By Samantha Swalgin
The sky was dark, none of its stars were able to shine through the cloud cover. The first snowstorm of the season was upon us, and the wind was forcing the snowflakes to fall at such a slant, they looked to be going sideways. The chill in the air was enough to freeze a person to the bone if they were dumb enough to go outside.
I’m the dumb one.
As I zipped up my coat, making sure my hat and gloves were secure, I mentally cursed at myself as I left the store. I clutched the box as tightly as I could without damaging it, noticing the store lights shut off as soon as the door closed behind me. I took a deep breath, feeling the cold air fill my lungs, then set on my way back home.
I needed to get this present home to my daughter. I felt bad enough that I’d completely forgotten to get her a gift, I wasn’t about to let her down by not having anything at all. I had gone down to the thrift shop when it was still light out, but even the sun knew better than to stay out in this horrific weather. I scoured the shelves, praying I’d find something – anything – for my little girl.
With each step through the crunchy snow, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the snow days Jamie would spend outside. The days when school would shut down and Jamie would beg me to make a snowman with her, or just lay on the ground to form snow angels.
“Come on, Daddy!” She called to me, her eyes bright with excitement. “Let’s go play!”
“Hold on, Peanut,” I chuckled. “I just need to do one thing, then I’ll be right there. Why don’t you get started without me?”
I turned toward the door just in time to see it close, chuckling at the pure innocence of a child. I placed Santa’s present under our tree in the living room, then I joined my daughter in her winter wonderland.
I’ll always remember how happy she was to spend the day outside, how amazed she was at the snowman we built, and how loudly she’d giggle as we laid in the snow.
The gentle slip of my boot pulled me from my memories. I took a moment to take in my surroundings, and all I could see were the streetlights, as far and few between they seemed to be. I looked down at the box, making sure it was still secure in my jacket.
A present Jamie had been asking for since she was just four years old. I could never find one, and it broke my heart every time I had to tell her I couldn’t get it for her. She’d seen a picture of her mom before our wedding, and wanted a necklace just like what she had.
It feels like ages ago that Rachel passed, but every time I think of her, I can’t help but remember the day we lost the world’s brightest soul. She wanted nothing more than to be a mom, so when she handed me that positive test with the widest grin, I picked her up and twirled her around the room. We were going to be a family.
I still smile at the memory of her looking at herself in the mirror, rubbing her belly as it grew. We’d prepared the nursery, making sure it was nothing short of perfect for our little girl. Then, the big day arrived. I was a mess as I drove us to the hospital, but she was so calm, so happy. It was a day we’d been waiting for after trying for two years.
Each moment dragged on, but looking back on it, it passed in a flash. Our Jamie was born. Rachel held her first, smiling so brightly.
Then, something happened.
Rachel looked completely drained, and she was so tired. The beeping around us scared our baby girl, but Rach still looked so calm. I was ushered out of the room while the doctors and nurses did what they could.
It wasn’t enough, though.
She was gone.
Suddenly, I had to play both parents for Jamie. I had to do two times the work, but damn did it pay off.
I looked up and saw the familiar porchlight, bright and beckoning. I smiled, knowing Jamie turned it on so I’d find my way home. Another step, and before I knew it, my face was buried in the snow, my mind not sure how to comprehend what had happened. I brought myself up and wiped away the snow soaking into my clothes. My eyes widened as I searched for the box that I tried so hard to protect…
I pulled it out of my jacket, and I had the urge to cry when I saw it was broken in half. I inspected it closer, praying the necklace was still inside, but I couldn’t see it anywhere. With a defeated sigh and heavy heart, I trudged the rest of the way home.
I went inside and closed the door behind me, shedding the freshly powdered clothes and leaving them by the entrance. Sliding the broken box into my back pocket, I noticed a delectable smell coming from the kitchen.
Once I entered the dining room, I saw my little girl come from the kitchen, looking quite concerned. I blinked a few times, and I realized that my little peanut that would beg for a day in the snow had grown into the spitting image of her mother. Jamie grew up into a confident, beautiful young woman right before my eyes, and I couldn’t be prouder of her.
“Dad! Thank God you’re okay.” She came up to me and wrapped her arms around my waist, hugging me tight. “I was so scared you’d gotten hurt or something. I’m just glad you’re home.”
Smiling softly, I returned her hug. “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be, Peanut.”
“Where did you go that warranted being out in that horrible blizzard?”
My sadness returned as I presented the broken box. “I found the necklace you’d been asking for. It was at the pawn shop down the road, and I thought I would be quicker than I was. I slipped, though, and that’s how the box broke. Jamie, I’m so sorry.”
“Dad, don’t be sorry. It’s the thought that counts, and having you home is better than any present that you could give me.” She opened one half of the box, finding it empty. When she opened the other side, she froze, her eyes wide as saucers. “It’s prettier in person.”
“What?” I looked in the box, and sure enough, the necklace was sitting in a small pile, still in one piece. “I-I looked all over, I couldn’t find it. I was afraid I’d lost it in the snow.”
“Put it on me?” She asked, handing me the necklace before turning around.
With a grin, I clasped the gold chain behind her neck, then helped make sure the charm was facing the right way in front. When she turned around, I swear I saw Rachel smiling up at me for a moment, before seeing Jamie’s bright smile, her sparkling eyes.
“Thank you so much, Daddy.” She hugged me once again, this time tighter than before.
I chuckled as I hugged her back, “Merry Christmas, Peanut.”
Samantha Swalgin is a first time novelist from New York. She admits to a very active and healthy imagination; making up her own stories since she was a child. She is currently working on her first novel, a romance titled Kitten Takes the Stage. Find more about Samantha on Blogspot and Facebook.