Let It Snow

The People's Friend - - News - by Mhairi Grant

AYE, it will be a white Christ­mas this year.” Danni stopped splash­ing through a pud­dle. There was no-one in sight.

She peeped over a gar­den wall. All she could see were shrubs thumped into sub­mis­sion with the rain that never seemed to let up.

She walked on cau­tiously, ex­pect­ing to be am­bushed by the voice again.

“You mark my words, a white Christ­mas.”

Danni stopped again and twirled round.

At the end of the school day, her class­mates had all rushed from the class into wait­ing cars, even though the vil­lage wasn’t that big.

Her mum didn’t have a car. Be­sides, she was happy to walk; she was seven now, and her house was only along the road Noth­ing could pos­si­bly hap­pen to her.

But Danni hadn’t con­sid­ered a voice from nowhere.

She looked at the dark­en­ing sky.

“How do you know it will be a white Christ­mas?”

It seemed a rea­son­able ques­tion for her to ask, and she fully ex­pected a re­ply. Es­pe­cially as snow hadn’t been men­tioned in any weather fore­casts. Danni knew that, be­cause snow for Christ­mas was what she longed for most. “What?”

Ja­cob ap­peared from a gap in the hedge.

He was in her class and lived at the edge of the vil­lage. Ear­lier, in the school play­ground, he had told every­one that he wanted a sledge for Christ­mas.

“You need snow for a sledge,” his pal had said.

“We’ll get snow,” Ja­cob had replied, “and when we do, I’ll take the sledge up the Braes.”

In spite of the scoffs, he’d held stub­bornly to his belief.

“You said that we’ll get snow for Christ­mas,” Danni said. “I heard you.”

“No, I didn’t. I said it ear­lier.”

Danni opened her mouth to ar­gue, then shut it. She was the new girl who wanted to fit in.

“Ja­cob!” An older boy, hunched in an anorak, kicked his way through the pud­dles to­wards them. “I told you to wait for me.”

“My brother,” Ja­cob mur­mured. “See you.”

Danni thought he was strange. She thought the vil­lage was strange.

As the rain dripped off the hood of her coat, Danni wished she was back in the flat above the café, where she could look down on the bright lights of the shops with all the shop­pers flit­ting in and out.

The café was closed now. The cou­ple that had owned it had re­tired.

She walked on and saw her mother stand­ing at the gate wait­ing for her. Danni started to run to the one per­son she loved most in the world.

“Do you think it will ever stop rain­ing?” Danni asked after tea.

It was only her and her mum, who said that Danni had been a gift from her fa­ther be­fore he died.

When she’d first heard that story, Danni imag­ined her­self in a box with a big rib­bon and it had made her feel spe­cial.

Lisa, Danni’s best friend, had made her feel spe­cial, too. But lately when they Skyped each other, Lisa talked about her new friends. And the calls had be­come shorter.

“Poor baby,” her mum said, giv­ing her a hug. “You haven’t seen the best of this place, have you?”

Danni shrugged. Her mum had come back to her roots; she be­longed here. Peo­ple stopped and spoke to her, and Danni’s granny and grandpa lived nearby.

Danni had been brought up on the sto­ries from her mum’s child­hood: the pig­gery where a pig broke loose and went feral, the woods where deer lived, Old Mags in his work­shop and the sledg­ing on the Braes.

Was Ja­cob right when he told Danni they would have a white Christ­mas? She hoped so!

It was this last bit that had ex­cited her. Snow in the town lasted only hours be­fore turn­ing to slush. In the vil­lage, the snow could be­come so deep that they’d be cut off.

It re­minded her of il­lus­tra­tions in pic­ture books. The magic of it touched some­thing deep in­side her, and for some rea­son, she thought the snow would bring with it a sense of be­long­ing.

“I will when it snows,” she told her mum. “Ja­cob says that it’s go­ing to snow.”

With her words came a con­vic­tion that Ja­cob was right.

She looked out for him over the next few days. He was her touch­stone to what could be.

At first she kept well back, but grad­u­ally she joined in his games of float­ing sticks down the wa­ter in the over­flow­ing gutters and jump­ing the dubs.

“Dub.” She tested the word out loud. It was Ja­cob’s word for a pud­dle.

She was learn­ing a whole new lan­guage and a way of be­ing. Play­ing with the el­e­ments rather than shel­ter­ing from them.

Some­times, Mor­gan, who sat next to her in class, joined in.

Mor­gan was cast as Mary in the school na­tiv­ity, while she and Ja­cob were the don­key. Some­times Mor­gan would go off in a huff as they teased her about her star role.

But still there was no snow.

Danni missed the smell of cin­na­mon waft­ing through the floor from the café be­low, where her mum had worked; the car lights which strobed her bed­room at night; Lisa’s laugh­ter as she tried to tell a joke.

Some­times she would wake up in the night and feel the empty si­lence around her and look into a dark­ness so com­plete that she felt like the only per­son in the world.

It was after such a night that Danni went in for the last day of school with a heavy heart.

Lately Lisa hadn’t picked up her Skype calls. She had moved on.

