I don’t know where I’m headed, only that I have to go.

Go away from this room with a crackling fire and splintered wooden floors, away from the guests who throw me sympathetic glances. The kind of glances that say, I’m glad it didn’t happen to my husband.

I slip out the backdoor, shoving my feet into his snow boots. They’re two sizes too large, and the only shoes I’ve worn in weeks. The freshly fallen snow crunches under my feet. The air is breathlessly cold, the kind of icy air that buries itself into your chest. The kind of cold no fires, no cups of hot tea can shake.

A sliver of a moon—Alejandro always could have told me what phase. The stars that twinkle in the velvety black sky remind me of the glitter my niece Emma scatters on almost every painting for kindergarten. It is enough to find my way across our yard, out the wooden gate Alejandro kept saying he was going to replace. I stumble once, twice, but don’t fall.

I use my cell phone light to find the sidewalk. By now I’m shivering, despite Alejandro’s wool coat. The one I always joked made him look like an old man. His scent is already gone—it left the day he did, as if he never wore it at all.

I’ve been visiting Alejandro every day, though my parents don’t know it. I say I’m headed to Starbucks to work on freelance articles, even though I haven’t written a single word since he died.

I wonder how long it will take them—with the guests that they are entertaining, the warm cocoa and gingersnaps—to notice I haven’t returned.

His grave is fresh and new, smooth as a baby’s skin. The thought would make me cry, but I am too numb to cry. I lie with my head against his grave. I press my mittens to the ground, as if I can feel his heart beat just once more. The wind whistles in my ear, a painful, potent reminder that I am still alive.

I proposed to Alejandro on a ski trip. The one and only time I went skiing—and I spent more of it off my skis than on. What if we never make it back? I’d asked, panicked, as he admitted he wasn’t sure what slope we were on. I’d already proposed; he’d already accepted.

Falling asleep in the snow with you, he said, kissing me, wouldn’t be so bad, would it?

They say it’s the shortest day of the year. It is also the longest night. Solstice—a fitting day to return home.

But just as I close my eyes, I feel it.

Imperceptible. A tiny kick. So subtle I think I imagine it.

“Alejandro?” I whisper.

The missed period. The nausea. All of which I labeled as stress, another symptom of loss.

Our child kicks again. Only then do I rise, braving the walk home. Not to Alejandro, but to light.

Erin Jamieson

Erin Jamieson holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Miami University of Ohio. Her published work includes two poetry chapbooks, over 80 pieces of short fiction and poetry, and a Pushcart Prize nomination. She teaches English at the Ohio State University. Her research has been published in The Journal of African American Studies.

Hailey Renee

Hailey Renee Brown is a professional illustrator born and raised in mid Michigan. A former field biologist, she moved across country from Michigan to New Jersey, also moving from science to commercial art. A professionally trained artist, she attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, NJ. She was selected the recipient of the 2017 Norman Maurer Memorial Award as well as the 2019 Joe Kubert Jumpstart Project.