The Purest Snow


Sometimes miracles can come from the humblest of places, especially when a selfless wish is made for another, on the first, pure snow, or when someone upstairs is watching...

It was a bitterly cold winter afternoon, snow and ice blanketing the ground and the roadways, with talk of a blizzard. This was Washington, after all. If it wasn’t raining, it was snowing. If it wasn’t snowing, there was fog. The town of Winter River looked like a veritable picture postcard of holiday decorations - predominantly Christmas themed, but with a token menorah or other festive decorations in shop windows around the quaint little city.

Shoppers bustled about getting last minute presents for friends and family, and on the bridge that led to the other half of town, as well as the university, a figure stood on the roadside walkway. From a distance, one would be hard pressed to tell if the figure were male or female. It wore a heavy black trenchcoat and loose fitting ski pants over heavy ski boots. The only telling sign was a mop of long, red hair peeking out from under a plain white knit cap.

She wasn’t thinking of jumping, though. Not really, anyway. She was just standing there, staring into the frigid waters below. She was reflecting on what brought her life to this point, 18 years old and shut out of the family completely, a thousand miles away. Suddenly a voice cut through the dull roar of passing vehicles. It was soft and sweet.

“I don’t know what you’re planning,” the girl said, “But there’s always another way.”

Sarah gave a quiet laugh in a voice distinctly not very feminine. It wasn’t exactly deep either, but it wasn’t the lyrical waft of angelic chorus either. “I’m not going to jump,” she said quietly. “I was just thinking,” she said as she turned to thank the girl for her concern.

A girl her age smiled back at her. She was wrapped in tattered old rags, and an ugly pea green coat about five sizes too big for her, but her hair and face looked for all intents, perfect. “Good,” she answered. “Because it would be a waste of a great coat,” she teased.

Sarah gave her a wry smile. Sarah wasn’t dressed as Sarah. She couldn’t afford to. She could barely afford her hormones right now. No makeup, let alone clothes. She got by with what she could find on deep sales and clearance. There would be time for transition after college, she figured, or at least hoped. “There’s a blizzard coming,” Sarah said, searching for a way to change the subject. “Do you um...”

“Do I have somewhere to stay?” the girl asked, and shrugged. “Not yet. There’s a shelter across town I was on my way to check out.”

Sarah frowned. “Hey, listen... This um, might sound forward, but I’m not trying to be. There’s literally nobody else around for the holidays where I live. Why don’t you come with me? It’s just over the bridge. You can wait out the blizzard there.”

“Oh, no I couldn’t impose...” the girl said as she shook her head. Sarah smiled.

“You wouldn’t be. I’ll fire up the hot plate and make you some hot chocolate and top ramen.”

The girl laughed after a moment. “Right now, that sounds like a Christmas feast.” She smiled at Sarah. They were both about the same height at 5’5”, both slender though the girl couldn’t see that just looking at Sarah under her heavy coat. “I’m Carol. Please, no Christmas Carol jokes,” she teased, grinning to let Sarah know it was okay to laugh.

Sarah let out a small laugh at that. “James,” she said sheepishly. Carol shrugged.

“If you say so,” she said, as the snow started to fall, almost as if the heavens themselves had just opened up over their heads. Carol gave a startled squeal as they picked up their pace. “Make a wish!” she laughed.

“What?” Sarah asked, racing to keep up with Carol as she glided across the icy bridge almost effortlessly.

“The first snow of a new blizzard is always the purest,” Carol said. “Make a wish. Maybe it’ll happen.”

“I don’t think there’s enough snow to make my wishes come true,” Sarah laughed. She thought about it for a moment though, and made her wish.

Their cheeks glowed pink with frostbite as they made it to the campus. They had to take it slowly now because the sidewalks were covered in ice unlike the roads’ sidewalks, which at least had someone to shovel or salt them. The university had quite literally shut down, though.

The entryway looked surprisingly clean, if a bit sparse. There were freshly stocked vending machines, an errant chair here or there in the common room. The walls were plain off-white, not quite warm enough to be called cream though, and the tile floors looked freshly waxed. A small, fake plastic tree sat in the corner of the common room, undecorated but for the garland that came hot glued to it from the factory.

None of that mattered to Carol though, who was just happy to be out of the storm.

