Holiday Contest: I Am Winter

Hi friends!

So, in December (or, I guess it was November) Dan Pearce, at Single Dad Laughing, put on a holiday writing contest. It looked like fun, so I thought about it, put something together, and sent it in. Sadly, I didn't win, (those who did were amazing) but I'd like to share with you the short story I wrote. I hope you like it, and please, let me know what you think in the comments. I love reader-feedback :)

***

I Am Winter 

Winter stormed out of the meeting, leaving her fellow seasons behind. Talk of Autumn’s end and Winter’s beginning only fueled the tempest of her irritation.

She slammed the door of her bedroom and went to the window. It was blocked by clouds, hiding their home in the sky from human eyes. She waved a hand, and a gust of wind blew the vapors away. Below, the lights of Earth’s Northern Hemisphere shone through the darkness. They were brighter now than usual, since the Holidays were coming. Holidays meant lots of twinkling decorative lights. Those lights meant it was her turn to take control.

And she hated it.

The door opened behind her, and she turned to see Spring enter. He brought with him the an earthy scent of soil that made her fists clench.

“What is your problem?” he asked.

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“You’d better talk about it sometime young lady, because I’m not dealing with your trouble again this year. Ever since your mother died you’ve –”

“You’re not my father and I don’t have to listen to you. Get out.”

His mouth clamped shut, firm jaw working to hold in his obvious retort. She’d seen him with her mom, but that was before. She didn’t have to listen to him now.

He pointed a finger at her. “Just get your act together.”

When he was gone and her door closed again, Winter sat on her bed, knees to her chest. Three years should have been long enough to get over her mommy issues. Yet here she sat, still angry that her mother had forced her into this. Well, not forced. It wasn’t like either of them had much of a choice.

Outside her window, clouds formed into a bundle against the Earth’s surface. They blocked her view, preparing to let snow down upon the people below. She blinked, and a flash of lightning entered the clouds at her command. Let the shoppers and party-throwers deal with that.

She put her face in her hands. Her mother always said she had a responsibility to the humans. But Winter was stupid, and she knew it. All she brought was cold and flu season, icy roads, and the lame version of the Olympics. She was completely pointless. The Earth should be able to move straight from Autumn’s harvest to Spring’s planting and be done.

She punched one of her pillows. Why couldn’t she be happy with her lot like the other seasons? Why did she rebel against her very nature? It wasn’t that she wanted to be Summer with her sun-kissed skin, or Autumn with his golden locks that he tossed around all the time, and especially not Spring whose massive bulk overshadowed Winter’s tiny frame without any effort at all.

No. She just didn’t want any part of it. She wasn’t happy.

As she closed her eyes, Spring’s words came back to her.  What is your problem? 

What IS my problem? What’s wrong with me?

There were some humans who loved Winter for the sweaters and hot chocolate they got to bring out when she came, but they rarely loved winter for Winter’s sake. Very few humans could appreciate the beauty of an undisturbed snow bank, or the soft sound made when snow slipped from a branch to the forest floor. No one but her would ever notice those things. She loved the simple beauty of a silent snowfall, even the power that manifested when a blizzard swept through. But the humans didn’t. No. The people who hated Winter hated her personally. Her cold, her snow, how long she stayed…

They had nothing against sweaters and hot chocolate, though.

She went to her window again and looked out, arms crossed. The lights still twinkled in the distance, losing their brilliance with the coming of day.

A knock sounded at her door.

She didn’t answer.

“Winter?” a soft voice asked as the door opened. Summer. Fresh cut grass… flowers in bloom… Winter’s head spun at the scents. She wrapped her arms around her to ward off the brilliant heat coming from her counter-season.

“Winter, do you want to talk?”

Winter shook her head.

“In that case, I’ll talk,” Summer said. “But I need you to listen.” She came to stand next to Winter, her auburn hair falling in a cascade over her shoulders.

Like a hill covered in flowers, Winter thought. Why can’t I even look like I should? Winter didn’t speak, but twisted her dark hair with her fingers, wishing it were pale blond like her mother’s.

Summer faced the window. “I worked closely with your mother. For decades, when it was our turn, she watched over half the world while I took the other. Someday, I will die and my daughter will be left to work with you. I know your mother taught you how to perform your work, but part of me wonders if she failed to teach you how to love it. You and I share something very special, Winter.”

Summer paused, but Winter didn’t guess what she meant.

“We share the Holidays. Right now we have Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Boxing Day, New Years, Valentine’s Day, these are ours. And during our other shift you get Yuletide in Australia, and I get Independence Day in the United States. Even Spring and Autumn have their share of celebrations. The Seasons are full of holidays. And right now the humans call it the Holiday Season. That’s us, Winter. That’s you.”

“What does it matter?” Winter shouted, turning to face the older season. “Who cares if there are holidays? All those humans want are the toys and sales or the fires and traditions that come along with me. No one appreciates me for me!”

A cold tear trailed down her face.

“I think you misunderstand,” Summer said. “Come here, young one. Let me show you something.” She held out her hand.

Winter looked at the older season. Summer’s brown eyes seemed genuine enough, but part of Winter didn’t want to trust her.

Mom trusted her.

After a moment, Winter took hold. The heat from Summer’s skin was both unbearable and refreshing to Winter’s icy fingers. Suddenly her room faded around her to form a scene on Earth. A tall hill covered in snow, where young children slid down on plastic disks and wooden boards. Winter watched, her eyes narrowed, as one small child fell head first into the deep snow. Some other children gathered around. They helped him stand, offered hugs, and asked if he was hurt.

“Something else,” Summer said.

The scene shifted, forming a warm living room full of cushy sofas and chatting people. On the floor were children, who opened gifts and squealed with delight at each one.

“And another.”

Winter’s surroundings faded for a third time, bringing them to face a window from the outside. Looking in, Winter saw a family gathered around a Menorah, lighting candles.

“Watch closely,” Summer said.

The mother of the family held a young boy’s hand steady as he lifted one candle to light another. They placed the first back, and the boy’s face lit up in joy. Winter felt a stirring in her chest.

“You see,” Summer said. “It’s not about us. It never has been. We exist to signal the coming of greater things. Of worship, faith, family and community gatherings. Humans may not love us for the work we do, but they love us for what we bring.” She nodded into the home. “We bring the holidays. An opportunity for parents to teach their children, and for children to learn from their elders.”

“But… there are a lot of people who don’t celebrate holidays,” Winter said. “What about them?”

Summer smiled. “Even someone with no holiday will be affected by the Holiday Season. By the changes we bring alone, we signal the end of one beauty and the beginning of the next. Whether they have a celebration or not, they feel our presence. Trust me. I’ve been doing this for a long time.”

Winter nodded.

Summer dropped their hands, and they were back in Winter’s bedroom.

“Just think about it,” Summer said. She stepped out of the room like a gentle breeze and closed the door softly behind her.

Winter stood in the center of the room. She blinked a few times. Then she turned to her window.

On Earth, in the section she watched now, the sun had risen. Her storm had left a blanket of whiteness, emphasizing the blue rivers, lakes, and ocean.

Something tightened in her chest, bringing tears to her eyes.

She wasn’t her mother. She wouldn’t be perfect at this right away, but she would learn. She thought of the small boy and the candles, the presents and family, the kindness of a unified community. If the humans continued to worship and celebrate their holidays during her season, she would do all she could to make it a beautiful time of year for them.

She placed a hand to her window, letting her cold seep through to drift over the land below.

The Holiday Season is here. I am Winter.

***

Again, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments :) Thanks for reading!

-DC

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