7 Jan 2001
by vulcanviking (Joe White)
Copyright 2001-2003 by Joe White

Amanda shivered and pulled her coat more closely about her. Her breath rose in clouds as she fumbled with the car door and shook out the jumble of keys.

The car's interior was still warm. She started the engine and slid the seat forward. Dan always teased her about her short legs.

She put the thought from her mind. Dome light. Find the defroster. Don't think.

The frost had formed layers on the inside of the windows. She looked at the patterns as she adjusted her seatbelt. It would take some time for the frost to clear. She turned around and started feeling through the back seat for the scraper.

Empty beer cans clanked as she pulled the scraper out. She probably shouldn't be driving. It was miles back to town. They'd probably find her in a ditch the next day.

The scraper only took off thin strips of frost at a time. Flakes fell into her lap, and gathered on her bare hands. She wished she hadn't had to take her gloves off. Wished a lot of things. Wished Dan could drive her home.

No. Don't wish that. Not now.

Flakes of frost kept falling, and she stopped to wipe off her hands. The moisture left streaks on her jeans. Some of the streaks were darker than others.

She switched hands and started to clear the driver's window. It wasn't curved as much as the windshield, so the going was faster. Her wrist started to hurt, so she unfastened the seatbelt to get a better angle.

Her wrist suddenly started throbbing. Like it had earlier. Damn, she'd probably sprained it when she --

She ignored the thought and slid halfway across the seat, to start scraping the passenger window.

The frost patterns were different there.

And suddenly, it was all too much. Her eyes stung, and she let out a sob. There. The vertical streaks. Where her hair had touched the glass, as Dan had pushed her downward onto the seat. And pulled something out of the glove compartment.

She'd never seen him drunk before. It was like a different person. Like everything inside him had frozen over.

She didn't know how long she sat there, but when she finally blinked back her tears, the windshield was clear enough to see through. And she looked out into the darkness, and thought, why did I come with him tonight? I told him I wasn't interested in that, wasn't ready to get involved with anyone.

But as she turned to put the scraper back, the frost pattern in the back window caught her eye. The crystals were thicker in that corner, more irregular, forming an outline.

And she looked for a long moment, at the spot where, months ago, when he wasn't looking, she had traced their initials in the window.

Finally, with her eyes stinging again, she turned back to the steering wheel. Dome light off. Seatbelt. Headlights, shining on a gravel road and a near-empty field.

The knife was nowhere in sight, and neither were her gloves. Funny, that. Knife in the glove box. Gloves giving her the chance to grab the knife away.

As she slowly turned the car around, the headlights reflected off a man, lying face down in the field, his hair already beginning to glisten with frost.