“Wow,” she said as she looked back outside. “I’m glad I came with you now. I can’t see two feet past the door.”

“The building heat’s stuck on 68, but I’ve got a space heater in my dorm if you want to get warm,” Sarah said as she removed her gloves. Her nails were well manicured, with a clear coat, and she wore a plain, cheap silver ring, a celtic knotwork design, on one finger. She buried her hands in her pockets as they made the slow trek upstairs.

“Since it’s just us here,” she continued, “I was thinking we could hang out down in the common room, maybe watch some movies?” she asked, noticing Carol had been rather quiet for awhile.

“Sounds great,” Carol answered warmly. She seemed, despite her situation, perpetually cheerful, and more than a little grateful for Sarah’s kindness. Sarah for her part had no ulterior motives beyond wanting to help someone who somehow managed to have it worse than she did.

“So, what’s your major?” Carol asked casually as she sat down on a big, fluffy, pink tie-dyed bean bag chair next to the space heater, stretching her shivering hands out toward it to warm them.

“Psychology,” Sarah said sheepishly. “But I’m thinking of changing my major to business, and then going back to Psych after i find a job.”

“Child, adult or animal?” Carol smiled. “You should stick with it in any case..”

“Teen and child, with a little adult for framework,” Sarah said as she put a funky, dented old dollar store tea kettle on the hot plate. “I guess I just really want to help others as much as I want to understand my own problems,” she said with a laugh, adding some dry hot cocoa mix to a couple of plastic mugs bearing the school logo.

She didn’t dare ask Carol how she ended up on the streets, and Carol didn’t volunteer to share her backstory, quietly warming her hands by the space heater instead, the only sound being that of her rubbing them together occasionally, and the whistling of the tea kettle a few minutes later.

“Thank you,” Carol said as Sarah handed her one of the mugs.

“I lied about the ramen, by the way,” Sarah chuckled. “I actually have a couple of family size TV dinners in the mini fridge. We can use the oven downstairs if you’re hungry.”

Carol laughed. “That sounds great,” she said, sipping her hot chocolate as Sarah took one of the large Banquet turkey and gravy meals from the small freezer section of her fridge. It was in point of fact, her old roommate’s fridge, but he managed to get himself expelled for smoking pot while IN class, and left all of his things in the dorm.

Sarah grabbed a big, heavy fleece blanket from off her bed - plain navy blue, but in great condition, and gently draped it over Carol’s shoulders. Carol gratefully pulled the blanket around herself, smiling softly at Sarah for a moment before they both started back downstairs again.

While they waited for the turkey to cook, Carol watched Sarah dig around in the couch cushions, to some surprising degree of success. She managed to find enough loose change to buy some snacks from the vending machine to go with their feast, and then the pair, Carol now sufficiently warmed, set to work making impromptu Christmas decorations.

A red plastic disposable cup made a festive top for the little plastic Christmas tree, and a strip of an old, already ragged red t-shirt someone had used for a polishing rag made excellent ribbons to tie into bows, that now hung from wherever they could find a place to hang them, using the rest to wrap and hide the tree’s metal base. By the time they had finished hanging a sprig of broccoli someone left in the commons refrigerator for mistletoe, the oven timer beeped.

As they sat down at a small, rickety foldable card table with their paper plates and a fresh mug of hot coffee each, Carol bowed her head to say grace. And while Sarah wasn’t particularly religious, she bowed her head out of respect for her new friend.

“Our Father who art in heaven,” Carol began, and as she prayed, Sarah couldn’t help the warm, tingling feelings welling up inside her from not having to spend Christmas alone, and from being able to share what little she had, with someone who had less. “Thank you for this bountiful meal, and for the warmth and kindness of my new friend.” She looked up at Sarah. “At least... I hope you don’t mind that I think of you as a friend now.”

Sarah shook her head. “Of course not. I don’t have much, but I’m really happy I could help,” she said as she carefully scooped out a piece of turkey for herself. “When the storm passes, after they dig us out,” Sarah laughed, “I’d like to help you find a place to stay. I can talk to my professor, see if she has any connections. I’m her favorite student,” she said with a wink, causing Carol to laugh.

