Crammed in a corner of a booth, Marta watched the flurry of snow outside obscure the street. There were two people she didn’t know sitting across from her. The storm had ushered everyone inside and the owners didn’t want to kick anyone out. It was uncomfortable – Marta was a reporter, used to talking to people, but she was also used to being prepared. Being invaded by this couple made her feel as if she was back home.
They were bickering. It was whispered – hissed, really. Marta kept wanting to wipe nonexistent spit off her face. She tried hard not to look at them, but her plate was empty and her book was too dense to concentrate on in the louder-than-usual bustle.
Another similarity to home, that overcrowded air. Different, though, was the fact that the diner seemed to have been invaded, whereas home had never been any different. She clenched her fist and caught the couple staring at it. She took it off the table and hid it in her lap, turning a page of her book with the other hand even though she hadn’t taken in anything on the previous page.
She glanced out again. There was no one in the street that she could see, but then they might be behind the first or second or third curtain of snow.
There were a million reasons for why she was sitting alone – more alone than she’d have felt if there was no one else at the table with her – and at least half of those were reasonable. But a deep, black rage bubbled inside her and she had to put her book down to be able to clench her other fist in her lap.
Alice sat dejectedly in the window-seat and watched the snow swirl outside. She imagined that her house was the center of a snow-globe and that some little girl, quite like herself, was shaking it vigorously. She peered up out of the window and squinted into the white and gray sky, wondering if she could glimpse a bright blue eye, or maybe a brown or even green one, staring intently down. What would the big, snow-globe shaking girl do if she saw Alice inside the house? Maybe she’d be surprised enough to put the globe back down on a shelf.
Alice wished dearly that it would stop snowing. She’d been outside all of the day before, wrapped up in a coat so snug that she could barely move in it. Despite the restriction of the padding all over her, she’d managed to build a snowman, and then, because he’d looked so lonely, she’d built him a friend. In the afternoon she’d played snow-fortresses with Charles, Mama-and-Papa’s friend. He’d also swirled her around and around, holding her arms, and she’d felt just like a snowflake that spun down in the cold air until landing lightly on the ground.
She lay on her back, curling her legs close to her chest so she could fit. She was getting big, too big for the little cushion-covered area next to the window, but she refused Mama’s many suggestions of “sitting in a chair properly like a lady,” and kept returning to her favorite haunt when lessons were over and Mama was still in bed, napping. She blew onto the glass and drew an outline of a cat with her little finger in the misty whiteness that had formed there. She stared at it for a while and wondered whether there would be chocolate to drink later because of the horrid weather. She rather hoped there would be, even though her oldest sister always complained that chocolate was heavy and would make her fat. The governess told her off for saying such things, and pointed out that in a winter like this they could all gain a few pounds, but Alice’s biggest sister only rolled her eyes and ignored her.
Stretching, Alice pulled herself up and out of the window-seat. She turned her back on the flurry and decided to walk to the library and ask Papa if she could have some chocolate. She wondered briefly why she wasn’t sick to her stomach from the way the little girl was shaking her house around inside her snow-globe; but her sister’s words flew into her mind at once. “Don’t be silly,” she told herself aloud, and stomped off in her white stocking feet to find Papa.
Inside a snow-globe that sits in a shop in a corner of a tourist town buried deep under snow and constant cheer, there are three fairies dancing.
The fairies dance to a melody that only they can hear, trapped as they are in a roughly blown glassy ball, cheaply attached to a plastic bottom and full of a strange liquid that is neither water nor oil.
The fairies, their painted faces smiling at each other in their silent and stationary dance, will forever be suspended in a happy moment, in a dream of a movement which never has and never will exist.
If you look at the fairies you might get the illusion that they’re about to move – that they’re really just one moment away from jumping up and beginning to dance in truth, listening to the music which only they can hear. Looking at them, you might wish that they were alive, because such happiness seems to be wasted on such beings that aren’t alive and never will be.
If you pick up the glass globe and shake it, the fairy-dust and glitter and the few flakes of snow that litter the bottom will begin to swirl and you’ll be able to see, for a moment only, the fairies whirling around along with the glitter, laughing and singing. The moment you take a closer look, though, the movement will cease, and you’ll never know if you really saw what you thought you saw or if you just wanted so badly for the fairies to be alive that they obliged your imagination for a split second.