Shadows in the Snow: A Creative Writing Piece
- Pages: 5
- Word count: 1161
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Anya Kojovic let the door bounce back on its hinges, gasping as the freezing air snatched the breath from her lungs. Icy hands clawed and tugged at the thin brown cardigan that hung loosely over her yellow cotton dress.
Thick patches of snow lay like dollops of cream glittering on the ground. Like the cream she put on the Babka she made with her grandmother back in Warsaw.
It was clear but for a few clouds smudged into the powder blue sky. There was the sound of tea boiling, because that’s what they drank now. The shrill cry of the kettle shattering the gentle trickle of the creek.
She could hear the voices of the ladies singing as they washed, finding comfort in routines, clinging to anything that felt normal, holding on to something of home. At the same time trying to forget, trying to push the thoughts away, hold them back like the water in the dam they were building. But frequently memories would flood in through cracks in the wall and she would remember.
She remembered dirty cobblestones and grey skies, the sound of her shoes on the road and the eggs that fell from her hands when the gunfire shot. Wide eyed, she had continued on, past the broken glass, bloodied snow and the skeletons of trees.
It had all come to an end, as it always does, after years of burning flags, protests, fighting, greed and word that stuck in her throat, a word that made her sick to say – hate. Pointless hate, unknowing hate, hate because you were told to, the worst kind of hate.
They fled the country, hearts still beating, fuelled by half hopes of a future. A word used tentatively for the fear that ravaged their bodies, the fear that could sometimes be suppressed with drink or running away but a fear that could never be escaped while their accents were different and their hair was dark. While there was still hate in the world.
Edvard would have already left the camp to go to work. Drill in the tunnels of blood, he said, describing the hissing of the compressed air, the screech and whine of the drills, the sound of tumbling rocks and the darkness that filled every crevice, suffocating them. They were like the Snowy River she thought, forced to change course, mid-stream.
Anya had not seen him this morning or any other morning. They spoke awkwardly in the short moments they had together in the evening in the noisy food hall, where the sound of men’s loud drunken cries echoed off the uneven lino, the dirty white walls and into the valley below. They were all trying to forget.
The women cleaned until their hands, like squashed prunes, were bloodied and raw. The scratching of the brushes on the floor and the flop of lazy mops being pushed to work hid the sighs and occasional whimpers, but never tears. They were all the same, here. There was no point in talking of what was past, for what they had seen was almost, but not quite, normal.
That evening the yellow light of the hall trickling out onto the rocky ground was almost welcoming. Inside were a few Australian flags, draped over the cracks in the walls and they had all worn the best clothes they could find, for most that meant wearing a ridiculously impractical hat, or some heeled shoes that were of no use for anything else. They repeated the Australian pledge in various accents and clapped and cheered as if this moment would change anything. Edvard had said that it was a new start, they were the “New Australians”, the lucky ones, to be leaving, leaving everything familiar. She saw him standing beside her and watched him through the speeches, saw the lights behind his tired eyes, saw his callused hands, the dirt under his fingernails, saw how much he wanted to make this work. She wondered how he could just walk away, how he could forget.
The applause died down and slowly people began to trickle back out into the darkness. It was over. A flag had lost its grasp of the wall and hung loosely by one corner. It looked less important than it had a few moments before. How quickly things could change, she thought. He had been a History Professor, their house had been filled with books, with large arched windows, rich tapestries and now they had nothing, except each other and she wondered if this was enough anymore. He noticed that she was thinking, and he stroked her hair. But she turned away and he watched as she ran stumbling out of the hall, into the dark, holding her breath until her hands felt the familiar cold plastic of the light switch of the dorm.
She stared at photos, the hollowed-out carcasses of memories, all that was left of a place she thought she knew, a son she had loved. Photos of him on his fifth birthday, memories of the cake she made him, his first day of school, and the smile that he always wore. She denied herself sleep, waiting, waiting for when the light would pierce her eyes. Anya stared at the ceiling, at the cobwebs in the corners, where the light never seemed to reach, listening to the grunt of the rusted springs that tensed underneath her with every nervous breath. She drifted into a horrible sleep, empty of meaning but filled with thoughts of him, the grey of the sky, the flowers in his hand, the blood trickling into his glazed eyes, as he lay huddled with a scarf wrapped loosely around his tiny neck. How could she not feel hate and anger? How could she live? How could Edvard just start again?
Edvard stood outside the door, listening to the muffled sobs. At one moment he held his hand up, about to knock, but drew it away, driving it into his pocket.
“I’m sorry Anya,” he said
“I understand,” she cried.
He listened to the bed creak as she rose and to the sound of her shoes on the concrete floor. The door opened and she clung to the knob as if it were precious to her. He stepped inside and she sat on the bed.
Taking a deep breath, he said, “I wish I say everything will be good. I wish I give you everything you need. I wish I protect you,” he stuttered, wistfully, his voice catching, “and him, the way I should.”
She looked at the deep rifts that had formed on his face, accentuated by the shadows of the room. She remembered where smiles had been and raised her hand. She wanted so much to erase those lines, but she drew her hand away, smudging the trickle of hot tears into her frozen cheeks.