'Snow in Summer' by Ali McGrane

I’d not seen my mother cry before. The sight of it pinned my feet to the cracked lino, my sister’s breath loud in my ear.

The open kitchen door framed the rockery where snow in summer scrambled towards the concrete patio. If I could pass beyond this new version of my mother blocking the way, I would brush against the white-furred leaves as I climbed the steps to the lawn. The grass my father mowed the day before would have lost its pungency and dried stalks of it would stick between my toes. Screened by the giant blue hydrangea, I would squeeze the pure yellow pompoms of dahlias and watch them spring back, marked with new lines like the creases in my palm.

In the moist papery skin under my mother’s eyes, in the wet streak at the side of her nose, time stretched like my French skipping rope, the elastic tugging at my ankles.

The smell of wet sheets and laundry powder mingled with briny steam from the boiling ham. A black line edged the letter in my mother’s hand. Her pale green summer dress swung in ironed folds behind bronze freckles so dense along her arm it was hard to see her true colour. She pulled her red pinny to her face, the seam along the waistband splitting under the strain.

My trike sat parked on the patio where I’d left it. Inside the dome of its tightly closed boot my special stone slept safe in the dark, a million magic spells in its quartz frosting, the lucky hole filled with daisies rescued from the mower’s blade. I held the thought of it in my head, while my mother pushed past us into the hallway, while I skirted the unguarded space she left behind, while I dragged my weeping sister into the garden where rust bloomed across the sky-blue paint on my trike, and the metal handle of the boot scraped and squeaked as I struggled to turn it.

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