A married couple with their two toddler kids were driving through the dirty winter white landscape of the Ottawa surburb of Barrhaven in early April. This was the reminder of the Canadian reality, winter and all its snowy goodies. The car was a new Mazda 6 and the father was happy so far with his two month old vehicle.
The beginning of April had seen a couple snow flurries but it was generally accepted that winter's threat was over. The city side roads were visible again and large slushy puddles formed outside residential driveways and in parking lots where the snow mountains had begun to fall apart. It was a good sign of the end if a very wet and dirty sign. The dirt and mud that had been buried from the start of winter was now visible and made sure that everyone knew about it.
The family were driving east along Strandherd Drive towards Woodroffe Avenue, and to their final destination, home. They had attended a family birthday party in Richmond and they were all well fed, tired and ready for their beds.
There was nothing exceptional about Strandherd Drive, just the standard surburban mix of commercial businesses and then whole lengths of side to side plush residential housing. Nothing to allow anyone to jump out of their fatigue, or swipe an eye sideways piqued by an interesting sight.
The father turned the radio knob on the car stereo to find Kiss FM, hoping to find some upbeat music for the remaining minutes of the journey.
The car suddenly served into the middle of the road, the man jerking the steering wheel from east to west as if it was a fairground attraction. The mom and the kids were instantly revived by the car's violent movements. Thankfully the father managed to regain control of the car before they ended up as the latest news item in the Ottawa Sun.
"Honey, what the hell was that?" gasped the mom when she regained the ability for regular talk.
The man ignored her, looking up outside the windscreen and then checked through the rear window. The kids were alert but confused. This was not home; why were they stopped outside the Metro grocery store at Strandherd and Woodroffe.
"Honey?" the woman repeated. "Please answer me. What just happened? Are you okay?"
"Did you see that?"
"Oh my freaking goodness..."
"John?!" Now the woman was concerned. "What is it?"
The man opened his door and stepped out of the car. He looked around quickly as if he were on a timer. The ice in the breeze tickled his shaved chin but he was not aware of it.
"John, will you please talk to me? You are disturbing the kids, and me."
"Oh my goodness. Is it possible to dream while driving?"
"What was that?" The woman opened the passenger door so that she could hear her husband and see if he was still looked mentally capable. "I couldn't hear you."
"I said is it possible to dream while you are driving?"
"Huh? What are you talking about. How can you dream and drive at the same time? You are not making sense. The kids want to go home."
"Can you drive the rest of the way please?"
"Umm, sure. What is going on, John? Don't you feel well?"
"I don't know." The man scratched his head vigourously and looked around one last time. "I must be more tired than I thought. I thought..."
"You thought what?"
"This sounds so absurd. I thought I just saw a woman, a girl, in the air. Flying in the air over the road like Superman, or Wonder Woman in this case. Just now, just as we were passing the strip mall, so it was light enough to see. It was unreal but looked so real. Oh my goodness it looked so real. Please take the keys and let's go, now."
There is a suburban townhouse in Barrhaven, one of so many, on a residential side road off Strandherd Drive on a recent developed piece of land. The front yard contained a bare maple tree (spring had just begun), a lawn partially covered with soggy snow with a slightly bigger pile of shovelled snow bordering the length of the asphalt driveway. The driveway contained a red Hyundai Elantra, which was clean apart from around the wheel rims where the dirt of the road remained. The meltdown of spring was in slow progress. The sparrow had already returned to the area, a good sign that spring was kicking winter out.
The pathway from the front door was wet with melted snow and some remains of road salt. On one side it bordered the garage and on the other it met with the perimeter of a small flower garden. Soon a woman dressed in a long coast and black suede boots went through the front door and stepped gingerly towards the Honda. Before she opened the driver side door, the young face of her daughter appeared at the front door calling after the woman. The girl had something in her hand that the woman had forgotten. Apparently without thinking, the girl stepped out from the front door and hurried down the pathway towards her mom. This was not unusual, except that the girl was wearing just her pyjamas and socks. She was halfway down the pathway, close to the garage door when the mother almost screamed at her daughter.
"Sahara! Where are your shoes?!"
The girl looked down at her feet, where the bottoms of her long legged socks were now wet from the melted snow.
"Oh my goodness, I forgot!"
The woman ran over to the girl, grabbed the object from her (her packed lunch for work) and advised the daughter to get back inside ASAP. Did she want to catch pneumonia or something as severe? Madness! And where was her dressing gown? She could have at least put a jacket on beforehand. Her lunch was important but not that important.
The girl ran back inside, untroubled by her mom's words, and quickly pulled off her wet socks. The dampness was irritating. The extra warmth of a dressing gown she did not need, but her mom would not have known that. The wet socks were placed in the washing machine in the basement. Her pyjamas remained on for now; they were of a particular satin like material, a light grey-blue colour and plain apart from a single five pointed star emblem embossed in the centre of the chest. They were Sahara's favourite pair of pyjamas.
She was now alone downstairs. Soon she would go upstairs and prepare for school. Her sister was due downstairs any minute from now but Sahara reckoned she would hear her footsteps in time.
She would dare herself to do it! The kitchen was at the other end of the hallway from the front door and that was Sahara's destination. All the time her ears were keenly listening out for any squeak from the top of the stairs. When she assured herself that Michelle was not moving yet and if she did she would hear it, Sahara opened the freezer compartment of the fridge and took out the ice cube tray. She pushed all the ice cubes out in a large plastic bowl on the kitchen counter. Then she dipped a hand into the bowl and into the blocks of ice, and waited. She could feel the hardness and then the wetness of the ice but nothing else. This was insane. Then she grabbed a couple cubes and squeezed them into the palm of her hand. After a further two minutes she let go out the cubes that now were two thirds of their original sizes due to her body heat. Her palm as wet with some slight redness but that was it. When she flexed her fingers they moved easily.
She did not feel the cold.
There was another test and this one would be more dangerous. She got a saucepan from the collection hanging from a row of hooks on the wall next to the sink and filled it with water. No. She decided that would take too long. She poured the water into the automatic kettle and turned the kettle on. Sahara waited impatiently for the water to boil, and at the same time still listening out for her sister's footsteps.
Once the steam gained pace from the kettle's spout, Sahara placed her hand directly over the flow of forced hot air. She had tried this once before years ago and was surprised just how hot the steam felt once the boil was on. For today's test, she allowed the kettle to continue until it had reached boiling point and then the automatic switch did the rest.
It was the sound of her sister descending the stairs that reminded Sahara that she had to move her hand. That was how oblivious she had been to the steam. Her tests had confirmed a conclusion she knew already. She had no sensation to the heat. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? What would happen to her in summer?
"Making some tea?" asked Michelle when she appeared from the dining room. She had her hands in her hair rubbing hair conditioner into her lengthy locks.
"Making some hair?" reacted Sahara quickly.
"Whatever, Sa-hair-a. Mom is gone, right?" Their mom did not like anyone fussing with their hair anywhere else but either in the bathroom or in their bedroom. "I was in my don't disturb me zone upstairs and I am pretty sure she said 'bye' to me. I don't remember answering though,
"Yeah she's gone, and that is downright disrespectful of you," Sahara joked. "What if she had said 'I'm dying, help me!'?" She would be six feet under before you noticed anything."
"Oh right, and where's my tea, Miss I Can't Shut it? Now that is being disrespectful. My hands are busy already."
"The water in the kettle is hot," Sahara said as she turned to leave. "I did that much for you. No, you don't have to thank me."
"Good. And teabag?" said Michelle, but by this time Sahara was already on the first step.