“And when I get back on my feet, I’m going to repay your kindness a hundred fold,” she answered, giving Sarah the most genuine, warm smile of anyone she had ever seen, spoiled only slightly by a small drop of gravy on her chin.

After they finished their dessert of vending machine cupcakes, Sarah moved to the sofa in front of the 90” TV, with the half a dozen game systems wired up in a jungle of black rubber cables behind it, and Carol took off her shoes and sat beside her, draping the borrowed blanket over herself and Sarah, as Sarah picked up the universal remote.

They talked long into the night as they watched all the Christmas classics, either on live TV or one of a number of on demand video services tied to the various consoles Sarah’s dorm mates had left behind for the holiday. Eventually Sarah even opened up to Carol about her life, how she was only partially transitioned, and her family in Alabama throwing her out and disowning her.

Long about midnight, Sarah woke briefly. The common room had fallen silent as Netflix had defaulted back to video selection, the TV providing a soft, dim glow on the immediate area in front of it. But there was another soft glow, coming from the far corner of the room. There was no lamp or nightlight, no overhead lighting, or even any window there. Sarah grew drowsy, and quickly found herself fast asleep again, just like Carol, leaning into her with a contented smile that came with a hot meal and a warm soul to share it with.

Sarah’s dreams were confusing, and strangely vivid. She dreamed that she had met Carol six months ago at the welcome mixer, and they ended up roommates in the girls’ dorm. Carol’s family had basically adopted Sarah almost immediately the moment they heard what had happened to her.

She had fond memories of a very happy Thanksgiving with Carol’s family. She remembered she wore a pretty floral dress that Carol’s nieces adored for some reason, and kept asking Carol if ‘her girlfriend was a fashion model’.

Sarah stirred in her sleep. Something was tickling her nose. She moved her hand up to swat it away and found that it felt like hair. She heard a soft giggle, and slowly opened her eyes to find Carol smiling down at her. Only, she was sleeping in a warm, soft bed: softer than her normal dorm mattress, too. Carol leaned down to kiss her lips. Sarah stared, stunned.

“There’s my angel. I thought you were going to sleep all morning,” Carol giggled softly as she sat up to let Sarah sit up too.

Sarah slowly looked around the room. This was definitely a girl’s dorm. A discarded bra hung over the side of the clothes hamper, and assorted makeup sat neatly in two side-by-side cases on one of the dressers. Next to Sarah’s old textbooks, another set were neatly stacked, the top one being some kind of medical textbook. But there was her pink, tie-dyed bean bag at the foot of her bed. “Wha...” she groaned. “Carol?”

“Hmmm?” Carol asked. “Sarah, what’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“Or an angel,” Sarah managed a small giggle. “Was... it just a dream? You were homeless, and I was living in the boys’ dorm, and...”

Carol put her finger to Sarah’s lips. She leaned closer, wrapping her in a hug, and whispered softly in her ear, “I told you the first snow was the purest. You made a good wish. I’m just returning the favor.” She pulled away and winked, as Sarah stared, dumbstruck.

Carol giggled again, and as if she hadn’t said anything at all, she grabbed Sarah’s hands and pulled her up out of bed. “Come on. Mom’s going to be here to pick us up in an hour, and you still need to pack.”

“Huh?” Sarah asked groggily.

Carol rolled her eyes. “Okay girl, we have to get some coffee in you, stat,” she giggled out.” We’re going to my parents’ for Christmas, remember?”

“But it's Christmas,” Sarah tried to argue. “We’re snowed in.”

Carol laughed and pulled open the mini blinds over their only window. “Christmas isn’t for two whole weeks, and it only snowed a little. See?”

Sarah stared out, at the whole inch and a half of snow on the ground, and then shook her head. “Okay... I think I’ll take that coffee now...”

“In that case,” Carol said, “Then I might as well give you one of your presents early.” She giggled excitedly as she knelt down and reached under the bed, taking out a brightly wrapped parcel and giving it to Sarah.

Sarah laughed as she sat down, reality gradually beginning to make more sense to her, and opened it to find a white ceramic coffee mug. It had a picture of Sarah and Carol set inside a heart, with the words ‘I love you, my Angel’ in wrapped lettering across the top and bottom. Sarah’s eyes welled up with tears as she stood to hug Carol.

“I love you too,” she whispered and squeezed her tight. “Always and forever.”

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