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FICTION / Bed of Snow / Orit Yeret

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We stand there, three generations, cozying up near the fireplace for the perfect holiday picture. The money shot. The one that will get reproduced and framed and placed up on the mantel for years to come. The one they take every year, because it’s tradition—to stand there with a fake smile and say, “Merry Christmas”—as if a wave of happiness is supposed to wash over you with a flash of light. And then I look at Eve. And she is radiant with joy. She missed this so much. And I remind myself—I am here for her. 

* * *

Eve and I met during senior year of college. You know how it goes—we were both working late at the library one night, when suddenly our eyes met. Classic tale—girl meets girl. Exhausted from reading endless chapters of ancient books I couldn’t understand, I smiled at her and she smiled back. A casual invitation to go get coffee sometime soon followed. It turned out we had a lot in common—like me, she chose to attend NYU because it was miles away from her family (in my case, Los Angeles, and in her case, Utah); like me, she chose to major in political science (for different reasons—I hoped to become a journalist and she hoped to work for the U.N.). Unlike me, she had not come out to her parents yet. She used to laugh and say, “They would die if they knew…” whenever we would get together. Although she said it in humor, I could tell there was some truth to it. I never pushed.  

After dating, officially, for two months, Eve came to see me one day with an announcement: “A yearlong internship, right after graduation, in the U.N. Headquarters in Geneva!” Her eyes sparkled. 

“As in, Geneva, Europe?” I replied, still shocked with the news. 

“Aha!” She pulled out the acceptance letter from her backpack and handed it to me. 

“All right…” I said, trying to gather my thoughts. 

“All right?! That’s it?” She appeared to be upset with my reaction.

“Hey, give me a minute…” I clenched my coffee mug for a moment and then finally said, “Congratulations! Of course, I know how much you…” I shifted my eyes between her and the letter rapidly. 

She then grabbed my free hand and said in her calm voice, “I’ll miss you terribly.” 

Right then and there, it was clear, she didn’t want me to go with her. We were not ready back then. We needed time. 

* * *

We kept in touch—phone calls, texts, emails. She was doing very well for herself in Geneva, making connections and experiencing that “sense of purpose” she had always wanted to find. I was doing quite well myself. After a summer internship at the New York Times, I was offered a position at the San Francisco Chronicle, which I had happily accepted. It was a coming-home in a way, to my beloved West Coast and the California sunshine. I found a little loft downtown that suited me perfectly. I needed nothing more. 

Nothing more…except Eve. I missed her. I couldn’t stop thinking of her.

I remember I called her one night, drunk, when I first moved to San Francisco. It was God-knows-when in Geneva, but she picked up. She always picked up my calls. I told her everything—about my new job, about the loft, about the neighbors’ annoying dog, about the view of the ocean and the small skylight from which I could see the stars. She listened patiently, laughed a few times, and then asked, “Is there room for one more?” 

“Why? Who wants to come?” I asked innocently. 

“Me, silly!” She laughed again and then made a promise, “When I finish here, at the end of the year…will you have me?” I fell silent for a moment and she continued, “As a guest…first. And then…we’ll see, okay?”

“Okay?” I repeated her last syllables.

“I miss you terribly,” she finally said before hanging up.

There it was again. Different this time. I clenched my phone in one hand and placed the other over my mouth. I was shocked. I was smiling. The next day I bought a king-sized bed.

* * *

The first three months of us living together were like a dream. As if we knew we missed each other, but not that much. We were inseparable. We did everything together. We couldn’t get enough of each other. It might have looked sickening if it wasn’t so goddamn adorable. And yet I had my work, and Eve was still looking for a job. Some weekends, we’d go visit my folks in L.A. My crazy hippie parents would always welcome us with open arms. They loved Eve. Me—maybe not so much, but me and her—the do-gooder, the one who wanted to change the world—they couldn’t ask for a better partner. I guess she fulfilled the secret dream they’d always had for me, to follow in their footsteps, being more anti-something, taking a stand. But I was happy covering restaurants and concerts, or the occasional interview, until I got my bearings, and then…who knew? Maybe finding a cause along the way.

