April 3, 2020

It’s a Wonderful Night

posted on: Saturday December 7, 2019

Snow

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

by Erin Venuti ’20

Her last Christmas season here.

The first one was exciting. Although they’d had an entire Thanksgiving break to get ready, it seemed that the campus had transformed itself overnight. Each day, Kate discovered something new—another Christmas tree, more lights, the cheesy decorations in the dining hall. She and her roommate Ashley had made sure to decorate their dorm room as well, so as to feel more at home. One day during the weeks leading up to Christmas break, the two girls made the trek to the Dollar Tree that sat just off campus, where they filled a shopping basket to the brim with garland, stockings, and window gels. They each also picked out a stuffed reindeer. Kate named her’s Gerald.

She was sitting in Alumni when the text came through: all classes canceled due to snow.

There were few times when you could tell exactly what everyone on campus was thinking. The minutes following a snow day announcement fell into this category. In the same breath, the entirety of Alumni gasped in excitement and frantically began chattering about all of the classes they would be missing the next day. Soon, the exodus of students started, no doubt off to begin their impromptu “Friday” night as soon as possible.

Kate had been in Slavin for so long that she’d not even noticed it was snowing. Hell, she didn’t even know it was supposed to snow. She was too busy trying to ward off the imminent finals-induced panic attack.

Her phone started ringing—it was Ashley.

“Hey,” Kate said, her voice cracking from lack of use.

“Where are you? I haven’t seen you in days.” It sounded like she was accusing Kate of committing a crime.

“We had breakfast together this morning.”

“Yeah, but that wasn’t really you. That was Morning Kate.”

Kate rolled her eyes, even though Ashley couldn’t actually see her through the phone. “Did you have a question?”

“No, I have a request.”

“The answer is no, I’m not doing your laundry again.”

“Shut up,” Ashley said, in a suddenly less-serious tone. “I need you to come to the library.”

“Why?”

Ashley started laughing. Kate heard a muffled voice on the other end. She couldn’t tell who it belonged to.

“Don’t worry about it,” she managed to get out. “Just come.”

Kate sighed. “Fine.”

By the time she was off the phone, Alumni had nearly emptied out. There were only a few tables that were still occupied, small groups of friends whose snow-day-eve plan clearly included killing time in Slavin.

Kate quickly packed her things and zipped up all of her layers—in the earlier winter days of her college career, she’d taken care to make sure her hat, scarf, and gloves all matched, but nowadays she just threw on whatever she happened to touch first that morning. Frankly, at this point, her sweater could be inside out and she probably wouldn’t have noticed.

College campuses were strange. Depending on the time of day, they could be completely different places. Just that afternoon, when Kate’s last class ended and she set up shop in Slavin, PC had been bustling with students—walking to class, talking with friends, complaining loudly to parents over the phone. Absolutely kinetic. But then the sun had gone down and a snow day had been declared, and now everything was distant. There was still that same energy, but now, it was all potential. Every student seemed to be waiting for Something Great to happen.

Careful not to slip on the wet tile, Kate ascended the stairs and emerged from the pit of Lower Slavin into the openness of the Slavin Atrium.

Her heart leapt.

It’s snowing.

She smiled, and pure joy trickled from her heart all the way to her fingers and toes.

It’s snowing.

It’s snowing! It’s actually snowing!

It wasn’t like she’d never seen snow before. She’d grown up in New England, after all. But this snow was, somehow, a different kind of snow.

Or perhaps it was the same kind of snow she’d always seen, and that it had only felt different because it had been so long since she’d last felt that overwhelming sense of childlike happiness.

Slavin Lawn and the stretch of campus that led up to the library was blanketed in powder. It was still coming down in a mist that faded the brick buildings, transforming the view into one of those old photographs of PC way-back-when that they have lining the walls on the second floor of Harkins.

It’s snowing!

Kate pulled her hat down over her ears, shoved her hands deep in her pockets, and stepped outside. She could hear the scraping of plows against the pavement off in the distance, a sound that, strangely enough, she found peaceful, having spent most of her school days living on a main road. As she walked to the library, she gave no thought to the goofy grin that was plastered across her face.

She was nearing her destination when—

FWUMP!

A small object collided with her backpack. She turned in the direction from which the object came, just in time to be hit square in the chest by a snowball.

Ashley and two of their other friends, John and Avery, jumped out from behind a few trees. Kate’s roommate was cackling uncontrollably, so much so that she had no time to prepare for the snowball that Kate sent flying towards her in response.

It was on.

Soon, the four seniors were engaged in the battle of the century. They were merciless, even after Avery accidentally hit a passing group of friars, who decided that they would have some fun too.

Finally, the winter warriors called a truce, and Kate and her friends agreed to return to Kate and Ashley’s apartment for a screening of It’s a Wonderful Life (a snow day tradition of theirs) and hot chocolate with extra chocolate.

Half an hour later, Kate was cocooned in a blanket and sipping chocolate on her couch in Davis, while her friends were joking around and attempting to toss marshmallows in each other’s mouths. Only now did she realize that she hadn’t given any thought to her finals since leaving Slavin earlier that night. It was as if the snow had covered her anxiety as well—of course, come morning, the snow would begin to melt, and her stress would begin to peek through again. But, for now, all was well.

Kate gave Gerald a squeeze. After three years, his tummy had gone flat and his antlers had begun to droop, but he was still going strong.

If a one-dollar stuffed reindeer could make it this far, Kate thought to herself, So can I.

And so ended an absolutely, incredibly, surprisingly, wonderful night.

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Christmas

Short Fiction