Clarice puffed out her cheeks, pink with the cold, and screwed up her eyes against the chill wind. She turned her face to the sky and peered through frosty lashes at the heavy clouds lumbering in from the coast.
‘Where are you?’ she called, hot breath forming its own tiny weather front above her nose as it hit the freezing air.
‘Come on in, Clar, you’ll catch your death.’ Mother.
Clarice stamped her feet, chilly in her spotted wellies despite the thick Huggy socks that hung pinkly over their tops.
‘But she promised!’
‘I know sweetheart, but you know fairies. I expect Santa’s got her working double shifts on all that last minute wrapping.’
Clarice knew when she was being sold a dummy. Seven she might be, stupid she wasn’t. She tugged at her hat and covered her ears, and then she tugged at the rope on her red plastic sledge and marched it across the tarmacked drive onto the lawn. The grass was flat, defeated by the wintry cold, and had scuffed up patches where Bugs, their scatter-brained Springer, had been excavating. The patches scraped the bottom of the sledge, making a screeeeek sound so Clarice picked it up, polished it off with her sleeve, and carried it to the centre of the garden. There, she positioned it so it was facing down the long slope to the trickling brook, sat herself on it with the rope in her hands, and waited. It would snow, Demelza had promised.
Demelza was a sprite, a wisp, a flitting insubstantial thing that Clarice could see, or sort of see, if she was looking a bit sideways and a bit upways but never if she was looking frontways. If she looked frontways, Demelza vanished and so did her drawings but luckily, Clarice could capture drawings in her mind, see them in the air, curling and glowing like neon after images. She could move them around, and she could make compositions with them. That’s how she knew it would snow today, even though it never snowed in Sussex on Christmas Eve. Demelza had given her a drawing that said so and she had copied it down and put it with all the others for proof.
Clarice sat making little dragon puffs into the air and recreating Demelza’s drawing around them while she flicked back and forth through her catalogue of inky designs and rocked in time on the plastic sledge . Now, any minute.
‘Clar, that’s enough, in you come.’ She heard the crunch of booted feet on the newly frosted grass, the scrabble of other feet skittering excitedly alongside. Dad had brought Bugs to soften the blow of denial.
Just then, three things happened.
Demelza returned so that Clarice stopped dead, her eyes rolled up, her grip on her small sheaf of papers loosened so that they fluttered onto the grass under her dad’s astonished gaze.
The wing of a butterfly in Rotorua also fluttered in its own time on a breeze that caught the world in its net.
And high above, the physics of winter magic built fractals out of raindrops and began to float them gently down to earth.
©suzanne conboy-hill 2010