The car went off the road nine miles out from the cottage. After the wheels threatened to carve a rut in the ground, they got out and tried digging the wheels free, but the snow was falling nearly as fast as they could move it. Now, back in the car, Grace turned the car off.
“Mom, now the heat is off.” Liam had his feet pulled up on the seat and he was sucking his fingers. They were pink and sore from moving the snow. They had no gloves.
“I’m sorry, sweetie. We’ll use up all the gas that way.”
Darren had mentioned the storm on the forecast—had as much as suggested they shouldn’t go. But Liam had been so anxious to leave. He was a restless child; just the thought of staying home too long made him scream and cry. There would have been no way to keep him in the house for two weeks. So she packed him into the car, as restless as a kitten, and drove to spend the week away. It was a private cabin, a property of a friend of Darren’s. It was just on the upper lip of a valley far out of town, and here, on the road, was the bottom of the valley, like an envelope to seal them from the world. The house was used maybe twice a year, and Liam liked to to run down the staircases and shove the dust off the bannisters so it swelled up into the air like snow.
Grace rubbed her hands on her thighs and breathed in and out sharply. Liam squirmed around in the seat so his back was to the passenger door.
“What are we gonna do!”
“I don’t know, Liam!”
He slid down in the seat and kicked the glove compartment, keening. A few days before they had left, he had made that same sound before bed. They had stayed home all day and he had had too much energy to sleep. Inactivity made him desperate. It had then as it did now.
“Maybe I can go outside and look for somebody.”
“No. You’ll get wet.”
“I don’t care.” He reached for the door handle.
“Stay here,” she snapped. He beat his fist against the seat, twice, with the same sharp rhythm as her words. She looked at him. He had tension held in his jaw, just where she did. She let it go. She had met him at his most anxious once before, and it had been a mistake. She could already see him sizing up the dimensions of the car. She ran her hands over her legs again, this time slowly, and turned on the car. Liam held his fingers out to the vent as the hot air sighed out of it.
“What about the gas?” he asked
“We still have enough.”
“Do you think someone’s gonna come down this road?”
Was it better to lie or to despair?
She pulled a nob and the windshield wipers pushed the snow away from the view of the road that sloped up into a world that no longer existed. Liam clawed at his knees.
“So what are we gonna do?”
Grace breathed in deeply, slid down into the seat, and closed her eyes as fat wet discs of snow filled up the windshield again. She pressed a little smile into her lips and said, “Relax.”