by Nicole DeVincentis
It was still snowing. It was late March and I found myself sitting on my couch, wrapped in my favorite plaid blanket, cradling my coffee between my hands. There was still enough heat left in the lukewarm liquid to provide a comforting warmth to my palms. Sammie, my golden retriever, lay asleep at my feet. I loved when I had mornings off from work. I would sit by the window, with my coffee and a good book, enjoying the peace and quiet. But I didn’t feel like reading today.
I sighed deeply, leaning my head against the headrest, as the snowflakes continued to fall outside my window. A few landed on the glass, and I caught just a swift glance at each unique pattern before it melted, the drops of water racing each other down the pane.
Suddenly, I heard laughter, and then two kids clad in puffy, down coats—one pink, one blue—came running through the field across the street. They played in the wide expanse of snow, chasing one another, throwing snowballs. Finally, they both fell to the ground and I could see their arms moving back and forth. They were making snow angels.
Watching them, I smiled a bittersweet smile, and regressed 10 years back into my childhood where I played in the same field with my best friend.
“You can’t catch me!” I yelled, running away from Jake with everything I had. My legs, weighted down by my snow boots, pumped furiously; and yet, I could never outrun Jake. He was the fastest kid in the 7th grade, something he never hesitated to gloat about. The thought nearly caused me to roll my eyes; instead, I huffed, my lungs burning from the cold air.
I risked a glance behind me, and threw terror-stricken eyes at Jake, who was almost on top of me. I lost my footing and fell into the snow. Jake jumped, landing on top of me with his arm raised. I looked up in horror at the dreaded snowball, and silently thanked my mother for insisting I wear my wool hat.
Jake stared down at me with a mischievous smile. “I caught you, Emma. You know what that means.” I shut my eyes, waiting for the shock of a freezing cold snow bomb. But it never came. I heard a sound, like someone plunging their hand into a delivery box full of Styrofoam. I opened my eyes to see Jake smiling at me, melting snow dripping off his head. He collapsed beside me and I turned to him. “I thought you were gonna hit me with the snowball?” I asked, perplexed.
“Why?” he laughed. “I already caught you, isn’t that enough embarrassment?” I smacked his arm. “Hey!” he yelled, both of us laughing. I started moving my arms and legs, making a snow angel. Jake watched me for a few seconds, then mimicked my actions. He helped me stand and we looked down at two angels, side by side. His was slightly larger than mine. “Pretty,” I said.
He shook his head, “It needs something.” He laid back down, pressing his mitten into the snow.
“Give me your glove.”
I did, and he pressed it diagonally across his own imprint. He stood up, handing it back to me. He’d made it look like the “angels” were holding hands. “Looks better, don’t you think?” I nodded. Soon, it grew cold and we started on our way home. Suddenly, Jake bent down to pluck something from the grass; then turned to me holding a small purple flower I knew to be corn speedwell between his fingertips.
“For you, the first flower of spring.”
I frowned. “That’s a weed.”
He smiled, devilishly, “Think of it as a consolation prize.”
I glared at him, “Shut up, Jake. I let you catch me.”
He threw his head back, laughing. “Sure, you did!” Fuming, I started walking away, but Jake grabbed my hand.
“Then, think of it as compensation.” He lifted my hand and placed the “flower” in my palm.
I rolled my eyes. Jake winked. I blushed.
I still had that flower. I got up out of the chair, throwing the blanket aside, cold coffee forgotten. On the bookshelf in the hallway, where all my childhood memories were stored, I found the leather-bound journal. As if it knew what I’d come for, it instantly opened to the page where the now withered flower lay, nestled between the pages where I’d recounted the events of that day, and everyday afterward. Whenever Jake wanted to play tag, he’d ask, “Can I catch you?” It was like our code.
It was shortly after that playful afternoon that Jake moved away. We kept in touch for a few years, but eventually lost touch. Oddly, I’d been thinking of him a lot recently. While I was staring into space, the dog started pawing at my leg. I looked down to see him sitting at my feet, softly whining—he needed to go out. I put on my jacket and hat, and walked outside.
We crossed the street to the field. Sammie walked right beside me, obedient enough to walk without a leash. I trudged through the snow in a trance, barely noticing the footprints I was following. Suddenly, they stopped. In front of them, written in the snow, was a question, Can I catch you? My breath caught in my throat. Sammie whined next to me in excitement. I could feel his wagging tail beating against my legs.
I gasped when I heard the voice behind me. “Well, Emma…” I turned to see Jack standing behind me, holding a single purple flower. “Can I?”
I answered by jumping into his arms.