She wasn’t happy about it. Not one little bit. She’d yelled at her coat, kicked one of her snow boots. Nevertheless, she’d been elected. Everyone else claimed to have something more important to do. And besides. No one liked making time for Delia. As Lucy drove the unfamiliar roads to her great aunt’s home, the flakes seemed to be getting bigger, and falling harder. Great. Just great. At this rate, I’ll end up getting snowed in.
Lucy was momentarily taken aback when Delia answered the door. Her great aunt looked ancient now, but then it had been years since Lucy last saw her. Guilt stabbed her over this neglect, but the moral discomfort vanished when she remembered being here in her childhood. Eat your peas Toots, and when you grow up you’ll have some dangerous curves on you! Look at all those freckles! You’ll have lots of boyfriends, mark my words! Between the cheek pinching and the endless servings of vegetables, Lucy detested every visit. As she stepped into the warmth of her great aunt’s home, she became aware of Delia’s hands fumbling to help her out of her sugar dusted coat. That’s better! I don’t want you to catch a chill! My, but it’s really snowing out there, isn’t it? Delia was shyly attempting small talk, though Lucy’s dry reply was in thought only. Cold, uncaring thought. Well, well, well. Delia’s sharp today. What a treat. Half an hour, and I’m out of here.
My stars! How could it have happened so long ago? It seems like only yesterday! I still clearly remember that blizzard-right before Christmas, back in 1946. Delia was reminiscing, staring out the picture window in her front room. The snow, falling like feathery goose down, seemed to have whited out the passage of time as well as the world outside. She’d made steaming mugs of hot cocoa. Trying to be a good hostess as well as a doting great aunt. Lucy held her cup with both hands, secretly trying to glance at her watch. Stifling a yawn, she hoped Delia’s story wouldn't last too long.
The war was finally over and Jack was home. I’d been writing to him for 3 years. I still have his letters. Anyway, he asked me to go for a walk in the snow. We didn't count on being caught in the middle of a major storm. We took refuge in someone’s barn and ended up being stuck in there for hours. There wasn’t much to do but talk and…
Delia blushed, yet there was a sauciness in her eyes.
I let him kiss me. He asked me to marry him. He said we were going to be together for always.
Lucy snapped out of her indifference. Her great aunt was not making any sense. Um, Aunt Delia… I thought Jack never, you know. Don’ t you remember? Jack didn’t come home. She was proud of herself for knowing at least some of the family history, but it also made her wonder whether or not her aunt was playing with a full deck.
Delia stared out the window again, but instead of the soft white clumps of snow, she saw parachutes. White silken clumps. She thought about Jack and how he must have felt high in the sky where it was peaceful, far above the chaos on the ground. She often wondered what had gone through his mind as he landed, his parachute covering him like a blanket of snow-and then a shroud. All in the split second it took fate to play it’s hand. She hoped he’d felt no pain.
Her sigh was barely audible.
I know, Lucy dear, I know. But I don’t like to think about what really happened, so I’ve made up my own memories. And besides, what else have I had all these years but memories. I'm old, and probably not very interesting to any of you. I realize none of you like to visit me, and I’m sorry about that. How did you get stuck with me this time? Are you being punished? Did you lose the coin toss? Delia seemed to wilt.
Lucy was stunned. She hadn’t anticipated this-suddenly finding her heart aching for the old woman-and she wished a silent, desperate wish. Please, please, please, let it keep snowing! She knew, in that instant, that she wanted more time with this aunt she’d been aware of her whole life, but didn’t really know.
Dear precious Delia.
Tell me more about Jack, Auntie. We’ve got all night. I think I’d better stay over. It looks like the storm is getting worse. Where do you keep your candles? Do you have an extra toothbrush? How did you meet Jack, anyway?
A grateful Oh Lucy, and tears. An entire lifetime’s worth of tears, saved for this hoped for moment. Spilling down Delia’s cheeks, as she prepared to answer.