Gwen did not pause when she reached the foyer. Opening the front door, she shoved her way through the outer storm door and vanished into the darkness with a swirl of skirts.

Isobel caught the storm door just as it latched.

“No,” she rasped, and fumbled to turn the handle. Outside, she could see Gwen hurrying through the winter bluster toward the old 1990s navy-blue Cadillac parked across the street.

Managing at last to twist the handle, Isobel pushed the door open. She stumbled into the cold, down from the porch and through the darkened yard, only realizing she didn’t have shoes on when the snow soaked through the thin layer of her socks. She ran despite the bitter sting.

“Gwen!” she shouted, no longer caring who heard. “Stop!” Her voice echoed, reverberating through her silent, still neighborhood.

Ahead of her, Gwen faltered, tripping over the now snow-caked hem of her skirt before colliding with the driver’s-side door of the Cadillac.

Isobel heard the jangle of car keys. She ran faster.


“I can’t talk to you!” Gwen shouted, whirling to face Isobel, who skittered to a halt. “Ever again.”

Isobel gaped at her. Gwen, in turn, swiveled away and, pulling the car door open, sank inside the Cadillac, shoving her things into the vacant passenger seat.

Isobel forced herself to move and caught the door before Gwen could pull it shut. “Why are you doing this?” she demanded. “How did you know—?”


Gwen put her key into the ignition and twisted it. The Cadillac rumbled to life, cutting Isobel off. Its headlights sprang on, illuminating the curtain of cascading snow.

“May God protect you,” was Gwen’s only answer before she tugged the door free from Isobel’s grip. It slammed shut with an echoing clap.

“Wait!” Isobel shouted, staring into the driver’s-side window through her own distraught reflection at Gwen as she shifted the car into gear.

“Open the door!” Isobel slammed her palm against the glass. “Gwen, if you know something, you have to tell me! Gwen!”

Isobel heard the engine rev. The rear tires spun before gaining traction.

“You can’t just leave like this!” Isobel screamed. She latched onto the handle of the driver’s-side door and pulled, only to find it locked. “Gwen! You’re the only one I have. You’re the only one who knows the truth! Please!”

The car lumbered forward, snow groaning as it compressed beneath the tires, the frozen handle tearing free from Isobel’s grip.


Whining, the Cadillac gave a grating screech as it swung around her in a wide arc. Isobel turned where she stood, her hair whipping in her face as the car sped past her with a guttural growl, its headlights slashing through the darkness.

The crimson taillights flared. Isobel stared after them as Gwen swerved, fishtailing around the stop sign at the end of the street and speeding out of sight.


Shadow of a Shade

The wind tugged at the sleeves of Isobel’s T-shirt. It pulled at her hair and clung to her bare arms. But she no longer felt the cold. Only the sandlike sting of the snow as it raked her chapped face.

She stood statue straight in the diffuse lamplight, her gaze locked on the set of tire tracks that snaked their way through the inch-thick layer of snow.

Her throat felt tight, crammed with so many unspoken questions.

She forced herself to swallow them while she waited for car lights to reappear, for the Cadillac to turn the corner. For Gwen to come back.

But nothing happened.

Gradually the frigid knife-edge cold crept back into her awareness, and a shudder racked her frame.

How long could she stand out here like this, waiting?

Never long enough, she thought, because Gwen wasn’t going to come back.

Isobel looked up. She stared at the countless specks that rained down around her, each white flake highlighted against the black backdrop of night, like a thousand falling stars in a dead sky.

She had to wonder if this sensation of being shredded and left to the wind, of being left behind, could even touch what he must have felt the moment he’d realized she wasn’t coming back for him. That he was alone. Utterly and completely alone.


Isobel glanced over her shoulder toward her house.

Danny stood in the doorway, washed in a glow of warm light. Squinting at her and leaning out, he looked like a plump bird poking its head out of a cuckoo clock.

“What are you doing?” he shouted.

Isobel hugged herself tightly against a sudden whip-snap of frozen wind and forced herself to move, stalking back toward her house with hunched shoulders. By the time she reached her front yard, her feet had gone completely numb. So much so that she could only feel the downy softness of the snow itself along with the frozen grass blades as they crunched beneath her heels.

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