She walked slowly towards the house. A transfer of guilt must be achieved, she recited in her head. She was moving her fingers, clutching at the bottom of the jacket. The straw lost somewhere, she kept moving her fingers to mimic cradling it. A transfer of guilt must be achieved. What was the rest?

It was the second polar vortex in four years to hit the city this hard. Pounds of air stood packed around her so she felt boxed every step.  She couldn’t see. Snow fell all around her and because the wind whipped her face with each violent gale, she was also forced to look down. Forced to crawl upright, she could only feel her way through: the knife-life breezes, the sting right below her eyes with every movement, every touch of sleet against her skin a slow-drawn slap. Every snowflake bruised her; it’s touch burrowed hard beneath her cheekbones and lingered.  She was red faced and trudging. I am trudging. This is what trudging is.  Her eyes were brimming with tears that wouldn’t leave the bottom of her lids. It is freezing. They were frozen there. A transfer of guilt must be achieved.

Her eyelashes were coated in snow and she could hardly make out the building in front of her. Being drawn to the light in the window, she floated like a black moth to the driveway. As the girl stepped closer, she could see there were candles, maybe a soft lamp, burning in the upstairs window. Everything else was dusky and had the stale feel of abandonment. The house was coated an ashen gray color by owner or night, tall, protruding but with no bright awning or curtains or mailbox or car. No song wafting through the howl of the storm. There was no sense of welcome but it was her only option. Let it be a party. Let it be jovial and light inside. You can deceive yourself into believing anything just so you’ll participate.
About thirty feet from the door, her body was suddenly struck with sensation: panic. This is respite. Stillness creates panic. She stood still and let a shiver take her; let something pass through her. The future was here and it was portentous. She grabbed the sapphire amulet around her neck. God, give me strength. Pausing at the top of the yard, she allowed her breath to come out slowly, deliberately and with planning. What do I look like? She was draped in all black but blue in her flesh; pallid and chattering. She was a ghost in a cloak. Blue like ice. Blue like river. Blue like the ash-filled locket. Give me warmth. Her breath was slow and deliberate and planned. The girl was pacing herself in stillness instead of step.

Before continuing, she allowed her body to stay there, frozen from foresight and weather, in a posture of complete surrender. She was upright and floating allowing the wind to carry her up the short driveway to the door. There was no effort to shovel. The driveway was packed with snow too. It had taken her several steps to get from car to driveway and several more to get from driveway to knob. The door itself was plain beige without number or knocker.  There was nothing spectacular here. Looking around once more to confirm there was no one else on the block, she held the locket with her bare fingers and set her teeth together to quiet them. She was a shadow in the doorway. .My breath is slow and deliberate. Her hand balled in a fist, she began to raise her other arm as she fingered the silver chain.  I am breath. I am breath.  She tightened her fist B r e a t h e. She was muttering. I am safe and protected in white light. She exhaled. God, give me grace. She began knocking loudly, feeling her jaw clench and her respiration stop, the last of her crystallizing in air.

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