Copyright © 2013 C.L. Mannarino
All rights reserved.

An old woman sits on the northernmost bench of the park between two twisted, barren trees. She wears a long scarf around her neck and her coat falls down beyond her knees. Both match the line of her lowered brow and the chiseled, downward slant of her mouth.

On closer inspection, she appears younger than her presumed years, with flaxen hair and soft eyes. She catches you staring and offers a smile that hardly brings any color to her cheeks. You wonder if she notices the swollen sky, the buildings lined in jagged rows, and how the metal of the bench threatens frostbite to uncovered fingers at the merest brush of exposed skin.

“Shouldn’t you be inside?” she asks. Her words are clear and ring with assurance.

“I’m not cold,” you say, though your hands crawl into your pockets.

Her eyes glint and their softness turns into amusement. Now her smile lifts. She looks over her left shoulder, her nose to the wind. “Really? You will be.”

Almost on cue, the wind picks up, driving snowflakes with the touch of needles into your cheek. You duck and hustle away, keeping your shoulders hunched so that the snow can only collect on your back. The bus stop is only steps away. Inside, you give a hearty shudder and shed a layer of snow on the ground.

The woman stays on her bench, stretching her legs in front of her and sticking her hands deeper into her pockets. You don’t see anyone else approach her that day.

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