It snowed heavy through the night. The grass in the garden was tucked safely under a blanket of white. Nothing went untouched. Everything was covered in a thick layer of snow.
I wonder where she is. Is she somewhere hot? Maybe she’s only a few miles away, looking at the same sky and the same clouds and the same snow.
John runs through into the room, his eyes alive, his mouth wide open in an ecstatic smile.
‘It snowed, it snowed!’ he cries, jumping onto the bed and bouncing up and down.
I turn away from the window and smile weakly at him. ‘I know,’ I whisper.
He doesn’t sense my pain. ‘Can I go and make a snowman?’ he pleads. His eyes are round and shining. He hasn’t even had breakfast or brushed his teeth yet, but I don’t have the heart to say no.
I nod. ‘Wrap up warm, though,’ I warn him.
With those words, he runs out of the room, and almost immediately he bursts into the garden, his scarf flying out behind him, his hat falling down his face, as he runs and dives into the snow.
I watch him curiously for a few minutes. He gets to work right away, gathering up balls and balls of snow and piling them together messily.
He is seven years old; so young, vulnerable and naïve. He doesn’t know the seriousness of our situation. He looks just like her – he has her straight brown hair; his fringe even falls into his eyes, just like hers did. He has her sparkling blue eyes and long, dark eyelashes. I can’t look at him without my heart feeling like a knife has just been pushed into it.
She left a year ago today. She didn’t leave a note. She just left her wedding ring on her chest of drawers, which was now bare of all her belongings. Sometimes I still press my nose to it and breathe in the musky smell of her old perfumes. The scent is still there, even after all this time.
She hasn’t written to us. I check the mail every day, but there’s no news from her. No letter, no card, not even a postcard. She doesn’t ring. It’s almost like she never lived.
For the first month or so I tried calling her mobile. She never answered. I tried phoning her parents but they were indifferently vague. She never got on well with them anyway, but I thought maybe she’d have stayed with them.
John doesn’t ask about her much anymore. For a while he repeatedly asked when she was coming home. I had to avoid answering the question. I turned away so he wouldn’t see the tears in my eyes.
We don’t talk about her anymore, but I always think about her. Everything is a constant reminder. Making tea or washing the dishes makes me think of her cooking. She was a brilliant cook. I’d hoped she’d at least leave a recipe book so I could still make her amazing food, but she didn’t. She took everything; every last thing she owned, from clothes to fridge magnets. I went out and bought scented candles and wall arts and lamps, the kind she liked, just to try and make the place a bit more homely. But it just isn’t the same.
I watch John now. He laughs as he throws his own hat on top of the snowman’s head. He searches high and low, and finally finds a few stones. He makes the snowman’s face, who smiles at John kindly.
I wonder if she is with anyone now. Does she have a new boyfriend? Maybe in a few months’ time she’ll return. Maybe she’ll come to say she wants a divorce, but then she’ll realise she never stopped loving me or John and she’ll return for good. John deserves a few answers from her.
Does she have any new children? Maybe she’s seeing a man who already has kids. Perhaps she’s living alone.
John laughs at his snowman. I can’t help but feel anger bubble and rise inside of me. She should be here, helping him build the snowman, like she did last winter. Of course, her heart wasn’t in it. She left a few days later. I hate her for leaving us. I loathe her for the torture she’s put us through. I despise her for leaving our son without saying goodbye. But she’s still my wife. I love her too.
John’s gaze catches mine and he waves, beckoning me to come outside. I don’t really want to, but he looks so happy that I can’t turn away. I walk to the back door of our bungalow and watch him from the doorway.
He giggles, then gasps as an idea strikes him. ‘Come and make snow angels with me, Dad!’ he cries.
I’m about to feign feeling cold, when he runs up to me and yanks on my arm, tugging me outside. He drops to the floor, and I do the same. We lay on our backs for a while, throwing our arms up and down crazily. His laughter fills my ears and I realise I am laughing too.
After a while we just lay there. My whole body is quaking and shivering with the cold air, but all of a sudden, I don’t care.
After around ten minutes of silence, just staring at the clouds, John takes hold of my hand. I squeeze it gently.
‘Dad?’ he whispers.
I’m too distracted by a cloud which looks like her face; or maybe it’s just another hallucination. Sometimes I’ll see her face in the steamed-up mirror after I’ve had a shower, or in the way I’ll spread the butter across John’s sandwiches. Now, she is above me, white and fluffy and innocently smiling down on me.
‘Yes?’ I mumble absently.
‘Do you think she misses us?’
I am stunned by his words. They are like six droplets of blood falling onto the snow. Suddenly her smiling face above me scowls, then disconcerts into something ugly and hideous.
I swallow. ‘Of course,’ I whisper, but it’s strained. I hope she misses that boy. I hope it kills her. I hope it feels like she’s being stabbed every time she sees a happy family together. I want her to be haunted by John’s face forever.
‘I wonder where she is,’ John says quietly.
I close my eyes. It hurts to hear him talk about her. I didn’t realise he missed her. I thought he’d simply accepted that she’d left us. I give his hand another squeeze.
‘Do you think she’ll come back?’ he asks me.
I want to say yes. I want to assure him she’ll be back before he knows it. But I can’t. I can’t get his hopes up like that, only for them to shatter when another year drags by and she’s not with us.
Instead, I sigh and murmur, ‘I don’t know.’
‘I miss her.’ I gulp down the lump that’s formed in my throat and confess in a choked voice, ‘Yeah. Me too.’
With that, I stand up. John copies me. We just stand for a while. Everything is silent. I can see him shivering. I notice his eyes are pink and glistening with tears. I pull him close to me and kiss the top of his head.
And then we just stand there, looking down at the pattern we’ve made in the snow. Snow angels.