I could tell that spending time with my parents made Eve miss her family. By that time, I had suggested we go visit them many times, but she would always refuse—“It’s not the right time,” she would say, or, “I’m just not ready.” I didn’t push. Another month went by. 

Whenever her mom would call and I would answer, she would say I was her roommate. And that worked for a while. For her—not so much for me. I felt like, if we were serious about our relationship, about us, we needed to be honest. I told her that one night, after finally stirring up some courage to do so, and she started crying. 

“I don’t know how…” she mumbled through the tears. “I want to, but…” 

I held her for a long while, both of us shaking and thinking. 

“I can help. I want to help,” I said then.

“No.” She wiped her face with a tissue. “I have to do this by myself.” 

That same night, she booked a flight to Utah for the holidays—Christmas till New Year’s —I was to spend that time with friends in San Francisco, and she was to spend that time with her family, convincing them it was okay to be gay. 

“It’s almost impossible,” she said when I dropped her off at the airport a week later.

“And yet, you are the only one who can do it.” I smiled at her and we kissed gently. 

“See you next year, babe!” she said as she got out of the car.

* * *

Eve called me as soon as she landed. “What was I thinking? I can’t do this…” she mumbled. 

“Yes, you can.” I tried to sound encouraging, though I could barely hear her. I was stuck in terrible holiday traffic coming home from work. 

“One step at a time, babe. Are they at the airport?” I nearly screamed. 

“Not sure; I just grabbed my bags. Oh, man, I’m shaking…” She sounded panicked. 

“How about I come there?” I said, concerned. 

Eve was silent for a moment and I thought the connection was lost.

“Hello…hello…can you hear me? Are you there?” 

“I just…” I could hear her take a breath. “Never mind, they are here.” The line got disconnected suddenly. I tried ringing again and again a few times, but there was no answer.

The next day, she texted—WE NEED TO TALK—I immediately rang her. 

“What’s going on?” I was anxious. 

“Everything’s great! I don’t know what I was so worried about,” she said.

“Really?!” I smiled. “Did you tell them…everything?”

“Oh, no, not yet.” She sensed my disappointment. “I just wanted my foot in the door, you know. I haven’t seen them in a year.” 

“Of course.” I made an effort to sound sincere. “So what’s it like, being there now?” 

“Same old, lots of family around. I missed them.” She paused for a second. “And so much snow, you wouldn’t believe it; beautiful, I’m looking at it right now from my bedroom window.” 

“Sure is different.” I stared out our apartment window, which revealed a very rainy morning.  

“You don’t understand,” she cut off my train of thought. “This snow, it’s not like New York snow or Geneva snow; it’s home.” 

“Since when have you become so enchanted with snow?” I tried to tease her.

“You don’t get it.” She was serious. “It’s me.” 

“What’s you?” I poured myself a cup of coffee. 

“This place—these people. I can’t go through with this.” 

I bit my tongue sipping from my cup and murmured, “Shit!” 

“Excuse me?” she exclaimed.

“Not you—I drank too fast. You were saying…?” 

“Right…well, I can’t go through with this alone. I need you.” 

* * *

The very next day, I was in Utah. It was clear I was to maintain my secret identity as Eve’s roommate from San Francisco until everyone got to know me, and then…who knew? This was all a part of Eve’s plan; she was always good at that, making plans. All I knew was that she needed me. And that was the first time she ever turned to me for help. 

She was right about the snow; it was magnificent. Every year, her parents rented out a cabin in the mountains for the holidays. Driving up there, the sights were incredible. The cab driver asked if this was my first visit to the area, and when I said yes, he smiled and said, “Guess you’ll be sleeping on a bed of snow tonight.” When I asked what he meant, he said it was a local tradition in the area—to lie on the fresh snow for a few seconds and make a wish. “Some folks wave their arms and legs, snow angels, you know…but we like to dream.” 

We pulled up as soon as he finished the sentence. 

