continued in our log cabin.

Mom spoke as she scooted closer to him, "Sweetie, I think your fingers need more than that fire to stop the damage. What is your name?"

His glare flickered up at her kind eyes, "George."

"Okay, George. Let's get you feeling warmer." She turned towards me. "Jane, go get a bowl of warm water, not to hot."

I leapt to my feet, "Yes ma'am." I scrambled around for a large bowl as the rest sat in silence. I grabbed a towel with the bowl before I made it back. I placed it down between Mom and George for her to direct him.

However, she moved over, "Honey, you help him. My hands are too cold."

That didn't make sense, but I wasn't about to argue with her. I took her place before whispering, "What do I do?"

She stepped back further, sitting on her little bed. "It's very simple. Take George's in yours. Lower them into the water gently massaging them to bring the blood back through as they warm."

Sure easy, take this random guy's hands in mine to attempt to save his fingers from nerve damage. No pressure. George must have felt the same as we locked eyes. His green eyes glowed in the firelight as they begged for help. I held out my hands waiting for him to put his on mine. He hesitated as he looked from my hands to my face.

"It's okay, I'll be easy." I reassured him.

He lowered his hands unable to open his fingers. My hands entered the warm water first. I cupped the water on the top of his hands as I held them with the other. He slowly allowed me to lower his hands more but not much. I rubbed each fingertip, each knuckle, each joint in his hands. They loosened, opening to submerge fully in the warm water. His hands relaxed as did his arms and shoulders. The warmth spread through his whole body.

He broke his gaze from our hands focusing on me. "Thank you." He mumbled.

My words failed me as I lost myself in his eyes. I managed a slow up and down motion, far from fluid. Stan cleared his throat a few feet away. I jumped as I had forgot they were there. "What?" I snapped at him.

"Well, this encounter has become extremely awkward for the rest of us. So how about you wrap up the so-called flirting little sis as the remainder of us are ready for some sleep." He mocked.

My face glowed red beyond the firelight. I slumped off the ledge to crawl back to my sleeping bag, leaving George to stare after me.

"Hey George, why don't you get in between these quilts on top. In the middle right in front of the fire is the best place." Mom spoke with her smoother comforting voice that nobody could reject.

George nodded sliding off the ledge to come lay between Mom and me. If I didn't know any better, it would seem she was trying to set something up. I knew that I was a young lady in my early twenties right out of college and still single but I'm not that desperate to be setup with a random stranger who showed up on our porch like a stray dog.

He laid down curling up in a ball. Mom grabbed the extra pillow off the couch and another quilt. He stayed in his spot as she covered him up tightly and slid the pillow under his head.

Through the rest of the night, I felt him slowly stretch out. He must have finally started really warming up to be laying straight.

"Jane! What are you doing?" Stan yelled.

I opened my eyes to see him raised up on his elbow in his spot staring wide eyed at me. "What?" I snapped back angry he woke me from the best sleep I had in months.

"Does anything feel different?"

"No, what are you talking about?"

"Look at your hand."

I looked down at my hand to find not just my hand, but another intertwined with mine as the arm that connected it wrapped over me. I took a minute to pull my thoughts together of what happened the night before. I pulled my eyes up to look at Stan. "How?"

He grinned ear to ear, "You better figure it out before Dad sees." He chuckled.

I let go of the hand sliding mine out, picking up the arm rolling over to place it beside the body it belongs to. I faced George laying his arm down gently between us. His eyes popped open locking onto mine. A smile pulled at his checks. "Good morning" His deep voice whispered out.

I couldn't help but smile back a bit too enthusiastically. We laid there close to each other that our hands touch without trying.

It didn't last long. "How can you be having a moment? You don't even know each other?" Stan barked, ruining it all.

I rolled away from George to my back making a little space between us. "Shut it, Stan. You are just jealous." I snapped back.

"Jealous?! Jealous that you sleep with every guy?"

"NO! That people like me better."

"Whatever Jane." He got up and marched out.

I laid there not wanting to make eye contact with anybody. He made it so awkward like he always does. We maybe twins but we are nothing alike.

"Jane is there anything you need to tell us?" Mom spoke up gently.

The awkwardness was not getting any better as my cheeks burned red. I didn't even know how to respond. I woke up with this guy's arm on me and Stan got jealous because he struggles to get a girl or to make friends. No matter how much I wish I could have said that I could never treat him like that. Afterall he was still my twin and best friends.

George found his words first, "I'm sorry Mrs. Matthew. I seem to be responsible for their argument. You and your daughter made me so comfortable and warm that I lost my place and cuddled with Jane in the night."

I rolled the other way as my face burned even more red. I glanced up to see Stan holding back a laugh as he stood in the hallway outside the bathroom.

"Oh George, that is just fine. I know Jane can be wonderful to cuddle with." Mom reassured him.

I felt as if I was melting from embarrassment. It could not get any worse.

"You are so right Janice. She is warm and just fits in your arms." Dad agreed.

It got worse. I pulled the quilt over my head but not before catching a glimpse of Stan who had fallen on the ground from trying to hold his laugh in.

A hand slipped under the cover grabbing mine with a small squeeze. I knew it was George. His hand was muscular with calluses but gentle and inviting at the same time. The warmth of his hand spread up my arm to send butterflies to my stomach. How was that even possible, I didn't even know him.

The quilt flew off me, luckily George had already let go of my hand. Dad stood over my head. "Time to get up and get breakfast going. Let's go."