I was never one to believe in love at first sight, but trust me when I say that I have found it.
It was about a decade ago. I was only 18, but it feels like it was just yesterday.
It had snowed the night before, so the house was freezing when we woke up. My mother sent me out back to grab more wood for the fire. I grumbled as I shoved my feet into my boots and threw on my coat, wanting to get under the covers, as my little sister currently was. I stomped my way out the door, my mother yelling after me to lose the attitude, and me slamming the door in response.
I was faced with so much white, I couldn’t see where any branches or logs might have been hidden. Even my late father’s rusty old ax was somewhere under the chilly blanket. There was nothing but a blank canvas for miles…except for a pink thing out by the old, abandoned shed. I wasn’t concerned by it, as I thought it was nothing more than a piece of clothing that had blown over from who knows where. Then it moved. There was no wind, so it had to be alive. I trudged through the mounds of snow, desperate to keep my footing, for what seemed like hours. I was getting tired, but my curiosity kept me motivated.
As I almost reached my destination, I could see that it was a person. I yelled and they moved a bit, but not much. I began to undo my coat because, whoever they were, they had to be freezing. I came to a standstill and looked down at the bundle of red hair and pink fabric at my feet, as well as the frail girl who lay intertwined in them. She couldn’t have been much younger than me, and her pale skin looked as though she had been there for a while.
I knelt at her side and wrapped my coat around her shivering shoulders. She flinched at my touch and her hair tousled as she turned her head to view her company. I couldn’t help but to stare, as she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Her bright blue eyes looked over me as they glistened and flickered with the sunlight reflecting off the snow. When she decided that I wasn’t a threat, I suppose, she sat up. I watched as her hair untangled from the fabric, revealing that the pink pile was a dress, and a pretty one at that.
She seemed to barely be breathing in comparison to my heavy, labored panting from my trek from the house. She pulled my coat tighter around her bare arms, which made me take notice of how much smaller she was than me. She was almost completely swallowed by my warm outerwear, that, as it was my father’s, it was even a bit big on me. She didn’t seem to mind how massive it was on her, as she closed her eyes and snuggled deeper into it.
Just as I was about to ask her name, I heard my sister call for me. Refusing to leave this stranger in the cold, I placed her on my back, grabbed a few broken planks from the falling shed, and headed back to the house.
When I got to the back door, my sister was impatiently standing there waiting for me to start the fire. I tossed the wood into the fireplace and gently sat the girl on the floor in front of it. I was in the kitchen, rustling through the drawers, when my sister ran in telling me there was a girl in my coat. I ignored her and went to the fireplace, lighter in hand. In case of a few stray sparks, I shielded my guest from the hearth while I ignited the lumber. After the fire roared to life, I moved so that she could warm up.
My sister followed me, buzzing with questions about the girl as I gathered blankets from around the living room. Growing annoyed with her pestering, I simply told her I found the girl in the snow and that was all I knew. Knowing that my tone was one of anger, she quieted as I approached the girl. I offered her the blankets over my coat, but she refused by hiding herself further in the garment. Seeing her so content with something that was mine made me smile.
I removed my boots and placed them next to the door to dry. I then sat next to the girl, wrapping myself in a blanket, and watched as the flames danced. I heard my sister in the kitchen, but payed her no mind until she came to the girl holding a mug of hot tea. My sister offered it to her and I watched as two small hands emerged from my coat sleeves and lifted the mug from my sister. Her delicate fingers barely reached around the mug, as the girl lifted it to her lips.
I saw her cheeks blush a bright pink, in contrast to her porcelain colored skin, and I felt my heart stop all over again. She wasn’t just beautiful, she was familiar. She looked just like the doll that my father gave me when I was little. When I realized this, I breathed her name. Adeline. Hearing my soft tone, she quickly turned her head in my direction and looked at me with a gaze of fond recognition. I said her name again and she dropped the mug. I heard it shatter, as well as my sister gasp, but I was in shock as Adeline flung her arms around my neck and pressed her warm lips against mine.
She may have looked pale, like she was about to break at any moment, but as I wrapped my arms around her torso, I felt a warmth like I had never known radiating from her thin frame. After our lips parted, we sat holding each other in quiet, my sister watching us from not far away. I opened my mouth to speak when I heard my mother begin to come down the stairs. Adeline placed a smooth hand on my cheek and I closed my eyes. She softly kissed my eyelids, as though she was saying goodbye, and, when I opened my eyes, I was left with nothing but my coat in my arms.
I looked at my sister, and assumed from the look of shock on her face that Adeline had truly been there and then had mysteriously vanished. My mother entered the living room and scolded us for breaking the mug and leaving all the blankets on the floor. Not wanting to get in trouble, my sister began telling my mother what just happened, while I quietly stood and began cleaning up the mess. Obviously, my mother refused to believe her and accused her of making up a story. When my sister pointed out that I had touched Adeline, my mother simply scoffed and said that the combination of my teenage girl hormones and getting sunstroke from being outside could have made me see anything. I agreed and took the blame instead of my sister, but I knew that Adeline had been in my arms–that she had been as real as the flames flickering before her in the fireplace. I just didn’t know how.
Later that night I went to find the doll that bared the same name as my first love, but I couldn’t find it, no matter how hard I looked, and I never did.
But I know the girl in the snow was real. Her sweet smell is still in my coat. I still see her glimmering eyes watching me. I still feel her warm arms around my body. Her soft kiss still lingers on my lips.
I wish she never left, but even though she did, I know my Adeline’s always here.
My precious little doll lost in the snow.