Brutal cold whipped around her hair the moment she opened the door, but she didn’t hesitate. She stepped outside on the heels of her brown Australian shepherd, who led the way through what had once been her yard, through the gate of what had once been her white picket fence, and down what had once been her winding driveway. He bounded ahead, and she followed, gripping her heavy coat tightly around her. It was so cold that she could feel her lungs constricting; she didn’t want to breathe through her nose because she feared her nostrils might freeze, but she didn’t want to breathe through her mouth because he cold burned her throat. She could feel tears on her cheeks, their progress down her face slowed in the chill, but even through her outward misery the only word she could think was “hallelujah.” She laughed a bit at that, which only made her cry more.
Snow made that dry, squeaky sound beneath her feet. She hated that. She stopped walking just so she wouldn’t have to hear it. Manu stopped trotting happily and looked back at her, confused. She was out of sight of the house now. She wanted out of sight of this town, where people knew each other everywhere they went, where people wore brown with black and off-brand Converse, where everyone used a PC and reinstated politicians term after term. She couldn’t stand the way things never happened unless you were looking at the town as an outsider. Then you could see minute differences, usually in accordance with the seasons or the way buildings looked. You could look at the way the crowds at the 4th of July parades changed over the years or the kinds of people who donated money at the Christmas charities, and those were the only things by which this town seemed to be defined. And she felt abysmal about the fact that one of her sharpest summer memories was when she walked the boardwalk and counted three groups of black people, which was three more than she ever remembered seeing before.
She needed out. Her failed marriage was the final proof, as if she needed it.