I sat down on the window seat and looked outside. I wiped the fog from the glass with my sleeve and saw that the falling snow had settled into a thick and powdery wonderland. I glanced at the clock behind me as the seconds ticked closer to midnight. It would soon be Christmas Day. The twinkling lights from the tree behind me reflected in the window and made it difficult to see through the darkness outside.
Every year we had stayed up until Midnight and then sneaked downstairs to have hot chocolate or play in the snow. We always thought we’d get a glimpse of Santa as he made his way across the country delivering presents but we never did. His presents were always there when we woke up though.
This year, I was too old to wonder about Santa but I was never too old to want to make another Christmas memory with my sister. And I was excited by the snow. It had been a few years since it had fallen over Christmas and I knew she would be pleased to see it.
I turned away from the window and went out into the hall. It would be freezing outside and I was in my PJ’s. I pulled on my fur coat, a pair of pink wellies, my sparkly grey scarf, gloves and a beanie hat. I cracked open the front door and looked outside. It had stopped snowing but the air was freezing. The garden was quite and still and the night sky above it dark and calm. I switched on the light to help me see better and tapped my foot impatiently.
I opened the door fully and saw Lily waving frantically at me from the edge of the garden. She bounded up the lawn and I left the house to greet her. It was hard to walk in the thick snow and my footsteps tracked my progress, destroying the smooth surface.
“It’s so good to see you, Lily,” I said when I reached her. She was wearing her favourite winter coat – red and smart with blue mittens. Her long wispy blonde hair was tucked away and her blue eyes sparkled at me.
“It’s snowed,” she cried, looking around in wonder. “It’s been so long since I’ve seen the snow.”
“It feels really Christmassy,” I agreed.
She looked past me at the house. “The tree looks pretty, did you decorate it?”
“Yeah, I did it with Mum,” I said quietly, hoping I wouldn’t upset her as she hadn’t been able to do it with us for so long.
She bent down and picked up a ball of snow.
“Don’t you dare,” I warned her but she darted forward with it. I started to run and heard the snow hit the ground by my foot. I laughed and danced away from her. Lily picked up another ball and chased me but then I grabbed one and turned so I was chasing her instead.
Lily stopped, she was laughing so hard she had tears streaking her cheeks. She flopped down on the snow. “I give in.”
“Ok,” I said and threw the snow in my hands onto the floor. “That’ll teach you for trying to mess with me.”
“Has it really been a year?” Lily asked, looking up at me.
I walked over and sat down beside her. The snow was soft and cold. “It felt like forever to me. Where have you been?”
She shook her head. She had never answered that question. I didn’t know if it was because I wasn’t meant to hear it or whether she really didn’t remember. “Tell me about your year.”
I smiled at her. “I have a boyfriend, his name is Harry and he’s really sweet.”
“Did you tell him about me?”
I looked away at the house and sighed. “He doesn’t know that I see you, no.”
“Do you think we’ll always do this?”
I met Lily’s eyes. She looked scared and hopeful all at the same time. “I don’t know, Lil. I feel older this year. Christmas is changing and so I am but you haven’t changed. I don’t want us to stop but I wonder sometimes if it’s good for us.”
“I think it will change, Rose.” She looked older suddenly like maybe she wasn’t as fixed as I thought she was. “But when it does we’ll be ready.”
“I hope so.”
We sat for a moment reflecting on our times together. I supposed I had always thought they would last forever but maybe both of us clinging to them was holding us back somehow. Maybe it was time to move on and let go. I didn’t want to think about that though. I wanted to enjoy this time with Lily especially it if would end one day.
Lily obviously felt the same as I did. “Let’s make snow angels,” her sweet voice broke our silence. She broke into a mischievous grin and all I saw was the old Lily again.
“We used to love making them,” I replied, fondly. “Come on then!” I didn’t want to feel down anymore, I just wanted to savour her for as long as I could.
We lay down in the snow so our backs were flat on the ground. We spread our arms and legs out and moved them up and down pushing the snow out of our way. Our hands almost touched and we giggled at each other as we made our angel shapes.
“Why is snow so cold?” I complained, feeling the dampness through my coat.
“Because it’s frozen silly,” Lily replied.
I picked up a bit of snow and threw it at her in response but somehow it missed her.
“Do you reckon they can see our angels?” Lily asked then, looking up.
“I wonder how many people in the world right now are making them.”
We both fell quiet, neither of us able to answer the other one’s question. We lay there for a few minutes in blissful silence side-by-side. I wished we never had to move. It didn’t matter how many years had passed, Lily would always be my sister and I would always wish we could be together.
“I miss you,” I said, looking over at her.
She smiled sweetly back at me. “I’m always here,” she said, her voice so soft it mixed with the breeze.
I looked at the house. The light from the fire was fading so all I could see was the Christmas tree and the light I had left on the hall. The rest if the house was dark as my parents were asleep. They had no idea that I still spent this time with Lily. I wondered what they would say if I ever told them. I yawned involuntarily.
“Are you sleepy?”
“A bit,” I admitted. It always seemed to tire me out seeing Lily. It wasn’t just the hour of night; it was like her presence drained me somehow. “I suppose, I better go inside,” I said, regretfully. She was never able to stay for long and I could sense our time was nearly up.
She nodded. “Don’t be sad,” she told me.
“Thank you for coming,” I said, my voice breaking a little. I knew I would cry as soon as I got to my room. I made sure I held it in though; I didn’t want her to see me cry again. I wanted us to be happy for as long as possible. I stood up and brushed off some of the snow from my clothes. Lily giggled as I swatted away a couple of flakes that had hit my nose.
“I hope I see you next year,” Lily said, sitting up. She still looked like an angel though.
“Stay out of trouble,” I told her through the lump that had formed in my throat.
“You be good, Rose,” she replied with a wave. I knew it was time for her to go. We smiled at each other and our love seemed to warm the air around us.
I turned around and started to walk slowly back to the house. The light from the open door was warm and welcoming but I wished I didn’t have to leave her. I really hoped it wasn’t the last year that I’d see her.
I paused by the door and looked back.
My angel was still entrenched in the snow. Surrounding it was a blanket of white snow untouched and undisturbed. There was no second angel in the snow. It was as if Lily had never been there.
I gazed up at the twinkling stars above me.
“Merry Christmas,” I whispered to her.