Do you like that sound? Think of sleeping bags, windbreakers and winter jackets. Write a piece that begins and ends with the sound of a zipper.
I zip up my coat further to ward off the biting cold of the wind. It whips through my hair and makes me wish I’d taken my mom’s advice and worn a hat.
My teeth are chattering so hard I think that they’ll break. I bend forward against the wind and clutch my bag of newspapers close. It doesn’t do much good. The wind rips through everything, its claws tearing to find any possible piece of flesh to consume.
“At least it isn’t raining, and this one’s the second to last,” I mutter, tromping through a snowdrift to the next house. Why do they never shovel their walk?
I drop the paper onto the porch. I used to throw them, but I broke a woman’s flowerpot once and decided it was worth taking the few extra steps. It thuds down and the top paper flutters in the wind. It suddenly yanks off, as if unseen hands have ripped it apart. I shrug and turn my back.
The last house on my route has a long walk up the lane. The gravel drive doesn’t have snow on it because of the pine trees that line the sides. They stand like sentinels, guarding the house. I don’t know why they take a paper. No one ever comes out. Kids dare each other to pull pranks on it during the summer. I never have. I like the old house.
So cold. I trudge on and finally reach the porch. I pull out a paper and toss it against the door. For a moment, I watch the house to see if anyone stirs. Nothing happens, as usual. I turn and begin my long walk home.
I stop. The sound could come straight from a horror movie. I turn back to look at the house. The door is open, and white hands with tiny fingers are curled around the edge of the door.
“Hello?” I call, afraid they might answer.
A face peers out over the hands. It’s the face of a girl, small and white as the snow on the rooftop.
“Hello,” she replies.
Her words only reach me because the wind carries them to me. Her voice is thin and frail as a glass rose.
“Happy New Year,” I say and turn to leave.
“New Year?” she asks.
I stop and look at her.
“Yeah. You know. It’ll be here soon,” I explain.
She stares at me blankly. She stands on the porch now, and I notice her dress. It is a blue, pleated dress with a thin white belt and puffy sleeves. Her hair is curled and pulled back into a half pony tail, with long ringlets falling over her shoulders. She has on long white stockings and black boots that reach her ankle. The girl looks like something out of an old black-and-white movie, except the dress is blue.
“It’s not the New Year yet. It's still 1908. My birthday is on the New Year. I’ll be twelve years old,” she says softly.
Huh? I decide to play along.
“Are you playing dress-up today?” I ask.
She shakes her head.
“Papa doesn’t let me play dress-up anymore.”
I frown. I thought all little girls played dress-up. My sisters sure did. And who said “Papa” anymore?
I clear my throat, “My name’s Andy. What’s yours?”
She smiles, “I’m Victoria.”
Victoria. Pretty. Pretty old-fashioned, if you asked me.
“Cool. I like it.”
“Would you like to come inside?” she asks.
“Cooky made gingerbread. It’s my favorite,” she pleads.
“Please? No one ever comes to see me. I haven’t got any friends. I wish I had friends,” Victoria says, her lip quivering as she looks at the ground.
I feet bad for her. I know how it feels to be left out.
She looks me in the eyes. They are so blue that they could be black. I can’t look away.
“Oh, heck. Sure, I’ll come for a few minutes,” I reply.
Victoria beams at me, races down the steps, and takes my hand. All of the sudden she is bright and happy, her voice and laughter as colorful as birds in the tropics. I hardly notice the inside of the house, until a woman steps in front of us with her hands on her hips. The woman is wide and round, hair pulled up in a tight bun, and a white apron tied around her dress.
“Where have you been, Miss Victoria? Your father sent me to find you, and here you are traipsing around with some ruffian. Bring him into the kitchen now; you can’t very well send him out into the cold without something to eat.”
Victoria laughs, and I think I see some sort of message flash between her and the woman. I shrug it off and follow.
I begin to notice my surroundings. The wallpaper is old and faded, the staircase falling in. The air is full of dust, and the furniture had once been red. I start to feel spooked and decide I had seen enough.
“Victoria, I think I should be leaving now. I need to finish up some stuff for my mother.”
“Oh, Andy, not yet please. You haven’t tasted Cooky’s lovely gingerbread,” she said.
I guess that Cooky is the woman who met us in the hallway. Victoria grips my hand even harder and pulls me with surprising strength into the kitchen. The stove is unlike anything I have ever seen. It is a large, black monster with fire breathing from it, like a dragon. The lighting is dim, and there is a man sitting at the table on the far end of the room next to it.
“Ah, Victoria,” the man says.
“Oh, Papa! Look what I found! His name is Andy, and he’s come to have gingerbread with us,” she exclaims.
She looks so happy that my heart aches. I want to be this little girl’s friend, no matter that her house is falling apart.
Victoria crawled up on her father’s lap, snuggling into his chest.
“Can I keep him, Papa? Can I keep him?”
“Certainly, Victoria. I think this is a fine boy,” he replies.
Victoria turns to me. Her eyes are cold and piercing, but loving at the same time. She pulls her lips back and smiles. The hair on the back of my neck stands up. My brain screams at me to run, but I can’t move. I can’t take my eyes from that beautiful little face.
“It won’t hurt, Andy. I’d never hurt you, sweet, dear, kind Andy. You’ll live with me forever and ever and ever and ever!” Victoria cries.
She stalks towards me and before I can think, she leaps through the air and is on me.
Something pierces my neck. I feel blood begin to drain through my body. I am glad to help her. Victoria is near. She won’t hurt me.
“You won’t hurt me,” I say softly.
“I went too far, Papa,” the girl sobs, “I always go too far. Why didn’t you stop me?!”
The man kneels in front of the weeping child.
“I loved him, Papa. I saw him bring the paper every day. I wanted him to be with me forever and ever,” she whimpers.
His eyes are hard as he looks into hers.
“Victoria. Some things are not meant to be.”
He stands and walks to the table. Victoria follows, still crying tearlessly. Her sobs increase as she gazes upon the pale white face of the boy lying in the bag who she’d invited inside.
“Good-bye, Andy my love. I’m so sorry,” she cries.
The man reaches down and tugs on the silver zipper.