* * *

When I entered the house, a crowd of blonde and blue-eyed smiling faces surrounded me. I introduced myself as Eve’s roommate (according to the plan). Eve appeared suddenly, gave me a big hug, whispered, “Thank you!” in my ear and whisked me away upstairs. We barely had two minutes to greet each other before her mom came in, introduced herself, and then requested Eve’s help in the kitchen—they were making their famous Christmas cookies. 

Before unpacking, I walked around the room for a bit—it was Eve’s bedroom all right, with many family pictures, posters of nineties boy bands, and a row of stuffed animals neatly sitting on the bed. I smiled to myself and took a deep breath. This is it, I said to myself, I am here for her.

The next two days were filled with activities; we hardly had a second alone—I helped her relatives with crafting and decorating the house, we cooked and ate together, we sang Christmas songs around the piano every night. They made me feel at home—not that we ever celebrated Christmas like that in my home—but I could see the appeal of such a family gathering, such a sense of togetherness. I could understand why she missed it so much.          

She made it all seem effortless; that’s what I’d always liked about her, loved even; her light smile, her easy spirit, as if she was flying through air. But, deep down, I knew this wasn’t right; I knew this wasn’t me. By the third night, after we all took a picture by the fireplace, I had had enough. As soon as the flash wore off from my eyes, I pulled Eve aside and asked to talk to her privately. She didn’t seem alarmed. Since there was no escape within the house, we put our coats on and went outside. The snow glistened with every footstep we took farther from the house, toward the woodshed. 

“Well?” Eve said as soon as we got there. “How are you liking it so far?”

“It’s…really something.” I said.

“Good?” She tried to investigate, as always.

“Yeah, you know…definitely something new for me.” 

“Okay.” She took off her gloves, one finger at a time, without looking at me. I walked around the small shed, sniffing the wood, tucking my hands further down my coat pockets. 

“Look,” I finally said, “I can’t do this anymore.” 

“Do what?” She was still fiddling with her gloves. 

“This…this lie…us…” We stared at each other for a second. Eve was standing in the middle of the shed, and I was walking in circles around her. “I mean, us being here together, but not really, your family thinking we are just friends…if we’re serious, if you’re serious, I mean, I know I’m serious, about us…but if you’re not, then…”

“Then what?” She stopped me mid-sentence. 

“Then, I don’t know…maybe we should end this,” I said without looking at her. 

“What? Would you stop moving for a second and explain what’s going on?” She was clearly upset. I stopped. We both stood there, facing each other, her in the middle of the room and me in one of its corners. 

“Look.” I came closer to her, pulled my hands out of my coat pockets, and took her hands. 

“I came here for you, to help you, but you’re not giving me a chance.” She stared at the floor. 

I leaned in, trying to catch her glance. “Let’s go now,” I said. “Let’s tell them now, together, you and me. I’m here for you.” 

“It’s not that easy.” Eve detached herself from my grip and crossed her arms. 

“I know it’s not, but together…” I tried again.

“No!” she called out suddenly, and I pulled back. I had never seen her so aggressive. 

I raised my hands up as if to surrender, and she said, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry…it’s just, when it comes to my family—I’m a coward. You know that…” She came closer. 

“Well, then…I don’t know what to say…” I closed my eyes and the truth came out—“I don’t want to keep living a lie.” Tears started to run down my face.

“But…” She grabbed my arms. “I don’t want this to end.”

For some reason, I began to laugh. “Oh, bed of snow, dare to dream.” 

“What are you saying?” she said, confused.

“Nothing.” We both laughed and cried for a few minutes, as if we had both reached the same conclusion. 

“I should go, tomorrow…” I said, and pulled away from Eve’s embrace. 

“Do you think that…?” Eve began to say something as I made my way to the shed door. I paused but didn’t turn around to look at her. She didn’t finish her question, just let it hang in the air for a moment. 

“I’ll miss you terribly,” I said as I turned the doorknob.  

The door swung open, and a gust of cool air filled me.