Not Quite 40 days – excerpt 3

Book 1, chapter 2

Della Kaye Friesen woke to the wind screeching against her window. She hadn’t seen her sister in almost a month but her absence wasn’t top of mind at the moment. It was too cold and the wind too frightening. She pulled the blankets up around her ears and tried to go back to sleep. The wind rammed itself against the glass again. Della shuddered and ducked her whole head into the bed’s dark warmth. It was no good. The wind mocked her and the tiny brick house that stood with her, daring to oppose a world of bitter and powerful forces. Each time it whistled and pounded next to her, the wind shouted its strength and challenged her sham assertion of power and independence.

It didn’t make real sense. The house was in no immediate danger of falling down. Not only was it solidly built, it was almost smack up against the neighbours’. The only reason the wind whistled was the tunnel that the two houses formed. No hurricane or tornado ripped through the neighbourhood. No angry God shouted down vengeance on some real or perceived slight by threatening to pull apart the house brick by brick. No powerful forces beyond human comprehension mocked Della’s morning. It was only a mild winter storm, like so many before it.

Hiding beneath the covers did little to soothe Della’s nerves. The blankets provided a cozy cocoon for one or maybe two minutes before they turned into a stifling sarcophagus. Coming out for air, the chill shocked her back underneath even before the wind could resume its torment. Della hid there and contemplated her next move. Neither the chill nor the events of the day provided an invitation to get out of bed. If the house were only a bit warmer, it was possible that she could ignore the wind and fall back asleep. She listened carefully for sounds of her parents moving around downstairs and judged it too early even for them on a weekend. Clutching the blankets around her, Della swung her legs out of the bed. The chill of the hardwood floor was cruel to her bare feet but she’d played this game before. When she first put her feet to the floor, they landed on papers – homework probably. Paper and books were cold, but not as bad as the hardwood. Her next step landed on the jeans she’d worn the day before and the other foot secured itself a place on a t-shirt. Without lifting her feet, then, she shuffled her way to the door, pants and top forming makeshift slippers on her freezing toes.

She left the bits of clothing at the doorway when she’d come to the edge of the bedroom. Not because she saw any impropriety in wandering through the house with her clothes as footwear but because the hallway had carpeting. Still holding the blanket around her, Della sprinted along the hallway to the thermostat. She had her hand on the dial and already felt the victorious anticipation of warmth melting her frozen skin when her father’s voice halted her.

“Hands off.”

“Dad.” She had a way of stating names like they themselves were accusations. Or curses. “It’s freezing in here.” It was a futile argument; he was an acknowledged thermostat tyrant. He benevolently told her to get dressed if she was cold. She raised an eyebrow and treated him to a silent glare, pulling the blanket around herself. There was no point in explaining the obvious to the Tyrant. It was too cold to get dressed – she’d have to get out from the blankets to get dressed and the clothes would be frigid against her body. She harrumphed and swung around as the Tyrant said something about the cost of fuel and didn’t she care about the environment. She rolled her eyes at that, not caring that he couldn’t see this with her back turned. The environment was a convenient excuse for the Tyrants that were her parents. The truth was that they’d both grown up in the unnatural cold of Manitoba and liked it like that. Which was all very well and good for them but it wasn’t fair for them to inflict it on their kids. Or kid. They called this weather refreshing; she called it hypothermia.

“And no turning it up while I’m gone. Mom’ll check.” He added, in case she might have believed he’d trust her on her own with the thermostat. She turned back to him and made a face.

“Where’re you going?” she asked. Hard to imagine any place worth going just past dawn on a freezing Saturday in the middle of March.

“The market.”

“The market?! Don’t suppose you’re driving the car there, are you? Oh, no. Wait. You care about the environment; you wouldn’t do that. What are you getting in March, anyway? Big month for harvest vegetables.”

“I’m getting bread, cheese, some root vegetables, some sausage. You want anything?” He didn’t touch the sarcasm; he never did. It wasn’t, Della knew, that he didn’t get it. It wasn’t even that he didn’t approve of sarcasm. He just didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of it. Tyrants must not stoop to the level of the people.

“Coffee cake.”

“Ok. Just no touching the thermostat.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.” Della swung around again, raised her head, and bee lined for the bathroom before he could nix a hot shower…

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