Home in a Snowstorm
Ava Kelly © 2017
All Rights Reserved
The first thing Daniel noticed after he turned off his laptop was the silence. Somehow, the last school day before vacation was always quieter. It was almost as if the final bell allowed for a well-deserved pause to the building itself. After a semester of new kids, Daniel needed the following two weeks to be as slow-paced as possible. First graders were always a handful when they started school, relentless balls of energy, with a vitality that seemed to increase in intensity the closer it got to the holidays.
Now, though, there was this blissful silence. Daniel leaned back in his chair with a stretch that made his spine crack at the release of tension. He loved his job. Adored the children. Enjoyed teaching them and seeing their eyes widen with wonder at the novelty of the world. But just like anyone else, he needed a break once in a while. The winter holidays were thus the perfect opportunity to savor time off, shed the stress, and replenish his forces for the new year.
When he was little, his adoptive parents had delighted in each moment of Christmas as, year after year, more and more traditions honoring his Chinese heritage were included. They had learned them together until the holidays stretched from December to February in a flurry of red, green, and gold. Between chocolate chip cookies and dumplings, from decorating the Christmas trees to Reunion Dinners, their holidays celebrated a blend of cultures. A smile formed on Daniel’s lips at the memory of Mom holding his tiny hand with determination as they learned Chinese together. Then, Dad had helped him learn Swedish because Mom’s grandmother was from there, and she’d been quite attached to that side of her family.
He missed them dearly.
The tree would’ve been up in the living room by now, waiting for ornaments, and the house would already have smelled of gingerbread. There’d been a gentle comfort there, at home—one that Daniel had never found anywhere else after they were gone. None of the following winters had managed to seem anything more than gray and dull.
So these days, all he had to look forward to were his books. Sure, it would’ve been wonderful to come home to someone—to build comfort together instead of reading alone about the happiness of others. He shivered, unabated, before he was able to shake the thoughts away. No point lingering on it. Christmas was in two days, and he wouldn’t get a family delivered to him overnight. Maybe next year, then. With a sigh, he stood and grabbed his bag. Nothing wrong with hoping, but maybe he should actively put himself out there again—see if he could find a kindred spirit to share future winters with. Today was not that day, so he shrugged to himself, preferring to think about the book waiting for him on his nightstand.
His steps were louder than usual as he headed for the exit, fastening his coat with care, backpack slung over one shoulder. There were only some lesson plans that he’d need to go over before classes started up again, but that shouldn’t take him too long. It was one of the reasons he’d stayed after hours today, to get as much work done as possible, so he could unwind at home. Which reminded him, his apartment building still had no heating. Daniel grimaced at the thought, hoping with all he had that the landlord had finally fixed the issue. Really, spending the entire break freezing was not—
His thoughts were derailed when he noticed Abby Weber sitting on the bench outside the administration office. The clock on the wall said it was almost half past five; she shouldn’t still have been here.
“Hey, Abby,” he said. “Is your dad late?”
She blinked at him slowly and raised both eyebrows. “Hello, Mr. Wu,” she monotoned. “I’m waiting for you.”
Ever since the end of October, Abby had had a personal icon in Wednesday Addams, whom she was trying to imitate. It was far from perfect—her hair wasn’t as dark, and her face was more used to smiling than frowning.
“Why are you—”
“Ah, Daniel,” said a voice, accompanied by a hurried shuffle of feet as Principal Howards approached from the other side of the half-wall partition, but stopped abruptly in the middle of the workspace separating the hallway from his office. “I almost forgot to hand you the slip.” He turned on his heel to rummage through the contents of a desk and then let out a victorious sound as he flapped a piece of paper through the air. “Here,” he said, handing it over. “And don’t forget to ask Mr. Weber to sign for the pickup, too. Bus won’t get fixed over the break.”
Daniel opened his mouth to request clarification, but Howards had already turned away and was ambling back to his office. So instead, he blinked at the sheet in his hand. “Parent permission,” he mumbled to himself as he read, “transport request, the 23rd— That’s today—”
He stopped and frowned at Abby. She stared back, swinging her legs where she was still sitting on the bench. Outside the glass doors, the day was already turning darker.
“I’m sorry to keep you waiting,” Daniel told her. “Let’s get you home.”
She took his extended hand and followed him out, shuffling along by his side. The air was crisp, not much colder than the morning had been, but with a distinct feel of snow coming. Daniel spared a glance at the sky. Heavy clouds had already gathered, thick and angry, still visible even with the fading light. He needed to hurry and drop Abby off if he wanted to make it home before the snow started falling.