A Cold, Gray August

It was a strange day. Cold—the temperature at least forty degrees—and a steady rain, in the middle of August. The entire town was gray. The stone buildings disappeared in the skyline, and as the clouds lowered, a dense fog enclosed the city, making visibility less than arm’s length.

The change in weather was a sign for Anita. An omen, that something bad was going to happen. She decided to stay indoors, refused to step outside of her apartment, not even to check the mail. She kept the curtains shut so the view wouldn’t lure her to a window, where she could trip over a cord or one of her son’s misplaced toys and crash through the glass, falling several stories.

Anita sat between the arm and cushion of her couch in the dark living room watching The Weather Channel. She pulled her knees to her chest and rested her chin on top of them as she listened to the reporters talk endlessly of the unseasonal weather.

Beside her, lying on his side, was her three-year-old son, Aiden. She ran her fingers through his hair as he rested his head on the opposite end of the couch. Craving to be even nearer to him, she scooped him into her arms, sat him in her lap, and cradled his head against her chest. She kissed his forehead repeatedly, telling him she would never let anything bad happen to him as long as he stayed in her arms.

“I love you, sweetheart.”

“More than the world is round?”

“Yes, baby.”

“More than the sky is blue?”

“Uh-huh.”

“More than your cookies taste yummy?”

“Even more than that.”

There was a knock on the door, and Anita hesitantly rose to answer it, still clutching Aiden to her body. She opened the door and saw no one right away. As she moved to shut it, quickly so as not to let the evil in the weather enter her home, Aiden shook himself free from her grasp and slipped outside.

She heard him scream, “Mr. Huggy!” The name of the teddy bear he thought he’d lost a week ago. Remembering that she’d actually thrown Huggy away, along with other old toys she’d assumed Aiden had outgrown, Anita knew there was no way he could have seen Huggy outside, but when she swung open the door to save her son from the allusion, she found only clouds, mist, and gray.

—Nortina

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