Strength in the Cold
The car idled by the curb, exhaust from the back curling forward to block my view out the window. I rolled my wrists a few times to alleviate the soreness and shook out my fingers to bring warmth back into them. I flicked my eyes back to the window and caught a glimpse of a small group of people, huddled close together to keep warm.
“I can wait awhile. It’s nice and warm in here.” She saw them too.
“No, I’ll be fine. I don’t want to be late.”
I grasped the door handle before I could change my mind and stepped out onto the sidewalk. My breath created a cloud that blurred my sight. Blinking the stinging cold out of my eyes, I saw two paths to the door. I could go the long way around, but I didn’t want to stay outside longer than necessary. My ears had already lost their feeling and my nose was starting to run. I glanced at the other route.
It would take me past them.
The small huddle of girls were whispering to one another and grinning at each other’s stories. I felt a pang in my chest and a hard lump formed in my throat. There was a time when I was one of them, when I was still part of the group.
"We’ve been friends too long," they said, "Five people in a group just doesn’t work, sorry."
And with that, they turned their backs and became determined to make my life hell. What did I ever do to them? I guess I was ‘old news’ but surely that’s not a crime. I could tell myself that I didn’t care, that they weren’t great friends, that I was better off without them, but really, I was just kidding myself. Of course I cared, of course I thought we were close. When I sat alone and saw them all together, it still felt like being filled with hot coals, coals that slowly burned through my mind. Coals that ignited my memories and tainted them with black ash.
The wind picked up and I tightened my grip on the neck of my coat, trying to prevent the snow from touching anything but the outer shell of the jacket. Pulling my chin up, I started towards them. They all went silent as I walked over and their eyes bored into me like nails. I nearly flinched away from their gaze, but held steady, pretending I was none the wiser. I could feel them picking out every detail, from the small fray in my jeans to my messy, wind-blown hair. With each second that passed, they seemed reassured that they’d made the right decision to forget about me. I’d like to say that if I had switched places with one of them, I wouldn’t have been so cruel, but even I couldn’t lie that convincingly. No one would jeopardize their place in the group like that, lest they be the next one to get the boot.
As soon as I passed I heard one of them murmur something and they all burst out laughing. I broke. My head dropped and a single tear slipped out before the rest froze in my eyes. I watched it fall, freeze, and fracture as it hit the icy concrete below. I forced my feet to move faster and yanked on the door as hard as I could. Rushing inside, I barely made it to the bathroom before sobs washed over me. I didn’t deserve this, no one did.
I forced myself to swallow my tears and unlocked the stall. I examined my reflection in the mirror. Most of my face was red, but I couldn’t tell if it was from crying or the cold. Hopefully, no one else would be able to tell either. I raked my fingers through my hair to try and tame the mess and adjusted the straps on my bag.
This wouldn’t happen again.
I wouldn’t let it happen again.
Whatever those girls said or did, they didn’t deserve my attention, they didn’t deserve my tears. I had a momentary weakness, but that didn’t mean I was weak. If I could choose to walk by them today, then I can choose to be strong.
I began writing as a way to battle depression and continued because I believe I have a story to share. I am a member of the Northern Colorado Writers in Fort Collins, where I attend Colorado State University. I have a blog at ryanneglenn.wordpress.com and a website at ryanneglenn.com. I am also on Twitter @RyanneGlenn.