Low Winter Sun

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A woman's struggle to survive alone, the harsh winter taking it's toll on her.

Submitted: November 10, 2012

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Submitted: November 10, 2012



The low winter sun shared no warmth with the valley, the high ridge blocking all but the faintest of light.  The long shadows loomed across the field, the trees like fingers, scratching at the door.  A thin covering of frost covered the  ground, making it shimmer like the night sky.

She stooped to collect another log for the fire, the pile now dwindled to the last few chopped pieces, placing them into the wicker trug beside her.  She'd have to get the axe and cut some more.  Tears welled in her eyes, her tired body aching at the thought of swinging the heavy, cold, rough handled tool.  The wind plucked at her skin, biting deep into every pore, every bone in her body.  She had stopped  shivering a long time ago, shivering wasted precious strength.  She lifted the trug and carried the wood to the cabin, her heavy steps on the wooden steps echoing around the valley walls.

There was a time she had loved this cabin, when she and Caleb had first settled here, a time when the sun shone, the crops grew, the birds sang in the clear, blue skies.  She grew flowers in a patch of earth near the cabin, bringing colour and nature to the door.  Caleb had teased her, "That's fertile land, right there, potatoes would grow beautifully there", but it had been his idea for her to grow flowers, he had broken the soil and worked it over for her, his strong, lean arms digging by day, and loving her by night.  It was a garden for the both of them, fresh flowers for the table, and then, later... 

Now, the birds had gone. Not all, a few crows cackled from the treetops, or swooped to the orchard, picking on the remains of the last crop of apples.  A poor harvest, this year.   She wanted to blame someone, anyone.  She had lost her faith, her puritanical upbringing had driven her to question, to doubt, to make up her own mind.  She didn't believe in heaven, but she did believe there was a better place than this.  She had lost so much here.



Nathan had been born here, two short years after they'd settled.  He'd been small for a baby, but had grown fit and well.  He had Caleb's striking eyes, a look to melt the hardest heart, and a sweet nature.  He'd started school in the next town, and had made friends quickly.  He took to reading, often when she tucked him in at night, he would read to her, rather than the oher way around.  Nathan loved to help, especially with the flowers, planting seeds, watering and nurturing them.  He knew the names of them all. he knew which ones the insects liked, and refused those ones to be picked, instead he would lay in the grass for hours, watching, fascinated by the darting and zooming of the myriad of insects feasting on the pollen.  At harvest time he and Caleb would spend hours together, man and son, picking fruit, lifting crops, the bond growing stronger each day.

The epidemic ran through the school like wildfire, every child in the nearby towns struck down.  The doctor did the best he could, but the mortality rate was high.  Nathan had succumbed like almost all his schoolfriends.  The town was decimated.  The day of the funeral, every family in town buried one of their own.  Caleb had carried Nathan's tiny coffin, his broad shoulders sagged, not with the weight of the coffin, but with the burden of grief.  

The cabin, once full of laughter, of joy, of life, now seemed an empty shell.  Caleb was a changed man, his spirit broken by the cruel twist of fate.  Hers, too, but she resolved to love him more and more, to turn their lives around.  One day, she swore, we shall have another child.  Nathan would never, could never, be replaced, but that love they had shared with Nathan was deserving of another.  The flowers she grew marked Nathans grave, the bees and insects humming their songs over his resting place.  She imagined her son, awakening from his slumber to the sounds he loved so much.  It gave her a small amount of comfort. 


The children had been the bonds between the townsfolk, suddenly this bond was no more.  Everyone now seemed to live separate lives.  Few people came by the cabin anymore.  They grew and raised enough to live on, selling surplus to the town or to passing tradesmen.  They withdrew into themselves, feeling no need to invite the outside world in.  A year passed, then another.  No child was borne, the empty ache in their lives become a chasm between them.  He grew ever distant. She loved him deeply, more so than ever before.  She resolved to make him see how much she needed him. 

And then, that day late last summer.  Caleb had been chopping logs, preparing the store for winter.  His mind was elsewhere, a clumsy swing of the axe.  She had turned at the sound of his voice in the doorway. turned to the horror in front of her, his leg opened to the bone, the trail of blood endless behind him. He had held his arms out to her like a child.  She had done her best, had dressed the wound, but it was too late.  She had pleaded with him to let her fetch the doctor, he held her tight.  He clung to life for two hours, begging her to forgive him for his coldness to her,  weeping for their son, wanting to put right in his short, remaining time the things he had done wrong.  She wept with him, begging him to stay.  His warm blood flowed from  his wound, taking his life force with it.  He kissed her, told her he loved her one last time, then the light in his eyes dimmed.  

She wept til she had no tears left to cry.  The townsfolk had helped her to bury him, right next to Nathan.  The flowers bloomed brighter than ever that autumn, a fitting tribute to the two most precious things in her life.  For a while, people from town would come by, then, one by one, they stopped.  She carried on with her life.


The sun had dipped further in the sky, the shadow from the mountain now encompassed the cabin.  She heaved the heavy trug in through the door toward the stove.  The iron crackled, her heart sank.  Opening the door, her fear was realised.  The fire had gone out.  Her hands, chilled to the bone, had not the strength to rekindle it.  She sank to the floor, her resolve now gone, her tears like ice on her face.  Her body shook as sobs wracked from her.  'This is no life', she thought,, 'this is no life at all'.

She stood, and walked to the door.  The shadow from the mountain crept outwards to the treeline, a last patch of sun illuminating the two crosses at the far end of the flowerbed.  She straightened, walked down the cabin steps and across the grass, stooping to pick a handful of flowers, their leaves brittle after the frost. 

With flowers in hand, she settled between the two graves, blowing a kiss to each of them.  She lay back on the cold, hard earth.

"My loves", she said aloud, "I'll be with you soon"

The low winter sun shrank back under the mountains,  leaving the valley in darkness.  The cold blanket draped itself gently over the earth as a mother, wife and lover slowly passed away. 


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