“What’s wrong with your face?” Ja­cob asked.

“Noth­ing,” she replied, then added, “Butt out, Ja­cob!”

“Oh,” he said to some of the other boys. “Get that!”

They teased her then, and in their teas­ing there was an edge of cru­elty.

Danni, used to the ways of a much big­ger school, held her own – un­til Ja­cob walked away.

Mor­gan tossed her hair and hissed.

“Boys!”

Then she linked her arm through Danni’s and they headed for the class­room.

By lunchtime the weather had grown colder. The sheep hud­dled in the shel­ter of a dry­s­tone dyke and, cud­ding on hay, lifted their heads to the sharp edge of the wind.

Danni swung on the field gate and watched them.

“Is it go­ing to snow?” she shouted to them, but the wind snatched her words away.

Danni walked home slowly, think­ing of Christ­mas. It would be dif­fer­ent this year. Quiet.

“Mum,” she asked later that day. “Do you miss the café?”

“Yes, very much,” she replied, brush­ing Danni’s dark hair back from her face. “But when Gran and Grandpa come we want to show you some­thing.” “What?”

“Wait and see.” Danni could feel her mother’s ex­cite­ment.

When her grand­par­ents ar­rived, Danni and her mum went to meet them at the train sta­tion.

Dusk was set­tling and a film of ice cov­ered the pud­dles, re­flect­ing the street lights.

They stopped in front of an old cot­tage with some slates miss­ing from its roof.

“This,” her mum said, “used to be Old Mags’s work­shop.”

Old Mags was her grandpa’s daddy, but he’d died be­fore she was born. To Danni he was just a story, and it took her a mo­ment to re­alise that he had once been a flesh and blood per­son.

As her grandpa opened the door, she al­most ex­pected him to jump out. Gnarled and old, like some­thing out of a fairy tale.

“Come in,” her grandpa said, rub­bing and blow­ing on his cold hands.

Danni’s eyes were wide. This place spoke of se­crets and times past.

Her mum took her hand. “Danni, this is go­ing to be our new café,” she said with a strange wob­ble to her voice.

Danni looked to her mother to see if it was a joke, but she could tell that it wasn’t.

Sud­denly Danni didn’t see the cob­webs, bare light­bulbs, scarred work benches, an­cient tools and shoe lasts.

In­stead, she could al­most hear the burr of the grinder, and the bang­ing, clank­ing, hum­ming and gur­gling of the cof­fee ma­chine. She could see the deft hands lay­ing out the cof­fee cups, sprin­kling the choco­late and slip­ping pas­tries on to plates.

“A café,” she re­peated in won­der.

Ja­cob could come with his brother and par­ents – if he was still speak­ing to her. Mor­gan, too. Maybe even her teacher and all the peo­ple who spoke to her mum at the vil­lage shop.

The pos­si­bil­i­ties were end­less. A café in a vil­lage where a voice spoke to you out of nowhere and promised snow.

Later that evening, snow did come. But it tan­ta­lised and teased and melted like one of her mum’s meringues on her gloved fingers.

On Christ­mas Day, when Danni woke early, there was a light and hushed qual­ity to the morn­ing. She rushed to the win­dow.

Out­side was a blan­ket of deep white snow, rut­ted on the road into knife-like flicks of ic­ing on a Christ­mas cake. Even the tele­phone wire hung heavy with snow.

The voice had been right – it was a white Christ­mas.

“You were right, Ja­cob!” she squealed when he came to show her his blue sledge on Box­ing Day. “We’ve got snow. Lots of it!”

“Of course we’ve got snow,” he replied, smil­ing at her ex­cite­ment.

He was with his par­ents and she and her mum went with them to the Braes. Other fam­i­lies were there, too, as was Mor­gan.

Some of the chil­dren had real sledges, oth­ers had trays, and some, like her­self, used a bin liner. It was very ef­fec­tive and Danni squealed her de­light.

It was as she was trudg­ing back up the hill that she heard the voice again.

“See, lass, I told you it would snow.”

Danni stopped and cocked her head. It was the voice of the old man.

Ja­cob and Mor­gan came puff­ing up be­hind her.

“Did you hear that?” she asked. “I think Old Mags, my grandpa’s daddy, spoke to me.”

“Old Mags the cob­bler?” Mor­gan asked. “But isn’t he dead?”

“Aye, lass,” Ja­cob said, “so he be. Dead as a dodo.” Danni stared at him. “What did you say?” Ja­cob, with a wicked grin, re­peated him­self.

“Didn’t you know that Ja­cob is a great mimic and can throw his voice?” Mor­gan added in com­plete in­no­cence.

“Ja­cob! I’ll kill you!” But Ja­cob was al­ready run­ning, his breath bil­low­ing out like steam from a cof­fee ma­chine.

Danni, un­able to catch him, pelted him with snow­balls un­der the snow-laden sky.

Then she ran out of steam and just sank down into the snow.

She started to laugh as more and more thick flakes of snow fell upon her up­turned face. ■

Danni’s eyes were wide. This place spoke of se­crets and times past

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.