She idled the engine for a moment in front of her parent’s house before turning the key, feeling the car shudder to a stop beneath her. It was another few moments before she was able to gather the courage to unbuckle her seatbelt, open the door, and clamber from the vehicle.
Her boots— brand-new, high-heeled, ankle-height, black suede— crunched on the snow. It hadn’t snowed in a couple days, but the weather had stayed dismally cold and the snow just kept getting packed tighter and tighter.
Pulling her maroon scarf up to cover her nose, tucking the knitted, frayed ends into her coat to keep them from flying away with the whistling wind, she started up the front walk. It’d been years since she’d been to this particular house, traced these footsteps. There were fresh prints on the walk and cars in the driveway as well as littered along the street; a part of her was relieved to see that everyone else had already arrived safely.
She wasn’t quite sure why she’d received an invitation to Thanksgiving this year, after so many winters of silence. Her parents weren’t the sentimental type; that was, after all, where she’d gotten her own personal coldness from. The desire to, rather than deal with the problem, shut it out, forget it, move on.
But she’d gone out to check the mail one day and there it was, a small, cream-colored envelope with her name and address on it, return address: home. It had sat for a couple days on the table in the dining room, propped against an empty vase whose last flowers were long since forgotten.
The door was probably unlocked, but she rang the doorbell anyway. The chime was so familiar, yet sounded distant: she was definitely used to hearing it from inside.
She heard footsteps and laughter, sock-clad feet sliding on the hardwood in the entryway as a young person ran to open the door. The door swung open and revealed her six-year-old niece, Sarabelle, who grinned up at her and promptly ran off, yelling, “MOM AUNT RY-RY IS HERE!” leaving Riley to step inside and shake the snow off her coat by herself.
She busied herself with looking around the foyer. It looked much the same as she remembered. Cleaner, mostly. The walls were a new shade of pale yellow; a nice, serene yellow, not the piss-brightness of the room she used to share with her sister. There were still tracks in the carpet from the vacuum, and there was a pile of unfamiliar snowboots in the corner by the door. Skittering down the hallway now, always a few paces behind Sara, was the family dog. She obliged him with a few scratches under his threadbare chin and, content, the old dog heaved a sigh and collapsed at her feet.
She was taking in the pictures that now adorned the stairwell and didn’t notice the new person’s arrival until he spoke. “They’re all trying to get the turkey out of the oven in one piece, so they sent me to greet you.” She turned to take in the stranger and realized he wasn’t a stranger at all. Tall, dark, and handsome: he’d always been one to dress well and tonight was no exception. Clad in slacks and a fleece jacket, both black, he exuded a sophistication that wasn’t entirely an act. The facial hair looked a bit out of place on a man she’d always known to be clean-shaven, but it worked well enough… remembered fingers alighting on his cheekbones…
Blinking slowly, after an instant to clear her mind, she took the hand that was offered and followed him into the house, to warmth, to food, to friends and family, to memories shared and memories to be made, to wounds that were in desperate need of mending.