The White Expanse

Mollie stepped out into the winter cold and started walking. The snow crunched beneath her boots and thin flurries swept up at her balaclava. Her gloves were thin but if she curled her fingers into her palms, they kept warm enough.

Her snug house slid behind, her husband getting ready for bed, her three kids asleep, hopefully for the night.

She walked, lists running through her head–grocery lists, birthday lists, reading lists, dates from the school newsletter and events from the church bulletin, books to add to Goodreads wishlist and movies to her Netflix queue.

She’d left in a huff, the year’s calendar finally filled out with vacations and anniversaries and ceremonies. She was booked. The year was only a month old, but she’d be lucky to find a free weekend before next January.

She walked. She didn’t care where. Away. Away from the times and dates, away from the small boxes lined in neat rows, each scribbled with pieces of her fate.

Her fingers tingled. She should have dug out her thicker gloves.

She walked block after block, arriving finally at the lake. Bixler sat white and smooth, the moon bright above. The wind drove curtains of powder across the frozen surface.

Mollie didn’t want to stop or turn back. Determined, she walked onto the ice. She didn’t know how far across it was. She didn’t care. Her fingers grew numb, but she boiled within. She wanted to scream.

Across the ice she walked, unseeing, the relentless forward momentum cooling her frustration until she stopped in the middle of the lake, aware of the great emptiness around her. She turned and saw the library, dark and picturesque. She looked up. The sky was black and filled with stars. She stared at them. Even in a small town like Kendallville, the stars got eaten up by streetlights and headlights and house lights. Here, in the middle of the ice, they shone like cold crystals. They reminded her of nights when she was a child, when she was supposed to be sleeping and stared at the stick-on stars on her ceiling and dreamed.

She turned, a familiar sound calling to her. The heavy rhythm of a train filled the silence, and she saw the bright light of its passing. She knew its next stop was Waterloo, but she remembered suddenly how she used to sit on the bench at the top of the hill and watch the trains and imagine riding across the world.

The train drifted away and the wind grew cold. Mollie found herself in the barren night, beneath the myriad of twinkling eyes in a sky that had always existed and didn’t seem possible.

This was what she needed, more than food, more than sleep. She needed the sparkle of a far-off world; she needed a train with endless destinations; she needed a white expanse in a busy life, where she might remember what moved beneath the surface of the world.

She stood there for what seemed a long time, five minutes, perhaps, and turned back home, happy.

Originally published in the February 2016 edition of the 4County Mall 

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