I was dancing on a hilltop as the sun set, twirling in a beautiful full skirt. Being barefoot felt good for once. The ground was cool under my feet, but the breeze was warm. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was as perfect a day as anyone could have. No worries, no nagging concerns, no guilt or doubt.
I was happy in a visceral way I hadn’t experienced in ages. I felt it in the marrow of my bones, it went so deep.
I twirled and spun until I was dizzy, and then—
I woke up. Even though I clutched that wonderful dream as tightly as I could, trying not to let go, it faded and vanished, and I wanted to cry.
I allowed myself one minute to grieve for what we’d once had, then I sat up and shivered. This power outage had gone on for almost three days, and it was cold as hell. There was snow falling outside and ice on the inside of the windows. I got up and put a jacket on over my sweater; we slept in our clothes when we had to. My slippers were ice cold. I’d forgotten to put them under the covers next to me, so they’d be warm from my body heat.
Kyle coughed on his side of the bed. The sound of it made me cringe. He was getting worse, not better. He needed hot tea and soup, but without power, I couldn’t make it for him.
I spread my long winter coat over him, then felt his forehead. He was burning up. “You should go to the hospital. There’s power there, I bet. I read they have generators. You can warm up and get medicine.” I smiled and tried to sound cheerful. “Two birds with one stone.”
He burrowed deeper into the covers. “We can’t afford it. It’s just a cold. I’ll be fine.”
I didn’t think he would be, and I was scared. The COVID pandemic had been bad, but this new one was worse. I didn’t tell him my throat was sore this morning, and my head felt like it was in a vice. He didn’t need to hear it.
I stroked the hair off his forehead. “Are you hungry? I could make you a peanut butter sandwich.”
“I’m going back to sleep for a while.”
I tucked him in and went to the kitchen. There was still canned food in the cupboard; later I’d talk Kyle into sharing a can of baked beans with me. Maybe the power would be on by then, but they’d be good cold, too. Our bread was almost gone, though, and I didn’t know when there’d be more at the store. Even flour was hard to come by since the wheat crops had failed for the third year in a row. Grandma had taught me how to bake bread, but without ingredients, I couldn’t make any. My mouth watered at the thought of biting into a warm slice of bread right out of the oven, slathered in butter with a drizzle of honey on top.
I choked back tears. Honey was almost impossible to get since most of the bee colonies had collapsed. Rich people paid a fortune for it, and the rest of us went without. Hell, we went without a lot of things these days.
I went to the back door and looked out the window. The snow was falling hard now, and the wind was picking it up and throwing it around. There were no lights in the houses, and the sun was buried in heavy clouds. I’d never liked winter, but now I hated it.
I hated being cold and hungry and never having anything or going anywhere…
I mentally slapped myself. Stop that, Annie. If wishes were horses, everyone would ride. Grandma had said that a lot when I was a kid and always asking for stuff. I hadn’t understood it then. I did now.
I couldn’t read my Kindle—it had run down two nights ago—but I still had a few paper books. I chose one of my favorites, sat in the chair next to the bed so I could keep an eye on Kyle, and read the familiar words, waiting for things to change.
Word count: 716