The first snowfall of the year was always the most beautiful, according to Alice. She adored observing the first of the ice crystals fall, watching through the glass of her frosted window pane. The snowflakes adorned the opaque night sky, causing it to look as if the sky was collecting more stars. She loved how the glazed over ponds and bare tree branches glistened in the light of the full moon, how the dead and frozen ground was covered in a sparkling blanket. Alice simply loved staring in awe as winter came to life.
As she walked home from the bookstore on the afternoon of the twenty-third of December, her worn bag heavy with hardcovers, a lone snowflake landed on the fabric of her dark coat. As it withered and disappeared into an empty dot of water, Alice was filled with bittersweet feelings of longing, sadness, and freedom. Though this surely wasn’t the first snowfall of the year, Alice knew that it was the final one she would ever witness.
Dozens more snowflakes spiraled down as Alice climbed the stairs to the only house she’d ever known. She fished out the dented silver key that would welcome her back home, and felt the heat of the fire as soon as she stepped inside. Kicking off her damp boots, her mother greeted her in the entryway.
“There you are, Alice!” her mother exclaimed gratefully. “I was wondering what had been taking you so long. We’ll be leaving for the party in twenty minutes, so I suggest you change into your dress now.”
Alice sighed, obeying her mother’s suggestion. She trudged up to her bedroom, where the glimmering blue dress was laid out neatly on her bed. As well, it would be the final dress she would ever show off.
She slipped into the dress, then proceeded to observe herself in the mirror. Whereas she used to admire her reflection - especially when wearing gorgeous clothes - now she hated to see her dull and depressed face stare back at her, framed by her tangled hair that was not exactly blonde, but not exactly brown, either. So instead, Alice put all of her might into focusing on the dress itself, draping elegantly over her unnaturally thin body. It was made from a smooth and shimmery fabric that she always enjoyed touching, wishing that her own skin could feel that way. The dress fell just below Alice’s knees, and the neckline scooped into a V-neck; it didn’t drop to low, though, for her mother would never let her show her face in public if the dress had shown a tad too much skin. The sleeves were made of black lace patterned in many rows of flowers, stretching all the way down to her pale wrists. It was quite the exhibit.
Having no time to do anything spectacular with her hair, Alice put it up in a simple bun, and proceeded to apply a thin layer of make-up, noticeable enough without screaming for attention. She then slapped on her low black heels and grabbed all other items she would need; her black velvet jacket, her camera, and her new hardcover book.
Rather pointless, purchasing new books, now wasn’t it? she thought to herself.
Downstairs, the rest of her family proceeded to put on their winter jackets. Catching a glimpse out of the massive window in the living room, it was clear that it would be snowing heavily all night. The bittersweet feelings returned to Alice’s gut.
“What kind of cake will there be?” Alice’s younger sister, Sophia, asked.
“I hope it’s chocolate!” Alice’s other sister, Melanie, chimed in. Hardly anyone could tell the difference between Sophia and Melanie, what with them being identical twins, but for Alice and Mr. and Mrs. Verra, it was easy to differentiate the two girls.
“The cake is a surprise,” Mr. Verra stated mischievously, winking at the two girls. Alice envied her sisters’ constant happiness, wishing that she too could be seven years old once again.
The walk between the family’s SUV and the house wasn’t much of a walk at all, but Alice’s mother still warned her to be careful with her heels on, not wanting her daughter to slip. Alice, on the other hand, silently prayed that she would end up slipping and breaking her neck. She didn’t want to wait for the pain to end.
But, unluckily for her, Alice didn’t slip.
She sat at the back of the vehicle, debating whether or not to wear a seatbelt. She ended up buckling it anyway, for she knew her father would still be able to notice the flaw and demand that she wear it.
The drive to Alice’s aunt’s and uncle’s house was nothing special; no car crashes or swerving whatsoever. She merely listened to her favourite metal bands for the entire forty-five minutes, gazing out of the window. The snow fell rapidly in the opposite direction, and red and white head and tail-lights would constantly shine through the white blur. If snow had any emotion, Alice wondered, would they enjoy falling? Would it give them an adrenaline rush? Would it cause them to feel carefree and happy? Or would they see it as more along the lines of some sort of damnation? Would they despise it, fear it even? Or would they completely disregard the fall, only focused on where they land and what happens to them at the bottom?
Question after question flew through Alice’s mind, followed by a stream of lyrics, both sung and screamed. She hardly even noticed when they had finally arrived at their destination, causing her parents to call her name several times. Pulling her earbuds out of her ears, she tucked her iPod into one of the two pockets that her dress so conveniently provided. Alice followed her family into the over-decorated house (more like a mansion) of her Aunt June and Uncle Rob, instantly welcomed by Christmas carols, cheerful laughter, childish shrieks, and the savoury scent of turkey. Alice made a mental note of all the lasts that she would be experiencing.
“Nice dress,” Alice’s cousin, Veronica, complimented in her ever so condescending tone.
“Thanks,” Alice replied bluntly, unsure as to whether or not she should take the statement seriously. Veronica was one of those people who always made it obvious that she was judging you, and thought so highly of herself with her dazzling eyes and scarlet hair and jealousy-sparking body, though Alice didn’t envy any trait of her one bit.
