In the town, it was a silent rule that when Cheri McGovern began her walk during the first snowfall of each year, no one would stop her. It had been suggested during town meeting years ago, when it was all new, that someone follow her and tell her the truth about her situation. Eventually, the idea had been quelled by Old Mrs. Crayton, who had taught Cheri in school. She had said that Cheri was not a danger to herself, and certainly not to anyone else, and should be allowed to do as she wished. Even so, one of the younger men of the town was assigned each year to follow her and make sure she stayed safe. And so it was that Jeremy Figgins found himself hiding in a tree in Cheri’s yard the night of the first snowfall, watching her door and waiting.
Cheri pulled her thick coat tighter around her waist as she opened the door. A swift wind blew through into her kitchen, swirling her hair and ripping her hat off. A few snowflakes drifted onto her face as she closed the door behind her and began her walk. She climbed to the top of the short hill, feeling her arthritic knees burn with the effort. She looked down into the town, staring at the houses that twinkled in the softening light, before turning and making her way to the forgotten cemetery.
When she arrived, a broken-down fence greeted her. She smiled as she stepped through the small gateway. She ran her fingers across the tops of the stone graves. She came here each year, during the first snowfall, and waited for someone. She knew he would show up, just as he always did.
She leaned against the tree, catching her breath, when she heard a sigh, like the wind, behind her. She turned slowly as Carl stepped out from behind a too-familiar gravestone. Cheri smiled wide and her eyes twinkled with a younger light as he drew her into a hug. They pulled apart and sat on the stone bench in the corner of the graveyard. Each year, for exactly one night, Carl would meet Cheri in that spot. She would talk about what had happened to her over the past twelve months, and he would listen while he held her hand. Then, when the dark became suffocating, he would smile sadly at her and leave. Every year, Cheri counted the days on her tiny calendar until the first snowfall, and every year, it ended too soon.
Jeremy stood quietly in the shadows among the trees. He blew warm air onto his hands, glancing lazily at the woods. As he turned back, he froze. Cheri had stood from the bench where she’d been sitting alone, as she did each year. She stared at the trees Jeremy hid behind.
“How lovely it is, to be alone in the snow,” she said. She paused and smiled slightly before turning and beginning the cold walk home.