The snow that had collected just above the window frame drifted down in a fine powder, dislodged by the loud knocking coming from the door. Inside, the lady and the girl looked over to where the banging was coming from. The knock was repeated, this time with more force.
“Stay here, and please; don’t say a word.” The lady said, and the girl nodded in reply, taking a sip from the glass; her throat changing colour as the liquid fell inside her like a fading rainbow. The lady ambled to the door and grabbed a walking stick she kept by the umbrella stand. She didn’t need the stick of course, her bones were weary, but her health was fine, she merely liked how it looked walking along in the snow sometimes; inspecting things with a gentle prod. Now, she held a tight hold on the top of the cane (shaped like a giant snow globe) and cautiously opened the door, catching the knocker mid-knock.
“Oh!” She said, a smile widening like that of the door. “Timothy, what brings you this way?”
She looked out into the snowy gloom; the disappearing light had blanketed the world in an encroaching grey, like soup lapping at a rim of a bowl. A small boy stood on her doorstep, his feet in wellington boots far too big for him. He was wrapped up against the storm, but his nose was as red as a holly berry.
“Oh, hey. Sorry, I didn’t think you could hear me, thought you might be sleeping.” Timothy shouted, compensating for the wind by yelling like only a child can. The lady chuckled.
“Well, if I were, I’m sure it would’ve woken me up. Anyway, come in come in.” She said, beckoning him inside out of the cold.
“Is Stacey here yet?” He asked, remaining on the doorstep.
“Stacey? Why would she be here?” She asked him, puzzled somewhat.
“Well, it’s Thursday. You said for us to come for the stories on Thursday, remember? I even brought some biscuits my mum made.” He replied, shaking a small tin he held in his hands, containing, now no doubt, shards of biscuits. “I just wanted to know if Stacey was here yet, if not I would go to her house now and walk with her.”
The lady could see the twinkle of opportunity in his eyes. Her mind flickered to her calendar and checked the date. Nope, he was a day early. Timothy was always overanxious. She chuckled a little and told him he’d gotten the wrong day. As his face fell, she turned quickly and took something out of the small drawer on the sideboard near her. She handed him a small purple glove; its index finger was slightly frayed with a long loose thread which looked like a long woollen nail.
“She left this here last week though, perhaps you might be so kind as to drop it by to her today.” She said. His eyes grew large as he took the little mitten, holding it like a small treasure. He set off straight away back down the little path calling out to her as he went.
“Thanks, see you tomorrow!”
The biscuits beyond repair now, flung this way and that in the little tin as he rounded the corner of her fence and disappeared up the lane. She stood and watched him go, enjoying the scene of the darkening light and the heavy snow which spread a happiness inside of her.
But then it stopped. Cut off quickly as she saw the shadows. They reached up and under the little fence she had at the bottom of her garden. Tall and thin wisps of dark, like the fingers of a demon. It all grew suddenly quiet as the wind dropped and the silence that accompanies snow descended.
She couldn’t see him, she only felt he was there. The presence. The energy she could normally feel bubbling way off over the woods but marked on every page of her treasured magic book. Like a compass it pointed the way to the light and dark, and she felt the shadows creeping nearer and nearer to her. She shut the door hastily, warding off the nefarious nature by her own incantation and signs that kept her little cottage safe.
She never saw the gentleman of the boxes, though she knew he was there. His little eyes peering at her from the trees as he skulked around to her backyard.