“Alice!” June Callivers exclaimed, strutting over to greet her niece. “You look gorgeous, darling!”
“Thank you.” Again, Alice responded bluntly. She felt as if the beauty of her own gown disappeared in the presence of the fabrics and jewels that her aunt was sporting. All the red caused her to crave . . .
Later, she snapped at herself.
Twenty painful minutes later, the entire family was gathered around the massive mahogany dinner table. Alice’s Uncle Rob said grace, as was usual, and then almost everyone dug into the tempting turkey, the savoury stuffing, and the mesmerizing mashed potatoes. Alice dished out a bit for herself so no questions would be brought up, though instead of eating the contents on her plate, she picked at and moved them around with her fork, slumping in her chair as she did so, longing to disappear.
After forcing down a few bites, Alice excused herself to go to the bathroom. Locking the door behind her, she turned on both faucets, then proceeded to sift through the drawers. Extra soap, ponytail holders, band-aids (those might come in handy), enough make-up to last years, a couple hairbrushes . . .
And then there was an inconvenient and ill-timed knock.
“Alice?” She recognized the voice immediately; it belonged to her Uncle Rob. “Would you mind hurrying up? I don’t mean to be rude, but Elisabeth really needs to go.”
Alice sighed in defeat. The joys of currently being in the same building as a three year old. She placed the razor back in the drawer where she found it and turned off the faucets before vacating the bathroom, only to be occupied once again.
“Let’s open presents!” Melanie shrieked just as Alice reentered the shared living and dining room. Most people had left the table and made themselves comfortable on a velvet chair or a leather couch, so Alice took the chance to discreetly toss whatever food was left on her plate. She had gotten used to the guilt of the act months ago.
And soon enough, everybody was unwrapping their gifts. Alice wished that her relatives hadn’t even bothered to get her any, for she wouldn’t have the time to put any of them to use. But, of course, there were shapes wrapped in red and gold paper sitting under the obviously fake evergreen, with tags that had Alice’s name clearly written on it. And so she opened them all, soon finding herself with an iTunes gift card, a hardcover book, a gift certificate to Starbucks, a freakishly warm sweater (it just had to be red), and multiple twenty dollar bills. Alice put on a false smile, giving false thank you’s and spreading the false happiness. Being fake took energy.
After many torturous hours, the party slowed down. Not that it was much of a party for Alice. She simply sat out of the way the entire time, alternating between reading her book and reading her other book, with some dark thinking thrown in here and there.
Her parents said goodbye to her aunt, uncle, and grandparents. Her siblings said goodbye to their cousins. Alice said goodbye to everything, but unlike everyone else’s, her goodbye was silent.
The drive home mirrored the drive there.
Alice stepped out of the vehicle as soon as they were parked back in the familiar driveway, and was instantly greeted by a chilling wind slapping her pale face. It was snowing heavily, and even when her parents and sisters returned to the warmth of the interior, she continued to stand still in the driveway, the snowflakes piling at her boots. Alice’s face and hands quickly grew numb, but she refused to go inside. Tilting her head upward, she watched as the snowflakes fell, seemingly materializing from out of nowhere. The clouds above held a crimson tinge, and the yellowed moon shone through the evaporated layers weakly. When she was younger, Alice would pretend that the glistening snowflakes were actually falling stars, and she would constantly wish for an adorable puppy to call her own. Oh, how she had longed for a canine companion for years, desiring a friend who would always be there for her through the ups and downs in life, refusing to ever leave her side. Alice hadn’t wished on a star - whether a pretend one or an actual one - for ages; she had no use for such sorry little wishes now. It was far too late for anything to change.
Alice forced herself to go inside before she became an icicle.
“I was just outside, admiring the snow,” she interrupted.
Her mother blinked a few times before speaking again. “Well, there’s nothing wrong with that. Would you like some hot chocolate? Melanie and Sophia begged me to make some, and there’s still some extra.”
Alice shook her head. “I’m pretty cold and tired, so I think I’ll just take a hot bath and then retire for the night.”
Her mother smiled warmly. “Alright, dear. Goodnight.”
“G’night,” her father called from the living room, where he was most likely watching some cheesy reality show.
“Night,” Alice said a tad too loudly. As she trudged up the stairs, though, the word ‘bye’ fell off of her lips, far too soft for anyone to hear.
Alice moved slowly, as if dreading what she was about to do. In a way, though, she was. What does it feel like to have your heart stop beating? she wondered as she stepped into the darkness of her bedroom. She didn’t bother to turn on a light; she already knew exactly where the bottle was, sitting on the corner of her desk, desiring the heat of her palm.
She gulped as she locked the bathroom door behind her.
Pretty soon the bathtub was filling up with cold water and Alice’s lovely blue dress was on the tile floor.
Pretty soon an unhealthy amount of pills slid down her throat and crimson was spilling from her wrist.
Pretty soon my heart will stop beating.
Alice closed her ice blue eyes and cleared her head of all her cares, all her worries, all her fears, and all her regrets. She tossed away all of the insults and hid all the compliments in the dusty corners of her brain. She let go of everything and anything, but one thought refused to go away completely, lingering on the outskirts of her mind.
Alice wondered if things would have been different if she had got the dog she wished for.