Betty glanced through the window, watching with interest the huge flakes of snow that were falling thickly enough to obscure the surrounding houses. It gave her a feeling of isolation, made her feel almost as if she were back on the farm. With book in hand, she settled down on the sofa, grateful that she was able to simply admire the falling snow and didn't have to venture out into it.
If she were still living on the farm she would be slushing through the snow, hurrying to carry buckets of water and bails of hay to the impatient herd of cows. And then there would be scratch to give the chickens and more water dishes to fill. No, that part of her life was over, now she could relax in the warmth and enjoy the beauty of the snow through a pane of glass.
She covered her legs with a cozy woolen blanket and opened the novel that she was so anxious to finish ... she was on the last chapter and could hardly wait to see if the two lovers would really be reunited.
On the end table beside her sat a steaming bowl of vegetable soup and a cup of cocoa. To her way of thinking, the perfect way to spend a snowy day. Wasn't this what retirement was all about? After a life of hard, dawn to dusk work, now was finally the time to pamper and indulge herself!
And then the phone rang. At first she was tempted not to answer it, she was too comfortable to be bothered. But it kept on ringing ... seven, eight, nine times. The thought flittered through her mind that perhaps it was an emergency of some kind, a relative needing her help.
"Drat," she exclaimed, snapping shut the novel and dropping it on the coffee table. Then she picked up the receiver and said, "Hello."
"This is Irene ... today was my day to take lunch to Mrs. Ryan." There was a pause, then the small shrill voice continued, "But my car has a flat tire, and..."
Betty interrupted, "And you want me to take something over to Mrs. Ryan for her lunch?"
"Could you? I'd be ever so grateful," Irene gushed.
"Consider it done," Betty said.
After she had hung up the phone, Betty hurried to the kitchen, and turned on the oven. "What to fix?' she pondered.
Then she took out the pot of beef stew that she had made the night before, poured it into a casserole dish and topped it off with biscuits. Sliding the dish into the oven, she turned her attention to dressing for the outdoors.
It was near zero outside. Betty resented having to leave the warmth of her snug little couch and the griping plot of the novel to go out into that freezing weather.
The snow would be treacherous underfoot and she was old enough to have that nagging worry about slipping on the ice, falling and maybe breaking a bone. But she had no choice, she had to go out. Ever since Mrs. Ryan had surgery on her knee, the neighbors had been taking turns fixing meals and taking them to her - and Betty knew that today she was the one who would have to do it, no matter how she felt about it.
Betty slipped into her warmest coat, then tugged on heavy pants and snow boots. She pulled on a woolen cap, wrapped a muffler around her throat and tossed the loose ends back over her shoulder. She felt like a little kid, so bundled up you wondered if there really was a little kid in there at all. Last of all she put on her thickest mittens and then took the casserole out of the oven.
She stepped cautiously out into the falling snow. She knew Mrs. Ryan would enjoy the stew and ordinarily Betty enjoyed the short walk ... but not today, not in the snow and the cold, today she was dreading it.
The rhythmic crunch of snow underfoot reminded her of winters back on the farm. The first snowfall of the year, she would head into the pine forest with her dog at her heels, reveling in the beauty of a world that had suddenly been turned a glistening white. Walking in the silent magnificence of falling snow always filled Betty with a feeling akin to reverence - and she was surprised to find that that old feeling of awe rush over her.
The warmth from the heated casserole kept her hands warm and since she was walking she barely felt cold at all. The snow flakes floated down lazily, like white feathers, topping every fence post with little white caps and outlining every branch and twig with a streak of white.
The dead yellow grass of the lawn had been covered with a layer of pristine snow. The whole dirty, drab world had been transformed into something clean and innocent ... there wasn't a mark or a footprint, except for the ones Betty was leaving behind her.
She was enjoying the invigorating walk so much that she arrived at Mrs. Ryan's house before she realized it. She almost hated to go inside.
When she opened the door and stepped into Mrs. Ryan's kitchen, she was greeted by the whistle of the tea kettle.
"I put on water, I thought you'd be half frozen by the time you got here," Mrs. Ryan said. "Poor you, having to go out in all this snow and cold, just to bring me lunch."
The older woman paused then asked, "By the way, wasn't today Irene's day to bring me lunch?"
"You know, it was lucky for me that Irene couldn't make it today," Betty said. "The snow is piling up on everything, turning it into a fantastic world of white - I haven't seen anything like it for a couple of winters."
Mrs. Ryan had a far away look in her eyes. "I can remember when I was a kid, playing in the snow with my sister, making snow angels. And we always had the biggest snowman on the block. Sometimes a snow woman too. When we had snowball fights, Sis and I could always get the best of our three brothers. Oh, to be young again."
Betty patted the older woman's thin hand. "Well, we can't be young again and honestly I don't think I'd want to be young in this day and age. Things are so different now."
"Ain't that the truth," Mrs. Ryan chuckled.
Betty paused with her hand on the doorknob. "But no matter how old we get, some things never change. I enjoyed my walk in the snow today, more than you can imagine."
"That's good," Mrs. Ryan, said. "Throw a snowball for me on your way home."
"I'll just do that," Betty said, stepping out the door. The flakes had stopped falling and the sun was shining brightly, glistening off the fallen snow, like so many diamonds. She had forgotten it could sparkle like that.
There were a lot of things she had forgotten about nature, and there was a twinge of longing for the farm. But only a twinge and soon forgotten, there was no way she would want to go back to that life again.
She hurried through the snow, eager to get home to the warm afghan, in front of the fire, and the last chapter of that romantic novel.
But not before she scooped up a handful of snow, packed it into a ball and fired it at her garbage can ... a direct hit.
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