Of all the stories I’ve ever written, one of my top-five favourites is “The Psychometry of Snow,” (which you can read for free over at the Lethe Press blog, or find in its first appearance in Bears of Winter, or as a reprint in my first collection, Of Echoes Born). It’s about a fellow named Luke, who has a gift for hearing voices in the things he touches, and who has turned that gift into a life, even if it is a bit lonely. Of course, by the end of the story, it might not be lonely after all, and just in case you wondered what came after, here you go.
A Bunny’s Voice
I always feel small beside Rick Barritt, but I’ve grown to like it. For one, he has this habit of casual touch I’m fast becoming addicted to. The weight of his hand on my shoulder, or the brush of his fingers along my arm as he passes, or a tiny, unexpected kiss to the back of my head when he reaches over me for something at the cabin?
Well, I fall all over again for the big guy every time. I think he knows it, too, if the smug little smile he flashes beneath his beard is any clue.
That smug little smile is also responsible for this whole day, and I’m conjuring all the memories of those touches, brushes, and kisses because I have no idea what I’m doing. I find things. Children? Children are so not my area of expertise.
I turn. Evelyn is behind again. In her thermals and leggings (and then a skirt over both, which I have to admit is a pretty nice nod to sartorial determination in the dead of winter), she’s having even less fun tromping through the deep snow than I am.
We should have brought snow shoes, I think again.
“We’re almost there,” I say.
She gives me a look that says, ‘You suck, and I hate you and everything about you,’ but she says, “Okay.”
I go back for her, and we re-trace my own footprints back to the beach, which, finally, we have reached. We’re obviously not the first to come this way, given the tracks, but we’re the only ones here now.
Rick is there already, looking out over the strait, and beside him, the elder of the two girls, Sienna, is smiling up at him like he’s the best thing that ever happened.
She’s a smart one, Sienna. Then she glances at me as we arrive, and her smile sort of wobbles.
Okay, it pretty much caves in entirely.
“It’s beautiful,” I say, in a cloud of breath. It’s a bit of a fib, because clouds are rolling in and the nice sunlight we had is starting to fade a bit.
Rick grins, and I keep a perfect smile on my face because he adores these girls and I adore him and maybe, if I’m really lucky, they’ll eventually deign to stand my presence in Rick’s life.
Rick unzips his jacket long enough to pull out a bundle of chocolate bars, and even Evelyn’s tired attempt at a smile gains wattage. We each grab one. Evelyn struggles in her mittens to open it, so I lean down beside her.
“You want me to?” I ask. I’ve already pulled off one glove.
She hands it over, and I unwrap it. Then I notice something on the ground. It’s almost covered by the snow, lumpy and half-hidden. I pull it free with my gloved hand.
A stuffed rabbit.
“Oh. Lost bunny,” Evelyn says. She sounds genuinely sad. Rick did say she was kind of a soft heart.
“Poor kid,” Sienna says. I hadn’t realized she was watching.
Rick meets my gaze. He raises his eyebrows. “Luke?”
I move the bunny to my bare hand. It speaks to me.
“Little boy,” I say. “Sleeps with it every night. Red hair, darker than yours,” I say, nodding to Rick. “More auburn. Tonnes of freckles.” I glance at the three of them. “Any ideas?”
“That’s Reed!” Evelyn says, eyes and mouth wide open.
Even Sienna is staring at me in shock.
“Reed Whitney. I know him,” Rick says. “We can drop it off on the way home.”
I put the bunny in my satchel.
The girls eye me on the walk back, but it’s not until the car Sienna breaks the silence.
“Okay, how did you do that?”
“I keep telling you,” Rick says. “Luke’s magic.”
They don’t buy that. At least, not entirely. But when Rick gets out of the car and hands the bunny to a little red-haired boy at his house and the kid dances in a circle and his mother gives Rick a giant, grateful hug, Evelyn reaches over and takes my hand and squeezes it.
That’s magic enough for me.