Between the Leaves and the Snowflakes

late-fallThis month my writer’s group came up with the prompt “between the falling leaves and the first snowflakes.”

Here is where my imagination took that:

It happened in a blink of an eye, like the time between the last leaf and the first snowflake. I know, some years we go a few weeks after the wind has blown the last tenacious leaves from the branches they cling to before we see those first soft specks floating in the chilly air.

But lots of years the snow flies early. Sometimes even while the leaves are still swirling in the streets, piling up in the corners of the porches and gathering around the shrubbery and the dried remnants of the hostas.

This year was different, like a perfectly orchestrated ballet. Those final hardy leaves gave up and fell to the ground, almost as if they knew their time had come. They did not fall in a straight line, but let the wind take them, now swooshing higher, now twisting lower.

Within seconds, the next group of dancers appeared on the scene, the gentle snowflakes following the leaves ever downward. They, too, circled and spun, making patterns that only they understood as they let the inexorable force of gravity draw them to the ground, where they would melt in an instant.

As I sat in my car, idly watching the leaves, then the snow, I waited. Waited to see if my suspicion was correct. I hoped I was wrong. I so wanted to be wrong. But all the evidence pointed otherwise.

It all hung on the identity of the two meeting in the bar. If one or both were strangers to me, then I could breathe a sigh of relief. I still wouldn’t have any answers, but at least the horrible alternative wasn’t true.

A man came out. I held my breath. This one I knew as no good. But who was he with? A few snowflakes fell as the man looked over his shoulder and smiled at the man behind him. Another heartbeat, and I saw him and felt my world fall apart, as desolate as a barren forest in late fall.

The two man stood on the sidewalk, chatting. They shook hands and parted ways. But in that instant of time, like between the final leaves and first snowflakes, as definitive and irreversible as the change of a seasons, my world died and turned to ice, I knew. My father had in fact ordered the hit on my mother.

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